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Deontay Wilder’s Hall of Shame

Deontay Wilder’s Hall of Shame
This is a look at the title opposition of one Deontay Wilder, America’s great heavyweight hope and currently ranked number

Matt McGrain

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Shame

Deontay Wilder’s Hall of Shame

This is a look at the title opposition of one Deontay Wilder, America’s great heavyweight hope and currently ranked number two in that flagship division.

What it is not is a critique of the WBC’s rankings policy.  It could easily be interpreted as such; we are told time and time again that the reasoning behind a given fight is only that it is “mandatory” and therefore has to be fought.

It is a wonder that any competitive fights get made at all, this being the case.

This is also not an accounting of Wilder’s apparent bad inflatable slide luck in attempting to make stiffer matches for himself.  It is an examination of what has actually happened rather than what someone tried to do.

I admit that it doesn’t make for pretty reading, but horror rarely does.

All rankings are by the TBRB; other independent ranking organizations are available – and they don’t seem to see things any differently.

ERIC MOLINA (23-2), 1st Defense, June 2015. 

I am not a total skeptic when it comes to soft opposition; “one for me, one for you” is a reasonable approach I think, and Wilder took on his only ranked opponent to date when he met Stiverne for the WBC trinket in early 2015. A more limited opponent seemed a reasonable move to me, and the Texan, Eric Molina, qualified.

Chris Arreola was in a strange place in his career in 2012. Having failed in his attempt at a heavyweight strap against Vitali Klitschko in 2009 and then lost to former cruiserweight belt-holder Tomasz Adamek in 2010 he had hit the road on what amounted to an old-fashioned barn-burning tour in boxing outback against his own selection of limited opposition. This culminated in a ten round decision win over a heavyweight named Friday Ahunanya, a once promising Nigerian heavy who had just dropped a six-rounder to a professional loser called Cisse Callif.

When the result of this fight was later changed to a No Contest when Arreola failed the drugs test (marijuana), I think it’s fair to say that the once proud Mexican-American had reached his career low. It is understandable then that Molina was excited to be matched with him in February of 2012. This excitement did not last long. Molina was blasted out in 150 seconds.

These things happen in boxing, and Arreola was capable of making them happen so it was fitting that Molina be afforded the chance to rebuild. Between this first round knockout defeat and his June 2015 meeting with Wilder, Molina had five fights. He met no ranked contenders. In fact, he met no fighters of note outside of a 45 year old DaVarryl Williamson who hadn’t boxed for two years and who was rescued from himself in the fifth. Molina stooped lower in his next contest, beating up the 10-12-2 Theo Kruger. After one more outing he was apparently “ready” to meet Wilder with the belt on the line.

Molina was not a bad fighter and he actually landed some good shots on the belt-holder on his way to being stopped in the ninth, lasting eight rounds longer than he had against Arreola. That being said, he was also woefully under-qualified for championship boxing. Still, as I said, a soft one is reasonable after lifting the title. The real question was the eternal one – who’s next?

Who should he have fought instead?  Vyacheslav Glazkov, pre-injury, ranked seven.

JOHANN DUHAUPAS (32-2), 2nd Defense, September 2015.

To his tremendous credit, Wilder was out quickly but the man in the other corner once again underwhelmed.

Frenchman Johann Duhaupas was big with a big reach but the headline in assessing him as an opponent for Wilder was his twelve round points loss to novice Erkan Teper in March 2015. Their fight was turgid, honest (although Teper did have a point deducted for pushing) and in no way controversial; cards of 116-111 twice and 115-112 in favor of Teper were a fair reflection of the contest.

Maybe, at the absolute limits of what is acceptable, Teper could have reasonably have been favored with a shot at Wilder’s trinket, especially after his next fight, a two round battering of David Price. But it was Duhaupas , the loser of that contest that would get to meet Deontay.

Welcome to Wilder territory.

Between Teper and his title match, Duhaupas was able to put a veneer of respectability on his shot with a narrow majority decision victory over Manuel Charr. Charr was a legitimate opponent and I thought Duhaupas handled him reasonably well, especially early, edging away and walking his opponent onto a decent jab, lobbing in the occasional ill-directed right when he felt it was safe to do so.

Still, once again, Charr was not a ranked opponent; he was a gatekeeper, the type of fighter whose defeat would open up for the victor a fight with a ranked opponent, the defeat of whom might in turn open up an elimination bout against a top contender. Not in this instance. In this instance, a loss to a novice and a hairline victory over a gatekeeper got Duhaupas into a ring with Wilder.

