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Wladimir Klitschko Would’ve Been A Title Threat In Any Era

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He really was a poor man’s Klitschko, and he stood right in front of Wladimir with his head straight up and offered little or no movement. Yes, that’s basically the strategy the slower-handed Kubrat Pulev 20-1 (11) attempted to beat the best heavyweight in the world, Wladimir Klitschko 63-3 (53), with this past weekend.

Pulev was every bit as crude stylistically as most perceived him to be. He was a sitting duck for Klitschko’s right hands and left hooks. Pulev was dropped in the first round by a lead left-hook that Wladimir sneaked in around Kubrat’s right hand. Pulev was visibly hurt, was dropped again and barely made it out of the first round. By the fifth round he was being battered and was stopped via a single lead left hook to the chin. But give Pulev credit for trying and not fighting just to survive. He was just out-gunned by a markedly better and more complete fighter.

Pulev is a very big man and attempted to manhandle and rough up Klitschko, however Wladimir answered back. In this fight we saw for one of the few times how athletic Wladimir is for such a big man. Starting in the second round, Klitschko sensed his superior advantage in hand-speed and laid back some and pot-shotted Pulev and usually beat him to the punch. It was painfully obvious early on that Klitschko did everything better in the ring than Pulev that one fighter can do over another. He had a better and more imaginative offense, he was quicker in getting off, and once he sensed Pulev had no defense for his lead left hook to the chin, he disguised it beautifully and nailed Pulev almost anytime he cut loose with it.

It was easy to glean that Klitschko was clearly a grade above not just Pulev, but any other heavyweight in the world. You can try all you want to make a case for Tyson Fury, Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder but forget about it. Fury would get pummeled like Pulev, maybe even more so. Stiverne is just too short and would look like Eddie Chambers trying to out-box Klitschko a few years back, and if Wladimir fought Wilder, I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if he put him to sleep with the first big right hand or left-hook he landed.

It’s been a decade since Klitschko last lost. You can rip his opposition all you want, but nobody dominates any era if they’re not a pretty special or unique fighter. I see Wladimir as being more unique. It’s suicide bringing the fight to him and if you try and beat him by waiting and reacting, he’ll jab you silly and eventually put you away with a right hand. Wladimir is a lot like Lennox Lewis, the difference being Lewis fought with more confidence and had a much better uppercut. Lennox was also more willing to exchange anywhere in the ring and he could in-fight better. The problem fans and the boxing media have with Wladimir Klitschko is, he so often looks vulnerable and no more than one punch away from being stopped. And you know what, that’s the same thing his opponents see when they watch him. Then they get in the ring with him and find out that getting to him and rattling him to where he’s not fighting his fight is much tougher than it looks. All he’s done is compile a record of 24-2 (19) in title bouts facing every fighter who was qualified to fight him.

To those who haven’t seen enough to at least give him his due, face it, the only opponent he has to worry about is father time calling on him. There isn’t one heavyweight walking the planet that is big enough, fast enough or good enough to out-box him. Sure, he could be stopped on any given night by a legitimate puncher. All you have to do is point out the fighter who has the power and the means to deliver it against him, and then I’ll entertain him losing in 2015.

What’s left to be said about the dominance of Wladimir Klitschko that hasn’t been said? He just made the 17th consecutive defense of his heavyweight title and only trails Larry Holmes (20) and Joe Louis (25). I have both Louis (2) and Holmes (4) in my all-time top five heavyweight champs. No, I don’t think Wladimir is amongst the top-10 all-time great heavyweight champs. But for argument sake, I ask – during Louis’ and Holmes’ title defenses, who did they defend their titles against who Klitschko wouldn’t have beaten?

I’ve gone over the title record of Joe Louis and you know who I come up with? Max Schmeling. I’m not saying Schmeling would beat Klitschko, but he did beat Joe Louis in his prime. Yes, an unprepared Louis, but Joe scored his most impressive career victory over Max Baer a year before fighting Schmeling the first time. All that I’m saying is, the only fighter Louis defended the title against that wouldn’t be considered a “no hope” against Klitschko is Max Schmeling. Conversely, you could say the same about Louis regarding the challengers Wladimir defended against in title bouts, and that is Louis would’ve beat every opponent Klitschko faced in a title bout, at least theoretically.

