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Malignaggi and Jacobs Count Down To Aug. 1 Fights in Brooklyn

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You still see some elements of old-style NYC when you’re in the Village, as you walk the streets, as the summertime waft of settled garbage assaults your nostrils, but can’t defeat the pleasant aura brought about by the shining of the sun and the sight of the ladies in their summer dresses flouncing down the sidewalk.

You’ll see a snatch of graffiti, or a moldy but intriguing vintage shop, with a poster of Fat Elvis, looking bloated but sexy, still, in the smudged window.

But the signs of new New York are more prevalent as I walk to Via Della Pace, a cozy Italian eatery in the East Village, to meet and greet and question two of the guys topping the Aug. 1 boxing card at Barclays Center, because I see swankier shops, and folks in better brands of clothes and fewer nodded off eyelids attached to zombified junkies as you might have seen decades ago.

New New York…and the same goes for boxing…things change.

Barclays Center has become home to more bouts, more big cards, as disruptor in chief Al Haymon seeks to re-brand the sport. Brooklyn is a buzzy borough, and it figures that he siphons some of that buzz which can attach to his fights, such as the Danny Garcia-Paul Malignaggi tangle which will unfold the first week of August.

Barclays boss Brett Yormark, tucking into a grilled chicken salad with balsalmic dressing, and tossing back an espresso, was there, along with Malignaggi, who still has fighter/analyst on his business card. At 34 he is seeking to prove he’s still got fight left in him, that his fists are his primary weapon, that his mouth is still a secondary threat. Also in attendance was middleweight titlist Danny Jacobs, ever amiable, unfailingly polite while being asked about when he might step up to fight Gennady Golovkin, though he has a stern test, in Sergio Mora, staring at him Aug. 1. The promoter of the event, Brooklyn’s Lou DiBella, was making the rounds, also repping some old and new vibes. He was on the outside looking in when Golden Boy, the old Golden Boy, snagged a deal to be the sole promoter to stage shows at Barclays, back in 2012, and he let loose with his distaste for the move in the press back then. But on Wednesday, he spoke warmly of Yormark, who he declared to be a vibrant pusher of boxing product, a committed proponent of holding a marquee card a month at his building. They are working well together, he reported.

Malignaggi, but of course, did what he does second best, talk, and he told us he’s dialed in, in training, feeling good, and confident that he can beat Garcia, in the Philly fighters’ first fight at 147. The Brooklyner told us that he is feeling good weight-wise, because he has enlisted Memo Heredia to aid in supplement advice, as well as what and when to eat. Yep, he’s 34, and he admits that part gets harder as you get older. “I feel good, I feel really good right now. We had back to back camps and we’re working really smart, more so than working hard,” he told me. He had a show set May 23, but got cut and that got scratched. A better opp presented itself, as Danny O’Connor got replaced by Danny Garcia.

“Yeah, I’m with Memo…he’s actually going to come in this weekend,” he told me. Memo was in his corner working to that May date, he said, and he’s been taking the supplements Memo has advised him to. Basically, he thinks the taking of the supplements is mostly mental, unless you’re cheating, but he’s open to listening. Paulie said he’s doing testing, via USADA, and so he’s fine with having Heredia, who has a controversial past, in the fold. “He’s an intelligent guy, I think he gets a bad rep, because of certain past things,” but he thinks Memo is on the up and up, and he’s enjoyed the advice he gets on weigh loss. He said he wonders why Heredia gets more scrutiny than, say, Victor Conte, being that have cloudy pasts.

The boxer said he’s not willing to go all in, and over-tweak his regimen. He’s brought himself to this dance and his way will be the highway he travels all the way in this journey, he said.

Jacobs took questions about his tangle with Mora, the slick, smart Cali boxer. Jacobs said that Mora is a tough out, intelligent, crafty, “a tough test for anyone.”

The hitter said that he was happy with his last outing a TKO12W over Caleb Truax, and gave himself a B plus. This time, we could see something different, which I take to mean maybe he’s going to look to set down a bit more, look to land nastier, earlier. Jacobs didn’t want to give much in the way of hints, though…

If he does get past Mora, it’s feeling like a showdown with fellow New Yorker Peter Quillin could be in the cards for the fall. That seems a natural fit for Barclays, eh..

Readers, your thoughts on both those matchups, please. Weigh in, in our Forum!

