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The Avila Perspective Chap. 22, Rare Heavyweight Rumble in L.A. and More

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Fury vs Wilder

Southern California has long been a bastion for prizefighting since the beginning of the modern boxing era in the 1880s.

Yet, very few heavyweight world title fights have taken place in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas. Though the state of California stages more prizefights than any other place in the world, it’s been over four years since the big guys fought for a world title in the city of Angels. Less than a dozen heavyweight world title fights have ever taken place in greater Los Angeles.

WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) looks to snap that streak when he fights Tyson Fury (27-0, 17 KOs) at the Staples Center in the heart of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday Dec. 1. Showtime pay-per-view will televise.

“Heavyweight boxing is so exciting at this point in time; it’s on fire and I’m just so excited to be a part of the movement and I’m proud to be a part of this heavyweight division and be at the top of the podium as one of the kings of the division,” said Wilder.

It’s always amazing to see two large heavyweights exchanging blows in a boxing ring. Especially two gargantuan sized fellows with wingspans the size of a small Cessna. The boxing ring looks tiny when they’re inside.

Nothing seems to bring out the glitterati more than a heavyweight world title fight. I’ve seen more movie stars and entertainment celebrities at a heavyweight championship fight than at a baseball World Series game. The only thing that comes close would be an NBA championship game but that was long ago when Kobe Bryant sprinted on the courts for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s due to their triple X size.

The last heavyweight title fight in Los Angeles took place in May 2014 when Bermane Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola in the sixth round at the Galen Center across the street from USC. The late great Dan Goossen promoted that fight. A few months later the popular promoter would pass away from cancer. God rest his soul.

Goossen always wanted a heavyweight champion. We spoke many times on the subject of heavyweights. Even his son Craig Goossen would mention their dream of having a heavyweight world champion. It’s something he wanted for his dad. That goal was never reached sad to say.

Heavyweight fog

Back in the 70s the axiom was if you had the heavyweight world champion you controlled boxing. It changed when the IBF formed in 1984 with Larry Holmes its first champion and later the WBO formed and developed their own champions too. It confused fans and muddled the heavyweight landscape with too many champions.

Mike Tyson temporarily fixed that by annihilating everyone who dared claim to be a heavyweight world champion in the late 1980s. Through brutal methods he unified the heavyweight world championship and later it was passed to Evander Holyfield, then Lennox Lewis who added the IBO title to the ensemble in 1999.

The advent of the 21st century brought heavyweight disarray. But one thing that kept everything in order was the realization that if you checked the lineage of the heavyweight championship from fighter to fighter you could get trace the actual champion. It was something that boxing writers brought to the sport and it’s a primary reason journalists are important to prizefighting. The Ring magazine had a lot to do with connecting the dots of the actual passing of the heavyweight title from man to man.

That’s how we arrived to the fact that England’s Tyson Fury is a descendant of the first heavyweight world champion of the modern boxing era John L. Sullivan. Fury is the lineal holder of the title and Wilder has one of the more credible titles in the WBC belt. The winner can truly be called the heavyweight world champion of the world or as Mike Tyson once said “the baddest man on the planet.”

When Fury and Wilder meet it definitely clears up the heavyweight situation and determines the actual and true world champion. Apologies to Anthony Joshua.

“I’m the baddest man on the planet,” said Wilder recently, echoing Mike Tyson’s claim of long ago.

Looking back

Despite the rarity of heavyweight world title fights in Los Angeles there have been a few of significance.

Nobody living saw the first heavyweight world title fight in Los Angeles back on February 1906 when Tommy Burns beat Marvin Hart by decision after 20 rounds. Burns then defeated Fireman Jim Flynn on October 1906 and drew against Philadelphia Jack O’Brien on November 1906 and then defeated O’Brien in May 1907. All of those heavyweight defenses took place in Los Angeles.

The world did not see another heavyweight world title fight until 1939 when Joe Louis knocked out Jack Roper in the first round at Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles and did not see another for nearly 20 years until Floyd Patterson defended against Roy Harris at the same Wrigley Field in L.A. in 1958.

Heavyweights just didn’t make a habit of fighting in Los Angeles.

In 1973, Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton in a rematch at the Inglewood Forum and won the rematch by split decision. He had lost the first encounter six months earlier in San Diego. Ironically, both Ali and Norton would live in Los Angeles through the 1990s and had offices within a half mile of each other in the Wilshire District.

In 1967, Joe Frazier fought Scrap Iron Johnson in a nontitle bout at the Olympic Auditorium which is about a half mile from the Staples Center. Fans who saw that fight claim it was the only time Frazier ever danced in a fight. Scrap Iron didn’t have a reverse gear, he was like a human glacier that only moved forward.

Jerry Quarry was the only real heavyweight that Los Angeles fans ever truly knew. But once he hit the contender status he rarely fought in Southern California. The big money was in Madison Square Garden. After fighting as a main event in the Olympic Auditorium from 1965 to 1967 against the likes of Joey Orbillo and Floyd Patterson, he grew too big for the limited seating of the Olympic Auditorium. His last L.A. appearance took place at the Inglewood Forum against Tony Doyle in 1973. That was after fighting Muhammad Ali twice in mega fights in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Quarry was too big an attraction and met the biggest names at the time in Earnie Shavers, Joe Frazier, and Ken Norton at Madison Square Garden.

