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Soto Karass Hands ‘The Rooster’ Macias His First Defeat at Fantasy Springs

David A. Avila

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INDIO, Calif.-Veteran banger Jesus Soto Karass showed the punching machine Neeco Macias exactly how it’s done in upsetting the younger fighter to win a majority decision on Thursday in a super welterweight fight.

“I feel happy. I fought against a great warrior,” said Soto Karass. “I always say that whether it’s a win, a loss or a draw, the fans always win when they see one of my fights.”

Soto Karass (29-13-4, 18 KOs) has a history of upsetting favorites and this time handed Macias (17-1, 10 KOs) his first loss as a pro. But it took more than 3,000 punches to do it in front of a small crowd at Fantasy Springs Casino that included celebrities like rap star Kendrick Lamar and MMA fighter Tito Ortiz.

It was a slugfest and those in attendance and those watching on television received exactly what they expected, volume punching and a lot of it. A total of 3,353 blows were unleashed with 1,119 connecting.

The last time Macias entered the boxing ring he virtually broke the number counter when defeating a young undefeated fighter this past September. Against veteran Soto Karass, the number counter was obliterated.

Soto Karass, 36, was groomed years ago with fellow bangers like Antonio Margarito and Alfredo Angulo, Macias was exactly what he needed after not winning a fight in several years. That last win came against former world champion Andre Berto in July 2013.

Though the Los Mochis, Mexico veteran had suffered losses and one draw the past five years, he was always competitive and gave fans excitement. But this time, he was facing a fellow banger that suited his style. He was back at home.

The lanky Soto Karass finally snapped the winless streak with his veteran moves and resiliency. Hitting and more hitting suited him fine.

But Macias, though younger by nine years, has shown an uncanny ability to sustain punishment and seemed to have a reserve gas tank when it came to endurance. Nobody had been able to out-punch or hurt him.

This time the veteran showed the prospect the finer aspects of banging it out. One judge saw it 95-95, a draw, but two others saw it 97-93 and 96-94 for Soto Karass. Both fighters were pleased with each other’s performance.

“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be in the ring with this great warrior,” said Macias, 27. “I want to thank all of the fans for coming out tonight. We do this for you.”

McKenna

Ireland’s Aaron McKenna (6-0, 4 KOs) only needed two rounds in his fight with Abel Reyes (4-2, 4 KOs) as he knocked out the Mexican fighter at 2:27 of the second round of their welterweight clash. McKenna, 19, fought five times in 2018 and knocked out four of those he faced.

“I took my time in there because I knew this was a six-round fight,” said McKenna. “I’ve been working on my body shots. I got him clean and dropped him to get the win.”

Other bouts

Manny Robles III (17-0, 8 KOs) started slow but managed to win a split decision after 10 rounds against Mexico’s Jose Gonzalez (23-7) in a featherweight battle. The son of trainer Manny Robles Jr. showed excellent defensive skills but was often out-worked by the Guadalajara veteran. Two judges scored it 97-93 and 96-94 for Robles and a third saw it 96-94 for Gonzalez.

Emilio Sanchez (17-1, 11 KOs) won by technical decision after 10 rounds versus Mexico’s Enrique Bernache (24-12,12 KOs) in a competitive featherweight match. A clash of heads in the last round forced a stoppage and Sanchez was deemed the winner 100-91, 99-92, 97-94. Sanchez fights out of Pacoima, Calif.

Washington D.C.’s D’Mitrius Ballard (19-0, 12 KOs) out-punched Mexico’s Alan Campa (17-4, 11 KOs) in an eight round super middleweight fight to win by unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns in the fight that saw Ballard the busier fighter but who had some problems with Campa’s body shots midway through the fight. Ballard turned things around after the fourth round and ran the table. The scores were 80-72, 79-73, 78-74 for Ballard against the Keanu Reeves looking fighter.

Jordan White (5-1, 4 KOs) needed exactly one round to stop Mexico’s Cristian Renteria (7-7, 6 KOs) in the first round of their featherweight match. A left hook to the body ended the fight at 3:00 of round one as referee Ray Corona counted lefty Renteria out. White fights out of Washington D.C.

Sanja Tursunov (1-0) won his pro debut by technical knockout over Mexico’s Miguel Cubos (11-20, 8 KOs) in a cruiserweight bout. Tursunov hails from Uzbekistan and trains in Indio, California with Joel and Antonio Diaz. A flurry of blows by the southpaw Tursunov convinced referee Tom Taylor to stop the fight at 1:26 of the second round.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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Late Sub Jonnie Rice Bursts Michael Coffie’s Bubble on a PBC Card in Newark

Arne K. Lang

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Every thing that could go wrong went wrong as promoter Al Haymon and his associates were patching together tonight’s card at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. But it couldn’t have worked out better for journeyman heavyweight Jonnie Rice who turned his career around with a smashing TKO of heavily favored and previously undefeated Michael Coffie.

Positive Covid tests scuttled two 10-round fights on the undercard. The main event had already been disheveled when Coffie’s original opponent Gerald Washington flunked his Covid test. Enter Rice (pictured on the right) who was on standby and seized the moment.

