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AMIR KHAN PUTS KELL BROOK ON BLAST

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Everyone in boxing seems to have an opinion about Amir Khan. By now, you have surely heard about Khan’s quest to dethrone the best in the sport and his rise to stardom, and also the takedowns, from those who deride his game and nitpick his choice of moves.

The Bolton native says nothing was handed to him. And he listens to boxing fans more than one would expect.

Kell Brook is itching to fight Khan. The Bolton native didn’t hold any punches when discussing a potential fight against the undefeated Brook. “There are levels to boxing,” he told me. “I think Kell Brook needs to understand that he is at a level below me.“

I spoke with Khan on Saturday afternoon to discuss the possibilities of fighting Brook, the winner of Mayweather/Pacquiao, and his potential next opponent, Chris Algieri. On Thursday, Khan made an announcement on his wife’s YouTube account stating he is fighting Algieri on May 30th. Two days later, Khan retracted his statement. Khan says, “The Algieri fight is not 100% confirmed.”

Khan spoke to me about the reactionary potential opponents; fight fans, and media surrounding his career. Khan also talked at length about boxing politics, how undeserving opponents, especially Brook, get thrown into the mix when they have not earned the opportunity.

“All I want is Kell to prove himself fighting A-list fighters, like I have done. Right now, he is just riding on my back. He is riding my name. I know it’s business but please stop fooling people and making me look small. Eddie Hearn and Kell Brook make me look like a liar.”

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In an in-depth interview about his history in the sport, and what the future holds, Khan attempts to explain better his career as a whole.

Ray Markarian: A few days ago, you made an announcement on YouTube saying that you are fighting Chris Algieri on May 30th. But you just told me the Algieri fight is not confirmed. What is going on with the Algieri fight?

Amir Khan: I made the video on YouTube because we thought the fight with Chris Algieri was a done deal. But I have been speaking with my team and there are some more options on the table. We are waiting things out. I hope to get my fight finalized this week.

RM:So, the fight with Algieri hasn’t been confirmed?

AK: No. Nothing is 100% confirmed yet. We could make an announcement in another couple of days. We don’t know if it’s Algieri just yet. My opponent on May 30th has not been confirmed. Nothing has been agreed upon. There are a lot of names out there. We just have to make the right decision.

RM:What about Adrien Broner? You think Broner wants the fight? He was calling you out.

AK: No. I don’t think he wants it. I think he hyped it up on social media. I told him that I am a 147-pound fighter. He was very respectful and said he wants to meet at 144 or 145. Why would I go to meet him at 144 or 145? If he wants to fight me then he should come meet me at my weight. I am getting messages that he really doesn’t want the fight. He is talking big on the social media. But when it comes down to taking the fight on May 30th, or even May 23rd, we hear nothing. He doesn’t want anything.

RM: What about Juan Manuel Marquez?

AK: Nothing. We haven’t heard much from them.

RM: What about the fight with Miguel Cotto? I know there were rumors about you fighting Cotto.

AK: Here’s one thing I want to the public to understand. I am the one that is challenging everyone. It’s me calling out these big names. The fight with Miguel Cotto would be great for me. But I heard he is working a deal to fight Bundrage. I think he has a date set in June. I want to fight at the end of May. And I can’t do June because of Ramadan.

RM: Right.

AK: Obviously I take Ramadan very seriously. I don’t want to rush into it. That’s why I want to fight at the end of May. I want to start preparing for Ramadan in June. Even though it doesn’t start until like the 17th, it’s important, and I want to start for preparing for it. So basically I am the one that wants to fight all the big names but people are trying to bring me down saying that I want to fight an easy option in Algieri. But like I said, the main reason we are considering Algieri is that the fight is going to be on primetime TV in the US. And it makes a lot of money for me. So, why not take the fight?

RM: OK. But, why wouldn’t you make a lot of money fighting Kell Brook?

AK: Kell Brook?

RM: Yeah. I think that’s the main question.

