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Billion Dollar  Daddy  – At the long-awaited first official press conference to announce one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history, a dark figure emerges from the back of the stage to photobomb the customary final group picture of the main protagonists. He sneaks into the frame almost unnoticed, seeking the unearned attention of photographers, media and fans, smiling casually as he inserts himself in the moment while everyone asks what did he actually do to deserve that spot in a scene in which he hardly belongs.

We’re obviously talking about the obnoxious and unnerving presence of teen pop star and bad boy wannabee Justin Bieber, one of the most inexplicable figures in Floyd Mayweather’s entourage, in the final group photograph of the Mayweather-Pacquiao presser in Los Angeles on March 11th at the Nokia Theater. But we might as well be talking about an equally intrusive presence in that lineup, a largely irrelevant silhouette awkwardly pasted onto a press shot for a mega-bout that he did so much to keep from happening.

We are talking, of course, of Top Rank’s big boss, none other than 83-year old Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, a man who has spent a significant amount of time in his career putting together some of the most significant boxing matchups of all time, and who worked almost equally as hard to keep the most profitable and most desirable bout of his era from actually coming to fruition, whether on purpose or not.

Think of it as Hemingway’s fictional old man in the sea trying to actually fend off that giant marlin away from him and keeping it from actually jumping onto his canoe. Or just dragging it around just to allow sharks to tear it to pieces.

In all honesty, perhaps Arum’s intention was to mirror Hemingway’s tale in every possible way. After all, Santiago, the fictional fisherman, was trying to catch his elusive big prey after going 84 days without a catch. Perhaps Arum was waiting to finally become 84 years old in early December to finally hoist that heavy sea creature onto his vessel and thus make my brilliant analogy work. But the truth about Arum’s role in keeping this (and other fights) from coming to fruition may lay beyond this assumption.

Timing is what makes the difference between a clash of titans in their prime and a punch-drunk waltz between two has-beens. And as the world’s leading supplier of overblown main events with non-descript undercards filled with matches between young contenders and no-hopers, Arum knows that this game is all about the main event. And there is no bigger main event (possibly in history) than Pacquiao-Mayweather. Did he intentionally wanted to be remembered as the guy who stood in the way?

Maybe that’s just the case. Because maybe, just maybe, Arum’s diminished sense of timing is to blame for his childish obsession with delaying the negotiations and/or blatantly overpricing this bout in every possible way, some of them more active than others, with the excuse of having plotted a better revenue scenario for later. And even though some other reasons may have indeed been in play for the fight not to happen earlier, it is clear that Arum’s erratic behavior in the weeks leading to the impending mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao constitute a revealing indication of his loss of one of the most valuable assets a promoter should have.

It ain’t business, Manny. It’s strictly personal

Ever since he got his start as a boxing promoter after looking at the numbers in certain tax documents related to a Muhammad Ali fight back in the late ‘60s thanks to his job in the Justice Department in New York and deciding that his time would be more wisely invested in that particular field (in which he had almost no prior interest), Arum grew in giant strides thanks to his ability to allow the best fighters of his era fight each other in their prime.

Three examples are enough to reaffirm Arum’s claim to greatness: Ali-Frazier I, Leonard-Hagler, and De La Hoya-Trinidad. Even for the most casual of boxing fans, these are more than enough to prove the value of Arum’s work as a promoter.

But just as those fights could not have been made with only one fighter in the ring, Arum did not produce those bouts on his own. For most of his most important promotions, he was forced to engage in oftentimes brutal negotiations with rival promoters, most notably his sworn enemy and fellow mega-promoter Don King. If anything, Arum’s ability to deal with King’s flamboyant personality and unorthodox business practices only enhanced Arum’s credentials as a top promoter.

But as time progressed, the once-savvy businessman found himself running a virtual monopoly at the very top of the boxing game he once fought so hard to break into. His work with superstar pay-per-view darling Oscar De La Hoya put him in the driver’s seat in the post-Tyson era of boxing, in which the once-dominant heavyweight division took a back seat to a thriving welter-middle-ish weight region. Arum’s business acumen, as well as the lack of competent competitors in the scene, led him to a dominant position in the boxing landscape that extended during a good portion of the ‘90s and early 2000s.