Rice, a Columbia, South Carolina native who has been living and training in Las Vegas, came in sporting a 13-6-1 record but five of his wins had come against no-hopers in Tijuana and he had yet to defeat an opponent in a match where he was the “B” side. But these facts were misleading as five of his six losses had come against hot prospects with undefeated records and he had honed his craft sparring against the likes of Tyson Fury, Filip Hrgovic, and Michael Hunter.

Based on “strength of schedule,” Rice, 34, had the edge over Coffie, the 35-year-old ex-Marine who brought a 12-0 record but was relatively untested. And Rice, who started fast, took the fight to Coffie and out-landed him. Coffie’s left eye was swelling and he wasn’t firing back when the referee waived it off in the fifth round.

Dirrell-Brooker

Tonight’s PBC fare came in two helpings with appetizers and the main event on FOX preceding a club-level show on FOX’s affiliate FS1. The main event of the nightcap was a 10-round light heavyweight bout between Andre Dirrell and Christopher Brooker.

Dirrell, who previously held an interim version of the IBF 168-pound world title, looked very sharp coming off a 19-month layoff, scoring three knockdowns before the fight was waived off in the third round. The Flint, Michigan native improved to 28-3 (18). Philadelphia’s Brooker fell to 16-8.

More

Junior middleweight Joey Spencer (13-0, 9 KOs) scored an 8-round unanimous decision over James Martin (7-3). Spencer won comfortably on the scorecards – 80-72 and 79-73 twice – but was unimpressive.

Local fan favorite Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr (9-1, 5 KOs) rebounded from his first pro loss with an impressive second-round stoppage of Noah Kidd (6-4-2).

Philadelphia welterweight Karl Dargan (20-1, 9 KOs), a former two-time national amateur champion, returned to the ring after a long absence and  stopped LA’s Ivan Delgado (13-4-2) in the third round.

New Jersey heavyweight Norman Neely advanced to 9-0 (7) with a unanimous decision over rugged Texas brawler Juan Torres (6-4-1). Neely won all six rounds on all three cards.

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Leigh Wood’s Big Upset Spangles the Rebirth of Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party

Arne K. Lang

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Last summer, hamstrung by the pandemic, Eddie Hearn hit upon the idea of holding boxing events outdoors in the expansive backyard of the family estate on the outskirts of London (now Matchroom Sport headquarters) where he grew up. Four shows were staged there.

The series has been revived. Today was “episode 1” of Season Two of Matchroom Fight Camp, otherwise known as Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party. Two more shows are penciled in over the next two weekends.

The match-up getting the most buzz was the welterweight contest between fast-rising Conor Benn and battle-tested Adrian Granados. Unfortunately, Benn tested positive for Covid-19. But the main event, a WBA world featherweight title defense by Can Xu (aka Xu Can) against Nottingham’s Leigh Wood stayed intact and produced a memorable upset.

Xu, who is co-promoted by Oscar De La Hoya, was installed a 4/1 favorite. Although he wasn’t a big puncher with only three knockouts to his credit in 20 starts, he rode into Hearn’s backyard riding a 15-fight winning streak for the third defense of his WBA “regular” title. But he started slow, perhaps the result of ring rust — it was his first fight of 2021 after missing all of 2020 – and he never did crank up the volume that had carried him to victory in his three title fights.

Wood, a stablemate of Josh Taylor who has made great gains since hooking up with Ben Davison and Lee Wylie, landed the heavier punches and was ahead on the cards when he took the fight out of the judges’ hands in the final minute of the final round. He decked Xu with a hard right hand and then trapped him on the ropes, forcing the stoppage that came with only 17 seconds remaining.

The 32-year-old Wood improved to 25-2 (15). Xu falls to 18-3. The deposed champion has a rematch clause so we may have a sequel.

Other Bouts

Chris Billam-Smith, trained by Shane McGuigan, won a hard-fought 12-round split decision over Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy in a cruiserweight scrap with three domestic titles at stake. The judges had it 116-112 and 115-114 for Billam-Smith, now 13-1, with the dissenter favoring McCarthy (18-3) by a 115-114 tally.

McCarthy wobbled Billam-Smith late in the first round with on overhand right, but could never land his Sunday punch on the Bournemouth fighter in a see-saw struggle with many close rounds. There were no knockdowns but McCarthy suffered a cut over his right eye near the end of round six from an apparent head butt.

McCarthy had Carl Frampton helping out in his corner which infused the contest with the aura of a grudge match. Frampton was the best man at Shane McGuigan’s wedding, but their friendship dissolved in a bitter court fight. At the end of the grueling fight, Billam-Smith and McCarthy embraced in a show of mutual respect.

Liverpool super-welterweight Anthony Fowler whose lone setback came at the hands of Scott Fitzgerald (a split decision) won his sixth straight with an eighth-round stoppage of Germany’s Rico Mueller whose cornerman was on the ring apron when the slow-acting referee waived it off at the 2:12 mark. Fowler, who is also trained by Shane McGuigan, improved to 15-1 (11). His next bout is expected to come against fellow Scouser Liam Smith in October. This was the second fight this month for the game but out-gunned 33-year-old Mueller (28-4-1) who was subbing for veteran Tex-Mex campaigner Roberto Garcia who pulled out with a back injury.