It wasn’t pretty.

Who should he have fought instead?  Carlos Takam, ranked six.

ARTUR SZPILKA (20-1), 3rd Defense, January 2016. 

Artur Szpilka is my favorite Deontay Wilder opponent and I will go so far as to say that had Wilder fought a ranked man in September, this would have been a reasonable outing in January.

Szpilka was a quick southpaw who made up for his dearth in reach with a shifting style and good arbitrary head movement. The problem with his status as a title-challenger, aside from an absence of a top ten ranking, was his defeat two years earlier to Wilder’s chief domestic rival Bryant Jennings. Jennings had taken the high road to Wilder’s low road, crashing himself upon the rock that was Wladimir Klitschko where Wilder preferred the weakest of the available “champions” in Stiverne; fair to say, Jennings paid for his bravery, never being quite the same again after his meeting with Doctor Steelhammer. Against Szpilka, though, Jennings had looked excellent, winning nearly every round on his way to a stoppage victory in the tenth.

Szpilka’s return was not the preferred route of prospective Wilder title-challengers though, and he even found time to defeat a legitimately ranked opponent in Tomasz Adamek. His first two opponents of 2015 were more in keeping with those favored by Wilder’s challenges in Ty Cobb (18-6) and Manuel Quezada (29-9 and on a five fight losing streak) and these victories, combined with a two round victory over Yasmany Consuegra who blew out his knee in the second were good enough to make the match with Wilder.

It is worth keeping in mind that this bizarre combination of opposition likely made Szpilka Wilder’s most legitimate opponent.  Unsurprisingly it therefore made for his best match, too, as well as his key learning fight. Szpilka’s style made Wilder a little uncomfortable and the Pole won several rounds before Wilder closed the blinds in what remains, for me, his most impressive knockout.

Who should he have fought instead?  Szpilka’s first conqueror, Bryant Jennings, ranked ten.

CHRIS ARREOLA (36-4-1), 4th Defense, July 2016. 

Wilder’s fourth defense against Chris Arreola was probably his most cynical. Arreola had name recognition to recommend him and little else. A perfectly reasonable opponent for a young prospect, he was no more a legitimate title challenger than I am, having recorded two wins in his previous six contests.

This underlines the problem with handing out baubles to fighters who are not yet ready to properly defend them: it takes a devalued property and gives it to a fighter who will happily devalue it further while making money.

After that one round blowout of Molina, Arreola matched Bermane Stiverne and was somehow installed as a prohibitive favorite. Stiverne promptly broke his nose and pounded out a decision win. Arreola saved himself from a descent into obscurity with another first round knockout, this time over Seth Mitchell, but the taste of that Stiverne defeat would not go away and he demanded and received a rematch. This time he was stopped in six. Arreola then fought a really fun fight with an unknown called Curtis Harper, earning himself an eight round decision and a short reprieve from obscurity, but much of this work was undone when he found himself on the lucky end of a ten round draw with Fred Kassi.

Then Arreola met Travis Kauffman.

Kauffman was exactly the sort of opponent Arreola should have been meeting at that point in his career. Kauffman had just moved on from facing professional losers with records like 10-21 or 19-22-3 and on to genuine tests, fighters who were coming to win but might not be expected to for whatever reason – in short, Arreola was now a trial horse. To give him his due, he got himself in shape for Kauffman, but was caught with a crackling up and down combination in the third and dropped. Drawing upon all his experience he forced Kauffman into the type of tough combat often seen in the netherworld where busted flushes show against drawing hands and with both men exhausted down the stretch he made it close – two cards reading 114-113 in his favor bought him the split, though my card read the same as the odd judge, who saw it by the same score in the other direction.

Regardless, the fight was changed to a No Contest after Arreola failed another drug test.

Of course he got a fight with Wilder.

Who should he have fought instead?  Anyone.

GERALD WASHINGTON (18-0-1), 5th Defense, February 2017.

At the time of his meeting with Gerald Washington, Wilder was ranked the number four heavyweight in the world and was heralded the world champion by the WBC. Gerald Washington was a prospect. A prospect in his mid-thirties, so a prospect in a rush, but a prospect none the less.

