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Don’t Let April 25 Klitschko-Jennings Get Lost in #MayPac Shuffle!

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I must counsel you, don’t let everything else get lost in the shuffle, the May 2 superfight shuffle. Because May 3 will come, and there will be other fights, and there will other shooting stars to watch, and more ludicrous and wondrous chapters to follow in the book of life and this sweetest of savage sciences we call boxing.

Such as…

A heavyweight title fight, and the immensity of electricity attendant to that, will unfold on Saturday night, April 25, in that memory motel of an arena, Madison Square Garden.

Ghosts of prizefights past will be stilled, and watching as the skilled behemoth Wladimir Klitschko seeks to continue his spell of momentum, against Philly-effin-delphia’s Bryant Jennings, an athlete who took up the sport just six years ago, and now will find out if he can handle the massive stage and bright lights in NYC, and on HBO.

The hitters took part in a conference call the other day, and talked about the forthcoming tangle.

Note, please: that you never know until you know. So…respect must be given for the possibility that we could have a new heavyweight to bow to come Saturday evening, a vegan boxer from Philly. Stranger things have happened, ya know!

Klitschko is a bit under the radar, more so than he should be, because the division stinks, and he’s not American, and his style is not Tyson-esque. But he is an impressive specimen as a human being: athletically, and his persona, his principles, his ethos. Check out his big-picture take on what this opp means to Jennings…

“He’s fighting for his pride, but also he’s fighting for a lot of financial assets,” Wlad said. “I remember 2006 I was fighting for free, pretty much..Sometimes I really kind of have a smile on my face when I hear challengers complaining about certain things, that they’re not getting paid enough or the rules are not good enough or the gloves are not good enough or whatever. There’s a lot of complaints. I remember I was fighting; I was ready to fight in any gloves for any price. I mean, basically, for free.”

Wlad helps us see this clash rightly, helps us get out of the Manny-Money zone, when he says, “I am really excited to be back in the States. I’ve been fighting – champion of the world means to fight in different countries, in different cities, which I have accomplished in the past years. I’ve been fighting in Berlin, Switzerland. I’ve been fighting in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been fighting in many German cities. It’s always exciting to be back in the States and to be back at The Garden.”

The cerebral hitter knows his foe, and not just what he brings to the table physically, but how his upbringing and homeland might be affecting him. “Boxers from Philadelphia, they have certainly some style. ..Obviously, there is certain reflection of the region where the fighter is coming from, of the trainers that he was working with and the idols that he was looking up to. I think that I’m going to expect a Philly fighter. You know, a fighter from Philadelphia that is similar to Frazier and Witherspoon and many other fighters from this region, from Philadelphia, and I think that it’s going to be challenging.”

I can pretty much guarantee that he won’t look past BY..

“He’s going to have a lot of support in the arena and he’s highly motivated, he’s very energetic, he’s a little hyper type of fighter, and he’s moves a lot, he’s very athletic, but hopefully he’s not going to move around too much, he’s going to come to fight the same way as Pulev did,” the 63-3 Wlad told us. “He didn’t move around much. He just came in and was throwing punches and being aggressive. So I’m hoping and expecting that Bryant Jennings is going to give me a fight where he’s going to be aggressive.”

Then Jennings, promoted by Gary Shaw of New Jersey, had his turn; 19-0-1-0 with 10 knockouts, Bryant “By-By” Jennings. He’s wisely smelling the roses and seeing the beauty of the view in the Garden, it sounds like, wise in that he best enjoy the experience, as there is no guarantee that he’ll win, if indeed he’s waiting for fruition to adulate in.

“I first put on the gloves six years ago and here I am playing for the heavyweight championship of the world,” the American said. “So I’m doing it and I’ll be what I think is the fourth Philly-born heavyweight to ever fight for a title and the second Philly-born heavyweight to ever win it once I become champion April 25.”

Ah, but he isn’t into BSing, and promising the world what he doesn’t KNOW fully he can do, which is beat a supremely talented heavyweight. “The underdog is something that I’m used to being,” Jennings told us. “I understand that I’m a great underdog in this fight. That’s because people only look at the size and they look at the inexperience, but they don’t look at the possibility. All you have to do is respect the possibility that this fight could go either way.”

That’s what I’m doing, respecting what is possible, not probable, but possible..

Jennings showed a Philly side, some fire, a little dissy-ness that I liked..

“He doesn’t fight back pretty well and he does a lot of things great, though,” he said, noting that Wlad likes to hold excessively. “That’s pretty much what it is. His weakness will be getting to his chin, but he does that great job, protecting that, but I understand that it’s going to be a tough task and it’s going to be that’s something that I – that’s what I signed up for. I’m with that. I’m all for it.”