Also, Jack Cullen (20-2-1, 9 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Avni Yildirim (21-4) in a 10-round super middleweight contest. Yildirim, from Turkey, was looking to atone for his hollow performance against Canelo Alvarez this past February. While he had his moments, he was out-worked by the lanky Lancashire man who won by scores of 100-90, 08-92, and 97-93.

Photo credit: Alan Walton / Matchroom Boxing

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Avila Perspective, Chap 146: De La Hoya Returns Plus Other Boxing Notes

David A. Avila

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Avila-Perspective-Chap-146-Oscar-Returns-Plus-Other-Boxing-Notes

Sitting in front of several dozen reporters, the favorite son of Los Angeles area boxing, Oscar De La Hoya, and former MMA champion Vitor Belfort spoke about their mutual return to prizefighting.

“I can’t lie. I miss getting hit,” said De La Hoya.

It was a statement also shared by Belfort.

After years away from the prize ring, both return to exchange hits as boxing’s De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) meets MMA’s Belfort (26-14, 18 KOs) on Sept. 11, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Triller Fight Club card will be shown on pay-per-view via FITE.tv and other modes.

De La Hoya, 48, last absorbed hits from a fighter when Manny Pacquiao battered him almost 13 years ago back in December 2008. It was a shock to the senses to see the great East L.A. fighter take blow after blow while unable to hit back.

He was only 35.

Many attribute that loss to a ridiculous agreement to weigh under 145 pounds before facing Pacquiao. At the time De La Hoya was the real gate attraction and pay-per-view king. He held all the cards but agreed to the demands acutely devised by Freddie Roach. It proved to leave De La Hoya too weak to fight back and after eight rounds the one-sided beating was stopped.

De La Hoya retired after that fight. Ironically, he called for a press conference and it was held right where he recently announced this upcoming fight against Belfort. It’s also near a statue built in his honor.

Sitting nearby, Belfort patiently waited his turn to speak. For the Brazilian MMA fighter, it’s only been a mere three years since he exchanged blows in a prize fight. It was a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 224 in Brazil.

When Belfort spoke to the media, he expressed a desire to get hit too.

“Its fun. I’m going to have joy when I get hit. You cannot get better than that,” said Belfort.

It’s a common sentiment held by former greats. I’ve heard the same comments from James “Lights Out” Toney who ridiculously was not voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past year.

Getting hit becomes as common as breathing for most professional fighters, especially those that began boxing at a young age such as De La Hoya.

“The truth is I miss it. I miss it very much,” said De La Hoya who began lacing up gloves as an amateur at five years old.

According to oddsmakers, Belfort is the favorite to win. Probably for a number of reasons including he fought a mere three years ago. Belfort is the heavier fighter and has fought foes in the 205 pound-division called light heavyweight in MMA. Plus, he is simply bigger than his foe.

“I hope I don’t end up killing him, but everything is on the table,” said Belfort. “If he doesn’t have joy in what he does he could come back in a coffin.”

Prizefighters are masochists. All truly good fighters have a streak of masochism inside. They know they’ll be pummeled with blows that truly hurt and they look forward to it. But the bitter truth is taking hits in your 30s and taking hits near your 50s are two vastly different scenarios.

It’s an extremely dangerous fight for both.

As someone who spent nearly a month in a hospital after experiencing a cerebral hemorrhage, otherwise known as a “brain bleed,” I’m stunned by the fact that more boxers are not damaged from brutal blows. I pray nothing like this occurs to De La Hoya, Belfort, or any retired boxer who returns to the prize ring for a possible payday.

They are prizefighters and like any former high-performance athlete, they miss competition.

“When you love it, no matter what happens, I’m ok with it,” said De La Hoya.

Fans will attend Staples Center by the thousands simply to see “the Golden Boy” once again and pay tribute to one of the greats. Many of those attending will be praying silently for the fighter’s safety.

I know I will.

England Fights

WBA featherweight titlist Xu Can (18-2, 3 KOs) defends against Leigh Wood (24-2, 14 KOs) on Saturday July 31, at Brentwood, England. DAZN will stream the world title fight.

This is the third defense for Can who has not fought in almost two years. The last defense was at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California when he soundly defeated Manny Robles III.

Can took the title from Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas, a rough and tumble fighter who takes a pound of flesh from everyone he faces. Against Can he was unable to deal out the usual punishment.

Wood is a former super bantamweight contender who has never really faced international competition. He did face former world champion Gavin McDonnell but was stopped. Perhaps the move up in weight will help.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Estrella TV 7 p.m. Erick Leon (14-1) vs Juan Marcos Rodriguez (10-3).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Xu Can (18-2) vs Leigh Wood (24-2).

Sat. FOX 5 p.m. Michael Coffie (12-0) vs. Jonnie Rice (13-6-1)

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