Washington’s three-pronged arrival in 2015/16 heralded a fighter of no little talent who carried all the foibles any heavy of his inexperience can be expected to exhibit. Against the sawn-off aggressor Amir Mansour he looked genuinely excellent early before floundering against his more seasoned opponent down the stretch. He was lucky, in my view, to escape with the split draw the judges found for him but it was an excellent learning fight for a man who at a lean 250lbs looked the part.

Next up was a true veteran in Eddie Chambers. Here, I thought Washington was probably good for his eight round decision win but it was bizarre to watch a man with such a pronounced size advantage work so hard to avoid exchanges. More bizarre still was the huge number of punches both men missed. It is rare that such inaccuracy is televised.

I’ve never seen him beat up the bloated ghost of the fighter who had once been Ray Austin but that was the shambolic elimination for his meeting with Deontay Wilder. Wilder staged a predictably one-sided blow-out over five.

Who should he have fought instead?    Dillian Whyte (10), Christian Hammer (9), Andy Ruiz (8) or Kubrat Pulev (6).

BERMANE STIVERNE (25-2-1), 6th Defense, November 2017.

To be fair to Wilder, Bermane Stiverne was a substitute opponent for Luis Ortiz, who failed a drug test. It is also fair to point out that when Wilder’s British counterpart Anthony Joshua lost his opponent, world number six contender Kubrat Pulev on short notice, he substituted world number seven contender Carlos Takam.

That, as they say, is how it’s done.

It is also worth pointing out that Stiverne was due to fight on the Wilder-Ortiz undercard with a view to stoking and then staging the rematch nobody wanted to see early next year anyway. While that percolates, consider, too, that Stiverne had somehow remained a WBC top contender despite the fact that he has fought only once in the three years since Wilder pounded out a wide, dull decision over him. He fought 30-10 Audley Harrison victim Derric Rossy and was extended the full ten rounds.

Stiverne, like all these opponents, did nothing to earn a ranking on a reasoned, independent organization’s top ten at heavyweight. All of them were deeply, deeply flawed as title opponents. It is true that Wilder has been unlucky in cornering quality opposition, but it is also true that he is the number two draw in heavyweight boxing and if his representatives want to get low-key quality opposition to America to test him, it is just a matter of paying.

If they prefer to corner fan dollars while lining up victims, that is their choice and as a road to riches it is as tried and tested as fighting the best. But what must be remembered, as negotiations begin in earnest for the Joshua-Wilder showdown this coming year, is that this policy has left Joshua’s people with far and away the stronger hand.

It is Joshua who has bested by far the better opposition. He has beaten four ranked men in his 20 fights – Charles Martin (9), Dominic Breazeale (9), Wladimir Klitschko (1) and Carlos Takam (7) – while Wilder has managed one in his 39 (Bermane Stiverne; 6).

In matters not unrelated, Joshua is commanding purses between $13m and $19m while Wilder cleared as little as $1.4m dollars for his most recent contest.

To be clear, Wilder’s call for a 50/50 split in any fight between the two is ridiculous at best and dishonest at worst; it is likely that if Wilder is assigned 25% of the take (and he will, and should, get more) then it will represent a payday in wild excess of anything he has ever earned.

There’s no fooling boxing. One way or the other you get what you deserve.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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Remembering Jose ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles (1940?-2019)

Arne K. Lang

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The passing of Jose Napoles last Friday (Aug. 16) caused hardly a ripple in the English-speaking world. This says something about the current state of boxing — how it has slipped out of the mainstream, at least in the United States – and something about how quickly important fighters of yesteryear fade from view and become little more than a footnote in the sports pages when they leave us.

The record book says that Jose Napoles was born on April 13, 1940, but that may warrant an asterisk. Like many Cuban exiles who made their mark in sports, Napoles was widely considered to be older than his listed age. A 1974 article in Sports Illustrated said he was 34 going on 40. But regardless of his true birthdate, there is no question that Napoles was a special talent. The noted Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain named “Mantequilla” the fourth best welterweight of all time, surpassed only by the two Sugar Rays, Robinson and Leonard, and Jack Britton. He was ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990.

Purportedly 113-1 as an amateur, Napoles turned pro as a featherweight and had his first 21 pro fights in Havana. Then Fidel Castro came to power and outlawed professional sports which he associated with the depredations of capitalism, a plaything for the wealthy. To profit from his talent, Napoles would need to go elsewhere. He defected to Mexico, settling in Mexico City.