But that’s when disaster began to strike. His personal relationship with De La Hoya (now a promoter in his own right) deteriorated to a point in which they stopped talking to each other, and their stables began suffering the consequences of that rift. Soon enough, the sub-plot of their personal rivalry took center stage, and the chances of certain fights being made or not was directly linked to the name of the fighter’s promoters instead of their own.

And the worst was yet to come.

Arum’s new cash cow after De La Hoya’s departure was another former Olympian he had managed to snatch away at the last minute from the hands of another promoter. That young fellow happened to be as ambitious as the young Oscar was, and soon enough he began asking for the attention and the money that he believed he deserved.

Soon enough, he would get both, and in large amounts, but only after leaving his old promoter behind.

Back in those days, Floyd Mayweather (the young rising star in question, in case you’re still asking) insisted on requesting $20 million dollars to face Oscar De La Hoya. For Arum, the time wasn’t right and the payout was too low. But it wouldn’t be the last time he would be wrong in his prognosis.

Having grown impatient with Arum’s unwillingness to produce the big fights he craved, Mayweather finally found a way to cancel his contract with Top Rank for a ridiculous sum of money (less than a million dollars) and soon enough he was on his way to face Oscar under his newly minted promotional banner.

His take for the mega-fight? A cool $25 million.

A pattern was set. A new force in boxing business was born. And a personal feud between Arum and Mayweather had arisen. A feud that, despite their occasional polite exchanges, runs deep still after all these years, and which was the driving force for not allowing the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout to materialize even in the face of an unbelievable amount of pressure from fans, media, TV networks and fighters themselves.

Soon enough, what could have been an isolated incident became the norm at Top Rank. Some of the most eagerly anticipated and long-awaited matchups in recent years failed to become a reality because of Arum’s suddenly flawed sense of ripeness.

A potentially very lucrative and phenomenally attractive fight between Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa and Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez was put off indefinitely based on the assumption that Arum would be able to pinpoint the perfect moment in time as if on a mandate from a higher power.

Fast-forward a few years, and both fighters are on their way to becoming stepping stones for younger contenders, a few steps closer to retirement and at least a couple of million dollars none the richer thanks to their belief in a promise of a larger payday down the road.

At around the same time, the presence of two young and tough Mexican middleweights galvanized the attention of their country every time they stepped into the ring. One had the looks, the other one had the name, and they both had the style and the punching power to turn their fight into one of the most eagerly awaited rivalries in Mexico’s storied boxing history.

But in Arum’s mind, the fight was not going to just make money. It was going to make money rain from the sky. The huge Aztec Stadium in Mexico City was going to be filled to the rafters for the most lucrative and exciting all-Mexican fight of all times. The bout was so insistently discussed online that this scribe had to ban the very question of “when will Canelo and Junior finally fight?” from his weekly chat with the fans.

And yet, here we are only a few years later, with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. finally released from Arum’s grip and having lost by stoppage as a light-heavyweight, and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez still fighting at the super welterweight-ish level and on his way to become a superstar under the guidance of Oscar De La Hoya, and with millions of Mexican fans still holding their neatly folded dollar bills in their hands and waiting in line to buy a ticket for a fight for pride and country that will never happen.

But even though Arum’s now diminished sense of momentum is to blame for those bragging rights to go unclaimed and for at least those two bouts not happening, the reason for the five-year delay in making the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout can be attributed also to Arum’s unwillingness to acknowledge Mayweather not only as a fighter, but also as the rival promoter that he has become after creating his own promotional brand in The Money Team, also known as Mayweather Promotions. By placing the blame on Mayweather’s controversial handler Al Haymon, Arum created a personal chasm between himself and Mayweather that soon transcended the business realm to become a personal matter.

Soon enough, Arum was comparing Mayweather with Hitler and attacking him relentlessly in the press, while Mayweather retaliated by openly calling for banishing Arum from the sport of boxing. They both publicly swore to never allow the other to pocket as much as a penny from each other’s efforts.

And just when all hope was seemingly lost, a new plan popped up in Arum’s mind. Another giant marlin to be hooked out of the ocean in one last heroic move to save the day, and to help him etch his name even deeper in the marbles of the pantheon of pugilism.