Here is the release which went out, with quotes:

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PAULIE MALIGNAGGI & DANIEL JACOBS DISCUSS THEIR UPCOMING SATURDAY, AUGUST 1 FIGHTS LIVE ON PBC ON ESPN FROM 

BARCLAYS CENTER IN BROOKLYN

 

BROOKLYN (July 8, 2015) – Former two-division world champion Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi, middleweight world champion Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs, President of DiBella Entertainment Lou DiBella and CEO of Barclays Center Brett Yormark took time today to discuss the upcoming Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN fights taking place Saturday, August 1 at Barclays Center.

Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KOs) will face undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs)in the headlining event on ESPN.

Jacobs (29-1, 26 KOs) will defend his title against former world champion Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora (28-3-2, 9 KOs) in the televised opener on ESPN beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, are priced at $250, $150, $75 and $45, not including applicable service charges and taxes, and are on sale now. Tickets are available at www.barclayscenter.comwww.ticketmaster.com and at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. To charge by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. For group tickets, please call 800-GROUP-BK.

For more information visit www.premierboxingchampions.comwww.barclayscenter.comand www.dbe1.com. Follow on Twitter @PremierBoxing, @DannySwift, @PaulMalignaggi, @LouDiBella, @ESPNBoxing, @BarclaysCenter and @Swanson_Comm and become a fan on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/PremierBoxingChampionswww.facebook.com/fanpagedannyswiftgarciawww.facebook.com/PaulMalignaggiwww.facebook.com/barclayscenterand www.facebook.com/ESPN. Follow the conversation using #PBConESPN and #BrooklynBoxing.

PAULIE MALIGNAGGI

“I feel good, really good right now. This has been one of the best camps I have ever had in my career. We have not only been working really hard, but also really smart. I am coming off back-to-back camps and I truly feel great.

“We have some tricks up our sleeves for this fight. I am very happy with that way I am looking and feeling. Everyday I am going in there and just putting in the work. I’m not overthinking this fight, I’m just putting in that work at the gym, and with the way I feel and look, I’m very confident. I have a strong self-belief. I truly believe in myself and my abilities. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

“I want to live and die by my own decisions, and that is how I have structured this camp. I am listening to my body and listening to myself. We are working on different things in both my boxing training and my strength and conditioning.

“I have seen strengths and weaknesses all over Danny [Garcia]. When I watch a fight, I see it a lot deeper than most people.  So when I watch Danny, I see a lot of different things. I don’t want to get too much into it, but there are definitely things we have seen that we are working on specifically in this camp to implement and capitalize on August 1st.

“Barclays Center in my home. Fighting here gives me that extra motivation. Fighting at Barclays, in front of all my friends and family, it just doesn’t get better than that.”

DANIEL JACOBS

“This is a great camp and we are ready to put on a great show come August 1st.  I feel comfortable as a champion. Don’t get me wrong, when I first won my title it was totally surreal, but I always felt like a champion deep down inside. There is something that burns inside of me that has allowed me to overcome every obstacle in my life, and to me, that’s what makes a champion.

“I love being a part of PBC. There is no doubt in my mind that my popularity has grown since my first appearance on a PBC card. We are reaching a much younger and different crowd and demographic than before, and it is just great for the sport of boxing.

“This is a tough fight. Mora is a proven guy and I know he is very hungry for this opportunity. He is awkward and he is slick. He has good speed and a good jab. We have to be cautious and stick to our game plan. People are saying that this could be the toughest fight of my career and we are training with that mindset.

“With a win in this fight, I truly believe that the sky is the limit. There are a lot of big fights out there to be made in the division, but obviously, the main guy for me would be Peter Quillin. It is a fight that I have wanted for a long time, and it is a huge fight for boxing, but especially for New York.

“My legacy is in my own hands. Some of the biggest fights in the sport are in the middleweight division right now. At this particular point though, the Quillin fight is the most lucrative option for me. I am not looking past any man, especially not Sergio Mora, but that is a fight I want, the boxing world wants, New York wants and Barclays Center wants.”

LOU DIBELLA

“In addition to these two great fights, we are proud to announce that we have added Brooklyn’s own undefeated heavyweight prospect Adam Kownacki (10-0, 9KO’s) to the card, as well as one of the top prospects in the game right now, The Brooklyn Rocky, Frank Galarza (17-0-2, 11KO’s). We are also excited to announce the addition of highly regarded up-and-coming Puerto Rican prospect Prichard Colon (14-0, 11KO’s), who will be great additions to the undercard, which already features undefeated female star Heather “The Heat” Hardy, and a clash of undefeated light heavyweight prospects, Brooklyn’s Travis Peterkin (15-0, 7KO’s) against Olympian Lenin Castillo (12-0, 7KO’s).