In Mexico he found an appreciative audience. In time he developed a following that surpassed the top native-born fighters. His two bouts with Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez attracted crowds of 17,000-plus to the LA Forum including thousands from Mexico, many arriving on chartered planes. Lopez, born on a Utah Indian reservation, had a good following too, but nothing like Napoles. When he fought at the Forum, cries of “may-he-co, may-he-co” drowned out the ring announcer.

Capture 1

Napoles sported a 54-4 record when he made his U.S. debut at the Forum underneath a non-title fight between Jesus Pimentel and Chuchu Castillo. Overall he fought 10 fights at the LA sports palace, six of which were sanctioned for the WBA and WBC welterweight titles at a time when these were the only world sanctioning bodies with a significant footprint.

Napoles won the title here with a dominant performance over Curtis Cokes who was unfit to continue after 13 rounds. The rematch in Mexico City was a carbon, only three rounds shorter. Among his other victims were Emile Griffith and Hedgemon Lewis who he defeated twice.

About that nickname: “Mantequilla” means butter in Spanish. Napoles, who methodically dismantled his opponents, never changing his stone-faced expression, was said to be as smooth as butter. But he was more than a technician. He flattened Ernie Lopez with a vicious uppercut in their second meeting. Indian Red was unconscious before he hit the canvas.

A “butter knife” would have been a more appropriate nickname, a very sharp butter knife, said some of the wags, but actually Napoles was often more sliced up than the men he beat; his one flaw as a fighter was that he was prone to cuts.

He lost a fight in Mexico to the capable L.C. Morgan on cuts, a loss he avenged with a second-round knockout. Not quite four years later, he lost his title to Billy Backus on cuts. He was bleeding from cuts over both eyes, and bleeding badly over the left, when the fight was stopped in the fourth round.

Canastota’s Backus was Carmen Basilio’s nephew. The fight, which some say was stopped prematurely, was held in Syracuse, Backus’s backyard. This was one of the great upsets of the 1970s. A few years earlier, Backus had retired on the heels of three straight losses, returning to the sport after being laid off from his job as a construction worker.

Napoles, a ladies man, had a reputation for being lax in his training. “He liked to observe the dawn at the end, not the beginning, of the day,” wrote Tex Maule. But he trained fiercely for his rematch with Billy Backus who was a bloody mess when the referee interceded in the eighth round. In hindsight, said several reporters, Napoles didn’t lose his title to Backus when they first met; he merely let Backus borrow it.

Napoles’ propensity to cut prompted his management to reach out to Angelo Dundee who worked Napoles’ corner in several big fights including the rematch with Backus. In his early days, before he established his bonafides as an elite trainer, Angelo was primarily known as an elite cutman. He acquired this reputation working with the aforementioned Basilio, one of the great bleeders of all time.

In February of 1974, Napoles moved up in weight to challenge Argentina’s renowned middleweight champion Carlos Monzon. This was too big a reach for an aging fighter who had begun his career as a featherweight. The bout, held in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris, ended with Napoles sitting glassy eyed on his stool after six rounds.

There would be four more successful defenses of his welterweight title before it was sheared from him by England’s John Stracey (TKO 6) in what would be his final fight. He finished 81-7 with 54 KOs.

In retirement, Napoles regularly attended WBC events even as his health deteriorated. In his end days, noted Robert Ecksel in an obit for the International Boxing Research Organization, he suffered from an assortment of maladies including diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and consumption. Moreover, in common with so many ex-boxers of an advanced age, his behavior had become increasingly erratic. “In his days of crisis he becomes impulsive and it’s difficult to stabilize him,” his wife Berta said in a 2017 interview with a Mexican paper.

Jose Angel “Mantequilla” Napoles died with his children and grandchildren at his side. Among the mourners at his memorial service were the family of the late, great Salvador Sanchez. Napoles had attended his memorial service; they were reciprocating. John Stracey sent a floral arrangement and a note that said it was an honor to have shared the ring with him.

May he rest in peace.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 61: Puerto Rico vs Mexico and a Weekend Look-Ahead

David A. Avila

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Southern California loads up with multiple fight cards this weekend.

It’s Puerto Rico versus Mexico when Luis Feliciano (12-0, 8 KOs) meets Genaro Gamez (9-0, 6 KOs) in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino on Thursday Aug. 22. It can be seen on RingTV.com and Facebook Watch via the Golden Boy Fight Night page.

