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Jim Lampley and 16 Others Weigh in on the Problem of PED Use in Boxing

For this latest survey, I reached out for suggestions from our regular panel of respondents. Among the fascinating survey questions submitted

Ted Sares

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For this latest survey, I reached out for suggestions from our regular panel of respondents. Among the fascinating survey questions submitted were “Should Boxers Be Allowed to Have Beards?” and “What Was Your Brush With Greatness?”

Picking one was difficult, but I ultimately chose to go with a question of great topical interest: How Would You Deal With PED Cheats? Thanks to Steve Canton for passing along this suggestion. A Floridian, Steve has been involved in every aspect of boxing for more than 50 years. Once again, the respondents are listed alphabetically.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI (TSS boxing writer): I am an advocate of three strikes and you’re out. A first positive test would be a one-year ban from all ratings (and/or stripped of belt) and to re-enter the ratings the fighter would have to defeat a top ten opponent. The second offense would be an 18-month ban from ratings (and/or stripped of belt) and to re-renter ratings the boxer would have to defeat a top ten opponent. And a third positive test is permanent ban from ratings.

JOE BRUNO (former NYC sportswriter and author of more than 45 crime-related books): First offense – one-year suspension. Second offense – three year suspension. Third offense – lifetime ban. No appeal processes. Of course, this being America, the suspended fighter can sue. Good luck with that

STEVE CANTON (author and the face of boxing in Florida): My opinion: Anyone who fails a PED test should be banned for life from boxing, no questions asked. Career is over – permanently. The problem would disappear in a hurry. (Note: Steve also favors stiff penalties for those who come in overweight.)

MONTE COX (boxing historian): I’m not sure how much PEDs help a boxer, but I definitely feel it is cheating. Unfortunately, it’s so hard to regulate that maybe they should let everyone use to guarantee a level playing field. That’s sad to say though.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ (journalist; one of only eight lifetime members of the Boxing Writers Association of America): Some drug tests, although rare, yield false positives. That is why I think it might be excessive to institute a one-strike-and-you’re-out-forever policy. There is also a difference between the type of designer drugs that turned baseball’s Barry Bonds from a 185-pound leadoff-man type into a 235-pound home run machine, and trace amounts of a banned substance found in certain legitimate medications. A first offense should result in a one-year suspension and a fine, not necessarily a career-killer, and a second a four-year suspension with a stiffer fine. A third offense? Permanent banishment and a major hit to the bank account. Oh, and let’s convince the International Boxing Hall of Fame to forever ban two- or three-time offenders.

LEE GROVES (author, writer and the Wizard of CompuBox): It would be easy to throw the hammer down and impose an instant and permanent ban upon hearing the accusation because it is true that boxing is a tough enough sport without throwing chemically enhanced fighters (and chemically enhanced punches) into the mix. The effects of PEDs, particularly in boxing, are deadlier than in most other sports because there are bodies, brains and long-term quality of life issues involved. Therefore, PED cases must be dealt with severely when confirmed, not only as a punishment for the offenders but also to act as a deterrent for those thinking about juicing. Because a PED conviction can stain a fighter’s reputation — and money-making ability — for the rest of his life, accusations should be approached with the utmost care and due process should be exercised, which I believe it is.

If a fighter is exonerated, that exoneration should be trumpeted as loudly and as widely as the original accusation so that the damage can be reversed as much as possible. After all, fair is fair. With the current scheduling protocol between fights — superstars fight only twice a year if that — the penalty should also be long enough to inflict deep pain. I believe the minimum penalty for a first offense should be two years, and I wouldn’t mind if it was three. A second offense should result in a lifetime ban as well as an especially punitive fine. If such athletes were to try other sports (such as MMA or kickboxing) in order to skirt around the first-offense penalty, that PED penalty should follow them and disqualify them as well. To sum up, PEDs are a real issue and while protocols should be followed, the penalties for the guilty should be severe and long-lasting.

HENRY HASCUP (historian, collector, and long-time president of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame): I’d fine and suspend them and take any relevant title away.

JEFF JOWETT (longtime boxing scribe and heir to the late Jack Obermayer as an authority on Diners): I don’t have much of an opinion. I’m not in the administrative end of the sport much. I do see one problem, though, in invalidating fight results. I don’t believe anyone can effectively determine what role a PED actually played in the outcome of a contest. Suppose the guy got knocked out? Then take the victory away from the opponent and call it NC? Or suppose the offender won! Is it right to say he won BECAUSE of the PED? A pretty devilish situation. As to what to do about it, I guess the only response would be increasing lengths of suspensions. If he’s not allowed to box, he can’t make $$$. That would seem a deterrent enough.

