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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 16: The Unconventional Devin Haney and More

David A. Avila

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Raised for part of his youth among the neon lights of Las Vegas, teenage sensation Devin “The Dream” Haney races toward world title aspirations and the first road stop is Juan Carlos Burgos, a Mexican fighter who knows that road very well.

Undefeated Haney (19-0, 13 KOs) meets Tijuana veteran Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KOs) at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula CA, on Friday, Sept. 29. The regional lightweight title fight will be televised by Showtime and is co-promoted by Devin Haney Promotions.

Though only 19, Haney is not your conventional teen.

Three years ago the articulate Las Vegas resident was happily racking up national titles in the amateur boxing world. Convention dictates that an amateur boxer with his talent should wait his turn and plan for participation in the Olympic Games.

Haney took a different tack.

“When I was in the amateurs I was too young to go to the Olympics. And once they took the head gear off I decided to turn pro,” said Haney, about the decision by amateur boxing to eliminate head gear during international competition in 2015.

But a big obstacle was the age limit for pro fighters in the U.S. Haney was only 17 and in Nevada and California the minimum age to become a professional is 18.

Haney took the unconventional route and headed toward Mexico where virtually no age limit exists.

“It made no sense. I was competing with top guys with no head gear and working for free,” said Haney who made his pro debut in December 2015 in Tijuana.

Mexico

Fighting across the border can be risky business. You never know what kind of fighter stands in front of you.

“A lot of people underrate the fighters in Mexico. They helped make me the fighter I am today. If a guy even gets close to punching me the crowd over there is going bananas. A lot of people don’t know,” said Haney who fought his first four professional bouts in the border city of Tijuana. “I fought in Tijuana twice in one week. Their fighters are not going to lay down. Their families and everyone are on their backs. If you get grazed, it’s a stoppage.”

Haney has crossed the border and fought a total of 10 times on boxing cards against fighters who have no hesitation about illegally hitting you behind the head, on the kneecaps, or follow up a left hook with the end of an elbow across the face.

It’s warfare.

Now Haney faces Burgos who grew up in the streets of Tijuana and has been toughened in sparring wars that took place in the many gyms sprouting up in Mexico’s second biggest city.

“It inspires me and motivates me because I know he’s the toughest guy I’ve fought today. He fought Mikey Garcia and he won rounds,” said Haney about Burgos fighting Riverside’s Garcia for the featherweight world title in 2014. “I know he’s going to bring the best out of me.”

Garcia has won world titles in the featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight divisions. Burgos fought him competitively and lost by decision in New York and now he gets a very young Haney.

“He’s (Haney) fought in Tijuana a bunch of times so I’ve seen him in person. I didn’t really pay that much attention to him at the time,” said Burgos. “He has ability. He’s hungry with good skills, but I don’t think he’s ready for a fighter like me. He’s too young and I’m an experienced fighter that knows how to win.”

Burgos, 31, is familiar to Southern California fans. He fought under the Thompson Boxing Promotions banner and has engaged in eight pro bouts in the area. He’s also fought three times for the world title including a draw against then super featherweight world champion Roman Martinez in 2013.

“It’s exciting to fight someone like Burgos with all of his experience,” said Haney.

Is it too soon for the Las Vegas speedster to face Burgos?

Riverside’s Henry Ramirez, who trains several local boxers, views Haney as a high caliber prizefighter.

“Haney has awesome talent,” said Ramirez. “Fighting all the time has sharpened his skills.”

Sharp or dull Haney won’t turn 20 until November but he’s in a hurry.

“I want to be a pound for pound, multi-division world champ and at the top of the game,” said Haney.

It all starts on Friday.

 

Top Rank in Oakland

A pretty good boxing card features world champions in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors.

Jose Uzcategui (27-2, 23 KOs) holds the interim IBF super middleweight title and faces  Ezequiel Maderna in a non-title fight set for 10 rounds.

