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Gyllenhaal’s “Southpaw” Hits Theaters This Summer

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On Thursday, The Weinstein Company announced a release date for Jake Gyllenhaal’s boxing film, Southpaw. Directed by the helmer of Training Day and The Equalizer, Antoine Fuqua, and scribed by Sons of Anarchy creator, Kurt Sutter, Southpaw will be hitting theaters this summer on July 31.

Gyllenhaal, coming off his Golden Globe nominated turn in the excellent Los Angeles after dark thriller, Nightcrawler, clearly put in the time to look like a real fighter. Whereas the actor dropped 30 pounds to play Nightcrawler sociopath Lou Bloom, he bulked up and added 15 pounds of pure muscle to play a lefty junior middleweight champion.

Considering the involvement of Fuqua and Sutter, Southpaw is likely to be gritty and hardcore. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Sutter’s SOA or just about any of Fuqua’s previous films knows these guys like it rough and grimy.

The fictional tale tells the story of Billy “The Great” Hope who battles personal tragedy and seeks redemption in the ring with the help of his trainer, a former washed up boxer played by Forest Whitaker. The film also features Rachel McAdams, rapper turned boxing promoter, 50 Cent, and former welterweight champion “Vicious” Victor Ortiz in supporting roles.

At one time, the film was slated to star Eminem in the lead, but the picture was dropped by Dreamworks in 2011. It landed at MGM in 2013, only to be dropped again before falling into the lap of the Weinstein Company.

Of Gyllenhaal’s performance, Fuqua told Deadline Hollywood, “Jake is going to change how people see him. I had him training twice a day in the boxing ring, he did two-a-days seven days a week. I pretty much had him with me and my trainer every day. I took him to almost every fight. I had him train at Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Vegas and we watched Floyd’s fights, and the Manny Pacquiao fight. He trained in New York at Church Gym with real fighters. We literally turned him into a beast. Jake, my God, he’s a very electric, powerful fighter in this movie, and a guy who fights for his daughter. I’m confident that this will change how people see Jake, as a leading man.”

For his part, boxing seems to have found a permanent grip on Gyllenhaal, who in an interview with the LA Times said, “I spent six months training for this. Now I’m looking up boxing all the time. It will be a part of my life forever.”

For those of us who love the fight game, the only thing nearly as good as a great fight is a great boxing movie. Considering the talent involved and the commitment of the lead, Southpaw gives us boxing fans multiple reasons to be excited. Mark your calendar.

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Beware Fearless Freddie

Ted Sares

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Some fighters launch and sustain long winning streaks; others engage long losing streaks. Some, like Mexican cult legend Quirino Garcia (40-28-4) and the late Saoul Mamby (45-34-6), did both.

And some, like Joey Olivera (21-13-1), Rogers Mtagwa (27-17-2), Manning Galloway (63-19-1) and Emanuel Augustus (38-34-6) mixed things up in spurts. Another, Darnell Boone (24-25-5), is still fighting and is very unpredictable as Andre Ward, Adonis Stevenson, and Sergey Kovalev discovered. When these men are on their game, their opponents can be on the dangerous side of things

For those who like to go back in time, Teddy “Red Top” Davis (71-75-6) provided early TV fans with many shockers as did Holly Mims (68-28-6). The names from back then go on and on.

A favorite was the very active, old schoolish “Fearless” Freddie Pendleton (47-26-6) who fought a remarkable 25 times in Atlantic City but also duked frequently in California and Nevada. And get this, the Philadelphian went in with 17 world champions!

The Record

With only a handful of amateur fights, Freddie lost four of his first six including his debut on November 5, 1981. But he was naturally talented, a combination boxer-puncher with a bazooka for a right hand.

In just his sixth pro fight, he was put in against the very skilled, undefeated and streaking Jerome Coffee and dropped a UD. He then reeled off four quick wins  before losing to Gerald Hayes (20-18-4) in October 1982 and to Bobby Johnson (16-0) in March of the following year. After beating one Jose Rodriguez, he stepped up against Anthony Fletcher (13-0 at the time) and lost a 10-rounder but not before decking “Two Guns” in the fifth round, signaling that he could be a dangerous opponent for anyone.

After a draw and three wins in a row, he lost to former world champion Hilmer Kenty by UD at Cobo Hall in Detroit—but many thought Freddie had been stiffed: “That was highway robbery. I beat him from pillar to post…Everybody expected me to get knocked out, and when I beat him up like that, I pissed off a lot of people in Detroit,” he told Anson Wainwright for a story in The Ring magazine.

Two months later in Detroit and again at Cobo Hall, “Fearless” took the fight away from the judges and shocked undefeated Tyrone Trice (12-0) by flooring him three times in the first round for a big TKO. People now knew who Pendleton was and what he was capable of. (As an aside and reflecting the significance of this win, multiple title challenger Trice subsequently won 16 straight.)

“You could see the confidence that he (Trice) was going to just walk in there and destroy me. I expected a tough fight, and then the first shot I caught him with he’s down. I knew I was the outsider, so I went after him and put him away. That was one of the biggest wins early in my career.”

