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Michael Spinks Made History And Prevented It On The Same Night

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Numerals, because of Floyd Mayweather, such as 48-0, and 49-0 and most observers believe by this time next year, 50-0, will be getting a lot of news play.

Well, slightly over 30 years ago, on September 21, 1985, there was another fighter chasing Rocky Marciano’s majestic record of 49-0 (43).

His name was Larry Holmes 48-0 (34) and he was the IBF heavyweight champion. Holmes was 35 years old and prior to his 49th bout against undisputed light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks 27-0 (19), Larry was 21-0 in heavyweight title bouts, recording 20 successful title defenses.

Ironically, Marciano won his 49th bout by scoring a ninth round knockout over reigning light heavyweight champ Archie Moore 30 years to the day (September 21, 1955) prior to Holmes fighting Spinks.

By the time Holmes defended his title against Spinks, Larry and Michael shared two career parallels; for starters, they were both undefeated champions and secondly, Holmes they virtually cleaned out their respective divisions. If that weren’t enough to peak interest in the fight, it was widely known that via Holmes knocking out Michael’s older brother Leon four years earlier, Larry and Michael had their own history, since Michael vowed he would get even with Holmes for beating up Leon.

Prior to the bout Holmes often stated that he was one of the greats but didn’t get his due respect because he succeed Muhammad Ali. Larry figured that by equaling Marciano’s record and retiring undefeated he would most certainly receive his due props. So it was easy to see where Larry’s motivation was coming from.

On the other hand, Spinks wanted to make history by becoming the first reigning light heavyweight champ to move up in weight and defeat the reigning heavyweight champ. However, the Vegas bookmakers didn’t like his chances and installed him as a 6-1 betting underdog.

During the run-up to the fight, Spinks brought in New Orleans nutritionist Mackie Shilstone, who put him on a 4,500-calorie diet sliced into 65% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 15% fat. It was mostly made up of vegetables and grains. Spinks added 25 pounds of muscle to the frame that carried 175 pounds in his last title defense three months earlier, and his body fat dropped from 9.1 percent to 7.2 percent. As for Holmes, he was experiencing shoulder pain when he threw his right hand and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his neck. When the pain persisted after heat and massage treatments he was informed that he had a slipped disc in his fifth vertebra… but he decided to go through with the fight.

The consensus before the fight was Holmes would be too big and skilled for Spinks to handle. Holmes was a great boxer and along with Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali, possessed one of the greatest left jabs in heavyweight history. But at age 35 Larry was on the physical decline and could no longer put his punches together in succession like he could two or three years earlier. As for Spinks, who was only an inch shorter than Holmes, he was just 29 and was at or near his physical prime. Also, Michael was a very cerebral fighter and knew his limitations. As a light heavyweight Michael was a boxer-puncher who knew when to move and box and also who and when to go after and fight it out with. There was no way Spinks was going to take the fight to the bigger and stronger Holmes…..and this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Throughout Holmes’ stellar career he was often compared to Muhammad Ali from a stylistic vantage-point. Both relied on their jab offensively and defensively and were at their best when the opponent pushed and carried the fight to them. However, when they had to fight as the attacker and assume the role as the predator in the fight, they weren’t at their stylistic best. Because of their lack of head movement and carrying their hands low they were easier to hit and time with head shots. Make that two-fold if they had to track down a fighter smaller in physical stature with quick hands. Well, Michael Spinks was barely 200 pounds and possessed light heavyweight hand-speed and as mentioned above had no intention on fighting as the aggressor.

Holmes-Spinks I went the full 15 round distance. When it was over Spinks won a unanimous decision by the scores of 145-142, 143-142 and 143-142. The decision was controversial in the eyes of many, something that gained traction when it was found out that the AP scored it 144-141 Holmes and the UPI saw it 146-141 Holmes. Yes, the fight was extremely close, but in my view it came down to the 15th and final round – a round that Spinks clearly owned.

The thing that’s been lost over the years via the closeness of the fight is how Spinks’ boxing and retreating style befuddled Holmes for many rounds of the bout. Spinks, like when Jimmy Young fought Muhammad Ali nine years earlier, forced Holmes to miss and reset the entire fight. And while Larry was looking for the big shot against the smaller fighter, he was getting peppered by quick lefts and rights. No, they didn’t hurt him but they disrupted his offense and stymied him from getting off. This frustrated Holmes as was the case when Young did the same thing to Ali. The net result was Larry, like Muhammad, sought to win the fight with one punch, something they seldom ever did.

