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Klitschko – Fury: Mind Games, Round One




DUSSELDORF – “Some things are always the same at these press conferences, but some things are also always new,” said Wladimir Klitschko at some point during the extended conversation, some incendiary, between he and Tyson Fury at their initial media gathering.

That statement is quite true, and in this instance some of those new things cast a better illumination on what to expect from each personality as the Klitschko – Fury saga unfolds.

It seemed appropriate that the participants emphasized mental aspects of their contest, which appears to pit opposite personality types who may actually be of more similar philosophies than they generally present.

If mind games are the first meaningful engagement before a fight itself, then Klitschko’s heavyweight title defense on October 24th at ESPRIT Arena could be quite unique.

Unique, as in a slugging scenario in which the usually unflappable Klitschko faces serious problems. Klitschko was the usual epitome of class, but he seemed a little uptight, out of character.

Fury might have stung him with some eye-to-eye criticism, but that also seemed to fuel Klitschko’s ferocity in a dangerous way. By the final third of the nearly three-hour session, he eyed Fury like a shark.

Trying to evaluate fighters’ psyches as they attempt to get into each other’s head is often an exercise in folly, but if such psychological analysis could always be accurately determined before the first punches land it would sure help tell me which way to bet.

When they glanced calmly at each other arriving on the podium, Klitschko leaned over to shake hands and Fury responded with a polite smile, indicating a mellow demeanor. His team was very respectful to Klitschko and to their German hosts.

Until provoked, Fury’s comments were relatively mild. “I have to give credit to the older champion for taking on a challenge like myself. I’m just wondering, after I beat him, does his TV deal roll over to me?” pondered Fury, not so much tongue in cheek as money in bank.

An opening, super hi-def montage with multiple clips of Fury making derogatory remarks made Fury look bemused. Klitschko’s montage showed numerous prefight promises by previous opponents. In case anybody missed the point there were high slow motion replays of each challenger’s face getting rearranged.

It was the champion who shook matters up later, repeating passive-aggressive prods like, “Fury right now isn’t everything he shows, just portions. I hope it’s going to get more entertaining because I was a little disappointed. Is this it? He didn’t throw the table, or a microphone or maybe a shoe? We used to get flying shoes here (Shannon Briggs).”

Interesting that the European urban dictionary seems to define those press conference outbursts as “Amerikanisch”.

For his part, Klitschko offered biographical musings on a wide range of subjects. He is an aged vintage, Fury is a shot and a beer.

“It was always challenging to find the right key to beating my opponents, but it is also motivation to myself,” continued Klitschko reflectively, while Fury seemed to suppress a yawn. “He really means what he’s talking about and he’s definitely not coming here just to be present and be on the canvas.” Those words didn’t hide the unspoken dismissal of the challenger’s chances.

“The first time I heard about Tyson Fury was a running joke about a guy punching himself in the face,” said Klitschko as Fury began to look less cordial. “He sings, he dances, he’s a cool dude, so entertaining. Some people adore him and some say they can’t stand him.”

When Klitschko stated “I haven’t seen much (film) of his fights, only a little bit.” Fury growled, “He’s lying.”

Maybe we lost it in translation, but it sounded like Wlad almost took a swipe at beloved mentor Emanuel Steward, when Klitschko referenced Papa Kronk’s supposed prediction of fighters like Fury becoming champion someday.

Therein lies what we believe was the reason for Dr. Steelhammer’s more aggressive than usual stance at the press conference. It seemed like he felt a lack of respect from Fury, the media, maybe even the fans.

“Anybody can become champion quick, for one fight. It’s very tough to be champion for a long, long time,” said Klitschko, staring harshly.
“I think this is going to be the toughest fight of your life, I think it is not going to be simple for you. I also believe I am going to face one of my toughest opponents. Just your size and your stance, switching from southpaw to regular, is going to be a challenge. But I’ll be ready, that I can promise. I wish you fast healing.”

Fury understood that announced butt-kicking time. A subdued light in his eyes turned into fire as he became incensed, little by little.

Klitschko’s shtick on this cranial chessboard cited sports psychology academics, referencing “therapy” to make unstable Fury a better person ala Klitschko’s fight against David Haye. Not the most brazen posture, but it incensed Fury, who launched into a raging half soliloquy on Klitscko’s lack of fistic virtue.

