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The Fifty Greatest Light-Heavyweights of All Time Part Three – 30-21

Matt McGrain

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The Fifty Greatest Light-Heavyweights of All Time Part Three – 30-21

Those of you who have followed this series from Part One may notice a slight tonal shift in this third entry describing the fifty greatest 175lb fighters of all time. This is due to our arrival, finally, among the ranks of the inarguable. You cannot devise a top fifty at this weight absent any of the names listed from #30 on down – each and every one of these men has an airtight case for inclusion on this list.

It is no coincidence that as we reach this point we also begin to explore in earnest the 1970s but there are representatives here too of another great decade for the light-heavyweight, the 1920s. Two modern inclusions sparkle also, with the twin jewels of longevity and the long ledger of ranked opponents defeated, as opposed to a handful of legendary opponents defeated, that often define modern greatness.

Finally there’s an early visitation from a true legend of the sport, a man who, for me, is the single greatest fighter in history but whose body of work at 175lbs doesn’t demand as high a ranking upon this list as might be imagined. It surprised me – but the work and the criteria that support it tell this division’s story.

#30 – VIRGIL HILL (51-7)

As legendary baseball player Lefty Gomez put it, it’s better to be lucky than good. Virgil Hill benefited from more than a little of both in a career that saw him meet as many fighters ranked at some point in the Ring Magazine top ten as just about anybody on this list. Perhaps the fact that luck kept him safe at times during such a difficult career is more forgivable for that fact.

He stepped up for the first time against the excellent Leslie Stewart, a fight that could have been an extremely dangerous assignment, one that Hill was brave to take on. In truth, Stewart was neatly perched on the edge of old age and two exquisitely timed Hill left hooks tipped him over in four rounds late in 1987. In 1988 and 1989, Stewart went 2-3.

Still, Hill had to do the job and it was feared he might not have the style for it. To put it bluntly, Hill looked every bit the Olympic medallist – the amateur – he was, his weight perched upon his bent leading leg over which he would jab-jab-jab his way to victory. Over time he added a decent right hand, especially to the body but as a converted southpaw, it was always the left that would be his key to victory.

A whole nine years after Stewart, in what may be his defining fight, in Germany, against the world’s then #1 light-heavyweight Henry Maske, Hill was breathless in his amateur stylings despite the addition of that right. He out-peppered Maske in the early rounds, faded in the midsection and by the eleventh was running and clinching enough that it had become embarrassing. Still, he edged that fight on my card 115-113 and astonishingly (there’s that luck again) he was given the decision in a broiling pro-Maske atmosphere. Even more astonishing, this was the second time Hill was awarded an extremely narrow decision over a homeboy having defeated the quality Fabrice Tiozzo, a national hero in France, in his home country in 1993. Tiozzo came close to “finding out” Hill and his amateur style and come the fifth he was just walking in on the American and blasting him. To his credit Hill was so fast and had such a keen sense of when to stand and fight in key rounds that he was able to edge out Tiozzo by a single point for me and by a split decision on the official cards.

He had his fortune at home, too. I thought he was a little lucky to get the nod against speedster Lou De Valle in North Dakota in 1996. Decked by a rather ridiculous counter-left early on, he took on the unfamiliar role of aggressor and at no time looked comfortable, although he was crafty enough to get home for the decision.

Still, there is an awful lot that is impressive in Hill. He recognised his limitations, boxed within them and overstepped them so rarely that it was noticeable when he did so. He won eleven consecutively after smashing a strap out of Stewart, and when it was unceremoniously and rather surprisingly taken from him by Tommy Hearns in 1991 he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and went on another wonderful run terminated only in 1997 by the twin towers of Dariusz Michalczewski and Roy Jones. During those two purple patches Hill out-boxed numerous fighters who held a ranking, and although whenever he stepped into the top five he was usually set for a struggle, the lesser lights and fading stars of the division were generally out-classed, or something like it.

Longevity, a semblance of dominance illustrated right at the end of his time at the top makes Hill was one of the most important light-heavyweights to box between Michael Spinks and Roy Jones.

#29 – JOHN CONTEH (34-4-1)

John Conteh was ranked among the four best light-heavyweights on the planet by Ring Magazine for an astonishing seven years. Such longevity at the very top of the division is almost unheard of, but Conteh established this feat in what was the deepest and strongest light-heavyweight division since World War II.

He was very nearly claimed by the heavyweight division however, and not after he’d done the damage at 175lbs like so many of his peers but before – Conteh cut his teeth on heavyweights and moved down among the smaller men only after his first loss, supposedly upon the advice of Muhammad Ali. He arrived with a splash, crushing incumbent European champion and number five contender, Rudiger Schmidtke in twelve rounds in March of 1973. As always, Conteh collected that title in great style, employing feints (while he himself was almost impossible to feint), jabs (while he himself was almost impossible to outjab) and a spiteful right hand to stop the German in twelve.

These are passing comments on one of the division’s true stylists that hardly capture his essence, however. Conteh’s left-hand should have belonged to a more committed fighter; he was as famous in the UK for shunning his training and his love of the nightlife as he was for his wonderful talents. Both jab and hook were of the absolute highest class and his right, when he dropped it, was a hurtful punch. The right was a Conteh weakness though. He threw it rarely in his later career most especially after breaking it in a car crash, although injuries to both hands plagued him throughout his career. Inactivity married to certain impracticalities in his character also cost him both money and prestige, his refusal to go through with a contest with Miguel Cuello, announced just three days before the fight, hurting him less perhaps than his failure to meet legitimate champion Bob Foster.

Still, Conteh built an excellent resume with his smooth box-punching, besting former beltholder Vicente Rondon in nine, the superb Chris Finnegan who had pushed Bob Foster as hard as he would be during his title run, the hugely experienced Tom Bogs, Jorge Victor Ahumada in his superb strap-winning effort and a defence of that strap in a wonderful fight with Yaqi Lopez.

Unbeaten until the twilight of his career when he was narrowly outfought by both Mate Parlov and Matthew Saad Muhammad, Conteh may not have been so lucky had he hooked up with either Victor Galindez or Foster, but by the time he was stopped for the first time in his career in the rematch with Muhammad, he had already guaranteed himself a place among the greatest and the best light-heavyweights in history.

