Connect with us

Featured Articles

FOREMAN-HOLMES WOULD HAVE BEEN `OLD FOLKS HOME AT THE DOME’

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

On Jan. 15, 1990, heavyweights George Foreman and Gerry Cooney squared off in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Some clever punster had dubbed it “the Geezers as Caesars,” a backhanded swipe at an event which, to some people’s way of thinking, paired a couple of over-the-hill, used-up fighters who should have been content to sit on their rocking chairs and sip their Geritol.

Cooney was 33 at the time and was fighting for just the third time in six years; Foreman, was 41, having celebrated his birthday just five days earlier.

Geezers? In retrospect, it now seems obvious that Cooney and that reasonably fresh version of Big George, who won on a second-round stoppage, were just a couple of kids going at it in the schoolyard.

Last week, the boxing world celebrated the 50th birthday of an actual geezer, Bernard Hopkins, who took the occasion to tell everyone he believed he had one more fight in him, and that it would come against a younger (of course), highly credible opponent. But even “The Alien” against anyone might not seem so age-defying when stacked against a matchup of Jurassic Park heavyweights that had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 23, 1999, in Houston’s Astrodome.

Had that pay-per-view bout (suggested purchase price: $39.95) gone off as scheduled, the combatants would have been a 50-year-old Foreman (then 76-5, 58 KOs) and 49-year-old Larry Holmes (66-6, 42 KOs). Oh, sure, smarmy critics would have sneered at it and someone surely would have come up with a derogatory phrase, maybe “Old Folks Home at the Dome.” But here’s the truth: Hundreds of thousands of fight fans would have bought it, maybe because it would have finally pitted two of the better big men in boxing history, even if they were grandfathers, or maybe because it came with an element of morbid curiosity.

“There was interest, a whole lot of interest,” Foreman said when I asked about his recollections of a bout that would have been a real-life enactment of “Grudge Match,” a bad 2013 movie whose premise was a 30-years-in-the-making rematch between sixty-something antagonists played by Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro. But the notion of a “Rocky Balboa” and “Raging Bull” somehow getting together to make box-office magic fizzled.

Might the same thing have happened with Foreman-Holmes?

“Larry and I were really in the mood to do it,” Foreman recalled. “When we met at the press conference in New York, we started selling woof tickets, the whole deal. And it would have sold; I’m sure of that. There was so much name recognition there. That’s what made it more important on the latter end.

“I left boxing in 1977 (the start of Foreman’s 10-year retirement from the ring). At that time, it wouldn’t have meant much for me to box Larry Holmes; he was just making a name for himself at that point. Then, by me going off the scene, Don King went all-in on promoting Larry. When I made my comeback, can you believe that Larry was retired then? So the timing never was quite right for us to fight, for one reason or another.”

For his part, Holmes was just as anxious to throw down with Foreman, and not just because, had the bout come off, Big George would have been paid $10 million and Holmes $4 million.

“When it didn’t happen, I was very disappointed,” the “Easton Assassin” said. “That was my dream, man, to fight George Foreman. I got tired of people saying, `What about George Foreman? Why don’t you fight George Foreman?’ All I could say was, `It ain’t me that won’t fight George, it’s George that won’t fight me. I’m ready when he’s ready.’ But he was never ready.

“But you know what? Looking back at it now, I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t have fought me either. I could still fight then, man, and George did not want to lose. But winning or losing didn’t matter as much to me. I wasn’t fighting for a championship. I was fighting to pay the rent, and I would give my all to do that.”

Debate if you must the possible outcome of the fight-that-never-was – and Teddy Atlas and esteemed journalist Jerry Izenberg will do just that, a little later in this piece – but know this: Foreman-Holmes wasn’t just a fantasy. The legendary figures had collected a non-refundable 10 percent of their contracted purses ($1 million to George, $400,000 to Larry), the Astrodome was booked and a press conference held. All that remained was for the promoter, an Englishman named Roger Levitt, to produce letters of credit that would have ensured that the fighters receive their full purses.

“On the date that letters of credit were supposed to be posted, the guy missed it,” Foreman, who pulled the plug on the fight, said in early January 1999. “My instincts were to say, `That’s it.’ My attorneys were a little lenient with him. They gave him a week’s extension. He just couldn’t come up with a letter of credit. A fight just couldn’t be made without a letter of credit.”

Sixteen years later, Foreman stands by that statement. He was a fighter, to be sure, and a proud one, but he also is a businessman and he wasn’t about to give himself away at a discounted rate.

“I think (Levitt) thought that since he put that first million dollars up, I would blindly follow him along,” Foreman said. “But I’d dealt with Don King and all those guys. I knew you must have the money in the bank to proceed. I wasn’t going down that trail, not knowing where it would lead, as some guys have done.

“It probably was one of those situations that was just not mean to be. Larry and I kept missing each other.”

At the time, Levitt insisted he had arranged for a $9 million insurance bond, which he said was “almost as good” as a letter of credit. But additional financing dried up when a younger heavyweight, and a superstar one at that, scheduled a pay-per-view fight just one week before Foreman-Holmes was to take place. If a financial knockout blow was dealt to George and Larry, it came in the form of the Jan. 16, 1999, PPV scrap between Mike Tyson and Frans Botha at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Tyson, as expected, battered Botha into submission in five rounds.