“I know all about the rivalry,” said Feliciano who trains in South El Monte, Calif. “I’ve heard about it all my life.”

As long as I can remember, whenever you put standout Boricuas against standout Mexicans, it’s like adding gasoline to a fire. Just stand back. This year alone two Puerto Ricans with world titles were tripped up by Mexican challengers.

But the opposite can happen just as easily.

The first time I actually saw this heated rivalry in action was back in 1981 when Puerto Rican great Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez met Mexico’s equally great Salvador Sanchez in a featherweight duel in Las Vegas.

Gomez, at the time, was considered by many as the best fighter pound for pound. He walked into the Caesars Palace indoor arena with 32 consecutive knockouts in 32 wins. After fighting to a draw in his pro debut in Panama, he made sure that his fights did not end in a decision by brutally knocking out everyone in front of him.

Sanchez was the featherweight champion defending against Gomez who was moving up a weight division after cleaning out the super bantamweights. The Mexican fighter from the small farming town of Tianguistenco trained in Mexico City with several of the top fighters of his country. One of his teammates, Carlos Zarate, was wiped out by Gomez two years earlier by getting hit after the bell for a knockdown. He never recovered and it left ill feelings with Mexican fighters, including Sanchez.

The stage was set when they met on August 21, 1981, exactly 38 years ago today. Gomez walked in with a salsa band and Sanchez with a band of mariachis. Both bands dueled with each other. I laughed when I saw that.

Sanchez walked in as the underdog and the two warriors erupted at the opening bell. It was Sanchez who floored Gomez in the first round and looked like he would finish the Boricua. But Gomez got up and would not quit. Still, it didn’t look like the Puerto Rican champion would make it through the second round. He did and more.

Both fighters exchanged punishing blows, daring the other to take each other’s big shots. In one round they exchanged left hooks as if challenging the other to see whose punches were more powerful. Slowly the fight developed in Sanchez’s favor, and in the eighth round the Mexican fighter connected with a combination and down went Gomez. Though Sanchez would win by knockout that day and go on to gain more victories against three more fighters, he would die in a car crash almost a year later in Mexico.

Gomez would go on to knock out several Mexican fighters, including Juan Meza, Juan Antonio Lopez, Roberto Rubaldino and then the coup de grace, the epic knockout win over Lupe Pintor. Gomez would go on to win featherweight and super featherweight world titles. But his fight with Sanchez further ignited the future battles between Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Here we are 38 years later and the wars between fighters from these two countries are still captivating.

Puerto Rico vs Mexico

Feliciano, 26, ironically trains in the heart of Mexican style boxing and is trained by Ben Lira. Though he was raised in Milwaukee, he has spent the past two years in Southern California getting familiar with the pressure style that Mexican fighters impose on their opponents. He’s sparred and fought numerous times against all styles in California, New York and Puerto Rico.

“I feel I’m more than ready for this fight,” said Feliciano recently at the South El Monte boxing gym. “Gamez is a good fighter and that’s what I want to prove myself against, good fighters.”

Gamez, 24, began his pro career as a super featherweight but grew into the lightweight and now super lightweight division. Despite the changes in weight divisions, the San Diego-based prizefighter remains undefeated. He had a strong amateur career and, despite the varying weight divisions, Gamez (pictured with his promoter Oscar De La Hoya) has shown good boxing skills and a sharp boxing IQ.

Both fighters are undefeated and eager to move to the next level. On paper it’s a dead even fight. But you never know when Puerto Ricans fight Mexicans. It can end suddenly.

In a co-main event, Las Vegas-based Blair Cobbs (11-0-1, 7 KOs) meets undefeated Steve Villalobos (11-0-1, 9 KOs) of Mount Vernon, Washington in a 10-round welterweight clash.

Cobbs, a southpaw, has endured a virtual gamut of opposition and the Las Vegas-based fighter, originally from Philadelphia, has emerged unscathed. He signed with Golden Boy and continues to show improvement aside from natural toughness.

Others on the fight card are Mexico’s Raul Curiel (6-0) fighting Alphonso Black in a super welterweight match and lightweights Kevin Ventura (10-0) battling Brian Gallegos (6-1) in a six-round bout. Several other fights are planned.

Carlos Zarate, the great Mexican bantamweight world champion, will be a special guest at the fight card. Zarate, who had 63 knockouts in 66 wins, will also be available for photos and autographs at 6 p.m.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25.