Unlike Trice, however, Freddie lost four of his next seven though against very tough opposition including Adolfo Medal (21-1), Joe Manley (20-2), Frankie Randall (21-0), Jimmy Paul (23-1), and a very slick and underrated Darryl Martin (9-2) whom he beat for a regional title,

In March 1986, Pendleton (14-13 at the time) took on Roger Mayweather (23-3) in Las Vegas and amazingly knocked out Roger in the 6th round with a lightning fast right that put Roger to sleep in frightening fashion.

Freddie then drew with Frankie Randall in July 1086 and also with Livingstone Bramble (24-2-1) almost a year later. Then, amidst a 6-fight win steak, he ambushed and stopped Bramble in a rematch in July 1988. After being KOd by John Montes (38-4) in a slugfest, he extended Pernell Whitaker (20-1) for 12 rounds before losing a close UD with the WBC and IBF world lightweight title belts at stake.

Even though his record was a most deceptive 24-16-3, his reputation was growing fast and it only seemed a matter of time for the big show.

His time was NOW!

Fearless launched a 12-fight undefeated streak after his loss to Whitaker that included a draw with Tracy “Slam Bam” Spann and wins over the likes of Eric Podolak, Felix Dubray, and Spann in a rematch. This later win in January 1993 in Atlantic City earned Freddie the IBF world lightweight title. His record at the time was just 32-17-4.

“Fearless” successfully defended it against the dangerous Jorge Paez (46-6-4) in July 1993 but then lost three controversial fights in a row. The one against Rafael Ruelas (39-1) was especially questionable as Rafael hit the deck twice in the first round. This loss cost Freddie his title, and he would never regain a major belt.

Freddie launched still another win-streak in late 1994 by knocking out Steve Larrimore in the tenth round. He stopped Darryl Tyson (45-6-1) in 1995 and then he outslugged and stopped Tony Lopez (45-5-1) by decking him four times in Las Vegas in what can only be termed an under-the-radar-classic. Lopez (whose level of opposition was equally off the charts) had decked Freddie twice. These were big wins, especially the one against Lopez.

Pendleton would then win some and lose some including three unsuccessful title attempts against Felix Trinidad (28-0), Vince Phillips (37-3), and James Page (24-3).

After stopping one Horatio Garcia (12-3-1) for something called the IBA Americas Welterweight Title, he met Ricky Hatton (25-0) in Manchester, England, on October 27,2001 for the World Boxing Union Super Lightweight title. Freddie was knocked out early by the prime Hatton and that ended his remarkable career.

Freddie Pendleton, now 57 and a trainer, was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2011.

If any fighter lived up to his nickname, it was “Fearless” Freddie Pendleton.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Heavyweight Hopeful Agit Kabayel Wins as Expected in Magdeburg

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweight Hopeful Agit Kabayel Wins as Expected in Magdeburg

There was live boxing in Germany today (July 18) for the second straight Saturday. Last week’s event was at a drive-in movie theater on the outskirts of Dusseldorf. Today there were actually four shows scattered around Deutschland, the most high-profile an outdoor show at a public park in Magdeburg where the ring was pitched on a floating stage. Attendance was limited to one thousand and the show was reportedly a fast sellout.

The draw was undefeated heavyweight Agit Kabayel, a native German of Kurdish extraction who improved to 20-0 (13) with a lopsided decision over paunchy six-foot-six Evgenios Lazaridis, a Germany-based fighter from Athens, Greece. With the nickname Achilles, it figured that Lazaridis, 32, would be vulnerable to a punch in the heel, but the six-foot-three Kabayel (pictured on the left; Lazaridis on the right) couldn’t get down that low and was content to punch him in his upper parts.

Lazaridis had some good moments early in the fight, but his workrate slowed by round five and the better-conditioned Kabayel gradually put more distance between them before dominating the 10th. The judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92.

This was Kabayel’s third fight in Magdeburg where he won the European heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Belgium’s Herve Hubeaux and successfully defended it with a unanimous decision over veteran Andriy Rudenko of the Ukraine. Kabayel vacated the title after his management signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank in September of last year. He entered the bout ranked #11 by both the WBA and IBF.

When Kabayel signed with Top Rank, it was noted that he had several good attributes but lacked one-punch knockout power. Following his effort today, he was dismissed as “European level” on social media. However, this was his first fight in 16 months so he likely had some ring rust and he had only five amateur fights before turning pro (he has a kickboxing background) and so, at age 27, he likely hasn’t reached his full potential.

In an undercard bout of note, 23-year-old heavyweight prospect Peter Kadiru improved to 8-0 (4) at the expense of 39-year-old late sub Eugen Buchmueller (16-7) who quit on his stool after three frames with an apparent shoulder injury. Kadiru is managed by Bernd Boente who was previously involved with the Klitschko brothers.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 99: Re-Opening in California

David A. Avila

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Now revving its promotional engine Golden Boy Promotions returns next week for a two-stint summer show in Southern California and the possibility of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez capping the end of the season.

