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Saunders vs. Andrade Spearheads Eddie Hearn’s British Invasion of Boston

Jeffrey Freeman

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Boston has a strong boxing history. Marvin Hagler defended the world middleweight title here twice; his long road to the championship running through the old Garden where he went 9-0 with 9 KOs. Brockton’s Rocky Marciano won two of his historic 49 fights in this city. British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is well aware of all this nostalgia.

He hopes to tap into some of it this fall.

Hearn is also well aware of how stagnant the fight scene has become in Boston since the long past glory days of promoter “Rip” Valenti—of champions Sandy Saddler, Paul Pender, and Tony DeMarco. Today, world title bouts and world championship boxers rarely get made in Boston. Hearn now sees an opportunity to grow his own legacy as a world renowned boxing promoter.

The 39-year-old Hearn is the new barker for New England’s top dog: 25-0 (16) middleweight Demetrius Cesar Andrade. Trained by father Paul, Andrade sat mired in stagnation during key periods of his now ten year career. Andrade, 30, briefly held two junior middleweight titles under the promotional guidance of Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing; failing to gain any meaningful career momentum before moving up in weight and signing with Hearn. In his biggest win to date, Andrade got off the canvas in 2013 to earn a split decision over Vanes Martirosyan in Texas.

In Chicago to announce his October 6 ‘Worlds Collide’ show, Hearn revealed to ​AB Boxing News that his October 20 plans for “Boo Boo” in Boston involve outspoken Billy Joe Saunders—rival promoter Frank Warren’s Hatfield U.K. Traveller. With victories over Chris Eubank Jr., David Lemieux, Spike O’Sullivan and Andy Lee, Saunders 26-0 (12) has an obvious advantage in quality of competition over his mandatory challenger. He’s also two years younger.

According to Hearn, Saunders, 28, will defend the WBO title against Andrade, Providence, Rhode Island’s 2008 U.S.A. Olympian, in what Andrade’s ambitious U.K. promoter describes as an “elite 50/50 fight” and one of the best available matchups at middleweight. It happens a mere five weeks after the biggest money matchup in the division, the over-marinated Golovkin-Canelo rematch in Las Vegas on September 15 for the unified world middleweight championship.

Theoretically, a path now exists for Andrade to follow in the footsteps of Hagler and become undisputed world middleweight champ. A victory over Saunders in Boston for the WBO strap could lead to a future showdown with Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight champion most likely to covet the last remaining middleweight title belt and target the holder of it for a unification fight.

While Hearn appreciates praise for bringing the sport back to forgotten American cities like Boston and Chicago, any well informed fan would have to wonder how marketable a “fight” between Andrade and Saunders will actually be given the defensive proclivities of both speedy southpaws. Saunders often wheels around like he’s on a ten speed bike and the emotionally reclusive Andrade has never been a terribly popular or engaging action fighter. In plain terms, the bout could be dull in the ring with socially awkward promotional encounters outside of it.

Hearn has his work cut out for him.

He’s brought in some reinforcements for his growing Matchroom USA promotional outfit. Retired fighter Kevin Rooney Jr. has been hired as media event manager—a role the son of Mike Tyson’s ex-trainer worked in previously for American promoters Joe DeGuardia and Lou DiBella. Photographer Ed Mullholland and matchmaker Eric Bottjer have also joined Matchroom.

“I’m very excited to get into another city that hasn’t had the big fight nights as regularly as it should,” says Hearn. “It’s going to be a big card in Boston,” he told the boxing media in Chicago.

Hearn didn’t necessarily agree with all he spied here in 2015 when he and Londoner James DeGale took home the vacant IBF super middleweight title, besting Al Haymon’s Andre Dirrell at Boston’s Agganis Arena. “Fighters want to win world titles, that’s what they dream about,” Hearn insisted at the time in opposition to the fact that Haymon’s PBC encouraged de facto TV censorship of the major world title belts. Hearn has since ripped down the PBC banner and planted his own promotional flag here in Boston with DAZN.

This time, he’s doing things his way.

Expect “character defining” boxer ring walk music.