It was Levitt’s contention that a key financial backer for Foreman-Holmes got cold feet in fear of going against Tyson for fans’ PPV dollars.

“We had an Arab businessman who I’ve known for some time, who was putting up $12.6 million,” Levitt said at the time of the cancellation. “He pulled out because of the timing of the Tyson fight. His advisers told him we were going to get killed on the pay-per-view.” Tyson-Botha, by the way, came with a PPV tariff of $49.95.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the first time that Tyson torpedoed a possible Foreman-Holmes scrap.

“When I fought Evander Holyfield in Atlantic City (Holyfield defended his WBC, WBA and IBF titles on a unanimous decision on April 19, 1991), we did real well,” Foreman recalled. “Holmes had come back and (promoter Bob) Arum had a lot to do with Larry’s fight with Holyfield (which Holyfield also won, on a unanimous decision, on June 19, 1992). Arum was thinking about doing something with Larry and me, and he even printed up a poster that had us fighting for the heavyweight championship. He wanted to promote that fight if Larry beat Holyfield. But Larry didn’t win.”

Perhaps Foreman is right. Can there really be something to astrology? Could it be that the stars never properly aligned themselves to make Foreman-Holmes doable?

Atlas and Izenberg each is of the opinion that had they fought in the late 1970s, boxing master Holmes, with that laser-accurate jab, ability to pace himself and superior boxing skills, might have been too savvy for the young George, whose stock in trade then was to throw as many loaded-up haymakers as he could, and as quickly as he could, until he flattened his opponent or ran out of gas.

But the 1999 version of George vs. the 1999 version of Larry? That likely would have been another matter. That George fought more under control and had – gasp! – learned some of the finer points of boxing. Atlas and Izenberg each see him as being too much for Holmes to have handled.

“The old George Foreman, the reincarnated George Foreman that came back after a 10-year hiatus, was tougher than the young George Foreman,” Atlas offered. “He was smarter. In a lot of ways, he was just better. He wasn’t better physically, having gotten older and fatter, but he was better in the most important areas. He understood the difference between truth and lies.

“He bought into a lie in Zaire (against Muhammad Ali). He was a bigger, stronger guy than Ali, but Ali made him feel that that didn’t matter. George couldn’t make the decisions he needed to make. He couldn’t endure what he needed to endure. He wasn’t tough enough to handle the things that Ali represented that night. But of course he could have; thinking he couldn’t was the lie he bought into. He didn’t have to cave in.

“George had to live with that for 10 years, and living with it was a helluva lot harder than the punches he would have had to take for a few more rounds. So when he came back, he came back tougher. I think the older George Foreman would have beat the crap out of the younger George Foreman, and I think the older George would have beat the older Larry. But I would have taken the young Larry over the young George. That George didn’t have as many dimensions as Larry. When his power didn’t work, like it didn’t work in Zaire, he didn’t have anything else to back it up with.”

Izenberg pretty much sees it the same way as Atlas.

“The Foreman who fought Ali in Zaire would not have beaten Larry, I don’t think,” said Izenberg, the columnist emeritus for the Newark Star-Ledger. “George became a far, far better fighter, a far, far smarter fighter, in the second phase of his career.

“When Big George first came back, I laughed. We all did. But the more he fought, the more he got into a groove. I think he proved to everyone how much he had learned as a fighter when he was doing television (commentary).”

Which is not to say Izenberg is convinced Foreman-Holmes would have been PPV gold in 1999.

“Forget about Tyson (fighting Botha the week before),” he said. “Who would have put up 40 bucks to see those guys fight at that stage, 15 years past their prime? I personally believe that it should not have been allowed to take place.”

Holmes, of course, sees himself as the winner over the young George and the old George.

“The way I would have fought George (in the late 1970s) is the way I would have fought him in 1999, or now,” Holmes said. “I’d move side-to-side, use the jab, sneak in the right hand, put some combinations together, get in there a little bit and box him inside. Just tire him out. That’s it.

“George was good for four or five rounds. If you hurt George, he’d fight you harder. But when he did that, he’d either take you out or empty his gas tank. He didn’t have good stamina. Take him into the sixth and seventh rounds or later and he couldn’t go.”

You’d think Foreman would offer a stern rebuttal, but it isn’t necessarily so. He thinks some of the points Holmes makes are valid.

“I was smarter the second time around,” he agreed. “I learned how to pace myself. I’d wait around for a few rounds, then try for a seventh- or eighth-round knockout. I didn’t want to burn myself out like I did in the early part of my career. But that would have played into Larry’s box of tricks because he was a guy who always knew how to pace himself.

“If I was a betting man, I’d give the edge to Larry in a 12-round fight. I’m just being honest. Larry always made sure he had something left in the tank in the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds. But if a fight between me and him ended early, I’d have to go with myself.”

Foreman said he understands why Holmes always seems to carry a chip on his shoulder, and why he wanted a fight with him so badly.

