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COMMISIONER’S CORNER: Turning Back the Clock

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Photo Credit : David Spagnolo

When it comes to age, what is lost is lost forever, and cannot be gotten back. Bernard Hopkins, a proud but beaten man, learned that lesson on Saturday night in a boxing ring in Atlantic City, N.J. He learned it from a man who was 4½ years old when Hopkins had his first professional fight in October 1988.

Hopkins says not to blame his age for his title-losing defeat. He says he lost because Kovalev was the better man and executed his fight plan better than Hopkins executed his. That it very true. But it’s not only hard—it’s impossible—not to blame Hopkins’ age. He went into Saturday night’s fight at 49 years, 10 months and eight days of age. That’s 49 years, 10 months and eight days. No champion in boxing history ever climbed into a ring to defend a championship with that many years and that much mileage to show.

I’m a historian of this sport. I should have seen that. I should have known that. I should have realized that. Yet, I got caught up in Hopkins’ “Alien” act. I now realize he didn’t just do that for us. In reality, he did that more for himself than for us. He needed to convince himself that he was special, being able to fight at such a high level for so long at an age where nobody else could. That includes George Foreman, Roberto Duran, Willie Pep and other legendary pugilists.

Recently, I was reading a copy of a Ring Magazine. It was from 1948, and contained coverage from Louis’ title-retaining split decision win against Jersey Joe Walcott on December 5, 1947. In the coverage were words to the effect of “The aging champion seemed fortunate that his challenger was the same age, as they both battled Father Time as well as each other over the course of 15 rounds.” Both were 34. Louis was an “ancient” 37 when he faced 28-year-old Rocky Marciano in October, 1951. In comparison, Bernard Hopkins fought six times in 1992—the year he turned 37—and won all six of his bouts.

Willie Pep, one of history’s greatest fighters, was 43 when he took a six-round bout against 8-4 Calvin Woodland in 1966, hoping to win and keep his remarkable career going, one which saw him win 229 bouts. He never got that 230th win. Woodland out-boxed the master over six rounds to win the decision.

“I realize that 43 is very old for a fighter,” said Pep afterwards, “but I felt good and believed I could go on. It wasn’t there. It’s over.” He retired after the bout.

Muhammad Ali was 38, mustachioed and overweight when he went into training to face heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. A few weeks later, Ali wore a flat stomach and looked a lot like the Ali who had won his last fight two years earlier, regaining the heavyweight crown from Leon Spinks, who had beaten him in a major upset earlier in the year.

“I found the Fountain of Youth,” proclaimed Ali. We believed him. It was all a dietary façade. Ali, at 217½, took a dreadful pounding at the fists of Holmes, remaining on his stool for round 11. Sadly, “The Greatest” took one more fight–eight months later—and lost again, this time to Trevor Berbick.

After losing to Terry Norris in Madison Square Garden in 1991, Sugar Ray Leonard stood in his locker room, holding an ice pack to a swollen, bleeding lower lip.

“It’s over, Randy,” Leonard said to me in my capacity as Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. “I had to take this fight to show me just how much I had left—or didn’t have left. I saw tonight that it just wasn’t there. I have fought for the last time.” He was three months away from his 35th birthday. Unfortunately, the lure of the spotlight and competition called Leonard again six years later. Two years shy of his 41st birthday, Leonard fought Hector Camacho. Fighting Camacho, age and an injured calf, Leonard was stopped in the fifth round.

Sugar Ray Robinson, who sits atop most lists as history’s finest fighter, believed he still had what it takes to be a world champion when he climbed into the ring in Pittsburgh on November 20, 1965, to face 27-year-old middleweight contender Joey Archer. He didn’t. He lost eight of the rounds on one scorecard, nine on another and all 10 on another, plus was dropped by the light-hitting Archer on the way to losing the decision.

“What can I say, I’m not a youngster anymore,” a proud but vanquished Sugar Ray said afterwards. “I’d only be fooling myself if I continued.” He lived up to his words. He was 44.

Then there was George Foreman, who, until Hopkins outdid him, had been the oldest man to ever win a world championship. When Foreman dropped a right hand on the chin of Michael Moore to regain the heavyweight title in November 1994, Big George was two months shy of his 46th birthday. He stayed competitive for two more years, but, after dropping a 12-round decision to Shannon Briggs (yes, THAT Shannon Briggs!), on November 22, 1997, 48-year-old Foreman hung up his gloves for the final time, saying, “I’m gonna’ walk away with my head held high. I am going to leave this competition stuff to all the young guys, now.”

