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REMEMBERING THE ROCK & MR. BOXING

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It was around 6:00 a.m. on Monday, September 1, 1969. I was headed into my third year in college and into my second year of competitive amateur boxing. I had gotten up early that first morning of September to head out for a fast-paced three-mile run, then jump in the pool. Before I left the house on Long Island, I went outside and picked up the morning’s papers, which were delivered to my home and left on the front steps. It was a morning ritual for me, always an early riser, to go outside, retrieve Newsday and the New York Daily News, then tiptoe into my parent’s bedroom and leave the papers on my father’s side of the bed. As I picked up the papers, I looked at the headlines on both of the papers. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“ROCKY MARCIANO DEAD AT 45” was the headline on the Daily News. The sub-headline underneath read, “Former Heavyweight Champ Dies in Plane Crash.”

I was stunned. I quickly took Newsday out of its protective plastic bag.

Newsday’s headline was “MARCIANO KILLED IN PLANE CRASH.”

I was breathing harder than if I had just finished my three-mile run. I needed to share this horrible information with someone.

Dad!

Why not? It was only natural. My dad, Carl, was the one who introduced me to boxing 10 years earlier. I needed to wake him. Had to wake him.

I quietly opened the door to mom and dad’s room, then entered. I walked around to my sleeping dad. I took another look at the headline on Newsday, just to make sure I read it right. I did. I wished it wasn’t true.

“Dad!” I whispered. He didn’t budge. My second “Dad!” got him to open his eyes.

He looked at me and lifted his head off his pillow. He looked at the clock. It was a minute or two after 6:00.

“What is it, Randy?” he questioned softly. Is everything okay?

“Dad, look at the headlines,” I said. I showed him Newsday, then held up the Daily News.

“Good Lord!” he exclaimed. He said it a few more times. Rocky Marciano was one of my dad’s favorite fighters.

Then he turned to my mom, Roberta.

“Honey, wake up!” he said, tapping her lightly on a shoulder. “Wake up!”

She half-opened her eyes.

“Ughhh, what is it?” she mumbled, still half asleep. “What is it?”

He took the papers from my hands and held them over mom’s face.

“Look!” he said.

She opened her eyes to read. In a flash, the sleep left her. Her mouth fell open.

“OH MY…” she clamped her hands over her mouth before she could finish.

“Rocky is dead?” my dad asked. “How could that be? He was still a young man. How’d he die?”

“He died in a plane crash, dad,” I said. The news hit home even harder. My dad was a pilot.

He sprung up in bed and began reading one of the papers.

My mom rubbed the sleep from her eyes. I handed her the other paper.

“Rocky was in a Cessna 172 when it crashed into a corn field in Newton, Iowa,” said my dad. “It appears there was bad weather.”

He took a deep breath. You could see he was moved.

“Rocky was one of the greats,” said my dad. “Next to Joe Louis, he may have been the greatest heavyweight of all time. And, guess what…today would have been Rocky’s 46th birthday.”

In 1969, there was no Youtube, no internet. My 10-year journey into boxing consisted of hearing stories from my dad, reading Ring Magazine and all the local papers. I truly considered Ring Magazine to be, as founder Nat Fleischer called his publication, the “Bible ofBoxing.” In being the bible, I also looked at Fleischer to be the creator of all things boxing. His word was gospel.

The news of Marciano’s death was nothing less than shocking. How could “The Rock” be gone? I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to know more about Marciano. How great was he? Where did he fit in amongst the great heavyweights of the past? I decided I had to speak with Nat Fleischer himself. I decided to call him later that morning. Then, I decided I wouldn’t give a secretary a chance to make up an excuse he was busy. I decided to go to his office and sit there for as long as I had to in order to meet him and talk with him.

The Ring offices were located in an old six-story building at 120 W. 31st Street in New York City. They had been in Madison Square Garden on 49th Street for years, relocating after that MSG faced the wrecking ball and the current MSG was opened in the late 1960’s.

I got to the building shortly before 9:00a.m., Monday, September 1. I checked the directory on the wall and quickly found what I was looking for: Ring Publishing Corp, 5th Fl.

I excitedly stepped into the small elevator behind me and pressed the button withthe number 5 on it. Little did I know, but that elevator would take me up and down to The Ring offices thousands of times, beginning in another 10 years.

When the door opened, several odors were immediately evident: Cigarettes. Cigars. Perfume. Cologne. Mold. Mildew.

