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The Avila Perspective, Chapter. 14: Ramirez vs. Orozco Under the Radar

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All eyes are directed toward the middleweight world championship clash this weekend between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and deservedly so. But a few interesting fights should not be overlooked.

In Northern California a super lightweight fight between WBC champion Jose Carlos Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) and perennial contender Antonio Orozco (27-0, 17 KOs) takes place on Friday Sept. 14, at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, Calif. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

Ramirez, 26, a 2012 US Olympian, always perplexed me as a talented fighter with speed but seemed to be matched with tailor-made foes that suited his busy style. Most of his opponents were overwhelmed by his barrage of blows but you always wondered what would happen against technically proficient fighters?

The clouds of doubt began to separate after Ramirez (pictured on the right) dissected Mike Reed and then Amir Imam in back-to-back fights with the last win handing him the WBC world super lightweight title in New York City of all places. It’s a place where fighters of Mexican descent seldom won by decision.

Now he faces a veteran contender in Orozco.

“Antonio is a very active fighter in the ring. He’s a pressure fighter like myself, and I’m more than excited to be facing fighters like him. I consider Antonio to be one of the very best in the division,” said Ramirez who trains in Riverside, Calif. with Robert Garcia.

San Diego’s Orozco is a prizefighter whose reputation of savagely working the body has kept him in the public eye for many years. But when he failed to make weight on a HBO televised card that set him back a few years. The question for Orozco: has he already peaked?

“This is the opportunity that every fighter wants to get to, and mine came at the right moment,” said Orozco, 30, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. “Things happen for a reason. I’m here in Fresno in front of a great champion. I’m ready. That’s all I can tell you.”

Ramirez fights under the Top Rank banner and Orozco for the Golden Boy flag, whenever these two organizations pit their fighters against each other you can expect an explosion in the boxing ring.

More Fresno

This fight card would fit perfectly in Las Vegas between the Friday and Saturday bouts but Ramirez has ticket appeal in Northern California so Top Rank placed the heavy duty lineup in Fresno.

Costa Rica’s Bryan Vasquez recently signed with Top Rank and meets Carlos Cardenas in a lightweight contest set for 10 rounds.

Vasquez, 31, is a slick counter-puncher who lost a razor close decision to Ray Beltran a year ago. Many, including this writer, felt he should have been given the win in Los Angeles. The Costa Rican seems to have bad luck when it comes to crucial fights but few have the boxing skills he possesses. He’s married to female super welterweight world champion Hanna Gabriels and since their marriage she’s improved immensely.

Facing Vasquez will be Venezuela’s Cardenas who moved to Mexico to get more fight opportunities. He’s a veteran who has fought former world champions Robert Easter and Juan Diaz but tasted defeat against both.

Japan

Another intriguing fight pits Japan’s Hiroki Okada (18-0, 13 KOs) against Cristian Coria (27-6-2, 11 KOs) in a 10 round super lightweight clash.

If you follow Japanese boxing you probably noticed that a wave of fighters from that warrior nation have been arriving the past several years. Last weekend boxing fans saw Kazuto Ioka wake up the crowd at Los Angeles and viewers around the country with his constant attack in dominating a very good McWilliams Arroyo.

Okada, 28, arrives with glittering credentials and faces a tough Argentinean in Coria who has never been stopped. It’s a good opportunity to see what the Japanese fighter can do in his American debut. All of his fights have taken place at the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.

If all goes well he could be placed against Ramirez or maybe interim WBC titlist Regis Prograis. Suddenly the division looks even more exciting.

Saturday in Las Vegas

A clash between Canada’s David Lemieux (39-4, 33 KOs) and Ireland’s Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (28-2, 20 KOs) has gained considerable traction from their verbal wars on social media. It will be televised on HBO pay-per-view on Saturday.

Both have promised a knockout and with 53 knockouts between them it’s well within their fistic capabilities. Both also lost to current WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders. On paper it’s a very even fight. On social media it’s a fight fans delight.

Lemieux, 29, a former world champion who bravely made his first and only world title defense against Golovkin three years ago, gets an opportunity to trade blows with somebody who will stand right in front of him and his steam roller style.

“He has a big mouth. He likes to talk garbage on social media. He’s not the best kind of guy,” said Lemieux. “I’m going to knock him out and make a lot of people happy.”