#28 – BATTLING LEVINSKY (70-20-14; Newspaper Decisions 126-35-23)

The best middleweight just took turns beating up Battling Levinsky in 1911 but when he added pounds and stepped up to the fledgling light-heavyweight division his results improved, a close bout often reported a draw with nemesis Jack Dillon his first reward. Dillon dominated a ten fight series between them, Levinsky managing no better than 2-2-6 by some counts, certainly losing their twin battles for Dillon’s generally recognised light-heavyweight title claim in 1914, but Levinsky crept closer as Dillon began to suffer ring wear, finally dominating and taking from him the title in late 1916. It is the series which trails Levinsky’s growing maturity just as it trails Dillon’s decline.

Levinsky’s problem against Dillon was that he lacked pop, scoring, as he did, only thirty knockouts in nearly three hundred bouts. Dillon over and again would out-punch Levinsky who, while brilliant defensively and expert at avoiding sustained punishment, could not remain ahead of Dillon’s offence entirely.

In the No Decision era, where unofficial rulings were made by attendant newspapermen, this may have been especially hurtful to Levinsky because some accounts of his record did not recognise Newspaper Decisions, listing only the wins he achieved by rare knockout or by official decision in states where they were permitted. This, Levinsky countermanded by a schedule so busy as to be comparable to that of the great Harry Greb, boxing nine times in the first month of 1914 for example.

As well as his eventual victories over Dillon, Levinsky defeated Charley Weinhart, Leo Houck, Bartley Madden, Clay Turner, Gunboat Smith (who also defeated him) and Mike McTigue, but it is a fact that, at light-heavyweight, Levinsky was normally beaten whenever he stepped up in class. Dillon got the best of him, he was repeatedly thrashed by Greb, lost a fight with Young Stribling which was so bad it was suggested that Stribling may have carried him, was beaten in twelve by Gene Tunney who savaged him to the body, and was stopped in four by Georges Carpantier, relinquishing the title to him. Although he mastered Billy Miske up at heavyweight, he was outfought in their single meeting at or around light-heavyweight (also losing a second contest in that range if we stretch our definitions by a pound). In short, the best light-heavyweights tended to beat Levinsky – and I think that this is a fact that is historically ignored by the likes of Nat Fleischer (who ranked him at an astonishing #6 on his ATG list for the weight). I take some comfort in the fact that the IBRO ranked him all the way down at #20, and that Charley Rose left him off his own ATG list, written in the 1960s. It is also true that early in his own career, Levinsky was identified by former heavyweight champion James J Corbett as a fighter who would prosper for the most part only against what he called “second and third raters”. While this is a little stronger than the language I would use, I believe it was born out to a degree.

Still there is no denying that this is my first serious disagreement with boxing history as it is generally held, and I wish to temper troubled waters by stating that Levinsky clearly belongs on this list. His longevity was astounding, having been favoured over Eddie McGoorty in 1912 and relevant to the light heavyweight division as late as 1921 when he defeated the heavily outweighed Mike McTigue. In between, he fought often and well enough that he ranks here over men who have perhaps taken better scalps but cannot match him for complete body of work.

#27 – MARVIN JOHNSON (43-6)

Marvin Johnson was light-heavyweight’s greatest pure thug. By the end of his career, which somehow chugged into the late eighties, making him one of the great survivors of the stacked 1970s division, he was an ancient and rusted battleship that took too long to turn to maintain effectiveness. At his best he brought some of the most direct, wicked pressure in the division’s history, not crafty enough to ever defeat one of the true monsters with whom he shared a ring but devastating enough that anyone else was filleted.

Unfortunately for Johnson he came crashing into the most stacked light-heavyweight division in history. Leslie Stewart, Eddie Davis, Charles Williams, Michael Spinks, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Victor Galindez and Mate Parlov all lay in wait, but the first monster he ran up against was Matthew Saad Muhammad. Both men were still prospects (Muhammad a controversial 15-3-2, Johnson 15-0) but they turned in perhaps the greatest fight ever fought at 175lbs. Johnson was beaten by a knockout in the twelfth, the walking dead long before hit the canvas having launched the kind of devastating and absurd attack in the first that always leaves a fighter vulnerable past round seven. Still, it was one of those rare losses that actually enhances a fighters standing such was the degree of heart, punch resistance and persistence that Johnson demonstrated. Their rematch, fought for the strap then in Johnson’s possession almost exactly one year later, was almost as dramatic, Muhammad again the winner, again by stoppage.

Between these two losses, Johnson lifted that strap against the difficult and excellent giant Mate Parlov in Italy. Parlov, who had knocked out Miguel Angelo Cuello for the title before repelling John Conteh in his first defence, was nothing more than target practice for Johnson. The great Victor Galindez lasted barely longer and although faded, watching Galindez, perhaps the division’s greatest matador, duel with Johnson, perhaps the division’s greatest bull is one of the great thrills in boxing. Of course Johnson was never in a bad fight although this was not always for the best of reasons. His jab was perennially under-fuelled and sometimes an outright liability and he was far too easy to hit. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad took advantage of these weaknesses to see him off in eleven, and Michael Spinks threw one of the best punches of his career to see him off in four, but often Johnson rolled over ranked, made men like Eddie Davis as though they weren’t there.

This was the pattern he bowed to in his career, generally losing to the best he fought but dominating or finding out everyone else. Unexpected, winging combination punching, an enormous heart, fearlessness and perhaps the best trailing uppercut at the weight make him one of the most formidable beasts ever to make a career at 175lbs. Many other eras would have made him a great champion.

#26 – DARIUSZ MICHALCZEWSKI (48-2)

Dariusz Michalczewski took the lineal light-heavyweight championship from Virgil Hill in 1997 and did not lose it until 2003 when time and Julio Cesar Gonzalez caught up with him. It does not matter that Ring Magazine gifted Roy Jones their title in appreciation of his brilliance – Michalczewski was the real champion, and you have to go all the way back to the great Archie Moore to find one who ruled for more years.

Of course there the comparisons end. Michalczewski packed in an astonishing fourteen successful defences while on top of the hill. His opposition was sometimes less than inspiring and he certainly didn’t do the damage to the division that Roy Jones managed (as we shall see) but he won his fair share of big fights. Against Virgil Hill he did what Henry Maske couldn’t and solved Hill as early as the second round, unveiling his lack of power and taking risks to cut off the ring on his fleet-footed foe. When Hill tried for volume, Michalczewski just picked punches, unerringly finding the right blow before going right back to his stalk and destroy style. The fight was not close.

