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The Real Main Event On Saturday Night Is….

Matt McGrain

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Lethal power-puncher Gennady Golovkin, the world’s best middleweight, 33-0 and thirty-three years of age out of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, meets Canadian David Lemieux, 26 years old and 34-2 in Madison Square Garden on the seventeenth of this month.

It’s a good fight, and, should he win, Golovkin is on his way to becoming a great fighter. But it’s not the main event.

It is receiving top billing because the main protagonist is a middleweight power-puncher and because there are people in powerful positions that believe him a possible long-haul golden-goose but the real main event is in fact the chief support, the meeting between three weight strapholder #1 pound-for-pound, 43-0 lineal flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez, a man who has more knockouts to his name than Golovkin has fights, and Brian Viloria, a former strapholder at two different weights, 36-4 and a former TBRB top-ten pound-for-pounder. Viloria exited the pound-for-pound line-up only after a loss to the monstrous Juan Francisco Estrada, currently ranked #7 on the same list.

While Gonzalez and Golovkin are the main attractions and while Gonzalez dominates Golovkin in terms of prestige and titles, of the respective opponents, Viloria is also the more prestigious then. In 2011, when Lemieux was losing to the likes of Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine, Viloria was knocking out beasts like Giovani Segura and Omar Romero. Being frank: Golovkin is in Gonzalez’s class as a fighter but clearly to be ranked below him pound-for-pound while, as opposition, Viloria is by far the more accomplished of the two opponents.

That said, arguments that Lemieux has more momentum than Viloria going in are sound. “The Hawaiian Punch”, continues to rebuild in the wake of his hurtful 2012 loss to Estrada, after which the first thing he did was take a whole year off before returning against granite-chinned Puerto Rican journeyman Juan Carlos Herrera. The fight was not a satisfying one with Viloria boxing and moving and potshotting his way to a wide unanimous decision. My initial thoughts were that Viloria had become gun-shy, but he looked more alive if not quite himself against Jose Zuniga in the summer of 2015, stopping the Mexican with a body attack after five. Bodyshots, too, were the formula for his fourth round stoppage of Armando Vazquez, but it was clear that Viloria was now treading water; that perhaps the seemingly overstated criticism of him from earlier in his career, namely that he was not always necessarily a natural fighter or one that could be relied upon to be switched on to his boxing in the manner of most top fighters, seemed worth recalling.

Then came his most recent fight, his June meeting with Omar Soto.

This fight was significant not just because, despite losing a two round blow-out to Roman Gonzalez in 2011 that sent him into a tailspin of form so bad he was no longer ranked, Soto was a step up from the very limited competition he had been meeting, but also because it was a rematch. Soto had pushed Viloria to a split decision back in 2010 in a fight I thought the Mexican had won with steady pressure and a dogged persistence in taking any and all punching opportunities. It was clear his style troubled Viloria and certainly, despite Soto’s drop in form, this was an interesting test for the American.

Viloria looked almost frightening against a clearly compromised Soto. He looked fast, angry, balanced and heavy-handed. Soto was forced to take a knee three times in 119 seconds, twice by right hands, once with a scything left-hook to the liver. Soto failed to make it out of the first round for the very first time.

First round knockouts appear often as mirages. One thinks one knows things that one does not, sometimes, behind a first round knockout. It was a first round knockout of Floyd Patterson by Sonny Liston that told us that Liston could not be beaten, least of all by a lightweight mimic like Cassius X, soon to be Muhammad Ali. In fact, Liston was already a past-prime alcoholic who was ready to be taken. Mike Tyson was only twenty months short of his destruction at the hands of James “Buster” Douglas when he flattened Michael Spinks, his private life already spinning dangerously out of control. This knockout, brutal and succinct though it was, has not answered key questions about Viloria – does he have the stamina for twelve hard rounds, does he have the stomach for another hard fight, but I don’t think these are the questions at hand for his fight against Roman Gonzalez.