“It’s an honor for me to be promoting another card at Barclays Center, which in my eyes has become the preeminent venue for boxing and music in the entire country. It is a great pleasure for me to work with Brett and everyone on his team. They are the best in the game.

“The public is going to have a real opportunity to see two very good, competitive fights. Look, this (Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi) is a very tough fight. Danny has looked a bit vulnerable in his past few fights, and he is moving up in weight to fight a real deal welterweight. Say what you want about Paulie, but you cannot question his heart or desire to win. Paulie is comfortable with being an underdog, he has been an underdog his whole life. With Paulie, you know you will never get anything less than 110 percent. Fourteen years ago yesterday he made his pro-debut on one of my cards, and I am proud of that fact. It is truly an honor for me to be promoting his fight against Danny Garcia on August 1st.

“The co-feature match-up is a very intriguing fight. You have two of the best middleweights in the world in Danny Jacobs and Sergio Mora. Just like the main event, this is a very tough fight. Sergio is extremely hungry. He has been waiting for this shot for years. Danny’s story is just remarkable. How hard he has worked to get here, and win a world championship is just extraordinary. He is a champion both inside and outside of the ring, and it’s truly an honor to be working with him. That is the great thing about promoting these PBC events. I have the opportunity to work with and promote some of the greatest and most talented fighters in the sport, in exciting and competitive fights.”

BRETT YORMARK

“All of us at Barclays Center are very excited for this August 1st card. This is a great platform for us and the building promoting yet another wonderful PBC event. I am personally excited for the event. Paulie and Danny are like family to me and I am truly honored to have them in our building. Our goal is to be the premier venue in all of boxing and we are actively making a push for that, with our third major PBC card at our venue this year.

“Boxing is our third franchise, along with the Nets and Islanders, and we are proud of the events we have been able to be involved with and have in our beautiful venue. I love working with Lou and his team, there is no better promoter in the country and we are looking forward to another great event on August 1st on ESPN.”

 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

Last Thursday, a Golden Boy Promotions card in California produced an early entrant for Upset of the Year. In the main event, unsung Jesus “Ricky” Perez out-pointed former U.S. Olympian and former two-division title-holder Joseph “Jojo” Diaz.

Perez hails from Tijuana. Heading in, he had lost five of his last nine and had never won a match slated for more than eight rounds. He started fast and held on to win a split nod (ancient ringside judge Lou Moret awarded Perez nine of the 10 rounds).

The fast-growing, hardscrabble city of Tijuana, which sits at the northwest tip of the Baja peninsula, has produced a steady stream of good boxers over the years (Erik Morales, a Hall of Famer, and Antonio Margarito, a two-time world welterweight champion, come quickly to mind), but is currently enjoying arguably the best run in the city’s boxing history. And the distaff side is sharing in the prosperity. Flyweight Kenia Enriquez (28-1, 11 KOs) and her younger sister Tania Rodriguez (21-1, 10 KOs), a light flyweight, are knocking on the door of world title fights (Kenia holds an interim belt).

Last December, when pundits at the leading U.S. boxing websites brainstormed to come up with the 2023 Fight of the Year, two bouts stood out above all others: the Feb. 18 match between super bantamweights Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan and the June 10 super middleweight contest between Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

The Nery-Hovhannisyan match was a riveting, see-saw rumble that ended with Nery winning by TKO in the 11th round. Munguia scored a knockdown in the 12th to overcome Derevyanchenko, eking out a razor-thin but unanimous decision. Both victors have since added another “W” to their respective ledgers. Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) KOed Filipino veteran Froilan Saludar. Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dominated and stopped England’s John Ryder.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Luis Nery and Jaime Munguia were both born and raised in Tijuana. And we will be hearing a lot more about them. Although unofficial, Nery has an agreement in place to fight superstar Naoya Inoue in Tokyo in May and, according to various reports, Munguia is now the frontrunner to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

The month after Munguia-Derevyanchenko, Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (pictured) scored his signature win and won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title with an upset of the great Filipino fighter Nonito Donaire. Santiago won a clear-cut decision on the card topped by the mega-fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) has a formidable challenge for his first title defense which comes on Saturday in Tokyo. In the opposite corner will be undefeated Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) who is moving up in weight after winning world titles at 112 and 115. Nakatani can really crack as he showed with his brutal, one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

There are two other title fights on the card which will air in the U.S. on ESPN+. Needless to say, one will have to get out of bed early to catch all the action. The first bell is slated for 4 am ET, 1 pm PT.