What about Holmes?

I’ve seen practically every fight of Larry’s career and all of his title defenses, and the only fighters Holmes defended his title against that wouldn’t be a “no hope” opponent against Wladimir are Earnie Shavers, Gerry Cooney and Tim Witherspoon. Yes, Klitschko would probably be favored over all three. But Shavers had the mindset and power to knock Wladimir out if he catches him first, and the undefeated Cooney who Holmes fought was every bit the killer that Wladimir is. Gerry had the style, size and power to blow Klitschko out, or get knocked out in the process. Either way, if you bet on Klitschko to beat Shavers or Cooney, I doubt if you’re sitting ringside right before the first round that you’re saying to yourself, “I wish I bet more.” And the Witherspoon who fought Holmes had the boxing skill, size and punch to beat Klitschko. Remember, I’m taking the challengers the night they fought Holmes and Klitschko. And like Louis, Holmes would’ve theoretically defeated every challenger Wladimir defended against.

The argument against Klitschko is everybody he fought is terrible so he gets no props for winning in the eyes of many fans and media. I remember thinking during the 1990s that the Lewis, Holyfield, Tyson and Bowe era paled in comparison to the Ali, Foreman, Frazier and Holmes era, and I wasn’t alone in holding that point of view. But you know what, how good do the 1990s heavyweights look to the lot Klitschko has defended his title against circa 2006-2014? In fact looking at today’s heavyweight division, the Dokes, Page, Witherspoon, Tubbs, Cooney, Thomas and Berbick era doesn’t look as bad as it did when we were living it.

Every era looks better looking back. In 15 years the opponents that Wladimir fought will probably look less pedestrian than they do now. I’m not saying Wladimir is among the top five all-time heavyweight greats, I’m only saying he would’ve been a handful for any past all-time great.

I’ll wait five years after he’s retired before I attempt to rate Wladimir Klitschko. But I can tell you this, if we’re taking him and bringing him back to the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, or bringing those past greats up to 2014, he’ll make my top 12 easily on a one-off head to head basis. His size, strength and ability to force his physicality on his opponent is just too much of a factor to discount or dismiss.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 287: Boxing Wars on Tap in Philadelphia and Las Vegas

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Those boxing wars continue.

Rival promoters battle it out in America as Matchroom Boxing shows off its newest prize Jaron Ennis while Top Rank presents a world title fight in the middleweight division.

Take your pick. Both are scintillating.

Philadelphia’s Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) makes his promotional debut for the British boxing promotion company and faces David Avanesyan (30-4, 18 KOs) for the IBF welterweight world title on Saturday June 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s been a year since Ennis last fought and meanwhile he was bestowed the IBF title without throwing a punch. He earns it on Saturday.

“Having this time off isn’t going to affect me at all. I just want to get back in the ring,” said Ennis whose last fight was a knockout win over Roiman Villa back on July 8, 2023.

A promotional war ensued for the right to sign Ennis. Matchroom Boxing was the winner and they’re itching to showcase one of the most talked-about welterweights to come along since Sugar Ray Leonard.

Avanesyan was selected to replace original opponent Cody Crowley who was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. The Armenian fighter has upset a few in his career including Sugar Shane Mosley and England’s Josh Kelly a few years back.

He’s not shy.

“I think that this is a 50-50 fight. He’s younger, He’s strong, it’s a very good fight,” said Avanesyan who lives in the United Kingdom.

Ennis had no qualms about facing a veteran like Avanesyan.

“It’s a better fight than Cody Crowley but I’ll beat him up, break him down and get the knockout,” Ennis said.

For the past several years boxing experts have been crowing about the Philadelphia prizefighter’s immense talent. On Saturday in front of a hometown crowd he continues the journey toward stardom.

Also, on the same card female WBC featherweight titlist Skye Nicolson (10-0) defends against Dominican stalwart Dyana Vargas (19-1). The Aussie southpaw makes her first real world title defense.

Las Vegas

IBF and WBO middleweight titlist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0, 10 KOs) defends against Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday July 13, at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank boxing card.

