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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 9: In L.A., Three Fights in Four Days

David A. Avila

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Two Los Angeles-based promotion companies unfurl three fight cards in four days in both Hollywood and downtown L.A.

360 Promotions brings a bevy of prospects to the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Wednesday Aug. 8, including prospects from New York City, nearby Rowland Heights and Kazakhstan. The boxing events will be streamed on Facebook on the 360 Promotions page or at www.360promotions.us

The actual boxing starts at 6 p.m.

Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8 KOs) a light heavyweight from Kazakhstan has been training in Big Bear with Abel Sanchez. He’ll be facing San Diego’s Jorge Escalante (9-1-1, 6 KOs) in the co-main event at the Avalon.

360 Promotions prospect Brian Ceballo (3-0) out of New York makes his third appearance at the historic venue. He made his pro debut at the Avalon back in March and this will be his third fight at the theater that opened in January 1927. The theater has gone through a number of name changes including the Hollywood Playhouse, WPA Federal Theater, El Capitan, the Hollywood Palace and the Jerry Lewis Theater.

A large number of celebrities have graced its floors over the decades including Cyd Charisse, Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, Ginger Rogers, Louis Armstrong and Bette Davis among many others.

On Wednesday, Ceballo (3-0) the boxer makes his third appearance when he faces Tavorus Teague (5-20-4) in a six round welterweight contest.

A female fight showcases Elvina White (2-0) versus Jasmine Clarkson (4-11) in a four round welterweight fight. White, 24, signed with 360 Promotions and has fought at super lightweight in the past. For this fight it will be in the welterweight division and against young veteran Clarkson who fights out of Dallas and has clashed with Katie Taylor and Selina Barrios. Too bad it’s only four rounds.

Friday

In downtown L.A., about eight miles east of Hollywood, a Golden Boy Promotions fight card takes place at the Belasco Theater on Hill Street and 11th on Friday Aug. 10. Two top prospects will be severely tested.

Pacoima’s Emilio Sanchez (15-1, 10 KOs) returns to the ring five months after losing by knockout at Fantasy Springs Casino. The featherweight will be facing the dangerous veteran Christopher Martin (30-10-3) who makes a habit out of derailing prospects including Daniel Franco, Chris Avalos and others. It’s a do-or-die fight for Sanchez who ran into a punch in his last fight back in March. Was it a fluke or lucky punch?

Sanchez, 24, changed trainers and is now in Indio, Calif. working with brothers Joel and Antonio Diaz. His own younger brother Saul Sanchez, 21, has been training there for a while. Now the two brothers will be working together again.

Also on the card will be San Antonio’s Hector Tanajara (14-0, 5 KOs) meeting Emmanuel Morales (7-2) in the co-main event set for eight rounds. Tanajara, 21, trains in Riverside with Robert Garcia and has shown an ability to adapt to different circumstances. After knocking out three out of his first four opponents, the knockouts have been few. But he’s only 21 and learning the art of boxing will serve him better than knocking everyone out.

The Golden Boy fight card will be televised on Estrella TV and streamed on RingTV.com and on Facebook. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Saturday

Boxing returns to the Avalon Theater in Hollywood on Saturday Aug. 11, with a Golden Boy Promotions and Miguel Cotto Promotions card. Doors open at 4 p.m.

A world title match between WBA featherweight titlist Jesus Rojas (26-1-2, 19 KOs) and challenger Jojo Diaz (26-1, 14 KOs) headlines the card that will be streamed live on Facebook. It’s a good one.

Puerto Rico’s Rojas, 31, grabbed the title with a vicious knockout win over former champion Claudio Marrero last year in Las Vegas. Speed means nothing to Rojas, a hard-boiled fighter who’s willing to take a punch to give a punch. Plus, Rojas has a heck of a chin and showed it when he battered Abraham Lopez a year ago to win by knockout.

“I’m ready to come back after almost a year off,” said Jesus Rojas. “I’ll defend my title for the first time on a very important Golden Boy card which will start a new association with Facebook. Diaz Jr. is tough, intelligent and fast, but I have the power and the experience to score a spectacular win against him.”

Now he faces another speedy southpaw in Diaz (shown working the pads) who lost a title bid against Gary Russell Jr. just two months ago.

“I think his style suits me better than Gary Russell. He (Rojas) is going to be coming for me and that fits right into my style,” said Diaz who trains in South El Monte, Calif. “This is my second shot at a world title and I’m not going to lose.”

Diaz, 25, is a former 2012 Olympian with plenty of speed and willing to mix it up. But against Rojas that will be a bad thing.

“Marrero tried to exchange with Rojas and got caught,” said Diaz, who eagerly accepted the opportunity to fight for the world title. “I know Rojas is a tough guy and I’m not underestimating him. He’s good.”

Also on the card will be a battle of undefeated super lightweights featuring Philadelphia’s Damon Allen (15-0-1, 5 KOs) versus East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (14-0, 7 KOs) in the semi-main event.

