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Upset Time for Miguel Cotto vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai in L.A.?

David A. Avila

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Cotto

Sixteen years have passed since Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto stepped foot in a prize ring in the Los Angeles area.

In 2001, Cotto was unknown to the Southern Californians. Most only knew he participated in the Olympics in Australia. His former promoter boldly claimed he would be one of the greats. This was during Felix “Tito” Trinidad’s era and that was a pretty lofty statement.

Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) returns to L.A. for perhaps his farewell performance against Japan’s under-rated Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs) for the vacant WBO super welterweight world title on Saturday Aug. 26, at the StubHub Center in the metropolitan L.A. municipality of Carson. HBO will televise.

A lot has changed in 16 years for Cotto. First, the Puerto Rican no longer sports hair and no longer are there questions about his fighting abilities. Now, 36, he’s conquered the lightweight, super lightweight, welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight divisions.

Not even the great “Tito” Trinidad was able to accomplish that feat.

During that first L.A. appearance Cotto was a marauding 135-pounder with a seek-and-destroy style that was overwhelming for his Mexican opponent that night Arturo Rodriguez.  But the match-making was built to make Cotto look good in his sixth pro fight.

That same night Roy Jones Jr. would dominate against Julio Gonzalez in a unification bout for the light heavyweight world title. It was Jones first and only appearance in L.A. too and he would easily vanquish the Mexican fighter by decision.

Sadly, Gonzalez passed away in 2012 from a motorcycle accident in Mexico. He was the first and only pro boxer from Orange County to win a world title. We will talk about him later.

Cotto turned out to be much more than what was expected. Yes everyone could see he had power, speed and impressive fighting skills. But over the years the Puerto Rican from Caguas proved to be one of the most intelligent and business smart boxers in the last 20 years.

Ever since breaking away from his uncle and trainer Evangelista Cotto he has searched for the perfect coach. He had successful ventures with Emanuel Steward, Pedro Diaz, and then decided on Freddie Roach in 2013. They clicked immediately and have not looked back.

That’s the way Cotto maneuvers. He’s as deft in the business side as he is in the boxing ring.

Whenever Cotto fights it’s by his own design and his own terms. And always it’s the most money he can make at the proper moment.

“We are going to do what we always do, pick and choose the best challenger out there,” said Cotto.

When he fought Floyd Mayweather it was his own choosing and with the promoter of his choice. It was the same when he fought Sergio Martinez and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but skipped Gennady Golovkin. Cotto knows exactly who to fight and when to fight them.

Now he faces Kamegai.

Two Faces of Kamegai

If you know anything about Japan you know it’s a nation that prides itself on producing warriors. But like other countries you can’t typecast their fighters.

Kamegai fought for years in Japan but had often wondered how it would be to face some of the big names in the U.S.

His first visit to the U.S. was on a 2011 card filled with two other talented Japanese fighters including IBF super bantamweight titlist Toshiaki Nishioka who would defeat Mexico’s Rafael Marquez and retain the title in Las Vegas.

Kamegai was on the card and faced Hector Munoz, a battle-tested veteran from New Mexico who had faced many of the top fighters like Shawn Porter and Mike Jones. He was informed what fighting style American fans liked to see.

“In Japan I was more of a technical fighter with good defense. I was aggressive, but I was known for my defenses,” said Kamegai, 34, who was born in Sapporo. “But coming to the States, I knew to win here I had to be more aggressive and be not so technical but a more aggressive fighter.”

Fighting aggressively proved to be great for obtaining fights in the U.S. but despite entertaining clashes against Johan Perez, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and Alfonso Gomez, all ended in losses.

Last year Kamegai was matched against Jesus Soto Karass in one of the best fights of 2016. Both banged each other so fiercely that after 10 rounds at Belasco Theater no one in the audience could truly say who won the fight. Oddly enough, it ended in a draw. Many in the audience gave a sigh of relief. None wanted to see either fighter get a loss after a performance like that.

A rematch was signed by the Mexican and Japanese warrior to do it again five months later, this time at the Inglewood Forum.

All those losses piling up must have changed Kamegai’s attitude because the man that lost to Perez, Guerrero, Gomez and drew with Soto Karass did not show up at the Forum last September. Instead, a more slick counter-punching boxer-puncher arrived and blew out Soto Karass into a short retirement.

Kamegai is like a chameleon. He can change according to the fight. So the big question now is: which Kamegai will show up against Cotto?

“I’m here to give the fans what they’re looking for,” said Kamegai. “When I fight in the United States, I’m much more motivated. Especially with the reaction from the fans and the crowd.”

Don’t expect Kamegai to allow Cotto to run away with an easy victory especially with a world title as the reward.

“I enjoy fighting here, and it’s probably the best platform to be fighting at,” Kamegai said.

Orange County

In the semi-main event Santa Ana’s Ronny Rios (28-1, 13 KOs) challenges undefeated Rey Vargas (29-0, 22 KOs) for his hold on the WBC super bantamweight world title. If successful, Rios can be the second from Orange County to hold a world title.

Only the late Julio Cesar Gonzalez can make the claim of being a world champion from Orange County in boxing. Tito Ortiz also held a world title in MMA. Gonzalez won the light heavyweight world title in boxing. Both hailed from Huntington Beach, Calif.

Gonzalez used to train at La Habra Boxing Club along with Enrique Ornelas and Librado Andrade. Anybody who sparred against those three was in for a rough night. They were the Bash Brothers in real life. Back in 2001, Gonzalez became the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a world title above middleweight when he defeated Dariusz Michalczewski by split decision in Germany to win the WBO world title. It was something that not even Roy Jones Jr. dared risk but Gonzalez was more than willing to do. After beating Michalczewski, the likeable Gonzalez was given a unification bout against Jones who was at his peak. It was a one-sided affair but Gonzalez went the distance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Rios, 27, will try to become the second fighter out of OC to have a world title belt. The champion Vargas is 26 and has not fought the same level of competition except in winning the belt versus Gavin McDonnell in February.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonder what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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