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RIP Cedric Kushner

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Sad news for NY-area boxing lifers, as the popular promoter Cedric Kushner, arguably a “B+” tier dealmaker with inarguably an grade “A” personality, died on Thursday, from a heart attack.

The fight-maker had a fondness for heavyweights, and was himself one, before undergoing surgery to downsize his frame. Kushner, age 66, was in ill health the last several years after a stroke, but friends in the fight game will recall his times in the sun, such as when his guy Hasim Rahman flipped the script and downed champion Lennox Lewis in a 2001 clash.

Kushner, born in South Africa, trod a well worn path, from the music promotion business to the sweet science. Both have low barriers to entry, where a man with XL dreams and a gift for persuasion can hack out a pathway to success. His boxing path started in 1984, or so, and he brought some flair for decibels and flash to the sport. In 2000, you would see the man and his sort of walrus-y facial hair, looking the tiniest bit glum, presiding over a show filled with B grade heavies at the Hammerstein Ballroom, in NYC, with dancers cavorting here, cigars and massages being smoked and indulged in there.

Kushner would back a Monte Barrett, or a David Tua, and get them wins, and hope they kept winning, so that they could be maneuvered into a title crack. He’d also be a figurehead to young fight game folks, who’d look up to him for wisdom and odd and delightful anecdotes. Aris Pina, of CompuBox, publicist Greg Juckett, folks like this are now laid low with the sad news…

He’d get into the big picture now and again, for sure, and early on, tasted limelight when he advised South African heavy Gerrie Coetzee, who gloved up against Larry Holmes in 1984. His all-time roster stacked up quite nicely with contemporaries over the decades. He world with and for “Irish” Teddy Mann, Marlon Starling, John Collins–Kushner worked the Illinois region for a spell—Robert Allen, Oliver McCall, Axel Schultz, Shane Mosley, Angel Manfredy, Shannon Briggs, Joel Casamayor, Ike Ibeabuchi, younger Peter Quillin.

Reporters enjoyed Kushner for his availability, and ability to fashion a decent quote, as when he said about Don King in 1988, “I used to have two pit bulls. They were too mean, so I had to get rid of them. The only difference between those dogs and Don King is that Don is much more vicious.”

That desire to give a show an extra spark made him a real-deal promoter; he brought boxing to the Apollo Theater in 1997, and was constantly looking to come up with an angle, a hook, a concept. Some recall his 2002 stab at a revamp, “ThunderBox,” which featured three round bouts and rap acts interspersed throughout. Was it a case of using tasty bbq sauce to mask past its prime beef? That could be argued, but it has to be said that Kushner knew the role of promoter was often to make the best of a bad proposition. His “Heavyweight Explosion” series often entertained to a degree greater than the sum of the parts would predict.

His stress level grew in 2000, and 2001, when he testified that he had to pay to play ie give money to an IBF exec to insure decent treatment of his fighters and took rival Don King to court, labeling him a racketeer. This guy who stopped out in sixth grade, in Cape Town, and then tried his hand as a merchant marine, before putting together shows for Fleetwood Mac and the Stones and the like, yes indeed, he packed a lot of living in.

2001 was a colorful year, as King swooped in and snagged Rahman. Kushner attended to some of the upheaval with a 2003 gastric bypass surgery. “I can’t stress enough how good I feel just a month after the operation. From an elephant to a greyhound, is what I say. For the first time in years, I’m optimistic about my life,” he told Thomas Hauser.

Ced, Uncle Ced as pal Lou DiBella called him, spoke at a groggy pace and didn’t have a face that screamed state of joy. But he dug what he did, big time. “I’m probably one of the few people who goes to work and doesn’t look at his watch to see if it’s time to go home,” he said to Bobby Cassidy in 2005. “I look at my watch to see what time other people go home. I’m happy. I’m doing what I enjoy.”

And it wasn’t the work that was everything to him. “Boxing guys were his family,” DiBella told me. “His family was his boxing family.”

Ced was sort of like the ribald uncle, who turned you on to whiskey at a semi-inappropriate age. DiBella recalled when he started at HBO, coming over from a law firm and met Cedric for the first time.

Would you like to take a ride to Atlantic City with me, he rumbled, in a Hitchcockian tenor,  to still 20-something DiBella.

Why not, Lou said.

Ced snored some of the way there–he was well over 3 bills, with that walrus ‘stache–and they got to AC. On a seedy side street Ced saw someone he knew. “Driver, stop the car! Mary Anne,” he called out, from the window of the stretch limo, to a gal who was no stranger to a concrete hustle. “Mary Anne! How is your mum?”

This is 1990, this Harvard law grad has a dropped jaw…

“She’s much better, thanks for asking, Ced!”

Lou collected himself, asked what that was all about.

“Her mum was sick. She’s a person too!”

Well curated recollection, because it spoke to Kushners’ different sides, and the intermingling of the facets of personality and behavior we all possess, but in our fight game sphere, is often better tolerated and even appreciated than in mainstream society.