Returning to 2013 and Viloria’s Waterloo against Estrada for a moment, the factors that made Estrada so much the master may not be present when Viloria meets Gonzalez.

Viloria landed two hard left hooks in the opening minutes but a distant warning note was already sounding. Viloria looked slow of foot. This enabled Estrada to repeatedly forage and even to audition punches until he settled on a right uppercut, no less, perhaps the hardest punch to land in such guerrilla fashion but the one that repeatedly found the target.

This is not an ability that Gonzalez has. He doesn’t pounce, but rather brings the most adept pressure of any fighter currently active, with all due respect to Golovkin, who may be the second. Catching fleet-footed flyweights is perhaps the most difficult job in all of boxing and it is one at which Roman Gonzalez absolutely excels, as I wrote in my detailed accounting of the new pound-for-pound king. But he is not recreating the jack-rabbit attack executed so faultlessly by Estrada.

Once Estrada had softened Viloria up, he came inside and dominated here also, really hurting his man in the ninth round in the process. Viloria, who has an iron jaw and is as hard as nails, barely made it out of the twelfth.

Estrada couldn’t get Viloria out of there, but Gonzalez is a better puncher. However, while Estrada enjoyed a huge (and generally overlooked) stylistic advantage over Viloria, Gonzalez does not. In fact, I suspect that Viloria is in the stylistic box-seat here, if he finds the right fight plan.

Viloria likes come forward fighters who wait for their turn. Gonzalez may be the best technician in the world and he is certainly capable of the unexpected but while he can counter-punch, you won’t generally see him pre-counter or try to pull the trigger on an opponent who has shaped a punch. He is too excellent for this. What this means is that a fighter with the guts to attack him might get to spend a few rounds on the same plane as him.

When fighters break, Gonzalez has already beaten them. It is only a matter of time before he catches them and fillets them. When they run from the off, Gonzalez builds terrifying momentum hunting them down and wins, at worst, a lop-sided decision. What Estrada did was fight him, and fought him for every minute of every round with a wonderful mix of movement and aggression. He prevented Gonzalez getting set with his superior speed and stalled his momentum with aggression and fluidity.

In a sense, Estrada has “lain down the blueprint” in the vocabulary of the Mayweather obsessive, but I suspect it is not one that Viloria can follow. He doesn’t have Estrada’s speed – in fact I think Gonzalez will be the faster fighter as well as the volume puncher – and he’s always struggled with that type of fighting retreat. He becomes disorganised. If he elects to box-punch for as long as he can hold the heat I think Gonzalez will stalk him down for the knockout. That’s a bold prediction – dig up the Estrada fight for an example of what Viloria can swallow without effect – but it’s one I stand by. If, on the other hand, Viloria strikes out to attack Gonzalez, to knock him out, and to do so early, I think he introduces enough variance, enough chaos, that such a result be possible. Viloria has excellent power when he lands right, and although he can sometimes seem strangely staid in fights of a certain nature, when he is aggressive and direct he can be devastating.

Like he was against Giovani Segura; like he was against Soto.

Of course, Gonzalez is a different matter altogether but trying to box-punch with the best box-puncher in the world and trying to move off against the best pressure fighter in the business, seems to me the greater of the evils, should Viloria be determined to win.

But if he can tap into that vein of power that surges in both his right and his left glove, if he can hurt Gonzalez early, and if he is fit, well and mentally adjusted so that he be able to maintain an attack in such circumstances, anything can happen. Whether or not Viloria and his team strike upon such a solution is another matter of course, in my experience most fighters want to believe that fighters can win boxing “their way.”

Against Gonzalez, boxing his way is going to get Brian Viloria hurt, badly, in an entertaining fight. But if he can find the heart and the nerve to set sail into the storm, we might just see a shock on this weekend. At 112lbs or below, Gonzalez is always going to be the right pick, regardless of the opposition, but Viloria is not chanceless.