And the minor fact that it involved the untested drawing power of a virtually unknown fighter with only 5 or 6 professional fights hailing from a country with absolutely no boxing tradition was not going to stand in Arum’s way.

The Chinaman is the issue here, Bob

“Zou Shiming is the driving force for taking pay-per-view into China,” said Arum about the 34-year old flyweight contender and former Olympic star who has been showcased regularly in Top Rank’s promotions in China in recent years. “They idolize him. Combine his appeal with Pacquiao-Mayweather and we are looking at numbers undreamed of before.”

After turning down several offers and having some of his own offers scoffed by Mayweather’s team through the years, Arum plotted a larger-than-life scenario in which the fight would collect a billion dollars. Yes, that’s one thousand million dollars, most of them coming from a nation with no boxing tradition and no tested PPV structure for an event of that magnitude.

In Arum’s mind, the marlin du jour could weigh as much as an elephant and still be hooked right out of the water if everyone followed his delirious master plan, which involved an elaborate architecture combining several sources of income.

Arum proposed a $5 Pay-Per-View for China, imagining that at least 10 percent of the entire population would purchase the fight to produce a staggering $650 million dollars to watch a boxing match while eating breakfast. Add to that the $300 million he aimed to make in the US at $95 for each PPV. Throw in the site fee and the large television fees from around the globe, the live gate, sponsors, merchandising and other revenue streams, and you got yourself the first billion dollar fight in boxing history.

It does sound like an idea straight out of Rocky XXV (Billions, Rocky! Think o’that! Listen to Paulie for once, will ya?), but it was an actual business proposal by one of boxing’s top promoters of all time. And if it did have any effect at all, it was the rippling effect throughout the boxing industry clamoring for a voice of reason to put a stop to this insanity.

And of course, Zou Shiming did his part by being defeated in his first title challenge, which came in his 7th professional bout. The stage was set for a major change in the dynamics of the negotiation. But no one could even imagine how would the whole mess would be finally untangled.

Let’s just say that, even though it did not involve the presence of lawyers or judges, the matter was solved in court.

Halfway meeting at halftime

At the not-particularly-anticipated matchup between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA in Miami’s American Airlines Arena, two figures emerge from opposite courtside seats to meet in the middle of the court for an impromptu chat and a rare photo opportunity. They clash head-on in uncharacteristically friendly terms, immediately earning the attention of photographers, media and fans, smiling casually and engaging in a conversation captured by a picture that instantly becomes a viral internet sensation.

Call it a hail-Mary sky-hook right on the buzzer with the game on the line. Call it destiny, fate, or Mayweather’s final rite of passage as the consummate self promoter he claims to be. But the truth is that the combined business knowledge of a dozen TV executives and boxing promoters was nowhere in sight when the “Fight of the Century” finally took its first baby step into life.

All it took was a halfway meeting of the most literal nature to make the fight happen, with both fighters finally coming to the realization that the fight was literally in their hands. Borrowing a page from his own history book, Mayweather took matters out of Arum’s hands and into his own again and carried his proposal directly to Pacquiao in a meeting that was anything but casual.

Both men have been known for their devotion for the NBA, with Mayweather flying his personal jet to wherever there is a good game on, and Pacquiao turning his own passion for hoops up a notch by purchasing his own team in the Philippines and appointing himself as the unlikely Jackie Moon-esque point guard. Pacquiao’s presence in that game was anticipated by Mayweather, who then flew specially to Miami for the occasion, and the rest is history.

Soon enough, CBS chief Leslie Moonves began unilaterally pulling the strings to bring the less relevant group of protagonists together, at the behest of none other than his usual waiter at his favorite restaurant. He invited Mayweather’s advisor Al Haymon and Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum to his house to iron out the details of a deal that had already been concocted in broad strokes by the principals themselves during a meeting after the aforementioned game in Pacquiao’s hotel room, with an ironing board nearby standing as the sole witness of the event (no, seriously, who in the world set up this meeting in that place? Where is the large exotic wood table, the designer chairs, the excessive pastry and the jug of tepid tap water? C’mon, people!!).