We all enjoyed Kushners’ perseverance and imagination, as when he staged a fight card in the Hamptons, in 2002, to try and bring some sweaty buzz to that meeting ground for the idle riches.

Ced soldiered on, without excessive grumbling, though his vessel was pulling a mutiny on him. David Tua proved to be a long-standing money-maker for Ced, who in 2005 acknowledged thew ups and downs he’d experienced.

“Life isn’t always fair,” Kushner said to Hauser. “And boxing rarely is. But I keep plugging along.”

The plugging included health battles, such as a 2011 spinal surgery…and we saw Ced less and less at local shows. Close pals visited him, and checked in with a man they knew loved the sport, and loved, and treated them, like family.
Ced will be sorely missed.

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In a Shocker, Ryan Garcia Confounds the Experts and Upsets Devin Haney

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Its good to be crazy. Like a fox.

Ryan “KingRy” Garcia knocked down WBC super lightweight titlist Devin Haney three times to remind everyone of his fighting abilities in winning by majority decision on Saturday.

“I just knew what I could do,” Garcia said.

Fans will not forget the lanky kid from Victorville, California now.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) fooled everyone in playing crazy weeks before the fight, then showed shocking power to hand Haney (30-1, 15 KOs) his first loss as a professional at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Haney’s WBC super lightweight title was not at stake for Garcia because he weighed three pounds over the limit.

After Garcia seemingly acting out of control on social media, Haney’s guard must have slipped in the first round during the first few seconds as Garcia connected with that hellish left hook and Haney, with a look of shock in his eyes, almost went down. He barely survived the first round.

“He caught me with it,” said Haney.

During the next few rounds, Haney proceeded to advance toward Garcia seemingly fully aware of the lethal left hook. He used feints and rights to score with a busier approach as Garcia seemed cocked and ready to counter with a left hook.

In the fourth round it seemed Haney was confident he had regained control of the fight, but every time he opened up with more than a two-punch combination Garcia reminded him whose hands were faster and more dangerous.

Though Garcia seldom jabbed he seemed bent on looking for the right moment to unleash his deadly left hook. And every time the Southern California fighter opened up with a combination he scored and Haney dare not exchange.

A few times Haney smiled as if signifying he escaped.

In the seventh round Haney looked to punish Garcia’s body and instead was met with a three-punch combination included a left hook to the chin and down went Haney slumped on the ground. He managed to beat the count and as soon as Garcia came within reach Haney wrapped his arms around him with a python grip. Despite the warnings by referee Harvey Dock, the fallen fighter would not release and Garcia impatiently fired a weak punch during the break. The referee deducted a point from Garcia though he could have deducted a point from Haney for not obeying his instructions to release his hold. Haney actually went down three times in the round but only one was counted by the referee.

From that point on Haney was very cautious but still looking to win by decision.

Though Garcia kept using a shoulder-roll defense that left his body exposed, he would retaliate with three and four punch combinations that usually Haney could defend against other fighters.. But Garcia’s blazing combinations were too fast to defend.

In the 10th round Haney looked to attack and was countered by Garcia’s right and a blinding left hook to the chin and another two blows that sent the former undisputed lightweight champion to the floor again.

It didn’t look good for Haney to survive.

Garcia walked into the 11th round still composed and never out-of-control He dared Haney to exchange and when within striking distance Garcia unleashed another lightning combination and down went Haney again with a defeated look.

Both fighters had fought each other as amateurs six times so there were no surprises between them. But Garcia’s power and speed were superior and that was the difference in a professional fight.

In the final round both were cautious with Garcia’s combination punching proving too dangerous for Haney to open up. Garcia celebrated early as the round ended confident of victory.

After 12 rounds Garcia was seen the victor by majority decision 112-112, 114-110, 115-109.

“You really thought I was crazy,” Garcia told the interviewer and the crowd. “You guys hated on me.”

Other Bouts

Arnold Barboza (30-0) won a curious split decision victory over United Kingdom’s Sean McComb (18-2) in a 10-round super lightweight fight. McComb’s long reach and busy southpaw style gave Barboza trouble. But he managed to win the fight though the crowd was not pleased.

Bektemir Melikuziev (14-1, 10 KOs) defeated France’s Pierre Dibombe (22-1-1) by technical decision after eight rounds due to a cut on his eye from an accidental head butt. It was a very competitive super middleweight fight.

Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (16-1, 11 KOs) outworked John “Scrappy Ramirez (13-1, 9 KOs) in a 12-round scrap to upset the Los Angeles based fighter. After a few close rounds Jimenez simply bullied his way inside and forced Ramirez against the ropes and unloaded his guns.

After 12 rounds two judges saw it 117-111 and 116-114 all for Jimenez.

“I’m a hard-working man from Cartago I come from nothing,” said Jimenez. “My corner told me I had to work inside.”

