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Tyson Fury knows what the alphabet gangs do not: They don’t decide who the real champ is.

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“Introducing John L. Sullivan” [without acronyms] by George Bellows (1923)

The Heavyweight King

Tyson Fury knows what the alphabet gangs do not: They don’t decide who the real champ is.

Showtime’s Brian Custer recently referred to Deontay Wilder as the “world heavyweight champion” and so contributed to the mass confusion in boxing. Would-be fans —precisely the demographic the sport needs to attract— scratched their heads and wondered what the hell happened two weeks ago when Tyson Fury defeated Wlad Klitschko and was declared the “heavyweight champion of the world.” An unknown number of them reached for the clicker.

The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a fifty-member, all-volunteer initiative representing eighteen countries invites them to put the clicker down and stay tuned. It recommends approaching the sport as they would a holiday with family. When Uncle Ralph staggers over to intrude on a pleasant exchange claiming something is that assuredly isn’t, wave him off. If he can’t take a hint and proves immune to courteous correction, escort him to the door and lock him out in the cold. He’ll sober up eventually. Boxing is overrun with Uncle Ralphs. We find them well-poised on television and meticulous in print, but most of their claims regarding the championships are gobbledygook. Do any of them really believe there are eighty-six champions in the seventeen weight divisions? Do they know the difference between Deontay Wilder’s belt and the divisional crown?

THE CROWN VS. BELTS

Tyson Fury, insists the Board above the nonsense and the din, is heavyweight king. He takes his place in a succession that includes the vanquished Wlad Klitschko, fellow Briton Lennox Lewis, Fury’s namesake Mike Tyson, and thirty-three others give or take. Each divisional succession is an ongoing march through history with expected breaks and disruptions and which began with the first championship bout fought under the Marquess of Queensberry rules. The heavyweights’ stretch back at least to Gentleman Jim Corbett, if not John L. Sullivan — both sons of Eire like Fury himself.
Anyone with more sense than a partridge in a pear tree knows that there are two paths into a divisional succession: (1) defeat the true champion or (2) if said champion retires or otherwise abdicates, earn a top-two ranking and defeat the top or next-best contender.
And what of “world heavyweight champion” Wilder? He did neither. In January 2015, he defeated Bermane Stiverne (then ranked third in the Transnational Rankings when he was ranked sixth) after both contenders surrendered a percentage of their purses to the WBC. That belt Wilder carries is quite literally bought and paid for. It’s a fabrication; a fabrication puffed up by boxing media as something more but that had nothing to do with Wlad Klitschko and therefore had nothing to do with the heavyweight crown.Wilder was fervent anyway. “I want to fight four times a year,” he said afterward. “Whoever’s ready, I’m ready.” The response of ESPN’s Dan Rafael was proof positive that the language in the sport must change: “Fight fans who have been searching for a [sic] American heavyweight champion surely are also.”
Tyson Fury understands the problem better than most. “If I want a belt, I can go and buy one,” he said last year. “It’s pointless. There’s the status of saying you’re a ‘world champion’, but when there’s twenty-five different world sanctioning bodies, it doesn’t mean nothing.”

TYSON FURY IN MUHAMMAD ALI’S FOOTSTEPS

Earlier this month, the IBF stripped Fury of their belt because of his intention to give Klitschko a rematch. The heavyweight king responded while doing roadwork. “They should take all of them away from me if they want,” he told reporter Peter Lane. “But they’ll never take what I’ve done.”
He’s in good company. The WBA pulled the same stunt on Muhammad Ali in 1964 after he agreed to a rematch against Sonny Liston. It was a move laughed at by yesterday’s more discerning boxing writers. “The WBA is an imaginary organization,” wrote Red Smith. “When Liston and Clay fight again and the winner is recognized as champion by the public, the press, and the participants, the WBA’s pretensions to power must evaporate.” At the other end of Ali’s career, the WBC took their own swing at his legacy when they stripped Leon Spinks in 1978 for agreeing to fight him in a rematch. They “awarded” the belt to Ken Norton and it was begrudgingly acknowledged by increasingly less-discerning boxing writers.
Trainer Peter Fury was more correct than we supposed when he compared Fury’s upset win over Klitschko with Ali’s upset win over Liston. Fury’s recent dismissal of homosexuality and the value of women in society left him wide open for censure, but Ali said worse. Before becoming America’s secular saint, Ali was a divisive figure who routinely thumbed his nose at the majority culture. “A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman,” he said during a Playboyinterview in 1975. And what of a Black Muslim woman who wants to go out with a white man? “Then she dies. Kill her, too.” In case you haven’t noticed, Ali is celebrated by the very demographic that now condemns Fury.