He showed more superb adaptions versus ranked stylist Lee Barber, a road-warrior who found himself picked and re-picked by an inexperienced fighter who again and again found a perfect mid-range to outpunch the bigger man in neat, controlled bursts. He needed a granite chin to win a 1999 shootout with Montell Griffin but became only the second man ever to stop the American when referee Joe Cortez interceded as Michalczewski brutalised him against the ropes. Graciano Rocchigiani, who caused Henry Maske all those problems, was battered to the only stoppage loss of his career. Lesser ranked men like Derrick Harmon, Richard Hall and Drake Thadzi tended to be stopped. Michalczewski was dominant like Wladimir Klitschko is dominant and although, like Wladimir, he arguably never had that legacy fight so needed to silence doubters, the many years he spent at the top of the division must be recognised and rewarded.

#25 – TIGER JACK FOX (139-23-12)

Tiger Jack Fox went 0-1-1 against Maxie Rosenbloom up at heavyweight, perhaps unlucky to receive the draw, but their single meeting at 175lbs went the way of one of the greatest fighters never to win the light-heavyweight title. In the fourth round of that meeting, Fox forced Rosenbloom to his knees for a flash knockdown, inevitably landing the harder punches throughout to take a decision characterised by The Spokesman Review as “fairly well received by the crowd.” This was the best result of Fox’s career. He came up short against John Henry Lewis, blasted into unconsciousness by him in just three, which was unfortunate as Lewis held the title to which Fox became the #1 contender.

He came up short, too, against Melio Bettina when he finally got a crack at a strap (if not the legitimate title) in 1939, by which time Fox had been a professional for eleven years. Worse, in the run up to the fight he had received a serious stab wound to the chest. Carl Beckwith of the Washington Afro-American noted a week before the fight that “Fox doesn’t look at all ready” and even had difficulty climbing in and out of the ring. It is typical of the hard-luck stories surrounding top black contenders of this era that when Fox’s shot comes he carries an unusual and debilitating injury into the ring with him. Such was the life of an Afro-American fighter of this era.

Not that Fox was perfect. He was given to stalling and according to the Spokane Daily Chronicle “for all his clowning…he is potentially a great fighter – but this is fair warning…[that fans] would rather see him find a steady pace and stick to it.” Still, he built a superb resume despite the prejudices of the era and his own limitations avenging a loss to Al Gainer over fifteen, destroying former divisional champion Bob Olin in just two, smashing out top contender Leo Kelly in six and generally crushing any of the minor light-heavyweights who dared to step into the ring with him.

Much of his very best work was achieved at heavyweight, and this must be remembered by those hardcore history-buffs that would like to see him higher.

#24 – SAM LANGFORD (179-30-39; Newspaper Decisions 31-14-16)

Sorry, Sam.

In his excellent series for Boxing Scene Cliff Rold ranked Sam Langford at #2 for this weight. Herb Goldman agrees with him exactly. The IBRO rank him one space lower at #3. And here I am telling you Sam Langford is the twenty-fourth greatest light-heavyweight of all time. How can this be justified?

In Part One I wrote:

“[F]ights fought by fighters usually held to be light-heavyweights contested above the light-heavyweight limit, will be considered to have engaged in a heavyweight contest and will not be credited here. As a rough guide, fighters matched at below 164lbs are generally held to have fought a middleweight contest and fighters matched at 180lbs and above are fighting at heavyweight. Also the weight class in question is always defined by the heavier fighter. If a 173lb man is fighting a 203lb man, he is engaging in a heavyweight contest. This list is interested almost exclusively in fights that took place within the light-heavyweight class.”

And I stand by that.

Whatever the criteria used by the IBRO, Boxing Scene or Herb Goldman, matches actually fought in the weight class light-heavyweight are not among them – or at least, fights that were verifiably between light-heavyweights are not among them. Between the vast collection of newspaper articles made available by The Library of Congress, details of Langford’s fight on Boxrec and the superb work put in by Clay Moyle for Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion, I have been able to verify just a handful of contests actually fought by Sam Langford at the weight in question. Langford graced the light-heavyweight division for some years in terms of his own weight, but most of the significant fights he fought, even with some allowances made for the fact that the middleweight title was often contested at a lower weight in his era, were against opponents who were in another division, usually heavyweight.

In 1906 he famously weighed in at 156lbs for his meeting with all-time great heavyweight Jack Johnson; he was a middleweight. He made it into the light-heavyweight division in 1908 and met 190lb heavyweight Jim Barry, heavyweight Black Fitzsimmons, two-hundred pounder Joe Jeannette, middleweight journeyman Larry Temple, heavyweight contender Sandy Ferguson…you get the point.

Nevertheless, Langford did enough work that he cannot be ignored all together. He has battered his way into the top twenty-five here based upon his obliteration of Fireman Jim Flynn (KO1), his mauling of the wonderful Jeff Clarke (KO2), a battering of Jack O’Brien from 1911 that barely meets our criteria and a handful of other victories that fall into the correct weight range. Additionally there is the spooky sense that Langford imbues that he might have beaten the majority of the fighters who will make up the top twenty.

For those who feel I am underestimating Langford: I consider him the single greatest fighter of all time pound-for-pound. I think he is greater than Ray Robinson – better than Henry Armstrong, even more extraordinary than Harry Greb; but he achieved only a smidgen of what Harry Greb did in the light-heavyweight division. This is the true reflection of Sam’s wonderful career, and it shouldn’t be coloured by the rainbow of his incredibly performances below and above this division.

It looks horrible and I acknowledge that, but the truth often does.

#23 – YOUNG STRIBLING (223-13-14; Newspaper Decisions 33-3-3)

Young Stribling’s career is an absurdity in so many ways there is likely not enough room here for me to list them all. First among them is that he engaged in around 300 recorded contests (likely many more) and that he was only stopped once, in the fifteenth round, against the borderline great heavyweight Max Schmeling. He was never stopped at the 175lb limit.

More absurd: his one and only crack at the world’s light-heavyweight championship. The title was in the possession of Mike McTigue, an uninspiring figure as a champion and one who retained his title against Stribling in bizarre circumstances. The promoter claimed that ringsiders saw the fight almost universally for Stribling but that the referee refused to render a decision at the end of the ten rounds. Stories circulated that the official was under threat of death, although who was meant to carry out his assassination and for what reason was not made clear – finally the referee buckled and rendered a decision for Stribling. Three hours later he withdrew that decision and called the fight a draw, meaning McTigue would retain his title. The champion claimed to have been sent to the ring “at gunpoint” with a broken hand – with two working hands and nobody pointing a weapon at him, he was firmly out-pointed by Stribling once more the following year in a non-title fight.

