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Mayweather Makes “Grand” Arrival For “Final” Fight

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The self proclaimed TBE fanned out his peacock feathers, and strutted at the MGM on Tuesday afternoon, making a grand-ish arrival, days out from his anti-climactic scrap against Haitian-American Andre Berto, who hopes to play the Buster Douglas role Saturday night in Vegas.

To be fair, basically anything outside of a Mayweather-Golovkin fight would be anti-climactic, so we’re not knocking Berto here.

But with the word that tix are moving sub-tepidly, suffice to say the buzz factor for this one is not what those who get a cut from that pie might hope, or expect, for the best boxer in the world who tells us this is his last fight. Message from many seems to be ‘don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out,’ though pro Mayweather fans will argue that he is so talented, he doesn’t get his just due…and in fact, I find that argument to be compelling, and worthy of defending, if not wholly embracing.

Nothing monumental came from the mouth of Mayweather today, that I heard: “To become great, you have to follow greatness. To become a great leader you have to be a great follower,” he offered.

There was talk of his legacy, but of course. “I’ve done a lot for this sport,” said the Michiganer seeking to go to 49-0. “Everyone used to be focused on heavyweights. My ultimate goal was to have everyone focus at whatever weight class I was, in my weight class. I’ve always been able to make noise at whatever weight class I was in.” Indeed; making noise is something he’s good at. Being in mostly fan friendly prizefights isn’t, and that’s part of the reason, maybe most of the reason, why there isn’t a mass of mourners already weeping at the thought of a Floyd-less sport.

Simply, most of his fights in recent memory haven’t been must see events, in retrospect. But again, so much of that has to do with his skill, which allows him to employ a risk averse, defense-first style which doesn’t draw comparisons to Arturo Gatti. He is a Picasso, and there was no PPV audience to watch that master paint his masterful efforts. The final result was but of course applauded, but the masses often prefer some bang bang bang for their buck…and Floyd’s ability to avoid contact, while neurologically logical, isn’t making people salivate for this faceoff with Berto. “We want Andre to believe in himself and his skills,” Mayweather continued, when asked about Berto saying he had the stuff to pull the Buster Douglas.

“Every fighter that I’ve ever faced had the remedy to beat me, but the results have always been the same,” said “TBE,” rightly.

“I don’t overlook anyone, he’s a tough competitor, and we will just have to see what happens on Saturday,” he said, when it was noted that Berto is a massive ‘dog.

“My ultimate goal is that we can find another Floyd Mayweather,” he said, in response to a query about his post fighting stint. “When I turned professional I was a teenager and the MGM was Mike Tyson’s building. I’m just blessed and I feel like I was dealt a royal flush.”

No shortage of self confidence in the man, though one can only wonder how much of that is announced in order to gain a reaction, to gain narcissistic supply, to have his tank topped off, of compliments and adoration. Study of his character, of course, fills up the vacuum left by the fact that his talent renders his fights foregone conclusions. Oh but this being prizefighting, the only thing truly predictable is that a guy like a Berto has a proverbial puncher’s chance. Which means that but of course, I will be ponying up, to tune in, just….in….case. The result is basically foregone…but that sliver of a chance will snare me.

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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Results and Recaps from Fantasy Springs where Rocha Topped Dominguez

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Ringside Report by TSS Special Correspondent Raymundo Dioses…INDIO, CA – Alexis Rocha faced off against undefeated Santiago Dominguez and earned a hard-fought unanimous decision win for the NABO welterweight title on July 19, 2024 at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in a live event presented by DAZN.  The 10-round fight featured plenty of action on a hot night where temperature hit 111 degrees in the Southern California desert.

Rocha, (25-2, 16 KOs) looked to time Dominguez early on and began to throw in combinations leading to his impressive win. Dominguez would press Rocha against the ropes seeking some shots of his own in a fight which swayed back and forth until Rocha was able to find a late rhythm towards the end of the bout.