O’Sullivan, 34, brings his pressure style and his 1880’s moustache to the world stage and won’t have a problem finding Lemieux. Despite being in his mid-30s O’Sullivan started late at 24 so his body does not have the normal wear and tear that fighters have at that age.

“He’s going to be cooked. He’s very one dimensional. He does the same thing over and over again. He says the same stuff over and over again,” said O’Sullivan of Lemieux. “I fight like a Mexican. Watch out David, you’re getting knocked out.”

Words can mean “bombs away” when they jump in the ring on Saturday.

Chocolatito and More

Former four-division world champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez returns and the world will see just how much the Nicaraguan great still possesses.

Gonzalez (46-2, 38 KOs) meets Mexico’s Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14 KOs) in a super flyweight battle set for 10 rounds at T-Mobile Arena. It will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.

So far the super flyweight division has not treated Gonzalez very well. Fighting at 115 pounds has proved to be Kryptonite to the super fighter who had ravaged whole divisions since he started out in 2005. But back-to-back losses have uncloaked his weaknesses. It’s been a year since he last fought.

Fuentes, 30, is a former minimum weight world titlist and like Gonzalez has not looked good once he moved up. He was knocked out in round one by Japan’s Daigo Higa earlier this year when he fought for the WBC flyweight title. He was also knocked out by Kosei Tanaka last December 2016 when he fought for the WBO light flyweight title.

It’s a litmus test for Chocolatito, no doubt.

Also on the card are a couple of heavy hitting youngsters from the Golden Boy stable.

Welterweight prospect Alexis Rocha (11-0, 8 KOs) fights out of Santa Ana, Calif. and most of his knockouts happen in the first round. The southpaw slugger is trained by Hector Lopez and is the brother of Ronny Rios.

Rocha meets hard-hitting Mexican Carlos Cervantes (11-2, 11 KOs) in a moment-of-truth kind of fight. All of Cervantes wins have been via knockout. The Mexican from Torreon started late in the fight game at age 29. He’s now 34.

Super lightweight prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr. (10-0, 10 KOs) fights out of Riverside, Calif. but is a native of Dallas. The long armed Texan has never reached the final bell. He’s very aggressive but not careless. He destroyed former world champion Juan Carlos Salgado in his last outing this past June.

Ortiz, 20, faces knockout punching Roberto Ortiz (35-3-2, 26 KOs) of Torreon, Mexico who has lost his last two fights. They do not seem to be related. The Mexican Ortiz fought and lost to Lucas Matthysse by knockout in 2014. But that’s nothing to be ashamed about. Both fighters are explosive in this battle of the Ortiz’s.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Billam-Smith Avenges Lone Defeat; Retains Cruiser Belt in a Messy Fight

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In a mild upset, Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith, an overachiever, successfully defended his WBO cruiserweight title with an inelegant 12-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Richard Riakporhe. In the process, Billam-Smith, who advanced to 20-1 (13), avenged his lone defeat. Riakporhe won a split decision in their previous encounter five years ago in London.

This was a messy fight marred by excessive clinching. Referee Steve Gray, who earned his pay, warned both fighters during the match for a laundry list of infractions and eventually deducted a point from Riakporhe for leading with his head. The point deduction came in the final round and sealed the win for the Bournemouth fighter who prevailed on scores of 116-111 and 115-112 twice. Riakporhe declined to 17-1.

The fight was contested outdoors at the Crystal Palace soccer grounds in South London. The sky was grey and a light rain was falling when the show started, but the rain let up well before nightfall.

Billam-Smith, who is trained by Shane McGuigan, was making the second defense of the title he won with an upset of Lawrence Okolie. The other cruiserweight title-holders are Jai Opetaia (IBF), Gilberto Ramirez (WBA) and Noel Mikaelyan (aka Noel Gevor). Billam-Smith would be a decided underdog to Opetaia. Fights with Ramirez and Mikaelyan would likely be snoozefests.

Semi-Wind-up

Olympic silver medalist Ben Whittaker, a light heavyweight whose arrogant showboating has translated into a large social media following, went 10 rounds for the first time in his career and won a lopsided decision, advancing his record to 8-0 (5). Whittaker’s opponent, Ezra Arenyeka, a 28-year-old Nigerian, brought a 12-0 record that on closer inspection included only three wins over opponents with winning records.

Arenyeka plowed forward much of the fight, but kept a high guard and had trouble letting his hands go. In round seven, he lost a point for hitting Whittaker in the face with an elbow. The scores were 100-89 and 99-90 twice.