Stribling also handed the young Tommy Loughran two “artistic beatings”, split the best end of a pair of no-decisions with Jimmy Delaney, lost a six-rounder to the king of that distance, Jimmy Slattery, but took an uncharacteristically violent revenge upon him some years later, roughing him up on the way to a ten round decision win. He dropped Maxie Rosenbloom on the way to another great victory in 1927, having out-worked an ageing Battling Levinsky the year before. He beat so many greats and champions that fighters like Lou Scozza, key wins for men further down the list, become window-dressing on Stribling’s fabulous record. He kept piling up wins out of the top drawer (and, it must be acknowledged, a huge amount of dross) up until 1933 when he was killed in a motoring accident. He was 28 years old.

In terms of weaknesses, he lacked a certain savagery and certainly in newspaper reports of the time and the scant footage that survives he doesn’t look what the old-time sportswriters would have referred to as “a killer”. But this weakness hardly manifested itself in losses. Judges and newspapers both tended to find for rather than against him, and no light-heavyweight got close to laying him low with punches.

Clever, quick, a stiff puncher with a wonderful fighting-brain, it is one of boxing’s greatest shames that he was never the champion, most especially with his having beaten an incumbent title-holder twice.

#22 – PAUL BERLENBACH (40-8-3; Newspaper Decisions 1-0-0)

Paul Berlenbach was one of light-heavyweight’s finest punchers, thirty-four of the forty-one victories he is credited with coming by way of knockout. He was a ring savage, easy to hit but almost impossible to dissuade, boasting a great chin and one of the most damaging body attacks of the era. A wonderful balance of strength and weakness raised him up onto the cross of great fights. These, Berlenbach delivered, and soon, beginning his terrible rivalry with Jack Delaney (already world class) in just his fifth month as a professional, losing in four rounds. “They practically ruined each other,” boxing correspondent Robert Edgreen would write in 1927, as Berlenbach’s career began to wind down. Practically, Berlenbach coming off the worse as Delaney’s stylistic approach proved the more sustainable, bringing him a clean victory in their desperate series. Berlenbach did have his moment though, successfully defending the world title he had ripped from Mike McTigue in May of 1925 against his nemesis in December of that same year. In the fourth, Delaney landed a “mule-kicking” right to Berlenbach’s jaw the effects of which rippled in the latter’s nervous system as late as the seventh when he seemed in immediate danger of losing his title, and would have in a more civilized era. Spared by the 1920s referee, Berlenbach battled back to drop Delaney in the twelfth and take the narrowest of decisions over the man who had already stopped him and who would stop him again; it was the most important win of his career.

Despite Delaney’s overall domination of him, Berlenbach didn’t suffer as badly with other world-class boxers. Young Stribling, like Delaney, could punch as well as box but he got little out of Berlenbach when they met in the summer of 1926. Berlenbach thrashed him, dishing out what was “the only real beating Stribling had ever taken in his life” according to his lifelong friend Milton Wallace. Frank Getty of United News described Stribling as “a punching bag” and rated him good for only two of the fifteen rounds. Berlenbach, so late to the theatre of pugilism, outhustled and outfought a man groomed for the ring since birth.

Berlenbach also “slaughtered” Battling Siki according to the New York Times, battered out Jimmy Slattery in eleven and out-pointed contender Tony Marullo and if his drop off was sharp, if he went from fistic catastrophe to past-it contender a little too swiftly to be ranked here with the true elite, it is beyond doubt that he deserves to be included in the prestigious company he finds himself in now.

#21 – DWIGHT MUHAMMAD QAWI (41-11-1)

Dwight Muhammad Qawi went just 19-2-1 at light-heavyweight; then he vanished not to heavyweight but to cruiserweight, where he gave Evander Holyfield one of the toughest fights of his career, a war that also happens to be one of the best fighters in history.

Qawi was the light-heavyweight Joe Frazier, a terrifying prospect, comically small at just 5’7 but an educated pressure monster who brought war in the form of punches.

He was too much for Matthew Saad Muhammad. Muhammad is one of the greatest light-heavyweights in history and he lurks somewhere above among the true giants of the division but Qawi kicked hell out of him not once but twice, for the first time in 1981 and then again in 1982. It has been said that Muhammad was past his prime at the time of his first meeting with Qawi, and I have a certain degree of sympathy with that point of view – however, it is worth pointing out that Muhammad came into the Qawi contest on the back of seven straight stoppage victories at title level, including the destructions of John Conteh, Yaqui Lopez and Lottie Mwale. Nevertheless, he did struggle to make weight, and against a fighter whose nickname is Buzzsaw, draining is never going to make for a particularly pleasant night. Qawi’s plan was to move across Muhammad, bringing the pressure that made him so dangerous but doing it with angles, attempting to stay ahead of the beltholder while opening up his body. It worked. From the first Qawi is landing jabs to the body and making room for his right hand, from the start Muhammad strained to find him. He may have won the first; Qawi took every other round before stopping him with truly chilling show of precision and calm. Their rematch, fought nine months later, was even more one-sided.

Between his matches with Muhammad, Qawi crushed the excellent Eddie Davis, having already twice avenged a controversial, perhaps even nonsensical defeat to his namesake, Johnny Davis. Mike Rossman, who had once defeated the great Victor Galindez, managed just seven rounds before he succumbed. James Scott, who had famously defeated Eddie Mustafa Muhamad behind the walls of Rahway State Prison did less well when Qawi signed the visitors book. It was speculated that Eddie Mustafa had been intimidated by his surroundings and perhaps even by Scott; it was Scott who uncharacteristically went on the run in the first however, Qawi following with a sick grin. A unanimous decision soon followed.

The other man to have bested Scott was Jerry Martin. Qawi tracked him down and stopped him in six. Qawi wasn’t at light-heavy long, but while he was, contenders tip-toed past, holding their breath.

Click here for part One

Click here for part Two

Click here for part Four

Click here for part Five

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Holmes-Spinks I: The Grassy Knoll for Boxing’s Conspiracy Theorists

Bernard Fernandez

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Holmes-Spinks-I-The-Grassy-Knoll-for-Boxing's-Conspiracy-Theorists

The most enduring of American conspiracy theories involves a gunman who may or may not have existed and may or may not have been on a grassy knoll in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subject of numerous speculative books and movies, all of which involve some individual’s ironclad take on what happened, why it happened and who was involved in making it happen, will always be grist for the mill for those still dissecting that national tragedy. More than a few of those arguments dispute the Warren Commission’s official conclusion that presumed killer Lee Harvey Oswald acted on his own and not in concert with unidentified, shadowy figures.

