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Philly Guys Jennings and Hart Take Different Paths to TKOs in Atlantic City

Bernard Fernandez

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—Heavyweight Bryant Jennings and super middleweight Jesse Hart are from the same hardscrabble North Philadelphia neighborhood, but their methods of attaining the desired result can hardly be described as similar. The more cerebral Jennings, a vegan who years ago swore off red meat, prefers the strategic approach, patiently taking his time to execute a fight plan and waiting to capitalize on openings in an opponent’s defense that don’t always come early or often. Hart, son of 1970s Philly knockout artist Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, has much of his dad’s trademark eagerness to take care of business as quickly and emphatically as possible. He fights with the impatience of a man whose hair is on fire, or with the realization he is double-parked outside the arena and the meter maid is just down the street.

But circumstances have a way of rewriting a prepared script on the fly, which is why Jennings, on the wrong end of a flash fourth-round flooring by the very large Alexander Dimitrenko, fought with a heightened sense of urgency in registering a ninth-round technical knockout in the main event of Saturday night’s Top Rank on ESPN card in Ovation Hall at the Ocean Resort Casino, formerly known as the Revel. He dropped the 6-foot-7, 257-pound Dimitrenko twice in the eighth round, and finished off the 20-1 underdog with a ripping right uppercut that sent him crashing to the canvas again in the climactic ninth. Although Dimitrenko beat the count, referee Al Huggins stepped in and waved the bout to a conclusion after an elapsed time of one minute, 56 seconds, to the displeasure of many of the 2,543 spectators in attendance as well as Dimitrenko, who vainly argued that he was fighting back and the stoppage was premature.

“I was in the fight,” complained Dimitrenko, 36, who held advantages of four inches in height and 32 pounds over the 33-year-old, more-sculpted Jennings. “I wanted to continue. I don’t know why the referee stopped it.”

All signs, however, pointed to the ending being the same had Huggins delayed a bit before stepping in. After Dimitrenko sent a surprised Jennings onto one knee with an overhand right in the fourth round, it was if a message had been sent and received by the Philadelphian and his trainer, John David Jackson, that it might be time to ratchet up the pressure to thwart any possibility of an upset being sprung.

“I was prepared for a tough 12 rounds,” Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) allowed. “I did what I had to do. I was in great shape. He’s a big dude, and he’s not as slow as I thought. I made adjustments and got the job done.”

The long odds against Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs) might have owed in part to the fact that the card was loaded with Philly-area fighters, all of whom seemed to bring their own cheering sections of fans who no doubt laid down some wagers in the casino’s newly opened sports book. In addition to Jennings and Hart (25-1, 21 KOs), who dismissed Mike Gavronski (24-3-1, 15 KOs) in three one-sided rounds, other winners included Philly bantamweight Christian Carto (16-0, 11 KOs), Camden, N.J., lightweight Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15 KOs), Allentown, Pa., lightweight Joseph Adorno (9-0, 9 KOs) and Atlantic City super welterweight homeboy Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (26-2-1, 9 KOs). In the top non-televised undercard bout, but one that was available via the ESPN+ app, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs), from Newark, N.J., played it safe in pitching a dull eight-round shutout at Mexico’s Carlos Ruiz (16-5-2, 6 KOs).

Top Rank has down-the-road hopes for Jennings, who came away not only with Dimitrenko’s IBF International championship but also the vacant NABO title. But those fringe belts are worth little except maybe to hold Jennings’ pants up. What Jennings seeks is another shot at a widely recognized world title, his only previous bid for such coming on a unanimous-decision loss to IBF/WBA/WBO champ Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015. Some would say he had a second crack at the big prize, losing to Luis Ortiz on a seventh-round TKO eight months after his points loss to Klitschko, but that was for an “interim” world title from the shameless WBA, which dispenses bejeweled belts as if they were gumballs from a convenience-store machine.