So, by all means enjoy Golovkin-Leminuex on Saturday – just don’t be late, you might miss the main event.

Check out The Boxing Channel video “Golovkin vs Lemieux HBO PPV – Quick Results”.

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Tyson Fury Overcomes Doughty Otto Wallin

Arne K. Lang

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Otto Wallin proved to be a more formidable opponent than Tyson Fury’s last victim, Tom Schwarz, by a long shot. One could sense that this wouldn’t be a walkover for the Gypsy King when Wallin backed Fury into a neutral corner in round two and got off a good volley of punches.

Wallin opened what became a very nasty gash over Fury’s right eye in round four. Fury pawed at it continually throughout the fight which went the full distance. Fury seemed to think that the cut resulted from a clash of heads, but the replay indicated otherwise. Near the end of round six, Wallin rubbed the cut with the laces of his gloves, earning a stern but silent rebuke from Fury and referee Tony Weeks who did not deduct a point.

Fury prefers to fight off the back foot until he has his opponent hurt, but with the cut he fought with more of a sense of urgency, pressing forward. The fight turned messy over the final third as the contest turned into somewhat of a hug-fest.

Wallin, who came in undefeated (20-0), landed some hard shots in the final round, but by then he needed a knockout to win. The final scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110. The 118-110 tally was overly severe, distorting the fact that this was a hard fight for the Gypsy King  who improved his ledger to 29-0-1.

The promoters say the rematch with Deontay Wilder, the second bout of a planned trilogy, is set for February but Wallin may have wrecked those plans. It would seem that Fury will need more time to heal that cut.

Co-Feature

Based on raw numbers, it figured that the fight between defending WBO world 122-pound champion Emanuel Navarrete and Juan Miguel Elorde would be competitive. Both had identical records (28-1) and both were riding long winning streaks; 23 straight wins for Navarrete and 18 straight for Elorde. But the son of Filipino boxing legend Flash Elorde was out of his league. Navarette, who is a big featherweight, was too strong for him. Near the end of round three, Elorde received a standing 8-count when he landed against the ropes, which kept him upright. Twenty-six seconds into the next round it was all over, with referee Russell Mora halting the bout to protect Elorde from taking more punishment.

The victorious Navarette, from Mexican City, was making the third defense of the title he won from Isaac Dogboe. Las Vegas hasn’t been good to Elorde whose lone prior defeat came at nearby Mandalay Bay in a 4-round contest.

Other Bouts

In a mild upset, Jose Zepeda, won a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza. A 2008 Olympian for Puerto Rico and former two-division belt-holder, Pedraza declined to 26-3.

Zepeda (33-2), a native Californian who entered the ring draped in the Mexican flag, did his best work early and late. In the middle rounds it appeared that Pedraza was taking control with superior marksmanship but he couldn’t sustain it. The seventh round was furious as were the waning moments of the 10th. All three judges had it 97-93.

In an 8-round featherweight bout, Isaac Lowe, a fellow Traveler and stablemate of Tyson Fury, remained undefeated with an 8-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Ruben Hernandez. The scores were 78-74 and 77-75 twice.

Lowe, who showed good boxing skills but isn’t a hard puncher, improved to 19-0-2 (6 KOs). Hernandez falls to 25-5-2.

In the first walk-out fight, Guido Vianello, a 6’4″, 240-pound heavyweight from Rome, Italy, improved to 5-0 (5 KOs) at the expense of Cassius Anderson,  a 35-year-old former Toledo U. linebacker, whose corner pulled him out after the fourth round. Vianello knocked Anderson down in the first few seconds of the fight, but Anderson wasn’t of a mind to leave that quick.

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Fast Results from The Big Apple: Haney, Hunter, and Serrano Win Handily

Arne K. Lang

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions was at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden tonight with a 10-bout card that produced no surprises. In the featured bout, 20-year-old lightweight Devin Haney stayed on course for a hoped-for showdown with Vassiliy Lomachenko with a dominant performance over Russia’s little-known Zaur Abdullaev. The fight was stopped after four one-sided rounds with Abdullaev apparently suffering from a fractured cheekbone.