Spinks deservedly gets a lot of credit for the way he boxed against Holmes in both of their fights. But the fact is, because Michael was smaller and weaker, he had no choice; he had to move away from Holmes and box him. That totally threw Larry off because he was used to his opponents coming after him, seeking to knock him out. With Michael moving back, Holmes missed a lot of jabs. And since the jabs weren’t finding the target, the right cross was rendered ineffective. Holmes has said he was reluctant to cut loose with his right because of the pinched nerve in his neck, which is completely plausible. However, I don’t buy all of that because Holmes’ right hand wasn’t much more of a weapon when he was healthy and when he fought Spinks the second time. I believe Larry was frugal with his right hand against Michael because he often missed with it and then was countered.

Larry Holmes lost to Michael Spinks the first time they met, albeit closely, because he was on the physical decline and Spinks due to his smaller stature was forced to fight in retreat. Looking back, if you re-watch the bouts of both Ali (Ali-Young & Bugner) and Holmes (Holmes-Williams and Spinks I & II) when they were forced to fight as the predator instead of the prey, you’ll observe that they both missed with many jabs and right hands and neither looked anything close to the all-time greats they truly were.

The old cliché “styles make fights” never rings hollow. It played a deciding part in both fights between Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks. And with that, due to his lack of aggression along with his hand and foot speed……Michael Spinks made and denied history on the same night.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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In a Massive Upset, Dakota Linger TKOs Kurt Scoby on a Friday Night in Atlanta

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Although it was an 8-rounder on a show with two “tens,” Kurt Scoby’s match with Dakota Linger was accorded main event status on tonight’s card at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. This had everything to do with Scoby (pronounced Scooby), a former record-setting college running back who was considered one of the brightest prospects in the 140-pound weight class. “[Scoby] works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen,” said veteran New York promoter Lou DIBella in a conversation with Keith Idec. “But he’s literally getting better after every fight and he’s got the hammer of Thor, man. He can punch through walls.”

The Duarte, California product who has relocated to Brooklyn and trains at Gleason’s Gym, was undefeated (13-0) heading in and was expected to make Linger his ninth straight knockout victim. But Linger, a 29-year-old Buckhannon, West Virginia policemen whose first ring engagements were in Toughman competitions, wasn’t intimidated by Scoby’s press clippings or by Scoby’s bodybuilder physique.

Linger, who improved to 14-6-3 with his tenth win inside the distance, took the fight right to Scoby and repeatedly found a home for his overhand right. In the sixth round, after Linger strafed the ever-retreating Scoby with a barrage of punches, referee Malik Walid determined that he had seen enough and waived it off. The decision seemed a tad premature, but neither Scoby nor his cornermen offered anything in the way of a protest.

Tournament results

In the first installment of an 8-man super welterweight tournament, Brandon Adams returned to boxing after his second three-year layoff and showed no ring rust whatsoever. Adams, a 34-year-old family-man who grew up in the Watts district of LA, dismissed Ismael Villareal with a wicked punch to the liver in the waning seconds of round three. The official time was 2:59.

A former wold title challenger, Adams who improved to 23-3 (16 KOs), has become the king of boxing tournaments. He first attracted notice in 2018 when he won the fifth edition of “The Contender” series, scoring a wide 10-round decision over Shane Mosley Jr in the championship round.

Villareal, a second-generation prizefighter from the Bronx whose dad fought the likes of Hector Camacho, declined to 13-3.

Adams next opponent will be Francisco Veron who will bring a record of 14-0-1 (10).

In an energetic 10-rounder, Veron, a Florida-based Argentine with a strong amateur pedigree, scored a unanimous decision over Mexico-born, LA southpaw Angel Ruiz (18-3-1). The judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 96-94.

Ruiz certainly had his moments, but Veron launched and landed many more punches despite fighting the last six rounds with a damaged eye.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 281: The Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia Show

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Over the years bouts between old foes such as Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia tend to be surprising.

Yes, both are only 25 but have known each other for many years.

When undisputed super lightweight champion Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) steps into the prize ring at Barclays Center to meet challenger Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday, April 20, fans will be witnessing the continuation of a feud that began more than a decade ago.

And though the champion is a heavy favorite, familiarity is Garcia’s best weapon heading into their fight on the Golden Boy Promotions card that will be shown on PPV.COM with Jim Lampley and friends. DAZN pay-per-view is also streaming the card.

In many ways Haney and Garcia have ventured down the same path. From amateur sensations to fighting in Mexico while teens to asking for the biggest challenges available.

