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Are Golovkin And Kovalev Leading Boxing’s Impending Resurgence?

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On February 21st of this year WBA/IBO middleweight title holder Gennady Golovkin 32-0 (29) stopped former title holder Martin Murray 29-2-1 (12) in the 11th round. Prior to fighting Golovkin, Murray had never been off his feet or stopped. Over the course of the 11 rounds they fought, Golovkin managed to accomplish both against Murray. Twenty one days later WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight title holder Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) stopped former title holder Jean Pascal 29-3-1 (17) in the eighth round. And like Murray before fighting Golovkin, Pascal was never knocked down or stopped before touching gloves with Kovalev. After tangling with Sergey for almost eight full rounds, Pascal can no longer say he’s never been down or stopped as a professional fighter.

It’s been a reoccurring theme in the media that after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight this coming May 2nd, boxing will again go back to being in the doldrums unless they fight a rematch. And to that I say: have the media been paying attention?

Actually, the faux super fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao has been overshadowing boxing and some of its emerging stars that have recently arrived or are on their way to arriving. MayPac has sucked so much air out of boxing’s atmosphere that some outstanding on their way to possibly be great fighters have gone virtually unnoticed or mentioned.

Yes, super middleweight Andre Ward 27-0 (14) and super bantamweight title holder Guillermo Rigondeaux 15-0 (10) are outstanding and two of the top p4p fighters in boxing today. But Ward hasn’t fought since November of 2013 and Rigondeaux is 34 and perhaps older. Ward is maybe in the cat-bird seat and could end up fighting both Golovkin and Kovalev down the road. However, Andre has been a pro for over a decade and isn’t new on the national/world scene.

When it comes to the fighters representing boxing’s future, is there a more complete destroyer than 27 year old WBC flyweight title holder Roman Gonzalez (42-0 (36))? Want to see a fighter who can blend both boxing and punching, then check him out when he next fights this coming May 16th.

How about 29 year old WBA featherweight title holder Nicholas Walters 25-0 (21)? He looked utterly dominant and powerful in stopping Philippine terror Nonito Donaire in his last fight.

WBO super featherweight title holder Mikey Garcia 34-0 (28) is a deliberate in his attack, a boxer-puncher who at age 28 is improving every time he fights.

And 27 year old WBO lightweight title holder Terence Crawford 25-0 (17) is probably the best natural boxer in the sport. And he’ll be tested a bit in his upcoming bout against Thomas Dulorme 22-1 (14) next month.

Yes, there are plenty of fighters under 30 years old who are on my radar whenever they fight. And the fighters mentioned above are tremendously skilled and seem ready and willing to fight the best their division has to offer. Which is all that hardcore boxing fans can ask of them. However, the outstanding fighters above have not captured the public’s interest or imagination to the degree that Golovkin and Kovalev have, and the interest in watching them fight is escalating with every bout.

I’m not sure most fans and writers fully grasp how lucky they are to be experiencing the Golovkin/Kovalev wave… In the last quarter century there have only been two great middleweight champs, Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. And the same applies to the light heavyweight division. You have to go back to Michael Spinks and Roy Jones to have last seen true greatness at 175. Yet, we’ve seen a plethora of outstanding/great featherweights and lightweights since 1980. More than this space allows to name.

It is way too premature to proclaim either Golovkin or Kovalev as being great fighters. Special, yes, but not great, at least not yet.

Regardless of how much fans say they appreciate watching technicians/boxers like Floyd Mayweather, the fact is fans only count down the days to see legitimate punchers. Muhammad Ali to this day is probably the only natural superstar in boxing history that wasn’t perceived as a catch n’ kill style fighter. Yes, Mayweather is a draw today, but he was barely a blip on the radar for the first 11 years of his career. It wasn’t until Floyd fought Oscar De La Hoya and became a heel in the WWE style that quasi boxing fans even knew who he was. By the time Ali was in his 11th year as a pro (1971) he was the most recognized face on the planet.