Hearn is confirmed to be working with Ken Casey’s Boston based Murphy Boxing. Promoter Casey is also the lead singer of a fighting Irish band called the Dropkick Murphys. The Dropkicks perform in concert at his boxing shows and already have a pair of popular boxing songs for Hearn to make requests from should this night at the fights also feature live music.

Fortunately for people interested in these sorts of things, Hearn also understands the value of a stacked undercard (and of ethnonational rivalries) in generating real world ticket sales to build his live gate. This boxing promoter credibly promises value for every dollar spent on his product.

What will be required to fill even half of the nearly twenty thousand seats at the TD Garden (and to establish a lasting promotional presence in Boston) is a deep lineup of quality bouts featuring the best regional talent available in New England—pitted competitively against Old England.

Evander Holyfield’s Rhode Island featherweight Toka Kahn Clary was rumored to be in consideration for the co-main event while a cursory look at BoxRec shows Irish female sensation Katie Taylor to be listed on the undercard opposed by Cindy Serrano with British lightweight Tommy Coyle versus TBA. Despite his obvious limitations as a boxer, Framingham, Mass native Danny “BHOY” O’Connor could add value as a potential opponent for the 24-4 (12) Coyle.

O’Connor won big at the Garden in 2013. I talked to Danny at ringside after he defeated Derek Silveira by decision. ​“I’ve been dreaming about this since even before I started boxing. In any sport you compete in, you dream about doing it at the Garden if you’re from around here.”

Murphy’s 34 year-old Irish heavyweight Niall “Boom Boom” Kennedy is 11-0-1 (7) with a Gorey story to tell. Kennedy beat tough Lawrence, Mass prospect Alexis Santos last year at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, moving his hands and his fair share of tickets. Stoneham, Mass super welterweight Greg “The Villain” Vendetti 19-2-1 (12) is another popular Murphy fighter who could spice up Hearn’s Boston undercard with his determination and huge heart.

U.S Marine Mark DeLuca is one more local name in the mix. The Whitman, Mass “Bazooka” lost for the first time as a pro last June in New Hampshire, dropping a split decision to Seattle slickster Walter Wright. DeLuca, 30, is now 21-1 (13) but still one of Murphy’s top draws.

The British are indeed coming.

Get ready Boston.

Saunders vs. Andrade will live stream on October 20, 2018 from the TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics, on DAZN, an emerging alternative sports platform with influential economic backing. Saunders hopes to make his fourth defense of the WBO title won from Andy Lee in 2015. In his most recent outing last December, Saunders travelled to Canada where he schooled crude bomber David Lemieux in a virtual shutout on HBO. Andrade is coming off a pair of nondescript wins and looks to quickly jump start his career with Hearn.

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Remembering Oscar ‘Shotgun’ Albarado (1948-2021)

Arne K. Lang

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Former world junior middleweight champion Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado passed away on Feb. 17 at age 72 in a nursing home in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas. Albarado’s death didn’t go unnoticed in the town that he put on the sporting map, but news out of Uvalde appears to travel to the outside world by Pony Express. There’s been no notice of it in the boxing press; even the authoritative boxrec has yet to acknowledge his passing. This isn’t uncommon. A boxer has a high probability of dying in obscurity, even if he had a large fan base during his heyday.

The folks in Uvalde had a big shindig to honor Albarado after he won the title; a barbecue at the fairgrounds. “All Texas and especially the city of Uvalde share pride in your accomplishments,” read a proclamation from the Governor of Texas, Dolph Briscoe.

The date was June 20, 1974. Sixteen days earlier, Albarado had wrested the 154-pound title from Koichi Wajima in Tokyo. Down two points on two of the scorecards through the 14 completed rounds, Albarado took the bout out of the judges hands, knocking Wajima down three times and out in the final stanza.

It was a long road to Tokyo. An eight-year pro, Oscar had at least 55 pro fights under his belt when he was granted a crack at the title. As he was scaling the ladder with occasional missteps, he became a fan favorite at the Olympic Auditorium, the shrine of Mexican-American boxing in L.A. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Albarado’s parents were migrant farm workers. They spent a portion of each year picking sugar beets in Minnesota. The kids went along with them. Albarado was purportedly six years old when he first worked in the fields.