As for Arum, everything went pretty much downhill for him after that situation. Which, if we compare to Arum’s previous line of work, was like watching Arum barging into a courtroom appointment an hour late only to find out that plaintiff and defendant had already solved their matters without any outside help, and with the honorable judge Moonves simply waiting for Arum to sign off on the plea to get things going.

After that, Arum was summarily demoted to glorified mandatory chaperone of the Pacquiao entourage, trying to give the image of being calm and relevant in every event related to the fight, when it was clear that he was anything but that.

His usual business-like demeanor gave way to a cranky, oftentimes childish behavior tinged with a bitter mixture of jealousy and spite for the entire event. His dull and grandiose speech during the first press conference at the Nokia Theater, with a long and unnecessary presence at the podium, was the first sign of what loomed as one of the most awkward promotions ever put together by Top Rank.

His similarly obnoxious behavior at the last press conference on Wednesday, April 29th in Las Vegas was just another sign of his uncomfortable stance on the whole promotion. Arum also arranged for Pacquiao not to participate in the massive meet-and-greet with the fans in the lobby of the MGM Grand on the Tuesday before the fight, preferring to stage a more private event elsewhere. And obviously there was the Teleconference-Gate, where Arum ended a conference call abruptly with a profanity-laced performance at the phone, depriving the media from around the world from one of the few chances to speak with Pacquiao ahead of the most important fight of his career.

It could be said that the guilt of pricing Manny out of this fight for such a long time finally turned back on Arum to haunt him, but the truth is that the role of the promoter in these cases is as clear as Arum’s refusal to abide by it, and going to such lengths to express his discontent is only going to hurt his fighter and his future business.

That, of course, is if Arum thinks there is a future for him in this business, which at the age of 83 is not easy to assure. With the promotion of the most profitable fight in history having him as the “odd man in” continuously sabotaging press events with his self-centered antics, it is unlikely that a potential rematch could have him anywhere near the driver’s seat now that the true protagonists of the show know that a fruitful negotiation is just one casual meeting away, in the comfort of their favorite laundry room at their favorite hotel.

But if history has taught us something, is that ruling Arum out is never a good idea. Especially when he smells blood in the water.

Grandpa’s gone fishing

In the months leading to the fight, Arum endured a sustained attack from all sides regarding his role as more of a roadblock than a mediator in the making of this fight.

He began by brandishing a unilaterally signed agreement in a vain attempt to challenge Mayweather to sign for a fight under his own terms, in a delusional move that even Don King would have ruled out as excessively extortive. He was bluntly offered a lump sum to the tune of $10 million dollars by the Mayweather camp to step aside and allow Pacquiao to negotiate on his own. He was politely asked to release Pacquiao from his contract by the fighter’s own attorney in the Philippines. The desire of a lowly waiter in a restaurant somewhere weighed more than his own drive to success in the making of this event. And to top things off, he forced a simple yet important promotional tool as a worldwide conference call to join boxing’s illustrious list of what-ifs and what-wouldabeens. His painful admission, a mere 9 days before the bout, that he had no idea of why tickets had not been put up for sale, was just the icing on the cake.

Bang-up job so far. And after a final self-complacent performance at the podium in the last presser of the event, in which he exchanged smirks with MGM honcho Richard Sturm (no, he was not the keyboard player for REO Speedwagon, regardless of what his hairdo might suggest) when he decided that lashing out his rage at the hosting facilities would be a lovely idea to kickstart the event, his role as big-time promoter (in the truest sense of the word) is definitely up for review.

Those situations are indeed going to play a role in his future involvement in a potential rematch. If the fight ends up being as big as everyone predicts it to be, and the rest of the main characters in this production deem Arum as more of a nuisance than anything else, his role in the eventual second part will be forced to be limited to a minimum, if anything.

But that doesn’t stop Arum from believing that he can pull off an even bigger event the second time around, especially if his man wins. Even though his role in the capture of boxing’s biggest marlin in history is still in dispute, Captain Arum wants to make boxing to boldly go where no other promoter has taken it before.

Whether he can do that, after having a very limited role in the first fight and with no rematch clause on the contract, remains to be seen. The age of both fighters rules out the possibility of another long negotiation, and pricing Manny out of the eventual rematch would be the final blow in Arum’s ongoing bout with Father Timing.