AK:Well, it’s all timing. I want to fight in America. And I want to fight before June. Brook is looking at mid June or the end of June. Here’s the thing with Kell Brook… I have always said it from day one; I have had all the toughest fights. I have gone through the gauntlet. I earned my stripes and I did it the hard way, fighting the likes of Maidana, Judah, Garcia, Peterson, Malignaggi, and Alexander. I am fighting all the top guys. I have proven myself. Brook can’t go into a fight with Amir Khan after beating Jo Jo Dan. All due respect to Dan. I respect every fighter, but Dan is a nobody. You think I am going to say, “Oh yeah, fight me next.” It doesn’t make sense for him (Brook) to fight me after the Jo Jo Dan fight. Why doesn’t he prove himself? I mean, look, he is fighting all of these C-Class opponents. Now he really thinks he has a chance to fight me? Why should I give him the opportunity to fight me when he has not taken a hard fight?

RM: Brook hasn’t paid his dues?

AK: Exactly. Don’t get me wrong, because there is going to be a lot of money on the table regardless. There will be a lot of money on the table fighting Kell Brook. But there will be a lot of money fighting Algieri as well. The reason I respect Algieri is because has faced some tough guys, like Provodnikov and Manny Pacquiao. I really believe the fight with Algieri makes more sense, in a way. Algieri has been in with the top guys. What if he beat Pacquiao? I mean, he lost the fight, but if he won then he probably wouldn’t even fight me. It’s not my job to defend Chris Algieri. But my opponent on May 30th hasn’t been confirmed. I am just saying that if it is Algieri, then here are the reasons why we would fight him.

RM:Algieri went 12 rounds with Pacquiao. That’s true. You have to respect him for that.

AK: Exactly. His last three fights were against some top guys, Provodnikov, Pacquiao, and Emmanuel Taylor. You can’t really disrespect him. I will tell you one thing, He is better than Jo Jo Dan. And I am hearing another thing about Eddie Hearn. I heard Hearn is looking at Brandon Rios or a guy named Antonin Decarie for Kell Brook’s next opponent. But Rios is naturally a 140-pound fighter and Decarie is another unknown name. It seems to me that Kell Brook’s team is picking the easy option. I think they are scared to lose to an A-Class opponent and lose the opportunity to fight Amir Khan. The only reason he wants to fight me is for the big payday. Otherwise, he would probably face some decent opponents. He is scared of losing the title. That’s all it is.

RM:Does the public criticism get under your skin?

AK: No Ray, it doesn’t bother me. I want to speak to you to get the message out to the general public. Sometimes the general public doesn’t really understand the boxing business. I do not disrespect any fighter. We work in a very tough profession. I think that people do not see how hard our job really is.

RM: The business outweighs the sport.

AK: It is a business. Eddie and Kell are fooling the fans and the media. Look at my last 10 opponents and look at Kell’s. Regardless if I won or lost. They say I am afraid. They put my name down of being afraid. All I want is Kell to prove himself fighting A-list fighters, like I have done. Right now, he is just riding on my back. He is riding my name. I know it’s business but please stop fooling people and making me look small. Eddie Hearn and Kell Brook make me look like a liar. If Kell really wants to fight me then he should fight a few A-list opponents and build his name. Instead of looking at the small picture look at the bigger picture. We can make the Amir Khan/Kell Brook fight like Mayweather/Pacquiao, if we do it smartly. But that’s only if Kell fights the likes of Maidana, Thurman, or Marquez. He has to prove himself against top guys, you know?

RM:You said that you would fight Kell Brook in a “winner take all of the purse” type of fight. You would really do that?

AK: Yes of course. That’s how confident I am. And I want to prove to him that at the end of the day, boxing is not about the money to me. I am blessed to have made a lot of money in this sport. I have been very lucky to surround myself with great people. I have been lucky in life. But boxing is not all about the money to me. But I know for him, (Kell Brook) it is all about the money.

RM:OK.

AK: And when I said, “winner takes all” I didn’t say it was going to be my next fight. It could be the end of the year or early next year. So, when and if I ever fight Brook that’s what I want to do. That’s how confident I am that I will beat him.

RM:I know you continue to say that Brook hasn’t really fought anyone but he beat Shawn Porter. Porter was an undefeated champion, you know?