The bottom line shows that, on November 8, 2014, Sergei Kovalev did to Bernard Hopkins what no other man did to him in 63 previous fights—he shut him out.

To me, though, that doesn’t matter. What Bernard Hopkins has done is nothing short of remarkable. He has lived a Spartan life and has ducked nobody. He took on Sergei Kovalev when other contenders—and even other champions—have looked the other way or run for cover. Hopkins’ attitude was “Let’s do it!”

So, he faced this formidable, unbeaten slugger and, as Rocky Balboa so badly wanted to do against Clubber Lang in their first fight, Hopkins went the distance with the man known as “The Krusher,” taking some hellacious punishment along the way, but showing the courage and willingness to take some more. Some may call it stupidity or stubbornness, but to me, it was the mark of a true warrior who wanted to go out on his shield, on his terms. I found myself yelling for Hopkins in that 12th round, not to launch some George Foremanesque-kind of right hand—though wouldn’t that have been something?!—but to go the distance.

“Stay up, Bernard! Stay up!” I yelled. He listened.

Bernard Hopkins should fight no more, though, that probably won’t be the case. Wouldn’t it be something to see him, at 50, beat Adonis Stevenson next year?

I think B-Hop knows—and has known for some time—that boxing is truly for the young, at least on the competitive side.

If he elects not to fight again, 2020 will be a big year for him. That will be the year he stands at the podium in Canastota, New York, and receives his induction into the International Hall of Fame. He’ll be 54.

Bernard Hopkins is youthful no more. He will soon receive his AARP card. He’ll be closer to 60 than he is to 40.

But, for many of us, watching him over the last 15 years, he has done more than win boxing matches and championships.

He was able to turn back the clock.

Thank you, Bernard.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Sept. 26 Horn of Plenty and Other Notes

Arne K. Lang

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Considering the constraints, the month of September has been a pretty good month for professional boxing. And the month will close with a flourish. Eight world title-holders will be in action on the 26th, the last Saturday of the month.

Five of the belt-holders will appear on the SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader featuring the Charlo twins. The most intriguing fight on that card finds Jermall Charlo risking his belt and his undefeated record against rugged Sergiy Deveryanchenko. At last glance, Jermall was a consensus 17/10 (minus-170) favorite. In baseball, a 17/10 favorite is a heavy favorite. In boxing, not so. A serious handicapper who wouldn’t think of laying 17/10 in a baseball game would have no hesitation about laying these odds in a boxing match.

When Deveryanchenko steps into the ring, 51 weeks will have elapsed since his last fight, his bruising tiff with Gennadiy Golovkin. Jermall Charlo hasn’t been on the shelf for quite that long, having last fought in December.

A more interesting match on this particular Saturday, at least in the eyes of this reporter, will unfold earlier that day in Munich when the curtain finally comes down on Season 2 of the long-drawn-out World Boxing Super Series. Two titles will be on the line when Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) meets Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs).

Briedis’ lone defeat came at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk in a very competitive fight. Briedis won five rounds on two of the cards and won six rounds on the other. Dorticos’ lone defeat came on enemy turf in Sochi, Russia when he was stopped with eight seconds remaining in a doozy of a fight with Murat Gassiev.

Forget the titles; titles are a dime a dozen. These two guys are plainly the two best cruiserweights on the planet.

“The tickets are flying out the door and we expect to sell out within hours, if not days,” said co-promoter Kalle Sauerland at a pre-fight press conference.

That assertion was made way back on January 22 when the fight, originally targeted for late December of last year, was headed to Riga, Latvia, on March 21. That date didn’t work, nor did the re-scheduled date of May 16, and ultimately Riga didn’t work either.

Whatever tickets were sold, had to be refunded. There will be no fans in attendance when Briedis and Dorticos finally lock horns on Sept. 26 at a TV studio in Munich. The fight will air on DAZN in the U.S.