Charles Conwell (19-0, 14 KOs) stepped on the gas early with vicious body shots and uppercuts and blasted through the resilient Nathaniel Gallimore (22-8-1, 17 KOs) for several rounds. After a brutal fifth and sixth round the referee halted the one-side beating in favor of Conwell who was fighting for the first time under the Golden Boy banner.

Another winner was Sergiy Derevyanchenko (15-5) by decision over Vaughn Alexander (18-11-1) in a super middleweight match.

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

One young man flew halfway around the world to take on a world champion in his own living room; not once, but twice. The other young man quit prior to one fight, and then again during another one.

The first guy mentioned is an obedient son of an ultra-streetwise father.  The type of parent where, if he doesn’t know the answer (and more times than not he most likely does), he will know where to find it. The second guy doesn’t appear to have that quality guidance scenario going on for him, which is probably for the best, because he believes he has all the answers.

The first guy is on record as saying he wants to go down in boxing history as an all-time great.  The other guy?  He decided not to continue in a fight while he was still sporting an undefeated record.  You may think to yourself if there was ever a time to soldier through, right?

Then yesterday, that same guy missed making weight by 3.2 pounds, and seemed to be more than fine with it, to the point where he actually appeared to be quite pleased with himself.

If you haven’t heard, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia are going to share a boxing ring in a twelve round go for God knows what will be at stake by the time they actually punch off.  The fact that no one from Garcia’s team has stepped in and rescued him from these unfolding events, his own personal well-being, and/or not to mention Devin Haney is, well, troubling in and of itself.

Back in the amateur days, the record shows they split six fights.  They were boys back then, so it means zero.  If anything, you’d want to be the older of the two, and Ryan had over a three-month age advantage.  If you’ve only been on the planet for a total of 120 months or so, every extra month could be a big enough difference in strength and development. Now as world class professionals in their prime?  That’s different.  Younger is always better.  Devin is that guy.

Haney and Garcia fought six times for free but will fight only once as professionals.  Then one of them will continue with their march for historic greatness, while the other will head back to Kamp Krazy, where he’s the current Mayor.

It’s never smart to lay 8-1, 9-1 in boxing.  And if you see taking Garcia as a value bet with +500 to +600 and beyond, you don’t understand value and you evidently don’t like money.

There is, however, a wagering opportunity here.

Total Rounds:  Fight doesn’t go 10.5 rounds.

Take anything over +125.  It’s worth a unit on a scale of 5.  Logically, there are a lot of ways to cash this ticket: legitimate victory, meltdown, catching lightning in a bottle, etc.  Or simply the exiting stage left of a guy who may be already plotting his next career move.

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In a Massive Upset, Dakota Linger TKOs Kurt Scoby on a Friday Night in Atlanta

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Although it was an 8-rounder on a show with two “tens,” Kurt Scoby’s match with Dakota Linger was accorded main event status on tonight’s card at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. This had everything to do with Scoby (pronounced Scooby), a former record-setting college running back who was considered one of the brightest prospects in the 140-pound weight class. “[Scoby] works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen,” said veteran New York promoter Lou DIBella in a conversation with Keith Idec. “But he’s literally getting better after every fight and he’s got the hammer of Thor, man. He can punch through walls.”

The Duarte, California product who has relocated to Brooklyn and trains at Gleason’s Gym, was undefeated (13-0) heading in and was expected to make Linger his ninth straight knockout victim. But Linger, a 29-year-old Buckhannon, West Virginia policemen whose first ring engagements were in Toughman competitions, wasn’t intimidated by Scoby’s press clippings or by Scoby’s bodybuilder physique.

Linger, who improved to 14-6-3 with his tenth win inside the distance, took the fight right to Scoby and repeatedly found a home for his overhand right. In the sixth round, after Linger strafed the ever-retreating Scoby with a barrage of punches, referee Malik Walid determined that he had seen enough and waived it off. The decision seemed a tad premature, but neither Scoby nor his cornermen offered anything in the way of a protest.

Tournament results

In the first installment of an 8-man super welterweight tournament, Brandon Adams returned to boxing after his second three-year layoff and showed no ring rust whatsoever. Adams, a 34-year-old family-man who grew up in the Watts district of LA, dismissed Ismael Villareal with a wicked punch to the liver in the waning seconds of round three. The official time was 2:59.

A former wold title challenger, Adams who improved to 23-3 (16 KOs), has become the king of boxing tournaments. He first attracted notice in 2018 when he won the fifth edition of “The Contender” series, scoring a wide 10-round decision over Shane Mosley Jr in the championship round.

Villareal, a second-generation prizefighter from the Bronx whose dad fought the likes of Hector Camacho, declined to 13-3.

Adams next opponent will be Francisco Veron who will bring a record of 14-0-1 (10).

In an energetic 10-rounder, Veron, a Florida-based Argentine with a strong amateur pedigree, scored a unanimous decision over Mexico-born, LA southpaw Angel Ruiz (18-3-1). The judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 96-94.

Ruiz certainly had his moments, but Veron launched and landed many more punches despite fighting the last six rounds with a damaged eye.

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