A HERALD OF CHANGE?

Fury, who shuffled his feet familiarly a few times during the Klitschko fight, can likewise redefine himself as something other than a provocateur of the political left; he can step forward as a herald of change in boxing. Reform is in the air. It’s in his ear. “Gonna speak with [promoter] Mick [Hennessy] and & Tyson to give all belts away. Win em & vacate the lot. Money racket,” tweeted his trainer on December 9. “We know who the real champ is.”
The IBF, WBA, WBC, et al. would rather we didn’t. Unaccountable to anything outside their counting houses, they will continue to thrive in the mass confusion and make decisions based solely on their interests.
The heavyweight king is expected to do what is in his interests, but is also signaling his willingness to do something more. The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s only interest resides in that “something more.” It will continue to provide clarity for fans and fighters alike by publishing clean, globally-represented rankings at www.tbrb.org and identifying “the real champs” with virtual crowns that don’t cost a thing.

_________________

Springs Toledo is a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.  Special thanks to Jose Corpas and Tim Starks.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 287: Boxing Wars on Tap in Philadelphia and Las Vegas

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Those boxing wars continue.

Rival promoters battle it out in America as Matchroom Boxing shows off its newest prize Jaron Ennis while Top Rank presents a world title fight in the middleweight division.

Take your pick. Both are scintillating.

Philadelphia’s Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) makes his promotional debut for the British boxing promotion company and faces David Avanesyan (30-4, 18 KOs) for the IBF welterweight world title on Saturday June 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s been a year since Ennis last fought and meanwhile he was bestowed the IBF title without throwing a punch. He earns it on Saturday.

“Having this time off isn’t going to affect me at all. I just want to get back in the ring,” said Ennis whose last fight was a knockout win over Roiman Villa back on July 8, 2023.

A promotional war ensued for the right to sign Ennis. Matchroom Boxing was the winner and they’re itching to showcase one of the most talked-about welterweights to come along since Sugar Ray Leonard.

Avanesyan was selected to replace original opponent Cody Crowley who was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. The Armenian fighter has upset a few in his career including Sugar Shane Mosley and England’s Josh Kelly a few years back.

He’s not shy.

“I think that this is a 50-50 fight. He’s younger, He’s strong, it’s a very good fight,” said Avanesyan who lives in the United Kingdom.

Ennis had no qualms about facing a veteran like Avanesyan.

“It’s a better fight than Cody Crowley but I’ll beat him up, break him down and get the knockout,” Ennis said.

For the past several years boxing experts have been crowing about the Philadelphia prizefighter’s immense talent. On Saturday in front of a hometown crowd he continues the journey toward stardom.

Also, on the same card female WBC featherweight titlist Skye Nicolson (10-0) defends against Dominican stalwart Dyana Vargas (19-1). The Aussie southpaw makes her first real world title defense.

Las Vegas

IBF and WBO middleweight titlist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0, 10 KOs) defends against Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday July 13, at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank boxing card.

Its Kazakhstan versus Russia as Alimkhanuly continues the middleweight tradition established by his countryman Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Can he continue to dominate?

Alimkhanuly, 31, is a southpaw slugger and still learning how to corral a moving target. But he has power and shouldn’t have a problem finding Mikhailovich who packs power too.