DR. STUART KIRSCHENBAUM (Michigan State Boxing Commissioner Emeritus and advisor to the governor on boxing issues): As a former State Boxing Commissioner and Co-Founder of The Association of Boxing Commissions, I was an early pioneer in the testing of drugs in boxers. At the onset of testing, approximately 70 per cent of those tested were positive …mostly of the street environmental culture kind of cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis, morphine, heroin. These were taken not for performance enhancement but rather recreational use. For the most part, these drugs were PNED…Performance Non-Enhancement Drugs.  However, they were illegal and in an effort to clean up the negativity of the sport, boxers were punished with suspensions and still are.  I hate to say but looking back boxers and trainers were not sophisticated to even think of any pharmacological advantage of other PEDS available as are used in other sports.

JIM LAMPLEY (IBHOF inductee and long-time anchor of HBO broadcasting team): Point one is that this is way too simplistic a question for the breadth and complexity of the subject. I could write for days. Point two is I favor the application of VADA testing in every fight in every venue in every jurisdiction in the world. But I don’t have the authority to mandate that, no one does, and we would be required to manufacture dozens more Margaret Goodman’s, and it can’t be done. Point three is even if we did that testing, all our past experience with sordid street drugs, sophisticated pharmaceutical recreation, and PEDs should be sufficient by now to establish we will NEVER significantly diminish their use, much less end it, via punishment and penalty. The drugs and their effects are too strong for that to happen. Now the most important point: For fifty years now, the development of the PED story has always wrapped itself around the suspected glamour user of the moment: Marian Jones, Mark McGwire, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds. Never is enough attention paid to the sources of the supply, the global pipeline, the massive profit motive, and the degree to which all the inner chambers of most sports have been penetrated. The history of PEDs is mostly codified episodically, so fans look past the discussion and accept what they are watching.  It grows and grows and globally.

So, what do I do with PED users?  Give them a league of their own? Fact is, many PED users are athletes whose perceived accomplishments have earned them audiences and people are still going to want to watch them perform. But the vital question is not what to do with them, but rather what to do with the damage they do to standards of competition. As usual, the real answers lie in all the things society finds too expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming to do: childhood education, extension of morality for morality’s sake, broad-based examination of the ecosystem that produces these behaviors, the provision and promotion of real opportunities and advantages for those who do things the right way. We keep looking for the quick fix. There is no quick fix.

“The worst thing possible hasn’t happened yet.”—Jim Lampley

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RON LIPTON (world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer): Once revealed and the report confirmed, their scheduled bout would be cancelled. A hearing would ensue and if the evidence merits it, a suspension would follow. Upon an application to return to the ring, a clean bill of health under the most reputable scrutiny would be mandated.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE (author, boxing writer and UK Barrister): It should be treated quite severely relative to other sports. It is one thing to take drugs to run faster than another human being but quite another when it gives an athlete an advantage in regard to strength and endurance when participating in a combat sport. Bearing this mind, a suggested five-year ban or even a life-time ban should not appear draconian. Admittedly, such a policy needs to be predicated on a watertight, evenly applied regime of testing. The defense of contaminated supplements is one that has plausibility but is at the same time one that is clearly rife with abuse. Also, as the recent positive test of Canelo Alvarez demonstrates, double-standards abound. The universal application of USADA-style all-year-round testing as applied in the UFC would be a step in the right direction for boxing.

PAUL MAGNO (author, writer and Mexican boxing official): I suspect that many, many people in boxing don’t want to really know who is dirty and who isn’t. If we got a real testing program going, lots of money would be lost by lots of boxing big shots. If boxing is serious about monitoring for PEDs, however, they need universal, 24-7/365 random testing and some sort of commission in place to actually uphold clear and consistent punishment for offenses. Obviously, in the here and now, PEDs cheats should face some sort of suspension and fine. But it’s all meaningless unless these dirty fighters are actually held accountable for their actions– and that’s just not the case right now. State commissions should step up and do the heavy lifting in this regard. Then again, if commission PEDs testing is spotty and useless and fighter/promoter-directed voluntary testing is less than 100% reliable, how can we really punish ANYONE? The system is broken here and, I suspect, conveniently so.

LARRY MERCHANT (legendary retired member of the HBO broadcasting team):  Prizefighting is largely about risk and reward. Whatever the reward of using PEDs — and Dr. Margaret Goodman once told me that not a single fighter she knew who tested positive had leaped forward in punching power or class — there should be heightened risk. Baseball has it about right: half a season (half a year in boxing) for the first test failure, a full season (year)  for the second, banishment for a third. Failure a second or third time, anyway, suggests a degree of knuckle-headedness that even regular knuckleheads can’t imagine. The guy needs help of another kind.

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 “ We need more guys…willing to voluntarily submit to the most rigorous drug-protocols. And those who don’t and get nailed need to find out it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m not sure boxing commissions have stepped up to that responsibility yet.”—Larry Merchant

“I mean, this is a physical sport and you can get hurt and end up dead…”Carlos Molina

ERNESTO MORALES (former boxer and boxing writer): During my involvement in the game over the years I’ve personally known a few cheats, a small few, both pros and amateurs. Some willfully have chosen to take the risk of cheating but not all. Some we’re induced/convinced or fallen victim to the exhortations of their trainers, with their managers also having FULL knowledge, to the point to where they themselves were shelling out the $$$ for this disgraceful crime. This is one side that is NEVER considered nor ever mentioned when fighters test positive. Did Margarito cheat by himself? Of course not!

