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Steve Cunningham, Who Almost Kayoed Tyson Fury, Believes Wilder Will Do It

Bernard Fernandez

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If you want to call Tyson Fury’s style “Greco-Roman boxing,” that’s probably as good a description as any. Like most exceptionally large heavyweights who dwarf smaller opponents with significant advantages in height, weight and reach, an important element in Fury’s standard fight plan is to initiate multiple clinches, to lean on those figurative Lilliputians until their strength saps and, gasping, they become increasingly vulnerable to standard boxing tactics in the later rounds.

Hey, if it worked for the even more gigantic but far clumsier Nikolai Valuev (50-2, 34 KOs), a two-time WBA heavyweight champion, why shouldn’t it work for the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) when the former unified titlist challenges WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) on Dec. 1 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles? At 6’7” Wilder is almost tall enough to look Fury straight in the eye, and his impressive 83-inch reach is nearly a match for Fury’s 85-inch tentacles. But Wilder, who was comparatively lean even at his heaviest-ever official ring weight of 229 pounds, came in at an almost-skinny 214¾ for his most recent defense, in which he had to fight through several scary moments before stopping Luis “King Kong” Ortiz, who outweighed him by 26½ pounds, in the 10th round on March 3 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.  The differential in heft will be even more pronounced should the free-swinging Wilder find himself wrapped up time and again in Fury’s tactical bear hugs.

But two-time former cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham, maybe more than anyone, understands that Fury’s strengths can be at least somewhat negated by the sort of advantages Wilder, an opening-line minus-160 favorite, holds over his hulking rival. Some of Wilder’s attributes are reasonably similar to those of Cunningham, who dropped and hurt Fury in the second round (that’s Fury on the seat of his pants) before being stopped himself in the seventh round of their April 20, 2013, bout at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. But Wilder hits a hell of a lot harder than Cunningham, which is the main reason why Cunningham is picking the Alabamian to finish the demolition job he might have shockingly pulled off 5½ years earlier had he been able to connect with just the right follow-up shot to a clearly buzzed Fury.

“In my fight with Fury, he totally underestimated me and we capitalized on that,” said the 42-year-old Cunningham, who has since dropped back down to cruiserweight and is still presumably active, although he has not fought since losing a 10-round unanimous decision to Andrew Tabiti on Aug. 26, 2017. “I was able to catch him when he was goofing off and playing. Even after he got up and got serious, I was still able to catch him coming in. I’d maneuver to put myself in a better spot to do that.

“So we know Fury can get knocked down with a big shot. I’ve done it.”

He did it despite not being known as a big hitter, but massive power is and has always has been Wilder’s calling card. With a knockout percentage of 97.5 that almost looks like a typographical error, Wilder, the super heavyweight bronze medalist for the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, never goes into any bout expecting it to go the distance. If he hits Fury with the same sort of shot that Cunningham did, it’s a good bet that the big, burly Briton won’t beat the count, and even if he does he might not be able to recover from it as quickly as he did against Cunningham.

“With Fury fighting Wilder, I can’t go against Wilder,” Cunningham said. “I can’t really go against Wilder against any of the top heavyweights, including Anthony Joshua. Why? Because Wilder has that great equalizer, a sledgehammer of a right hand. We all know that once that right hand lands – and it’s going to land at some point in a 12-round fight – the outcome is pretty much a done deal.”

But what about Fury’s frequent clinches, which not only can fatigue the other guy, but frustrate him as well?

“I don’t see Fury’s weight being an issue because Wilder has good movement and he can box better than a lot of people think,” Cunningham continued. “Yeah, I know Deontay can look a little goofy and undisciplined at times, but he hasn’t been made to look like the boxer he’s capable of being. We’ve seen glimpses of it here and there, but he’d probably have to show more of that against Fury until the opening comes to him to deliver that great equalizer. No matter how I size it up, I see Wilder stopping Fury with that right hand. He keeps launching it and launching it and launching it until the big one connects.”

Fury has a back story – uh, make that stories – that has probably made him more recognizable and marketable than his relatively unexciting, albeit victorious, performances merit. He was a preemie as an infant, coming into this world at a little over a pound, making for exceedingly long odds of his even making it to childhood, much less filling out to his current gargantuan dimensions. There is the burden of his being an Irish Traveller, a group that is widely reviled in the United Kingdom but nonetheless holds a certain fascination to the public. And if all that weren’t enough, there is the epic cocaine-and-eating binges that he went on, and now has come back from, after he stunned the boxing world by outpointing long-reigning and lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28, 2015, in Dusseldorf, Germany. A serial utterer of coarse and controversial quotes who fancies himself a better singer than fighter, Fury is a media darling right up to the time the bell rings and his crackling pre-fight wattage generates less electricity inside the ropes.

But it is a mistake to lump Fury, whose dad named him after Mike Tyson, with the robotic, lumbering and monosyllabic Valuev. He does have a skill set, and one that extends beyond his array of wrestling moves.

