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The Hauser Report: January Notes

Thomas Hauser

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The most interesting action in boxing often takes place outside the ring. There have been developments on both sides of the ropes in January 2015 that are worthy of comment.

*     *     *

The Al Haymon Era officially began this month when Haymon Boxing, armed with a reported $100,000,000 war chest in venture-capital funds, put the finishing touches on two time buys.

NBC Sports announced on January 14 that it had entered into an agreement with Haymon that provides for twenty fight telecasts in 2015 (five on NBC on Saturday nights, six on NBC on Saturday afternoons, and nine in prime time on NBC Sports Network).

The NBC commentating team will include Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard, two of the best in the business. There are reports that another elite commentator, possibly Marv Albert, will join them.

The first telecast pursuant to the agreement will come on March 7, when Keith Thurman faces off against Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner takes on John Molina at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That will be followed by Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson and, possibly, Andy Lee vs. Peter Quillin on April 11, most likely at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Both of these cards will be televised on NBC. Thurman, Broner, Garcia, and Quillin will be the favored fighters in more ways than one.

On January 22, a second Haymon Boxing time buy was announced; this one on Spike TV. Thirty-three monthly cards (nine in 2015, twelve in 2016, and twelve in 2017) will be televised on Friday nights, many of them opposite ESPN2 Boxing.

The inaugural Spike telecast will take place on March 13 with Andre Berto vs. Josesito Lopez and Shawn Porter vs. Roberto Garcia. Berto and Porter are considered the house fighters.

Much of the boxing media was frozen out of the press conferences announcing these events. That might be because Haymon had more prominent scribes in mind. Or it might be because he doesn’t want anyone who knows the business boxing asking hard questions in the presence of the uninitiated.

The reaction of competing promoters and television executives left out in the cold has ranged from denial to panic. Some in between these extremes have noted that Haymon now has the burden of selling advertising for programming that advertisers have resisted for decades.

As for fans, there was an ominous signal when it was announced that the April 11 fight between WBA-WBC 140-pound beltholder Danny Garcia and IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson will be an over-the-weight non-title bout. That’s Haymon’s way of distributing as many belts as possible among as many of his fighters as possible to keep them happy. Also, presumably, he can pay the fighters a bit less because they aren’t risking their belts.

Haymon is trying to create a sense of inevitability. And he’s spending a lot of his investors’ money to do it. One of many unanswered questions is whether or not the investors will get their money back.

*     *     *

A lot of people in boxing have free time on their hands and not much to do with it. That’s the most likely explanation for the breathless reporting during the past month regarding the non-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao wants the fight. So does Showtime (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation), which would like to dig itself out from under the weight of its $32,000,000-per-fight minimum obligation to Mayweather.

Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) may, or may not, want it. But by posturing publicly in favor of the bout, he’s ingratiating himself with Les Moonves (president and CEO of CBS Corporation), who banished Top Rank from the network after Arum brought Pacquiao back to HBO following a flirtation with Showtime for Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley in 2011.

Speculation that Mayweather-Pacquiao would happen peaked on January 14, when HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Ken Hershman (president of HBO Sports) were seen having lunch in a Manhattan restaurant with Matt Blank and Stephen Espinoza (their Showtime counterparts). By most accounts, the meeting went poorly.

There are numerous issues between Showtime (which has an exclusive contract with Mayweather) and HBO (Pacquiao’s network). These issues range from how the commentating team for Mayweather-Pacquiao would be constituted to which network would televise the rebroadcast of the fight a week later.

More to the point; Mayweather’s actions (as opposed to his words) indicate that he doesn’t want the fight. Al Haymon (Floyd’s manager and de facto promoter) might not want it either.

Haymon is accustomed to controlling all revenue streams from Mayweather’s fights. And he’s a secretive guy. Mayweather-Pacquiao would be a joint venture with Top Rank. That means Bob Arum would know what foreign revenue Haymon was bringing in. And vice versa.

Come to think of it; Arum might not like that much either.

This is the only time in memory that the two most prominent fighters in the world have been in the same weight class and didn’t fight each other. There are reports that Moonves has instructed Espinoza to not give dates to Haymon unless and until Mayweather-Pacquiao is made. That would explain why Showtime has so little programming in place for this year.