You heard a mix of Philly tough but also a reality-based mindset, as well…Sounds to me like he knows, as best he can without being in there, what it will take to have some success. He has to get inside that long jab..

“Lateral movement, head movement and relentless effort will definitely penetrate and make a change,” Jennings said.

Readers, talk to me. Anyone sensing an upset special? Getting near enough to Wlad, now a defensive wizard, proves exceedingly difficult. Who remembers the last time anyone so much as BUZZED him? Does Jennings have the pop to touch him with a shot he sees coming? Play trainer; how can Jennings carry the night, and bring the belt back to PA?

Follow Woods on Instagram. https://instagram.com/woodsy1069/

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Zhilei Zhang KOs Joe Joyce; Calls Out Tyson Fury

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Joe Joyce activated his rematch clause after being stopped in the sixth frame by Zhilei Zhang in their first meeting. In hindsight, he may wish that he hadn’t. Tonight at London’s Wembley Stadium, Zhang stopped him again and far more conclusively than in their first encounter.

In the first meeting, Zhang, a southpaw, found a steady home for his stiff left jab. Targeting Joyce’s right eye, he eventually damaged the optic to where the ring doctor wouldn’t let Joyce continue. At the end, the fight was close on the cards and Joyce was confident that he would have pulled away if not for the issue with his eye.

In the rematch tonight, Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) closed the curtain with his right hand. A thunderous right hook on the heels of a straight left pitched Joyce to the canvas where he landed face first. He appeared to beat the count by a whisker, but was seriously dazed and referee Steve Gray properly waived it off. The official time was 3:07 of round three.

Zhang, who lived up to his nickname, “Big Bang,” was credited with landing 29 power punches compared with only six for Joyce (15-2) who came in 25 pounds heavier than in their first meeting while still looking properly conditioned. One would be inclined to say that age finally caught with the “Juggernaut” who turned 38 since their last encounter, but Zhang, 40, is actually the older man. In his post-fight interview in the ring, the New Jersey resident, a two-time Olympian for China, when asked who he wanted to fight next, turned to the audience and said, “Do you want to see me shut Tyson Fury up?”

He meant it as a rhetorical question.

Semi-Windup

Light heavyweight Anthony Yarde was matched soft against late sub Jorge Silva, a 40-year-old Portuguese journeyman, and barely broke a sweat while scoring a second-round stoppage. Yarde backed Silva against a corner post and put him on the deck with a short right hand. Silva’s body language indicated that he had no interest in continuing and the referee accommodated him. The official time was 2:07 of round two.

A 30-year-old Londoner, Yarde (24-3, 23 KOs) was making his first start since being stopped in eight rounds by Artur Beterbiev in a bout that Yarde was winning on two of the scorecards. Silva, a late replacement for 19-3-1 Ricky Summers, falls to 22-9.

Also

Former leading super middleweight contender Zach Parker (23-1, 17 KOs) returned to the ring in a “shake-off-the-rust” fight against 40-year-old Frenchman Khalid Graidia and performed as expected. Graidia’s corner pulled him out after seven one-sided rounds.

In his previous fight, Parker was matched against John Ryder who he was favored to beat. The carrot for the winner was a lucrative date with Canelo Alvarez. Unfortunately for Parker, he suffered a broken hand and was unable to continue after four frames. Tonight, he carried 174 pounds, a hint that he plans to compete as a light heavyweight going forward. Indeed, he has expressed an interest in fighting Anthony Yarde. Graidia declined to 10-13-4.

The Zhang-Joyce and Yarde-Silva fights were live-streamed in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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An Ode to the Polo Grounds on the (Belated) 100th Anniversary of Dempsey-Firpo

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If you happen to be up in Harlem this Saturday, they are holding a little shindig at the Polo Grounds Towers Community Center in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Dempsey-Firpo fight.

Better late than never, as they say. The centennial of this storied fight was actually September 14, a week ago Thursday. But that rubbed up against Mexican Independence Day which prompted little shindigs that would take precedence in a neighborhood where many of the inhabitants speak Spanish.

The Sept. 14, 1923 bout between heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler, and his Argentine challenger Luis Angel Firpo, the Wild Bull of the Pampas, was staged at the Polo Grounds. The match was slated for 15 rounds, but no one expected it would go that far. “The styles of both,” said a Brooklyn Times Union scribe in his pre-fight report, “eliminate the possibility of the affair becoming tedious.”