Santiago will be a heavy underdog against his Japanese opponent who will have a 5-inch height advantage. However, if recent history is any guide, one should not be too quick to dismiss his chances.

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Who Murdered Peter Bufala? A ‘Whodunit’ with a Boxing Backdrop

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On Friday, Oct. 8, 1976, Peter Bufala returned home from work just as a new day was dawning. The Las Vegas baccarat dealer pulled his Cadillac into his circular driveway, exited his car, walked toward his front door, and was felled by two bullets from a 9 mm handgun, one entering his chest and the other his brain. A neighbor fetching his morning newspaper found him lying in a pool of blood on his front lawn. He was dead when the police arrived. He was 33 years old and left behind a wife and two young daughters.

A 12-year resident of the fast-growing southern Nevada gambling mecca, Bufala grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia. He had come here to rekindle his boxing career.

A Middle Atlantic amateur featherweight champion, he had begun his pro career on a high note, winning a 4-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at New York’s St. Nicholas Arena that included Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who would go on to fight for the world middleweight title but would be best remembered for the many years he spent behind prison walls for his alleged involvement in a triple homicide.

Following his New York engagement, Bufala fought in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. As a pro, he never fought in his home state and there was a reason for it. In 1961, while undergoing a routine medical examination at an amateur show, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Pennsylvania Boxing Commission rescinded his license. He subsequently underwent a series of tests at Temple University Medical Hospital and was given a clean bill of health, but the Pennsylvania authorities were unyielding and, bit by bit, in a day when news traveled slowly, other jurisdictions fell into line.

Nevada was the Wild West. The regulators there had looser standards and Bufala resumed his career on Sept. 2, 1964 at the Castaways, out-pointing his opponent in a 5-round match to improve his ledger to 7-3. The publicity man misspelled his name, adding an extra “f”, and he would remain Pete Buffala whenever his name appeared in the sports section of the local papers.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, approximately 165,000 people resided in all of sprawling Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The thought that Vegas would someday host a Formula 1 Grand Prix or a Super Bowl, two of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, was preposterous. The only local sport that ever made the national news wire was boxing.

The fulcrum was Bill Miller, a hot-headed boxing junkie from Elmira, New York, who owned a saloon on the Las Vegas Strip that he out-fitted with a boxing gym in the basement. Miller’s “Strip Fight of the Week,” which bounced from one little casino to another during a run that lasted well over a decade, bucked the national trend. Small fight clubs, with very few exceptions, had fallen by the wayside, a development triggered by the mass production of televisions.

Miller was hardly immune to all the little hassles that plague a grass-roots boxing promoter. Matches were constantly falling out. But he had several things working in his favor. As opportunities dried up elsewhere, journeymen boxers were drawn here by the promise of steady work. And although Miller couldn’t afford to pay enough to make boxing a full-time profession, good-paying jobs were plentiful in the construction and hospitality industries.

To be certain, there were also push factors. Chester, Pennsylvania, a shipbuilding hub during World War II, had fallen on hard times, plagued by unemployment and racial strife. Lowell, Massachusetts, a city known for its vibrant amateur boxing culture, was likewise hurting with row after row of textile factories sitting vacant. Lowell produced Eddie Andrews, a hard-hitting middleweight who would be the first fighter to make promoter Miller any significant money without having to take him on the road to a larger precinct or overseas.

Andrews supplemented his ring earnings dealing blackjack at Caesars Palace. For a time, Ralph Dupas was a co-worker. A former world title-holder at 154 pounds, Dupas settled in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s as his career was winding down and remained here until his encroaching dementia passed the tipping point and family members brought him home to his native New Orleans to live out his final days.

Returning to Peter Bufala, he worked his way up the ladder on Miller’s promotions, eventually topping the marquee for a fight with Johnny Brooks. They fought at the Hacienda, a grind joint at the south end of the Strip (where Mandalay Bay now sits) on April 13, 1965. Brooks was nothing special, but he was better than his 17-6-3 record. He would go on to last the distance in 10-round fights with future Hall of Famers Emile Griffith and Carlos Monzon.

