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The Tragedy of “The Harlem Hammer” Needn’t Be Repeated So Often

Bernard Fernandez



His nickname, ironically, was “The Harlem Hammer.”

James Butler was a super middleweight boxer, and a pretty good one at that. A fan favorite in his native New York City because of his relentless, attacking style, Butler was accomplished enough to have earned a title shot at IBF super middleweight champion Sven Ottke on Sept. 1, 2000, in Magdeburg, Germany, and despite the fact that he dropped a one-sided decision to the slick-boxing German, he was still rated at No. 8 in the 168-pound weight class by the IBF when he took on Richard Grant in his next bout, on Nov. 23 of that year, at the Roseland Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.

Grant, a pronounced underdog despite the fact he had outpointed Butler in a four-rounder early in the respective careers, on Jan. 31, 1997, had reprised his earlier victory in winning a unanimous, 10-round decision. The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident was celebrating with his cornermen when Grant, whose gloves had been removed, walked over as if to offer a congratulatory handshake.

As Grant lifted his arms to hug his opponent, a gesture of respect and sportsmanship that is so often the case in even the hardest-fought boxing matches, “The Harlem Hammer” nailed him with an overhand right to the jaw that sent the victor crashing to the canvas, unconscious, bloody spittle spewing from his mouth like fiery ash from an erupting volcano.

That’s when all hell broke loose. But it would not be the last criminally violent act of a mentally unstable individual whose inner demons had yet to become fully, and tragically, apparent.

Predictably, Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas, who had called the bout that was televised on ESPN2, reacted with shock and revulsion.

“James Butler should never be allowed in the ring again!” Papa, the blow-by-blow announcer, screamed into his microphone. “Absolutely! That’s assault and battery! He should be arrested right on the spot! What a punk! The police should come in here and arrest him! Handcuff him!”

Atlas, the color analyst, was no less aghast by what he had just seen. “Butler just went over there and sucker-punched – sucker-punched! – and knocked out Grant,” he said. “Oh, boy. Terrible. And the new commissioner (of the New York State Athletic Commission), Ray Kelly, will do something very, very enforceful here … That was a punch without a glove on! A despicable, cowardly act!”

Butler’s in-ring meltdown is all the more egregious and unfathomable considering the circumstances: All the proceeds from the “Fighting for America” card, held just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had left 3,000 dead and a nation shaken, went to the Twin Towers Fund, and about 500 New York police officers and firefighters were among the 1,517 spectators. Several of the participating boxers – including Butler, who was to be paid $10,000 – had pledged their entire purses toward the relief effort.

Seated at ringside was Kelly, who in addition to his top spot with the NYSAC, was New York mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg’s newly appointed police commissioner. If Butler was going to commit an act of senseless violence that potentially could have landed him in prison for seven years, this was the worst possible audience before which to do it.

Kelly, in fact, did order the arrest of Butler, who was led from the arena in handcuffs. He spent the night at the Rikers Island detention facility, and he later was convicted of assault. He served four months behind bars, accelerating a personal and professional decline that may have been inevitable in any case.

Born and raised in a housing project by a mother who frequently left him and his brother to fend for themselves, Butler had gotten a reputation for having a quick temper even before he coldcocked Grant and made himself something of a pariah in New York’s close-knit boxing community. Tales abounded of harsh words, and sometimes blows, he frequently exchanged with sparring partners and others outside the ring at the gym that served as his home base as well as for Atlas, who trained fighters in addition to his ESPN2 analyst duties.

“I’m sure there were previous incidents (prior to the postfight knockout of Grant) if you trace it back,” Atlas told me a few days before the Nov. 23 anniversary date of the fateful night he now calls “probably the worst” transgression he has ever seen in the sport, along with Mike Tyson’s chewing off of part of Evander Holyfield’s right ear on June 28, 1997. “I’m sure there were other past acts of violence, or at least threats of violence. I knew he had gotten into some skirmishes in the gym where I was when he was training, but they never got to a level where he seriously hurt anybody. Some threats may have been made, but you see that sometimes in the gym. Usually nothing comes of it.”

Perhaps, if he had refrained from throwing the illegal punch that sent his career spinning wildly off-kilter, things would have turned out much differently for Butler. Then again, maybe not. He ballooned to 256 pounds, in part because of medication he was put on after he was diagnosed as being bipolar, but, even after he put in the time to get all the unwanted weight off – a process expedited by the fact he had cut back on or stopped taking his meds — he was a mere shadow of the fighter he had been. He was just 2-2 against mostly second-tier opponents after the Grant debacle, his final ring appearance a split-decision loss to Omar Sheika on Aug. 10, 2004.