Its Kazakhstan versus Russia as Alimkhanuly continues the middleweight tradition established by his countryman Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Can he continue to dominate?

Alimkhanuly, 31, is a southpaw slugger and still learning how to corral a moving target. But he has power and shouldn’t have a problem finding Mikhailovich who packs power too.

Mikhailovich, 26, fights out of New Zealand but has never had a professional fight outside of the island nation. Will he be able to ignore the glitter of Las Vegas?

Also, Southern California’s Ray Muratalla (20-0, 16 KOs) faces former super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (33-5-1, 8 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for 10 rounds.

It’s another step-up fight for Muratalla who had a four-fight knockout streak snapped in his last fight against South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni this past March. It won’t get any easier against speedy Farmer.

Golden Boy and 360 Promotions

Tickets are available for the super welterweight showdown between Vergil Ortiz and Serhii Bohachuk that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

A press conference was held today at the Golden Boy headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Both fighters were present to kick off the promotion that will feature the two fighters with almost 100 percent knockout rate.

Ortiz has won every fight by knockout. Bohachuk’s last fight ended in a win and was the first time he didn’t obtain a victory by knockout. But the Ukrainian fighter did pick up the interim WBC title with the win over Brian Mendoza who previously had knocked out current champion Sebastian Fundora.

Both Bohachuk and Ortiz train in Southern California.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Nelson Hysa (17-0) vs Thorsten Fuchs (13-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jaron Ennis (31-0) vs David Avanesyan (30-4-1); Skye Nicolson (10-0) vs Dyana Vargas (19-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 8 p.m. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0) vs Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0); Ray Muratalla (20-0) vs Tevin Farmer (33-5-1).

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

There’s a church in Arizona that has its own motto: “A church that cares where you’re going and not where you’ve been.” It’s the catchline of The Rock, a non-denominational Christian church in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

That phrase undoubtedly resonates with Trevor McCumby, a member of the congregation. “I’ve been to some dark places,” says McCumby who was working at a 7-11-style convenience store a few years ago and now finds himself on the cusp of some big paydays in the sweet science.

If McCumby’s name rings a bell, it likely relates to something that had its genesis on Nov. 26, 2016, when he knocked out Donovan George in the opening round on a card in Las Vegas.

The result was changed to “no contest” when traces of two banned substances were discovered in McCumby’s pre-fight urine specimen. Also, McCumby acknowledged receiving an intravenous infusion to rehydrate after the weigh-in which was against the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

It wasn’t until July of the following year when McCumby learned his fate. The boxing commission suspended him for 18 months, retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and fined him $3,750.

He maintains that he never knowingly took a PED. He pointed the blame at a multi-vitamin supplement allegedly contaminated with anabolic agents. (Trevor’s advice to his fellow boxers: If using a supplement, save the receipt and keep the empty container; it may come in useful someday.)

McCumby quit boxing at this juncture but returned in 2018 and recorded two more wins, pushing his record to 25-0 with 17 knockouts. Eleven of those kayos came in the opening round and that doesn’t include his demolition of Donovan George which effectively never happened.

And then, Trevor McCumby fell off the map. Four-and-a-half years would elapse before he returned to the ring, his comeback stalled by a knee injury suffered in sparring.

A light heavyweight during his run to 25-0, he returned as a super middleweight. Two wins in Phoenix prefaced his ProBox debut on Jan. 31 of this year when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over 17-3-1 Christopher Pearson. Up next is former IBF world super middleweight champion Caleb Plant who has been in with the top dogs in the division. It’s not official yet, but it’s an open secret that McCumby and Plant have agreed to touch gloves on August 17, likely in Florida.

Trevor McCumby, now 31 years old, was introduced to boxing by his father, a police officer in Niles, Illinois, and former Marine who once served as a presidential honor guard. The minimum age for an amateur boxer in Illinois was eight, but the elder McCumby lied about his son’s age and Trevor started competing with oversized gloves at the age of seven. (Trevor McCumby and his dad are pictured in a story about amateur boxing in the Windy City that ran in the Chicago Tribune in April of 1999. At the time, little Trevor would have been six years old.)