“Rest makes rust” was an often-heard caution when big gamblers of yesteryear dissected a boxing match. The late, great pricemaker Herb Lambeck reflexively shied away from boxers that had been inactive for a considerable period of time. For him, the Briedis-Dorticos match would likely be a head-scratcher. Both combatants have been inactive since June 15 of last year when they appeared in separate bouts on the same card in Riga, Briedis’s hometown. And they aren’t getting any younger. Briedis is 34 and Dorticos is 35.

The odds got nicked down somewhat when the site shifted from Riga with fans to Munich without, predictably so as Briedis, the first fighter from Latvia to win a world title, has an avid local following.

Briedis, the superior boxer, is a consensus 9/5 favorite. That seems a shade high as he won’t be able to feed off the crowd – there won’t be a crowd – and Dorticos, the Cuban KO Doctor, has a better chance of ending the fight with one punch. It wouldn’t be shocking if the fight followed a similar tack as the recent fight between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.

In case you missed it, Whyte was dominating his Russian adversary when things changed in a flash in the fifth round. Out of nowhere, Povetkin, the underdog, unleashed a picture-perfect uppercut that left Whyte flat on his back, unconscious before he hit the canvas. There have been other smashing one-punch knockouts this year – Ryan Garcia’s demolition of Francisco Fonseca comes quickly to mind – and there may be a few more, but it’s hard to visualize anyone topping Povetkin in the voting for Knockout of the Year.

By the way, if he wins it, Povetkin, 41, would be the second-oldest boxer to score the Knockout of the Year. George Foreman was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994. The source is The Ring magazine which has been issuing this award since 1989.

And if you happen to know the youngest fighter to score The Ring Knockout of the Year, then you’re pretty sharp. No, it’s not baby-faced Naoya Inoue, who is older (27) than he looks. The honor goes to the long-forgotten African-American/Filipino southpaw Morris East who was 19 when he knocked out defending WBA 140-pound champion Akinobu Hironaka in 1992.

In a rarity, it didn’t take long for Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte to agree on a rematch. They will meet again on Nov. 21. The venue is undecided, but Eddie Hearn is hopeful that he can pot the fight somewhere outside his backyard “fight camp” with fans in attendance. The first lines on the fight show Whyte the favorite in the vicinity of 13/5. Povetkin-Whyte II will be a nice appetizer for the Errol Spence vs. Danny Garcia match that goes off later that day.

In an unrelated development, Fury-Wilder III is purportedly going to Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders, in late December. Bob Arum anticipates a crowd of 10,000-15,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

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Meekins vs. Kawoya: File It Under Bizarre

Ted Sares

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 It was August 8, 1988. The location was Resorts International in Atlantic City. The main event featured New Yorker John Wesley Meekins (18-1-2) vs another New Yorker (via Uganda and Denmark) Mohammed Kawoya (11-3).

The rangy and skilled Meekins with a stellar amateur career was a clear favorite over the lesser known Kawoya who had fought only once in the US, losing to Jorge Maysonet on cuts at the Felt Forum. Meekins was expected to move on to a world title fight after dispatching Kawoya.

Meekins enjoyed a successful career between 1984 and 1994, fighting the likes of Davey Montana, Mike Mungin, Harold Brazier, Saoul Mamby, Santos Cardona, Darrin Morris (who won his last 16 fights in a row), and Terence Alli. He would lose to a prime Meldrick Taylor (20-0-1) in 1989 with the IBF World Super Lightweight title at stake.

On June 15, 1990, Meekins beat Santos Cardona over 12 rounds to win the NABF light-welterweight championship, but would lose it to Terence Alli some seven months later. It was downhill after that and he retired in November 1994 with a record of 24-5-2 after being stopped by so-so Darryl Lattimore.

Back to Meekins vs. Kawoya

 This one did not go as expected. After being decked in round 2, Kawoya dropped Meekins in the opening seconds of round 3. An exciting fight with multiple knockdowns and furious exchanges was in progress and the fans loved it.

An aroused Meekins then went after the Ugandan with a vengeance and set up one of the most bizarre endings that few boxing fans have ever heard about, much less witnessed, as he again dropped Kawoya this time with a fast left hook. He then went for the kill. Referee Paul Venti sensed it and moved in—perhaps prematurely– as Meekins unleashed what he hoped would be a fight-ending volley of hard shots.