Now what should be done? It all depends. If he is a champ he should be dealt with tough justice. HEAVY fines and EFFECTIVE suspensions, BOTH. He has no excuse and chances are his stain on the game has a more negative effect, first offender or not. Other offenders should also be punished with fines/suspensions or both. The examples have to be set and the lines drawn. Sadly, the trainers who are in on it will never get sanctioned. Now, most trainers do NOT condone this dirt BUT it is true that a very small few actually do. It pains me say that.

TED SARES (TSS boxing writer): Six months; 18 months; life-time ban. Three strikes and you’re out. I also agree with Paul Magno that the system is broken at the state level with too many political hacks//appointees on commissions. Also, three-time offenders should never be inducted into the IBHOF. One of my favorite quotes comes from former Bad Left Hook colleague Brent Brookhouse:  “…it’s not testing from an agency like VADA that is flawed; it’s the sport of boxing from the bottom up. It’s on the promoters and the fighters. It’s on the commissions. It’s on the networks who don’t demand better. It’s on the media, all too happy to play nice and get their generic five minute ‘exclusive interviews’ rather than rock the boat. And, it’s on fans who don’t say that they’re sick of the transparent garbage from everyone in the game.” SAD.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY (former world light heavyweight title challenger, trainer, commentator):  If it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that a person willingly took a performance-enhancing drug then I have no problem with him being banned for life. You let it be known well in advance that this is the penalty and let the chips fall where they may. Now I understand that sometimes people can take things without knowing it, so it’s a slippery slope, but if it could be proven that the person took something willingly, a lifetime ban is no problem with me

Observations and Comments:

I invited several boxers to participate and they declined. That’s understandable. If weight lifters were asked the same question, they too might not want to respond. That being said, Jim Lampley’s response was one that hit on all cylinders.

There was a consensus that boxing commissions were remiss by not stepping up to the plate. Some (me included) suggested the system is broken. Also, there was a consensus that the penalties should be stiff as the distinction between boxing and other sports was made clear.

In the end, just about every abuser has a lame excuse—contaminated meat is the go-to excuse these days– and just about every abuser returns to fight another day. But clearly, the cumulative evidence of PED use has become troubling.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest full power lifters (and Strongman competitors) in the world and is a four-time winner of the EPF’s Grand Master championship. He also is a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Holmes-Spinks I: The Grassy Knoll for Boxing’s Conspiracy Theorists

Bernard Fernandez

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The most enduring of American conspiracy theories involves a gunman who may or may not have existed and may or may not have been on a grassy knoll in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subject of numerous speculative books and movies, all of which involve some individual’s ironclad take on what happened, why it happened and who was involved in making it happen, will always be grist for the mill for those still dissecting that national tragedy. More than a few of those arguments dispute the Warren Commission’s official conclusion that presumed killer Lee Harvey Oswald acted on his own and not in concert with unidentified, shadowy figures.

On a more recent and lesser scale, a raft of conspiracy theories arose in the wake of the alleged Aug. 10 jailhouse suicide of multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, whose list of celebrity acquaintances includes two presidents of the United States and even a member of the British royal family. As was the case when nightclub owner Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald before he could go on trial, conspiracy theorists on all sides have conjectured whether Epstein’s suspicious death was actually a hit and, if so, ordered by whom?

Boxing, with its blemished past dotted by nefarious power brokers and decisions that sometimes defy logic, also has provided conspiracy junkies with ample material to analyze and debate. Olympic boxing, often characterized as a cesspool of corruption, immediately comes to mind. So does the Sept. 10, 1993, majority draw in which WBC welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker, whom almost everyone without an official scorecard saw as the clear victor, was obliged to settle for a dissatisfying standoff with crowd favorite and Mexican national hero Julio Cesar Chavez in a bout that drew a live crowd of 60,000 or so in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Although Whitaker retained his title on the draw, he and his outraged supporters were convinced the outcome was predicated more on the WBC, headquartered in Mexico City, exerting behind-the-scenes influence to ensure that Chavez came away with his undefeated record still intact. Irrefutable truth is often difficult to pin down in such matters, but the 55-year-old “Sweet Pea,” who died after being struck by a car on July 14, went to his grave believing he had been cheated out of a deserved triumph that would have further embellished his Hall of Fame legacy.

Given its historical implications, what is arguably the grassy knoll of boxing remains the Sept. 21, 1985, pairing of long-reigning heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and undisputed light heavyweight titlist Michael Spinks, who was attempting to become the first (or maybe not) 175-pound champ to move up in weight and capture his sport’s most prestigious and lucrative prize.