“He is open to fight in September,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy. “Right now, we are going through details with him and whether he wants to fight or not.”

Canelo has become one of DAZN’s lead attractions and during these “stop and go” times of worldwide pandemic, the sport of professional boxing remains one of the few able to continue. But rigid restrictions are necessary and no guarantees any fight takes place.

“Right now, we are going through all the details and what’s important for us and for him first and foremost is the safety,” said Gomez. “God forbid he gets sick but things happen. Look at what happened to Top Rank; they have fights fall out. Accidents are going to happen.”

Top Rank Promotions has filled the void for the past two months with twice-weekly shows that have included fighters from the Golden Boy stable. Two weeks ago, one of the Golden Boy fighters Joshua Franco grabbed the WBA super fly title during one of the boxing cards in Las Vegas.

Now, Golden Boy opens its own shows at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio on Friday, July 24. Everything is in place to showcase their fighters in California, a state that usually leads the country in staging prizefighting cards. It might even lead the world, but not this year.

“For these two shows we have to do at Fantasy Springs, we have protocols we have to follow, just a little more preparation and planning. We tested everybody, all came back negative. We will have to test again the week of the fight. That’s the price of doing business nowadays during the pandemic,” said Gomez.

First up will be Vergil Ortiz Jr. the welterweight from the Dallas, Texas area who trains in nearby Riverside, California at Robert Garcia Boxing Academy. Both the training facility and casino are located in Riverside County which stretches all the way to the Arizona border at Blythe.

Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs) will be facing Sam Vargas (31-5-2, 14 KOs) who fights out of Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a four-hour drive to Fantasy Springs. Anything can happen and anyone can be carrying the coronavirus that has contaminated whole cities. DAZN will stream the boxing card.

If this fight holds, Ortiz looks to propel himself into a world title fight in the loaded welterweight division. Premier Boxing Champions has champion Errol Spence Jr. and Top Rank has champion Terence Crawford. Either will suffice for Ortiz, he says. Now he is working to get into position for those kind of fights.

Ortiz has been sparring with WBC and WBA super lightweight world titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez and with four-division world champion Mikey Garcia. That’s plenty of experience and tutelage for the tall 22-year-old guitar-playing welterweight out of Dallas with 15 knockouts in 15 fights.

“I never stopped training camp,” Ortiz told Golden Boy’s Jessica Rosales. “I’m more than ready for this fight especially since its going to be against the same opponent.”

But is he ready for the big guns?

Recently on social media Ortiz has mentioned that challenges against Spence, Crawford or whoever heads the welterweight division are desired.

“I wanna fight the best at 147 like Danny Garcia and Errol Spence and people call me stupid,” said Ortiz on social media. “In due time these great fights will happen. I just wanna fight the best.”

Tuesday Fights

Former featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez (27-0, 21 KOs) moves up to the super featherweight division and meets Jayson Velez (29-6-1, 21 KOs) in a 10 round main event at the MGM Grand bubble in Las Vegas. ESPN will televise the fight on Tuesday, July 21.

Valdez was having trouble making the 126-pound weight limit and feels confident in making the move to 130 pounds. It’s one of the toughest divisions in prizefighting.

Puerto Rico’s Velez has always been a tough foe for anyone he meets in the prize ring. He has never been stopped and almost every loss was a close decision. It’s a solid match and a good test.

More Friday Fights

Lightweight contender Mercito Gesta (32-3-3, 17 KOs) tangles with San Antonio’s Hector Tanajara (19-0, 5 KOs) in a lightweight bout at Fantasy Springs. It’s a classic match between experience and youth and guaranteed worth watching on DAZN.

Gesta, 32, has competed for the world title against Jorge Linares and Miguel Vazquez but was unable to walk off with the world lightweight championship. He did pick up the WBO NABO title in a riveting battle against Roberto Manzanarez in June 2018. His last fight ended in a technical draw due to a cut suffered by his foe Carlos Morales.

Tanajara, 23, has height and length to go along with his growing boxing skills learned under trainer Robert Garcia’s guidance. He has picked up tricks of the trade along the way and proved his toughness in wins over Juan Carlos Burgos and Ivan Delgado. Can he out-tough and out-smart Gesta?

Both fighters are class acts.

Seniesa Defends

East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada (18-0, 7 KOs) defends the WBC Silver light flyweight title against Miranda Adkins (5-0, 5 KOs) in a 10-round bout on the Friday July 24, card at Fantasy Springs Casino.

Estrada wanted a world title bout but it is extremely difficult to find opposition under 112 pounds inside of the USA. Most of the fighters below 112 are located in Mexico or Japan. Few people are being allowed into the country during the pandemic.

Adkins is allegedly a former kickboxer and MMA fighter out of Kansas. Estrada has become a crowd favorite and eager to perform.

“We’re excited to have Seniesa back. She is starting to develop a really big following now,” said Eric Gomez. “She is a real good fighter and does things that most girls can’t do.”

Now that California has re-opened maybe a feeling of normalcy will follow.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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