Rocha began to back up Dominguez, (27-1, 20 KOs) with shots and catch openings while on the inside, with Dominguez steadily slowing from the effects of Rocha’s shots. Rocha kept his hands busy and would catch Dominguez when he would step outside of range, and he began to control the middle of the ring and the terms of the fight as the bout progressed.

Judge Fernando Villareal had it 98-92 while Carla Caiz and Pat Russell scored the bout 99-91 for Rocha, who now finds himself in title contention in the 147-pound division.

“I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just a banger, I can use my IQ in there and that’s what I needed,” said  Rocha. “I knew Dominguez was going to come forward, he just keeps coming, so that’s what I wanted to show. It’s more about my brains from now on. I want to be very aware in the ring, and I want to use my brains. That’s all you’re going to see moving forward. I have a great team behind me, Golden Boy, and we’re just going to see what’s next. I’m right there. I’m knocking on the door still. The belts are gonna be open anytime soon, so I’m just knocking on the door right now.”

The fighters utilized combinations effectively and often, landing on even terms until Rocha found his timing in the second half of the fight and sealed the win.  A solid left hook from Rocha paused Dominguez in his tracks as Rocha began to close in and slow the return fire from Dominguez.

A one-two combination to the chin landed for Dominguez to begin the seventh round. The action moved to center ring with the fighter’s trading shots which got the fans cheering.  Rocha threw a combination and landed a straight-right hand which was effective throughout the contest.

A combination of punches nearly had Dominguez down in the later rounds yet Dominguez would bounce back and punch Rocha to the ropes. There was more middle ring trading as the fight unfolded and both fighters would find offense with Rocha getting the better of the action.

Rocha often fought through a jab to the head and body of Dominguez.  A head-body combination worked for Rocha, and one-two combinations followed by body shots came from Rocha who was making headway as the more offensively scoring fighter.

Time was called by referee Ray Corona in the final round as Dominguez was punched on the leg, and once the action resumed a series of trading resulted in Rocha landing the last punch. Rocha not only landed at will in the last half of the fight, he began to make Dominguez miss and matters ended after ten completed rounds with the fighters throwing as the ten second bell ticked.

Rocha, the youngest fighter to win a gold medal at the junior Olympics at age 14, began his pro career in 2016 fighting under the Golden Boy Promotions banner and the Californian went 16-0 before losing to Rashidi Ellis in October 2020.  Rocha would not lose again until three years later in an all-California match-up against Giovani Santillan in October 2023.  He is the younger brother of former world title challenger Ronny Rios.

Rocha would lose the Santillan fight via knockout loss, yet the new NABO titleholder had a bounce-back win in March 2024 over Frederick Lawson leading into the Dominguez fight.

CO-FEATURE

The nights co-main event saw Gregory Morales, (17-1, 9 KOs) defeat Jayvon Garnett over 10 rounds after a fast start, slow ending type fight in the featherweight division.

Round one was a feeler type affair for both combatants with each fighter seeking to gain ground. The pot-shotting continued into the second round until Morales, who last fought to a decision win on the January 2024 Jaime Munguia-John Ryder tilt in Arizona, was able to put his punches together via combinations.

Garnett landed a combination of his own to begin rounds two and three, and Cincinnati, Ohio’s Garnett proceeded to let his hands go as round three wore on. Busy hands lead to good things in the boxing ring. The fight then swung slightly in Morales’ favor at the 10-second mark of the round with a few punches followed by an audible body shot.

The body shots thrown with both hands continued from Morales in round four which Garnett taunted as non-effective. Morales marched forward and resumed his body attack. Garnett kept busy midway through the fight yet Morales kept composed and pressed forward despite the offense of Garnett. A big shot came from Garnett which did not faze Morales in the sixth round and Morales was able to answer as the round ended.

The action dulled in round seven with fighter fatigue setting in. Morales was finally able to back up Garnett (10-2, 5 KOs) in the eighth round with right hands and in the ninth Morales continued to press Garnett against the ropes. Shots were landed from both fighters near the end of the round.

