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There Are Decent People in Boxing, Doing Decent Things

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I know this story won’t draw a huge number of hits.

Tough tamales, I say.

Stories like this one, which spotlight people who are doing good things, aren’t written enough, not by me, and sure as hell not by a media obsessed with feeding the darker sides of all our human nature.

Melvina Lathan was named chair of the New York State Athletic Commission in 2008. It was a heady time. Optimism was in the air, amongst many of us, anyway, if not for the people for whom color blindness infects their reasoning, however much of it they may possess. A black man was elected to oversee the most powerful nation in the world, and that felt like a massive reparation, and a concession to progress, a reminder, of which there hasn’t been enough of in the last 30 or so years, that America can do great things, beyond thinking up ways to package sugar and fat into delectable fast food items, and engineer diabolically lucrative methods to exploit loopholes and make Wall Street richer than the sum total of some small nations’ GDP.

A woman being named to head up an athletic commission…good stuff.

Her tenure, as all of them are, was a mix of positive and negative. I’d argue that the positive far, far outweighed the negative, especially if you talk to some of those young fighters who she touched, with one of those hugs, or a heart to heart talk, or a string of encouraging words which lifted them up after back to back losses, or they admitted to a homelife featuring a paucity of love and attention.

We the media aren’t, of course, so prone to pick up on those stories. They don’t do as well in the hit department and also some feel funny about writing “positive” stories. It’s like we’re fated to skew negative, we fightwriters, because we often subscribe to the conventional wisdom theory, that our red light district of sports is a human cesspool where flesh merchants slither alongside wannabes and dreamers and square peggers who have been drawn to the only pro sport which would allow entry to the likes of them.

Further, sometimes people tell me to get over myself, stop being so self righteous, stop that earnest schtick, stop preaching. Eff them, eff that I say.

If we the media don’t get a bit better at accentuating positives then why don’t we just pull up stakes, call it a day, and concede to the darkside?

Hey, I wonder if maybe Lathan sometimes feels like conceding…throwing in the towel…hanging up the gloves, stepping down. You guys know what happened last November, how a boxer, a brave warrior fought his heart out, and almost gave his life for what he was born to do. You know that in such situations, we play the blame game. We ask, we want answers: who screwed up? We need a head to roll…That’s the way the game is played when fate takes a turn into a deep ditch. Should it be? No.

I was at MSG that night, I saw the warrior who is today back at home, getting better, to the utter joy of his wife and kids, throwing hard punches to the final bell. And after that fight, could things have gone more smoothly, and could maybe Mago have been better served? Sure. By any number of people. They know who they are. No one person deserves an excess of scorn or judgement in such a system, not when we are all operating within the imperfect system that is boxing, and life.

I don’t find it fair when one act defines a person.

Now, maybe she doesn’t really want me to write this, but I think it is important to get this out there. Lathan has been married for 44 years. She experienced the ups and downs that we all do, doing that marriage thing, doing the life thing, but if you know her, you hear her talk about her four kids, her 13 grand-children, and you know that this is a person who seems to understand priorities, what the big picture should be.

She’s been tested; her younger brother had a stroke, which left her asking why, if indeed everything happens for a reason. Two years later, her husband, a physician, also suffered a stroke. This is the kind of stuff that can and will happen to you if you are graced with enough decades on earth. But we’re not inclined to advertise our woes, are we, we’re encouraged to soldier on. So, while those issues linger in our mind while we get through that work day, because that mortgage still got to be paid, most folks we deal with don’t know when our souls are being particularly challenged. And most folks don’t know when a good person is doing things that aren’t earning themselves a boatload of money or acclaim. When a Lathan is helping put together a fund-raising golf outing for the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing, which unfolds Oct. 13 at the Galloway National Golf Club, in Galloway, New Jersey, you’re not as likely to hear about it as when the blame game is being indulged in….