Spinks – who came away with a razor-thin and controversial 15-round split decision — was bidding to do something no other light heavyweight had ever done, although there are those who cite Tommy Burns, who outpointed heavyweight champ Marvin Hart over 20 rounds on Feb. 23, 2006, as the first 175-pound titlist to accomplish the feat. In any case, since Burns, 13 light heavyweight champs had tried and failed in their bids to become king of the heavyweights, a list that included such ring legends as Billy Conn, Archie Moore and Bob Foster.

Given the fact that the 35-year-old Holmes was making his 20th title defense and was widely considered as one of the best heavyweight champions of all time, he was installed as a prohibitive favorite over Spinks, who was not only bucking tradition but the perceived limits of his own body. Even respected Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray, noting that Spinks had weighed in at 199¾ pounds – heavier than such legendary heavyweight champions as and Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano ever did for title bouts – went a bit overboard in writing that the challenger looked “like a blowfish” and that his weight gain was accelerated by a 4,500-calorie-a-day diet that might be “all right for a guy getting ready to play Henry the Eighth.”

But Spinks’ bulking-up process was not the result of having scarfed down a bunch of French fries, chocolate milkshakes and doughnuts, but rather the calculated machinations of New Orleans-based fitness coach and nutritionist Mackie Shilstone, whose then-unorthodox methods would soon gain wider acceptance but then were seen by the boxing establishment as, well, somewhat bizarre.

“We have a scientific, unique program that is secret – a program that was developed specifically for Michael, using techniques that would be revolutionary for boxing,” Shilstone said to the bemusement of hidebound traditionalists.

Spinks, whose walking-around weight between light heavyweight matches was usually 10 pounds or so above the division limit, said he was already familiar working with Shilstone – to shed unwanted pounds.

“Mackie had already helped me lose weight to get down to light heavyweight,” Spinks said when contacted for this story. “He told me that if I wanted to fight Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship, he could help me put the weight on the right way. And that’s what he did. He also said he wouldn’t take anything from what I already had, in terms of what I did well as a light heavyweight, that I still would be able to do all that as a heavyweight. He was right, too. I was as fast as a heavyweight as I was as a light heavyweight.”

Unlike Conn, Moore, Foster and other light heavyweight champs who made no secret of their ambition to storm and conquer the heavyweight division, Michael admits to initially lacking the burning desire to replicate the feat of his older brother and fellow 1976 Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks, who dethroned WBC/WBA heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali via 15-round split decision in a monumental upset on Feb. 15, 1978. Leon had always been naturally larger than Michael, never weighing less than 194 pounds for any of his first 23 outings as a pro. The mere notion of moving up to heavyweight seemed unlikely and more than a bit risky to Michael, who figured he would continue to do what he’d already been doing, which was to dominate all comers at light heavy.

It was Butch Lewis, who promoted both Spinks brothers, who determined that Michael going to heavyweight was not only doable, but highly advisable financially.

“Butch told me I could fight Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship,” the younger Spinks recalled. “I was, like, `What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, and you can beat him.’ I said, `You really think so?’ And he said, `Absolutely.’

“Butch (who was 65 when he died of a heart attack on July 23, 2011) had faith in me, so I took that and ran with it.”

Maybe what bottom-line Butch had was absolute faith in the economic realities of boxing, which always hold that heavyweight champions are vastly better-compensated than their light heavyweight counterparts. Consider these numbers: Michael Spinks’ purse for his final light heavyweight defense, an eighth-round stoppage of Jim MacDonald on June 6, 1985, was a relatively paltry $100,000, a pittance compared to the $1.1 million contract he signed to challenge Holmes.

Say what you will about the flamboyant Lewis, who was noted for wearing a tuxedo and bow tie but no shirt on fight night, but his steering of Michael Spinks’ career was a case study on how to milk the system for every available dollar. It was Lewis who made the bold call, after Spinks had followed up his stunner over Holmes by outpointing the “Easton Assassin” on another close and controversial call, a 15-round split decision in the rematch seven months later, to hold Spinks out of the heavyweight unification tournament being put together by HBO Sports president Seth Abraham and promoter Don King. In doing so Spinks passed on a potential $5 million payday against eventual tourney winner Mike Tyson, but he was paid about the same amount to defeat the formidable Gerry Cooney, putting into motion a series of events that led to his June 27, 1988, megafight with Tyson in Atlantic City. OK, so Spinks didn’t make it through the first round, but he received a career-high $13.2 million for what proved to be his final fight and only professional loss, a pretty nice parting gift when you get right down to it.

Holmes had his own potential date with destiny in that first clash with Michael Spinks. Were he to win, it would be his 49th consecutive victory without a loss, matching the record set by Marciano – ironically, against Archie Moore and, even more ironically, 30 years to the day after The Rock knocked out the Ol’ Mongoose in the ninth round in what turned out to be his final fight.