Personal issues also contributed to Butler’s deteriorating state of mind and overall demise. He relocated to Vero Beach, Fla., to work with his new trainer, Buddy McGirt, and while there he met a woman, Chase Mariposa, who was to bear him a son. Mariposa would later say that Butler, his boxing income all but gone and his reputation in tatters, would often erupt into frightening fits of anger.

Feeling alone and unwanted, Butler, a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion, turned to the one friend who had been there for him through thick and frequently thin – Sam Kellerman, younger brother of Max Kellerman, a sports talk-show host who is now a boxing analyst for HBO Sports.

Sam Kellerman – well-educated (a graduate of Columbia University), outgoing, from an affluent family — seemed an unlikely candidate to ever have formed an alliance with the brooding Butler, a product of some of New York’s meaner streets. They were both products of the same town, but from decidedly different sections, and decidedly different sociological strata. Kellerman, a white-collar type who boxed to, as one associate said, “to toughen himself up,” and Butler, the menacing pro, had been introduced to each other a decade earlier by their mutual trainer, Alexander Newbold, who believed it was beneficial for his fighters to socialize outside of the gym.

Kellerman, by then living in Hollywood, Calif., agreed to take Butler in, with the understanding he would be a houseguest for only a few days. But the days stretched into weeks, Butler revealing no intention to move out, at which point Kellerman told his now-not-so-close friend that he would have him evicted if he did not leave voluntarily.

On Oct. 17, 2004, Sam Kellerman, 29, was found dead on the floor of his blood-splattered apartment. His body had been there for several days, the authorities said, and there was evidence of arson. The murder weapon, a bloody hammer, was found at the scene.

Three days after Kellerman’s body was discovered, Butler turned himself in to the police. He pleaded not guilty to murder and arson, but later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and arson and was sentenced to 29 years, four months in prison by Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.

Violent behavior, sometimes resulting in death, is common enough that it scarcely raises an eyebrow in 21st century America. But when sports celebrities are involved, the issue takes on heightened significance. Even non-NFL fans are aware of the domestic- violence scandals that have made such well-known football players as Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald notorious figures. All of which raises an issue that increasingly merits discussion: Are athletes, especially those who have risen to prominence from desperately poor or disadvantaged backgrounds, more susceptible to involvement in the kind of incidents that have become something of a national cause celebre?

Atlas believes each case should be judged on its individual merits, but what are the criteria for realizing, with any degree of certainty, that anyone is a ticking time bomb about to go off?

“I think it’s important at all levels of society to identify someone who might have tendencies that are not conducive to a proper workplace,” said Atlas, whose concedes that his own background is pockmarked with youthful indiscretions. “If someone’s actions suggest he has violent impulses, that should not be accepted any place. It shouldn’t just be relegated to sports. We have to look at these things seriously at all times, but maybe even more so nowadays, because there seems to be more and more incidents that we’re learning about.

“It could be a stepfather beating a two-year-old child to death, which just happened in the Bronx and I read about in the newspaper. Apparently this child had shown signs of being abused by this person before, and was put back in that household. Now she’s dead. If she hadn’t been put back in that household, she’d still be alive. This is a child who never had a real chance at life.

“Do we need to look at things like that, and the James Butler situation, closer? Who’s responsibility is that? Who’s actually qualified to say this or that person is dangerous? I also read that somebody pushed somebody else in front of a subway train. They’ll probably find that the guy who did it is mentally disturbed, and I’m sure there are people capable of such things walking around the streets of New York right now. But who gets to make this call that `This person needs help,’ or `This other person should be put away.’ Usually it doesn’t happen until he acts out.”

So we are left to wonder, who is the next James Butler? Or the next Ike Ibeabuchi? Is one act of aberrant behavior enough to send up a red warning flare? Is two sufficient? Three or more?

Upon his return to boxing after his vicious attack on Grant, Butler his thought process went so blank he didn’t even realize what he had done, or why he had done it.

“Nothing went through my mind,” Butler told Tim Smith, of the New York Daily News, before his first post-Grant bout, against Thomas Reid, on Feb. 27, 2005. “That’s the point. It was flat-line. I was like dead. I went blank. After I hit Richard everything clicked back on. It was like fist to jaw, then the noise and the lights and I could see and hear all the people. It was like I was literally brain-dead for a while. If I had been thinking I would have just walked out of the ring, maybe punched a locker or broken a door or something.”