“May I help you,” said a woman in an office with a sliding window to my right.

“Yes, I’m hoping to see Mr. Fleischer,” I told her.

“Do you have an appointment with Mr. Fleischer?” the lady asked.

“No, I don’t,” I said, “but I have been reading Ring since I was a child and…”

She cut me off.

“I’m sorry, young man, but if you don’t have an appointment with Mr. Fleischer, there is no way you can see him. He is very busy.”

I tried explaining my desire to speak with the founder of Ring, but the lady kept apologizing and telling me she was sorry. Finally, she said in a stern voice, “Young man, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but Mr. Fleischer is very busy. There will be a TV crew coming in soon to interview him. I’m sure you heard that Rocky Marciano has died in a plane crash. Mr. Fleischer will be doing interviews all morning.”

I sighed and nodded. Then I turned and went to press the button for the elevator. At that moment, the door to Nat Fleischer’s office opened. Out walked the balding, short, roundish founder of The Ring, the man who began rating fighters, the man whose opinion in the sport was heard and worshipped the way Moses heard and worshipped his Lord in front of the burning bush over 2,000 years ago.

“Mr. Fleischer,” I said, moving towards him. “Boxing lost such a great fighter last night. I am an avid reader of The Ring. I live on Long Island and just had to come in to meet you and talk to you. I know you’re very busy, but if you can give me just five minutes, I would be honored.”

He looked at me and for a moment—it seemed like an hour—he stared at me. Then he spoke.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name, son,” he said.

“It’s Randy, sir. Randy Gordon,” I replied nervously.

“Mr. Gordon, I would love to speak with you,” he said. Turning to the receptionist, he said, “Millie, will you please show Mr. Gordon into my office? I must talk with Nat for a few moments.”

“Nat?” I thought. “Nat must talk with Nat? It’s got to be Nat Loubet, the Managing Editor, Fleischer’s son-in-law, and the heir apparent to Fleischer’s throne.

“Would that be Nat Loubet you’re meeting with?” I asked, quickly realizing I was out-of-place for doing so.

“Yes it is,” laughed the most respected boxing journalist in the world. Then he gave me a playful smack on the top of my head.

“Millie, take this young man into my office and give him a few copies of his favorite reading material.”

We walked into a neat office with framed issues of The Ring hanging on the walls, along with photos of Nat Fleischer giving and receiving awards. There he was with Jack Dempsey. With Joe Louis. With Sugar Ray Robinson. With Willie Pep. With Henry Armstrong. With Gene Tunney.

This was the office, which, in 15 years, I would sit in—at that very same desk—as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine which Fleischer gave life to in 1922 and which Bert Sugar and I brought back from the dead in 1979.

I walked around the room. I looked at the photos. My love for the sport intensified with every minute I stayed there. Then, as I was looking at a photo of Nat Fleischer presenting an award to Rocky Marciano, the door leading from Loubet’s office to Fleischer’s opened. In walked Fleischer. He saw me looking at the photo of him and Marciano.

“I was presenting Rocky with the ‘Fighter of the Year Award’ at the Downtown Athletic Club,” said Fleischer. He motioned to the couch in his office.

“Sit, Mr. Gordon,” he said. “Stay and talk about Rocky Marciano.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fleischer,” I said, adding, “Please call me Randy. Mr. Gordon is my father.”

Then, showing a sense of humor, he said, “Then you can call me Nat. Mr. Fleischer is my father!”

I walked over and sat on the couch. He walked over and sat down a few feet away. Then he turned and asked, “So, do you think Marciano was the greatest heavyweight champion ever?”

He watched as I looked up, obviously in deep thought. He answered for me.

“Marciano was good, real good,” said Fleischer. “He may have been the toughest heavyweight ever…the most determined…relentless…a banger…he could take a guy out with either hand.”

Then he paused and took a deep breath.

“But he wasn’t the best ever,” said Fleischer. “Far from it.”

“Who was?” I asked. “Was it Joe Louis?”

Fleischer shook his head.

“Jersey Joe? Gene Tunney?” I inquired.

“No sir,” said Fleischer. “The greatest was Jack Johnson.”

“Where does Marciano fit in?” I asked.

He took a pad from the table from in front of the couch, then removed a gold pen from his shirt pocket and began to write. In about a minute, he handed me his list:

1 – Jack Johnson
2 – James J. Jeffries
3 – Bob Fitzsimmons
4 – Jack Dempsey
5 – James J. Corbett
6 – Joe Louis
7 – Sam Langford
8 – Gene Tunney
9 – Max Schmeling
10- Rocky Marciano

I looked it over. I was surprised to see Marciano at #10. I asked him why he was so low.