Gennady Golovkin is rampaging through the glamor division in boxing, middleweight. Through 32 pro bouts he’s shown that he has a first rate chin and two handed power. Neither of those two assets can be learned or manufactured in the gym, through a needle or in a weight room. Golovkin is a swarmer and is adept at cutting the ring off and he appears to be physically strong. Add to that his confidence and willingness to test himself against the best fighters available, how can he not be must see? Fans know that when they watch Golovkin, they’re going to see a fight regardless of how long it lasts. And that’s because he’s a nightmare to try and hold off and box, and if you stand your ground and fight him, he’s more than happy to oblige. In summation, it’s his style and power that virtually guarantee that his fights will be exciting and end in a dramatic fashion. The only down-side to his dominance is the fact that the middleweight division is very pedestrian and devoid of challengers, including lineal champ Miguel Cotto, who are capable of testing him.

Sergey Kovalev owns three of the four relevant light heavyweight title belts. In his last two bouts he took apart two (Bernard Hopkins & Jean Pascal) of the three best and well-known fighters in the division. Hopkins is a master technician and is about as unbreakable mentally as any fighter in boxing. Yet, Sergey ran away with the fight, winning no less than 10/11 of the 12 rounds it went. By the sixth round Hopkins was reduced to looking for a lottery punch to save the fight. As for Pascal, who is an unorthodox herky-jerky puncher, Kovalev beat him at every turn. In fact Pascal forced Kovalev, because of his changing styles during the fight, to adapt and switch styles as well. Kovalev showed against Pascal that he is dangerous fighting at long range or in close. And if you try to rattle him with movement and unconventional combinations, he’ll just jab you to the stomach or chest and knock you out of range and render you out of position to attack him.

Golovkin and Kovalev are physically big and fight like big guys. Their power and eagerness to land it makes them fan friendly. Fans love to watch power punchers and prefer watching boxers who can end fights with one or two punches. Their style of fighting as the predator and forcing their opponents to have to fight as the prey has fans anticipating their next fight in a big way. Their last bouts on HBO drew tremendous numbers. The combination of them both being legitimate tough guys, who don’t brag about their abilities like an Adrien Broner, has fans rooting for them to win when they fight instead of the reverse. And it’s much more fun watching fighters who you’re rooting for than against.

Because of how formidable and dangerous he is, it looks as if Golovkin will own the pedestrian middleweight division for the foreseeable future. And you can count on fans tuning in to watch him every time he fights hoping to see another stoppage win over an opponent who entered the ring with a plan but was unable to execute it. Kovalev is fighting on a tougher block. There are more future opponents living on it who can test him. The biggest threat is WBC title holder Adonis Stevenson (25-1 (21)). The problem is, for reasons only known to Stevenson, Sergey can’t get him into the ring. But eventually they’ll fight. But until then, Kovalev will be an overwhelming favorite every time he fights.

Boxing may be on the upswing with fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Nichols Walters, Mikey Garcia and Terence Crawford emerging as must see. But it is Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev who really have fans on the edge of their seats anticipating their next fight. And that’s mainly because they can punch and always come to fight, and they’re willing to meet the baddest and most dangerous fighters in their division.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Abraham Nova and his Mascot are Back in Action on Friday Night

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With his black beard dyed gold, junior lightweight Abraham Nova is one of boxing’s most recognizable practitioners. Sometimes there’s two of him which makes him stand out even more. His twin is an inflatable mascot painted to look just like him. On fight nights they are inseparable. The mascot shadows Nova on his ringwalk, bouncing up and down and dancing to animate the crowd.

Some gimmicks are just plain hokey. Some are annoying. But there’s something whimsical about Nova’s invention that brings a smile to boxing fans of all ages. “Abraham Nova having his own mascot is one of the coolest things in boxing,” says fight writer Ryan Songalia.

“I played all sports in high school, football, baseball, track, and got the idea of it from other sports,” says Nova of his twin who he unveiled in January of 2020 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York, where he upped his record to 18-0 with a fourth-round stoppage of Mexican journeyman Pedro Navarrete.

He’s 5-2 since then, the smudges coming against future world featherweight champion Robeisy Ramirez (KO by 5) and defending super featherweight world champion O’Shaquie Foster where he came out on the short end of a split decision. This coming Friday, in his first assignment since failing to de-throne Foster, he opposes 21-0 Andres Cortes at the Fontainebleu in Las Vegas on a Top Rank card airing on ESPN+.

“I was the one who asked for this fight,” says Nova. “Top Rank offered me a match on their June 8th Puerto Rican Parade Weekend show at Madison Square Garden against an opponent who was 17-2, but I turned it down and asked for a better opponent and they accommodated me.” Las Vegas native Andres Cortes, who has been profiled in these pages, is ranked #2 at 130 pounds by the WBO.