He was 17 years old when he had his first documented fight, a 4-rounder in San Antonio, but there are some reports that say he was fighting in Mexico when he was as young as 15.

Albarado became a local attraction in South Texas and then spread his wings, moving to Los Angeles where there was better sparring and boxers of Mexican extraction were a more highly-valued commodity. He was backed by LA fight functionary Harry Kabakoff, a wheeler-dealer who knew all the right people. A colorful character, Kabakoff, born Melville Himmelfarb (don’t ask) had struck it big with bantamweight Jesus “Little Poison” Pimentel, a boxer he discovered while living in Mexicali.

Billed as the Uvalde Shotgun and eventually as just Shotgun Albarado, Oscar had his first fight at the Olympic on Jan. 9, 1969, and four more fights there in the next three months. He lost the last of the five and with it his undefeated record to Hedgemon Lewis who out-pointed him in a 10-round fight. There was no shame in losing to Hedgemon, an Eddie Futch fighter who went on to become a world title-holder.

Albarado was back at the Olympic before the year was out. All told, he had 17 fights at the fabled South Grand Street arena, going 13-3-1. His other losses came at the hands of Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez (L UD 10) and Dino Del Cid.

Del Cid, dressed with a 29-8-2 record, was a Puerto Rican from the streets of New York or a Filipino, depending on which LA newspaper one chose to read. Apprised that Albarado was a slow starter, he came out slugging. A punch behind the ear knocked Albarado woozy and the ref stepped in and stopped it. It was all over in 81 seconds.

Oscar demanded a rematch and was accommodated. Six weeks later, he avenged the setback in grand style, decking Del Cid three times in the opening stanza and knocking him down for the count in the following round with his “shotgun,” his signature left hook.

As the house fighter, Albarado got the benefit of the doubt when he fought Thurman Durden in January of 1973. The decision that went his way struck many as a bit of a gift. But the same thing had happened to him in an earlier fight when he opposed fast-rising welterweight contender Armando Muniz.

As popular as Alvarado was at the Olympic, his pull paled beside that of young Muniz. Born in Mexico but a resident of Los Angeles from the age of six, Muniz attended UCLA on a wrestling scholarship before finishing his studies at a commuter school and had represented the United States in the 1968 Olympics while serving in the Army.

Muniz vs. Alvarado was a doozy. We know that without seeing the fight as we have the empirical evidence in the form of the description of the scene at the final bell; appreciative fans showered the ring with coins. The verdict, a draw, met with the approval of the folks in the cheap seats, but ringside reporters were of the opinion that “Shotgun” was wronged. The LA Times correspondent had it 7-2-1 for the Texan.

Oscar had two more fights after avenging his loss to Del Cid before heading off to Tokyo to meet the heavily-favored Wajima who was making the seventh defense of his 154-pound title. Two more trips to Tokyo would follow in quick succession.

Albarado made the first defense of his newly-acquired belt against Ryu Sorimachi. He stopped him in the seventh round, putting him down three times before the match was halted. Three-and-a-half months later, he gave the belt back to Wajima, losing a close but unanimous decision in their rematch.

Oscar quit the sport at this juncture, returning to Uvalde. He was in good shape financially. He had used his earnings from his Olympic Auditorium fights to open a gas station. With the Tokyo money, he expanded his holdings by purchasing a laundromat.

This would be a nice place to wrap up this story. Former Austin American-Statesman sportswriter Jack Cowan, a Uvalde native, recalled that when Oscar opened his service station, he gave his new customers an autographed photo of himself in a boxing pose inscribed with the words “Oscar Albarado: The Next World Champion.” He would make that dream become a reality, defying the odds, while breaking the cycle of poverty in his family. Boxing was the steppingstone to a better life for him and his children.

But ending the story right here would be disingenuous. This is boxing, after all, and when the life story of a prominent boxer comes fully into a focus, a feel-good story usually takes a wrong turn.

Oscar got the itch to fight again. Sixty-seven months after walking away from boxing, he resumed his career with predictable results. He was only 34 when he returned to the ring, but he was a shell of his former self, an old 34.

Albarado was knocked out in five of his last seven fights before leaving the sport for good with a record of 57-13-1 (43 KOs). He made his final appearance in Denmark, the adopted home of double-tough Ayub Kalule who whacked him out in the second round.