Also

In another mild upset, Jack Massey won the vacant European cruiserweight title with a 12-round decision over Isaac Chamberlain. Massey, who improved to 22-2 (12), is a stablemate of reigning IBF female welterweight champion Natasha Jonas who was part of the broadcasting crew. He went 10 rounds in a losing effort with former heavyweight title-holder Joseph Parker in January of last year before returning to his natural weight class. This was a competitive fight with several momentum swings.  Chamberlain, 16-2 heading in, lost by scores of 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

Dan Azeez, who had Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt in his corner, was expected to have an easy time with Hrvoje Sep, a 38-year-old Ukrainian, but Azeez (20-1-1) had to work hard to salvage a draw with Sep (12-2-1) in an 8-round light heavyweight match.

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Notes on Saturday’s Boxing Action Topped by the Return of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis

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Notes on Saturday’s Boxing Action Topped by the Return of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis

Gervonta “Tank” Davis returns to the ring on Saturday after an absence of nearly 14 months that included a 44-day stint in a Baltimore jail. In the opposite corner is St. Louis southpaw Frank “The Ghost” Martin.

Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) is now the undisputed lightweight champion of the WBA. He had been sharing that distinction with Devin Haney who was de-frocked when he moved up in weight. Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) is also undefeated and their match is the main attraction of a four-fight pay-per-view on Amazon Prime Video and affiliates including PPV.com (list price $74.99) where viewers have the opportunity to interact with the hosts, namely Jim Lampley, Lance Pugmire, Chris Algieri, and Dan Conobbio.

One other world title fight and two contrived interim title fights support the main event. The title fight, which will serve as the PPV opener, pits WBC middleweight title-holder Carlos Adames (23-1, 19 KOs) against former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha (24-3-1, 12 KOs). Adames became a full-fledged title-holder last month when the organization stripped trouble-plagued Jermall Charlo of the belt within hours after his DWI arrest in Texas.

Tired of waiting around for Canelo, David Benavidez elected to move up in weight where he will face former WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

It was inevitable that Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) would out-grow the super middleweight division. He carried 180 ¾ pounds for his second pro fight when he was 16 years old. Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs) stepped away from boxing after getting stopped by Artur Beterbiev in a unification fight in October of 2019. He was badly beaten in that fight although he was ahead on two of the scorecards through the nine completed rounds. He missed all of 2020, 2021, and 2022 before returning to the ring in February of last year, shaking off the rust in a 6-round fight, and subsequently won two bouts by knockout. The Ukrainian turned 37 in April.

In the other interim title fight, super lightweight Gary Gary Antuanne Russell (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alberto Puello (22-0, 10 KOs) in a battle of southpaws. Puello, a 29-year-old Dominican, briefly held the WBA diadem at 140, but had it stripped from him when he tested positive for PEDs.

Gervonta Davis has proved to be one of the biggest draws in boxing. Among American-born fighters, no one is currently at his level as a ticket-seller. However, it will be surprising if his bout with Frank Martin tomorrow night in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand can match the numbers he achieved in his last outing where he was pit against the charismatic Ryan Garcia who he stopped with a body punch in the seventh round. In all four of the fights on tomorrow’s pay-per-view, the favorite is chalked in the 7/1 range. Moreover, a DAZN event in Puerto Rico that overlaps the early portion of the pay-per-view may nibble away at the receipts.

Three high-grade 10-round preliminaries will precede the pay-per-view. These three fights, “teasers” as it were, can be accessed for free regardless of Prime membership. The action in the “free” portion of the card begins at 5:30 pm ET/2:30 pm PT.

DAZN

The DAZN card is a Matchroom promotion in Manati, Puerto Rico. IBF 140-pound world champion Subriel Matias makes the second defense of his title against Brisbane, Australia’s Liam Paro. A late bloomer, Matias (20-1, 20 KOs) has knocked out all of his opponents including the only man to defeat him (Petros Ananyan). Paro (24-0, 15 KOs) looked sharp in his last fight wherein he TKOed Montana Love, but will be up against it in Puerto Rico. Matias, who is making his first start in his hometown since 2019, is already looking ahead to a match with Regis Prograis.

The Matias-Paro ring walk is expected to commence shortly before 11 pm, ET/8 pm PT.