“Whichever version of Ryan shows up on April 20, I will be ready for him. Ryan Garcia is just another opponent to me,” said Haney who holds the WBC super lightweight title after his win over Regis Prograis.

The first time I saw Haney as a pro he battled the dangerous Mexican contender Juan Carlos Burgos at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. It was an impressive performance against a fighter who fought three times for a world title.

Haney was 19 at the time.

My first look at Garcia as a pro was in his first bout in the U.S. when he met Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Cruz at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles. The Boricua looked at Garcia and tried intimidating him with stares, taunts and the usual patter. During the fight both swung and missed until the second round when Garcia zeroed in and took him out.

Garcia had just turned 18, the legal age to fight in California.

Both fighters did not have the Olympics credentials that lead to fame. But their talent has allowed them to fight through the dense smoke that is professional boxing.

Haney has defeated numerous world champions such as Prograis, Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos Jr., while Garcia has stopped champions Javier Fortuna and Luke Campbell.

As amateurs, Garcia and Haney battled six times with each winning three.

“They know each other very well,” said Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions. “Ryan is going to beat Devin Haney.”

Haney has a buttery-smooth style with one of the best jabs in boxing. He’s very adept at keeping distance and not allowing anyone to fight him inside. His reflexes are outstanding, yet he seldom fights inside. That’s his weakness.

Garcia fights tall and has superb hand speed and a lightning quick left hook. Though his defense lacks tightness his ability to rip off three-punch combinations in a blink of an eye pauses opponents from bullying their way inside.

“These guys always just look at me and look at me like I don’t know how to box,” said Garcia on social media. “Why was I one of the best fighters in the amateurs. Why was I a 15-time National champion…why did I beat everyone I came across.”

Haney is a strong favorite by oddsmakers to defeat Garcia. But you can never tell when it comes to fighters that know each other well and are athletically gifted.

When Sergio Mora challenged Vernon Forrest he was a big underdog. When Tim Bradley fought Manny Pacquiao the first time, he was also the underdog. And when Andy Ruiz met Anthony Joshua few gave him a chance.

Haney and Garcia have history in the ring. It should be an interesting battle.

PPV.COM

Jim Lampley will be leading the broadcast on PPV.COM for the Haney-Garcia card at Barclays and texting with fans on the card live. He will be accompanied by journalists Lance Pugmire, Dan Conobbio and former champion Chris Algieri.

The PPV.COM broadcast begins at 5 p.m. PT. and is available in Canada and the USA.

Other News

MMA stars Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will be holding a media day event on Friday, April 19, at NOVO at L.A. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Diaz and Masvidal will be boxing against each other in a grudge match on June 1 at the KIA Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The two MMA stars met five years at UFC 244 with Masvidal winning by TKO over Diaz due to cuts.

This is a grudge match, but under boxing rules.

Fight card in Commerce, Calif.

360 Promotions returns to Commerce Casino on Saturday April 20 with undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval leading the charge.

Sandoval (12-0) faces Angel Rebollar (8-3) in the main event that will be shown live on UFC Fight Pass. Also on the card are two female events including hot prospect Lupe Medina (5-0) versus Sabrina Persona (3-1) in a minimumweight clash.

Doors open at 4 p.m.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

There were few surprises when co-promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren and their benefactor HE Turki Alalshikh held a press conference in London this past Monday to unveil the undercard for the Beterbiev-Bivol show at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1. Most of the match-ups had already been leaked.

For die-hard boxing fans, Beterbiev-Bivol is such an enticing fight that it really doesn’t need an attractive undercard. Two undefeated light heavyweights will meet with all four relevant belts on the line in a contest where the oddsmakers straddled the fence. It’s a genuine “pick-‘em” fight based on the only barometer that matters, the prevailing odds.

But Beterbiev-Bivol has been noosed to a splendid undercard, a striking contrast to Saturday’s Haney-Garcia $69.99 (U.S.) pay-per-view in Brooklyn, an event where the undercard, in the words of pseudonymous boxing writer Chris Williams, is an absolute dumpster fire.

The two heavyweight fights that will bleed into Beterbiev-Bivol, Hrgovic vs. Dubois and Wilder vs. Zhang, would have been stand-alone main events before the incursion of Saudi money.

Hrgovic-Dubois

Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 13 KOs) and Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs) fought on the same card in Riyadh this past December. Hrgovic, the Croatian, was fed a softie in the form of Australia’s Mark De Mori who he dismissed in the opening round. Dubois, a Londoner, rebounded from his loss to Oleksandr Usyk with a 10th-round stoppage of corpulent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.

There’s an outside chance that Hrgovic vs. Dubois may be sanctioned by the IBF for the world heavyweight title.