Understandably, Max Kellerman was – and still is – shaken by the death of a brother he cherished. But even he was prepared to grant Butler a bit of leniency just days after his post-fight assault on Grant. In a bylined story for, Max noted that “Riddick Bowe punched Larry Donald with his bare fist at a press conference promoting their match in 1994. The blow did no real physical damage. Nonetheless, it was assault. Bowe was neither led away in handcuffs nor handed a lifetime suspension from any state athletic commission. It could be that the handling of Bowe’s assault was a mistake, and a more severe reaction was warranted. Yet if an example is made of Butler, the Bowe incident will beg the question: was Butler punished out of proportion?

“Mike Tyson bit a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off, knocked Orlin Norris down and ended the fight after the bell had run to end the first round of their bout, admittedly tried to break Frans Botha’s arm in a clinch, and hit and knocked down the referee who tried to stop his fight against Lou Savarese. Tyson’s license has not been permanently taken away, despite this pattern of bad behavior. James Butler has no such pattern. His attacking Grant was an isolated incident.”

Atlas is correct. Good or bad, right or wrong, are not reserved sections for any particular group. The Menendez brothers, Lyle and Erik, were convicted in 1994 for the shotgun murder of their affluent parents in the family’s Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion. A movie that is drawing Academy Award notices, “Foxcatcher,” is in theaters now and details the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by John Eleuthere du Pont, the heir to the du Pont pharmaceutical fortune. Du Pont, who was convicted in 1997, had demonstrated increasingly erratic and paranoid behavior prior to his killing of Schultz, but it was largely shrugged off as the eccentricities of a very wealthy man.

Atlas could offer himself as proof that everyone at least deserves a second chance. Son of a beloved physician in the family’s Staten Island, N.Y., neighborhood, the young Teddy dropped out of high school, served time in Rikers Island for his participation in an armed robbery and still bears the jagged facial scar from a street slashing that required 400 stitches to close. On Nov. 20, a date in close calendar proximity to the anniversary date of Butler’s unprovoked slugging of Grant, he will host the 18th annual Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation dinner, which aids Staten Island’s poor, sick and forgotten with emergency funds, as needed. And, on Saturday, Nov. 21, he again will distribute a thousand turkeys so that some of for the borough’s underprivileged citizens will have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Perhaps there is no way of absolutely detecting when a James Butler will cross the line separating civility and depravity, but there are enough instances when a Teddy Atlas or a Bernard Hopkins brakes himself before passing the point of no return that everyone else can dare to hope that salvation exists on a wider basis.

The final page of Teddy’s autobiography, “Atlas: A Son’s Journey From the Streets to the Ring to a Life Worth Living,” co-authored with Peter Alson, offers this positive message.

“I’m very aware of the extremes within me,” Atlas writes. “The caring and the anger. I’ve gotten better over the years at modulating them and controlling them, but I won’t pretend they don’t still exist. I guess in some ways my whole life has been a journey and a search for family. I wasn’t some kid from the streets. I was a doctor’s don who grew up in a nice house in a good neighborhood. It just goes to show that you can be lost and alone and neglected in any kind of surroundings.”

It’s too bad for Sam Kellerman – for all of us, really – that the journey of James Butler, “The Harlem Hammer,” didn’t lead him to the same sort of favorable destination.


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Vergil Ortiz Jr KOs Brad Solomon at Fantasy Springs (plus Undercard Results)

David A. Avila




INDIO, Calif.-Vergil Ortiz Jr hunted and pursued the elusive Brad Solomon for several rounds before lowering the boom with three knockdowns and ultimately stopping the formerly unstoppable fighter for a knockout victory on Friday.

It’s on to bigger and better things.

Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs) proved that styles didn’t matter and Solomon’s (28-2, 9 KOs) slippery moves couldn’t prevent the brutal outcome before several hundred fans and two Boxing Hall of Famers at Fantasy Springs Casino. It was Solomon’s first ever loss by knockout.

Despite winning all of his previous fights by stoppage, the lean Texan who trains in Riverside, Calif. had never fought a boxer with the pedigree of Solomon. It was the main question remaining for Ortiz. Could he figure out the winning equation to defeat a pure boxer?

He had the answer in his pocket all of the time.

Solomon moved smoothly around the ring from the opening bell. Ortiz followed with his tight guard and snap quick punches to the body and head. The first round revealed that Ortiz’s quick hands were just as quick as Solomon’s and much more powerful.