In the lead-up to the fight at The Riviera in Las Vegas, for which members of the Marciano family were invited guests, Holmes seemed to chafe at constantly being compared to a beloved fighter who had died in a crash of a small private plane on Aug. 31, 1969. “I’m not fighting Marciano,” Holmes complained. “He’s dead. I never knew him. I’m fighting for Larry Holmes, for me, for what I can do for my family.”

To Holmes, who was no stranger to the seven-figure club and who was down for a $3 million purse, there was a racial component to the constant comparisons to Marciano, who was white, much in the same manner that black baseball great Hank Aaron was the target of unfair and sometimes cruel criticism as he neared the sacrosanct record of 714 career home runs set by Babe Ruth. When Aaron passed Ruth by homering for the 715th time on April 8, 1974, the feat was celebrated by many Americans and baseball fans in general, but not by everyone.

Members of the Marciano family, who ostensibly had been summoned to congratulate Holmes in the event of his making it to 49-0, celebrated when the close decision for Spinks – by margins of 143-142 (twice) and 145-142 – was announced. That did not set well with Holmes, who felt such a display was disrespectful to him and, additionally, was the wrong call historically as long-reigning champions such as himself usually got the benefit of the doubt in close fights.

“I was robbed,” Holmes, in announcing one of his several retirements from boxing that didn’t stick, said at the postfight press conference, suggesting that alleged conspirators in influential places who finally had brought him down can “kiss me where the sun never shines,” which meant “my big black behind.”

Nor was Holmes any more disposed to be gracious to Peter Marciano, Rocky’s younger brother and the foremost keeper of the “Brockton Blockbuster’s” eternal flame. “You are freeloading off your dead brother,” Holmes told Peter, tossing in the zinger that “Rocky couldn’t carry my jockstrap.”

Months later, after the heat of the moment had long since cooled down, Holmes, in most instances a respectful and thoroughly decent man, offered a public apology to anyone he might have offended with his earlier intemperate remarks.

“I’m sorry for what I said, for the way things came out,” Holmes told a Boston reporter. “I don’t want to take anything away from Peter or the Marciano family. I haven’t slept for two months thinking about this.

“I’ve reached out to Peter Marciano. I’d like to get together with him, either in his town or mine (Easton, Pa.). There must be something that can be done to make this right.

“I have no hard feelings against Rocky Marciano. He was one of the greatest fighters of all time. His 49-0 record speaks for itself. If I hurt Marciano’s family, I regret it.”

What Holmes did not back away from, not then and not now, is his belief that he deserved to win both of his fights with Michael Spinks, with the first loss a thinly veiled and successful attempt to keep him from sidling up alongside the sainted Marciano.

“There was no doubt about it,” he said of a decision he still regards as a cold slap in the face. “I knew what they were going to do to me. I knew if I didn’t knock him out, I wasn’t going to get the decision.” Nor is he alone in that contention, just as there are Spinks partisans who are just as insistent that the judges got it right.

Asked if he thought then, or does now, that he did not receive all the credit he was due from Holmes and his other persistent proponents of the conspiracy theory that refuses to die, Spinks said it shouldn’t matter at this point. The record book indicates he won, so that should be that.

“It was a close fight, but I did think I won,” he reiterated. “There’s no animosity between me and Larry. We get along. He’s not really sore about it anymore. At one of his golf tournaments that I attended, he took the microphone and said something about how he’d lost to me, but that wasn’t all bad because he made so much money for losing.”

What Holmes wants to make clear more than anything is that he wants to forever bury any hint that race is or should still be a part of the discussion. He said there was too much of that in the past, and still too much now. He pointed out that Gerry Cooney, the white guy against whom his high-visibility fight was neatly divided into opposing racial camps, as well as Spinks have been regular participants in his charity golf tournament.

“Half of my family is white,” Holmes pointed out. “I’m not a racist. I don’t have anything against white folks or anybody else. My son is getting ready to be married in a couple of weeks to a white girl. My daughter is married to a white guy.

“I didn’t really care about racial s— then, and to this day I don’t care about it. Gerry Cooney is my friend. Now, I didn’t like the decisions in my fights with Michael Spinks, but you can’t dwell on that. You got to move past that.”

Which might be one man’s way of saying that any lingering ghosts on that figurative grassy knoll overlooking a boxing ring where a fight took place 34 years ago should finally be allowed to just fade away.

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The Hauser Report: Fight Notes on Mexican Independence Day Weekend

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing is accustomed to having a major fight in Las Vegas as the centerpiece of Mexican Independence Day Weekend. This year, Canelo Alvarez was penciled in as the star attraction. But Canelo and his presumed challenger, Gennady Golovkin, couldn’t come to terms, and boxing’s PPV-streaming-video king decided that he would enter the ring next against Sergey Kovalev on November 2. That left a holiday void to fill and three separate promotions vying to fill it.

The action began on Friday, September 13, at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Three bouts were billed as featured attractions on a Matchroom USA card streamed on DAZN.