In common with boxing’s historical pattern, Abraham Nova had a hardscrabble upbringing.

Born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic, the second-youngest of 10 children, he came to the U.S. at the age of 1 where the entire family was initially shoe-horned into a two-bedroom apartment in Albany, New York.

His father, Aquiles, had a friend here who was the pastor of a church and in need of an assistant pastor to help with his growing congregation. Aquiles eventually founded his own church in Albany, The Pentecostal Church of Unity & Prayer where services are held in both Spanish and English.

As a toddler, Nova lived briefly in Guatemala and Mexico where his parents were called to “spread the word” and to assist in redevelopment projects. The family traveled 5,500 miles in a rickety old school bus from Albany to Guatemala during the end days of the Guatemalan Civil War.

Each of Nova’s four brothers boxed, but he was the only one to turn pro. As an amateur, he won the 2015 Olympic Trials Qualifying Tournament in Memphis, defeating Frank Martin and Richardson Hitchins in back-to-back fights, but failed to make the U.S. team for the Rio Games when he lost a split decision to Gary Antuanne Russell at the Olympic Trials in Reno. Those bouts were contested at 141 pounds.

A 30-year-old bachelor, Nova had his final amateur fights in Lowell, Massachusetts, a pillar of amateur boxing in New England, and has remained in the Boston area without losing his Albany identity. He is trained by ex-U.S. Marine Mark DeLuca, a boxer of some renown who sports a 30-4 record and may not be done with fighting quite yet at age 36.

Nova’s opponent, Andres Cortes, has won five of his last seven inside the distance beginning with a smashing first-round knockout of 34-2 Genesis Servania. On paper, it’s a 50-50 match-up. (The pricemakers are flummoxed; as of this writing, they have yet to establish a betting line.)

Abraham Nova’s mascot may never become as well-known as some of the costumed human mascots in college sports (e.g., West Virginia’s Mountaineer or Michigan State’s Sparty), let alone as beloved as the University of Georgia’s flesh-and-blood bulldog mascot Uga, but give the boxer credit for originality and for bringing a little levity to a sport too often besotted with incivility.

Note: Abraham Nova vs. Andres Cortes is the co-feature. In the main go, new Top Rank signee Rafael Espinoza makes the first defense of his WBO world featherweight title against Mexican countryman Sergio Chirino. Espinoza forged the 2023 TSS Upset of the Year when he got off the deck to defeat Robeisy Ramirez on Dec. 9 in Pembroke Pines, Florida, winning legions of fans with his unrelenting buzzsaw attack. Action from the Fontaineblue begins at 4:00 pm PST on ESPN+.

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

BY TSS Special Correspondent David Harazduk — A hundred years ago, ducking a worthy challenger wouldn’t simply stoke the ire of the fans, it came with the prospect of jail time.

On Thursday, November 3, 1927, 16,000 fans packed Wrigley Field in Los Angeles hoping to witness their local favorite challenge for the welterweight world championship. Nicknamed the “Nebraska Wildcat,” Ace Hudkins had relocated to the Pacific Coast where his devil-may-care style in the ring made him instantly popular among Angelino fight fans. He was set to battle Joe Dundee, the champion, an Italian immigrant who had settled in Baltimore at a young age. But there was one problem.

The champion refused to fight.

Members of the California boxing commission, along with promoter Dick Donald, raced to the Biltmore Hotel to plead with Dundee (pictured) and his manager Max Waxman to come to Wrigley Field and fight. Waxman steadfastly refused. Donald, a quick-witted cigar-chomping Irishman known as the “Boy Promoter,” had promised Max’s man the ungodly sum of $60,000, and Dundee wouldn’t enter the ring for a penny less.

Under the rules of the California commission, a fighter could only receive a guarantee of $500. The rest of the purse came from a percentage of the gate: 37.5% for the champion and 12.5% for the challenger. Waxman insisted that Donald had offered $60,000, but the commission couldn’t enforce this side deal.

Tickets in the bleachers were sold at $2.20 a pop while those closer to the ring went for $11. The most the gate could possibly produce would be $90,000. Add in Wrigley Field’s 15% usage fee and payments to the preliminary fighters, officials, and even to rent the chairs situated around the ring, and Dundee’s dreams of $60,000- $75,000 if he lost the title- never had a prayer of being realized. After all, 37.5% of $90,000, plus $500, is only $34,250.