To hear Jackson tell it, Jennings might need another  three or four “learning-experience” bouts against an increasingly higher caliber of opposition before he is fully primed to test himself against the division’s best of the best, the current kings of the heavyweight ring IBF/WBA/WBO champ Anthony Joshua and WBC ruler Deontay Wilder. Jackson had said that he hoped Jennings would display a more effective inside game against Dimitrenko, and that exclamation-point uppercut – a weapon best utilized at close quarters – suggests another passing mark.

Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox, never the most accurate gauge of what transpires inside the ropes, were conclusive enough as Jennings found the target on 122 of 284, an impressive 43 percent, with Dimitrenko landing just 47 of 256, or 18.4 percent.

“In the fifth and sixth I had to grab the momentum back,” Jennings said. “I sensed him tiring. I didn’t get a chance to counter the way I wanted to, but I think tonight I (would have) beat Ortiz.”

Hart would not appear to require any more learning experiences to get what he most seeks, which is a rematch with the only man to defeat him, WBO 168-pound champ Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs), who won a close unanimous decision on Sept. 22, 2017. Since both Hart and Ramirez are promoted by Top Rank, and Hart is already ranked No. 1 by the WBO, a do-over would seem to be in order, but Hart claims the champion is intentionally dragging his feet.

“That’s who I want,” Hart said when asked if he is targeting Ramirez. “Give me a chance to redeem myself. He’s talking about moving up to 175. Why? I’m right here! Come on, man. Stop with the excuses. I’m right here in front of you.”

Also in front of Hart, but not for long, was Gavronski, a 32-year-old from Tacoma, Wash., whose impressive record looks better on paper than it did in the ring. After Hart wobbled Gavronski with an overhand right in the opening round of the scheduled 10-rounder, the outcome was not so much a matter of “if” as “when.”

“When I looked at his eyes after the first knockdowns (of two, both coming in the third round), he got real scared,” Hart assessed. “He started holding, grabbing. He was fighting for survival.

“After that first round, when I hurt him, he wasn’t committing to any of his punches. That’s why I was walking straight to him. I was, like, `C’mon, fight!’ When I hit a guy, his whole reaction changes.”

Arguably the most entertaining bouts, in terms of two-way action, were Carto’s eight-round unanimous decision over 35-year-old Mexican Javier Gallo (25-16-1, 13 KOs), who took everything the more talented winner threw at him and tossed some right back at him. In the walkout bout, Sosa got nearly as good as he got from uppercut-tossing Puerto Rican Reynaldo Blanco (14-5, 8 KOs), but the two knockdowns Sosa registered in the eighth and final round eliminated whatever suspense might have been on the scorecards through seven.

In other bouts, Toronto, Canada-based Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Teslenko (14-0, 11 KOs) floored Avery Gibson (9-9-4, 3 KOs) in the first round en route to a clinch-filled six-round unanimous decision; Adorno needed only 99 seconds to blast out Agustine Mauras (6-5-3, 3 KOs) in the first round, and LaManna notched an eight-round UD over the willing Matthew Strode (25-7, 9 KOs), of Marion, S.C.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 116: Three Days of the Condor

David A. Avila

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Every year it happens.

Some of the best fights are made at the end of the year.

Three consecutive days of high-level prizefighting begin in Los Angeles, move to London and return to Dallas, Texas. I tagged it Three Days of the Condor in honor of the great spy movie of the 70s starring Robert Redford.

Here’s what is coming:

New York welterweight prospect Brian Ceballo (11-0, 6 KOs) meets Utah’s Larry Gomez (10-1, 8 KOs) 10 rounds on Thursday Dec. 3, at the Wild Card Gym parking lot in Hollywood, California. NBC SN will televise the Ring City Fight card beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Coast Time.

It was supposed to be Brandon Adams versus Serhii Bohachuk in a super welterweight clash that had fans salivating who are familiar with the two. But the Ukrainian fighter who trains in Southern California fell ill with the coronavirus. Now Adams fights late replacement Sanny Duversonne in an eight-round bout. Poor Bohachuk.