The final frame was a ‘who wants it more’ type of three minutes with the fighters each wanting to either score a stoppage or win a pivotal round on the judge’s scorecards. The round ended with respect as the fighter’s traded pleasantries after trading blows for 10 rounds.

Scorecards were 96-94, 98-92 and 99-91 all for Morales.

COACHELLA’S FLORES REMAINS UNDEFEATED WITH KO OVER MEZA

The Coachella Valley’s hot prospect Grant Flores scored an impressive stoppage win over Juan Meza in a super welterweight fight.

At the outset Flores, (6-0, 5 KOs) timed Meza well, gauging the distance of his opponent which led to a stirring right hand to end the first round. Flores rocked Meza again in the second round and Meza showed signs of fatigue. Fiery right hands rocked Meza into the red corner and after a few more shots referee Ray Corona had seen enough and waved off the fight at 1:54 of round two.

At a ripe age of 19, Flores is trained by noted trainer Joel Diaz and impressively fought just three weeks ago at the same venue, registering a knockout over Josias Gonzalez on the June 27, 2024 Golden Boy Fight Night card.

CHAVEZ DEFEATS KITANI IN FIGHT OF THE NIGHT

In a tightly contested featherweight matchup Jorge Chavez, (12-0, 8 KOs) and Riku Kitani earned fight of the night honors in their entertaining six-round featherweight bout which resulted in a decision win for Chavez.

The fist throwers battled on even terms and lived up to the featherweight division way of punches in bunches. The action was mostly in the middle of the ring with each fighter connecting and trading.  Each three-minute round was used as a battleground for the fighters.

A clash of heads midway through the fight briefly stopped the action in round four. Chavez threw the classic one-two combination throughout the fight, yet Kitani, (8-3, 3 KOs) would answer with shots of his own.  Referee Raymond Armendariz had the fighters tap each other’s gloves to begin the final round which saw Chavez stalk and land, and Kitani counter-punch in a fight that ended with cheers from the crowd.

Scores were all for Chavez at 60-54.

HOMETOWN FAVORITE LUA WOWS CROWD WITH KO OVER OLGUIN

In the opening televised bout, Indio, California native Bryan Lua, (10-0, 5 KOs) dominated late notice opponent Diuhl Olguin with fast hands and solid ring generalship in what resulted in a knockout victory. The confident Desert product bruised his opponent up with lead right hands and uppercuts.

Lua cut the ring off well and landed at will against Olguin, who took the punishment well and even caught Lua with a right hand before the bell sounded to end round two. The ringside doctor took a look at a cut on Olguin before round three. The dominance continued in the third frame with Lua landing two straight body shots which slightly lifted Olguin off the canvas.

Another uppercut softened up Olguin late in round five which delighted the hometown crowd. Lua ran towards Olguin to begin the final round and pressed the action, ultimately scoring a stoppage win at 2:03 as Team Olguin decided to throw in the towel.

GUZMAN NOTCHES KNOCKOUT NO. 5 IN FIVE FIGHTS

Middleweight prospect Fabian Guzman, (5-0, 5 KOs) continued his knockout streak with a first-round stoppage over Las Vegas native Corey Cook.

Guzman started out tentative against his left-handed opponent, warmed up midway, then dropped Cook with a flush right hand which dropped Cook to a knee.  A 10-count ensued by referee Raymond Armendariz and Guzman was awarded the knockout at a recorded 2:14 of round one.

PHOENIX NATIVE IMPROVES TO 3-0

In the opening contest of the night Phoenix, Arizona native Juan Estrada impressed against opponent Dyllon Cervantes in a four-round fight.  Estrada, (3-0, 1 KO) threw effective combinations from the outset and worked both the body and the head throughout the bout.

End results of the fight were 40-36 all for Estrada.