“Size doesn’t equate to boxing ability,” said Cunningham, who was up 57-55 on two of the official scorecards and even 56-56 on the other at the time he was knocked out by Fury. “It also doesn’t equate to punching power, not really. To Fury’s credit, he’s pretty athletic for such a big guy and he comes in shape, or at least he did when I was in camp with him (as a sparring partner) and fought him later on. He had a rowing machine and he rowed on it like a maniac. He did other things that were kind of unique. I remember thinking, `Wow, this guy does have a good engine in him,’ so he was capable of going a lot of rounds. If you don’t get him out of there early, he will use that size to wear you down. Because of that, the only two current heavyweights I see who are capable of knocking him out are Wilder and Joshua.

“Him being so much bigger than most of the guys he fights, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t take a toll on you. Guys who fight Fury now, or who fought Valuev then, would train to be able to better cope with the wrestling and the holding. They’d train to not get in those type situations as often. Before I fought him, I knew Fury liked to lay on opponents. I sparred with big guys in camp for four or five weeks, but they weren’t that big and I just wasn’t able get anybody to really replicate him.

“My plan was to use my legs as much as possible to stay away from him, but I was coming off my second fight with Tomasz Adamek in which I felt I had done enough to easily win on points (Cunningham lost a disputed split decision). So you get it in your mind that, hey, maybe I should just try to knock (Fury) out instead.

“I had my chance. Wilder, I believe, will get his chance as well. Will he put the giant down and out? That’s my pick. But we won’t find out until fight night, will we?”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Daniel Jacobs Edges Past Gabe Rosado on a Matchroom card in Florida

David A. Avila

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Former world champion Daniel Jacobs needed the last round to win by split decision against upset-minded Gabe Rosado and keep his place in line on Friday for lucrative super middleweight matchups.

But when the ring announcer erroneously announced the winner was from Philadelphia, confusion reigned for a moment until Jacobs was correctly called the winner.

Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) jumped out ahead against Philly fighter Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) and held on for the win in front of no fans at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. For a second, many thought Rosado had won.

Both were careful during the first three rounds measuring each other’s distance and looking for openings to counter. There were very few.

It was the kind of fight expected by those who know boxing: two veterans with immense experience against top-flight world champions. Mistakes were few.

Jacobs, a former middleweight world champion, had fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in close but losing efforts.

Rosado had battled Golovkin too, six years ago in a bloody affair that ended in a loss. He had also lost to other champions like Peter Quillin and Jermell Charlo. But none were able to knock him out.

Both were aware of each other’s reputation. Bitter words had been exchanged for years and now they finally got their chance to prove their mettle and they did.

Though Jacobs was recognized as a knockout puncher, Rosado’s resilience was just as well known. Both neutralized each other for most of the fight with their feints and jabs to the body. Neither was willing to leave openings for each other.

Jacobs scored big with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round. While Rosado wowed viewers with a sizzling right cross in the 11th round.

It was 1950s style, boxing with intelligence. Each found it difficult to land combinations, let alone find openings to score knockout blows. Instead, they had to be satisfied with scoring enough to convince three judges the actual winner.

Neither was able to pull out ahead with any conviction.

After 12 rounds one judge saw Rosado the winner 115-113 while two others saw Jacobs the winner 115-113 to give him the win by split decision.

“It felt just a little weird. It felt like a sparring match,” said Jacobs about fighting without fans in the audience. “This wasn’t a valiant effort.”

Rosado was certain he was the true winner.

“I thought I won the fight. I surprised him,” said Rosado who trained with Freddie Roach for this fight. “I’m a veteran, I know how to fight.”

Indeed, he does.

Jacobs now stands poised to fight one of many super middleweight champions in need of a marquee name.

“I live to see another day,” he said honestly.

Other Bouts

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6 KOs) proved he was not an easy touch and knocked out former world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12 KOs) to march forward in the welterweight division while grabbing the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title.

In a fight featuring southpaw versus southpaw Yeleussinov caught Indongo with a roundhouse left the first time they exchanged and down went the former super lightweight world champion. Indongo beat the count and survived the round.

Indongo wasn’t as lucky in the second round as Yeleussinov again connected with a left and down went the fighter from Namibia again. He would not get up at 1:24 of round two giving the knockout win for Yeleussinov.

A battle between undefeated heavyweights saw Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3 KOs) use roundhouse rights to stagger the heavier Sahret Delgado (8-1) to win by knockout in the third round. Majidov actually helped Delgado get to his stool after knocking him out on his feet at 47 seconds of the third round.

Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1) defeated Mason Menard (36-5) by majority decision after a 10- round lightweight fight that saw a lot of clinching and leaning.

Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy (10-0) out-fought Detroit’s Brandon Maddox (7-4-1) to win by unanimous decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Ababiy hurt Maddox with body shots but found Maddox more resilient than expected.

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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