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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 10: Cancio, Nevada Hall of Fame and More

David A. Avila

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In the desert town of Blythe where two states are separated by a river, Andrew Cancio was semi-famous despite only being 16 years old. He was a barber and everyone knew it.

“By the time I came out of high school as a barber everybody knew me in Blythe,” said Cancio looking back. “They kept me busy and making good money.”

Cancio is still famous but for a different reason.

Expect a town-sized crowd to arrive as Cancio (18-4-2, 14 KOs) meets Dardan Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs) in the 10-round main event on Friday Aug. 17, at Fantasy Springs Casino. The Golden Boy Promotions fight card will be televised by ESPN2.

No longer is Cancio a barber.

“I really loved it. Still cut my sons hair but I just do it for fun. You don’t ever lose your touch,” said Cancio. “It wasn’t a job, it was chill.”

Cancio no longer cuts hair for pay. Instead, he cuts down contenders like one of those electric razors mowing through a mop headed scalp. He’s ruthless.

So far, whenever Cancio fights anywhere in the Southern California desert region his legion of fans appear shouting his name and yelling approval. He’s a rock star in Blythe.

The last time Cancio’s hordes arrived at Fantasy Springs he was fighting Kazakhstan’s Aidar Sharibayev (7-1) who was undefeated at the time and headed toward a title fight. That was last April. It ended in a knockout win for Cancio.

Back in March 2016, Cancio and his Huns fought veteran Hugo Cazares at the Fantasy Springs. That fight ended in three rounds.

In December 2015, Cancio was matched with another contender buster named Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua. Though both have a knack for knocking off contenders, if you stand in front of Cancio you got problems. Alvarado stood in front of the Blythe bomber and down he went in eight rounds.

“Oh yeah. I love fighting in the pocket, it’s like natural for me,” says Cancio who trains in Ventura. “That’s where I feel most comfortable for me. They try to make me fight inside and don’t know that’s what I like.”

He’s hoping that Albania’s Zenunaj goes pocket hunting too.

“I watched a couple of his videos. He seems to be a come forward type of guy,” said Cancio with a hint of glee. “I’m just training to outsmart him, especially inside.”

Cancio needs to win for his fans; the Huns are hungry.

Japanese Fighters

Another returning will be Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4-2, 24 KOs) who meets Gregory Vendetti (19-2-1, 12 KOs) in a 10 round super welterweight clash at Fantasy Springs on Friday.

The last time Kamegai was in the boxing ring he was trading vicious blows against Miguel Cotto for the WBC super welterweight world title. Though he was defeated, many lauded his tremendous effort and do or die spirit.

If you like warriors, then Kamegai is one of many Japanese fighters that have made that trek across the Pacific Ocean to showcase their spirit. It’s been a boost to the boxing world when fighters like Kamegai, Naoya Inoue, Ken Shiro, Kosei Tanaka and Ryosuke Iwasa among others have willingly traveled to America to display their craft.

Incidentally, Iwasa lost the IBF super bantamweight title today to TJ Doheny of Australia by unanimous decision in Tokyo. It was Iwasa’s second defense of the world title he won last September.

Saturday in L.A.

Ed Holmes All Star Boxing returns to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel with another large fight card at the downtown L.A. hotel this Saturday Aug. 18.

Seven undefeated prospects including super lightweight Batyr Akhmedov (4-0) who meets Ismael Barroso (20-2-2) for the WBA Inter-continental title in an eight round clash.

Others on the card include Ricardo Valdovinos, Israel Mercado, John Leo Sato and Arthur Saakyan in separate bouts. A female MMA fight is also scheduled on the card.

The doors open at 5 p.m. at the beautiful venue which has become one of my favorite places to watch boxing. For more information call 323 816-6200 or go to www.allstarfights.com.

Nevada Hall of Fame

Numerous stars will be inducted to Nevada’s Boxing Hall of Fame including several non-fighters.