Mikhailovich, 26, fights out of New Zealand but has never had a professional fight outside of the island nation. Will he be able to ignore the glitter of Las Vegas?

Also, Southern California’s Ray Muratalla (20-0, 16 KOs) faces former super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (33-5-1, 8 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for 10 rounds.

It’s another step-up fight for Muratalla who had a four-fight knockout streak snapped in his last fight against South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni this past March. It won’t get any easier against speedy Farmer.

Golden Boy and 360 Promotions

Tickets are available for the super welterweight showdown between Vergil Ortiz and Serhii Bohachuk that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

A press conference was held today at the Golden Boy headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Both fighters were present to kick off the promotion that will feature the two fighters with almost 100 percent knockout rate.

Ortiz has won every fight by knockout. Bohachuk’s last fight ended in a win and was the first time he didn’t obtain a victory by knockout. But the Ukrainian fighter did pick up the interim WBC title with the win over Brian Mendoza who previously had knocked out current champion Sebastian Fundora.

Both Bohachuk and Ortiz train in Southern California.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Nelson Hysa (17-0) vs Thorsten Fuchs (13-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jaron Ennis (31-0) vs David Avanesyan (30-4-1); Skye Nicolson (10-0) vs Dyana Vargas (19-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 8 p.m. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0) vs Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0); Ray Muratalla (20-0) vs Tevin Farmer (33-5-1).

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

There’s a church in Arizona that has its own motto: “A church that cares where you’re going and not where you’ve been.” It’s the catchline of The Rock, a non-denominational Christian church in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

That phrase undoubtedly resonates with Trevor McCumby, a member of the congregation. “I’ve been to some dark places,” says McCumby who was working at a 7-11-style convenience store a few years ago and now finds himself on the cusp of some big paydays in the sweet science.

If McCumby’s name rings a bell, it likely relates to something that had its genesis on Nov. 26, 2016, when he knocked out Donovan George in the opening round on a card in Las Vegas.

The result was changed to “no contest” when traces of two banned substances were discovered in McCumby’s pre-fight urine specimen. Also, McCumby acknowledged receiving an intravenous infusion to rehydrate after the weigh-in which was against the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

It wasn’t until July of the following year when McCumby learned his fate. The boxing commission suspended him for 18 months, retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and fined him $3,750.

He maintains that he never knowingly took a PED. He pointed the blame at a multi-vitamin supplement allegedly contaminated with anabolic agents. (Trevor’s advice to his fellow boxers: If using a supplement, save the receipt and keep the empty container; it may come in useful someday.)

McCumby quit boxing at this juncture but returned in 2018 and recorded two more wins, pushing his record to 25-0 with 17 knockouts. Eleven of those kayos came in the opening round and that doesn’t include his demolition of Donovan George which effectively never happened.

And then, Trevor McCumby fell off the map. Four-and-a-half years would elapse before he returned to the ring, his comeback stalled by a knee injury suffered in sparring.

A light heavyweight during his run to 25-0, he returned as a super middleweight. Two wins in Phoenix prefaced his ProBox debut on Jan. 31 of this year when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over 17-3-1 Christopher Pearson. Up next is former IBF world super middleweight champion Caleb Plant who has been in with the top dogs in the division. It’s not official yet, but it’s an open secret that McCumby and Plant have agreed to touch gloves on August 17, likely in Florida.

Trevor McCumby, now 31 years old, was introduced to boxing by his father, a police officer in Niles, Illinois, and former Marine who once served as a presidential honor guard. The minimum age for an amateur boxer in Illinois was eight, but the elder McCumby lied about his son’s age and Trevor started competing with oversized gloves at the age of seven. (Trevor McCumby and his dad are pictured in a story about amateur boxing in the Windy City that ran in the Chicago Tribune in April of 1999. At the time, little Trevor would have been six years old.)