PEACOCK

For diehard fight fans in the U.S., it will be wall-to-wall boxing for about 11 straight hours beginning at 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT when NBC’s subscription channel, Peacock, begins its coverage of the WBO cruiserweight title fight in South London between Chris Billam-Smith (19-1, 13 KOs) and Richard Riakporhe. (17-0, 13 KOs).

Billam-Smith, who is trained by Shane McGuigan, will be making the second defense of the title he won with an upset of Lawrence Okolie while seeking to avenge his lone defeat. These two met in a 10-rounder back in July of 2019 with Riakporhe emerging the winner by a split decision.

Billam-Smith’s last two fights have been in his hometown of Bournemouth. Tomorrow, he fights on the grounds of the Crystal Palace Football Club of which Riakporhe is a big supporter. The bookies like the Londoner’s chance to prevail again. The challenger, Riakporhe, is an 11/5 favorite.

Fights to Watch (All Times Pacific)

Peacock: Chris Billam-Smith vs. Richard Riakporhe: 2:00 p.m. (prelims beginning at 10:30 a.m.)

DAZN: Subriel Matias vs. Liam Paro: 7:45 p.m. (prelims beginning at 4:30 p.m.)

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO PPV: Gervonta Davis vs. Frank Martin plus three: 5:00 p.m. (prelims beginning at 2:30 p.m.)

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Boxing at the Paris Olympics: Looking Ahead and Looking Back

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One hundred years ago, Paris was the host city for the Summer Olympics. What goes around, comes around.

In the upcoming Paris Games, boxers will compete for medals in 13 categories. The number remains unchanged from Tokyo, but the ratio has been modified. In Tokyo, there were eight weight classes for men and five for women. The men have lost one and the women have gained one, so in 2024 it is seven and six.

Eight American boxers made it through the qualifying tournaments and will represent Uncle Sam in the City of Lights.

The U.S. boxing contingent in Paris

Men

Roscoe Hill, flyweight (51 kg), Spring TX

Jahmal Harvey, featherweight (57 kg), Oxon Hill, MD

Omari Jones, middleweight (71 kg), Orlando, FL

Joshua Edwards, super heavyweight, Houston, TX

Women

Jennifer Lozano, flyweight (50 kg), Laredo, Tx

Alyssa Mendoza, featherweight (57 kg), Caldwell, ID

Jajaira Gonzalez, lightweight (60 kg), Montclair, CA

Morelle McCane, welterweight (66 kg), Cleveland, OH

Paris, 1924

At the Paris Summer Games of 1924, boxers competed for medals in the eight standard weight classes. The competition was restricted to men. Female boxers were excluded until the 2012 Games in London where the women were sorted into three weight classes: flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight.

Twenty-seven nations sent one or more boxers to the 1924 Games. In total, there were 181 competitors. The United States and Great Britain had the largest squads. Each sent 16 men into the tournament, the maximum allowable as each nation was allowed two entrants in each of the weight classes.

The United States and Great Britain each walked away with two gold medals. The other gold medal winners represented Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and South Africa. But the U.S. team garnered the most medals, six overall including two silver and two bronze, two more than the runner-up, Great Britain.

What’s interesting is that three of the six U.S. medalists came out of the same gym, the Los Angeles Athletic Club. They were proteges of the club’s boxing instructor George Blake who would go on to become one of America’s top referees. The trio included both gold medalists, flyweight Fidel LaBarba and featherweight Jackie Fields, and silver medalist Joe Salas who had the misfortune of meeting Fields in the finals.

LaBarba and Fields were mature beyond their years. LaBarba was 18 years old and hadn’t yet completed high school when he secured a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. Fields, a high school dropout, was even younger. He was 16 years, five months, and 11 days old on the day that he won his gold medal. That remains the record for the youngest boxer of any nationality to win Olympic gold.

Fields and LaBarba both went on to win world titles at the professional level. Let’s take a look at their post-Paris careers. We will start with Fields and save the brilliant LaBarba for another day.

Jackie Fields  

Jackie Fields was born Jacob Finkelstein in the Maxwell Street ghetto of Chicago. His father, an immigrant from Russia and a butcher by trade, moved the family to Los Angeles when Jackie was 14 years old.

Jackie Fields

Jackie Fields

Fields turned pro in February of 1925. Despite his tender age, he was fast-tracked owing to his Olympic pedigree. But his manager Gig Rooney blundered when he put Jackie in against Jimmy McLarnin in only his seventh pro fight. A baby-faced assassin, born in Northern Ireland and raised in Canada, McLarnin, destined to be remembered as an all-time great, was more advanced than Jackie and blasted him out in the second round.