AK: Yeah. He beat Shawn Porter. But it was a 50/50 fight. That was the only top guy he fought and it could have gone either way. That was a very close fight. A lot of people thought Shawn won. A lot of people thought Brook won. So, if that is the only A-Class opponent he fought and it wasn’t a clear victory, then I think he still needs more experience.

RM: So, you’re saying that Brook fought one “name” fighter, and won a close fight, but hasn’t truly proved himself?

AK: Exactly. Obviously, Kell has beaten one big fighter. But you can’t just beat one decent name and say you want to fight the world. You know what I mean?

RM: I hear you.

AK: You really think Brook has a chance with Manny Pacquiao or Mayweather? They don’t even know who Kell Brook is. You know what I mean?

RM: So, you paid your dues and Brook hasn’t paid his dues? That’s basically what you’re saying?

AK: He hasn’t earned it. That’s what the general public needs to understand. Kell Brook hasn’t done it the hard way. He has done it the easy way. But he is trying to win over the fans by putting me down. He puts me down and says he wants to fight me but we all know, realistically, he wants to fight me because he knows he will make more money. He just doesn’t want to risk losing to an A-Class opponent. If Kell Brook fought me it will be a life changing experience for him.

RM:You mean financially?

AK: Yeah. A fight between Amir Khan and Kell Brook will change his life. So, should I give him that opportunity? I don’t know.

RM: The cards are in your hands, huh?

AK: The cards are in my hands. Exactly. But you cannot disrespect who I fight and what I have done in my career. I have done more than what Kell Brook has done. Everyone knows I call out the big names but I don’t do it disrespectfully. I pay my respects to proven warriors. Kell Brook hasn’t done half of what I have done.

RM:You are looking out for yourself.

AK: Exactly.

RM: So, why is Amir Khan doing what is best for him and not worried about what Kell Brook wants?

AK: Well, here’s the reason. Let’s be real. I have faced everyone that they have asked me to fight, from my mandatory to the top guys; I didn’t have to take these fights against the big names. But I did. That’s the type of fighter that I am. But you can’t disrespect me because I might fight somebody else. Algieri is a tough fighter. No fight is easy. Like I said, Algieri is better fighter than Jo Jo Dan. If it’s ok for Kell Brook to fight Jo Jo Dan, and his next fight might be against some guy named Decarie, why can’t I fight Algieri? Why are they disrespecting me?

RM: If Chris Algieri fights Kell Brook, who wins?

AK: It’s a toss up. That’s a close fight. At the end of the day, Algieri is a good fighter. He went the distance with Pacquiao and showed a lot of heart in that fight.

RM: OK. So, in your opinion, what will satisfy the public?

AK: Man, I am just hearing so many things. Eddie Hearn said that I turned down a fight with Tim Bradley, the title eliminator. I would never turn down that fight. That’s crazy. That fight has never been offered to me.

RM: Wow.

AK: And if the Bradley fight was offered to me, I would take that fight in a heartbeat. Everyone knows I have offered to fight Bradley a long time ago. Bradley said he doesn’t want to fight. So, why would Eddie Hearn go out there and say I refused the fight against Bradley? Hearn doesn’t know anything. That (Bradley) fight hasn’t been brought to my attention.

RM: We are talking about Amir Khan fighting Hall of Fame fighters. You are one fight away from fighting Hall of Fame fighters.

AK: Well, my name is getting mentioned to fighting the winner of Mayweather/Pacquiao. But I have Kell Brook calling me out. There are levels to boxing. I think Kell Brook needs to understand that he is at a level below me.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian or email him at raymond.markarian@yahoo.com

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Late-Bloomer Jersey Joe Walcott Goes the Distance Again With Statue in Camden

Bernard Fernandez

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It may not always be apparent to those with untrained eyes, but there is genuine art in boxing for those who understand the beauty and majesty of a perfectly timed left hook. Just such a masterful moment of the sweet science was authored by Jersey Joe Walcott on July 18, 1951, in the seventh round of his fifth and likely final shot at the heavyweight championship he had been clawing and scratching his way toward since he turned pro at 16 in 1930.