“It’s a personal mission for me to rid boxing of a boring person like you,” Said Fury. “I could have fallen asleep listening to your sheepish talk. I ain’t interested in all the titles, all the belts you’ve got on that table. I’m interested in breaking your face in, that’s what I‘m interested in.

“Your jab and grab style, surely all of Europe wants to see you get beaten, and the rest of the world will see you get beaten. You have about as much charisma as my underpants, zero.

“You’re a ‘sports psychologist’, speaks 37 different languages, so what? You’re still a boring person. I am the new blood in the division, you’re an old man. You’ve got grey hair like my trainer and my manager. You’ve got wrinkles in your face. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had Botox as well. It is what it is, you look old.

“You can have as many idiots on that television as you want, all them stupid Americans that’s got no gas. They run out of steam after five rounds. It’s a known fact that if you take these American guys six or seven rounds they fall on the ground, out of energy. I have the American style with the European conditioning, and that equals you’re (“in trouble”).

“History does not lie. History says all old champions move over for the new ones. Is this man better than all the great champions of the past? I think not. And all the great champions of the past, at 39 years old, are on the decline. You are nothing and you’re getting knocked out.

“I don’t care about being a role model, I don’t care about going down in history. All I care bout is beating you. I dream about knocking your head off. How dare you mention my name in the same sentence with David Haye.

“I’ll hire you to be my therapist after I knock you out because you’ll need a job. I’m unpredictable, and all you types hate unpredictability. So right now I’m already inside your mind. How’s that for psychology?”

The suddenly heated rhetoric concluded, Klitschko acted pleased that Fury was finally pumping the promotion. Still, intensity lingered. Fury delivered an impersonal, hilariously filthy one-liner that he was probably saving to close the show, so how much of his indignation was actually sincere remains unclear.

But their second handshake was much less cordial than the first. As in ice cold.

As they next made their way onto the bright stadium field for photos, Fury paused amidst a mass of multi-colored seats to glance toward the open roof, a pair of gigantic fight posters underneath. Contemplating that looming image was one of the few times Fury looked completely serious all afternoon.

From the sound and look of things with just a few people around, Fury was respectful of Klitschko but had gotten under his skin.

There was another serious moment for Fury as he waited between TV interviews, watching Klitschko, twenty feet away, interact seamlessly with the media. “Look at him,” Fury said, almost wistfully, listing Klitschko’s achievements. “I can’t be that guy. I don’t want to be that guy.”

First impression odds considering only physiques and personas observed at press conference and photo shoot: pick ‘em.

Odds including prior knowledge of fighter performances: Klitschko 5 – 1 favorite.

Odds considering only Klitschko performance against Bryant Jennings: Klitschko – 250 (almost 3-1 favorite).

Odds considering only Fury performance against Steve Cunningham: Klitschko 10 – 1 favorite.

Odds on Fury to impress: 2 – 1 for.

Odds on Klitschko to impress: 3 – 1 for.

Klitschko by decision: even / pick ‘em.

Klitschko by KO: 3 – 1 for.

Fury by Decision: 15 – 1 against.

Fury by KO: 5 – 1 against.

Draw: 50-1 against.

Disqualification: 5 – 1 against.

Visiting Brits to handle their beer as well as the locals: 1000 – 1 against.

At first glance, this bout looks anywhere between one of Klitschko’s patented dominant performances and one of his surprising debacles. It would be careless of him to use any different method than he has recently. Can Fury force him out of that conking comfort zone?

Fury’s uncovered arms looked bigger than Klitschko’s while Klitschko was in a slightly padded suit.

Which brings us back to early predictions. Obviously, each man will likely play true to their general form, without many exchanges during the first minutes. The more typically they fight, the more it favors Klitschko, and his chances for a late round KO, but something hints this will not be a typical Klitschko fight.

Don’t be surprised if Klitschko switches stances or charges out more aggressively, especially if there are any new additions to his training camp. If Fury responds well to some unusual tactic, it is not impossible to visualize a multi-knockdown brawl, maybe the first one in either Klitschko’s career in which each fighter gets dropped.

As they were walking off the pitch, somebody asked Fury, who’d been playing around with a soccer ball photo prop, how he was with the football.