Indeed, the promise of a gazillion dollar extravaganza rematch may not be enough to revive his once-glorious career, but that will not keep Arum from believing that he can pull it off.

And yet, even in the face of the overwhelming proof that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Arum to let that last one marlin swim free towards the sunset.

Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing

 / Billion Dollar  Daddy

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Ted Sares

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Bektemir Melikuziev, Freddie Roach, Edgar Berlanga, and Jaime Munguia are names that, one way or another, figured into Gabe Rosado’s stunning KO last Saturday night in El Paso. It overshadowed the impressive showing by Noaya “Monster” Inoue later that night in Las Vegas.

Rosado (26-13-1) is a well-documented bleeder and just might start spurting during the walk-in, but he is never, ever in a dull fight. The tougher-than-tough Philadelphian won Top Gore honors for his blood and guts TKO loss to Canadian middleweight star David Lemieux in 2014. The year before, he bled aplenty in his game but losing effort against Gennady Golovkin.

This time against Melikuziev, the unbeaten Uzbek, the fight ended in round three when the 35-year-old underdog beat the Eastern Euro fighter to the punch during an exchange of rights with Gabe’s landing first and sending the former amateur star into dreamland. The force of the blow was amplified by the younger and faster man coming forward with caution to the wind. And this time, there was no bloodletting.

The knockout should be a contender for KO of the Year. In fact, it was reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez’s explosive knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their final match.

Once again, Rosado (who is now trained by Freddie Roach) has revived his career and can count on at least one last decent payday. While many think Jaime Munguia would be a solid next fight, the thinking here is that Rosado could get carved up by the undefeated Tijuana veteran who has won 30 of his 37 fights by KO. Munguia is just too good.

The Catch 22

Rosado is an all-action fighter but scar tissue and his propensity to bleed is his worst enemy. It has cost him in the past. For such an offensive-minded fighter as Gabe, he is trapped in a terrible catch-22. If he can get the lead early and the bleeding is stemmed within reasonable limits, he can be a force, but not against the likes of Munguia.

If not Munguia, then who?  Here is one suggestion: How about “The Chosen One,” Edgar Berlanga (17-0) whose first round KO streak recently came to an end. Brooklyn vs. Philadelphia would be a nice added touch –not to mention the Puerto Rican factor. Could Rosado expose Berlanga as someone without enough experience, aka rounds? Would Gabe show that Berlanga is more Tyson Brunson that Edwin Valero?

Let’s make it happen!

Ted Sares enjoys researching and writing about boxing. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Master-class. He can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD Farias

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD  Farias

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank was at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 19, for the second of their three June shows. In the headliner, WBA/IBF world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue lived up to his nickname with a vicious third round stoppage of Filipino import Michael Dasmarinas.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) had his opponent fighting off his back foot from the opening bell. He knocked down Dasmarinas in the second with a left hook to the liver and twice more in the third round before referee Russell Mora waived it off. The official time was 2:45.

Dasmarinas brought a 30-2-1 record and hadn’t lost since 2014. But he was no match for the “Monster” who looks younger than his 28 years. Those body shots landed with a thud that could be heard in the far reaches of the arena. This kid is really good.

Mikaela Mayer continues to improve as she showed tonight in the first defense of her WBO world super featherweight title. Mayer 15-0 (5) turned away Argentina’s Erica Farias (26-5) with a 10-round unanimous decision in a fight that was frankly rather monotonous.

Mayer won by scores of 97-93 and 98-92 twice. Farias, who landed the best punch of the fight, didn’t have the taller Mayer’s physical equipment but yet landed the best punch of the fight. Her only setbacks have come on the road against elite opponents—Cecilia Braekhus, Delfine Person, Jessica McCaskill (twice) and now Mikaela Mayer.

The opener on the ESPN portion of the show was a lusty 10-round welterweight affair between Ghana native Isaac Dogboe and Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez. Dogboe, whose only losses came at the hands of Emanuel Navarette in world title fights, improved to 22-2 by dint of a majority decision that could have easily gone the other way. Dave Moretti had it a draw but was overruled (97-93 and 96-94).