“It is with regret that I have to announce that I’ve contracted the COVID virus and have to withdraw from the fight on Dec. 3,” Bohachuck said. “I want to thank Ring City and NBC Sports for the opportunity, and I look forward to fighting Adams in the future. I’m feeling fine and look forward to resuming my training as soon as I’m cleared.”

Ceballo (pictured) and Gomez are now the true main event and both have not fought in over a year. That should make it even. This also makes the second boxing card for the Ring City fight group. Two weeks ago, Ring City opened with a doozy of a boxing card. This should equal their opener in terms of even matchups.

British Action

Early Friday morning a boxing card features WBO super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) defending against veteran contender Martin Murray (39-5-1, 17 KOs) at London, England. DAZN will stream the Matchroom fight card beginning at 11 a.m. PT.

Saunders is a chatty sort who loves to discombobulate opponents in a variety of ways. Whether attacking their physical appearance or lack of skills, he is not shy about voicing his opinion.

But he does have respect for Murray.

“He’s challenged for the world title four times. He should have been world champion in two of those fights. I’ve promised him a chance,” said Saunders who is making his second defense of the WBO title and is a former middleweight world titlist.

The left-handed Saunders has long sought a match with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who has held super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight world titles.

“The Canelo fight fell through in May,” said Saunders. “On Friday we’ll rock and roll.”

Murray is anxious for what could be his final world title shot.

“He’s not fought the opposition I’ve had,” said Murray who lost to Gennady Golovkin, Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm. “If I’d had fought the people he’s fought, I’d have a world title. I’ve done it the hard way.”

PPV Welterweight Showdown

Errol Spence Jr. returns and the world will see if the championship caliber fighter still carries all of his weaponry.

He will be tested.

Spence (26-0, 21 K0s) returns to the prize ring after one year following a horrific automobile crash. He meets former two-division world champ Danny “Swift” Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) on Saturday Dec. 5, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The PBC card will be televised on FOX pay-per-view.

Back in September 2019, the speedy Spence lit up the boxing ring at Los Angeles in an electrifying battle with Shawn Porter. He barely emerged victorious and then allegedly celebrated in Texas by going more than 100 mph in a Ferrari 488 Spyder and flipping the expensive car end over end. The horrific crash was captured on video and despite the ugliness of the accident, Spence did not suffer any broken bones. But there was internal damage.

Just how severe were his injuries?

This marks the first time back in the prize ring and Garcia is a very rugged test. All Philadelphia fighters are tough, and he just might be the toughest of them all.

Garcia has only two losses in his career and both were very close decision defeats: First, against Shawn Porter and second against Keith Thurman. The counter-puncher has never been stopped or dropped and packs a wallop.

“He’s not much of a volume puncher so it will be more tactical. It probably won’t be like the Shawn Porter fight, an all-out brawl/fight. I think this will be more tactical, and pinpoint type of fight between me and him,” Spence told Brian Custer on The Last Stand Podcast.

This will be a true test for Spence who has mentioned many times desiring a match with Manny Pacquiao and WBO titlist Terence Crawford.

One interesting bout on the same pay-per-view card pits Josesito Lopez (37-8) versus Francisco Santana (25-8-1) in a 10-round welterweight mash-up. This fight is not for the squeamish. Both these guys are bruisers and have fought the best. It’s amazing that the two California fighters have not faced each other before. They have fought everyone else. Now its Lopez against Santana.

It will be brutal while it lasts.

Macho film

Showtime debuts its sports documentary on “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday night December 4, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

If you love boxing don’t miss this important film on Camacho, one of the most scintillating boxers of the 1980s and 1990s. His presence in the boxing scene now seems to be overlooked by the great welterweights and Mike Tyson who dominated the boxing landscape.

Camacho was the lone prizefighter in the lower weight classes who could match their allure. The Puerto Rican fighter from Spanish Harlem fought and beat Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. How many fighters can claim that?

It’s a very well-made documentary that delves into the flamboyant fighter’s life.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Boxing Promoter Michelle “Raging Babe” Rosado Pulls No Punches

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Michelle Rosado, the founder and CEO of Raging Babe Promotions, made her promotional debut on Feb. 8, 2019 with a show at South Philly’s intimate 2300 Arena. The show drew an SRO crowd, a testament to Rosado’s tireless work ethic, but ended on a sour note when local fan favorite Christian Carto – potentially the next big thing on the Philadelphia boxing scene – stepped up in class and was brutally knocked out by Mexican veteran Victor Ruiz. A protégé of Hall of Fame boxing promoter J Russell Peltz (pictured on the left), Rosado recently appeared on the “Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer” to share her thoughts on some of the major issues in boxing. Here are excerpts from that interview compliments of publicist Keisha Williams.

ROSADO ON WHY CLUB SHOWS ARE IMPORTANT TO THE SPORT

“Club shows are where you are building those prospects, that’s where you’re developing those fighters you see the top promoters are pulling these opponents from. We’re developing these guys from the ground up, we’re almost like a farm system. Most of these guys you see on TV fighting for millions of dollars, and becoming world champions, a lot of them started at the club level.”

ROSADO ON STATE OF WOMEN’S BOXING

“Women’s boxing needs a platform, there’s nowhere for these girls to fight, they deserve some fairness in our sport. I’m not trying to say they deserve to be paid the same as Canelo, but they shouldn’t be paid 5 thousand dollars to defend their titles either, so in 2021

I’m going to get more involved in women’s boxing and try and be a voice for them because they deserve better and a platform.”

ROSADO ON HOW DIFFICULT IT IS BEING IT IS BEING A FEMALE PROMOTER IN BOXING

“I’ve been called every racial slur you can think of, I’ve had tickets thrown in my face, I’ve had my house vandalized, I’ve had a brick thrown threw my back window of my car. I’ve been called every kind of groupie you can imagine. She’s slept with everybody in the business and every fighter. I’ve earned my stripes, I’ve worked hard, no handouts, it’s just been all hard work and I’ve had to learn to turn the cheek. Most people know nine years in that I’m a hustler. You’ll never find a fighter that says she stole from me, she didn’t pay me, she lied to me, you’ll never find a fighter that says that!”

RAGING BABE ON FEMALE BOXING PROMOTERS

“Yes we have a lot more women in boxing, yes it still a little more difficult for us, but we’re there you hear us roaring. Behind every big promoter, he’s got a woman either as his right hand man or running the operation. And I mean all of them!”

ROSADO ON HER ULTIMATE GOAL

“I want to continue to promote good fights, I want to make Philadelphia the legendary fight town that it once was, I want to develop those guys from the ground up, I want old school and new school boxing fans to come to my shows and fall in love with boxing again, and them become interested in the bigger boxing world again because we’re losing that old school boxing fan. I want to uphold the reputation of real fights, real fighters, real fans that’s my passion.”

ROSADO’S TOP 5 POUND FOR POUND LIST

  1. Terence Crawford
  2. Canelo Alvarez
  3. Errol Spence Jr.
  4. Naoya Inoue
  5. Teofimo Lopez

Rosado on who’s boxing next big star and the best fighter out of Philly right now

“Boxing’s next big star is Tank….We got a lot of really good fighters in Philly, but Jaron “Boots” Ennis is that dude!”

The full in-depth interview is now available on YouTube (Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer) and all major podcast platforms (Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, etc.)

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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HITS and MISSES: Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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It was another massive weekend in boxing. There were big fights on pay-per-view that maybe shouldn’t have been so big, and fights surrounded by lesser fanfare that will probably be looked back at as the more meaningful action by future historians.

Here are the biggest HITS and MISSES from another week on the boxing beat.

HIT: Mike Tyson, Roy Jones and the Unifying Power of Boxing

Whatever you think about the boxing exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. on Saturday night, the most important aspect of the whole night (to this writer at least) was seeing how easily a big fight in boxing could still unify our culture.

No, it wasn’t a legitimate prizefight, but people still wanted to see the 54-year-old Tyson go a few rounds with the 51-year-old Jones, and that’s exactly what they got. It was a ride built mostly around the power of nostalgia, and it featured all sorts of present-day celebrities, too.

By the end of things, it seemed the general reaction to the event on social media was positive.

Tyson vs. Jones showed how big a reach boxing still has. Tyson retired over 15 years ago, but people from all over the planet were still willing to pay $50 to watch him climb inside the ropes for a sparring session.

Seeing that left me with two exciting questions.

What awesome power will boxing’s next superstar have?

More importantly, where is he (or she) anyway?

MISS: Ring Announcer’s Steve Harvey Moment 

In 2015, comedian Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant. As humiliating as that event was for Harvey, just imagine how the two women felt after having their hearts filled and slashed by his error.

That same thing sort of happened on Friday night when Danny Jacobs beat Gabriel Rosado via split decision in a 168-pound stay-busy fight streamed by DAZN.

Ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos accidentally said the winner hailed from Philadelphia (where Rosado is from) before quickly changing it back to Brooklyn (where Jacobs is from).

So momentarily, the hard-luck Rosado, who never has been the beneficiary of a close decision in any important fight, thought he had just pulled off the upset of the year.

Instead, Jacobs was corrected as the winner and that had to be an awful experience for both fighters, one that was completely avoidable.

HIT: Joe Joyce: An Actual Juggernaut?

Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce is a popular fighter on the other side of the ocean because of his long and successful campaign as an amateur boxing star which culminated with Joyce winning the silver medal for Great Britain in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Still, as a professional prospect, there are lots of things not to like about Joyce. First, Joyce didn’t start boxing until he was 22. Late bloomers come around now and then, but they’re still a rarity in the sport. Second, Joyce is already 35, which means he’s already just outside the confines of his theoretical physical prime, something that ends around 33 years old and only gets worse. Finally, Joyce is just plain slow as molasses.

Regardless, Joyce stopped fellow Brit Daniel Dubois on Saturday in London.

Unlike Joyce, Dubois, 23, possesses plenty of attributes one looks for in a future world champion. But none of those things helped Dubois win the fight.

All this to say Joyce just keeps winning fights. Sure, he might appear to be a boulder tumbling slowly down a hill when he fights, but that rock is starting to gain some real momentum.

HIT: 54-1

Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin finally lost a fight over the weekend, but it should be noted that at least the fighter finally knows his limits.

Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) entered his fight against Petchmanee CP Freshmart (aka Panya Pradabsri) with a sterling record of 54-0. He left the contest 54-1 after judges rendered their verdict for the challenger.

Much was made of Menayothin’s glossy win streak last year when he surpassed retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 mark. But a combat sports culture obsessed with suffering no blemishes on a record is only a relatively new phenomenon. Moreover, the very nature of that path through the sport never reveals the true limits of a fighter.

All this to say that Menayothin now gets a better sense of his limits, and the boxing world as a whole gets to know that same thing about him, too. That’s wildly better than the alternative.

MISS: Nate Robinson Challenge

If you missed the Tyson vs. Jones pay-per-view event on Triller over the weekend, you didn’t see social media star Jake Paul’s viral knockout of ex-NBA star Nate Robinson.

It was clear from the start of the fight that Paul and Robinson weren’t evenly matched. That kind of thing happens all the time in boxing, of course, but here was a case of a person (Robinson) who maybe had been so mismatched against Paul that it was too dangerous to have happened at all.

Regardless, Robinson did have the courage to train for the fight and step inside the ropes on fight night.

After he was knocked out, something called the “Nate Robinson Challenge” started trending on Twitter, and it was basically people from all over the world trolling the 3-time NBA dunking champ for getting knocked out in the fight.

Look, Robinson made his own bed by calling for the fight in the first place. But the Internet trolls that rag people for stepping outside their comfort zones probably would never dare to attempt that accomplishment themselves.

Robinson tried and failed. That’s the real challenge.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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