“I’m great at everything I do,” he replied sternly, then smiled with a nod and a wink.

The real Fury is somewhere between that casually intense character who narrowed his gaze at Klitschko on the pitch and the guy who took a humble, extended glance at his own image on the huge arena billboards.

That’s pretty serious elevation, even if you’re 6’8.

Whether that guy can generate near enough power or pressure to make things interesting, let alone highly competitive, against an elite champion like Klitschko is just one of many factors probably on each fighter’s mind, right about now.



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Frank Erne Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame, a Well-Deserved Honor

Arne K. Lang




Former featherweight and lightweight champion Frank Erne was back in the news last week with the announcement that he is entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Erne and the other members of the newest class will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Mr. Erne won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony. He’s been dead since 1954. However, were he alive, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that this honor is well-deserved.

Frank Erne competed from 1892 to 1908. Of his 53 documented fights, 21 were slated for 20 rounds or more. His opponents included George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and Joe Gans, all of whom went into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. Dixon, a bantamweight, McGovern, a featherweight, and Gans, a lightweight, are widely considered the best of all time in their respective weight classes. Erne defeated Dixon and Gans although both turned the table in rematches.

Frank Erne becomes the first fighter born in Switzerland to enter the IBHOF. When he was six or seven years old (reports vary) his parents moved to Buffalo, New York. In his early teens, he found work as a pinsetter in a bowling alley that was part of a larger complex that included a boxing gym. An instructor there, a boxing professor as they were called back then, took Erne under his wing.

Erne had his early fights in Buffalo. In 1895, he went to New York and attracted national notice with back-to-back knockouts of Jack Skelly. A Brooklyn man, Skelly was such an outstanding amateur that there was little backlash when he was sent in against featherweight champion George Dixon in his very first pro fight (the opening match in the Carnival of Champions at New Orleans, an event climaxed by the historic fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett).

Skelly was no match for Dixon and ultimately no match for Frank Erne. Two months after their second meeting, Erne had his first of three encounters with Dixon. Their initial go was a 10-rounder that was fairly ruled a draw. The rematch was set for 20 rounds with Dixon’s title on the line.

Here’s Nat Fleischer’s post factum: “Erne proved to be in every respect a superior boxer on this occasion for he outpointed Dixon at long range, beat him decisively at in-fighting, had it all over Dixon in ring generalship, besides possessing courage and fearlessness.” The ringside correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, more measured in his assessment, called it “one of the fiercest and cleanest fights, as well as one of the most scientific, that has ever been seen.”

Dixon had lost only twice previously, the first by disqualification and the other in a 4-round contest, and would win back his title in the rubber match, clearly out-pointing Erne in a match that went 25 rounds.

Making weight was always a problem for Frank Erne. After surrendering his title to Dixon, he moved up to lightweight and challenged George “Kid” Lavigne. They fought twice.

In their first meeting, Lavigne, the fabled “Saginaw Kid,” retained his title thanks to a generous referee who scored the fight a draw, but justice was served in the rematch which was staged at an outdoor arena on the outskirts of Buffalo on the day preceding the Fourth of July,1899. Despite injuring his hand in the seventh frame, Erne gave Lavigne a good drubbing and had his hand raised at the conclusion of the 20-round match. He now had the distinction of winning world titles in two separate weight classes.

Erne first met Joe Gans in March of 1900 when Gans was still in his prime. The match, slated for 25 rounds, ended in the 12th when Gans suffered a terrible injury to his left eye – some reports say the eye was knocked out of its socket – from an accidental clash of heads. The referee ruled that Gans was at fault and awarded the contest to Erne. Based on newspaper reports, that was a fair adjudication as Erne, the defending champion, had all the best of it, leaving Gans in great distress at the end of the previous round.

Gans avenged the defeat 26 months later, knocking out Erne in the opening round at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Erne’s unrelenting battle with the scales had finally caught up with him.

Erne retired the following year, but returned five years later and had one more fight, winning a 10-round decision in Paris over British veteran Curly Watson in a fight billed for the welterweight championship of France. He remained in the French capitol for some time thereafter, working as a boxing instructor and promoting a few fights before returning to the United States and taking up residence in New York City.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Frank Erne was no fool with his money, but the stock market crash of 1929 dealt him a severe blow and he was forced to seek regular employment. He became a salesman for a fuel company.