The May 18 showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury has a rematch clause. The IBF is next in line in the rotation system for a unified heavyweight champion and the organization has made it plain that the winner of Usyk-Fury must fulfill his IBF mandatory before an intervening bout.

The best guess is that the Usyk-Fury winner will relinquish the IBF belt. If so, Hrgovic and Dubois may fight for the vacant title although a more likely scenario is that the organization will keep the title vacant so that the winner can fight Anthony Joshua.

Wilder-Zhang

The match between Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) and Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) is a true crossroads fight as both Wilder, 38, and Zhang, who turns 41 in May, are nearing the end of the road and the loser (unless it’s a close and entertaining fight) will be relegated to the rank of a has-been. In fact, Wilder has hinted that this may be his final rodeo.

Both are coming off a loss to Joseph Parker.

Wilder last fought on the card that included Hrgovic and Dubois and was roundly out-pointed by a man he was expected to beat. It’s a quick turnaround for Zhang who opposed Parker on March 8 and lost a majority decision.

Other Fights

Either of two other fights may steal the show on the June 1 event.

Raymond Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Nick Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) in a 12-round featherweight contest. New Jersey’s Ford will be defending the WBA world title he won with a come-from-behind, 12th-round stoppage of Otabek Kholmatov in an early contender for Fight of the Year. Liverpool’s “Wrecking” Ball, a relentless five-foot-two sparkplug, had to settle for a draw in his title fight with Rey Vargas despite winning the late rounds and scoring two knockdowns.

Hamzah Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) meets fellow unbeaten Austin “Ammo” Williams (16-0, 11 KOs) in a 12-round middleweight match. East London’s Sheeraz, the son of a former professional cricket player, is unknown in the U.S. although he trained for his recent fights at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in California. Riding a skein of 13 straight knockouts, he has a date with WBO title-holder Janibek Alimkhanuly if he can get over this hurdle.

The Forgotten Heavyweight

“Unbeaten for seven years, the man nobody wants to fight,” intoned ring announcer Michael Buffer by way of introduction. Buffer was referencing Michael Hunter who stood across the ring from his opponent Artem Suslenkov.

This scene played out this past Saturday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was Hunter’s second fight in three weeks. On March 23, he scored a fifth-round stoppage of a 46-year-old meatball at a show in Zapopan, Mexico.

The second-generation “Bounty Hunter,” whose only defeat prior to last weekend came in a 12-rounder with Oleksandr Usyk, has been spinning his wheels since TKOing the otherwise undefeated Martin Bakole on the road in London in 2018. Two fights against hapless opponents on low-budget cards in Mexico and a couple of one-round bouts for the Las Vegas Hustle, an entry in the fledgling and largely invisible Professional Combat League, are the sum total of his activity, aside from sparring, in the last two-and-a-half years.

Hunter’s chances of getting another big-money fight took a tumble in Tashkent where he lost a unanimous decision in a dull affair to the unexceptional Suslenkov who was appearing in his first 10-round fight. The scores of the judges were not announced.

You won’t find this fight listed on boxrec. As Jake Donovan notes, the popular website will not recognize a fight conducted under the auspices of a rogue commission. (Another fight you won’t find on boxrec for the same reason is Nico Ali Walsh’s 6-round split decision over the 9-2-1 Frenchman, Noel Lafargue, in the African nation of Guinea on Dec. 16, 2023. You can find it on YouTube, but according to boxrec, boxing’s official record-keeper, it never happened.)

Anderson-Merhy Redux

The only thing missing from this past Saturday’s match in Corpus Christi, Texas, between Jared Anderson and Ryad Merhy was the ghost of Robert Valsberg.

Valsberg, aka Roger Vaisburg, was the French referee who disqualified Ingemar Johansson for not trying in his match with LA’s Ed Sanders in the finals of the heavyweight competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Valsberg tossed Johansson out of the ring after two rounds and Johansson was denied the silver medal. The Swede redeemed himself after turning pro, needless to say, when he demolished Floyd Patterson in the first of their three meetings.

Merhy was credited with throwing only 144 punches, landing 34, over the course of the 10 rounds. Those dismal figures yet struck many onlookers as too high. (This reporter has always insisted that the widely-quoted CompuBox numbers should be considered approximations.)

Whatever the true number, it was a disgraceful performance by Merhy who actually showed himself to have very fast hands on the few occasions when he did throw a punch. With apologies to Delfine Persoon, a spunky lightweight, U.S. boxing promoters should think twice before inviting another Belgian boxer to our shores.

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