Leading the list for this year sixth annual induction at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas will be Laila Ali, Sugar Shane Mosley, Kevin Kelley, Earnie Shavers, Don Minor, and Chris Byrd in the fighter category. Also inducted will be Senator Harry Reid, promoter Todd DuBoef and judge Jerry Roth.

Those fighters, trainers and promoters honored who are no longer living include Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, Henry Armstrong, Bill Miller and Jack “Doc” Kearns.

“This is a wonderful class and we are very proud of all of them and we’re eager to celebrate their many accomplishments in this wonderful sport,” said Michelle Corrales-Lewis CEO of NBHOF. “We have come up with a full slate of events to make this an entire celebratory weekend. In a short period of time, we have built a reputation as a first-class Hall of Fame and the fighters look forward to this event every year. We are continually looking for ways to improve and I believe this will be our best year yet.”

Festivities begin Friday at 12 p.m. in the Augustus Room with a meet and greet that ends at 4 p.m. A cocktail party begins at 7:30 at the Caesars pool area weather permitting.

On Saturday, at 11 a.m. an amateur boxing card takes place at the Augustus Room and ends at 3 p.m.

Red carpet photo opportunities begin at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. The actual ceremonies start 7 p.m. at the Augustus Room and only those with tickets or invitations will be admitted. For more information go to this web site: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nevada-boxing-hall-of-fame-6th-annual-induction-dinner-tickets-43144441185

Top Rank

WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez announced he made a change in trainers and is now working with Eddy Reynoso who also trains middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, according to public relations ace Ricardo Jimenez.

Valdez, 27, suffered a broken jaw in his last world title defense against over-weight Scott Quigg of England. He still has not been cleared by doctors but made the decision with his management to depart with former trainer Manny Robles Jr.

“I want to thank Manny Robles and his whole team for everything they have done for me over the last few years, but like everything in life, changes are sometimes needed to move forward. I’m very grateful to them for their friendship and all they have taught me”, said Valdez who lived next to Robles in Lake Elsinore.

The two-time former Mexican Olympian is managed by Frank Espinoza and expected to return to defend the title soon. He is promoted by Top Rank

Top Rank also signed an extension that now ties them with ESPN for seven years and includes Saturday’s show out of Atlantic City.

Heavyweights Bryant Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs) of Philadelphia meets Alexander Dimitrenko (41-3, 26 KOs) in the main event at Ocean Resort Casino. ESPN will televise and stream the fight card.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity, grateful for the consistent fighting schedule. I’m just looking to win and climb the heavyweight ladder. I let everything fall into place once the results come in,” said Jennings.

Dimitrenko realizes he has a prime opportunity.

“It is very important for me to be here, to fight live on ESPN against Jennings. I will do anything to win this fight,” said Dimitrenko. “It’s an honor to fight here in America. Everybody watching will get a great show. Saturday night can’t come soon enough. I am ready to fight.”

Next week, Top Rank has another show but this time in Phoenix. Two world title fights are planned at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Slated to fight are WBO lightweight titlist Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1) versus Jose Pedraza (24-1) and Isaac Dogboe (19-0) defending the WBO super bantamweight world title versus Hidenori Otake (31-2-3).

Also, Mikaela Mayer (6-0, 3 KOs) is set to meet Edina Kiss (14-7) in a six or eight round super featherweight clash.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Ted Sares

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Putting pineapple on pizza is not a good idea but it IS an example of point counterpoint, and when these two boxers meet on Friday in Philadelphia with the WBC and IBF world light heavyweight titles at stake, it also will be a contrast—but not of tastes as much as styles..

There are, however, many similarities. Both are Eastern European boxers though one, Gvozdyk, is a Ukrainian and the other, Beterbiev, is a Russian and this particular regional difference has sparked a lot of conversation. (Interestingly, Beterbiev has never fought professionally in Russia, nor has the English-speaking Gvozdyk ever fought in the Ukraine.)

Both have superb amateur credentials but this has a flip side in that too many amateur fights can add to the wear and tear of these Eastern Euro warriors when they become professionals. Beterbiev is 34; Gvozdyk 32.