Haney (23-0, 15 KOs) was far more athletic. Abdullaev, who brought an 11-0 record into his U.S. debut, had trouble handling Haney’s speed and was simply overwhelmed by Haney who was the far busier fighter.

Co-Features

Amanda Serrano, who has won more titles in more weight classes than Carter has pills, added the WBO world featherweight title to her dossier with a lopsided decision over fellow Brooklynite Heather Hardy. This fight appeared that it would end early; Serrano’s punches were harder and cleaner. But Hardy, seven years older at age 37, refused to fold and actually did some good work in the middle rounds. The scores were 98-92 and 98-91 twice.

Serrano improved to 37-1-1. It was the first pro loss for Hardy who fell to 22-1.

In a 12-round heavyweight contest, Michael Hunter won his sixth straight, improving to 18-1, with a 12-round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin (15-1). Although Hunter is on a nice roll, this was not the sort of performance likely to win him any new fans. His best moment came in round five when he knocked Kuzmin flat on his back with a left hook, but from that point on, he seemed content to out-box his Russian adversary who had a 37-pound advantage but was conspicuously slower.

All three judges had it 117-110. After the bout, Hunter expressed a desire to fight Alexander Povetkin on the Joshua-Ruiz II card in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7.

Other Bouts of Note

It was a mixed bag for 32-year-old Azerbaijan heavyweight Magomedrasul Majidov who won his pro debut with a fourth-round stoppage of Ed Fountain but didn’t look all that impressive. More was expected of Majidov, a three-time world amateur champion who scored three wins over Anthony Joshua as an amateur. Fountain (12-7) lost his fifth straight.

Kazakh welterweight Daniyar Yeleussinov, a two-time Olympian and 2016 gold medalist, looked sensational while advancing his record to 8-0 (4) with a vicious first-round knockout of Reshard Hicks. Yeleussinov, who is trained by his father, knocked Hicks to the the canvas twice, the second of which left Hicks face down, forcing referee Ron Lipton to end the bout without the formality of a count. It was the first pro loss for Hicks (12-1-1), a 34-year-old ex-G.I. from Killeen, Texas.

Uzbekistan super bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev improved to 7-0 (6 KOs) with a fourth-round stoppage of Columbia’s Wilner Soto (22-7). This was a stay-busy fight for the 24-year-old former Olympian who was originally slated to challenge WBA/IBF title-holder Daniel Roman who had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury suffered in sparring. Akhmadaliev toyed with the overmatched Soto for the first three rounds before unleashing the heavy artillery.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing USA

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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 64: New York, L.A. and Las Vegas Fights

David A. Avila

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Three of the Big Four promoters in prizefighting are showcasing young and old talent in the next two days from New York City to Los Angeles.

Las Vegas speedster Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) headlines a Matchroom Boxing card at Madison Square Theater in Manhattan when he fights Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) on Friday Sept. 13. DAZN will stream the boxing card live.

Dripping with talent, Haney has passed all of the tests so far in his brief and meteoric career including rumbling with Mexican tough guys like Juan Carlos Burgos and obliterating Antonio Moran.

But like all prospects and young contenders, the big question always is can he take a punch?

Abdullaev only has 11 fights and though he has seven knockouts, he has yet to face quality opposition. But his backers say he can fight and that’s all anyone can hope to see.

The fight native New Yorkers and followers of the female fight world want to see is the world title clash between Brooklyn’s undefeated Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs) defending the WBO featherweight strap against Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs) in a 10 round semi-main event. It’s going to be a dog fight.

The WBC Diamond belt will be another reward for the winner. Both girls will be tested for PEDs in accordance with WBC rules. For years female prizefighters were virtually untested.