The McCumbys then lived in Yorkville, Illinois, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Trevor recalls traveling almost every day after school to the gritty south side of Chicago for training. Sweating side-by-side with inner city kids couldn’t help but speed up his development. He had a fine amateur record (127-11 by his count) and, at age 17, with the Olympics yet two years away, was ready to say “yes” when he got a surprise call from Cameron Dunkin who wanted to manage him. Renowned for his keen eye as a talent scout, the late Mr. Dunkin had one of the foremost stables in boxing.

McCumby was then living in Phoenix. He would finish high school in Las Vegas before making his pro debut in Los Angeles at age 18.

Looking back, Trevor says, “I didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have. After each win, it was time to go out and party.” His hiatus from boxing was sobering on many levels. Working in a convenience store was humbling and his priorities changed when he met Kenzie (short for McKenzie), a member of the worship committee at The Rock and his future wife. Trevor is now the father of a 3-year-old son, a 1 ½-year-old daughter and there’s another girl on the way, due in November. As for the knee injury, a torn ACL, Trevor says, “it took about a whole year of rehab but feels better now than it ever did.”

McCumby opened his camp for the Plant fight during the week of July 4 at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas. His training is being coordinated by Brandon Woods, a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Kenny Adams.

He and Caleb Plant have a common opponent in a manner of speaking. Plant went 12 rounds with David Benavidez in his last outing, losing a unanimous but relatively close decision. The “strength of schedule factor” in Plant’s favor will weigh heavily in setting the odds for McCumby vs. Plant. But McCumby has also shared the ring with Phoenix-native Benavidez, and on many occasions. “We gave each other great work,” he says. “You could have sold tickets to those sparring sessions.”

There was a time when it seemed that Trevor McCumby would be remembered mostly for putting his hand in the cookie jar and failing to maximize his talent. But hold the phone. His boxing journey is far from finished and this is a story that may ultimately prove uplifting.

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Fernando Martinez Ratches Up the Heat in the Hot Super Flyweight Division

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On Sunday in Tokyo, Fernando Martinez picked up a second piece of the world super flyweight title with a mild upset of Kazuto Ioka. Martinez owned the IBF belt and added Ioka’s WBA scalp to his bedpost. That gives the Argentinian globetrotter one more belt than Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez if you are keeping score.

Of course, there isn’t a little man on this planet who would be favored over “Bam” at the moment, excepting Naoya Inoue who competes two divisions up at 122. The San Antonio southpaw was so impressive in dismantling Juan Francisco Estrada on July 29 that he stifled all talk of whether he belongs on the pound-for-pound list. The debate now is about his placement; how high should it be? But despite Bam’s towering presence in the 115-pound division, there are some good fights out there for him beginning with Martinez.

Kazuto Ioka brought quite a resume. The first fighter from Japan to win world titles in four weight divisions, he was 31-2-1 heading in with both losses by split decision and was appearing in his twenty-fifth world title fight. But Martinez showed no fear of him. He took the fight to Ioka and closed strong, winning by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and 116-112. (The 120-108 tally by California judge Edward Hernandez Sr was assailed as ludicrous; the fight was much closer than that…but there was no disputing the verdict, the right guy won.)

A fight with Bam Rodriguez, who was in attendance, would be the most lucrative for Fernando Martinez, but he has other options. WBO belt-holder Kosei Tanaka is out there as is former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Both are in action this month. Chocolatito (51-4, 41 KOs) fights this coming Friday on his home turf in Managua against Colombian journeyman Rober Barrera (27-5). Tanaka (20-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt on July 20 in Tokyo against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (25-2-1). Tanaka has won four straight since getting dominated and stopped by Ioka in 2020.

The outcome of the Ioka-Martinez bout was no surprise to Matt McGrain who previewed the contest in these pages. And, as McGain noted, Martinez doesn’t have much time left to build up his fan base outside South America and the Orient. His current record (17-0, 9 KOs) betrays the fact he turns 33 next week.

The smaller weight divisions have never attracted a large following in the United States, but that has something to do with a historical dearth of American-born fighters at the pinnacles. Bam Rodriguez is making even casual fans stand up and take notice and his ascent comes at a time when his division is percolating.

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