Fields rebounded to win his next 16 fights. His signature win during this run was a 12-round newspaper decision over Sammy Mandell, the Rockford Sheik. Mandell was the reigning world lightweight champion, but because this was officially a no-decision fight, a concession to Mandell, the title could not change hands unless Fields knocked him out.

Fields’ skein ended at New York’s Polo Grounds where he was out-pointed across 10 rounds by Louis “Kid” Kaplan, a 108-fight veteran and former world featherweight title-holder. But Fields built his way back into contention and claimed the world welterweight title in March of 1929 by winning a 10-round decision over Young Jack Thompson at the Chicago Coliseum. They fought for the title vacated by Joe Dundee who was stripped of the belt for failing to defend his title in a timely manner.

The jubilation that Fields felt in winning the title was tempered by an ugly incident in the eighth round when a race riot broke out in the balcony. One man died when he jumped or was pushed off the balcony and scores were injured; “more than thirty” according to one report. Many ringsiders, to avoid flying objects, took refuge inside the ropes but the contest continued after the disturbance was quelled and the ring was cleared.

Fields made the first defense of the title against Joe Dundee. They fought at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit before an estimated 25,000.

Fields had Dundee on the canvas twice before Dundee was disqualified in the second round for a low blow. The punch was clearly intentional. Fields, to his great distress, wasn’t wearing a protective cup. Heading in, Joe Dundee was still recognized as the champion in New York, so one could say that Jackie Fields unified the title.

After a series of non-title fights, Fields lost the belt to old rival Young Jack Thompson. At the conclusion of the 15-round contest, Young Jack was a bloody mess – he would need to go to a hospital to have his lacerations repaired –but Thompson, who also came up the ladder in California rings, was fairly deemed the winner. This would be the last collaboration between Fields and Gig Rooney. The wily Jack “Doc” Kearns, who had managed Jack Dempsey and was then involved with Mickey Walker, horned right in and became Jackie’s new manager.

Kearns maneuvered Fields into a match with Lou Brouillard who had wrested the title from Thompson four months earlier and Fields rose to the occasion, winning a unanimous 10-round decision in Chicago to become a two-time world welterweight champion. It was a furious battle, wrote the correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. “[Fields] hit Brouillard with everything but the water bucket.”

After another series of non-title fights, Fields risked his belt against Young Corbett III. They fought at the baseball park in San Francisco before an estimated 15,000 on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1933.

Fields was damaged goods. He had suffered a detached retina in his right eye in a minor auto accident and there was no cure for it. Corbett III (Rafaele Giordano) was a southpaw which was all wrong for a boxer with blurred vision in his right eye. Jackie fought back valiantly after losing the first five rounds, but lost the decision. The referee’s card (6-3-1 for Corbett III) appeared a tad generous to the loser.

Fields retired after one more fight. A closer look at his final record (72-9-2, 31 KOs) shows that he had 19 fights with 10 men who held a world title at some point in their career, including six future Hall of Famers (Jimmy McLarnin, Louis “Kid” Kaplan, Sammy Mandell, “Gorilla” Jones, Lou Brouillard, and Young Corbett III), and was 12-6-1 in these encounters. He was stopped only once, that by the great McLarnin in Jackie’s seventh pro fight.

Jackie Fields Post-Boxing

Fields wasn’t in good shape financially when he left the sport. His various investments were shambled by the stock market crash of 1929. For a time, he lived in Pennsylvania, first in Pittsburgh and then in Philadelphia where he was a distributor for the Wurlitzer juke box company and a sales executive with a distillery.

In 1957, he purchased an interest in a gambling establishment, the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. (Note: In Nevada, prior to 1967, public corporations were prohibited from owning or operating a property that housed a casino. Anyone purchasing one or more shares, called points, had to submit to a background check which did little to stanch the influence of the mob.)

Fields eventually sold his shares, but remained with the Tropicana in a public relations capacity. During the 1970s, he served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He passed away in 1987 at age 79 at a nursing home in Las Vegas after being hospitalized for a heart ailment. In 2004, he was inducted posthumously into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

For all that he accomplished as a pro, Fields always insisted that his proudest moment came in Paris. “As I stood there, with the band playing the Star Spangled Banner, I cried like a baby, I was that thrilled.”

PHOTO: 2024 U.S. Olympian Roscoe Hill

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