Philadelphia versus East L.A. can’t miss. Both towns are historically known for having aggressive styles.

“I like these kind of fights,” said Navarro who turns 22 today and trains in Riverside with Robert Garcia. “I’ve been preparing for these kind of fights. I get excited fighting good fighters. This is what it’s all about.”

Two weeks ago Navarro was in downtown Los Angeles watching his teammate Mikey Garcia defeat Robert Easter Jr. in a battle of undefeated lightweight world champions. It was inspiring.

“Mikey is like an older brother to all of us. We look up to him,” said Navarro. “He tells us how to act, how to save our money and how to be smart.”

The fight card will be streamed on Facebook on Golden Boy Fight Night page.

Old L.A.

Back in the 1980s, when the Olympic Auditorium and Inglewood Forum had regular fight cards, it was common to have dueling boxing cards every week. On one card would be Danny “Lil Red” Lopez and on another Bobby Chacon.

Today, boxing cards still compete but the audience area has become much wider. Next week a fight card in downtown L.A. competes with another in Studio City on the same day. As the population has expanded in recent years, the thirst for boxing has expanded too.

This weekend’s three boxing cards on three separate days serve as a reminder of how boxing used to be in the past.

Just a few blocks east, the Hollywood Legion Stadium building still stands. Now it’s a workout gym but from the 1920s to the 1960s boxing was a regular event there on Hollywood and Gower. Movies stars like George Raft and Ann Miller were regulars.

Boxing has a certain flair that attracts movie stars, musicians and never seems to extinguish. A number of celebrities will be present at one or all of the shows this week.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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NEWS FLASH: Leon Spinks Hospitalized; Reportedly Fighting for His Life

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The gossip site TMZ is reporting that Leon Spinks is hospitalized in Las Vegas and is fighting for his life. TMZ acquired this information from Spinks’ wife Brenda Glur Spinks after spying her social media post. “It’s been a tough year for us,” she wrote. “Leon has endured a lot of medical problems. I’m reaching to ask that you pray for my Beautiful Husband Leon. So that he may overcome the obstacles that crossed his path.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Leon’s son Leon Spinks III who posted this message on his facebook page: “My Dad isn’t doing so good now and his wife Brenda Glur Spinks and I ask that u pray that he weather’s this storm. My dad is all I have left and I really appreciate it if yall let God know that he is not in this battle alone.”

A gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, Spinks, 66, is best remembered for upsetting Muhammad Ali in 1978 to win the world heavyweight title. He lost the title back to Ali in his next fight.

This is a developing story. As new details emerge, we will share them with you.

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Terence Crawford puts his undefeated record and his WBO welterweight title on the line Saturday when he opposes Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden on ESPN. Kavaliauskas is no slouch. The two-time Olympian for Lithuania is also undefeated (21-0-1, 17 KOs), but Crawford is so highly regarded that he is a massive favorite.

If one were arranging the bouts according to the degree of intrigue, using the odds as the barometer, Crawford vs Kavaliauskas wouldn’t sit atop the marquee. That honor would go the IBF lightweight title fight between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez. Moreover, it’s a fair guess that if this fight were to fall out (perish the thought) it would result in more refunds than if Crawford were a late scratch.

The challenger, Lopez, is favored, currently in the vicinity of 9/4, but this is a price that usually translates into a very competitive fight and the stakes are high. The winner will almost assuredly advance to a rich engagement with Vasiliy Lomachenko who holds the other three meaningful 135-pound title belts

Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) won the IBF lightweight title – it was conveniently vacant – with a second-round stoppage of Russia’s Isa Chaniev and stopped Raymundo Beltran in eight rounds in his first title defense. Commey dominated both fights, scoring seven knockdowns in all, but the Russian was a sad excuse for a world title challenger and Beltran, although a solid pro, was past his prime at age 38.

Commey’s two losses came in back-to-back fights in 2016 and both were by split decision. He lost to Robert Easter Jr in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then, eight weeks later, was upended by Denis Shafikov before a tiny crowd at an actual boxing gym in Moscow.

There was nothing controversial about those losses, but in both instances Commey was in hostile territory. Toledo’s Easter brought a large delegation of fans to Reading and Shafikov was fighting on his home turf. The crowd on Saturday will almost assuredly be skewed against Commey again, but it won’t be as pronounced. Commey, born and raised in Ghana, has a home in the Bronx. Lopez was born in Brooklyn, a bond that his Brooklyn-born promoter Bob Arum likes to emphasize, but grew up in Davie, Florida.

Teofimo

At age 22, Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) is almost 10 years younger than Richard Commey. A year ago, at this very venue, he scored his most memorable triumph, a highlight-reel, 44-second, one-punch knockout of Mason Menard that was named the TSS Knockout of the Year. He has won three fights in the interim, most recently a 12-round decision over Masayoshi Nakatani.

Teofimo won comfortably on the scorecards, but his performance left much to be desired. The Japanese was a tall, rangy fighter. In Richard Commey, he is meeting a man of similar height. Both are listed at five-foot-eight.