On a more recent and lesser scale, a raft of conspiracy theories arose in the wake of the alleged Aug. 10 jailhouse suicide of multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whose list of celebrity acquaintances includes two presidents of the United States and even a member of the British royal family. As was the case when nightclub owner Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald before he could go on trial, conspiracy theorists on all sides have conjectured whether Epstein’s suspicious death was actually a hit and, if so, ordered by whom?

Boxing, with its blemished past dotted by nefarious power brokers and decisions that sometimes defy logic, also has provided conspiracy junkies with ample material to analyze and debate. Olympic boxing, often characterized as a cesspool of corruption, immediately comes to mind. So does the Sept. 10, 1993, majority draw in which WBC welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker, whom almost everyone without an official scorecard saw as the clear victor, was obliged to settle for a dissatisfying standoff with crowd favorite and Mexican national hero Julio Cesar Chavez in a bout that drew a live crowd of 60,000 or so in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Although Whitaker retained his title on the draw, he and his outraged supporters were convinced the outcome was predicated more on the WBC, headquartered in Mexico City, exerting behind-the-scenes influence to ensure that Chavez came away with his undefeated record still intact. Irrefutable truth is often difficult to pin down in such matters, but the 55-year-old “Sweet Pea,” who died after being struck by a car on July 14, went to his grave believing he had been cheated out of a deserved triumph that would have further embellished his Hall of Fame legacy.

Given its historical implications, what is arguably the grassy knoll of boxing remains the Sept. 21, 1985, pairing of long-reigning heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and undisputed light heavyweight titlist Michael Spinks, who was attempting to become the first (or maybe not) 175-pound champ to move up in weight and capture his sport’s most prestigious and lucrative prize.

Spinks – who came away with a razor-thin and controversial 15-round split decision — was bidding to do something no other light heavyweight had ever done, although there are those who cite Tommy Burns, who outpointed heavyweight champ Marvin Hart over 20 rounds on Feb. 23, 2006, as the first 175-pound titlist to accomplish the feat. In any case, since Burns, 13 light heavyweight champs had tried and failed in their bids to become king of the heavyweights, a list that included such ring legends as Billy Conn, Archie Moore and Bob Foster.

Given the fact that the 35-year-old Holmes was making his 20th title defense and was widely considered as one of the best heavyweight champions of all time, he was installed as a prohibitive favorite over Spinks, who was not only bucking tradition but the perceived limits of his own body. Even respected Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray, noting that Spinks had weighed in at 199¾ pounds – heavier than such legendary heavyweight champions as and Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano ever did for title bouts – went a bit overboard in writing that the challenger looked “like a blowfish” and that his weight gain was accelerated by a 4,500-calorie-a-day diet that might be “all right for a guy getting ready to play Henry the Eighth.”

But Spinks’ bulking-up process was not the result of having scarfed down a bunch of French fries, chocolate milkshakes and doughnuts, but rather the calculated machinations of New Orleans-based fitness coach and nutritionist Mackie Shilstone, whose then-unorthodox methods would soon gain wider acceptance but then were seen by the boxing establishment as, well, somewhat bizarre.

“We have a scientific, unique program that is secret – a program that was developed specifically for Michael, using techniques that would be revolutionary for boxing,” Shilstone said to the bemusement of hidebound traditionalists.

Spinks, whose walking-around weight between light heavyweight matches was usually 10 pounds or so above the division limit, said he was already familiar working with Shilstone – to shed unwanted pounds.

“Mackie had already helped me lose weight to get down to light heavyweight,” Spinks said when contacted for this story. “He told me that if I wanted to fight Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship, he could help me put the weight on the right way. And that’s what he did. He also said he wouldn’t take anything from what I already had, in terms of what I did well as a light heavyweight, that I still would be able to do all that as a heavyweight. He was right, too. I was as fast as a heavyweight as I was as a light heavyweight.”

Unlike Conn, Moore, Foster and other light heavyweight champs who made no secret of their ambition to storm and conquer the heavyweight division, Michael admits to initially lacking the burning desire to replicate the feat of his older brother and fellow 1976 Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks, who dethroned WBC/WBA heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali via 15-round split decision in a monumental upset on Feb. 15, 1978. Leon had always been naturally larger than Michael, never weighing less than 194 pounds for any of his first 23 outings as a pro. The mere notion of moving up to heavyweight seemed unlikely and more than a bit risky to Michael, who figured he would continue to do what he’d already been doing, which was to dominate all comers at light heavy.

It was Butch Lewis, who promoted both Spinks brothers, who determined that Michael going to heavyweight was not only doable, but highly advisable financially.

“Butch told me I could fight Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship,” the younger Spinks recalled. “I was, like, `What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, and you can beat him.’ I said, `You really think so?’ And he said, `Absolutely.’

“Butch (who was 65 when he died of a heart attack on July 23, 2011) had faith in me, so I took that and ran with it.”

Maybe what bottom-line Butch had was absolute faith in the economic realities of boxing, which always hold that heavyweight champions are vastly better-compensated than their light heavyweight counterparts. Consider these numbers: Michael Spinks’ purse for his final light heavyweight defense, an eighth-round stoppage of Jim MacDonald on June 6, 1985, was a relatively paltry $100,000, a pittance compared to the $1.1 million contract he signed to challenge Holmes.

Say what you will about the flamboyant Lewis, who was noted for wearing a tuxedo and bow tie but no shirt on fight night, but his steering of Michael Spinks’ career was a case study on how to milk the system for every available dollar. It was Lewis who made the bold call, after Spinks had followed up his stunner over Holmes by outpointing the “Easton Assassin” on another close and controversial call, a 15-round split decision in the rematch seven months later, to hold Spinks out of the heavyweight unification tournament being put together by HBO Sports president Seth Abraham and promoter Don King. In doing so Spinks passed on a potential $5 million payday against eventual tourney winner Mike Tyson, but he was paid about the same amount to defeat the formidable Gerry Cooney, putting into motion a series of events that led to his June 27, 1988, megafight with Tyson in Atlantic City. OK, so Spinks didn’t make it through the first round, but he received a career-high $13.2 million for what proved to be his final fight and only professional loss, a pretty nice parting gift when you get right down to it.

Holmes had his own potential date with destiny in that first clash with Michael Spinks. Were he to win, it would be his 49th consecutive victory without a loss, matching the record set by Marciano – ironically, against Archie Moore and, even more ironically, 30 years to the day after The Rock knocked out the Ol’ Mongoose in the ninth round in what turned out to be his final fight.