Erne won’t be around for his formal IBHOF induction, but he wasn’t completely forgotten in his dotage. On Jan. 9, 1951, the day after his 76th birthday, he received a special award at the silver anniversary dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, a gala affair held in the posh Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria with entertainment provided by Jimmy Durante and other nightclub headliners.

Erne wasn’t honored only for his in-ring exploits, but for his good character. During World War II and again during the Korean War, it was common for famous boxers of yesteryear to visit wounded soldiers in VA hospitals and regale them with stories from their fighting days to boost their spirits. Frank Erne, although he had some infirmities, was especially active in this regard, “indefatigable” said New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley.

Frank Erne, it says here, is a worthy addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Kudos to the electors who placed him on their ballot.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 76: Welterweights Vergil, Terence and More

David A. Avila




In the words of many boxing journalists, fighters, trainers and promoters “styles make fights,” and those differences can lead to unpredictable outcomes. The weekend brings a few stylish welterweights on display from California to New York.

Welterweight ingénue Vergil Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KOs) enters the world of unpredictability when he meets Brad Solomon (28-1, 9 KOs) a swift-moving veteran on Friday, Dec. 13, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. DAZN will show the loaded Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

It’s Ortiz’s third year as a professional and fifth time performing at the Indio casino. It’s also where he made his pro debut back in July 2016 when he began his remarkable string of 14 consecutive knockout wins.

Solomon, 36, has made a career of fighting pressure fighters and making them miss or defusing their power. Only Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev, who was trained at the time by Abel Sanchez, was able to hang a loss on the Georgia fighter’s ledger.

Can Ortiz handle the style difference?

“Vergil can do more than people think,” said Vergil Ortiz Sr., father of the lanky welterweight slugger. “He can box any style.”

As a professional, Ortiz has yet to fight someone like Solomon with his juke and move style of fighting. As an amateur he did face speedsters like Ryan Garcia. As a pro, this will mark his first in the prize ring. It should be interesting.

Power Packed Support

Knockout artist Ortiz leads a power packed-boxing card that includes a number of Golden Boy’s best knockout punchers like Bektemir Melikuziev, Alberto Machado and Luis Feliciano. All of these guys can punch and are looking to put the cap on 2019.

That’s a lot of firepower.

But also on the card is someone fighting for 360 Promotions named Serhii Bohachuk, otherwise known as “El Flaco.” Just like Ortiz, Bohachuk has never allowed the final bell to be rung against 16 foes so far. He is going for 17 when he fights Carlos Galvan (17-9-1) in a super welterweight fight set for eight rounds. Don’t expect to hear the final bell whenever the Ukrainian trained by Mexican style coach Abel Sanchez gets in the ring.

Bohachuk could be following in the footsteps of another guy formerly trained by Abel Sanchez named Gennady Golovkin. It’s still too early, but he looks pretty good so far.

New York City

Top welterweight Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Lithuania’s Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

In the crowded and talented world of the welterweights, Crawford could very well be the best of them all. If only he could prove it. The Omaha-Nebraska prizefighter has tried every enticement possible to lure Errol Spence Jr., Danny “Swift” Garcia, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao. Nothing works.

What does work for Crawford has been a reputation as one of the best prizefighters in the world pound for pound. Some tab him as the very best especially when it comes to speed, agility and the ability to innovate on the spot. He has few peers.

Facing Crawford will be Kavaliauskas who trains in Oxnard with a number of Eastern Europeans including Vasyl Lomachenko. They share the same management. He’s never faced anyone close in talent to Crawford. Except, maybe inside of his own gym.

“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now,” said Crawford. “Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”

Crawford has been chasing stardom for a number of years. What better place than New York City’s Madison Square Garden to showcase his skills to the public. At age 32, Crawford is running out of sand.

Lightweight Title Fight

The co-main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden features IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) defending against wunderkind Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs).

But this weekend truly belongs to the welterweights.

Next Week

Southern California will be packed with boxing. It’s a last gasp before the end of 2019.

Ontario, California will be hosting a very large Premier Boxing Champions fight card at the Toyota Center on Saturday Dec. 21.

WBC super welterweight titlist Tony Harrison finally defends against Jermall Charlo in a rematch and it won’t be friendly. These guys hate each other.