That proved to be an understatement. Dempsey vs. Firpo consumed only three minutes and 57 seconds of actual fighting, but the action was breathtakingly intense and the crowd, estimated at 80,000, was on its feet the whole while.

There were so many knockdowns and they came so fast that there was disagreement among ringside reporters as to the exact number. In the first round alone, Dempsey put Firpo on the canvas at least five times, if not seven, and Firpo returned the favor twice. However, it was the Argentine that scored the most memorable knockdown. With one mighty swing of his vaunted right hand, Firpo knocked Dempsey clear out of the ring, the Mauler landing head first on a table of ringside reporters and their telegraphers with his feet up in the air. The moment inspired one of the most famous paintings in sports, George Bellows “Dempsey and Firpo,” on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York since the museum opened in 1931.

Dempsey was reeling and almost out before the first round ended, but he gathered his senses and ended the contest in the next frame. His final punch, with Firpo bleeding heavily from his mouth, “lifted the Argentine giant from his feet and hurled him headlong to the floor with the crash of a mighty oak falling from great heights.” So wrote Grantland Rice.

The Polo Grounds sat in a hollow in the northern reaches of Harlem across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium. It was the home of the New York Giants of the National League from 1891 until the franchise left for San Francisco at the end of the 1957 season. It also housed the New York Giants football team from its inception in 1925 through 1955 and in its end days, served as the temporary home of New York’s two expansion teams, the Mets and the Jets.

Professional boxing was first served up at the Polo Grounds in 1922. There were four boxing shows there in 1923 preceding Dempsey-Firpo, but these were small potatoes by comparison, notwithstanding the fact that each of the four shows included a title fight. Dempsey-Firpo was the first collaboration between Tex Rickard and Charles Stoneham who owned the controlling interest in the baseball team.

Rickard and Stoneham had a lot in common. Rickard ran gambling saloons in mining camps in Alaska and Nevada before making his mark as a boxing promoter and settling in New York where he headed up the boxing department at Madison Square Garden. Charles Stoneham was a gambler too. He made his fortune operating bucket shops, funneling his winnings into a string of thoroughbred race horses and a horse track and casino in Havana. His silent partner in many of his business ventures was purportedly the infamous Arnold Rothstein. (A so-called bucket shop was a business where people could bet on the rise and fall of stocks and other commodities like wheat and oil without taking an ownership stake in any of the companies that comprised the marketplace.)

Rickard died in 1929, opening the door to Broadway ticket scalper Mike Jacobs who supplanted Rickard as New York’s most powerful boxing promoter. Jacobs acquired the exclusive rights to stage boxing shows at both the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. Charles Stoneham and his counterpart with the Yankees both profited when a card was held at either property.

Yankee Stadium was more modern and could accommodate a larger crowd, so Jacobs tended to pot his biggest promotions there. Joe Louis had 12 fights at Yankee Stadium, but only two at the Polo Grounds, namely his famous 1941 fight with Billy Conn and his fight later that year with Lou Nova. However, important matches continued to land at the Polo Grounds. Thirty-four boxers who would go on to be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame had one or more fights at the Polo Grounds.

I’m dating myself, but this reporter is among an ever-shrinking cadre of people who once sat in the grandstand of the Polo Grounds. The allurement was baseball. Although born in Brooklyn, I was a Giants fan.

I vaguely remember descending the steep iron staircase that led from the 155th Street subway station to the ticket booths. When one exited the subway, he was on Coogan’s Bluff, named for the former Manhattan borough president who owned the land on which the stadium sat. Coogan’s Bluff became a euphemism for the Polo Grounds itself, as Chavez Ravine would become a euphemism for Dodger Stadium.

Coogan's Bluff

Coogan’s Bluff

The Polo Grounds had an odd, triangular-shaped configuration. The distance to both foul poles was short whereas centerfield was cavernous, the perfect playland for the wonderful Willie Mays whose range was unsurpassed. In the words of the late, great Jim Murray, Willie’s glove was where triples went to die.

When Charles Stoneham died in 1936, the ballclub passed to his son Horace Stoneham who moved the team in San Francisco and eventually sold it to local interests. Stoneham was vilified in New York for abandoning the city, but the park and surrounding neighborhood had deteriorated. The stadium was torn down in 1964 and became the site of a giant, low-income housing project, Polo Grounds Towers, a complex consisting of four 30-story buildings run by the New York City Housing Authority. The Polo Grounds Community Center is housed in Tower #2.