Again a longshot against the great Ezzard Charles, against whom he already was 0-2 in title bouts, a frozen moment in time that fateful night at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field transformed Walcott from a symbol of his sport’s relentless but mostly unrewarded grinders to instant-legend status. At 37, he not only had become the oldest man to that point ever to win boxing’s most prestigious prize (a distinction he would hold for 43 years, until 45-year-old George Foreman dethroned WBA/IBF champ Michael Moorer on another incredible, bolt-from-the-blue knockout, on Nov. 5, 1994, in Las Vegas), but the patron saint of fighters with iron wills and vision quests they would see through to completion or die trying.

In a story that appeared on this site on July 16, 2018, I ranked Walcott’s blasting of Charles No. 1 on my personal list of all-time one-punch knockouts, which I described thusly:

Entering the seventh round, Walcott led the scoring, in rounds, by 5-1, 4-1-1 and 3-3. Moving forward while rocking side to side, the 9-1 underdog dipped to his left and exploded upward with a thunderous left hook that caught Charles flush on the jaw. The semi-conscious champion pitched forward onto his face.

It is difficult to encapsulate the full scope of such a historically significant and aesthetically flawless a punch into any inanimate object, like a statue, but sculptor Carl LeVotch perhaps came as close as is humanly possible with his eight-foot bronze of Walcott, which was unveiled this past Saturday during a celebratory day of festivities in Camden, N.J., the hometown of the beloved fighter whose real name was Arnold Cream. The unveiling took place along the Camden waterfront, at the Wiggins Park Promenade, following a 3½-mile parade that featured marching bands and other attractions.

For medical reasons I was unable to attend an event I had very much been looking forward to, but the spirit of the occasion – and the 20-year march from concept to completion for those who wanted the Walcott/Cream statue to be more than just another item on someone’s wish list – closely mirrored the ring career of an inspirational figure who fueled the imaginations of so many attendees. Chief among those is Vincent Cream, 61, the grandson of Jersey Joe who spearheaded the drawn-out efforts to raise the $185,000 required to fund the project, which is still not entirely paid for.

“It was an overwhelming moment,” Vincent Cream told Boxing Writers Association of America president Joseph Santoliquito, who covered the event for another media outlet. “Everyone who never met my grandfather met him today.

“No one ever dies. He’s here with us. When I look at his statue, and you see who’s gathered here – white, black, old, young, everyone coming together – his timelessness has come. To persevere for 23 years, it represents who my grandfather was as a man and his fortitude as a person. When you have a dream, it’s important to set goals between the dream and the achievement. Every time I brought up the idea of a statue, people would tell me, `Good luck with that.’ That was 10 years ago. We achieved it, a little at a time – like my grandfather.”

LeVotch, with whom I have long been acquainted, has nearly as long a track record in his boxing-related field as did Walcott, who took his ring nom de guerre in tribute to Joe “The Barbados Demon” Walcott, a welterweight champion whose career ended in 1911. The original fighting Walcott was a hero to young Arnold Cream’s father, Joseph Cream, who came to New Jersey from the British Virgin Islands. I first met LeVotch for a story I did on him that appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News editions of July 2, 2003, when he took me through the process of his creation of a 17-inch cold-cast bronze statuette he called The Spirit of Boxing, reproductions of which are owned by any number of boxing notables. His goal, he told me, was to create something more meaningful than the statue of the fictional heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa that was used as a movie prop for 1982’s Rocky III.

“It doesn’t move me,” LeVotch said. “A true piece of art is capable of moving the man on the street. It is an instrument to inspire. It’s been that way since antiquity. I have a great affinity for Rodin (that would be Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor, not Rodan, the Japanese movie monster). His The Thinker is a sacrament, if you will, of an inner grace.

“I’m one of those guys who believe boxing is a metaphor for life. I also think of it as an art form. Those who do it well are, in their own way, artists.”

In addition to his sculpted improvements of several awards the BWAA presents as its annual dinner, LeVotch’s other life-sized commemoration of a boxing life, that of former middleweight champion Joey Giardello (real name: Carmine Tilelli), was unveiled on May 21, 2011, in Giardelli’s old South Philadelphia neighborhood. Like Walcott, Giardelli – father of four sons, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome – was more than just a fighter, something LeVotch sought to convey through his art.