First up, as expected, Michael Hunter (17-1, 12 KOs) outslicked Sergey Kuzmin (15-0, 11 KOs). Kuzman had an extensive amateur background in the Russian amateur system but is a one-dimensional fighter. For most of the fight, he plodded forward while Hunter potshotted him at will in what looked like a spirited sparring session en route to a 117-110, 117-110, 117-110 triumph.

Next, Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs), who has won belts in weight classes ranging from 118 to 135 pounds, challenged WBO 126-pound beltholder Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs). It was expected to be an ugly beatdown with Hardy on the receiving end. The only open issue for most fight fans was how long Heather would last.

Hardy only knows one way to fight. Moving forward, which she has been able to do in the past against stationary opponents who had less of a punch that she did. All of her previous fights had been made for her to win. Questionable hometown judging carried her across the finish line on several occasions when it appeared as though she had fallen short.

At the final pre-fight press conference for Hardy-Serrano, Heather proclaimed, “I’m the toughest girl I know.”

But tough alone doesn’t win fights. Against Serrano, Hardy took a pounding in a lopsided first round that two of the judges correctly scored 10-8 in Amanda’s favor. Round two was more of the same. Serrano was the more skilled, faster, stronger fighter and a sharper puncher. Heather hung tough. But she was hanging from a thread.

Over the next eight rounds, Hardy showed courage and heart. For the first time in her career, she was in the ring against an opponent who hadn’t been chosen because it was presumed that Heather would beat her. She survived and legitimately won a few rounds against Serrano in the process.

The final scorecards were 98-91, 98-91, 98-92 in Serrano’s favor. Each woman received an $80,000 purse. Hardy earned every penny of it. And she earned respect for her effort in a way that none of the “W”s on her ring record had brought her.

The main event showcased lightweight Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) against Zaur Abdulaev (11-0, 7 KOs). Haney is 20 years young and a hot prospect. Abdulaev, age 25, is a solid fighter but in a different league than Haney.

Devin entered the ring as a 20-to-1 favorite. At this point in his career, he appears to be the whole package with speed, power, explosiveness, and good ring skills. Physically and mentally, he’s mature beyond his years as a fighter but still has the enthusiasm of youth. Over the course of four rounds, he gave Abdullaev nothing to work with, broke the Russian down, and fractured Zaur’s cheekbone. Abdullaev’s corner called a halt to the proceedings after the fourth stanza.

Haney has The Look that fighters like Shane Mosley and Roy Jones Jr. had when they were young. He and boxing are in their honeymoon years. As for the immediate future; Devin has been calling out Vasyl Lomachenko. But given the different promotional entities and networks involved, the chances of that fight happening anytime soon are nil.

Twenty years ago, fight fans could have looked forward to Haney being meaningfully challenged at each level as he moved forward in an attempt to prove how good he is. In today’s fragmented boxing world, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

On Saturday, the scene shifted to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, for another DAZN telecast. This one was promoted by Golden Boy and was supposed to showcase 21-year-old lightweight Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs), who’s being marketed as a heartthrob who can fight, against light-punching Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs). That match evaporated one day before its scheduled date when Sparrow was arrested and taken into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant issued after he allegedly brandished a handgun in a domestic dispute this past April.

The main event wasn’t much of a contest either with Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs) defending his WBO 154-pound belt against Patrick Allotey (40-3, 30 KOs) of Ghana.

Munguia had nice wins last year against Sadam Ali and Liam Smith. Then, five months ago, he was undressed by Dennis Hogan (although the judges in Monterrey, Mexico, found a way to give Jaime a dubious home country majority decision). Allotey’s record looked good until one checked the quality of his opponents on BoxRec.com. Munguia was a 30-to-1 favorite.

When the fight began, Allotey seemed most comfortable on his bicycle and decidedly uncomfortable when he was getting hit by the hooks that Munguia pounded repeatedly into his body. Two minutes into round three, one of those hooks put him on the canvas. A combination dropped him for the second time just before the bell. Patrick seemed disinclined to come out of his corner for round four but was nudged back into the conflict. Two minutes later, he took a knee after another hook to the body and his corner stopped the bout.

The third significant fight card of Mexican Independence Day weekend was the biggest of the three. Promoted by Top Rank and streamed on ESPN+, it featured Tyson Fury vs. Otto Wallin at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Like the other two shows, this one disappointed at the gate. The Hulu Theater had been reconfigured on Friday night so the rear sections were curtained off. There were more empty seats than seats with people in them at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday.

When Fury fought Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 15, Top Rank had announced a crowd of 9,012. But according to final receipts submitted to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, only 5,489 tickets were sold for that event with another 1,187 complimentary tickets being given away. The announced attendance for Fury-Wallin was 8,249. T-Mobile arena seats 20,000 for boxing.

ESPN+’s featured three-fight stream didn’t begin until 11:00 PM eastern time. Jose Zepeda (30-2, 25 KOs, 1 KO by) won a 97-93, 97-93, 97-93 decision over former beltholder Jose Pedraza (26-2, 13 KOs, 1 KO by). Then WBO 122-pound titlist Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) cruised to a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs). That set the stage for Fury-Wallin.