Lopez has developed a large following in a short time and his in-ring heroics are only part of the story. He’s quite the showman. After each win he adds an exclamation point with a celebratory back-flip and outside the ring his brash persona has enhanced his notoriety.

When a fighter has a common surname, it helps to have a unique first name. The reality is that Lopez would not have built his brand as fast if his first name had been, say, Miguel, or Carlos, or Juan. And he had the foresight to supplement his unique first name with a unique nickname: The Takeover.

The nickname, says Lopez, doesn’t just refer to taking over a specific weight division (he’ll move up to 140 before the year 2020 is over) but, rather, taking over the whole sport in the sense of becoming boxing’s biggest pay-per-view attraction. Early into his pro career, he began calling out Lomachenko.

Teofimo’s biggest cheerleader is his Honduras-born father and trainer of the same name and the elder Lopez has even more hubris than his son. “My son is too strong for Lomachenko….he would walk through anything that Lomechenko throws at him,” Teofimo Sr. told veteran boxing writer Bill Tibbs prior to his son’s match with Mason Menard. “Liston, he has God-given gifts and he’s simply the best out there. (My son) has the best parts of Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, GGG, Floyd, Andre Ward, all the best of them in him.”

The Lopez that defeated Nakatani would not have defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko. And there are those that think he won’t beat Richard Commey unless he brings his “A’ game. It’s an interesting fight.

—–

The main fights on Saturday’s Top Rank boxing card will air on ESPN’s flagship station. The boxing card, which opens with the rematch between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin, follows the show in which the Heisman Trophy is presented to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Heisman telecast will begin at 8 pm EST.

The same situation prevailed last year when Top Rank’s Madison Square Garden card was headlined by the fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza. To the consternation of diehard boxing fans, the Heisman presentation show ran late. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.

Photo credit: Stacy Verbeek

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Will U.S. Olympic Boxers Fare Better in Tokyo Thanks to Yesterday’s Ruling?

Arne K. Lang

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The road to the medal round for U.S. boxers at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics just got easier. But maybe not.

“Russia Banned From The Tokyo Olympics” screamed yesterday’s headline, but reading between the lines there’s more to the story. A more carefully worded headline would have read “Russian Olympic Athletes in Limbo.”

We have been down this road before. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, recommended banning Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The agency accused Russian authorities of a massive cover-up that erased hundreds of positive test samples.

WADA then did something of an about-face and decided to evaluate each case individually. Ultimately, 278 Russian athletes were approved to compete in Rio; 111 were denied. All 11 Russian boxers who survived the various qualifying events made the cut.

This new ban (which will be appealed) also emanates from WADA which alleges that the Russian authorities continued the massive cover-up using the “disappearance methodology.” But, if upheld, it’s a more severe penalty in that it bans Russia from major international sporting events for the next four years. That would include the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world by far. The next edition of the World Cup is slated for 2022 in Qatar.

“There’s still…the possibility of clean athletes to compete in the Games,” Svetlana Romashina, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, told Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth of The Guardian. “I believe the punishment of clean athletes to be unacceptable,” continued Romashina. “We have done nothing wrong.”

The reality, as it now stands, is that Russian boxers and other Russian athletes, if deemed clean, will be able to compete in Tokyo, just not under the Russian banner. As is common in some wrestling tournaments, their affiliation will be “unattached.” And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a big fan of amateur boxing and other combat sports, won’t be there. The ban prohibits Russian officials from attending major international sporting events if their team has been expelled.

—–

Historically, the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team has excelled in the Summer Games. But that’s yesterday’s news. In the last three Olympics, U.S. male boxers won only three medals, one silver and two bronze. By contrast, during the same period, Russian boxers walked off with 10 medals including three gold.

The prognosis for the 2020 U.S. team looked dim once again when the U.S. contingent earned only one medal (a silver by lightweight Keyshawn Davis) at the recent AIBA men’s World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The host team garnered four medals, including three gold. If one conjoined the Russian squad with former Soviet Union satellites Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the count grows to seven gold medals (of a possible eight) and 15 medals overall.

Russia’s gold medalists at the World Championships were welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy (pictured), middleweight Gleb Bakshi, and heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. Zamkovoy and the heavyweight (who will badly need a new name if he ever turns pro) are outstanding amateurs and may have been favored to win their divisions in Tokyo.

Zamkovoy, 32, represented Russia in the 2012 and 2016 Games and medaled in 2012 where he defeated Errol Spence Jr en route to the semi-finals. The heavyweight (a cruiserweight by pro standards) is an ever-improving, 22-year-old, six-foot-four southpaw who has already amassed an amateur record of 60-5.

The competition for the U.S. team at overseas tournaments has gotten a lot tougher in the last two decades as several Eastern European countries have become more like Cuba, investing state resources into their amateur boxing programs with an eye to building a powerhouse. Perhaps the WADA edict will aid the U.S. boxing team in shaking the doldrums in 2020, but that assumption seems premature.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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