“I had to utilize my jab, figure out the right time to throw a punch,” said Ortiz. “He came to fight.”

After three rounds of chase and pursue, both fighters exchanged briefly and a body shot by Ortiz convinced the fleet opponent to go back on his toes. While trying to move away Ortiz fired a stiff left jab and down went Solomon. Body shots followed and Solomon was visibly affected by them. On one occasion he feigned a low blow but referee Raul Caiz ruled it was a clean blow.

“I can’t lie. I don’t think he was hurt right there,” said Ortiz of the jab knockdown. “

The subsequent blows would prove otherwise in the next round.

Ortiz opened up the fifth round at a rapid pace and though Solomon tried evasive maneuvering, it all proved in vain especially after a six-punch volley by Ortiz. Down went Solomon in the corner but he was able to beat the count. Solomon got up and tried to use his quickness to avoid Ortiz’s charge but a double left hook to the head sent him down once again. Referee Caiz waved the fight over at 2:22 of the fifth round to give Ortiz the knockout win and retain the WBA Gold welterweight title.

“I just took my time,” said Ortiz. “He’s difficult to figure out and made me use my brain.”

Ortiz, 21, continued his domination of the welterweight division though many felt Solomon could stall his rapid ascent to the top.

El Flaco

Serhii “Flaco” Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) continued his knockout streak but needed a little time to figure out the switching tactics of Colombia’s Carlos Galvan (17-10-1, 16 KOs). But after five rounds he discovered that the body attack was the key. Bohachuk floored Galvan three times in the fifth round, two by body shots and the end came at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

Puerto Rico’s Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado (22-2, 18 KOs) snapped a two-fight losing streak by moving up to the lightweight division and knocking out Dominican Republic’s Luis Porozo (14-2, 7 KOs) with body shots in the second round. Machado had problems making the 130-pound super featherweight limit and showed a move up in weight was beneficial as he dropped Porozo three times until referee Tom Taylor ended the fight at 2:59 of the second round for a win by knockout.

Machado is co-promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions.

Alexis Rocha (15-0, 10 KOs) withstood an all-out assault from Mexico’s Robert Valenzuela Jr. (17-2, 16 KOs) early in the welterweight title fight and used a withering body attack to break down the taller fighter. After that it was all downhill sledding for the Santa Ana fighter who broke the will of Valenzuela with bludgeoning blows to the left and right side of the body.

“I was being lazy to be honest, so it’s my fault,” said Rocha on being bloodied by a counter uppercut while punching. “It’s very important, I came to fight and throw body punches to wear my opponent down. I think that’s very key in boxing in general.”

At the end of the fifth round the Mexican fighter was holding on. The fight was stopped at the end of the fifth round giving Rocha the win by knockout and he retains the WBC Continental Americas title in the welterweight division.

“I knew the body shots were taking a toll on him,” Rocha said. “Today was a good learning experience.”

Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3 KOs) boxed his way to a unanimous decision victory over Vaughn Alexander (15-4, 9 KOs) in a 10-round fight for the WBA Continental Americas title. But it was sort of strange to see a guy nicknamed “the Bully” dance around the ring avoiding contact. Still, he won every round but disenchanted fans with his unwillingness to exchange with the muscular Alexander. No knockdowns were scored in the fight. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Melikuziev.

Luis Feliciano (14-0, 8 KOs) knocked down Herbert Acevedo (16-3-1, 6 KOs) early in the 10 round NABF super lightweight title fight and then cruised to victory by unanimous decision. The Puerto Rican who trains in Southern California pummeled Acevedo’s body before delivering a two-punch combination that sent the challenger to the deck. It was Feliciano’s first defense of the title he captured by decision over talented Genaro Gamez.

“I give props to Herbert Acevedo. He’s a tough and rugged fighter. I thought he was out when I dropped him in the third round. I tried to get the finish, but he weathered the storm,” said Feliciano. “I’m happy to finish the year with a win, and we are on to the next.”

A super welterweight fight saw Ferdinand Kerobyan (13-1) destroy Fernando Carcamo (23-11) with two knockdowns in the first round and the fight was stopped at 1:46 of the first round.

A super middleweight match ended in the third round by knockout win for Erik Bazinyan (24-0) over Saul Roman (46-14),

Hall of Fame

Also present at the Golden Boy Promotions boxing card were Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins who was recently voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by the boxing writers. He will join De La Hoya who was inducted several years ago.