Costa Mesa

On Thursday, Aug. 22, a Roy Englebrecht Events boxing card at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. features several young prospects including a middleweight showdown between Malcolm McAllister (9-3) and Rowdy Legend Montgomery (5-2-1) in the main event.

Others on the boxing card include Sergio Gonzalez, Jorge Soto, Israel Mercado, Mike Fowler and several others.

Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131.

Corona

On Friday, Aug. 23, Thompson Boxing Promotions presents a summer outdoor event at Omega Products International. In the main event, bantamweight prospect Saul Sanchez (12-0) meets Edwin Rodriguez (10-5-1) in a 10-round fight.

Sanchez, 22, returns to the site of his last battle that took place this past May and ended in a knockout win for the Pacoima, Calif. prizefighter. He’s trained by Joel Diaz and Antonio Diaz and has shown improvement in each of his fights since February 2016.

“I think it’s great that I’m fighting in the same place as such great champions,” Sanchez said. “I put in a lot of work for this camp to make sure I win convincingly. I know Rodriguez is looking to pull the upset, but it’s not going to happen.”

Rodriguez is a tough Puerto Rican who has toppled a couple of undefeated fighters and has never been knocked out. He also briefly held a regional title and has never been an easy foe for anyone.

A welterweight showdown pits Kazakhstan’s Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8 KOs) against Puerto Rico’s Javier Flores (14-2, 12 KOs) in an eight-round fight.

Mominov, 27, fights out of Florida and his last fight was in Costa Mesa this past March.

Flores, 33, is a southpaw slugger who has fought some tough competition. It’s an interesting welterweight matchup.

Others on the fight card that begins at 8 p.m. are heavyweight prospect Oscar Torrez, welterweight Luis Lopez and super featherweight Sebastian Salinas. For more information call (951) 737-7447.

Pico Rivera

Red Boxing International presents another lengthy boxing card at Pico Rivera Sports Arena on Saturday, Aug. 24.

In a lightweight headliner, Angel Flores (5-0, 4 KOs) risks his undefeated record against veteran Roberto Almazan (9-11, 4 KOs) in a six-round bout. Both Flores and Almazan previously fought at the outdoor arena located by the San Gabriel River.

A flyweight matchup pits Axel Aragon Vega (12-2-1, 7 KOs) against Giovanni Noriega (2-4-2) in a six-round fight. Vega, 19, fights out of Ensenada, Mexico and Noriega, 24, hails from Tijuana, Mexico.

Seven other pro bouts are scheduled on the fight card. Doors open at 5 p.m.

San Diego

Middleweights clash on a Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions fight card on Saturday Aug. 24, at Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine, Calif.

Connor Coyle (10-0) and Rafael Ramon Ramirez (21-4-2) meet in a 10-round middleweight contest. UFC Fight Pass will stream the fight card.

Coyle is an Irishman who now trains in Florida. San Diego’s Ramirez is a fighter who actually fought at the Olympic Auditorium and left boxing for seven years before returning in 2013. He hasn’t lost since losing at the now retired boxing venue in 2004.

Six pro bouts are scheduled for Saturday.

Fights to watch

Thursday Facebook Watch 5 p.m. Luis Feliciano (12-0) vs Genaro Gamez (9-0).

Fri. Showtime, 10 p.m. Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0) vs Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 9:30 a.m. PT Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1) vs Anthony Yarde (18-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3) vs Dewayne Beamon (16-1-1).

Sat. UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. Connor Coyle (10-0) vs Rafael Ramon Ramirez (21-4-2).

Sat. Fox Sports1, 7 p.m. Brandon Figueroa (19-0) vs Javier Nicolas Chacon (29-4-1).

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An Eclectic Undercard Girds Juan Francisco Estrada’s Hermosillo Homecoming

Arne K. Lang

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Juan Francisco Estrada: His Hermosillo Homecoming and an Eclectic Undercard

Eddie Hearn, the head of the boxing division of Matchroom Sport, the company founded by his father, sure does get around. Since entering into a joint venture with DAZN in May of last year, Hearn has widened his geographic scope. This weekend, Matchroom is in Hermosillo, Mexico, partnering with Mexican heavyweight Zanfer Promotions on a deep DAZN card headlined by a local man, WBC 115-pound title-holder Juan Francisco Estrada.