Both are undefeated with outstanding knockout percentages. Gvozdyk, aka The Nail, is 17-0 with 14 KOs. Beterbiev (14-0) has won all of his fights inside the distance.

Both are excellent finishers and when they have their man hurt, it’s all over.

Both have excellent corners and handlers and will be fit and ready to rumble.

“This could very well be the fight of the year…These are two evenly matched, undefeated light heavyweight champions. There is nothing better in the sport of boxing,” says promoter Bob Arum.

Styles

The 6’0” Beterbiev’s style is one of a stalking aggressor and he is especially dangerous when his opponent engages him in a heated exchange as that allows him to land one of his heavy-handed bombs. To use an old cliché, Artur has “bricks in his fists.” He also is dangerous when he is stunned as Callum Johnson discovered.

Some say Beterbiev’s chin is a question mark but his style allows an opponent to nail him (no pun intended) as he moves in. That may well be more a function of his go-forward movement than it is any weakness in his chin.

Conversely, The Nail is a very accurate and powerful puncher and is technically (and defensively) more sound than the bludgeoning Russian. He uses a super-fast jab and counters with sharp stuff. This 6’2” slickster combines exceptional speed and deceptive power. He is patient, relaxed, and fluid.

Intangibles

Has Gvozdyk’s psyche been altered by the events of his December 2018 fight with Adonis Stevenson wherein Adonis (thankfully now recovering) was severely injured? While The Nail was somewhat stymied by his last opponent, Doudou Ngumbu, the thinking here is that that had more to do with Ngumbu’s awkwardness than anything else—and that the Stevenson matter is mostly in the past. In short, the Nail’s focus on Friday should be right where it should be.

With a KO percentage of 100%, Beterbiev has answered the bell for very few rounds, only 52 to be exact. This could weigh against him.

Prediction: Gvozdyk’s superior boxing skills should begin to bear fruit in the mid to late rounds when a frustrated Beterbiev is forced to take risks for which he will pay dearly. I see “The Nail” winning by late stoppage or by UD.

A Russian vs. a Ukrainian — one who lives in Canada and the other who lives in California.  Heck, it’s the battle of ex-patriots. If ever a fight was much anticipated, this is the one.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Arne K. Lang

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Throughout history, boxing promoters have shunned the weeks before Christmas. The conventional wisdom is that the typical fight fan has little money at his disposal for a frivolity such as a night at the fights, having exhausted his funds buying Christmas presents. But don’t tell that to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who has flouted this dictum and profited handsomely.

Back in 1995, Arum secured Madison Square Garden for the night of Dec. 15 for a show that pitted Oscar De La Hoya against Jesse James Leija in the main event. The cynics said the date was all wrong, let alone the location for a match between two Mexican-Americans from out west, one from LA and the other from San Antonio. But lo and behold, the show was a big money-maker, attracting a crowd of 16,027, more than 15,000 paid.

Arum anticipates another box office bonanza on Dec. 14 when he plants an ESPN and ESPN Deportes tripleheader in America’s most famous sports arena, an event headlined by Terence “Bud” Crawford’s WBO title defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Crawford, who turned 32 several weeks ago, moved up to welterweight after grabbing all the belts at 140 and will be making his fourth welterweight title defense.

The opening bout on the telecast pits featherweight Michael Conlan against former amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan will be making his sixth appearance at the Garden. In the co-feature, Richard Commey defends his IBF world lightweight title against Teofimo Lopez.

Although many rate Terence Crawford the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, he has been something of a forgotten man lately. Almost 10 full months have elapsed since he last fought. Oscar De La Hoya, who had a bitter break-up with Arum late in his boxing career, recently took a swipe at Arum for not keeping Crawford more active, suggesting Arum’s “inertia” might be keeping Crawford out of the Hall of Fame.