“He’s fake,” said Harrison when they last met in Los Angeles for a press conference.

It won’t be pretty when they meet next week.

Tickets are on sale. Go to this link for more information:

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Vergil Ortiz (14-0) vs Brad Solomon (28-1); Serhii Bohachuk (16-0) vs Carlos Galvan (17-9-1).

Sat. Facebook 5 p.m. Diego De La Hoya (21-1) vs Renson Robles (16-6).

Sat. ESPN 6 p.m. Terence Crawford (35-0) vs Egidijus Kaviliauskas (21-0-1); Teofimo Lopez (14-0) vs Richard Commey (29-2).

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A Toast to Busy Bee Emanuel Navarrete, a Fighter from the Old School

Ted Sares




In the last 12 months, super bantamweight Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete has fought five times. That’s close to Old School-type activity.

No one in Mexico gave Navarette much notice until he stopped Luis Bedolla Orozco (18-2) in Guadalajara in 2017. He turned more heads when he KO’d Filipino veteran Glenn Porras in January 2018 and fans outside Mexico began to take serious note of this no-nonsense youngster (now just 24) when he stopped Columbia’s “El General” Jose Sanmartin (26-4-1) five months later.

That win, his eighth straight by stoppage, earned him an interim belt and opened the door to a world title shot. It came on Dec. 8, 2018 at Madison Square Garden against undefeated (20-0) WBO world super bantamweight champion Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe.

Navarrete, five inches taller at 5’7”, shocked the hard-punching Brit (by way of Ghana) to win a decision and become the new champion. The scores were 115-113, 116-112, and 116-112, but more to the point, Dogboe’s post-fight face looked like it had gone through the proverbial meat grinder. The tall Mexican had fought tall and picked the much smaller Dogboe apart with precise and pinpoint punching.

The rematch proved that Emanuel’s first win was no fluke as he showed late round power in stopping Dogboe in the 12th. He again used his height advantage, showed great stamina and strength, was accurate with his punches, and once again the too-short Dogboe’s face looked like he was on the wrong end of a big city mugging.

His first title defense came against Francisco De Vaca (20-0) who is a fixture at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona. This one lasted three rounds as Vaquero (“cowboy” in English) used a neat uppercut to stun De Vaca in the second and then rendered a terrible beating in the third to end the fight—one that should have been halted earlier by referee Raul Caiz Sr. who seemed far more “brave” than the fighters.

On September 14, 2019, Navarrete used his signature wide left hooks and uppercuts to end matters in the middle of the third round against Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1). Juan Miguel, the grandson of Filipino boxing legend Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, made the mistake of engaging Navarrete in a firefight and lost. This one took place at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and boxing fans now knew who this tall super bantamweight was.

In his most recent fight — this one in Mexico — Navarrete put on another display of accurate power punching to stop Francisco Horta (20-3-1) at 2.09 of round 4. After a somewhat typical slow start, Navarrete found his groove and began serious stalking, using looping combinations at strange angles inside and outside, finally catching Horta on the ropes in the fourth, ending matters with stunning closure. It was his 25th straight win dating back to 2012 when he was defeated by one Daniel Argueta by a 4-round decision.

Navarrete, one of seven current Mexican world title-holders, is now looking to unify at 122. He also might be interested in fighting Naoya Inoue if “Monster” moves up in weight, and given Inoue’s recent fight with Nonito Donaire in which he showed that he is human after all, this one could be a sizzler.

As to his chances for “Fighter of the Year,” they are probably slim, but that has nothing to do with whether he deserves it and everything to do with poor public relations. Yes, a solid case can be made for Josh Warrington, but enough with the Canelo, Loma, Usyk types who fight twice a year.

Emanuel Navarrete is more active than any other title-holder or top contender and has a KO percentage of 84% despite the fact that his last five opponents had a combined record of 108-5-1 coming in. And he has a fan-friendly style, stalking, stunning, and closing his opponents with controlled violence. In many respects, he fights like a pre-scandal and prime Antonio Margarito, except he is more technically sound. The fact is, Vaquero, the pride of San Juan Zitlaltepec, is super exciting and doesn’t seem to have any noticeable weaknesses.

Ted Sares can be reached at

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