In the lead-up to the fight at The Riviera in Las Vegas, for which members of the Marciano family were invited guests, Holmes seemed to chafe at constantly being compared to a beloved fighter who had died in a crash of a small private plane on Aug. 31, 1969. “I’m not fighting Marciano,” Holmes complained. “He’s dead. I never knew him. I’m fighting for Larry Holmes, for me, for what I can do for my family.”

To Holmes, who was no stranger to the seven-figure club and who was down for a $3 million purse, there was a racial component to the constant comparisons to Marciano, who was white, much in the same manner that black baseball great Hank Aaron was the target of unfair and sometimes cruel criticism as he neared the sacrosanct record of 714 career home runs set by Babe Ruth. When Aaron passed Ruth by homering for the 715th time on April 8, 1974, the feat was celebrated by many Americans and baseball fans in general, but not by everyone.

Members of the Marciano family, who ostensibly had been summoned to congratulate Holmes in the event of his making it to 49-0, celebrated when the close decision for Spinks – by margins of 143-142 (twice) and 145-142 – was announced. That did not set well with Holmes, who felt such a display was disrespectful to him and, additionally, was the wrong call historically as long-reigning champions such as himself usually got the benefit of the doubt in close fights.

“I was robbed,” Holmes, in announcing one of his several retirements from boxing that didn’t stick, said at the postfight press conference, suggesting that alleged conspirators in influential places who finally had brought him down can “kiss me where the sun never shines,” which meant “my big black behind.”

Nor was Holmes any more disposed to be gracious to Peter Marciano, Rocky’s younger brother and the foremost keeper of the “Brockton Blockbuster’s” eternal flame. “You are freeloading off your dead brother,” Holmes told Peter, tossing in the zinger that “Rocky couldn’t carry my jockstrap.”

Months later, after the heat of the moment had long since cooled down, Holmes, in most instances a respectful and thoroughly decent man, offered a public apology to anyone he might have offended with his earlier intemperate remarks.

“I’m sorry for what I said, for the way things came out,” Holmes told a Boston reporter. “I don’t want to take anything away from Peter or the Marciano family. I haven’t slept for two months thinking about this.

“I’ve reached out to Peter Marciano. I’d like to get together with him, either in his town or mine (Easton, Pa.). There must be something that can be done to make this right.

“I have no hard feelings against Rocky Marciano. He was one of the greatest fighters of all time. His 49-0 record speaks for itself. If I hurt Marciano’s family, I regret it.”

What Holmes did not back away from, not then and not now, is his belief that he deserved to win both of his fights with Michael Spinks, with the first loss a thinly veiled and successful attempt to keep him from sidling up alongside the sainted Marciano.

“There was no doubt about it,” he said of a decision he still regards as a cold slap in the face. “I knew what they were going to do to me. I knew if I didn’t knock him out, I wasn’t going to get the decision.” Nor is he alone in that contention, just as there are Spinks partisans who are just as insistent that the judges got it right.

Asked if he thought then, or does now, that he did not receive all the credit he was due from Holmes and his other persistent proponents of the conspiracy theory that refuses to die, Spinks said it shouldn’t matter at this point. The record book indicates he won, so that should be that.

“It was a close fight, but I did think I won,” he reiterated. “There’s no animosity between me and Larry. We get along. He’s not really sore about it anymore. At one of his golf tournaments that I attended, he took the microphone and said something about how he’d lost to me, but that wasn’t all bad because he made so much money for losing.”

What Holmes wants to make clear more than anything is that he wants to forever bury any hint that race is or should still be a part of the discussion. He said there was too much of that in the past, and still too much now. He pointed out that Gerry Cooney, the white guy against whom his high-visibility fight was neatly divided into opposing racial camps, as well as Spinks have been regular participants in his charity golf tournament.

“Half of my family is white,” Holmes pointed out. “I’m not a racist. I don’t have anything against white folks or anybody else. My son is getting ready to be married in a couple of weeks to a white girl. My daughter is married to a white guy.

“I didn’t really care about racial s— then, and to this day I don’t care about it. Gerry Cooney is my friend. Now, I didn’t like the decisions in my fights with Michael Spinks, but you can’t dwell on that. You got to move past that.”

Which might be one man’s way of saying that any lingering ghosts on that figurative grassy knoll overlooking a boxing ring where a fight took place 34 years ago should finally be allowed to just fade away.

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The Hauser Report: Fight Notes on Mexican Independence Day Weekend

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing is accustomed to having a major fight in Las Vegas as the centerpiece of Mexican Independence Day Weekend. This year, Canelo Alvarez was penciled in as the star attraction. But Canelo and his presumed challenger, Gennady Golovkin, couldn’t come to terms, and boxing’s PPV-streaming-video king decided that he would enter the ring next against Sergey Kovalev on November 2. That left a holiday void to fill and three separate promotions vying to fill it.

The action began on Friday, September 13, at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Three bouts were billed as featured attractions on a Matchroom USA card streamed on DAZN.

First up, as expected, Michael Hunter (17-1, 12 KOs) outslicked Sergey Kuzmin (15-0, 11 KOs). Kuzman had an extensive amateur background in the Russian amateur system but is a one-dimensional fighter. For most of the fight, he plodded forward while Hunter potshotted him at will in what looked like a spirited sparring session en route to a 117-110, 117-110, 117-110 triumph.

Next, Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs), who has won belts in weight classes ranging from 118 to 135 pounds, challenged WBO 126-pound beltholder Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs). It was expected to be an ugly beatdown with Hardy on the receiving end. The only open issue for most fight fans was how long Heather would last.

Hardy only knows one way to fight. Moving forward, which she has been able to do in the past against stationary opponents who had less of a punch that she did. All of her previous fights had been made for her to win. Questionable hometown judging carried her across the finish line on several occasions when it appeared as though she had fallen short.

At the final pre-fight press conference for Hardy-Serrano, Heather proclaimed, “I’m the toughest girl I know.”

But tough alone doesn’t win fights. Against Serrano, Hardy took a pounding in a lopsided first round that two of the judges correctly scored 10-8 in Amanda’s favor. Round two was more of the same. Serrano was the more skilled, faster, stronger fighter and a sharper puncher. Heather hung tough. But she was hanging from a thread.

Over the next eight rounds, Hardy showed courage and heart. For the first time in her career, she was in the ring against an opponent who hadn’t been chosen because it was presumed that Heather would beat her. She survived and legitimately won a few rounds against Serrano in the process.

