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This Title Shot is a Hart-to-Hart Production

Bernard Fernandez

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Tucson Convention

As much a political activist as a boxing promoter, Top Rank founder and chairman Bob Arum is providing 500 free tickets for Friday night’s ESPN-televised fight card at the Tucson Convention Center to so-called “Dreamers,” children of illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, whose status for remaining in the United States has been called into question by the Trump administration.

“They’re as American as my grandchildren,” says the Brooklyn-born Arum, who often finds ways to combine his business operation with his social-justice agenda.

In a manner of speaking, another dream may or not be fulfilled in the co-main event of the TV doubleheader, in which WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs), of Mazatlan, Mexico, defends his title against Jesse “Hard Work” Hart (22-0, 18 KOs), the WBO’s No. 1 contender from Philadelphia. But the dream team in this instance is not so much comprised of the Ramirez family as by the Harts, whose long, thus-far-fruitless quest to claim a world championship now rests on the wide shoulders of the 28-year-old Jesse, who has been raised almost since birth to achieve something that his once-world-rated middleweight contender father and trainer, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, and other assorted relatives could not.

The other co-featured marquee bout pits WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) against No. 4 contender Genesis Servania (29-0, 12 KOs), of Bacolod City, Philippines.

“My family, both sides of it, were brought up with boxing,” noted Jesse, who is co-promoted by Top Rank and Peltz Boxing. “My dad, obviously, but also on my dad’s side were my uncle (Alfred Lowery) and my dad’s uncle (Jimmy Hart) as well as a cousin on my mom’s side (Rick Williams).

“Now I have my own family (manager-wife Starletta and daughter Halo). To bring back that belt to my household would be something I almost can’t describe. It would mean everything.”

Perhaps, if Cyclone Hart had won a world title – or even been afforded the opportunity to fight for one – Jesse’s sense of purpose might not be so clear and defined. But who’s to say? Children born into the Wallenda family are raised from an early age to become high-wire walkers because … well, just because. Sometimes there is no escaping who we are meant to be in life.

“Mentally, I have been prepared for this (to fight for and win a world championship) since I was just a little kid,” Jesse said. “My whole life has been directed toward this moment. My dad showed me tapes of all the great Philadelphia fighters, fighters that became champions of the world or could have been, from as far back as I can remember.

“Now that I’m so close to doing what I have so long prepared for, I can honestly say I’m ready. Of course there’s going to be a little nervousness, but it’s not going to overwhelm me or anything like that. Nothing can or will stop me from performing at my highest level. I’m not going to freeze up. How could I, when I’ve been groomed for this since I was six years old?”

At 6-foot-3 and 168 pounds, Jesse is not a carbon-copy of his 5-11½ father, either physically or even stylistically. He considers himself a boxer-puncher, more capable of winning with a varied attack than was his dad, a legendarily devastating puncher who went into every fight looking to score a knockout, as early and as emphatically as possible. It was a strategy that either worked well or didn’t, as evidenced by Cyclone’s 30-9-1 record, which included 28 knockout victories (18 coming in the first three rounds) and eight defeats inside the distance.  Cyclone’s weapon of choice was that Philly favorite, the left hook.

“Jesse’s a good puncher, but he’s not in his father’s league when it comes to pure punching power,” said J Russell Peltz, who promoted Cyclone and now is involved with the son. “I’m just telling it like it is.”

One of a quartet of Philadelphia middleweights who were all world-rated at the same time in the early 1970s – the others being Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe and the late Bennie Briscoe – Hart was being talked up as a possible  challenger to Argentine great Carlos Monzon when misfortune struck. During a fight with former junior middleweight titlist Denny Moyer on Sept. 21, 1971, at the Spectrum in Philly, both men tumbled through the ring ropes in the sixth round. Moyer suffered an injured ankle and Hart was knocked unconscious after striking his head on the floor, resulting in a no-contest.

Cyclone Hart did not fight again until Feb. 7 of 1972, a second-round knockout of Matt Donovan, but in his next bout after that he was stopped in eight rounds by Nate Collins and any hope of procuring a shot at Monzon vanished.

Might Cyclone have taken out the seemingly invincible Monzon had he landed that vaunted left hook just so? Possibly, although Peltz wonders if that proposed fight ever could have advanced beyond speculation.

“Teddy Brener (Madison Square Garden’s esteemed matchmaker) was trying to get him a title shot late in 1971, but Monzon was not controlled by the Garden, despite of how powerful Teddy was,” Peltz said. “I don’t believe Monzon actually was going to fight Cyclone, who just wasn’t a big enough name internationally. Anyway, that’s as close as he ever got.”

Ironically, the dream matchup that might have gone to Hart instead went to Moyer, who fell in five rounds to Monzon on March 4, 1972, in Rome.