Meanwhile, Eddie Mahoney, a preliminary fighter, entered the ring at 8:30pm. Mahoney was scheduled to fight Joe Dundee’s brother Vince, a future middleweight world champion. When Vince didn’t follow Mahoney into the ring, Mahoney soon left, much to the bewilderment of the crowd.

Donald scrambled to find a plan B. He searched for welterweight contender Sergeant Sammy Baker to replace Dundee and fight Hudkins. When Baker couldn’t be located, Donald asked a preliminary fighter, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Fields, to take on Hudkins instead. Hudkins and Fields had been sparring partners when the featherweight champion of the 1924 Games in Paris was a nascent pro back in 1925. Fields’s manager, Gig Rooney, felt Hudkins was too big for the Olympic champ at this stage of his career and preferred to remain on the undercard against San Francisco’s Joey Silver.

With no plan B, Donald and the commissioners went back to Waxman in a last desperate plea to coax Dundee to defend his title. One commissioner, Charles Traung, offered Waxman an additional $10,000 check for Dundee to fight. Waxman stubbornly held out for more.

At 9:20pm, back at Wrigley, Donald signaled Jackie Fields and Joey Silver to enter the ring. Though Fields was wobbled twice, he opened up a cut over Silver’s left eye and split the San Franciscan’s lip on route to a convincing points victory in a ten-rounder. A few minutes after 10pm, Mahoney and Vince Dundee finally entered the ring for their clash. Dundee starched Mahoney inside of two rounds. When Waxman, who also managed Vince, heard of the second-round stoppage, he said “Vince knocked that guy out, eh? I told him to carry him along.” Waxman had hoped to stall for time.

Soon after the end of the Dundee-Mahoney fight, Ace Hudkins waltzed to the ring. He spent fifteen minutes seated in his corner, covered in a bathrobe and towels to keep him warm. Dundee never showed.

At 11:25pm, ring announcer Frank Kerwin slid into the ring and bellowed, “Owing to the fact that Joe Dundee did not receive his guarantee, he refused to go on with his match against Ace Hudkins.” The crowd was advised to “hold their seat checks and watch the newspapers for other announcements.”

The fans didn’t take too kindly to the announcement and hurled those rented chairs in disgust. Fights broke out all over the stadium, spilling into the ring. All available police officers in the area rushed to Wrigley Field, wielding their nightsticks in a bid to subdue the violent mob. Dozens of fans were injured in the fracas. To add insult to injury, those who had paid $2.20 for their seats in the bleachers were out of luck; they had never received a ticket in the first place.

The next day, Waxman and Joe Dundee checked out of the Biltmore Hotel at noon and made their way to the train station. Later that night, they were pulled off an eastbound train at Pasadena and arrested for false advertising.  Waxman posted a $1,000 bond for each of them.

A warrant was issued for Donald on the same false advertising grounds. He phoned into the police station promising to turn himself in once his feelings of humiliation subsided. The police agreed to wait.

Ultimately, all accused would be acquitted. Waxman would return the $22,249.43 that had been placed in his account and an $11,000 check.

Fans didn’t receive refunds as it was deemed unfair to give them only to those who had bought $11 tickets since the gallery patrons had no ticket stub and thus, couldn’t get a refund anyhow. After the preliminary fighters, Wrigley Field, officials, ushers, and the chair rental company were compensated, the rest of the money was placed into a community fund.

Because he had entered the ring for his title challenge, Ace Hudkins declared himself the new champion, but no commission accepted his claim. Dick Donald’s promotional career, once so promising, abruptly ended. In 1935, he took one last gasp in boxing, serving as matchmaker at the famed Olympic Auditorium for a brief spell.

Joe Dundee would never fight in California again. His championship reign ended dishonorably a year and half later when several commissions agreed to strip him of the title for refusing to fight any top contenders. When Jackie Fields won the vacant title, he and Dundee were matched for the undisputed crown on July 25, 1929. With Dundee a two-to-one underdog, Waxman and Dundee bet $50,000 on Joe to win, with fouls canceling the bet. Fields shellacked Dundee, knocking him down twice. In the second round, after the second knockdown, Dundee knew he was licked. He got up and hit Fields low as hard as he could. Dundee was instantly disqualified, losing any claim to the title as disgracefully as his hold-out against Hudkins.