*     *     *

Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne, contested on January 17, was seen going in as an entertaining match-up between two guys with questionable chins who could punch. Even better, it was unclear who would win.

Stiverne came in at 239 pounds with some extra weight around his waist. For most of the night, he plodded forward without letting his hands go often enough. Wilder used his considerable advantage in height and reach well. Even though Deontay moved away for most of the night, he did so as the aggressor, firing jabs with right hands mixed in. His jab was effective as both an offensive weapon and a defensive shield. The right hands stunned Stiverne at the end of round two and again in round seven.

Wilder had never gone more than four rounds before. By mid-fight, it was clear that Stiverne needed a knockout to win. The only open issues were Deontay’s stamina and his chin. Bermane didn’t do much to test either. Instead, he kept plodding forward, taking punishment and failing to cut off the ring. On the few occasions when he landed something promising, Wilder fired back. The judges’ scores of 120-107, 119-108, and 118-109 were a bit generous to Deontay, but not by much.

With his victory, Wilder claimed the bogus WBC heavyweight belt. The real champion is Wladimir Klitschko. But by besting Stiverne, Deontay established himself as a legitimate contender. He looked better against Bermane than a lot of people thought he would.

Wilder is entertaining to watch. He has the potential to excite people. There’s a big payday waiting for him against either Klitschko or Tyson Fury. Wladimir would be a decided favorite over Deontay. Fury would not.

Wilder-Fury would be a huge event in England. Think Wembley Stadium and the 80,000 fans who attended Carl Froch vs. George Groves last spring. Let’s hope then Deontay opts for Klitschko or Fury in his next fight and not Bozo the Clown.

*     *     *

The January 24 rubber match between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado shaped up at best as an entertaining club fight. The two men had combined to lose five of their previous seven outings over the past thirty-three months, with their only victories coming against each other. There was an effort to brand their trilogy as the second coming of Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward. That had no more credibility than likening Harry Connick Jr to Frank Sinatra.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, there was a widespread belief that, at best, Alvarado wasn’t training properly. At the start of round one, he looked like a man who didn’t want to fight. Then he morphed into a human punching bag. His only moment of serious aggression came toward the end of the second round, when he walked away from the action, then turned and whacked Rios in the testicles. In round three, Brandon pounded away without mercy. Following that stanza, the fight was stopped.

HBO commentator Jim Lampley acknowledged afterward, “It was a one-sided annihilation by a well-prepared Brandon Rios against a stunningly unprepared Mike Alvarado. Basically, he wasn’t there.”

“He had nothing, zero,” promoter Bob Arum added.

Boxing fans were spared comparisons with Gatti-Ward in the post-fight analysis.

*     *     *

The sad story of Jermain Taylor got sadder on January 19 with his arrest on charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, and possession of marijuana after he fired a gun during a parade in Little Rock honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Taylor was out on bail at the time, pending trial on charges of first degree battery stemming from an incident last August, when he shot his cousin in the leg. His bail was revoked after the parade incident.

There was a time when Jermain was considered a model citizen, and rightly so. Those days are gone.

“It’s possible that brain trauma from boxing is contributing to this,” Dr. Margaret Goodman (one of the most knowledgeable advocates for fighter safety in the United States) posits. “With CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], you see extreme personality and mood changes. But you wouldn’t know whether that’s the case here without a lot of tests.”

Drug abuse is also believed to be a factor. After Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins twice in 2005, he left his longtime trainer, Pat Burns, to work with Emanuel Steward, who was assisted by Ozell Nelson. Thereafter, Jermain was introduced to some not-so-healthy aspects of street life.

Taylor reunited with Burns in 2011. Last year, he won a watered-down 160-pound “championship” belt.

“If I sound perturbed,” Burns told this writer last week, “it’s because I am. Jermain was completely against drugs when I first knew him. And now, it’s not just marijuana. It can’t be. Marijuana doesn’t make you crazy like this. I’m told there’s stuff on the streets now that’s marijuana processed in a certain way that’s very dangerous. Maybe it’s that; I don’t know. But he’s out of control. That’s the scary part. The drugs are kicking Jermain’s ass.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Thomas Hauser on Boxing: Another Year Inside the Sweet Science) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Beware Fearless Freddie

Ted Sares

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Beware Fearless Freddie

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.

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