Bufala was bloodied in the third round and knocked down in the fourth, but mounted a furious rally and at the end of the 10 rounds the judges could not pick a winner and the match went into the books as a draw. Working on the “5-point-must” system, the scores were 46-44 Bufala, 46-45 Brooks, and 46-46. (Trivia time: The 46-46 tally was turned in by ringside judge Harry Reid who would go on to become the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate. Nowadays, visitors flying in to Las Vegas arrive at Harry Reid International Airport.)

Had Bufala won the bout, his next fight would have been a 12-rounder against Reno’s Dave Patterson, the Nevada Lightweight Champion. But when he returned to the ring the following month, it was in a 6-rounder against an unsung fighter from Los Angeles named Davey White and, in a shocker, White blasted him out in the second round.

Bufala announced his retirement after this fight. It warranted scarcely a mention in the Las Vegas papers, but the folks back in Chester hadn’t forgotten him. “Pete Bufala Quits Boxing for Health,” read the bold headline on the sports page of the June 9, 1965 issue of the Delaware County Daily Times. The accompanying story said that Buffala, “Chester’s most promising professional fighter,” had emerged from his most recent bout with a blot clot in his neck and was troubled by chronic back problems. (Buffala would have one more fight before quitting the sport for good. He won his final fight, a 6-rounder, bringing his final record, per boxrec, to 16-5-2.)

Bufala never returned to Chester. He married a local girl and, in short order, was a father of three, two girls and a boy who tragically died at 16 months when he crawled into a plastic laundry bag and suffocated as his mother was distracted writing checks.

In December of 1973, the MGM Grand opened on the southeast corner of the busiest intersection on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the city’s original MGM Grand that would take the name Bally’s and was recently re-branded the Horseshoe. With 2,100 rooms, a 1,200-seat showroom and a jai alai fronton, the MGM Grand made its competitors look puny by comparison. Peter Bufala was there on opening night, dealing baccarat.

In terms of the money put at risk, baccarat is the crème-de-crème of card games. It attracts the whales, the high-rollers that leave the biggest tips. On a good night at a high-end establishment like the MGM Grand, it wasn’t uncommon for a dealer to rake in $500 in gratuities. Bufala worked the graveyard shift (likely 9 pm to 5 am; it varied by hotel), the most coveted shift for a dealer in a day when visitors to Las Vegas were more nocturnal than they are today.

One didn’t get to be a baccarat dealer in a ritzy joint by working his way up from the bottom. One had to know the right people. In the vernacular, one got juiced into the job. And the juicer might expect a kick-back.

One of the most influential people in Las Vegas was an outsider who tried to keep a low profile, Gaspare “Jasper” Speciale. A transplanted New York bookmaker, Speciale co-owned and managed the Tower of Pizza restaurant which sat a stone’s throw from the MGM Grand on the opposite side of the street. Speciale opened doors for dozens of people seeking employment in the hospitality industry. If one was new in town and needed work in a hurry, Jasper was the man to see.

Until the arrival in Las Vegas of the notorious Tony Spilotro, Speciale was the city’s premier private money lender. He would eventually serve four years in a federal prison for loan-sharking.

Whenever there was a murder in Las Vegas that had the earmarks of a mob hit, speculation always centered on Gaspare Speciale. It mattered not that he was active in his church and donated lavishly to local charities. Moreover, he had a warm spot in his heart for prizefighters. In the spacious backyard of his home, chockablock with mementos of his boyhood in New York City, there was a replica of Stillman’s Gym complete with a punching bag and rubbing tables.

Another theory, although one that acquired less currency, pointed the finger at Bufala’s father-in-law who was the beneficiary of Peter’s life insurance policy. The two were partners in a small sporting goods store where it was rumored that one could purchase an unregistered firearm.

On the day that Peter Bufala was assassinated, the story about it in the Las Vegas Sun, an afternoon paper, said that the former boxer had no bad habits – he didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or chase women — and that he was well-liked by everyone that knew him. But, said a police detective, “Someone wanted him dead and eventually we’re going to find out who that someone is and why.”

Forty-seven years after the fact, the who and the why remain as baffling as ever. If Peter Bufala were alive today, he would be 80 years old. This is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

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