Albarado’s obituary in the Uvalde paper was uncharacteristically blunt. “He suffered from pugilistic dementia,” it said, “caused by repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows.”

There was no sugar-coating there, no Parkinson’s to obfuscate the truth.

If he had known the fate that awaited him, would he have still chosen the life of a prizefighter? That’s not for us to say, but author Tris Dixon, while researching his new book, interviewed a bunch of neurologically damaged fighters and almost to a man they said they would do it all over again.

Albarado had four children, three sons and a daughter. When he was elected to the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, he was too decrepit to travel, but all four of his children — Oscar Jr, Emmanuel, Jacob, and Angela — made the trip to North Hollywood to accept the award on his behalf.

The kids were proud of their old man, a feeling that did not dissipate as he became incapacitated. If boxing was helpful in tightening the bond, then it’s a fair guess the Uvalde Shotgun had no regrets.

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Brandon Figueroa KOs Nery and Danny Roman Wins Too

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Brandon Figueroa took the air out of Mexico’s Luis Nery to win by knockout and unify the WBA and WBC super bantamweight titles on Saturday. It was a belly buster that did the job.

Texan Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) set out to prove that Tijuana’s two-division world champion Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) could not endure a toe-to-toe battle with the bigger guys and he proved it before several thousand fans at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

It was a back-and-forth battle that saw Nery attack the body and head while Figueroa focused on winging big blows from a distance and in close. Many of the rounds were extremely close to score.

When Nery was able to battle from a distance and dive inside, he seemed the much more athletic between the two champions. But Figueroa just seemed stronger and unfazed by any of the Mexican fighter’s blows.

Though Figueroa absorbed a lot of punishment, he never seemed in trouble. When Nery connected with a several combinations in the fifth round by landing five-punch and three-punch combinations, it looked like he was taking control.

He did not.

Figueroa opened the sixth round with two left hook blasts that reminded Nery that the taller Texan had a punch. When Nery tried to rally with his own blasts, Figueroa slipped under back-to-back left hooks. It seemed to change the tide.

“I knew he was getting tired,” said Figueroa. “He was trying to box me.”

In the seventh round Figueroa was able to connect with a left hook and followed up with a lead right. Nery countered with a three-punch combination that was met with Figueroa countering with a three-punch combination to the head and body. Then both fighters exchanged inside and Figueroa connected with a right to the chest and a left uppercut to the solar plexus and down went Nery.

Nery could not beat referee Tom Taylor’s count and was counted out at 2:18 of the seventh round.

Figueroa is now the WBC and WBA super bantamweight unified champion.

“It feels amazing,” said Figueroa. “I know everyone doubted me.”

Roman Wins Super Bantam Eliminator

Los Angeles-based Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) battered Mexico’s Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs) to win convincingly by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super bantamweight fight.

After a slow start Roman began to out-maneuver the heavy-punching Espinoza and found openings for left uppercuts. Boy did he find openings.

“I concentrated on finding my distance,” said Roman.

Roman snapped Espinoza’s head back so many times it seemed that the Mexican fighter would not be able to last the full 10 rounds. But like most Mexican fighters he would not quit.

Espinoza tried every move in his catalogue but nothing worked against the superb technique used by Roman, who formerly held the IBF and WBA super bantamweight world titles. It was a perfect example of technical prowess defeating raw power.

The uppercut was the chosen weapon of choice and Roman exhibited how to throw it from various positions and angles. It landed perfectly every time as if targeted by a laser. Espinoza never could avoid the uppercut.

During the last three rounds Espinoza’s face was bloody and battered while Roman looked as if he were merely sparring. The end seemed near but the fighter from Tijuana battled until the final bell.

“I thought he was going to go down,” said Roman. “But he had a big heart.”

All three judges scored it for Roman at 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

“It’s a step closer to getting back my titles,” said Roman who lost the titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev a year ago by split decision. “I’m here to fight the best.”

Martinez Beats Burgos

Sacramento’s Xavier Martinez (16-0, 11 KOs) discovered that Tijuana’s Juan Carlos Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs) still has plenty of fight remaining and showed it with a gutsy 10 rounds of back-and-forth battering. Still, Martinez won by unanimous decision though every round was competitive.