There are plenty of “world heavyweight championship” belts to go around these days. Claimants during the past four years have included Manuel Charr, Joseph Parker, Ruslan Chagaev, Lucas Browne, Charles Martin, and Bermane Stiverne. Fury (who entered the ring with a 28-0, 20 KOs record) is currently being marketed as the “lineal” heavyweight champion and can trace his lineal roots all the way back to Wladimir Klitschko (which falls short of going back to John L. Sullivan). The best things said about Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) during fight week were that he was probably better than Tom Schwarz (Fury’s most recent opponent) and that, as noted by Keith Idec of Boxing Scene, Wallin was “perfectly polite” during the fight-week festivities.

Bob Arum, who shares a promotional interest in Fury with Frank Warren, praised Fury as the second coming of The Greatest and advised the media, “People are seeing things that they haven’t seen since Muhammad Ali. You’re seeing a great fighter who can connect to the people and he’s a real showman.”

Fury (born, raised, and still living in the United Kingdom) got into the spirit of things and proclaimed, “I am going to change my name for the weekend to El Rey Gitano [which translates from Spanish to English as “The Gypsy King”]. And he further declared, “Isn’t it a great thing that a total outsider is showing so much love, passion, and respect for the Mexican people. At the minute, they are being oppressed by the people here [in the United States]. Building a wall, chucking ‘em all out, and treating them terrible. I don’t know what is going on, but it is nice to see a total stranger, heavyweight champion of the world, coming here and respecting people and paying homage to their beliefs and special days. I’ve got the Mexican shorts, the Mexican gloves, the Mexican mask, the Mexican music, the Mexican flag. I have Mexicans as part of my training team. There is a lot of honor and respect in fighting on this date.”

That elicited a response from WBA-IBF-WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz, who declared on social media, “Tyson Fury’s talking sh**. He’s representing Mexico – he’s not even Mexican, what kind of sh** is that? A British f***in, he ain’t even Mexican, wearing the f***ing Mexican flag, messed up man. Stay in your lane.”

Meanwhile, with no existing World Boxing Council title at stake, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman stepped in and announced that Fury-Wallin would be contested for a special “Mayan belt” that was also offered to the winner of Munguia-Allotey. Maybe someday boxing will have interim Mayan belts and Mayan belts in recess as well.

Fury was a 25-to-1 betting favorite. For two rounds, everything went according to plan. Then, in round three, a looping left by Wallin opened a horrible, deep gash along Tyson’s right eyebrow. The cut gave the fight high drama. There was a real chance that it would worsen to the point where there was no alternative to stopping the bout. Despite the efforts of cutman Jorge Capetillo, blood streamed from the wound for the rest of the fight.

Knowing that he was in danger, Fury abandoned what he likes to think of as finesse boxing and began to brawl, coming forward and trying to impose his 6-foot-9-inch, 254-pound bulk on his opponent. By round eight, Wallin was exhausted. Tyson was teeing off from a distance and, when he came inside, bullying Otto around.

Wallin fought as well as he could. But he was being pounded around the ring and getting beaten down. Then, remarkably, 38 seconds into round twelve, he whacked Fury with a good left hand and, suddenly – if only temporarily – Tyson was holding on.

The final scorecards read 118-110, 117-111, 116-112 in Fury’s favor.

“I was happy that he was cut,” Wallin said afterward. “But I wish I could of capitalized a little more on it.”

And a final thought . . . When there are three heavyweight “world champions” (which is what boxing has now), there is no heavyweight champion at all.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – A Dangerous Journey; Another Year Inside Boxing– will be published this autumn 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.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank (note Fury’s jumbo-sized sombrero)

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Featured Articles

Mexico’s Jaime Munguia KOs Allotey and Franchon Crews Unifies

David A. Avila

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Mexico's-Jaime-Munguia-KOs-Alottey-and-Franchon-Crews-Unifies

LOS ANGELES-Mexico’s Jaime Munguia walked into the warm and humid outdoor arena like a conquering hero and walked out the same way after knocking out Patrick Allotey to retain the WBO super welterweight title on Saturday.

The large, mostly Mexican, Independence weekend crowd was ecstatic.

Munguia (34-0, 27 KOs) showed the more than 7,000 fans at Dignity Health Sports Park that he learned a few things from his new trainer and that was a bad thing for Ghana’s Allotey (40-4, 30 KOs). The tall Tijuana fighter seemed calm and focused in this possible last defense of his super welterweight title.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll have to meet with my team to decide,” said Munguia about evacuating the weight division to move up to middleweight.

Allotey probably wishes Munguia left yesterday.

For a short while, Allotey used movement and pot shots to catch the aggressive Mexican fighter during the first two rounds. Both landed blows but not enough to quench the thirst of the pro-Mexican crowd there to see a knockout.