Los Angeles – Munguia, Ryan Garcia and Franchon

WBO super welterweight titlist Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs) of Mexico meets Ghana’s Patrick Alottey (40-3, 30 KOs) in a world title challenge on Saturday Sept. 14, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. This Golden Boy Promotions card will be part of the Mexican Independence Day weekend celebration and also Munguia’s last foray in the 154-pound weight class.

Munguia’s lack of defense has made every fight a 50/50 proposition and even this fight against the shorter Alottey could test the Mexican’s chin. The Ghanaian fighter has 30 knockouts on his resume with all wins taking place in Africa.

Ryan “The Flash” Garcia will bring his army of fans to the outdoor arena once again. The last time he fought at Dignity Health Sports Park it was called the StubHub Center and he slugged it out with the very tough Puerto Rican Jayson Velez in May 2018. That night the slender fighter won by decision.

For about a year Garcia has been working under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso in San Diego and the change was immediately visible. The head trainer for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has tweaked Garcia’s defense and head movement. He has also polished the vast offensive weaponry the 21-year-old possesses. He’s still learning.

Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs) faces Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs) who walked into a press conference in the Golden Boy Building with singing artist Usher. The big question most are asking is if Usher will be present at the fight on Saturday. That’s not Garcia’s query.

“Avery can fight and he’s got skills. He’s no pushover,” said Garcia, adding that the lightweight division is growing with young budding talent. “The new generation is here with Teofimo (Lopez), Devin (Haney), I’m excited and want to be in the best fights to show that I belong with these other fighters.”

Also on the boxing card will be women’s WBC super middleweight titlist Franchon Crews (5-1) who was scheduled to face WBC heavyweight world titlist Alejandra Jimenez who was dropping down in weight for the fight. But the Mexican fighter was allegedly unable to obtain a visa and could possibly be replaced by former foe Maricela Cornejo (13-3, 5 KOs).

Crews defeated the classy Cornejo for the world title a year ago in Las Vegas and the Mexican middleweight had sought a rematch. Cornejo was recently posting photos of herself in Israel on her social media accounts. If she does accept the fight it definitely shows Cornejo has confidence and that’s a big plus. One of the remarkable things from their first fight was watching Cornejo clapping and congratulating Crews in earnest after their fight. It was a sincere gesture and made me appreciate Cornejo even more.

Las Vegas – Fury, Navarrete

England’s Tyson Fury, the lineal heavyweight world champion, meets Sweden’s Otto Wallin in a battle of undefeated heavyweights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday Sept. 14. ESPN will show and stream the Top Rank fight card.

Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) who defeated Wladimir Klitschko for all of the titles back in November 2015, then dropped out of the boxing world for a few years. He has returned to activity and is changing the boxing landscape with both his charisma and fighting skills. His fight against Deontay Wilder last December was one of the more memorable heavyweight world title fights in the last 30 years.

Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) is a southpaw who can crack as almost all heavyweights can. He’s represented by Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who leads the career of female star Claressa Shields. That should say a lot about the big Swede’s talent.

Also on the card is Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs), the WBO super bantamweight titlist who fought just last month in Los Angeles against Francisco De Vaca and knocked him out in three rounds. He defeated Isaac Dogboe for the title last December and then stopped him in the rematch last May. He’s an angular looking fighter with long arms, incredible stamina and knockout power. He will be meeting Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs) of the Philippines in another world title fight.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. PT DAZN – Devin Haney (22-0) vs Zaur Abdullaev (11-0), Heather Hardy (22-0) vs Amanda Serrano (36-1-1).

Sat. 3:30 p.m. PT DAZN – Jaime Munguia (33-0) vs Patrick Alottey (40-3), Ryan Garcia (18-0) vs Avery Sparrow (10-1), Franchon Crews (5-1) vs Maricela Cornejo (13-3).

Sat. 4:30 p.m. PT ESPN+ – Tyson Fury (28-0-1) vs Otto Wallin (20-0), Emanuel Navarrete (28-1) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1).

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

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