“Larry became heavyweight champion after Muhammad Ali, and he might have thought, `Now I’ll be as big as Ali.’ But what’s that old saying? Beating The Man or succeeding The Man doesn’t make you The Man. Nobody could supplant Ali in terms of recognition. Realizing that probably kept Larry angry for a while. A lot of us went through that, but I think Larry struggled with that more than anyone.”

So what do you think TSS Nation? Who would you go with, young Larry vs. young George, and old Larry vs. Old George?

WATCH RELATED VIDEOS ON BOXINGCHANNEL.TV

Featured Articles

Boxing Odds and Ends: Regis Prograis, Paul vs. Askren, and Kahlil Poe

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Regis-Prograis-Paul-vs-Askren-and-Kahlil-Poe

Regis Prograis returns to this ring this Saturday, April 17, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. In the opposite corner will be Ivan Redkach, an LA-based Ukrainian who brings a 23-5-1 (18) record.

There was a time when there was a raging debate as to whether Prograis belonged on the pound-for-pound list. That talk quieted when Prograis lost to Josh Taylor in a battle of unbeatens in London. But the bout was a humdinger and Prograis, a slight favorite, didn’t lose by much. One of the judges ruled the fight a draw as did many watching at ringside and at home.

Prograis returned to the ring of October of last year, stopping the previously undefeated Juan Heraldez in the third round. That boosted his record to 25-1 (21 KOs).

Prograis vs. Redkach isn’t a particularly compelling match-up, but Prograis is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport and one would have thought that the match would have attracted more buzz. But no, all the talk about Saturday’s card has been about the main event between YouTube star Jake Paul and Ben Askren. It’s all yours, folks, have at it: Paul vs. Askren, Prograis vs. Redkach, other supporting bouts, musical entertainment, and a vast array of commentators including Snoop Dogg, Mario Lopez, and supermodel Taylor Hill for $49.99 on FITE TV.

ESPN writer Cameron Wolfe predicts that Saturday’s show will outsell every other PPV in 2021 outside of Tyson Fury vs. Anthony Joshua and Mike Tyson exhibitions.

“There is little doubt that boxing purists hate it,” notes Wolfe.

Number me among the purists. Paul vs. Askren is an insult to all the boxers who toil for years in the gym to hone their craft and give an honest effort each time they fight. Award-winning Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro notes that Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez earned $600,000 between them for their recent 12-round barnburner, an instant classic. Jake Paul and Ben Askren will earn millions for their encounter, a cruiserweight bout slated for eight rounds.

Having said this, I confess that I find the bout intriguing. As much as I hate to admit it, Jake Paul does possess a modicum of boxing skill and in Ben Askren he is facing a fellow who hates to lose at anything, be it frisbee golf, at which he’s very proficient, or a combat sport. The Hartland, Wisconsin native was 17-2 in MMA and 153-8 as a wrestler at the University of Missouri including an 87-0 mark in his last two seasons. A two-time NCAA champion and a 2008 Olympian, Askren is flat out one of the greatest college wrestlers of all time.

UFC honcho Dana White purportedly put down a $100,000 bet on Askren. (White has been known to win or lose that much at a blackjack table.)

The drawbacks to Askren from a handicapping standpoint are that he left MMA after undergoing a major hip surgery, he’s 36 years old, 12 years older than Jake Paul, and as an MMA fighter he wasn’t much of a striker. Also, there’s a possibility that he will lose his cool in the heat of battle and revert to a wrestling move, getting himself disqualified.

In one of the supporting bouts on the show, Frank Mir, a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion, opposes Philadelphia’s Steve Cunningham. A former two-time cruiserweight world title-holder, Cunningham gave Tyson Fury a heap of trouble before getting knocked out in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden in 2013.

Frank Mir turns 42 next month. Cunningham is 44 and has been out of the ring for 44 months. We won’t dignify this bout, slated for eight rounds, by talking more about it.

Khalil Coe

The latest boxer to cast his lot with Eddie Hearn is New Jersey light heavyweight Khalil Coe who officially joined Hearn’s Matchroom firm yesterday, April 12.

khalil

khalil Poe

Coe scored one of the biggest upsets in U.S. amateur boxing history when he starched Cuba’s Julio Cesar La Cruz in the opening round on June 23, 2018 at a tournament in Halle, Germany. A veteran of nearly 200 fights, La Cruz was a four-time world amateur champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. Coe was competing in his first overseas tournament.

Coe, who turns 25 in August, has a style that is well-suited to the pro ranks. But does he have the discipline to maximize his potential? He did not participate in the 2019 Olympic Trails (the 2020 edition was postponed by the pandemic) and according to BoxRec hasn’t fought since February of 2019 when he advanced to the finals of a tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, only to lose on a walkover.

Coe hails from Jersey City. The second most-populous city in the Garden State, Jersey City sits across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Crime has long plagued the residents of Jersey City and Coe is no stranger to the court system. He was arrested in April of 2017 on a gun possession charge and arrested again in March of 2019 in Newark. Details are murky.

The buffer between Khalil Coe and promoter Hearn is Split-T Management whose co-founder David McWater was named the 2020 Manager of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Split-T’s deep roster includes Teofimo Lopez, Charles Conwell and others including a bevy of intriguing young prospects. Coe is in good hands.