“I saw Joey not only as a terrific fighter, but as a father who cared deeply for his disabled son,” Carl told me a decade ago. “How do you convey all these different sides of a man in coagulated metal? My challenge was to capture the essence of the man as well as a physical likeness.”

Brought to tears by LeVotch’s artistic interpretation of who her husband was and what he represented in meaningful ways that extended beyond the ring, Rosalie Tilelli said, “I’m overwhelmed. I call Carl LeVotch my Michelangelo.”

Jersey Joe Walcott was demonstrably statue-worthy even if he hadn’t moved on from boxing to a full and rich later phase of his life in which he served as the first African-American elected sheriff of Camden County, serving from 1971 to ’74, and chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board until 1984. His wife, Riletta Cream, also was committed to public service as a city educator and county freeholder from 1994 to 2011.

But it is Walcott the boxer who set records inside the ropes that almost certainly will never be matched, much less surpassed. Fighting in an era when there was just one heavyweight champion, not a bunch of alphabet title-holders, he fought eight times for boxing’s grandest prize, going 2-6 with two losses apiece to Joe Louis and Charles before he broke through against Charles with that museum-quality left hook in Pittsburgh. Five of those title bouts, incredibly, were in succession. There are more than a few historians who believe Jersey Joe should have won on points in his first go at Louis, in which he floored the “Brown Bomber” in the first and fourth rounds. No wonder Walcott’s most ardent fans, even those in his own family, were hesitant to risk seeing him come up short again when he again squared off against Charles in the home stadium of baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was 12 when my dad won the heavyweight title and there he is, so real,” Ruth Cream, now 82, told Santoliquito at the unveiling. “I remember that night like it happened clearly. I was the only one downstairs at our house with reporters in our living room watching the fight on TV. Everyone else was upstairs in bed because they didn’t want to watch it.

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“After my father won, I remember running up the stairs to tell my family, `Daddy won!’”

After a successful defense on points against familiar foe Charles, Walcott, well ahead on points through 12 of the scheduled 15 rounds, was dethroned by Rocky Marciano on a 13th-round knockout on Sept. 23, 1952, in Philadelphia. He fought just once more, this time being stopped in one round by Marciano, before hanging up his gloves with a 51-18-2 (32) record. He was part of the 1990 charter class of inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Camden officials are hoping their hometown hero’s statue becomes something of a tourist attraction, as is the case with the Rocky statue at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and the 12-foot Joe Frazier statue, created by sculptor Stephen Layne and located outside the Xfinity Live! bar/restaurant in the South Philly sports complex. As splendid as it is, the Giardello statue draws fewer eyes given its location in a less-bustling and attraction-loaded neighborhood.

But in a metropolitan area where bronze tributes to sports stars of the four local professional franchises (Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Flyers) are fairly commonplace, the statues of Frazier, Giardello, Walcott and, yes, Stallone are at least a signal that boxing, for so long Philadelphia’s fifth pro sport and a veritable cradle of champions, is recognizing a part of its past that is worthy of being preserved and treasured.

Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrives this fall. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com, in hard or soft cover, and other book-selling websites and outlets.

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Arne K. Lang

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Weekend Boxing Recap: The Mikey Garcia Stunner and More

Boxing was all over the map on the third Saturday of October with many of the shows pulled together on short notice as promoters took advantage of relaxed COVID constraints to return to business as usual. When the smoke cleared, a monster upset in Fresno overshadowed the other events.

Mikey Garcia, a shoo-in to make the Hall of Fame, was on the wrong side of it. Spain’s Sandor Martin, in his USA debut, won a well-deserved decision over Garcia at a Triple-A baseball park in Fresno.

Garcia, a former four-division belt-holder, was 40-1 coming in with his only loss coming at the hands of Errol Spence. Martin, a 28-year-old southpaw, brought a nice record with him from Europe (38-2) but with only 13 wins coming by way of stoppage it was plain that he wasn’t a heavy hitter. His only chance was to out-box Garcia and that seemed far-fetched.

But Martin did exactly that, counter-punching effectively to win a 10-round majority decision. Two judges had it 97-93 with the third turning in a 95-95 tally.