DAZN commentators: Beto Duran, Sergio Mora

Fighters in Attendance: WBC Flyweight titlist Ricardo Sandoval, Bektemir Melikuziev  

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Book Review

Literary Notes from Thomas Hauser

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Literary Notes from Thomas Hauser

Bernard Fernandez has written thousands of articles during his 55-year career as a sports journalist. Championship Rounds: Round 5 is the fifth (and Bernard says, the last) collection of his articles to be published in book form.

Fernandez has a way with words. He also has an ear for quotes as evidenced by the following thoughts from Championship Rounds: Round 5:

Alex Rodriguez (speaking about his brother, Francisco, who died after being knocked out by Teon Kennedy at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia): “My brother had a perfect heart, perfect lungs, perfect kidneys, perfect pancreas. Because of him, other people will have a chance for better health, more birthdays, the fulfillment of their own dreams. Paco is going to continue walking through this world through them.”

Johnny Tapia (after Don King completely dominated the final prefight press conference for his fight against Nana Yaw Konadu in Atlantic City): “I don’t understand this. I mean, I’m the one who’s fighting, right?”

Archie Moore: “A legend is something between fact and fable. Some people might say that that is an accurate description of me.”

George Foreman (on Roy Jones): “The better he is at his craft, the less people understand it.”

Mike Tyson (on Sonny Liston’s gift for weakening opponents through intimidation): “He was a menacing force. Sonny could pull it off. I could pull it off. Not a lot of people could pull it off.”

Bert Sugar (reflecting on some of the unsavory characters who have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame): “You can always make a case for someone’s exclusion. It depends on how moralistic you want to be. But remember, this is boxing we’re talking about.”

Ferdie Pacheco (after watching 47-year-old Roberto Duran get knocked out by William Joppy in three rounds): “What happened tonight happens too often in boxing. How often do we need to see Joe Louis knocked out by Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali beaten to a pulp by Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Robinson losing to everybody? How much longer do we need to see these legends take beatings like this? This wasn’t a boxing match. It was a licensed execution. I hope it’s the end of the line for Roberto. It should have been the end of the line ten years ago.”

Seth Abraham (reflecting on having signed Roy Jones to a multi-bout contract with insufficient quality control regarding opponents): “In retrospect, I wish I had taken a  harder line with him. He wanted to make the most money. That’s fine. He wanted to take the fewest risks. That’s not fine if you want the most money.”

Matthew Saad Muhammad (on his hyper-aggressive ring style and growing older): “You can’t fight the way I did unless you got something to back it up. I couldn’t back it up anymore.”

Archie Moore. “Boxing is magnificent. It’s beautiful to know. But you’ve got to marry it. And so I did. Boxing was my lover. It was my lady.”

Earnie Shavers (on knocking Larry Holmes down and near-senseless with an overhand right. Miraculously, Holmes rose from the canvas and, four rounds later, knocked Shavers out): “I was the heavyweight champion of the world. All my troubles were finally over. It was the greatest feeling I’d ever had. And it lasted for five whole seconds.”

Dan Goossen (on Michael Nunn leaving him for a new manager): “Am I hurt that he decided to leave me? Of course. It’s kind of like being married to a beautiful woman. Guys are going to whistle at her, try to pick her up. It’s up to her to do the right thing and come home. Same thing with Michael. People are going to constantly hit on him. This time, he didn’t come home.”

*        *        *

Women’s boxing peaked with Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2022. It was a superb fight between two skilled fighters in an atmosphere that was electric. In Malissa Smith’s words, that night “set the stage for a new era of elite female boxing” and “legitimized” women’s boxing.

Six months later, Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall squared off at the O2 Arena in London with Mikaela Mayer vs. Alycia Baumgardner on the undercard. Like Taylor-Serrano, the fights in London were a platform for women’s boxing to build on.

 Smith’s new book – The Promise of Women’s Boxing (Rowman & Littlefield) – focuses on women’s boxing from the 2012 Olympics to date and is a sequel to her first book – A History of Women’s Boxing (published a decade ago).