“It’s not that’s he’s low,” explained Fleischer. The ones above him were so great.”

Just then, the TV crew arrived.

“Stay, Randy,” said Fleischer. “They’re from ABC News. They are going to interview me about the death of Rocky Marciano.”

“I’d love to watch,” I said. “I’ll stay quietly out of the way.”

I sat on the couch as around eight members of the ABC crew set up their lights, ran electric wiring along Fleischer’s office floor and duct-taped it down, checked their cameras and microphones and connected a small microphone to Fleischer’s shirt, running the wire down the back of his shirt and out to a small box connected to the back of his pants. One of the technicians powdered Fleischer’s nose and held a piece of white typing paper next to his face as they did a white balance, making sure their wasn’t too much light on the subject, causing an on-screen glare. The interview was underway within a half hour of the crew showing up.

“What was your reaction when you heard that Rocky Marciano had been killed?” Fleischer was asked.

“Like everybody else, I was stunned,” he said. “I still am.”

“Describe Rocky Marciano the fighter, Mr. Fleischer,” came the next question.

“He lived up to his nickname. He was a Rock. A boulder. He was relentless. And tireless. His defense wasn’t the best, but he didn’t mind trading punches. With Rocky, it took only one shot. Just one!”

As Fleischer was interviewed, I stared at his list of top all-time heavyweights:

10. Rocky Marciano

I had long thought Marciano would have been in the top three, but that was from hearing my dad heaping praise on him whenever we talked about the heavyweight champs.

After the interview, and after the camera crew had left, I said, “Thank you, Nat, for taking the time to meet me and stay to watch you interviewed. Before I leave, can I ask you three things?”

Sure, Randy, ask away,” said the Founder/Owner/President/Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of The Ring.

“My first question is, ‘Are the guys above Marciano in your ratings so much better? Shouldn’t he be rated a lot higher. He knocked out Louis, who you have at number six.’”

He looked at me and said, “Marciano is one of my all-time favorites. He had the biggest heart ever. Sure, he beat Louis, but Joe was a shell of himself them, and still gave Marciano a rough time. Other guys he beat, like Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore were also past their prime.”

I nodded my head.

“Muhammad Ali is in exile,” I said. “If he didn’t run into draft problems and was still fighting, do you think he would have become an all-time great?”

“Cassius Clay (Fleischer always referred to Ali—even rated him—as Cassius Clay) was a big, strong, lightning-quick heavyweight. But speed and agility is all he had. Anybody in my Top 10 would have had an easy night with him.”

I remained expressionless, not wanting to tell Nat Fleischer I disagreed. Maybe another time.

“My last question, Nat, is ‘How do I get a job as boxing writer? I want to be in the business. Where do I start?’”

He placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Well, it helps to know somebody,” he said, looking directly into my eyes. Then he smiled.

“You know me,” he continued. “I will help you get your start.”

“You will?” I said with excitement.

“I will,” he replied. “When do you graduate college?”

“In two years, sir,” I answered.

“Stay in touch,” he told me. “Send me some of the articles you write for your college newspaper. When you graduate, you’ve got yourself a job.”

Excitedly, I embraced the Dean of all boxing writers.

“Thank you, Nat! Thank you!” I exclaimed.

He laughed.

We shook hands, and he walked me out of his office—my future office—to the elevator.

“Stay in touch, Randy,” he said.

“I will, Nat, thank you so much,” I replied.

The elevator door closed and we waved to each other.

I never saw—or spoke—to him again. A few months after we met, he celebrated his 82nd birthday. That winter, he contracted pneumonia, and the battle took its toll. He began to need more rest and went into the office less frequently. By the following year, he hardly went in at all. His son-in-law, Nat Loubet, took over the reigns of The Ring.

On June 25, 1972, a few weeks after I graduated college, Nat Fleischer went to that big arena in the sky. He was 84.

It was eerie, when, seven years later, I walked into that same office to team with Bert Randolph Sugar in rebuilding and revitalizing a near-bankrupt Ring Magazine, turning it into perhaps the finest, most-respected and widely-read boxing magazine of all time.

During those Ring years, and in the decades since, I have watched Marciano’s legacy become almost mythical. The old-timers I knew back then who knew Marciano and covered him and used to tell me stories of The Rock are long gone.