The Crawford-Kavaliauskas match-up serves as Arum’s retort as it will shine a bright spotlight on Crawford, the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, as Arum’s show will air on ESPN directly following the Heisman Trophy presentation. Now it behooves Arum to pull some strings so that the Heisman Trophy show doesn’t run too long as has happened in the past.

At the moment, parlaying Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seems like a safe bet, but Egidijus Kavaliauskas, a two-time Olympian who was profiled on these pages in July of 2016, is no slouch.

True enough, Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) didn’t look all that sharp in his last outing when he was held to a draw by Ray Robinson, but Philadelphia’s Robinson had an awkward style (think former heavyweight contender Jimmy Young) and was fighting in his hometown.

If Kavaliauskas were a horse, we would say that he comes from a great barn. The 31-year-old Lithuanian is a stablemate of the Big Three in the barn of Egis Klimas: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) hails from Ghana but now hangs his hat in Brooklyn. His losses were both by split decision in back-to-back fights with Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov and he has won five straight since then, most recently an eighth-round stoppage of veteran Ray Beltran in the first defense of his IBF title.

Teofimo Lopez, 10 years younger than Commey at age 22, is moving up in class, but will yet go to post the favorite. In his last start, Lopez won a unanimous 12-round decision over Masoyoshi Nakatani, ending a skein of highlight reel knockouts. In December of last year, Lopez scored a one-punch knockout over Mason Menard in a bout that lasted all of 44 seconds. It was named the TSS Knockout of the Year.

Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) grew up in Davie, Florida, but was born in Brooklyn and currently has a home there, giving the show even more of a local flavor. He and his Honduras-born father of the same name are not shy when it comes to boasting of his prowess and Teofimo’s braggadocio has enhanced his appeal with young fans.

Michael Conlan (10-0, 7 KOs) and Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, all by decision) met in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Nikitin got the decision, a jaw-dropper that spawned the most indelible moment of the Games when an enraged Conlan gave the judges a two-middle-finger salute.

The rematch between them was hatched at that moment although it took awhile for Arum to rope the Russian into the fold. They were originally slated to fight on Aug. 3 at an outdoor show in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, but Nikitin suffered a torn bicep in training and had to pull out.

This is the kind of match that Bob Arum can really get his teeth in. The crusty octogenarian and former attorney would have it that all people of good character ought to be rooting for Conlan in the interest of seeing an injustice rectified.

Regardless, Arum’s Dec. 14 show is a nice Christmas present for Big Apple boxing fans.

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Three Punch Combo: Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Thoughts and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo — For hardcore fans, one of the most attractive fights of the year takes place on Friday when undefeated light heavyweight champions Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s) battle in a title unification bout. This contest will headline an ESPN televised card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. Here are a few subtle things that could play a factor in how this fight plays out.

A Tactical Fight?

Twenty years ago, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in a welterweight title unification fight. It was a super fight between two explosive punchers. Everyone expected fireworks, but as we all know, it turned into an all-out chess match for twelve rounds.

When two big punchers meet, sometimes we get fireworks and sometimes each fighter respects the other’s power so much that they both become somewhat tentative inside the ring.

Keep in mind we have seen in several Gvozdyk fights a somewhat cautious approach. He will take what is given and nothing more. As for Beterbiev, he has typically been a very aggressive fighter (more on that later) but has had his moments where caution has entered his mindset. Just take a look back at his 2017 fight with Enrico Koelling.

I know it is the unpopular opinion but we could certainly see a very tactical chess match between these two on Friday.

Beterbiev’s Defense and Chin

Beterbiev, as noted, is a very aggressive fighter. But with that aggression comes an almost complete lack of focus on the defensive side of the game.

So far, Beterbiev’s offense has been his best defense as many times his opponents have simply been too fearful of opening up. But at times the cracks have shown. Callum Johnson, for example, wasn’t afraid to throw in spots and when he did, his punches landed.

In that fight, we saw Beterbiev get hurt and dropped. Beterbiev showed a ton of heart to come back from that moment and later stop Johnson, but his chin is certainly a question mark. And Gvozdyk, aside from carrying one-punch power, is a very sharp and accurate puncher who has shown excellent finishing skills thus far in his career.