If you remember Uzcategui, he fought Andre Dirrell twice but in their first confrontation in May 2017, he knocked out the Michigan fighter at the bell and was erroneously ruled to have hit him after the bell. He was given the loss by the Maryland boxing commission though replays show that the knockout blow was delivered at the bell. Immediately after the knockout, Dirrell’s uncle jumped in the ring and attacked Uzcategui. Instead of banning the uncle, he was given a slap on the wrist.

Uzcategui and Dirrell had a rematch this past March in Brooklyn and once again the Venezuelan stopped the Michigan fighter in the eighth round. He’s getting a shot at the title eventually but first he has to face Argentina’s Maderna.

On the same Top Rank fight card IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20 KOs) of the Philippines defends against Mexico’s Alejandro Barrios (16-2-4, 7 KOs). This is the southpaw Ancajas sixth world title defense.  He’s an exciting fighter and Tijuana’s Barrios gives everyone problems.

Another interesting bout features Rico Ramos the former super bantamweight world champion. The Southern Californian signed to fight recent former world titlist Jessie Magdaleno but the Las Vegas fighter pulled out.

Ramos (29-5, 14 KOs) now trains with master trainer Ben Lira and it will be interesting to see what new tricks they bring to the table. A new opponent, Daniel Olea (13-5-2), was brought in for Ramos and he’s ready to go. Meanwhile, Magdaleno, who departed from trainer Manny Robles Jr. and Southern California and returned to his home in Las Vegas, was apparently overweight. He pulled out last week.

Golden Boy in Indio

Former lightweight world champion Jorge Linares, whose last fight was a knockout loss to Vasyl Lomachenko, has moved up in weight and will fight as a super lightweight. He’s seeking a fourth division world title.

Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) faces Abner Cotto (23-3, 12 KOs) the relative of Puerto Rican great Miguel Cotto who promotes him. They’ll face each other in the main event set for 12 rounds at the Fantasy Springs Casino on Saturday Sept. 29. The Golden Boy Promotions fight card will be streamed on Facebook Watch.

The Venezuelan great was doing well against Lomachenko and knocked down the Ukrainian fighter in their clash in New York. He was stopped a few rounds later and quickly dispatched and forgotten. Meanwhile Lomachenko has been tabbed by many as the pound for pound king. For me it’s too early. Is Lomachenko among the best? Yes. Is he the absolute best? One major fight is not enough.

Also on the Golden Boy fight card is Oscar Duarte.

Mexico’s Duarte (14-0-1, 9 KOs) fights Venezuela’s Roger Gutierrez (19-2-1,16 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for eight rounds.

Duarte, 22, first arrived in Southern California in 2015 and fought at Belasco Theater. He showed brute strength but looked like he was stuck in cement. But the Golden Boy staff saw something in him and he was placed with Joel Diaz in Indio.

Under the brothers Diaz, the Mexican fighter from Parral, Chihuahua, has been transformed into a polished and deadly prizefighter. In his last bout at the same Fantasy Springs he took apart Filipino slugger Rey Perez, a very good fighter.

It’s always a thrill to see a young boxer with rudimentary abilities be molded and sculptured into a finely tuned fighting machine. That’s what has happened with Duarte under brothers Joel and Antonio Diaz.

Danny Roman

Speaking of finely tuned fighting machines, another great example of a good prospect sculpted into a world champion is Los Angeles-based Danny Roman, the WBA super bantamweight world champion.

When I first saw Roman he was a solid prospect but I never would have predicted him to be a world champion with two defenses in Japan.

The journey of Roman has been one of the highlights of my writing career. It’s a pleasure to see a boxer from the beginning and watch him slowly rise to the level of world champion.

Roman (25-2-1, 9 KOs) defends the WBA title against England’s Gavin McDonnell (20-1-2, 5 KOs) on Sat. Oct. 6, in the main event at Chicago, Illinois. It’s the first time he fights under the Matchroom Boxing banner alongside Thompson Boxing Promotions. The fight will be streamed live on DAZN.

Once again Roman will be facing an opponent who has five or more inches in height advantage. That makes four-in-a-row for the champion Roman.

He recently signed a contract with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn and this will be his debut. Look for more on Roman next week.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonder what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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