Neither Garcia nor Martin were natural welterweights. The bout was fought at a catch-weight of 145 pounds. After the bout, the Spaniard indicated a preference for dropping back to 140 where enticing opportunities await.

There was another upset, albeit a much milder one, in the co-feature where Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez improved to 25-3-1 (14) while shearing the WBO world flyweight title from the shoulders of Mexicali’s Elwin Soto (19-2).

Soto was making his fourth defense of the title and rode into the match with a 17-fight winning streak. Gonzalez, a southpaw, had formerly fought for the WBO world flyweight title, getting stopped in seven rounds by Kosei Tanaka in Nagoya, Japan.

One of the judges favored Soto 116-112, but he was properly out-voted by his colleagues who had it 116-112 the other way.

Riga, Latvia

The first major fight on Saturday took place in Riga, Latvia, where hometown hero Mairis Briedis successfully defended his IBF cruiserweight title with a third-round stoppage of Germany’s Artur Mann who was on the deck three times before the match was halted at the 1:54 mark.

Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs) was making his first start since dismantling KO artist Yuniel Dorticos in the finals of season two of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. He scored the first of his three knockdowns in the waning seconds of round two when he deposited Mann (17-2) on the canvas with a straight right hand.

Although boosters of fast-rising WBO champ Lawrence Okolie would disagree, the Latvian is widely regarded as the best cruiserweight in the world. His only setback came when he lost a narrow decision to current WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in this ring in January of 2018. Now 36 years old, Briedis has yet to appear in a main event outside Europe. That’s undoubtedly about to change and a rematch with Usyk is well within the realm of possibility.

Newcastle, England

Chris Eubank Jr, whose fight two weeks ago in London with late sub Anati Muratov was cancelled at the 11th hour when Muratov failed his medical exam, was added to this Matchroom card and his bout with Wanik Awdijan became the de facto main event. A 26-year-old German, born in Armenia, Awdijan was 28-1 and had won 21 straight (against very limited opposition), but he was no match for Eubank Jr who broke him down with body shots, likely breaking his ribs and forcing him to quit on his stool after five frames.

Eubank Jr, 32, improved to 31-2 (23) His only defeats came at the hands of former world title-holder George Groves and BJ Saunders. He dedicated this fight to his late brother Sebastian Eubank who died in July while swimming in the Persian Gulf.

In other bouts, Hughie Fury, the cousin of Tyson Fury, stayed relevant in the heavyweight division with a stoppage of well-traveled German Christian Hammer and Savannah Marshall successfully defended her WBO world middleweight title with a second-round TKO of Lolita Muzeya.

Akin to Eubank-Awdijan, the Fury-Hammer fight also ended with the loser bowing out after five frames. A biceps injury allegedly caused Hammer to say “no mas,” but Fury, in what was arguably his career-best performance, was well ahead on the cards.

The Marshall-Muzeya fight was a battle of unbeatens, but Muzeya’s 16-0 record was suspicious as the Zambian had never fought outside the continent of Africa. She came out blazing, but Marshall, who improved to 11-0 (9) had her number and retained her title.

Brooklyn

In the featured bout of a TrillerVerz show at Barclays Center, Long Island’s Cletus Seldin, the Hebrew Hammer, knocked out William Silva in the seventh round. It was the fifth-straight win for the 35-year-old Seldin, a junior welterweight who was making his first start in 20 months.

Silva, a 34-year-old Brazilian who fights out of Florida, brought a 28-3 record. His previous losses had come at the hands of Felix Verdejo, Teofimo Lopez, and Arnold Barboza Jr. Seldin improved to 26-1 (22 KOs).

In other bouts, junior welterweight Petros Ananyan, a Brooklyn-based Armenian, improved to 16-2-2 (7) with a 10-round majority decision over local fighter Daniel Gonzalez (20-3-1) and Will Madera of Albany, NY, scored a mild upset when he stopped Jamshidbek Najmitdinov who was pulled out after five rounds with an apparent shoulder injury.

Najmitdinov, from Uzbekistan, was making his U.S. debut but he brought a 17-1 record blemished only by former world title-holder Viktor Postol. Madera improved to 17-1-3.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholand / Matchroom

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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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