I have been asked, as a former Editor-in-Chief of The Ring, to put together my list of Top-10 heavyweights, just like Nat Fleischer did and just like Bert Sugar did. Joe Louis was #1 on Sugar’s list. Marciano was #6.

I can’t do a list. Lord knows I’ve tried.

That’s because dreams die hard. As a kid, Rocky Marciano was among the greatest, if not THE greatest. Today, he’s a mythical name who my Italian friends love to talk about and ask if I think he was the best heavyweight ever.

It’s tough for me to tell them he wasn’t the greatest heavyweight champ ever, probably not even a Top-10 All-Time Heavyweight Champ.

Occasionally, I’ll look skywards and ask Nat Fleischer and Bert Sugar for help, saying, “I am about to put together my Top-10 heavyweights. Where do I put Muhammad Ali? Where do I put Jack Johnson. Where do I put Joe Louis? How about Rocky Marciano? What do I do with him?”

When my book comes out, and I have my chapter of Lists, I just my leave my list of Top-10 heavyweights blank.

I still have no idea where to put Rocky Marciano.

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Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled?

Thomas Hauser

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PART ONE OF A TWO-PART STORY — On September 11, Evander Holyfield was knocked out by Vitor Belfort in the first round of a boxing event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. There was widespread criticism of the event before it took place and more criticism when it was over. Holyfield is 58 years old and shouldn’t be getting punched in the head by men trained in the art of hurting.

Worse, interviews with multiple people involved with the promotion suggest that Holyfield was hustled. That he went into the ring thinking he was about to participate in an exhibition in which neither man would use best efforts to hurt the other only to find himself double-crossed in a scenario akin to an old-time boxing movie.

How did boxing get into this mess? Read on.

In 2015, two musicians in search of an inexpensive way to edit their work launched a video app called Triller that enabled them and other users to avoid the cost of renting studio space. A year later, Triller was transitioning to becoming a social video app but had still not entered the mainstream consciousness. Enter Ryan Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh is a 46-year-old businessman, a big concept guy who’s adept at raising money. Over the years, he has been meshed in a wave of litigation touching upon his professional and personal life.

In 2004, Kavanaugh founded an entertainment company called Relativity Media that purported to use sophisticated algorithms to eliminate the risk from film financing. Variety named him “Showman of the Year” and he made his way onto the Forbes list of billionaires. Then Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy. Twice. Kavanaugh told the Wall Street Journal that he took Relativity into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 “to fend off vulture investors who were trying to steal the company” and that he wasn’t involved in the second bankruptcy. In 2018, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Relativity Media sold substantially all of its remaining assets to a holding company called UltraV.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Kavanaugh founded a company called Proxima Media. In 2019, Proxima Media acquired a majority stake in Triller. Kavanaugh sought to position Triller as an American version of TikTok (the Chinese-owned, social networking service that was under attack by then-president Donald Trump). To date, Triller has fallen far short of TikTok’s success.

In describing Triller, a company press release states, “The Triller Network is a consolidation of companies, apps and technologies. Triller Network pairs the culture of music with sports, fashion, entertainment and influencers through a 360-degree tech and content-based vertical.”

Triller became a significant player in boxing when it put together a November 28, 2020, exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones that engendered an estimated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys. DAZN and Matchroom had jumpstarted the move of “trash boxing” into the mainstream of the sport when they partnered to stream Logan Paul vs. KSI on November 9, 2019. Tyson-Jones brought this phenomenon to a new level.

Triller got what it wanted most out of Tyson-Jones – massive publicity and clicks. And the event fit perfectly into what Kavanaugh (pictured below with Oscar De La Hoya) calls Triller Fight Club’s “four-quadrant model” consisting of “influencers, legends, music artists, and contemporary fighters.”

Then Triller shook up the boxing world. At a February 25, 2021, purse bid, it offered $6,018,000 for rights to the four-belt title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos. That was $2.5 million more than the next highest bid (submitted by Matchroom) and $3.7 million more than the number submitted by Top Rank (Lopez’s promoter). Lopez-Kambosos is currently scheduled to be contested at Madison Square Garden on October 4. Triller’s bid was a statement that – temporarily at least – it’s a significant player in legitimate boxing.