According to yesterday’s press release, Coe will make his pro debut on May 29 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas underneath Devin Haney vs. Jorge Linares. He is expected to drop down a weight class as his career progresses and chase his first title at 168 pounds.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Ramsey Clark and Muhammad Ali

Thomas Hauser

Published

on

Ramsey-Clark-and-Muhammad-Ali

Ramsey Clark, who championed human rights throughout his life and served as Attorney General of the United States during the last 26 months of Lyndon Johnson’s administration died on April 9 at age 93. In one of history’s ironies, Clark (probably the most liberal attorney general in the history of the United States) was responsible for approving the 1967 criminal prosecution of Muhammad Ali for refusing induction into the United States Army.

Clark was born in Dallas in 1927. He served in the Marines during World War II, was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, and earned his law degree at the University of Chicago. As Attorney General, he filed lawsuits to combat discrimination in employment and housing and in support of school desegregation and voting rights. After leaving office, he moved considerably further to the left, making some former allies uncomfortable. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly honored him with its Prize in the Field of Human Rights, an award given out at five-year intervals. Previous recipients included Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela.

“A right is not what someone gives you,” Clark once said. “It’s what no one can take from you.”

I met Clark in 1989 when I interviewed him while researching Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. Several years later, I interviewed him again when Frank Macchiarola and I co-authored a book entitled Confronting America’s Moral Crisis.

Speaking of Ali and Vietnam, Clark told me, “I opposed the war in Vietnam as early as I became aware of it which was sometime in the mid-1960s. I can remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and thinking that Wayne Morse and Earnest Gruening [the two senators who voted against the resolution] were heroes. And I remember William Fulbright’s limited opposition to the war and thinking it was good but not enough. Then, in September 1966, I was named acting attorney general and the appointment became final in February 1967.”

“I can’t say that I had a studied judgment on whether or not the war was legal,” Clark continued. “But I had grave doubts about it. If we’re going to be a constitutional government, before we get a half million men in a foreign country shooting and killing, we ought to know whether it’s constitutional and permissible to do it. Maybe as attorney general, I should have been out there saying, ‘This war is against the law.’ But I didn’t, and part of the reason was I had come into the government in 1961 in the midst of the civil rights struggle. By 1967, it might have looked like things were going well, but the truth is we were very badly embattled. There was quite a bit of conflict between those who wanted to keep expanding in the area of civil rights and those who did not, and we were barely able to hold on. Also, I was opposing the death penalty. We had stopped federal executions in 1963, and 1968 would be the first year in the history of the United States that we didn’t have a single execution despite the fact that that was the year Martin Luther King and Bob Kennedy were assassinated. Those struggles were very real and very important to me. There were a lot of people who wanted me to abandon them by resigning over the war in Vietnam, which was clearly the overriding moral issue in our society at the time. But in terms of all the things I believed in and all the causes in which I was involved, that would have let a lot of people down.”

Regarding Ali, Clark recalled, “Muhammad’s conflict with the draft board was a great concern of mine, although I’d have to say, not as great as the concern I had for the poor young black kids from the ghettos or the rural poor from the South who never had a chance to question whether or not to go to Vietnam and who got brutalized and killed. My own personal view was that a person should have a right to conscientious objector status without professing a specific religious faith, and that one should be able to base it upon what you might call philosophical rather than religious grounds. But that of course was not the law then, nor is it now. I don’t recall and doubt very much that I discussed the case with President Johnson. I had a strict policy not to discuss criminal cases with the president. I felt it would have been dangerous in appearance and potentially dangerous in fact to insert politics into a criminal matter, and the White House is a political office. Obviously, Muhammad’s indictment involved some hard choices. But the good thing about it was, there was power on both sides to shape and test the issues. I wasn’t particularly happy about it, but life is full of turbulence and conflict, and I never try to avoid either. In fact, I guess I seek them out because that’s where the chance to make a difference is.”

Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark

On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of unlawfully refusing induction into the United States Armed Forces. Four years later – on June 28, 1971 – the United States Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction.

“The government didn’t need Ali to fight the war,” Clark said afterward. “But they would have loved to put him in the service, get his picture in there, maybe give him a couple of stripes on his sleeve and take him all over the world. Think of the power that would have had in Africa, Asia, and South America. Here’s this proud American serviceman, fighting symbolically for his country. They would have loved to do that.”

Thereafter, Clark and Ali worked together on several projects. On one occasion, Ramsey and his wife joined Muhammad and Lonnie Ali as guests for dinner in my home. The mutual admiration between the two men was obvious.

“To me, Muhammad Ali is a totally spiritual person,” Clark said later. “It doesn’t have to do with the Christian faith in which he was raised, and it doesn’t have to do with the Islamic faith to which he converted. It has to do with his love for life, his faith in the human spirit, and his belief in the equality of all people. I see Ali as a human being whose sense of purpose in life is to help others. He must lay awake at night, wondering what he can do to help people, because wherever people are in need, his priorities are there. He sees children who are right next to him, but children who are starving in Africa and threatened by bombing in Iraq are also within the scope of his imagination. He wants to help everyone and he travels at great personal burden and financial expense to be wherever he’s needed. I say, God bless him. He makes an enormous difference.”