Hopkins was selected last week along with Sugar Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Their induction takes place next June in Canastota, New York. It’s quite an honor and well deserved for one of the greatest middleweights in the history of the sport. He also captured the light heavyweight world title. We will have more on this great Philadelphia prizefighter in the coming months.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Frank Erne Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame, a Well-Deserved Honor

Arne K. Lang




Former featherweight and lightweight champion Frank Erne was back in the news last week with the announcement that he is entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Erne and the other members of the newest class will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Mr. Erne won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony. He’s been dead since 1954. However, were he alive, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that this honor is well-deserved.

Frank Erne competed from 1892 to 1908. Of his 53 documented fights, 21 were slated for 20 rounds or more. His opponents included George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and Joe Gans, all of whom went into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. Dixon, a bantamweight, McGovern, a featherweight, and Gans, a lightweight, are widely considered the best of all time in their respective weight classes. Erne defeated Dixon and Gans although both turned the table in rematches.

Frank Erne becomes the first fighter born in Switzerland to enter the IBHOF. When he was six or seven years old (reports vary) his parents moved to Buffalo, New York. In his early teens, he found work as a pinsetter in a bowling alley that was part of a larger complex that included a boxing gym. An instructor there, a boxing professor as they were called back then, took Erne under his wing.

Erne had his early fights in Buffalo. In 1895, he went to New York and attracted national notice with back-to-back knockouts of Jack Skelly. A Brooklyn man, Skelly was such an outstanding amateur that there was little backlash when he was sent in against featherweight champion George Dixon in his very first pro fight (the opening match in the Carnival of Champions at New Orleans, an event climaxed by the historic fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett).

Skelly was no match for Dixon and ultimately no match for Frank Erne. Two months after their second meeting, Erne had his first of three encounters with Dixon. Their initial go was a 10-rounder that was fairly ruled a draw. The rematch was set for 20 rounds with Dixon’s title on the line.

Here’s Nat Fleischer’s post factum: “Erne proved to be in every respect a superior boxer on this occasion for he outpointed Dixon at long range, beat him decisively at in-fighting, had it all over Dixon in ring generalship, besides possessing courage and fearlessness.” The ringside correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, more measured in his assessment, called it “one of the fiercest and cleanest fights, as well as one of the most scientific, that has ever been seen.”

Dixon had lost only twice previously, the first by disqualification and the other in a 4-round contest, and would win back his title in the rubber match, clearly out-pointing Erne in a match that went 25 rounds.

Making weight was always a problem for Frank Erne. After surrendering his title to Dixon, he moved up to lightweight and challenged George “Kid” Lavigne. They fought twice.

In their first meeting, Lavigne, the fabled “Saginaw Kid,” retained his title thanks to a generous referee who scored the fight a draw, but justice was served in the rematch which was staged at an outdoor arena on the outskirts of Buffalo on the day preceding the Fourth of July,1899. Despite injuring his hand in the seventh frame, Erne gave Lavigne a good drubbing and had his hand raised at the conclusion of the 20-round match. He now had the distinction of winning world titles in two separate weight classes.

Erne first met Joe Gans in March of 1900 when Gans was still in his prime. The match, slated for 25 rounds, ended in the 12th when Gans suffered a terrible injury to his left eye – some reports say the eye was knocked out of its socket – from an accidental clash of heads. The referee ruled that Gans was at fault and awarded the contest to Erne. Based on newspaper reports, that was a fair adjudication as Erne, the defending champion, had all the best of it, leaving Gans in great distress at the end of the previous round.

Gans avenged the defeat 26 months later, knocking out Erne in the opening round at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Erne’s unrelenting battle with the scales had finally caught up with him.

Erne retired the following year, but returned five years later and had one more fight, winning a 10-round decision in Paris over British veteran Curly Watson in a fight billed for the welterweight championship of France. He remained in the French capitol for some time thereafter, working as a boxing instructor and promoting a few fights before returning to the United States and taking up residence in New York City.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Frank Erne was no fool with his money, but the stock market crash of 1929 dealt him a severe blow and he was forced to seek regular employment. He became a salesman for a fuel company.

Erne won’t be around for his formal IBHOF induction, but he wasn’t completely forgotten in his dotage. On Jan. 9, 1951, the day after his 76th birthday, he received a special award at the silver anniversary dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, a gala affair held in the posh Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria with entertainment provided by Jimmy Durante and other nightclub headliners.