The final scorecards were 98-91, 98-91, 98-92 in Serrano’s favor. Each woman received an $80,000 purse. Hardy earned every penny of it. And she earned respect for her effort in a way that none of the “W”s on her ring record had brought her.

The main event showcased lightweight Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) against Zaur Abdulaev (11-0, 7 KOs). Haney is 20 years young and a hot prospect. Abdulaev, age 25, is a solid fighter but in a different league than Haney.

Devin entered the ring as a 20-to-1 favorite. At this point in his career, he appears to be the whole package with speed, power, explosiveness, and good ring skills. Physically and mentally, he’s mature beyond his years as a fighter but still has the enthusiasm of youth. Over the course of four rounds, he gave Abdullaev nothing to work with, broke the Russian down, and fractured Zaur’s cheekbone. Abdullaev’s corner called a halt to the proceedings after the fourth stanza.

Haney has The Look that fighters like Shane Mosley and Roy Jones Jr. had when they were young. He and boxing are in their honeymoon years. As for the immediate future; Devin has been calling out Vasyl Lomachenko. But given the different promotional entities and networks involved, the chances of that fight happening anytime soon are nil.

Twenty years ago, fight fans could have looked forward to Haney being meaningfully challenged at each level as he moved forward in an attempt to prove how good he is. In today’s fragmented boxing world, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

On Saturday, the scene shifted to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, for another DAZN telecast. This one was promoted by Golden Boy and was supposed to showcase 21-year-old lightweight Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs), who’s being marketed as a heartthrob who can fight, against light-punching Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs). That match evaporated one day before its scheduled date when Sparrow was arrested and taken into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant issued after he allegedly brandished a handgun in a domestic dispute this past April.

The main event wasn’t much of a contest either with Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs) defending his WBO 154-pound belt against Patrick Allotey (40-3, 30 KOs) of Ghana.

Munguia had nice wins last year against Sadam Ali and Liam Smith. Then, five months ago, he was undressed by Dennis Hogan (although the judges in Monterrey, Mexico, found a way to give Jaime a dubious home country majority decision). Allotey’s record looked good until one checked the quality of his opponents on BoxRec.com. Munguia was a 30-to-1 favorite.

When the fight began, Allotey seemed most comfortable on his bicycle and decidedly uncomfortable when he was getting hit by the hooks that Munguia pounded repeatedly into his body. Two minutes into round three, one of those hooks put him on the canvas. A combination dropped him for the second time just before the bell. Patrick seemed disinclined to come out of his corner for round four but was nudged back into the conflict. Two minutes later, he took a knee after another hook to the body and his corner stopped the bout.

The third significant fight card of Mexican Independence Day weekend was the biggest of the three. Promoted by Top Rank and streamed on ESPN+, it featured Tyson Fury vs. Otto Wallin at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Like the other two shows, this one disappointed at the gate. The Hulu Theater had been reconfigured on Friday night so the rear sections were curtained off. There were more empty seats than seats with people in them at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday.

When Fury fought Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 15, Top Rank had announced a crowd of 9,012. But according to final receipts submitted to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, only 5,489 tickets were sold for that event with another 1,187 complimentary tickets being given away. The announced attendance for Fury-Wallin was 8,249. T-Mobile arena seats 20,000 for boxing.

ESPN+’s featured three-fight stream didn’t begin until 11:00 PM eastern time. Jose Zepeda (30-2, 25 KOs, 1 KO by) won a 97-93, 97-93, 97-93 decision over former beltholder Jose Pedraza (26-2, 13 KOs, 1 KO by). Then WBO 122-pound titlist Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) cruised to a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs). That set the stage for Fury-Wallin.

There are plenty of “world heavyweight championship” belts to go around these days. Claimants during the past four years have included Manuel Charr, Joseph Parker, Ruslan Chagaev, Lucas Browne, Charles Martin, and Bermane Stiverne. Fury (who entered the ring with a 28-0, 20 KOs record) is currently being marketed as the “lineal” heavyweight champion and can trace his lineal roots all the way back to Wladimir Klitschko (which falls short of going back to John L. Sullivan). The best things said about Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) during fight week were that he was probably better than Tom Schwarz (Fury’s most recent opponent) and that, as noted by Keith Idec of Boxing Scene, Wallin was “perfectly polite” during the fight-week festivities.

Bob Arum, who shares a promotional interest in Fury with Frank Warren, praised Fury as the second coming of The Greatest and advised the media, “People are seeing things that they haven’t seen since Muhammad Ali. You’re seeing a great fighter who can connect to the people and he’s a real showman.”

Fury (born, raised, and still living in the United Kingdom) got into the spirit of things and proclaimed, “I am going to change my name for the weekend to El Rey Gitano [which translates from Spanish to English as “The Gypsy King”]. And he further declared, “Isn’t it a great thing that a total outsider is showing so much love, passion, and respect for the Mexican people. At the minute, they are being oppressed by the people here [in the United States]. Building a wall, chucking ‘em all out, and treating them terrible. I don’t know what is going on, but it is nice to see a total stranger, heavyweight champion of the world, coming here and respecting people and paying homage to their beliefs and special days. I’ve got the Mexican shorts, the Mexican gloves, the Mexican mask, the Mexican music, the Mexican flag. I have Mexicans as part of my training team. There is a lot of honor and respect in fighting on this date.”

That elicited a response from WBA-IBF-WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz, who declared on social media, “Tyson Fury’s talking sh**. He’s representing Mexico – he’s not even Mexican, what kind of sh** is that? A British f***in, he ain’t even Mexican, wearing the f***ing Mexican flag, messed up man. Stay in your lane.”

Meanwhile, with no existing World Boxing Council title at stake, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman stepped in and announced that Fury-Wallin would be contested for a special “Mayan belt” that was also offered to the winner of Munguia-Allotey. Maybe someday boxing will have interim Mayan belts and Mayan belts in recess as well.

Fury was a 25-to-1 betting favorite. For two rounds, everything went according to plan. Then, in round three, a looping left by Wallin opened a horrible, deep gash along Tyson’s right eyebrow. The cut gave the fight high drama. There was a real chance that it would worsen to the point where there was no alternative to stopping the bout. Despite the efforts of cutman Jorge Capetillo, blood streamed from the wound for the rest of the fight.

Knowing that he was in danger, Fury abandoned what he likes to think of as finesse boxing and began to brawl, coming forward and trying to impose his 6-foot-9-inch, 254-pound bulk on his opponent. By round eight, Wallin was exhausted. Tyson was teeing off from a distance and, when he came inside, bullying Otto around.