And there were other thoughts that Clark shared with me over time:

*         “I don’t like boxing. I oppose boxing because I think it’s violent and damaging to the young men who participate in it. It symbolizes our glorification of violence and the rule of violence over compassion and the rule of law. I also don’t believe in fame. I think fame, like power, is a profound misunderstanding and distortion of what is good and desirable. One of the most damaging beliefs people have is that only those who are famous or hold power can change things or make a difference. True social change has to come from the people. Each of us has to want to be involved and has to believe that we as individuals can make a difference and that our ability to make a difference doesn’t depend upon our being elected to the House of Representatives or being the preacher of the biggest church in town or president of a corporation or heavyweight champion of the world. Those roles tend to be selfish and self-fulfilling and debilitating in terms of the pureness of one’s commitment. You make so many compromises in pursuing those careers that it’s an illusion to think that’s how you make the changes you care about, if you care about justice and social change.”

*         “Muhammad Ali made an enormous difference. There was a quality of pure goodwill about him. There always has been, and I believe, always will be. Here was a young black man from American poverty. He could very easily have been embittered, hateful, racist. But through all his trials and tribulations, he never manifested any of those qualities. And when he spoke, he said loving things. In his mind, wishes came true, and that’s the way a good portion of his life has been. He meant different things to different strata of American society. But to the poor, he meant you can do what you will; anything is possible.”

*         “Muhammad Ali gave people hope. He inspired and continues to inspire millions of people. And to everyone, he meant that you can be gentle and strong, that there’s not a contradiction there; because for all his obvious physical strength, he always evoked gentleness and love. With Muhammad Ali, you saw grace; you saw joy. He meant charity in the truest sense of the word. He made people proud to be who they were.”

*         “It’s not an anomaly; it shows the way we are, really, that he came to the opportunity to do all that he did through fighting. But he’s always had a vision that goes beyond the violence of boxing. His character causes him to want to help others. And character is destiny. That’s the character we need. He hasn’t been able to accomplish all that he wanted. Much of what he set out to do never materialized. But he’s a person of unique good will and good works. He touched so many lives and brought out the better angels in millions of people.”

*         “You know, the joy of life is that you have to persevere and do what you can to make this a better world. We’re going to have a billion more people on earth before the end of this century. The great majority of them will have dark skin and live in terrible poverty. Hundreds of millions of them will have shortened lives and suffer from hunger, malnutrition, ignorance, and disease. But if the rest of us can come through in the manner of Muhammad Ali, we can solve the problems that lie ahead. The most important thing he communicates is his love and desire to do good. That was what he taught us all. And if you can really communicate that, that there are people who love; well, then maybe you’ll change the world.”

And there was a final grace note.

“I see him from time to time,” Clark said of Ali. “And the last time I saw him, I told him – and I meant it – I said to him, ‘You’ll always be my champion.’”

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

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

There Was a Smorgasbord of Tasty Delights in Dueling TV Fight Cards

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

There-Was-a-Smorgasbord-of-Tasty-Delights-in-Dueling-TV-Fight-Cards

Technology has not advanced to the point where someone can actually be in two places at the same time, but until that happens, the next best thing is the wonderful consolation prize of being able to watch one fight card live on television while recording the other for delayed perusal.

Maybe there can be too much of a good thing sometimes. If I were in a position where I had to make a choice to physically be in attendance at one site or another on Saturday night, it would have been difficult choosing between being there to witness Philadelphia’s emerging welterweight sensation, Jaron “Boots” Ennis, put on another spectacular show in dispatching former junior welter world champion Sergey Lipinets in the Showtime-televised main event in Uncasville, Conn., or another gritty performance by blue-collar, working-class hero Joe Smith Jr. as he finally won a world light heavyweight title with a hard-fought, typically inelegant and somewhat controversial majority decision over Russia’s Maxim Vlasov in the ESPN/ESPN+ card-topper at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Okla.

In and of themselves, the two featured bouts, so different in execution and outcome but each compelling in their own way, would have satisfied most fight fans. But like a buffet line where diners can snack on tasty hors d’oeuvres –type fare before loading their plates with a preferred entrée item, each card offered additional value by way of televised undercard bouts.

The most dominant performance, and the one of highest potential value moving forward? That would be still another star-making turn by the 23-year-old Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs), who did pretty much whatever he wanted in becoming the first fighter to knock out Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs), the 32-year-old former IBF junior welterweight titlist who had gone the distance with Mikey Garcia and had never been decked as a professional until he went down twice against Boots, who looks like he has the goods to soon take his place in the pantheon of outstanding fighters to represent the city of his birth.

OK, so the first ruled knockdown by referee Arthur Mercante Jr., which came in the fourth round, likely was an error of judgment as replays showed that Lipinets actually tripped on Ennis’ foot. But there was no mistaking what happened in the sixth round, when Ennis, who had been casually teeing off on the stocky Russian as if he were just another heavy bag to be pounded on in the gym, caught Lipinets with a right hook followed by a left uppercut. Lipinets went down flat onto his back, and Mercante immediately waved the massacre off, dispensing with the formality of initiating a count.