If only some of the alphabet champions of today had to post bail under the threat of jail for ducking contenders, maybe boxing would be in a better state.

EDITOR’S: Author David Harazduk has run The Jewish Boxing Blog since 2010. You can find him at  Twitter/X @JewishBoxing and Instagram @JewishBoxing

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Results from the MGM Grand where Gervonta Davis Returned with a Bang

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After an absence of 421 days, Gervonta “Tank” Davis returned to the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In the opposite corner was Detroit-born Frank “The Ghost” Martin who has been training in Dallas under Derrick James. In previous fights, Gervonta, who holds the WBA world lightweight title, has shown a tendency to start slow before closing the show with a highlight-reel knockout. Tonight was no exception.

Martin, 18-0 heading in, fought off his back foot from the get-go, but had good moments and was arguably ahead after five frames. But as the fight moved into the middle rounds, Martin became more stationary and one could sense that the ever-stalking Davis was wearing him down. In Round 8, Davis trapped Martin against a corner post, discombobulated him with a left uppercut and then turned out his lights with a chopping left hand. There was no chance that Martin could rise before referee Harvey Dock completed the “10” count.

Davis (30-0, 28 KOs) celebrated by standing on the top strand of rope and doing a black flip. He has many lucrative options going forward and will be favored to defeat whoever his next opponent will be.

The Davis-Martin fight was the capstone of a four-fight pay-per-view, the second collaboration between Premier Boxing Champions and Amazon Prime Video.

Benavidez-Gvozdyk

In his first fight as a light heavyweight, David Benavidez scored a 12-round unanimous decision over former lineal light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Benavidez, who improved to 20-0 (24), worked the body well and kept up the pressure in the early-going, building a substantial lead. His work output declined over the last third of the fight, but his punches still carried more steam than those of Gvozdyk, 37, who suffered his second loss in 22 pro fights, the other inflicted by the indomitable Artur Beterbiev, prompting the SoCal-based Ukrainian to take a long hiatus from the ring. The judges had it 119-109, 117-111, and 116-112.

Puello-Russell

In a major upset, Alberto Puello of the Dominican Republic saddled Gary Antuanne Russell with his first pro loss, winning a split decision. Puello appeared to have the edge in a furious final round, without which the bout would have ended in a draw. Puello, who improved to 23-0 (10), had to overcome a dubious call by referee Allan Huggins who took a point away from the Dominican in Round 7 for too much holding.

Russell, who was making his first start against a southpaw, is now trained by his brother Gary Russell Jr., the former featherweight champion, who replaced their late father. Russell Jr last fought in January of 2022.

Heading in, Gary Antuanne Russell had won all 17 of his pro fights by knockout. One of the judges thought he won handily. But his tally, 118-109 for Russell, was overruled by the115-112 and 114-113 scores awarded the underdog. Puello, who briefly held the WBA diadem at 140 but had it stripped from him when he tested positive for PEDs, won an interim belt in that weight class with his upset tonight.

Adames-Gausha

In the PPV opener, Alberto Puello’s countryman Carlos Adames successfully defended his WBC middleweight title in his first world title fight with a one-sided decision over former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha. Adames, whose late father reportedly sired 35 children, was the aggressor and landed many more punches. He advanced his record to 24-1 (19). It was the fourth loss in 29 pro starts for the 36-year-old Gausha. The judges had it 119-109 and 118-110 twice.

Adames’ triumph made it 2-0 for the Dominicans and their trainer Ismael Salas.

Other Bouts of Note

In a huge upset, Delaware’s Kyrone Davis overcame Arizona’s previously undefeated and highly-touted Elijah Garcia, winning a split decision. A 21-year-old father of two, Garcia, 16-0 heading in, was rated #1 by the WBA and seemingly one step removed from challenging Erislandy Lara for the WBA middleweight title. But Davis, trained by Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, had a solid game plan and although Elijah came on strong in the homestretch, it was too little, too late.

One of the judges favored Garcia 98-92, but his cohorts each gave seven rounds to Davis (19-3-1, 6 KOs) and the decision was fair.

Filipino junior lightweight Mark Magsayo, in his second fight back since losing back-to-back fights with featherweight belt-holders Rey Vargas and Brandon Figueroa, advanced to 26-2 (17) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Eduardo Ramirez (28-4-3). Magsayo scored a knockdown in the third round with a straight right hand and won by scores of 99-90 and 97-92 twice.

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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