Gvozdyk’s Mindset

A little more than ten months ago, Gvozdyk wrested away the title from Adonis Stevenson. But on what was supposed to be the night where Gvozdyk’s dream came true, things almost turned tragic as Stevenson suffered a brain bleed that nearly took his life.

Gvozdyk has had one fight since against journeyman Doudou Ngumbu. Though Gvozdyk won easily, there was something about his performance that just didn’t feel right. Gvozdyk had a fighter in front of him who offered little resistance but seemingly didn’t want to fully step on the gas.

In order to compete with Beterbiev, we have to see the same Gvozdyk that we saw against Stevenson. But has Gvozdyk’s mindset permanently been altered by the events of that evening?

Under The Radar Fight

A pivotal crossroads bout in the welterweight division between Luis Collazo (39-7, 20 KO’s) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO’s) is also on Friday’s ESPN broadcast. The winner will be in prime position for a title shot in 2020.

Collazo, a world welterweight titlist back in 2005, is in the midst of yet another career resurrection. After getting stopped by defending WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman in 2015, Collazo has won three straight. And these wins were not against subpar opposition. Two were against up-and-coming young fighters in Sammy Vasquez and Bryant Perrella; the other against fringe contender Samuel Vargas.

At age 38, Collazo has proven he still has plenty in the tank and has clawed back up the rankings in the welterweight division. But to get one more shot at a title, Collazo must find a way to get past another young up-and-comer in Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov.

Abdukakhorov, 26, is coming off the biggest win of his pro career this past March when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former 140-pound title challenger Keita Obara. That win boosted Abdukakhorov into the number one position in the IBF at welterweight and in line to one day be the mandatory challenger for current belt-holder Errol Spence Jr.

Stylistically, I love this matchup. Abdukakhorov is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He will look to press the attack and won’t be afraid to lead looking to land his best punch which is the overhand right. Collazo is a southpaw who is a natural counterpuncher. He will look to make Abdukakhorov’s aggression work against him and should find plenty of opportunities to do so.

I think we are going to get an action-packed, competitive fight. This should serve as an excellent appetizer to Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.

What’s Next For Dmitry Bivol?

This past Saturday, Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a wide unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KO’s). Though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, the win keeps Bivol in line for bigger opportunities down the road. So, what’s next for him?

Saturday’s title defense marked Bivol’s second consecutive appearance on the streaming service DAZN. DAZN needs future opponents for its two biggest stars in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Clearly part of the reason for DAZN showing interest in Bivol is geared toward him potentially getting one or the other down the road.

Though Alvarez is fighting at light heavyweight in November, this appears to be a one-time appearance for the Mexican superstar in that division. He is likely headed back to middleweight or the 168-pound weight class. As for Golovkin, he has fought his entire 13-year career at middleweight. A move at some point soon to 168 would not be a surprise.

Bivol and his team have made it very clear that he can get down to 168. With DAZN’s two biggest stars hovering around that division, a move down to 168 seems likely.

The WBA champion at 168 is Callum Smith who is slated for a title defense in November against UK countryman John Ryder. Assuming Smith prevails, he would make a logical opponent for Bivol in the spring of 2020.

Smith-Bivol would be a big fight between two young undefeated fighters and the winner would then be in position for a mega fight later in 2020 against either Alvarez or Golovkin.

But what if Smith goes a different direction following the Ryder fight? If that is the case, Bivol may instead just look to dip his toes in the water at 168 with someone like Rocky Fielding.

Fielding is a tough, gritty competitor who is popular in the UK and has name recognition in the US based on his fight last December with Canelo. But as we saw in that fight, Fielding is very limited.

Fielding is just the type of opponent who could bring out the best in Bivol. A spectacular knockout would help erase some of Bivol’s recent lackluster performances. And this would, of course, make Bivol much more marketable for a future date with Alvarez or Golovkin.

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