The ending meant that Ennis still had not been extended beyond the sixth round as a pro, but this relatively swift termination of a bout whose outcome seemed predetermined from the outset was more significant given Lipinets’ reputation as a tough, durable former champ who had never been so outclassed in matchups with other top-shelf performers. If Ennis hadn’t already stamped himself as a force to be reckoned with in the 147-pound weight class, his domination of Lipinets sent that message out loud and clear.

“Another special fighter from Philadelphia. Imagine that,” said Showtime blow-by-blow announcer Mauro Ranallo.

“More Boots Ennis,” studio host Brian Custer said when asked what he wanted next. “This kid is spectacular. Say his name. Jaron `Boots’ Ennis is going to be a problem in the welterweight division.”

What wasn’t there to like? Ennis has a smorgasbord of ring skills that would be difficult for even other elite 147-pounders to solve. He switches from orthodox to southpaw as fluidly and effectively as does arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Terence “Bud” Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs), the WBO welterweight ruler. He occasionally employed the shoulder roll that was a staple of the great Floyd Mayweather Jr., and his penchant for finishing off his man when he has him in trouble pretty much is beyond dispute at this stage of a career whose best days might yet come.

According to CompuBox statistics, Ennis landed a ridiculously high percentage of his power shots (91 of 172, 52.9%), going to the body frequently as part of a well-thought-out strategy crafted by his father-trainer, Derrick “Bozy” Ennis. His next fight may well be against the formidable Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), a Miami-based Cuban, but by now it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to imagine him giving the welterweight division’s crème de la crème, Crawford and WBC/IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21 KOs) all they could handle. Perhaps Ennis would benefit from a bit more seasoning against higher-tier opponents, but if his time isn’t exactly right now, that time is fast approaching.

“I was just in there, having fun, doing me,” Ennis said of his unhurried but quite thorough thrashing of Lipinets. “You know, being real relaxed and putting on a show … I just coasted, I took my time and I broke him down.”

Joe Smith Jr. MD12 Maxim Vlasov

The backstory of Joe Smith Jr. – a card-carrying member of Local 66 from Long Island, N.Y., who spends his days pouring concrete, digging trenches, laying sheetrock, power-washing septic tanks and knocking down walls with a sledgehammer, and his nights training as a light heavyweight contender with a dream of making it all the way to a world title – always have been a bit more intriguing than what his limited skill-set has been able to produce inside the ropes.

This 31-year-old Everyman with a most common name is tough, determined and a dangerous puncher, but all that will carry him only so far now that he finally has that bejeweled belt (as winner of the vacant WBO 175-pound championship) he so long has coveted, by virtue of his hardly clear-cut majority decision over the unorthodox Russian Maxim Vlasov. Seemingly behind through 10 rounds, a bloodied and perhaps desperate Smith reached deep inside himself to win the last two rounds, drawing even on my unofficial, watching-at-home scorecard at six rounds apiece. He fared better with the judges in Tulsa, however, with David Sutherland joining me in seeing the fight as a 114-114 standoff, a determination overruled by the cards submitted by Gerald Ritter (115-112) and Pat Russell (115-113).

Presumably next up for Smith is a unification showdown with WBC/IBF ruler Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs), the Canada-based Russian who is an even bigger puncher than Smith and is widely regarded as the best light heavyweight on the planet. Such a bout likely would mean a career-high payday for the newly wed Smith, but just as likely the end of his brief reign as an alphabet titlist.

“I want other belts,” Smith, who fought from the first round on with a worrisome cut above his left eye. “I want the big fights out there. I believe I’m going to start unifying belts.”

Finally the favorite – Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) had made his reputation on his inside-the-distance upsets of Andrzej Fonfara and nearly 52-year-old Bernard Hopkins – the easy-to-like Everyman’s coronation proved to be no easy task as Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs) confused him in the early going with an unorthodox style that had him delivering punches from odd angles.

But Smith is difficult to discourage, and he kept pressing his attack in the hope he could find an opening to deliver the kind of put-away shot that had vanquished Fonfara and B-Hop. He got in some wicked licks, too, several times hurting Vlasov, who bled from the mouth from the seventh round on.

The 11th round was perhaps pivotal, as Vlasov went down, clearly from a punch. But referee Gary Ritter ruled that the delivered blow was an illegal rabbit punch, and he waved off the knockdown and gave Vlasov additional time to recover.

“I believe that round where I hurt him, he stuck his head down (and into the disputed punch),” Smith said. “I should have got the knockdown on that. I think I would have got the stoppage that round, but he pulled it off and made it out on his feet.”

It also could have been that, not getting credit for the knockdown, which conceivably might have opened the door to a knockout or a TKO, made Smith – who originally was to have fought Vlasov on Feb. 13, a date postponed when the Russian tested positive for COVID-19 – fight even harder the rest of the way. CompuBox listed him as landing a career-high 174 power shots, 68 coming in the last two rounds that he so clearly needed.

Whatever viewers might have thought of the decision, Smith-Vlasov was entertaining and competitive.