More Triller events followed. Most notably, on April 17, 2021, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round. One month later, it was announced that Paul was leaving Triller pursuant to a multi-bout deal with Showtime. The April 17 card also saw a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. The event and others that followed seemed to be mired in red ink. But they were aimed at building Triller’s base and were showpieces for potential investors.

Meanwhile, on April 14, 2021, Triller announced that it had acquired FITE – a small but successful technology company that has become a leader in the distribution of pay-per-view combat sports events. After numerous snags in ironing out the contracts, the acquisition was finalized in late-July.

As all of this was unfolding, Triller was looking for its next big legendary fighter. Mike Tyson was unhappy with the money he’d received in the aftermath of his encounter with Roy Jones and, on March 21, had issued a statement that read, “Just to be clear, there is no Tyson with Triller fight. I don’t know any Triller executives personally. I don’t have a deal with Triller or any head executive representing them for the next event. I will never do another event or any business with Triller, so anyone misrepresenting that they own the rights to my name or my next event isn’t true. I am not with or ever will be with Triller’s Fight Club.”

With Tyson unavailable, Triller turned to Oscar De La Hoya.

oscar

For more than a decade, De La Hoya was one of boxing’s brightest stars. But he’s now 48 years old and last fought in 2008 when he was brutalized by Manny Pacquiao.

There’s kindness in Oscar. But he has been wounded many times, physically and psychologically. The psychological wounds seemed to have caused more suffering than the physical. He has acknowledged having problems with alcohol and cocaine and has been in rehab multiple times. The ravages of his lifestyle and years as a fighter have taken a toll.

Three days before Tyson-Jones, De La Hoya said that he was considering a comeback fight against Gennady Golovkin. “You know how easy GGG would be for me?” Oscar asked rhetorically. “I always took a good shot and I always took apart fighters like him.”

Of course, in 2019, Oscar was talking about running for president of the United States.

Appearing at a March 26, 2021, press conference in Las Vegas to promote the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren Triller card, De La Hoya took the microphone, announced “July 3, I’m making my comeback,” dropped the microphone, and walked off the stage.

Paul-Askren, when it came to pass, featured performances by Justin Bieber, The Black Keys, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Diplo, Major Lazer, and what was advertised as “the exclusive world premiere of the hip hop supergroup Mt. Westmore (Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $hort and E-40).” There were pole dancers with big butts and lots of cleavage. Taylor Hill, Charli D’Amelio, and other social media personalities made appearances.

There was also a lot of weed (much of which was openly smoked on camera) and alcohol. The commentating team of Ray Flores, Mario Lopez, and Al Bernstein was joined from time to time by Snoop Dogg, Pete Davidson, and De La Hoya.

Oscar looked bloated, sounded as though he’d participated liberally in hospitality room offerings, and said that he wanted to fight Mike Tyson. Ray Flores observed on air, “Oscar is definitely high.”

One might ask why the people around De La Hoya who care about him allowed that scenario to unfold. Four days later, Oscar appeared on “The DAZN Boxing Show” and was asked about his commentating that night.

“I’ve been in beast mode for about six weeks,” De La Hoya answered. “And I got a little into it; you know. I started having a couple drinks. And then they told me, ‘Why don’t you go and commentate?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man! Okay. Okay.’ I got a little over carried away. And I apologize. But it’s all good. I’m back in beast mode.”

Thereafter, Ryan Kavanaugh told The Sun, “It was a fun event. You had two people up on stage smoking joints, so Oscar had a couple of drinks. He wasn’t falling over. He wasn’t so awful that he did something terrible. People love to talk sh**. I don’t think Oscar was that bad. He was just having fun with it. We told him to have fun with it. We said go and enjoy it. Anybody that has enough time to go onto the internet and start commenting negatively in big ways and making a point of it, they obviously have other issues.”

Then, on June 17, 2021, it was announced that De La Hoya would box against former MMA fighter Vitor Belfort in a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view event to be held in Las Vegas on September 11. Belfort, age 44, had retired in 2018 after compiling a 26-14 career record and losing four of his last six fights. He’d boxed only once as a pro and that was fifteen years earlier.

“This isn’t that WWE theatrics we’ve been seeing in boxing lately,” De La Hoya declared. “This is the real deal, a real fight with real knockouts for a real win. I’m in better shape than I was fifteen years ago. I want to make the biggest comeback in boxing history.”

On July 21, Triller announced that De La Hoya vs. Belfort was moving to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The contract weight was 180 pounds and the bout would be contested over eight two-minute rounds. That brought the California State Athletic Commission into the act.