 As soon as Venti stepped in to stop the fight, Kawoya landed a right that dropped Meekins and had him crawling on the canvas and holding on to the ropes devoid of his senses for at least ten seconds. The punch was thrown at the exact moment that Venti ended matters and Venti didn’t realize what had occurred.

 While Kawoya thought he has scored a clean KO and celebrated wildly, the fact was that Venti had ended the fight a fraction of a second before and his decision would stand.

The fans not only enjoyed a great fight, they witnessed something truly memorable—something that had to be seen to be believed; namely, a winner struggling to get up and a loser celebrating what he thought was a knockout.

Kawoya pulled out of the rematch because of a throat infection and Saoul Mamby took his place as a late sub. The Ugandan never fought again, while Meekins never got the title shot that a more impressive effort might have gotten him.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com or on Facebook and welcomes comments.

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Price and Programming Lineup for Sept. 26 Charlo Twins PPV Doubleheader

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PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports has announced the price and programming lineup for the first-of-its-kind pay-per-view doubleheader on Saturday, September 26, featuring two stacked fight cards each headlined by one of the world champion Charlo twins in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions. THE SHOWTIME PPV event, CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER, is available for purchase at a suggested retail price (SRP) of $74.95 and includes six compelling fights, five of which are world championship bouts.

 THE EVENT

The first card of the SHOWTIME PPV telecast will be headlined by undefeated WBC Middleweight World Champion Jermall Charlo defending his title against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon Figueroa will defend his title against Damien Vázquez in the co-featured bout, while WBO Bantamweight World Champion John Riel Casimero faces off against Duke Micah in the pay-per-view opener. Following the main event and a 30-minute intermission, the second three-fight card headlined by WBC Super Welterweight World Champion Jermell Charlo facing unified 154-pound World Champion Jeison Rosario will begin. Luis Nery will battle Aaron Alameda for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in the co-feature, while former unified champion Danny Román faces former champion Juan Carlos Payano in a WBC Super Bantamweight title eliminator bout to open the second three-fight card of the pay-per-view.

TELECAST TEAM

The announce team for the SHOWTIME PPV telecast is comprised of the most experienced and decorated boxing team on television. Veteran sportscaster Brian Custer is the host. Versatile combat sports voice Mauro Ranallo handles blow-by-blow action alongside Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and four-time world champion Abner Mares. Two Hall of Famers round out the telecast team: boxing historian Steve Farhood as unofficial scorer, and world-renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.

THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER and DIGITAL PROGRAMMING LINEUP

In the leadup to the unprecedented two-event pay-per-view, SHOWTIME Sports will produce and premiere THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER, a 30-minute show that chronicles the unique story of Jermall and Jermell, twins born one minute apart in Houston, Texas, as they rise through the ranks and put themselves in position to become global boxing stars. Voiced by SHOWTIME boxing host Brian Custer, THE JOURNEY: CHARLO DOUBLEHEADER features rarely seen footage and gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at their most pivotal career moments, motivations, and life outside of the ring.

THE JOURNEY will premiere on SHOWTIME on Sunday, September 13 at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT and will be available for free on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and all SHOWTIME On Demand platforms.

SHOWTIME Sports will also release new episodes, of the original, digital franchiseRING RESUME which examines the career progressions of boxing’s top stars, available on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel. Beginning Monday, September 21, the SHOWTIME Boxing Snapchat page will focus on high-energy fight and training camp highlights featuring the Charlos. In addition, the Snapchat page will feature the Charlos’ RING RESUMES and THE JOURNEY to expand reach to young audiences with short-form, fast-paced storytelling. Plus, Brendan Schaub and Kenny Florian will preview the keys to the fights on BELOW THE BELT BREAKDOWN, available on the BELOW THE BELT YouTube channel.

MORNING KOMBAT INTERMISSION

Combat sports aficionados Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell will host a 30-minute intermission show after the conclusion of the Charlo vs. Derevyanchenko main event and the start of the second three-fight card. The duo, hosts of the popular live combat sports talk show and podcast MORNING KOMBAT, will also host live streams of the main events press conference and official weigh-in in addition to providing in-depth coverage on MORNING KOMBAT throughout the week. The official weigh-in and main events press conference will stream live on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and SHOWTIME Boxing Facebook page.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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