Erne wasn’t honored only for his in-ring exploits, but for his good character. During World War II and again during the Korean War, it was common for famous boxers of yesteryear to visit wounded soldiers in VA hospitals and regale them with stories from their fighting days to boost their spirits. Frank Erne, although he had some infirmities, was especially active in this regard, “indefatigable” said New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley.

Frank Erne, it says here, is a worthy addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Kudos to the electors who placed him on their ballot.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 76: Welterweights Vergil, Terence and More

David A. Avila




In the words of many boxing journalists, fighters, trainers and promoters “styles make fights,” and those differences can lead to unpredictable outcomes. The weekend brings a few stylish welterweights on display from California to New York.

Welterweight ingénue Vergil Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KOs) enters the world of unpredictability when he meets Brad Solomon (28-1, 9 KOs) a swift-moving veteran on Friday, Dec. 13, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. DAZN will show the loaded Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

It’s Ortiz’s third year as a professional and fifth time performing at the Indio casino. It’s also where he made his pro debut back in July 2016 when he began his remarkable string of 14 consecutive knockout wins.

Solomon, 36, has made a career of fighting pressure fighters and making them miss or defusing their power. Only Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev, who was trained at the time by Abel Sanchez, was able to hang a loss on the Georgia fighter’s ledger.

Can Ortiz handle the style difference?

“Vergil can do more than people think,” said Vergil Ortiz Sr., father of the lanky welterweight slugger. “He can box any style.”

As a professional, Ortiz has yet to fight someone like Solomon with his juke and move style of fighting. As an amateur he did face speedsters like Ryan Garcia. As a pro, this will mark his first in the prize ring. It should be interesting.

Power Packed Support

Knockout artist Ortiz leads a power packed-boxing card that includes a number of Golden Boy’s best knockout punchers like Bektemir Melikuziev, Alberto Machado and Luis Feliciano. All of these guys can punch and are looking to put the cap on 2019.

That’s a lot of firepower.

But also on the card is someone fighting for 360 Promotions named Serhii Bohachuk, otherwise known as “El Flaco.” Just like Ortiz, Bohachuk has never allowed the final bell to be rung against 16 foes so far. He is going for 17 when he fights Carlos Galvan (17-9-1) in a super welterweight fight set for eight rounds. Don’t expect to hear the final bell whenever the Ukrainian trained by Mexican style coach Abel Sanchez gets in the ring.

Bohachuk could be following in the footsteps of another guy formerly trained by Abel Sanchez named Gennady Golovkin. It’s still too early, but he looks pretty good so far.

New York City

Top welterweight Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Lithuania’s Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

In the crowded and talented world of the welterweights, Crawford could very well be the best of them all. If only he could prove it. The Omaha-Nebraska prizefighter has tried every enticement possible to lure Errol Spence Jr., Danny “Swift” Garcia, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao. Nothing works.

What does work for Crawford has been a reputation as one of the best prizefighters in the world pound for pound. Some tab him as the very best especially when it comes to speed, agility and the ability to innovate on the spot. He has few peers.

Facing Crawford will be Kavaliauskas who trains in Oxnard with a number of Eastern Europeans including Vasyl Lomachenko. They share the same management. He’s never faced anyone close in talent to Crawford. Except, maybe inside of his own gym.

“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now,” said Crawford. “Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”

Crawford has been chasing stardom for a number of years. What better place than New York City’s Madison Square Garden to showcase his skills to the public. At age 32, Crawford is running out of sand.

Lightweight Title Fight

The co-main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden features IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) defending against wunderkind Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs).

But this weekend truly belongs to the welterweights.

Next Week

Southern California will be packed with boxing. It’s a last gasp before the end of 2019.

Ontario, California will be hosting a very large Premier Boxing Champions fight card at the Toyota Center on Saturday Dec. 21.

WBC super welterweight titlist Tony Harrison finally defends against Jermall Charlo in a rematch and it won’t be friendly. These guys hate each other.

“He’s fake,” said Harrison when they last met in Los Angeles for a press conference.

It won’t be pretty when they meet next week.

Tickets are on sale. Go to this link for more information:

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Vergil Ortiz (14-0) vs Brad Solomon (28-1); Serhii Bohachuk (16-0) vs Carlos Galvan (17-9-1).

Sat. Facebook 5 p.m. Diego De La Hoya (21-1) vs Renson Robles (16-6).

Sat. ESPN 6 p.m. Terence Crawford (35-0) vs Egidijus Kaviliauskas (21-0-1); Teofimo Lopez (14-0) vs Richard Commey (29-2).

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