The McCumbys then lived in Yorkville, Illinois, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Trevor recalls traveling almost every day after school to the gritty south side of Chicago for training. Sweating side-by-side with inner city kids couldn’t help but speed up his development. He had a fine amateur record (127-11 by his count) and, at age 17, with the Olympics yet two years away, was ready to say “yes” when he got a surprise call from Cameron Dunkin who wanted to manage him. Renowned for his keen eye as a talent scout, the late Mr. Dunkin had one of the foremost stables in boxing.

McCumby was then living in Phoenix. He would finish high school in Las Vegas before making his pro debut in Los Angeles at age 18.

Looking back, Trevor says, “I didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have. After each win, it was time to go out and party.” His hiatus from boxing was sobering on many levels. Working in a convenience store was humbling and his priorities changed when he met Kenzie (short for McKenzie), a member of the worship committee at The Rock and his future wife. Trevor is now the father of a 3-year-old son, a 1 ½-year-old daughter and there’s another girl on the way, due in November. As for the knee injury, a torn ACL, Trevor says, “it took about a whole year of rehab but feels better now than it ever did.”

McCumby opened his camp for the Plant fight during the week of July 4 at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas. His training is being coordinated by Brandon Woods, a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Kenny Adams.

He and Caleb Plant have a common opponent in a manner of speaking. Plant went 12 rounds with David Benavidez in his last outing, losing a unanimous but relatively close decision. The “strength of schedule factor” in Plant’s favor will weigh heavily in setting the odds for McCumby vs. Plant. But McCumby has also shared the ring with Phoenix-native Benavidez, and on many occasions. “We gave each other great work,” he says. “You could have sold tickets to those sparring sessions.”

There was a time when it seemed that Trevor McCumby would be remembered mostly for putting his hand in the cookie jar and failing to maximize his talent. But hold the phone. His boxing journey is far from finished and this is a story that may ultimately prove uplifting.

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Fernando Martinez Ratches Up the Heat in the Hot Super Flyweight Division

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On Sunday in Tokyo, Fernando Martinez picked up a second piece of the world super flyweight title with a mild upset of Kazuto Ioka. Martinez owned the IBF belt and added Ioka’s WBA scalp to his bedpost. That gives the Argentinian globetrotter one more belt than Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez if you are keeping score.

Of course, there isn’t a little man on this planet who would be favored over “Bam” at the moment, excepting Naoya Inoue who competes two divisions up at 122. The San Antonio southpaw was so impressive in dismantling Juan Francisco Estrada on July 29 that he stifled all talk of whether he belongs on the pound-for-pound list. The debate now is about his placement; how high should it be? But despite Bam’s towering presence in the 115-pound division, there are some good fights out there for him beginning with Martinez.

Kazuto Ioka brought quite a resume. The first fighter from Japan to win world titles in four weight divisions, he was 31-2-1 heading in with both losses by split decision and was appearing in his twenty-fifth world title fight. But Martinez showed no fear of him. He took the fight to Ioka and closed strong, winning by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and 116-112. (The 120-108 tally by California judge Edward Hernandez Sr was assailed as ludicrous; the fight was much closer than that…but there was no disputing the verdict, the right guy won.)

A fight with Bam Rodriguez, who was in attendance, would be the most lucrative for Fernando Martinez, but he has other options. WBO belt-holder Kosei Tanaka is out there as is former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Both are in action this month. Chocolatito (51-4, 41 KOs) fights this coming Friday on his home turf in Managua against Colombian journeyman Rober Barrera (27-5). Tanaka (20-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt on July 20 in Tokyo against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (25-2-1). Tanaka has won four straight since getting dominated and stopped by Ioka in 2020.

The outcome of the Ioka-Martinez bout was no surprise to Matt McGrain who previewed the contest in these pages. And, as McGain noted, Martinez doesn’t have much time left to build up his fan base outside South America and the Orient. His current record (17-0, 9 KOs) betrays the fact he turns 33 next week.

The smaller weight divisions have never attracted a large following in the United States, but that has something to do with a historical dearth of American-born fighters at the pinnacles. Bam Rodriguez is making even casual fans stand up and take notice and his ascent comes at a time when his division is percolating.

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