The Dempsey-Firpo fight was an incandescent moment in America’s Golden Era of Sports. It was a big deal in South America too. In Buenos Aires, tens of thousands of people reportedly jammed the streets around the newspaper offices to follow the progress of the fight on bulletin boards. The last boxing show at the Polo Grounds was staged on June 20, 1960. Floyd Patterson avenged his loss to Ingemar Johannson with a fifth-round stoppage. The predicted crowd of 40,000 failed to materialize. The official attendance was 31,892.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Arne K. Lang is a recognized authority on the history of prizefighting and the history of American sports gambling. His latest book, titled Clash of the Little Giants: George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910, was released by McFarland in September, 2022.

 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 253: Oscar De La Hoya Reloading in LA and More

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Oscar De La Hoya sat with a satisfied look inside his glittering building on Wilshire Boulevard, unveiling plans to stage a welterweight showdown between southpaw contenders next month.

Lately, the six-division world champion turned promoter from nearby East Los Angeles has attended every boxing show produced by his company Golden Boy Promotions. Big or small, the former fighter who acquired millions as a prizefighter has put full attention on expanding his boxing empire.

Golden Boy Promotions has reloaded.

On Tuesday, De La Hoya discussed plans to match Alexis Rocha with Top Rank’s Giovanni Santillan on Saturday, October 21, at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the show.

Rocha (23-1, 15 KOs) seems to have gained his man strength. Five out of seven of his past foes have not heard the final bell. The Orange County fighter’s seek and destroy style has made him a crowd favorite throughout Southern California.

Santillan (31-0, 16 KOs) is a different kind of cat. The San Diego-based welterweight was groomed by Thompson Boxing Promotions and then aided by Top Rank. With the loss of promoter Ken Thompson who passed away earlier this year, Top Rank has taken over the reins of the crafty fighter.

Both Rocha (pictured with Oscar) and Santillan are familiar with each other through sparring.

“I feel that I’ve grown so much over time and now’s my moment, and I want to keep just banging on the door for a world title. I know that Giovani is going to be a good opponent,” said Rocha who is based in Santa Ana.

San Diego’s Santillan expressed excitement about fighting in Los Angeles.

“This isn’t the first time that I go into enemy territory,” Santillan said. “I think that I will gain the LA fan base after this fight.”

It’s the kind of fight that would have sold out the Olympic Auditorium down the street. Battles between fighters from rival towns in Southern California resulted in fights like Bobby Chacon versus Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, or East L.A.’s Ruben Navarro versus South L.A.’s Raul Rojas.

Crosstown rivalries made the Olympic Auditorium a legendary venue for decades. And the Los Angeles area has always been a hotbed for boxing talent. Always.

De La Hoya knows that and has lived it.

“As Golden Boy, we know our position, we know exactly what we have to do in order to position that fighter to get them to that world title. Alexis Rocha is knocking on the door. Giovani has an amazing opportunity. So, this is what boxing is all about,” said De La Hoya.

MarvNation

Welterweights Eduard Skavynskyi (14-0) of Ukraine and Mexico’s Alejandro Frias (14-9-2) headline the main event at Thunder Studios in Long Beach, California on Saturday Sept. 23.

This is Skavynskyi’s first time fighting in the U.S. All his previous fights were in Russia and Ukraine.

Also, co-headlining are female minimumweights Yadira Bustillos (7-1) and Katherine Lindenmuth (5-1) in a rematch set for eight rounds.

Bustillos fights out of Las Vegas and Lindenmuth is based in New Mexico and looking to avenge her loss a year ago.

For tickets and information go to: https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/marvnation/6815/event/1344994?fbclid=paaabuvxlnjny1dafchk0wwkftjganfmww6bayhkj7autu-mhjyz8ll__ycga

Heavyweight Rematch in England

Once again, the United Kingdom presents a heavyweight show and this time a rematch between China’s Zhilei Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) and England’s Joe Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) on Saturday, Sept 23. ESPN will stream the Frank Warren boxing card from London.

Zhang stopped Joyce in the sixth round this past April. Can he do it again?

Welterweight showdown in Florida

Jessica McCaskill (12-3) and Sandy Ryan (6-1) meet for several welterweight world titles on Saturday, Sept. 23, in Orlando, Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

Super lightweight Richardson Hitchins (16-0, 7 KOs) test top contender Jose “Chon” Zepeda (37-3, 28 KOs) in the co-main event. Conor Benn is also on the card.

Fights to Watch

Sat. ESPN+ 2 p.m. Zhilei Zhang (25-1-1) vs Joe Joyce (15-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jessica McCaskill (12-3) vs Sandy Ryan (6-1); Richardson Hitchins (16-0) vs Jose Zepeda (37-3).

Alexis Rocha photo credit: Golden Boy / Cris Esqueda

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

 

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