“We were told that Tyson and Jones would be an exhibition and we regulated it as such,” CSAS executive director Andy Foster said. “An exhibition in the State of California is when you don’t use your best efforts to win. Here, the fighters want to use their best efforts, so by definition it can’t be an exhibition. They want a fight and we’ll regulate it as such. They’re gonna box and we’re gonna score it.”

Asked about drug testing, Foster told this writer, “Both fighters will have to pass their medicals. We’re still working out the details on drug testing. Most likely, it will be conducted by California, not VADA. I think we’ll be focusing on PEDs, not recreational drugs.”

As for possible drug use by the TV commentators, Foster pledged, “The commission will control the environment in the technical zone at ringside.”

The formal kick-off press conference for De La Hoya vs. Belfort took place on July 27.

“I’m doing it for myself,” Oscar told a group of reporters before the formalities began. “I’ve had a f***ing crazy life, you know. I’ve had a crazy life. And sorry if I get all emotional and s***. I’ve done this for thirty-five years. I’ve always done it for my family and fans all over the world. I’ve gone into the ring and just let it all out because I love what I do. I love what I represent for people. But I’m finally fighting for myself. I can’t f***ing wait. It’s going to be hell, but I’ve been through hell and back. There’s nothing that can faze me. There is nothing that can break me down, all the s***, all the bulls***, whatever. I’m strong as a rock. I’m at peace. I finally got here. I’m getting f***ing crazy emotional. It’s been a f***ing struggle. People can talk all the s*** they want to but I will never give up. I feel that age is just a number, and I have to literally thank yoga. It’s not a f***ing joke. Yoga, like really, literally almost saved my life.”

That was followed by pronouncements like, “This is not a game. I said, ‘Look, if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it for real. Let’s not do this song and dance. Let’s not do these exhibitions, you know, that we’re tired of.’ This is the real thing. And the fact that we both agree that it’s gonna be a real fight, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’re gonna kick the s*** out of each other. That’s one thing for sure. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Asked about the possibility of fighting Canelo Alvarez, De La Hoya responded, “Why not? It’s only power. That’s all it is. Power, I can withstand. Speed, like Pacquiao, is a whole different story. I have a good chin, you know.”

At times, promoting the Belfort fight seemed like a therapy session for Oscar.

“I was raped at thirteen, from a woman, an older woman,” he told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “Thirteen, lost my virginity over being, you know, being raped, basically. I was in Hawaii, I think, at some tournament. She was over thirty-five. You suppress everything. You’re living this life, the Golden Boy. But, oh s***, wait, that’s still there. Like I never, like, thought about it. I never processed it. I never really thought how my feelings are until one day it just comes out and you don’t know how to deal with it.”

More troubling, perhaps, was the ugly reality that De La Hoya was on track to be hit in the head multiple times by a man who could punch.

Over the years, Oscar traded blows with fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ike Quartey, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Later, he offered a stark assessment of the risks inherent in the trade he’d chosen. “I hate getting hit,” De La Hoya said. “Getting hit hurts. It damages you. When a fighter trains his body and mind to fight, there’s no room for fear. But I’m realistic enough to understand that there’s no way to know what the effect of getting hit will be ten or fifteen years from now.”

However, at an August 25, 2021, media workout, Oscar declared, “Call me crazy but I just miss it. I missed getting hit and doing the hitting. I wasn’t ready to retire after I lost to Manny Pacquiao. I never felt like I was in wars. In boxing you’re just as old as how you feel. I went through hell and back treating my body wrong, but these last six months I feel amazing. I refocused myself and rededicated myself and I’m actually doing this for me. I can’t wait. I’m going to give the fans a war. I’ve been studying Marvin Hagler versus Thomas Hearns for a reason. I want a fight, a war. I have a good chin and I can take the punch. My inspiration for this fight is Arturo Gatti. I want one of those types of fights.”

No one asked about a September 27, 2010, interview with Broadcasting & Cable. In that interview, De La Hoya had acknowledged, “I did have tests done after every single fight. My last fight, they found something that they couldn’t really understand in my head. It didn’t help me to make my decision to retire, but it was obviously a concern. I had second and third opinions. It was something in my head that they thought could maybe have an effect thirty years down the road, but they just weren’t sure. Maybe they were being extra-careful.”

