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Hustle and Muscle Carry Jarrett Hurd Past Erislandy Lara

The judging of boxing matches is not unlike an art aficionado’s impressions of the masterworks hanging in the Louvre. Some official observers go ga-ga over Monet

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The judging of boxing matches is not unlike an art aficionado’s impressions of the masterworks hanging in the Louvre. Some official observers go ga-ga over Monet, others prefer Picasso. That, perhaps as much as anything, accounts for the sometimes wildly divergent scoring of fights in which the participants’ styles are radically different. Whenever such a contrast occurs, the winner, if the bout goes to the scorecards, more often than not is the guy who gets the other fighter to bend to his will.

Framed in that manner, Jarrett “Swift” Hurd’s 12-round split decision in his 154-pound unification showdown with fellow titlist Erislandy Lara at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, makes perfect sense, and offers at least a hint of controversy for those holding the minority viewpoint. It also becomes an early entrant for consideration as Fight of the Year, a surprisingly (or perhaps not) entertaining affair in which both determined champions reached deep inside themselves to find that little bit extra that often determines who has his hand raised after the final bell.

“Lara is the type of guy that always had trouble with pressure fighters,” said Hurd, the IBF junior middleweight champion who annexed Lara’s WBA super welterweight title by virtue of the 114-113 cards submitted by Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti, offsetting the 114-113 tabulation for the expatriate Cuban southpaw as assessed by Burt Clements. “I knew that my size and power, if I was able to pressure him the way I did, would be successful.”

The outcome literally hung in the balance until the last 36 seconds, when Hurd, a 27-year-old perpetual motion machine from Accokeek, Md., who bears more than a passing resemblance (the bleached blond hairdo helps) to New York Giants superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., floored Lara with a short left hook that landed flush. Although Lara beat the count, his trip to the canvas turned what otherwise would have been a 10-9 round for Hurd into a 10-8, giving the younger man (Lara turns 35 on April 11) a razor-thin victory instead of having to settle for a majority draw.

The Houston-based Lara and his trainer, Ronnie Shields, vociferously objected to what they perceived as perhaps biased scoring. Their position is that Lara, despite either opting to or being forced into more two-way trading than he normally prefers, had played to his own strengths often enough to get the nod.

“I thought I was winning the fight easily,” said Lara, whose badly swollen right eye certainly gave him the look of someone who had gotten the worst of the mid-to late-round exchanges. “(The knockdown) shouldn’t decide the fight. One punch in a fight doesn’t determine the fight. One hundred percent, I want a rematch.”

Said Shields, floating a conspiracy theory that frequently emanates from the loser’s side: “Every time (Lara) fights in Vegas they screw him. It ain’t right. The man cannot catch a break.”

Punch statistics, a useful but hardly conclusive tool for determining what actually takes place in the ring, offered no real insight as to whose version of the story is more accurate. The busier, harder-hitting Hurd connected on 217 of 824 (26 percent) to 176 of 572 (31 percent) for Lara, but Hurd’s advantage in volume on power shots (186 of 641, 29 percent) negated Lara’s more precise placement (123 of 267, an impressive 46 percent). The gap over the last four rounds – Hurd outlanded Lara, 106-71, with a 96-58 edge in power punches – was even more pronounced.

Despite Lara’s insistence that he is deserving of an immediate rematch, Hurd – who has stamped himself as a fun-to-watch action fighter, if not necessarily a candidate for pound-for-pound consideration – most likely will move on to another unification clash, which is in keeping with Showtime’s master plan to fully unify the division.  WBC super welterweight champ Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs), who defends his strap against the ever-popular opponent to be named on June 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was at ringside for Hurd-Lara and he said he’s ready, willing and able to hurt Hurd should he get past his upcoming mystery guest.

“I’m down. Let’s go,” Charlo said of his interest in a go at Hurd, whose style is a much closer approximation of his own than was Lara’s. But, he added, “Hurd has to get his defense together because he cannot get hit by me like that. Lara doesn’t move like he used to. If he moves like he used to, he wins the fight.”

A slight favorite going into Saturday night’s (or very early Sunday morning, for those viewers on the East Coast) scrap with the larger but less-experienced Hurd, Lara – a now-naturalized U.S. citizen who successfully defected from Cuba in 2007, after an earlier attempt failed – has been a darling of certain critics and box-office poison with the public at large throughout his long championship reign. Those who appreciate his work have likened him to such patient craftsmen as Swiss watchmakers and doctorate-level mathematicians. His gift is not necessarily looking good himself, but making his opponents look clumsy and inept. Now, having failed to retain his title in his seventh defense of it, his leverage for continuing to be put into high-visibility bouts has been at least somewhat compromised.

“It was a good fight for the fans,” he said of the bout in which he was obliged to stray from the small-arms sniper fire in which he normally excels. “I stood and fought a lot and it was fun. I thought I clearly won the fight. Once again a decision goes against me, but hey, we just got to do a rematch.”

Had Lara been more inclined to engage when he was establishing himself as a world-class boxer, he might not have had to so often showcase his obvious talents in small rooms, such as the Hard Rock’s sold-out but cozy “The Joint,” which sold out Saturday night but for a crowd of just 2,579 spectators. Then again, like another Cuban expatriate southpaw similarly resistant to make adjustments to a style which has long worked for him, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Lara is a leopard that never has found a reason to change its spots, unless forced to do so. Hurd – four inches taller at 6-foot-1 and with a 2½-inch reach advantage – was just the guy to bully Lara out of his comfort zone.

Hurd is a temperamental and stylistic opposite of Lara, and as long as he continues to provide a high thrill quotient while cutting the occasional corner on refined niceties, he will continue to develop a fan base that is cottoning to his let ’er rip mindset. He likely would be the underdog for a meeting with Charlo, but his relentlessness of effort could soon make him must-watch TV. It could also make him susceptible to the wrong side of the quick-strike outcomes that thus far have stamped him as a rising star. But Hurd is the man of the moment, and it feels damn good.

“I’m No. 1 (at 154) now,” he crowed. “I’m in control. I’m going to call the shots.”

Photo credit: Chris Farina / Mayweather Promotions

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.- Adorned in a white suit, Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, but this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden where their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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