Jesse was not around to witness his dad’s rise nor his fall; he was born on June 26, 1989, 10 days before Cyclone’s 38th birthday and nearly seven years after his final bout.  His not-inconsiderable power and some of his moves were passed along by his father, but some of his finer technical points came from another veteran Philadelphia cornerman, Fred Jenkins, the original trainer of 1996 Olympic gold medalist David Reid.

In addition to his dad, of course, Jesse lists Reid as a hero and role model. Jesse was not quite seven when he watched Reid, who was trailing on points, win the gold medal with a turn-out-the-lights overhand right in the final round against Cuba’s Alfredo Duvergel. That punch instilled in Jesse a dream of his own, in which he would go to the 2012 London Olympics and win a gold medal. He admits to feeling crushed when, as the favorite, he missed out on a chance to represent his country by the narrowest of margins, losing on a controversial second tiebreaker in the U.S. National Championships against Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha.

“That still haunts me,” Jesse said. I wanted so much to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal like David Reid.  I was bitter about how that all ended for me. But it probably helped me get this far in the pros, and this fast. And besides, my father’s dream for me wasn’t so much about going to the Olympics as it was for me to win a world championship as a pro.”

One thing Jesse apparently does better than his dad is talk. Peltz described him as “a marvelous self-promoter” who, should he get past Ramirez, a formidable southpaw, might stage his first title sometime in the first quarter of 2018 in Philadelphia. Asked for his thoughts on “Zurdo,” Hart gave him short shrift.

“All due respect, but when I look at him I see a boy, not a man,” Jesse said. “I don’t see somebody who thinks on his own. He’s always looking to his corner for instructions. His main weakness is his mind.  Everything he does, I’ll have an answer for.”

Ramirez has said Hart “must pay” for such remarks, and that his dream is to shut the challenger’s mouth. Then again, that’s the nature of dreams. Not everyone’s gets to come true.

RIP David Bey

Sometimes the boxing gods dispense or withhold their favors with no particular sense of rhyme or reason. Fringe heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner wangled a dream if ultimately doomed shot at the great Muhammad Ali, registered a knockdown (or maybe it was a trip), thus inspiring Sylvester Stallone to launch the Rocky film franchise, and just this year was portrayed by Liev Schrieber in a movie, Chuck, based on his improbable life. Another fringe heavyweight contender, Buster Douglas, was served up as a sacrificial offering to Mike Tyson in Tokyo, but shocked the world in scoring the biggest upset in boxing history and was rewarded with a $24 million payday in his first and only title defense. Still another fringe heavyweight contender, Randall “Tex” Cobb, became something of a celebrity after losing every minute of every round to champion Larry Holmes and rode that notoriety to some nice movie credits as a craggy-faced tough guy.

Then there’s David Bey, a Philadelphia native whose heavyweight ring career can be likened to, in one way or another, all of the aforementioned passers-by in boxing’s more exclusive neighborhoods. But Bey, who was 60 when he died on Sept. 13 in a construction accident in Camden, N.J., reaped few residual benefits from his brief flirtation with fame and fortune, other than his induction earlier this year into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. Like Wepner, Douglas and Cobb, Bey was granted an opportunity to fight for the IBF heavyweight championship of the world, and he gave a credible account of himself in a 10th-round TKO loss to Larry Holmes on March 16, 1895. Unbeaten at 14-0 with 11 KOs the night he entered the ring against Holmes, Bey’s status as a fighter on the rise quickly flamed out as he lost five of his next six bouts, three inside the distance. There would be no calls from Hollywood, even though Bey had a face that leaned more to handsome than to hammered and he did briefly date Grammy Award-winning singer Natalie Cole, daughter of the legendary Nat “King” Cole.

Bey retired with an 18-11-1 (14) record after his final bout, an eighth-round stoppage of David Jaco on Sept. 17, 1994, in Macao, China, whereupon he returned to Philly and a blue-collar life. The guy who managed to get Holmes’ attention with a crisp left hook in the second round of their title fight was a member of Local Carpenters 179, operating a pile driver, when he was involved in the fatal accident.

Informed of Bey’s death, Holmes recalled him as “an awkward fighter” who “gave his all.”

“He could fight. He hit me pretty good” (with that second-round left hook),” Holmes continued.

As for those parallels between himself and other fighters who got a brief taste of heavyweight nectar, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Bey turned pro on Nov. 6, 1981, with a first-round TKO of, yes, Buster Douglas in Pittsburgh, thus making him a man who beat the man (Tyson), and his Philly roots gave him a kinship of sorts with Cobb, who relocated from his native Texas to Philly to advance his boxing career.

Rest in peace, David.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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