Then, on September 3, De La Hoya vs. Belfort ground to a halt. Oscar announced that he had tested positive for COVID and that the fight was off. One day later, 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was substituted as Belfort’s opponent.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Holyfield-Belfort photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Triller Fight Club

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Serhii Bohachuk Gets 20th KO Win Plus Undercard Results from Montebello

David A. Avila

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Serhii Bohachuk Gets 20th KO Win Plus Undercard Results from Montebello

Montebello, CA.-Two contenders looking to rebound found their mark on Thursday.

Super welterweight Serhii Bohachuk (20-1, 20 KOs) needed a round to figure out the southpaw style of Raphael Igbokwe (16-3, 7 KOs) and then increased the pressure round by round until the pipes broke. More than 1,000 fans at the Quiet Cannon Event center were pleased.

Bohachuk likes to wheel and deal like a whirling dervish, but seemed to find a better lane for his lethal right when he slowed down a bit. Right after right connected on Igbokwe but the Texas fighter was pretty strong at first.

Though Igbokwe took a pounding early on, he seemed strong enough to absorb the head shots. But when the Ukrainian fighter began targeting the body that seemed to open up all the firing lanes. Bohachuk was like a hunter at a turkey shoot.

For the next three rounds Bohachuk pounded away at Igbokwe’s body and head. It didn’t seem possible for the lefty to absorb too much. He tried to fight back but nothing seemed to be able to slow down Bohachuk.

Referee Jack Reiss kept looking at Igbokwe and finally around the sixth round he signaled outside the ring to a ringside physician that assistance might be needed to make an evaluation. As the round ended Igbokwe’s corner signaled with a towel to stop the fight. Reiss called the fight over at the end of the sixth round.

Bohachuk was back and the fans were pleased.

Akhmedov

In the co-main event, Ali Akhmedov (17-1, 12 KOs) was bigger, stronger and seemingly faster than Texan David Zegarra (34-6-1, 21 KOs) and quickly took over the super middleweight fight. It lasted only four rounds.

Zegarra was unable to keep Akhmedov from charging in. Though he never went down he took a pounding in every round from the Kazakhstan fighter. Just as Akhmedov began to gain momentum, the fight was halted at the end of the fourth round.

Akhmedov was the winner by technical knockout.

Female War

Think Hagler-Hearns and that’s what you got with Chelsea Anderson (4-0) and Elvina White (5-1) clashing in a four-round lightweight explosion.

Anderson the taller fighter and White the slightly more experienced, ring-wise, let loose with a flurry of blows from the opening bell with each connecting early. Anderson used her reach to connect under and over especially with the rights. White seemed more successful with the left hook. A left and right shot through White’s guard and down she went. She beat the count and nodded her head as if signifying it was a good shot.

In the second round White knew that Anderson packed power but proceeded to attack anyway. Once again Anderson connected with that lethal right cross and down went White again. This time seemingly a little more stunned and the round ended.

The referee seemed concerned about White and signaled the ringside physician to take a look. He seemed satisfied by her response and allowed the fight to resume. White attacked with even more fury and though Anderson always seemed fully loaded with the right, the shorter White was able to avoid it.

It was hard to believe that the two lightweights were able to continue the high volume battle. Anderson seemed even more fresh than in the third round, and White seemed to be able to avoid that monster right from Anderson. But the taller fighter from Yorba Linda kept the pressure and used her reach to keep White at the end of her blows. Though White did connect it wasn’t enough to hurt Anderson who seemingly walked through them at times. The crowd stood on its feet for the final 30 seconds as both unloaded.

“I was ready for her movement,” said Anderson who lives and trains in Orange County. “I’ve been working on that over and under move for weeks.”

Two judges scored it 39-35 twice and a third 40-34 all for Anderson.

Other Bouts

In a battle of undefeated super featherweights Adrian Corona (8-0, 2 KOs) of Rialto, Calif. knocked out Oxnard’s Daniel Robles (7-1-1, 5 KOs) in the first round. It was supposed to be the boxer versus the puncher but it turned out that the Rialto’s Corona can punch too.

Corona moved in early at the opening bell and fired a crisp one-two through Robles guard and delivered him to the floor for a count. Robles beat the count and tried to rally. Corona moved in and floored him with a right cross and that was it. The referee stopped the fight at 2:45 of the first round.

Light heavyweights Rafayel Simonyan (9-1-1, 8 KOs) and Adrian Taylor (11-1-1, 4 KOs) went to war on the inside for eight rounds. It ended in a split draw.