Things turned around quickly in the third round as Munguia, who is now trained by former Mexican great Erik Morales, began catching up to Allotey, in particular with bludgeoning body shots. A three punch Munguia combination dropped the Ghanaian for the count. He got up and was met with a blistering five-punch combination, including one that sent him across the ring for another knockdown. Allotey beat the count near the end of the round.

The fight could have ended in the previous round but it was allowed to continue. A left hook to the body of Allotey sent him to the floor after a delayed reaction. The Ghanaian’s corner asked the referee Jack Reiss to halt the fight at 2:18 of round four, giving the knockout win to Munguia.

Cheers erupted from the large Mexican crowd.

“Step by step, I’ve learned a lot from all the fighters that I’ve fought before,” said Munguia who lives in Tijuana. “This is Mexican Independence Day and I feel really good and I’m ready to go further for more.”

Franchon Crews   

Franchon Crews Dezurn (6-1) won by unanimous decision but this time it was a more impressive Maricela Cornejo (13-4, 5 KOs) who showed up in the sudden rematch that was put together in two days. Impressive or not, Crews walked away with both the WBC and WBO super middleweight world titles.

Both women warriors exchanged thunderous blows that bounced off each other to the delight of the crowd, but neither would go down. By the middle rounds, Cornejo slowed visibly but still had enough to stay in the fight competitively. It was a much better performance than their first clash a year ago in Las Vegas that saw Crews win the WBC title by decision.

Once Cornejo slowed, Crews slowed her pace too but had more energy and was able to use her jab and combinations. Toward the last few rounds there was a lot of holding but both connected with solid blows until the end.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 98-92 and a third 97-93 for Crews.

It was a remarkable performance by both fighters who were not originally scheduled to meet. But when the original Mexican opponent Alejandra Jimenez was unable to obtain a visa, Golden Boy Promotions asked Cornejo and she gladly obliged just two days ago.

“I got out here thinking I was going to fight one person, a person who had been bullying me on the internet. Alejandra Jimenez, if you want this one, you can come get it too. I’m not here for a good time, I’m here for a long time. This is the land of the warriors, not the posers, not the models,” said Crews. “I want to be respected just like the men are respected. I’m going to step up to the plate and take the challenges. I don’t go into any match thinking I’m entitled to anything.”

Duno

Romero Duno (21-1, 16 KOs) underwent some minor drama before even stepping into the ring, but it didn’t stop him from winning by knockout against Los Angeles tough guy Ivan Delgado (13-3-2, 6 KOs) in their on and off and on again lightweight fight.

When sizzling prospect Ryan Garcia’s opponent Avery Sparrow was arrested and unable to fight, it was suggested that Duno should be Sparrow’s replacement. That didn’t go well with Garcia’s team and was abruptly shot down. The Duno-Delgado fight then went back on the drawing board, as originally planned, but Delgado came in more than four pounds overweight.

It didn’t matter.

Duno battered Delgado in the first round but the local fighter managed to use his experience to fend off further damage by the heavy-handed Filipino. After that it was a game of cat and mouse. Through most of the fight, Duno landed more blows but Delgado used some slick counters to score and keep the strong puncher from landing the killer blow. Still it wasn’t enough, and at the end of the seventh round the corner decided to end the fight, giving Duno the win by knockout.

“I was just doing my job,” said Duno. “I know Delgado is a tough fighter.”

Regarding Ryan Garcia, “I know Ryan Garcia wants to fight me. He’s a top boxer.”

Other Bouts

Joselito Velasquez (11-0, 9 KOs) knocked out fellow Mexican Francisco Bonilla (6-7-3, 3 KOs) in a battle between North and South Mexican flyweights. Velasquez floored Bonilla in the second round when he beat Bonilla to the punch with a left hook. Finally, in the fourth round during a Bonilla rally, Velasquez connected with a left-right combination the sent the Chihuahua fighter to the floor. Referee Sharon Sand immediately waved the fight over at 2:54 of the fourth round.

A battle between undefeated super middleweights saw the very tall Diego Pacheco (6-0, 5 KOs) win by knockout over Oakland’s Terry Fernandez (3-1, 3 KOs). Pacheco used his size to keep Fernandez at bay then pummeled him with long rang rights and shots to the body. At the end of the second round, Pacheco battered Fernandez with 18 consecutive blows from one corner to the other. In the third round, Pacheco connected with a three-punch combination that snapped back Fernandez’s head violently and though he did not go down, the referee Eddie Hernandez wisely stopped the fight at 41 seconds of the third round.

Rafael Gramajo (11-2-2, 3 KOs) won by knockout over Daniel Olea (13-9-2) at the end of the fourth round when he could not continue in their lightweight contest.

Alejandro Reyes (1-0) won his pro debut by knockout over Mexico’s Jorge Padron (3-5, 3 KOs) with a left hook to the body at 1:55 of the second round of a lightweight match. New referee J Guillermo counted out Sonora’s Padron.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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