Let’s put aside the blame game, and note that four kids were given scholarship dough last year out of funds raised at the AAIB outing and gala dinner. And while we’re shifting out of the gears of the familiar, the sensational, the blameworthy, the superficial, let’s consider a fuller picture on Lathan, who two weeks ago was visiting  about 30 kids at the Willis Ave. Gym in the South Bronx, giving out goodie bags, with fresh fruit and water and the like, from out of her own pocket. She talked to the kids about healthy nutrition, about staying in school, about being decent souls, about stuff that so many of us take for granted, and can’t conceive of anyone needing pointers on, because we come from a place of plenty. And did you hear about her presence at the WBC’s first Women’s Convention in Mexico last week, and how she was rallying people together, trying to help advance the cause and presence of women in the sport, encouraging the voiceless to use those lungs, announce their worth in the world? You didn’t hear about that stuff? Shame on me, for not shouting it louder….

Yeah, decent people in boxing. Doing good things. Spreading positive messages. it happens. A lot.

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High Drama at Turning Stone where Ford Rallied to Overcome Kholmatov

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Top Rank Promotions was at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, tonight with a 9-bout card topped by a pair of world featherweight title fights. The main go for the WBA diadem vacated by Leigh Wood shaped up as a fan-friendly match and exceeded expectations. In a doozy of a fight, Raymond Ford pulled the fight out of the fire in the final minute, halting Otabek Kholmatov to become the third man from Camden, New Jersey to win a world title following in the footsteps of Jersey Joe Walcott and Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

This was a match with several twists and turns. Kholmatov, a 25-year-old Uzbek who resides in south Florida when he isn’t training with the Diaz brothers in the California desert, started fast, forcing Ford to change his tactics and become more of the aggressor. Heading into the final round, Kholmatov was ahead by three points on two of the scorecards while Ford had a 1-point advantage on the other. Moreover, it appeared as if the momentum had shifted back in favor of the Uzbek. But Ford, bleeding from a cut under his left eye, saved his best for last. He landed a punch that began a sequence that ended with Kholmatov turning his back on Ford as he reeled drunkenly into a corner post. There were 7 seconds remaining in the fight when referee Charlie Fitch waived it off.

Ford, with his promoter Eddie Hearn in attendance, improved his ledger to 15-0-1 with his eighth win inside the distance. It was the first pro loss for Kholmatov who had knocked out 11 of his previous 12 opponents and went to post a small favorite.

Co-Feature

The ESPN announcing crew created the impression that the IBF title fight between Luis Alberto Lopez and Reiya Abe was a 50/50 fight, but the oddsmakers who installed Lopez an 8/1 favorite knew better. Mexicali’s ever-improving Lopez, in his third defense of the title he won in England with an upset of Josh Warrington, dominated from the onset before ending matters in the opening minute of the eighth round.

Abe, 25-3-1 heading in, was making his first start outside Japan. It was all uphill for him after his right eye started to swell shut in the second round. Lopez, who improved to 30-2 (17 KOs) continued to stalk him and finally cranked up the juice in round eight, forcing referee Mark Nelson to step in and save Abe from future punishment. Nelson, to his everlasting credit, took the fight out of the hands of the ring doctor who was remiss in allowing the match to continue as long as it did.

UNDERCARD

A bloody welterweight contest slated for “10” between Atlanta’s Brian Norman Jr (25-0, 19 KOs heading in) and Detroit’s Janelson Bocachica (17-2-1) was called off after three rounds and declared a “no decision.”

Bocachica, blood streaming from a cut in the corner of his left eye, put Norman on the canvas with an overhand right in the opening frame. Norman hadn’t previously been knocked down. Over the next two rounds, Norman suffered a bad cut in the corner of his right eye and Bocachica suffered a cut on his hairline that bled profusely. Replays showed that Bocachica’s cuts were the result of accidental head buts and that Norman’s cut resulted from an elbow.

In a spirited 6-round junior welterweight match for Empire State bragging rights, Syracuse’s Bryce Mills (15-1, 5 KOs) turned away Buffalo’s Gerffred Ngayot, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 58-56 and 60-54 twice.

Mills, 22, brought a large contingent of fans and he rewarded them with a busy-bee performance that animated the crowd. A native of war-torn Congo who has lived in western New York since the age of six, Ngayot declined to 6-2.

In the first stoppage of the evening, Troy Isley, in his second fight with the noted trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre in his corner, halted Fresno’s Marcos Hernandez at the 1:30 mark of round seven. A counter right hand did the damage. Hernandez (16-7-2) stumbled face first to the canvas and although he beat the count, referee Mark Nelson properly said “enough.”

This was the best performance of his pro career by Isley (12-0, 5 KOs).