Eric Mondragon (4-0-1) dominated all four rounds against Braulio Avila (3-11) to win by unanimous decision after four rounds in a lightweight bout.

An amateur featherweight fight saw Glendale, California’s Chantel Navarro win by unanimous decision over Riverside’s Daniela Rojas in a three-round fight that was far closer than might seem.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Serhii Bohachuk in Montebello and More News and Notes

David A. Avila

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Serhii-Bohachuk-in-Montebello-and-More-News-and-Notes

Serhii Bohachuk leads an impressive lineup put together by 360 Promotions and returns to Southern California ready to resume an assault on the super welterweight division.

Asked how he intends to proceed?

“I don’t talk, talk, talk,” said Bohachuk. “I just show with action.”

Bohachuk (19-1, 19 KOs) meets southpaw Raphael Igbokwe (16-2, 7 KOs) in the main event on Thursday Sept. 16, at Quiet Cannon Events Center in Montebello, Calif. UFC Fight Pass will stream the boxing card that begins at 5:30 p.m. PST.

Early in the year Bohachuk, nicknamed “El Flaco,” was winning a showdown against Brandon Adams staged in Puerto Rico, when he was caught with a sneaky left hook. The fight was eventually stopped and the amiable Ukrainian fighter suffered his first loss.

But he’s back.

He scored a knockout win in July and now seems poised to make a run at the top, starting with Houston’s Igbokwe. For Bohachuk, 26, losing a fight actually could make world champions more inclined to accept a match with him. Who wanted to face a fighter with every win coming via knockout? Bohachuk just needs to continue winning.

Another contender looking to rebound is Ali Akhmedov (16-1, 12 KOs) who lost a bid for the IBO super middleweight world title to Carlos Gongora last December. No shame losing to the world champion from Ecuador.

Kazakhstan’s Akhmedov sits in the same situation as Bohachuk in that a loss actually makes him more alluring for a world champion to accept. Losing a fight did not hurt contenders like Sullivan Barrera or Sergey Kovalev.

Akhmedov, 26, meets Peru’s David Zegarra (34-5, 21 KOs) in an eight-round bout in the semi-main event. It should be interesting.

Rounding out the rest of the heavy duty card will be undefeated Adrian Corona (7-0) fighting undefeated Danny Robles (7-0-1) in a super featherweight six round bout. Also, undefeated female lightweights Elvina White (5-0) and Chelsey Anderson (3-0) clash in a four-round bout.

A special amateur feature pits national champion Chantel Navarro against Daniela Rojas for a special title to open the show that encompasses a total of eight pro bouts. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Previously 360 Promotions staged its boxing cards at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, but they outgrew that venue. The Quiet Cannon venue in Montebello had been used for a couple of decades for boxing quite successfully. Now, 360 Promotions has picked up the gauntlet to provide boxing to that area in one of the best venues in Southern California.

For tickets and information go to: https://hollywoodfightnights.festivalsetup.com/ or to @360 Promotions on Instagram.

Coming Soon

Aside from Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder meeting on Oct. 9, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, several other shows are coming down the pike.

Oct. 15, at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. a Top Rank show brings WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) of Mexico defending against Southern California’s Joet Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs). Also on the same card, San Diego’s Giovani Santillan meets Angel Ruiz

Las Vegas

Two weeks apart, two of the top Pound for Pound fighters in the world invade Las Vegas for their piece of the boxing pie.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) shoves in all his multiple world titles against Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) and his IBF super middleweight belt in an attempt to claim the undisputed super middleweight world championship on Saturday Nov. 6, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Canelo has three of the four belts not including those he took at light heavyweight. It doesn’t seem like a fair trade but the Mexican redhead doesn’t care. Plant is a right-handed version of Billy Joe Saunders and will use the exact same method of attack.

Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) on Nov. 20, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The Nebraska welterweight finally gets an opportunity to prove he’s at the top of the welterweight rung when he meets Porter. It’s a very good chance to compare how Crawford stands against Errol Spence Jr. who barely defeated Porter a couple of years ago in Los Angeles.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (19-1) vs Raphael Igbokwe (16-2).

Sat. Fox S1 4 p.m. Jose Valenzuela (9-0) vs Denier Berrio (22-3-1), Rajon Chance (5-0) vs Elon De Jesus (3-0).

Pictured left to right: trainer Manny Robles, Serhii Bohachuk, assistant trainer Ben Lira, Ali Akhmedov, promoter Tom Loeffler. Photo credit: Al Applerose

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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