Efe Ajagba KO3 Brian Howard

Ajagba, a 26-year-old Nigerian, delivered one of the most emphatic one-punch knockouts of the year when he landed a jolting overhand right to the left ear of Howard, who went down in a heap, unconscious, his legs twisted beneath him. Referee Tony Crebs signaled the end of the fight immediately.

It was the second fight for the 6’6” Ajagba, who signed with Top Rank in August 2020, with his new support team of manager James Prince and trainer Kay Koroma. Whether he has bettered his circumstances for those changes (he previously was with Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports, and worked with manager Shelly Finkel and trainer Ronnie Shields) is a matter of conjecture, but the promise – and punching power — he had exhibited beforehand seems to have remained intact.

“It’s my time to shine,” Ajagba said. “I’m coming for the heavyweights to become heavyweight champion of the world.”

He could get his shot, and maybe more quickly now that he is with Top Rank, which promotes the WBC titlist, Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), with a full unification matchup with WBA/IBF/WBO champ Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) close to being finalized.

Nigeria has a history for producing good fighters, the most renowned being the late former middleweight and light heavyweight champion, Dick Tiger, an enshrinee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The best Nigerian heavyweight likely was Ike Ibeabuchi, who might have been good enough to win a world title had it not been for mental and legal issues that landed him in prison. It remains to be seen if Ajagba can match or surpass Ibeabuchi, but he would appear to have a reasonable chance of doing so in comparison to Samuel Peter, Henry Akinwande, David Izonritei and Duncan Dokiwari.

“Efe Ajagba is one of the most gifted young heavyweights I’ve seen in quite some time,” Arum said when he signed him. “He has immense physical tools and a great work ethic. I have the utmost confidence that we’re looking at a future heavyweight champion.”

The two televised lead-ins to Ennis-Lipinets were IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas’ unanimous decision over Jonathan Rodriguez and rising welterweight Eimantas Stanionis’ UD12 over former world title challenger Thomas Dulorme.

Jerwin Ancajas UD12 Jonathan Rodriguez

Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs), who years ago drew the attention of fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao, retained his title for the ninth time against mandatory challenger Rodriguez (22-2, 16 KOs) of Mexico, who was decked for the first time in his pro career in round eight.

Eimantas Stanionis UD 12 Thomas Dulorme

Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs), from Lithuania, could eventually become a factor in the loaded welterweight division. He certainly didn’t do himself any harm with his win over tough Puerto Rican Dulorme (25-5-1, 16 KOs).

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Saying-Goodbye-To-Our-Guy-Marvelous-Marvin-Hagler-Gone-At-66
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Saying Goodbye To Our Guy, Marvelous Marvin Hagler Gone At 66

The-Other-Four-Kings
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Other Four Kings

Avila-Perspective-Chap-128-Saturday's-Boxing-Blitz-Marvelous-Marvin-and-More
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 128: Saturday’s Boxing Blitz, Marvelous Marvin and More

The-Hauser-Report-Literary-Notes-and-Other-Nuggets
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

The Hauser Report: Literary Notes and Other Nuggets

Boxing's-Irish-Traveler-Era-Figures-to-be-Long-Lived
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Boxing’s Irish Traveler ‘Era’ Figures to be Long-Lasting

Heavyweight-Jeremiah-Milton-is-Thrilled-to-be-on-Saturday's-Big-Show-in-Tulsa
Featured Articles1 week ago

Heavyweight Jeremiah Milton is Thrilled to be on Saturday’s Big Show in Tulsa

Jesse-James-Leija-vs-Micky-Ward-A-Dry-Gulch-in-San-Antonio
Featured Articles7 days ago

Jesse James Leija vs. Micky Ward: A Dry-gulch in San Antonio

Tim-Tszyu-Steamrolls-Hogan-Bika-Wins-His-Rubber-Match-With-Soliman
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Tim Tszyu Steamrolls Dennis Hogan; Bika Wins His Rubber Match With Soliman

Dillian-Whyre-Evens-the-Score-Stops-Shaky-Povetkin-in-the-Fourth
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Dillian Whyte Evens the Score: Stops Shaky Povetkin in the Fourth

Tijuana's-Fierro-Rallies-to-Stop-Machado-on-a-Thursday-Night-in-Puerto-Rico
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Tijuana’s Fierro Rallies to Stop Machado on a Thursday Night in Puerto Rico

Kassim-Ouma's-Inspirational-Story-is-Now-Just-Another-Cautionary-Tale
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Kassim Ouma’s Inspirational Story is Now Just Another Cautionary Tale

Vergil-Ortiz-Jr-Beats-Mo-Hooker-and-Seniesa-Estrada-Wins-World-Title
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Vergil Ortiz Jr. Beats Mo Hooker and Seniesa Estrada Wins World Title

Remembering-Lightweight-Contender-Frankie-Narvaez-Boxing's-Peerless-Riot-Maker
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Remembering Lightweight Contender Frankie Narvaez, Boxing’s Peerless Riot-Maker

Beterbiev-and-Ortiz-Kept-on-Truckin'-but-Lawrence-Okolie-Stole-the-Spotlight
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Beterbiev and Ortiz Kept on Truckin’, but Lawrence Okolie Stole the Spotlight