Lopez, one of two fighting sons of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist, did his best work late, particularly in the eighth round. With the loss, his record declines to 15-3.

Other Bouts

Monterrey, Mexico super lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Olympian, was extended the distance for the first time in his career but won a wide 8-round decision over Guadalajara’s Salvador Briceno

Delgado won by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice while advancing his record to 12-0. Delgado’s best round was the eighth, but Briceno (17-7) weathered the storm. Briceno is 5-6 in his last 11, but has been matched tough. The six fighters to beat him, including Delgado, were a combined 78-3 at the time that he fought them.

Vista, California lightweight Eric Puente has yet to score a KO but he is undefeated in six starts after winning a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Antonio Meza (7-6). Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, knocked Meza down early into the fight with a sweeping left and was the aggressor throughout. The judges had it 57-56 and 58-55 twice.

Puerto Rican super lightweight Omar Rosario improved to 4-0 (2) with a fourth-round stoppage of Reno, Nevada’s Wilfred “JJ” Moreno (3-1) The official time was 0:47.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Munguia and Rosado Win by Stoppage in El Paso; Rosado in a Spectacular Fashion

Arne K. Lang

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Munguia and Rosado Win by Stoppage in El Paso, Rosado in a Spectacular Fashion

Golden Boy Promotions and their broadcasting partner DAZN were at the Don Haskins Center on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso today for a rare afternoon card. The honchos at GBP didn’t want to go head-to-head with competing shows on ESPN, Showtime, and Triller, the latter of which fell out when headliner Teofimo Lopez tested positive for Covid-19.

There were 10 fights scheduled with the four main fights going first and the undercard bouts bundled into the posterior.

The main event was a 12-round middleweight contest between Tijuana’s Jaime Munguia (37-0, 30 KOs), the former WBO 154-pound title-holder, and Poland’s Kamil Szeremeta (21-2) who was stepping in for countryman Maciej Sulecki who pulled out of this fight twice. The Pole was making his first start since getting bushwacked by Gennadiy Golovkin in a bout on which he was on the deck four times before his corner pulled him out.

His corner stopped this fight as well, the end coming at the conclusion of the sixth frame. After a feeling-out round, Munguia, who is trained by his Tijuana homey Erik Morales, stepped it up. Knowing that Szeremeta was a light puncher, he had no worry about anything coming back at him. There were no knockdowns, but the fight turned progressively more one-sided and the stoppage was warranted.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, slated for 12 in the 168-pound class, 35-year-old Philadelphia warhorse Gabe Rosado (pictured) stole the show with a spectacular one-punch knockout over previously undefeated Bektemir “Bec The Bully” Melikuziev.

A 2012 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan, Melikuziev dominated the first two rounds, knocking down Rosado in the first with a combination of punches. He worked the body effectively for the first two rounds and it appeared that he was too strong for the Philadelphian. But Rosado (26-13, 15 KOs), blasted him out in the third, beating him to the punch with a right hook that landed flush on the Uzbek’s jaw.

The referee didn’t bother to count. Melikuziev was 7-0 (6) heading in. Jaime Munguia may be next for Rosado.

Other Bouts

In a good-action fight that was marred by questionable scoring, native Texan Marlen Esparza, a bronze medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, wrested the WBO world flyweight title from Mexico’s Ibeth Zamora. Esparza (10-1, 1 KO) sprinted out of her corner at the opening bell only to suffer a knockdown before the fight was 90 seconds old. She fought her way back into the fight, winning the match in the eyes of the judges (97-92, 96-93, 95-94) but not in the eyes of the few fans in attendance who booed when the scores were announced.

It was a hard pill to swallow for the 32-year-old Zamora, now 32-7, who had won 17 of her last 18 heading in.

In his best showing to date, 31-year-old welterweight “prospect” Blair “The Flair” Cobbs scored a fifth-round stoppage over 38-year-old Georgia campaigner Brad Solomon. This was a fairly even fight through four rounds, but Solomon was showing signs of fatigue when Cobbs dropped him to his knees with a big left hand, leading the referee to call it off.

Blair the Flair, who has been training with Freddie Roach, improved to 15-0-1 (10). Solomon, who learned to fight in prison, declined to 29-4.

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