Wallin fought as well as he could. But he was being pounded around the ring and getting beaten down. Then, remarkably, 38 seconds into round twelve, he whacked Fury with a good left hand and, suddenly – if only temporarily – Tyson was holding on.

The final scorecards read 118-110, 117-111, 116-112 in Fury’s favor.

“I was happy that he was cut,” Wallin said afterward. “But I wish I could of capitalized a little more on it.”

And a final thought . . . When there are three heavyweight “world champions” (which is what boxing has now), there is no heavyweight champion at all.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – A Dangerous Journey; Another Year Inside Boxing– will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank (note Fury’s jumbo-sized sombrero)

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Mexico’s Jaime Munguia KOs Allotey and Franchon Crews Unifies

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Mexico’s Jaime Munguia walked into the warm and humid outdoor arena like a conquering hero and walked out the same way after knocking out Patrick Allotey to retain the WBO super welterweight title on Saturday.

The large, mostly Mexican, Independence weekend crowd was ecstatic.

Munguia (34-0, 27 KOs) showed the more than 7,000 fans at Dignity Health Sports Park that he learned a few things from his new trainer and that was a bad thing for Ghana’s Allotey (40-4, 30 KOs). The tall Tijuana fighter seemed calm and focused in this possible last defense of his super welterweight title.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll have to meet with my team to decide,” said Munguia about evacuating the weight division to move up to middleweight.

Allotey probably wishes Munguia left yesterday.

For a short while, Allotey used movement and pot shots to catch the aggressive Mexican fighter during the first two rounds. Both landed blows but not enough to quench the thirst of the pro-Mexican crowd there to see a knockout.

Things turned around quickly in the third round as Munguia, who is now trained by former Mexican great Erik Morales, began catching up to Allotey, in particular with bludgeoning body shots. A three punch Munguia combination dropped the Ghanaian for the count. He got up and was met with a blistering five-punch combination, including one that sent him across the ring for another knockdown. Allotey beat the count near the end of the round.

The fight could have ended in the previous round but it was allowed to continue. A left hook to the body of Allotey sent him to the floor after a delayed reaction. The Ghanaian’s corner asked the referee Jack Reiss to halt the fight at 2:18 of round four, giving the knockout win to Munguia.

Cheers erupted from the large Mexican crowd.

“Step by step, I’ve learned a lot from all the fighters that I’ve fought before,” said Munguia who lives in Tijuana. “This is Mexican Independence Day and I feel really good and I’m ready to go further for more.”

Franchon Crews   

Franchon Crews Dezurn (6-1) won by unanimous decision but this time it was a more impressive Maricela Cornejo (13-4, 5 KOs) who showed up in the sudden rematch that was put together in two days. Impressive or not, Crews walked away with both the WBC and WBO super middleweight world titles.

Both women warriors exchanged thunderous blows that bounced off each other to the delight of the crowd, but neither would go down. By the middle rounds, Cornejo slowed visibly but still had enough to stay in the fight competitively. It was a much better performance than their first clash a year ago in Las Vegas that saw Crews win the WBC title by decision.

Once Cornejo slowed, Crews slowed her pace too but had more energy and was able to use her jab and combinations. Toward the last few rounds there was a lot of holding but both connected with solid blows until the end.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 98-92 and a third 97-93 for Crews.

It was a remarkable performance by both fighters who were not originally scheduled to meet. But when the original Mexican opponent Alejandra Jimenez was unable to obtain a visa, Golden Boy Promotions asked Cornejo and she gladly obliged just two days ago.

“I got out here thinking I was going to fight one person, a person who had been bullying me on the internet. Alejandra Jimenez, if you want this one, you can come get it too. I’m not here for a good time, I’m here for a long time. This is the land of the warriors, not the posers, not the models,” said Crews. “I want to be respected just like the men are respected. I’m going to step up to the plate and take the challenges. I don’t go into any match thinking I’m entitled to anything.”

Duno

Romero Duno (21-1, 16 KOs) underwent some minor drama before even stepping into the ring, but it didn’t stop him from winning by knockout against Los Angeles tough guy Ivan Delgado (13-3-2, 6 KOs) in their on and off and on again lightweight fight.

When sizzling prospect Ryan Garcia’s opponent Avery Sparrow was arrested and unable to fight, it was suggested that Duno should be Sparrow’s replacement. That didn’t go well with Garcia’s team and was abruptly shot down. The Duno-Delgado fight then went back on the drawing board, as originally planned, but Delgado came in more than four pounds overweight.

It didn’t matter.

Duno battered Delgado in the first round but the local fighter managed to use his experience to fend off further damage by the heavy-handed Filipino. After that it was a game of cat and mouse. Through most of the fight, Duno landed more blows but Delgado used some slick counters to score and keep the strong puncher from landing the killer blow. Still it wasn’t enough, and at the end of the seventh round the corner decided to end the fight, giving Duno the win by knockout.

“I was just doing my job,” said Duno. “I know Delgado is a tough fighter.”

Regarding Ryan Garcia, “I know Ryan Garcia wants to fight me. He’s a top boxer.”

Other Bouts

Joselito Velasquez (11-0, 9 KOs) knocked out fellow Mexican Francisco Bonilla (6-7-3, 3 KOs) in a battle between North and South Mexican flyweights. Velasquez floored Bonilla in the second round when he beat Bonilla to the punch with a left hook. Finally, in the fourth round during a Bonilla rally, Velasquez connected with a left-right combination the sent the Chihuahua fighter to the floor. Referee Sharon Sand immediately waved the fight over at 2:54 of the fourth round.

A battle between undefeated super middleweights saw the very tall Diego Pacheco (6-0, 5 KOs) win by knockout over Oakland’s Terry Fernandez (3-1, 3 KOs). Pacheco used his size to keep Fernandez at bay then pummeled him with long rang rights and shots to the body. At the end of the second round, Pacheco battered Fernandez with 18 consecutive blows from one corner to the other. In the third round, Pacheco connected with a three-punch combination that snapped back Fernandez’s head violently and though he did not go down, the referee Eddie Hernandez wisely stopped the fight at 41 seconds of the third round.

Rafael Gramajo (11-2-2, 3 KOs) won by knockout over Daniel Olea (13-9-2) at the end of the fourth round when he could not continue in their lightweight contest.

Alejandro Reyes (1-0) won his pro debut by knockout over Mexico’s Jorge Padron (3-5, 3 KOs) with a left hook to the body at 1:55 of the second round of a lightweight match. New referee J Guillermo counted out Sonora’s Padron.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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