Amanda-Searrano-Dominates-and-KOs-Daniela-Bermudez-in-Old-San-Juan
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Amanda Serrano Dominates and KOs Daniela Bermudez  in Old San Juan 

Avila-Perspective-Chap-130-Jaron-Boots-Ennis-Super-Fly-and-More
Featured Articles5 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap 130: Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, Super Fly and More

Akhmadaliev-Stops-Iwasa-and-Other-Uzbekistan-Fight-Results
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Akhmadaliev Stops Iwasa and Other Uzbekistan Fight Results

Okolie-Blasts-Out-Glowacki-in-London-Beterbiev-Stops-Deines-in-Moscow
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Okolie Blasts out Glowacki in London; Beterbiev Stops Deines in Moscow

A-Cut-Eye-Not-Nearly-Enough-to-Deter-Marine-Veteran-Jamel-Herring
Featured Articles1 week ago

A Cut Eye Not Nearly Enough to Deter Marine Veteran Jamel Herring

Avila-Perspective-Chap-129-Remembering-Rod-and-More-Fight-News
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 129: Remembering Rod Hunt and More Fight News

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Regis-Prograis-Paul-vs-Askren-and-Kahlil-Poe
Featured Articles13 hours ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: Regis Prograis, Paul vs. Askren, and Kahlil Poe

Ramsey-Clark-and-Muhammad-Ali
Featured Articles21 hours ago

Ramsey Clark and Muhammad Ali

There-Was-a-Smorgasbord-of-Tasty-Delights-in-Dueling-TV-Fight-Cards
Featured Articles3 days ago

There Was a Smorgasbord of Tasty Delights in Dueling TV Fight Cards

The-Hauser-Report-Notes-and-Nuggets
Featured Articles3 days ago

The Hauser Report: Notes and Nuggets

Jaron-Ennis-KOs-Sergey-Lipinets-and-Other-Results-from-the-Mohegan-Sun
Featured Articles3 days ago

Jaron Ennis KOs Sergey Lipinets and Other Results from the Mohegan Sun

Fast-Results-from-Tulsa-Joe-Smith-Nips-Vlasov-Wins-WBO-Title
Featured Articles3 days ago

Fast Results from Tulsa: Joe Smith Jr Nips Vlasov, Wins WBO Title

Conor-Benn-Embarrasses-His-Detrators-Demolishes-Vargas-in-80-Seconds
Featured Articles4 days ago

Conor Benn Embarrasses His Detractors, Demolishes Vargas in 80 Seconds

Avila-Perspective-Chap-130-Jaron-Boots-Ennis-Super-Fly-and-More
Featured Articles5 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap 130: Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, Super Fly and More

Jaron-Boots-Ennis-Advancing-to-Heights-Beyond-Whar-his-Brothers-Achieved
Featured Articles6 days ago

Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis Advancing to Heights Beyond What His Brothers Achieved

Jesse-James-Leija-vs-Micky-Ward-A-Dry-Gulch-in-San-Antonio
Featured Articles7 days ago

Jesse James Leija vs. Micky Ward: A Dry-gulch in San Antonio

Heavyweight-Jeremiah-Milton-is-Thrilled-to-be-on-Saturday's-Big-Show-in-Tulsa
Featured Articles1 week ago

Heavyweight Jeremiah Milton is Thrilled to be on Saturday’s Big Show in Tulsa

A-Cut-Eye-Not-Nearly-Enough-to-Deter-Marine-Veteran-Jamel-Herring
Featured Articles1 week ago

A Cut Eye Not Nearly Enough to Deter Marine Veteran Jamel Herring

Fast-Results-from-Dubai-Herring-Dominates-Frampton-Stops-Him-in-the-6th
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Fast Results from Dubai: Herring Dominates Frampton; Stops Him in the 6th

Akhmadaliev-Stops-Iwasa-and-Other-Uzbekistan-Fight-Results
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Akhmadaliev Stops Iwasa and Other Uzbekistan Fight Results

Three-Outstanding-Prospects-Embellish-Saturday's-Boxing-Slate
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Three Outstanding Prospects Embellish Saturday’s Boxing Slate

Avila-Perspective-Chap-129-Remembering-Rod-and-More-Fight-News
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 129: Remembering Rod Hunt and More Fight News

Tim-Tszyu-Steamrolls-Hogan-Bika-Wins-His-Rubber-Match-With-Soliman
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Tim Tszyu Steamrolls Dennis Hogan; Bika Wins His Rubber Match With Soliman

Kassim-Ouma's-Inspirational-Story-is-Now-Just-Another-Cautionary-Tale
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Kassim Ouma’s Inspirational Story is Now Just Another Cautionary Tale

Dillian-Whyre-Evens-the-Score-Stops-Shaky-Povetkin-in-the-Fourth
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Dillian Whyte Evens the Score: Stops Shaky Povetkin in the Fourth

Amanda-Searrano-Dominates-and-KOs-Daniela-Bermudez-in-Old-San-Juan
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Amanda Serrano Dominates and KOs Daniela Bermudez  in Old San Juan 

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement