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Superfly 3 Proves a Success at Inglewood Forum

David A. Avila

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INGLEWOOD, Calif.-Fight fans clamoring for international flavor got their wish with Japan, Mexico, Philippines and Puerto Rico sending some of their best to the Inglewood Forum on Saturday.

A battle between Mexican warriors saw former world champion Juan Francisco Estrada (pictured) out-duel the taller Felipe Orucuta in an elimination bout for the WBC super flyweight world title. More than 4,000 showed up.

Sonora, Mexico’s Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs) emerged the winner by unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Orucuta (36-5, 30 KOs) but the two 115-pounders slammed each other repeatedly in the 12-round clash.

Estrada started quickly with left hooks and flashy combinations but once Orucuta established the long left jab the complexion of the fight changed drastically. Back and forth the two Mexican warriors exchanged especially in the seventh and eighth round.

One judge scored it 118-110 and the other two 117-111 all for Estrada.

“It was good to compete against a great champion. I thought the scores were a lot closer,” said Orucuta. “The atmosphere was great.”

The winner Estrada expects a world challenge next and was very satisfied with the contest.

“It’s was a good fight. Whenever you have two Mexicans in the ring you are going to have a good fight,” said Estrada. “Orucuta was taller than I am and very physical.”

It was like watching two other Mexican warriors, Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora, 40 years ago in the same arena. In that fight Zarate won by knockout and a riot ensued. No riot took place on this Saturday.

Draw

In a slow moving fight Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23 KOs) attempt to win a third division world title was put on hold after his match with fellow Filipino Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 9 KOs) ended in a split draw. Their 12 round slow motion affair was for the vacant WBO super flyweight world title.

“Of course I won the fight. I’m very disappointed. I dealt with his height perfectly I hurt him and I controlled the fight. I wanted to unify. Now I can’t even leave the ring with my belt,” said Nietes.

Nietes seemed to be in control against the much taller Palicte but the lack of action may have allowed the fight to be in question. No knockdowns were scored and the world title remains vacant.

Ioka

Japan’s Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13 KOs) showed little rust from a year absence to knock down and out-punch Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo (17-4, 14 KOs) and win the vacant WBC Silver super flyweight after 10 rounds.

It was an exciting slugfest.

Ioka caught Arroyo with a stiff right counter that floored the Puerto Rican fighter in the third round. The Japanese fighter began with a nonstop attack to the body and then moved it upward in the second half.

Though Arroyo had better success in the last five rounds of the fight, Ioka proved very elusive when necessary and was able to find the openings of the Boricua fighter. After 10 rounds the scores were 99-90, 97-92 twice all for Ioka.

“Very appreciative of the opportunity to fight in the US, this is exactly how I hoped it would be, the atmosphere was fantastic,” said Ioka. “The fight was exactly what I expected according to plan. I want to fight again on Superfly 4.”

Arroyo was gracious in defeat.

“A real tough fighter I thought it was a closer fight. I knew he was a top quality opponent and really showed me in the ring that’s what he is,” said Arroyo. “This was my third time fighting here against quality opponents. I look forward to more.”

360 Promotions director Tom Loeffler said that Ioka will most definitely return to the next Superfly series possibly in March 2019.

“He was very impressive especially since he had a year off,” said Loeffler of Ioka. “He was coming up two weight divisions against a tough fighter like Arroyo.”

Other Bouts

Mexico’s Brenda Flores (13-4-1) masterfully used a counter-punching scheme to out-box the constant rushes by Louisa Hawton (8-2) before a loud and supportive audience. It was reminiscent of last February when Anahi Torres handed the Aussie her first pro loss.

“I was a little afraid that because she was signed with the promoter of the fight card, that things would not go well,” said Flores. “But after every round I felt I showed enough to win.”

Though Mexican fighters are known more for being aggressive, it was counter-punches that Flores utilized from the start. And she was successful. But Hawton felt she was the winner.

“She was on the run, I had her on her back foot,” said Hawton who is a former light flyweight world titlist. “I was pressuring her every round.”

Alexandru Marin (17-0, 11 KOs) edged Bruno Escalante (17-4-1, 7 KOs) to win the IBF Inter-Continental super flyweight title by split decision after 10 rounds.

Jonathan Esquivel (7-0, 7 KOs) floored Joan Valenzuela (5-10-1) twice in winning by knockout at 1:51 of the first round in a middleweight fight. Esquivel fights out of Anaheim, Calif.

Joselito Velasquez (6-0, 5 KOs) was the winner by unanimous decision after six rounds in a flyweight contest versus Jose Alfredo Flores (6-7, 3 KOs). All three judges scored it 60-54 for Velasquez who fights out of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Berchelt TKOs Valenzuela in Mexico City

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt hammered his way to a decisive knockout victory over fellow Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela in a non-title light fight on Saturday.

After nearly nine months off, WBC super featherweight titlist Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) unraveled a withering body attack including numerous low blows but Valenzuela remained upright in front of a sparse TV studio audience until he could take it no longer.

Berchelt used a seven-punch combination to knock the senses out of the very tough Valenzuela who hails from Sinaloa. The referee saw enough and stopped the fight with Valenzuela leaning against the ropes with a dazed look.

The champion from Cancun used a triple left hook in the first round to floor Valenzuela and it looked like the fight would not last more than two rounds. But Valenzuela, a sturdy veteran, bored into Berchelt to keep him off balance and was able to stop the momentum.

It did not last.

A vicious attack to the body sapped the energy from Valenzuela who has fought many elite fighters in the past, but none like Berchelt. He was able to batter the veteran round after round.

Valenzuela sought to reverse the momentum with some combinations of his own. Berchelt opened up with some combinations from the outside and cracked his foe with some skull-numbing blows that clearly affected Valenzuela’s senses. The referee wisely stopped the fight at 1:03 of the sixth round to give the win to Berchelt by knockout.

The victory opens the door to a potential clash with featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez of Nogales, Mexico who has a fight of his own planned next month. Both champions are promoted by Top Rank.

Other Bouts       

Omar Aguilar (18-0, 17 KOs) bushwacked veteran Dante Jardon (32-7, 23 KOs) within a minute of the first round to win by technical knockout. A barrage of blows by Ensenada’s Aguilar opened up the fight and a four-punch combination forced the referee to stop the super lightweight fight with Mexico City’s Jardon against the ropes.

A battle between super bantamweights saw the taller Alan Picasso (14-1) out-hustle Florentino Perez (14-6-2) in an eight round clash between Mexican fighters. Mexico City’s Picasso fought effectively inside against the shorter Perez of Monterrey and was able to maintain a consistent pace. Neither fighter approved the use of a jab but Picasso was more effective inside with body shots and uppercuts and dominated the last half of the fight.  The six judges scored in favor of Picasso.

The WBC instituted the extra judges as a means of tabulating score cards efficiently. Three judges scored from the television studios and another three judges scored from the USA. It was the second time WBC judges officiated remotely and all six scorecards were official.

Photo credit: Zanfer Promotions

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Big Baby Miller, Roberto Duran and More

Arne K. Lang

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Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller just can’t keep his hands out of the cookie jar. It was announced today (Saturday, June 27) that the jumbo-sized heavyweight from Brooklyn tested positive for a banned substance, forcing him out of a July 9 fight at the MGM Grand “Bubble” against Jerry Forrest. The story was broken by Mike Coppinger of The Athletic who breaks more hard news stories than any other boxing writer.

Miller, needless to say is a repeat offender. He failed three different PED tests in a span of three days for three different banned substances leading into his planned June 2019 match at Madison Square Garden with WBA/IBF/WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. That cost him the fight and a reported $5 million-plus payday. Andy Ruiz filled the void and scored an historic upset.

When the first test came back positive, Miller wailed that he was the victim of a faulty test. “My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty and will fight this with everything we have,” he said in a prepared statement. He later changed his tune. “I messed up,” he said.

In a story that appeared on these pages, Thomas Hauser noted that Big Baby had a history of PED use dating to 2014. In that year, he was slapped with a nine-month suspension by the California Athletic Commission following a kickboxing event in Los Angeles.

Counting this latest revelation, it’s five strikes for Big Baby. He’s taking quite a roasting right now on social media. Some of the harshest criticism is coming from his fellow boxers.

Assuming that Top Rank can’t find a replacement for Miller, this is another tough break for Jerry Forrest, a 32-year-old southpaw from Virginia with a 26-3 (20) record. Forrest was scheduled to fight hot prospect Filip Hrgovic on April 17 on a card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a show swept away by the coronavirus outbreak. Forrest has been matched very soft throughout his career, but he acquitted himself well in his lone previous TV appearance, losing a split decision to undefeated Jermaine Franklin on “Showtime: The New Generation.” The decision was controversial.

There’s talk now that Carlos Takam is angling to replace Big Baby. The French-Cameroonian, a former world title challenger who turns 40 in December, was billed out of Henderson, Nevada, in his last ring appearance that saw him winning a unanimous decision over fellow greybeard Fabio Maldonado in Huntington, NY.

—-

When it comes to Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong, will”), there’s no sport quite like boxing. Just ask Bob Arum. The most mouth-watering matchup in his ESPN “summer series” fell out this week when Eleider Alvarez suffered a shoulder injury in training, forcing a postponement of his July 16 date with Joe Smith Jr. The match between Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs) and Smith (25-3, 20 KOs) would have been a 12-rounder with the winner guaranteed a shot at the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, a diadem that Alvarez previously owned.

Joe Smith Jr, a Long Island construction worker once dismissed as nothing more than a club fighter, won legions of new fans in his last start, a one-sided (to everyone except one myopic judge) win over Jesse Hart in Atlantic City.

Cancelled matches have become a recurrent theme in ESPN’s semi-weekly boxing series. The very first card in the series lost what shaped up as its most competitive fight when Mikaela Mayer tested positive for COVID-19, scuttling her bout with Helen Joseph. In subsequent weeks, the manager of Mikkel Les Pierre tested positive for COVID-19 as did WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring. Those bad test results forced the postponement of two main events. Then earlier this week, hot lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno was lopped off Tuesday’s card after feeling sick after coming in overweight at the previous day’s weigh-in.

The undercards of the Tuesday/Thursday ESPN fights have left something to be desired, but that’s understandable. As Bob Arum noted in a conversation with veteran boxing scribe Keith Idec, Top Rank’s matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad “Abdul” Goodman have had a hard time fleshing out the cards because with so many gyms closed there’s a shortage of boxers who are in shape to fight on short notice. Then there are the COVID-19 travel restrictions and (something Arum did not acknowledge) budgetary restrictions more severe than an ordinary Top Rank card. Most of the undercard fighters have come from neighboring states such as Utah, saving Top Rank the cost of air fare. Fighters from faraway places, with some exceptions, were already training in Las Vegas.

Kudos to the entire Top Rank staff for keeping boxing alive during these challenging times.

It’s old news now, but Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, 69, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized in Panama City with a viral infection. There’s been no update on his condition but his son Robin Duran wrote on Instagram that his father is not having any symptoms beyond those associated with a common cold. We will update you when new details become available.

Duran’s hospitalization came just a few days after the 40th anniversary of his first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in what would say was Duran’s finest hour. They met on June 20, 1980 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Duran won a unanimous decision. Converting the “10-point must” system into rounds, Duran prevailed by scores of 3-2-10, 6-5-4, and 6-4-5. As Yogi would have said, you could look it up.

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Fast Results from the Bubble: Jason Moloney TKOs Baez

Arne K. Lang

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Top Rank was back inside the MGM Grand “Bubble” tonight for chapter six of their semi-weekly ESPN summer series. Jason Moloney, one-half of Australia’s Moloney twins, accomplished what his brother Andrew Moloney was unable to accomplish in this ring on Tuesday night, adding a “W” to his ledger and looking good doing it. It came at the expense of Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez.

It was Jason Moloney’s second start on U.S. soil after coming up just a tad short in a bid for the vacant IBF world bantamweight title at Orlando in October of 2018. Against Baez, he fought a smart tactical fight, blunting the Mexican’s superior reach by fighting him at close quarters. Baez fought from the third round on with a cut over his right eye and then suffered a cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By then the fight was becoming increasingly one-sided and Baez’s corner did not let him come out for round eight.

Jason Moloney improved to 21-1 with his 18th knockout. Leonardo Baez, who took the fight on short notice after Maloney’s original opponent Oscar Negrete was forced to withdraw with a detached retina, slumped to 18-3.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Abraham Nova advanced to 19-0 with a unanimous decision over Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow but won no new fans with a lackadaisical performance. Nova, born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic and raised in Albany, NY, showed little but his jab through the first seven rounds until hurting Sparrow with a big right hand in the eighth. The judges had it 96-94, 97-93, and 99-91.

Sparrow (10-2), whose lone previous loss was by disqualification, was making his first start in 15 months. He was slated to fight Ryan Garcia in Los Angeles last Sept. 14 but never made it to the weigh-in after being arrested by U.S. marshals on a charge of threatening a woman with a gun after she threw his clothes out the window…

Other Bouts

In an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rican southpaw Orlando Gonzalez advanced to 15-0 with a unanimous decision over Ecuador’s Luis Porozo (15-3). The scores were 76-74 and 77-73 twice.

Gonzalez wasn’t particularly impressive although he did score two knockdowns. He decked Porozo near the end of round two with a left hook following a straight left and decked him again near the end of round seven with a left uppercut to the body.

In a rather ho-hum fight, welterweight Vlad Panin improved to 8-1 with 6-round majority decision over San Antonio’s 36-year-old Benjamin Whitaker (13-4). Panin, a Belarusian who grew up in Las Vegas and earned a BA in English from UCLA, has a good back story but seemingly a limited upside in the fight game.

In an entertaining 6-round welterweight clash, Filipino campaigner Reymond Yanon improved to 11-5-1 with a split decision (59-55, 58-56, 56-58) over Clay Burns. A 33-year-old ex-Marine from Fort Worth, Burns declined to 9-8-2.

The opener, a heavyweight bout slated for six rounds, matched two Phoenix-based fighters in a rematch. Kingsley Ibeh, a former standout defensive lineman for the Washburn College Ichabods, avenged his lone defeat and improved to 4-1 with a fourth-round stoppage of Waldo Cortes (5-3). Ibeh, who at 286 had a 39-pound weight advantage, softened Cortes up with a series of uppercuts and Cortes was on his way down when he was tagged with a glancing left hand. He got to his feet, but referee Vic Drakulich waived it off. The official time was 1:41.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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