Estrada (39-3, 26 KOs) is widely considered the top fighter in his weight class. He’s 13-1 since losing on points to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez who was then undefeated and climbing the list of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters. The lone defeat was to Chocolatito’s conqueror, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (aka Wisaksil Wangek), and Estrada avenged that setback in his last outing, winning the WBC belt to become a title-holder in a second weight division.

The challenger, Dewayne Beamon (16-1-1, 11 KOs), hails from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He had 11 of his first 12 fights in the Tar Heel State, the other in neighboring Virginia, and fought his last six fights in Mexico. He’s 34 years old.

Beamon certainly hasn’t done enough to warrant a shot at a world title and hailing from North Carolina is a knock against him. North Carolina cranks out about as many good pro boxers as North Dakota cranks out good pro basketball players, which is to say hardly any at all. In common with several other states, North Carolina has become a feeder lot, a place where boxers are fed soft touches to pad their records and make them palatable as opponents for pugilists higher-up in the food chain. But having said that, we have a nagging suspicion that Beamon will make things interesting.

Beamon excelled in football and basketball at a small college in Virginia that has since dropped its football program, impressive for a five-foot-four fellow whose playing weight was somewhere south of 140 pounds. The son of a minister, he came to boxing late because his parents were opposed to it and as an amateur he was good enough to advance to the National Golden Gloves tournament. His curious nickname, “Stop Running,” dates to his amateur days and was a nod to the fact that none of his opponents were willing to stay in the pocket and trade punches with him.

The aforementioned Sor Rungvisai is also under contract to Matchroom/DAZN. A win by Estrada is expected to propel him into a rubber match with the Thai. Their previous fights were highly entertaining and a third meeting would be welcomed with raves by serious boxing fans.

– – – –

Notable British boxers Liam “Beefy” Smith and Jono Carroll and hot heavyweight prospect Filip Hrgovic are also on the card.

Liverpool’s Smith, one of four fighting brothers (the youngest, Callum Smith, just may be the best 168-pound fighter in the world) has lost only twice in 30 starts, both coming in world title fights, the first with Canelo Alvarez and the second with Jaime Munguia. He is matched against Mexican veteran Mario Alberto Lozano (33-9, 24 KOs) who went the distance in a 10-round fight with Jermell Charlo in 2014.

Jono Carroll (16-1-1, 3 KOs) made a lot of new fans in his U.S. debut in March when he battled defending IBF 130-pound champion Tevin Farmer hammer-and-tongs in Farmer’s hometown of Philadelphia.

This was a match between two southpaws, neither of whom was known as a hard puncher. On paper, it figured to be boring, but au contraire it was a feisty squabble in which the combatants threw a combined 2,050 punches according to BoxRec, 1,227 by Carroll. When the smoke cleared, Farmer won a close but unanimous decision, after which he reportedly took Carroll along for a post-fight meal, a Philly cheesesteak, natch.

The heavily bearded Irishman, who made his pro debut in Australia, is an interesting character. It figures that he will have a less strenuous fight in Hermosillo where he is matched against Mexican journeyman Eleazer Valenzuela (20-11-4, 16 KOs).

Filip Hrgovic (8-0, 6 KOs) needs to be busier. Although he has a far stronger amateur background than fellow young guns Daniel Dubois and Efe Ajagba, they have surpassed him in terms of name recognition.

The six-foot-six Croatian, who trains in Miami, needed only 60 seconds to dispatch Gregory Corbin in his U.S. debut in May. On Saturday, he opposes Mario Heredia (16-6-1, 13 KOs) who stands 5-foot-10 and carried 275 pounds in his last fight against Samuel Peter in Atlantic City. He earned this assignment by defeating Peter, winning an 8-round split decision.

“After his countryman Andy Ruiz’s win and his win in his last fight against Samuel Peter, (Heredia) surely has the wind in his sails,” Hrgovic told a reporter for a Croatian paper.

Hrgovic will take the wind out of his sails.

For some folks, the 10-round junior welterweight contest between Shakhram Giyasov (8-0, 6 KOs) and Darlys Perez (34-4-2, 22 KOs) is the most intriguing match on the card.

Columbia’s Perez, a former interim WBA lightweight title-holder, has lost two of his last three, late stoppages at the hands of Luke Campbell and Maxim Dadashev, but before that he out-fought future super lightweight titlist Maurice Hooker in a bout that was confoundingly scored a draw. Perez is definitely a step up in class for the fast-rising Giyasov, a silver medalist for Uzbekistan at the 2016 Olympics.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel  

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