Smith has put a huge amount of research into her work. But she recites the details of fight after fight after fight. After a while, the fights tend to blur together and reading about them feels like reading a 224-page encyclopedia article.

Also, when Smith’s writing isn’t too dry, it tends toward hyperbole. Words like “great” and “spectacular” are overused . . . Amanda Serrano is a very good boxer. She is not “one of the hardest-hitting fighters in boxing, male or female.” (Amanda’s last seven opponents have gone the distance against her) . . . And as good a fight as Taylor-Serrano was, it was not “one of the greatest boxing matches in the history of the sport.”

Here, the thoughts of promoter Lou DiBella are instructive. As recounted by Smith, DiBella cautions that fans should “stop comparing women’s boxing contests to men’s and start appreciating them on their own terms.”

*        *        *

Every fighter has a story. And every fighter’s story is interesting. But some fighters’ stories are more interesting and more artfully told than others.

Land of Hope and Glory by Maurice Hope with Ron Shillingford (Pitch Publishing) has some worthwhile moments but falls short of the mark.

Hope (30-4-1, 24 KOs, 2 KOs by) fought professionally from 1973 through 1982. The high point of his career came in 1979 when he stopped Italian-born Rocky Mattioli in San Remo to claim the WBC 154-pound title. Two years later, he lost his belt to Wilfred Benitez.

The loss to Benitez ended with a frightening highlight-reel knockout that left Hope unconscious on the canvas for an extended period of time. In an ugly coda, when Wilfred was told that Maurice had lost two teeth in the battle, Wilfred responded, “He can put the teeth under his pillow.”

There are some entertaining passages in Land of Hope and Glory. Recounting the prelude to his championship-winning fight against Mattioli, Hope recalls, “Walking to the ring was frightening. Shady figures in the crowd in dark suits and sunglasses were walking around with hands on their breast pockets. Whether there was just a handkerchief there or a loaded gun, the impact had the desired effect – intimidation. I pretended not to see them but it was hard to stay focused and calm. Gangsters with bandages around their hands seemed to be everywhere. It seemed like the Mafia had taken over the whole venue.”

There are also poignant recountings of the death of Hope’s son in a car accident and Maurice visiting a horribly disabled Wilfred Benitez in Puerto Rico long after Wilfred had descended into a hellish dementia.

But sixty pages pass before Land of Hope and Glory gets to a boxing gym. Hope doesn’t turn pro until page 93. And overall, the treatment of boxing is superficial. The book doesn’t explain with nuance or in depth what’s involved in being a fighter or what the business of boxing is about.

There are too many factual errors. For example, Las Vegas is described as being “in the middle of the Arizona desert.” And there’s some fuzzy math. Hope complains about an 80-79 decision that he lost to Mickey Flynn, writing, “The 80-79 decision meant Flynn won two rounds and the other six were draws.” That leads to two thoughts; (1) It’s more likely that Flynn won one round with seven rounds being called even; and (2) Since Maurice was the A-side fighter in that bout and Flynn had thirteen losses on his record, one might speculate that referee Benny Caplan (who was the sole judge) leaned over backward in Maurice’s favor and marked his scorecard “10-10” for rounds that Flynn should have won.

To his credit, Hope got out of boxing at the right time. After losing to Benitez and in his next fight to Luigi Minchillo, he retired from the ring at age thirty. He understood the risks of the trade he had chosen and now writes, “In my mind, boxing is the hardest sport out there. Once you get in the ring, you know your head’s going to hurt.”

 Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – MY MOTHER and me – is a memoir available at Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/My-Mother-Me-Thomas-Hauser/dp/1955836191/ref=sr_1_1?crid=5C0TEN4M9ZAH&keywords=thomas+hauser&qid=1707662513&sprefix=thomas+hauser%2Caps%2C80&sr=8-1

 In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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