Twenty-year-old Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz improved to 11-0 (3 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Edwin Rodriguez (12-8-2). This was Cashflow’s first fight training under the aforementioned “Bomac.” A 30-year-old father of four who has never been stopped, Rodriguez was never in serious danger.

Tokyo Olympian Rohan Polanco, a Dominican who has been training in Massachusetts, advanced to 12-0 (7) with a dominant 8-round decision over Tarik Zaina. The scores were 78-72 and 79-71 twice. Polanco scored knockdowns in each of the last two rounds, the first more of a push but the second legitimate and he would have likely won by stoppage if the bout had lasted 10 seconds longer. It was the first pro loss for the Morocco-born Zaina (13-1-1) who fights out of Tijuana.

Las Vegas middleweight Nico Ali Walsh (10-1, 1 NC 5 KOs) won a workmanlike 6-round decision over Cincinnati’s Charles Stanford (7-6). The judges had it 59-55 and 60-54 twice.

Ali Walsh was making his second start with Ismael Salas in his corner. Stanford, 37, fought 15 days ago at Madison-Square Garden on the undercard of Foster-Nova, losing a 6-round decision to an undefeated opponent.

In the lid-lifter, heavyweight Brandon Moore (14-0, 8 KOs) won a ho-hum 8-round decision over flabby Utah trial horse Helamon Olguin (9-7-1).

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Jake Paul KOs Ryan Bourland but Amanda Serrano’s Fight Falls Out

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Jake Paul brought his brand of boxing to Puerto Rico along with Amanda Serrano but it wasn’t all roses and champagne despite another first round knockout by the influencer boxer on Saturday.

Puerto Rican seven-division titlist Serrano was forced to pull out of the featherweight world championship match due to a damaged cornea.

Doctors would not allow her to fight.

“I wanted to fight,” said a tearful Serrano.

No matter, Paul (9-1, 6 KOs) carried the show with a devastating knockout win over American cruiserweight Ryan Bourland (17-3, 6 KOs) before a sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 fans at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan.

Once again Paul fought a legitimate pro boxer and once again he mowed down another prizefighter via first round knockout. The continuously improving Paul who moved around like a seasoned veteran while punishing the body of Bourland.

Body shots followed by a blazing combination of blows proved too much for North Dakota’s Bourland. After several volleys of blows it was apparent that Paul had hurt the cruiserweight with a left hook to the chin and then a follow-up barrage had Bourland in a save-me-defensive stance. The referee stepped in and stopped the action at 2:37 of the first round.

“I was hoping for more rounds,” said Paul after the speedy knockout. “I’m just to glad to be in Puerto Rico.”

Now making his residence in Puerto Rico, the new age fighter stood behind Serrano as she explained to the crowd that she was not able to fight Germany’s Nina Meinke in the main event due to an eye injury. Apparently, it may have occurred during the braiding of her hair two days ago.

“I want to say I’m so sorry,” Serrano said in tears. “I’m a warrior and I would never agree to cancel a fight.”

Nina Meinke who was poised to challenge Serrano was surprised but supportive of Serrano.

“I’m so sorry. I’m absolutely gutted,” Meinke said.

Paul, whose company Most Valuable Promotions backs her, said that every fan in attendance could get refunds. He also said they would try and re-schedule Serrano versus Meinke in the future.

Other Bouts

Despite 12 rounds of holding and clinching WBO light flyweight titlist Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (28-3-1) retained the title by unanimous decision over number one challenger Rene Santiago (12-4). It was a strange decision that saw Santiago land the clearer and more accurate punching. Both fighters are from Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s Krystal Rosario (3-0) won a very close scrap against Los Angeles fighter Gloria Munguilla (5-1) by majority decision. Rosario was bigger, faster and stronger but Munguilla was able to connect at times with more flush punches.

Actor Wanna Walton (1-0-1) and Californian Joshua Torres (0-1-2) fought to a majority draw after four rounds in a super featherweight fight. Neither fighter fired many blows in the four-round affair.

Christopher Diaz (28-4, 18 KO+s) needed one round to figure out Headley Scott (18-2) before dropping him with a leaping left hook in the second round. After Scott beat the count Diaz connected with another left hook to end the fight.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.- Adorned in a white suit, Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, but this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden where their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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