Boy was it competitive.

Martinez, 23, had a 10-year advantage in youth but was unable to convince Burgos. Every round saw savage combinations connect by each fighter, but the judges all felt that the Sacramento fighter was superior. All three scored it 99-91 for Martinez. The crowd booed the decision.

“I was landing the cleaner shots,” said Martinez. “He’s a tough competitor.”

Other Results

A super lightweight match saw Jose Valenzuela (8-0) knock out Nelson Hampton (7-4) in the first round.

Gabriela Fundora (1-0) won her pro debut by unanimous decision over Jazmin Valverde (2-2) in a four round flyweight match. Fundora is the sister of super welterweight contender Sebastian Fundora.

A lightweight bout was won by Justin Cardona (5-0) by first round knockout of James De Herrera (4-7).

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Buatsi Flattens Dos Santos in Manchester; Charr KOs Fraudulent Lovejoy in Cologne

Arne K. Lang

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In a Knockout of the Year candidate, rising light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) leveled Daniel Blenda Dos Santos, an unheralded Frenchman, in the fourth round, closing the show with a pulverizing right hand – and for good measure, touching him with another right as he fell. A 2016 Olympic bronze medalist for England, the Ghana-born Buatsi trained for two months in the California Bay Area under his new trainer Virgil Hunter and his American sojourn paid dividends.

Dos Santos, who found his way to boxing after serving three-and-a-half years in prison, was undefeated (15-0, 8 KOs) coming in, but hadn’t fought beyond six rounds. He was knocked down earlier in the fight with a chopping right hand. There were less than 20 seconds remaining in the fourth when Buatsi put Dos Santos to sleep, and to his credit he did not celebrate but consoled his distraught victim.

Other Bouts

In a shocker, 31-year-old southpaw Jason Cunningham improved to 29-6 (6) with a unanimous decision over Gamal Yafai (18-2) who was making the first defense of the European bantamweight title that he won in Milan.

Cunningham had Yafai on the canvas three times — knocking him down with left hands in the second, fourth and sixth rounds — but Yafai, the younger brother of former 115-pound world title-holder Kal Yafai — wasn’t deterred and kept coming forward. In the end, however, Cunningham’s lead was too big for Yafai to overcome. The judges had it 115-110 and 114-111 x2 for the southpaw who was a consensus 10/1 underdog.

Super middleweight Lerrone Richards breezed to a lopsided 12-round decision over Italian veteran Giovanni DeCarolis to snatch a vacant European title. Trained by Dave Coldwell, who previously handled Tony Bellew, Richards was content to rack up points and the one-dimensional DeCarolis, who was making his first start in 23 months, had no way to stop him.

The judges had it 120-108 and 119-109 twice. The London-born Richards, whose family roots are in Ghana, improved to 15-0 (3). This may have been the last rodeo for the 36-year-old DeCarolis who fell to 28-10-1.

Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy (18-2, 9 KOs) was fed a softie for his first defense of his European cruiserweight title in the form of 36-year-old Romanian Alexandru Jur who brought a 19-4 record but had defeated only four men with winning records. Except for a few brief moments, Jur showed little inclination to mix it up. McCarthy put Jur down with a body punch in round four and finished him off two rounds later with another body punch. The official time was 2:09.

McCarthy, who is of Irish and Jamaican descent, moves on to a date with fellow Brit Chris Billam-Smith. Jur lost for the fourth time in his last six starts.

Cologne

Credit Christopher Lovejoy for having the gumption to defy Don King who threatened legal action if Lovejoy went ahead with his match today with WBA “champion in recess” Mahmoud (Manuel) Charr. But the 37-year-old Lovejoy, who arrived in Germany all by himself, traveled a long way to destroy whatever credibility he may have had. Fighting off the grid, he had rung up 19 fast knockouts in 19 fights against 19 presumptive Tijuana taxi drivers.

Carrying 306 ½-pounds, the six-foot-five Lovejoy lasted less than two full rounds against Charr who was making his first ring appearance in 42 months. Lovejoy was counted out after being dropped with a volley of punches in the second round.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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