Though Mike “Hercules” Weaver made his pro debut at the Olympic Auditorium in September 1972 it would be years before he found himself. After a 50/50 record during his first 11 pro fights, Weaver then found his groove outside of Los Angeles and made himself into a heavyweight contender. In June 1979 he fought Larry Holmes in a thrilling battle at Madison Square Garden. The next year Weaver would win the WBA heavyweight world title by knockout over John Tate. He fought Stan Ward at the Inglewood Forum in 1983 but no longer held the title. Both Weaver and Ward still live in Southern California and train fighters.

Vitali

No Southern California heavyweight was deemed worthy of challenging for a world title in Los Angeles until the arrival of Vitali Klitschko. The Ukrainian native was training in Los Angeles and fought three heavyweight world title fights in the city of Angels.

The first encounter was the best.

When Klitschko challenged Lennox Lewis at the Staples Center, in June 2003, he drew enthusiastic crowds from various geographic and social settings that stretched from the ritzy Malibu Beach crowd to the cruising sets of East L.A. Ontario and beyond. All were anxious to witness a rare heavyweight world title showdown.

They were not disappointed.

Southern California fans are accustomed to watching world title fights, but usually it’s at the lower weight classes.

When United Kingdom’s Lewis defended the WBC title against Klitschko 15 years ago it was strange for L.A. boxing fans to see two gargantuan men exchange concussive blows in a boxing ring.

That heavyweight clash still remains one of the best heavyweight collisions ever staged in Southern California. Both let loose when massive blows and showed incredible determination in a clash that saw blood pouring out of Klitschko’s eye forcing the fight to be stopped prematurely. Fans fell in love with Klitschko for his grit and with Lewis for his willingness to trade bombs with the big Ukrainian. It would turn out to be the last fight for Lewis who then retired from the sport.

Klitschko would later win the heavyweight world title and fight twice more in Los Angeles. First against Corrie Sanders in April 2004 and then against Southern California’s Chris Arreola in September 2009. It was the third and final time Klitschko would fight in Los Angeles. After that he only fought in Europe and when his brother Wladimir Klitschko won the other versions of the heavyweight titles that closed the door to America as both Klitschkos opted to fight in Europe.

Southern California has not seen a heavyweight world title fight since Stiverne-Arreola in 2014. And in the history of prizefighting in the Los Angeles area only 11 heavyweight world title fights have ever taken place.

It’s history indeed when American heavyweight Wilder defends the WBC title against lineal champion Fury of Great Britain. It is well worth watching.

More importantly, the winner between Wilder and Fury has a true claim on the lineal heavyweight world title that can be traced all the way back to the first heavyweight world champion of the modern era John L. Sullivan.

“I’m the lineal champion of the world,” said Fury of holding the distinction. “I’ve never been beaten.”

Tickets are still available for the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Andy Ruiz and Filip Hrgovic on the Road to Oleksandr Usyk

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Mexican-American Andy Ruiz and Croatian Filip Hrgovic were instructed by the IBF to begin negotiations for their fight for the Interim heavyweight title, which consequently provides the winner with the opportunity to face the champion Oleksandr Usyk who also holds the WBO and WBA super champion belts.

Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) and Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) have 30 days, expiring on February 19, to reach an agreement. Otherwise, the IBF will hold a public auction to see who will promote the bout.

The IBF decision took into account the fact that Hrgovic is the top-ranked contender, while Ruiz is ranked third. The second slot is vacant.

About a year ago, the IBF had confirmed the fight between Ruiz and Hrgovic, with the intention of defining a mandatory challenger for southpaw Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), but the American withdrew from negotiations due the fact that he was recovering from an alleged injury.

Thirty-three-year-old Ruiz from Imperial, California was victorious in his last two bouts, the most recent on September 4th in Los Angeles by unanimous decision against Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortíz (33-3, 28 KOs).

After the victory over Ortíz, Ruiz stated that his immediate goal is to face former world champion Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) as a victory over Wilder would provide him with the opportunity to face Brit Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs), the current WBC champion.

A few weeks later, Ruiz received a boost from the WBC, which confirmed at their 60th annual convention in November that the winner of the fight between Ruiz vs Wilder would face the winner of Fury vs Derek Chisora  ​​(33-13, 23 KOs).

Fury, thirty-four years old, had no difficulty in defeating Chisora by way of chloroform in the tenth round on December 3rd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

However, now after the IBF mandate, Ruíz’s long-awaited confrontation with Wilder remains in limbo. Recently, Malik Scott, Wilder’s coach, expressed that although Ruíz is a strong adversary, he is not on the same level as Wilder.

Scott stated, “Andy Ruiz is a serious test. Not just for Deontay but for anybody. But for a disciplined Deontay, in my opinion, Andy Ruiz doesn’t even come close to being in the same league as him. Because what beats Andy Ruiz? Discipline! An old [Chris] Arreola gave him trouble just with discipline. Andy’s problem is he can’t beat disciplined fighters. I had Arreola winning by two rounds. Against Deontay, Andy is going to reach, he has to, we’re taller, and when he reaches, he’s going to pay like he’s never paid before.”

Prior to Ruiz’s recent two victories, he lost by unanimous decision to Brit Anthony Joshua on December 7, 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Only six months had passed since Ruiz knocked out Joshua in the seventh round and seized the IBF, WBA and WBO belts from him on June 1 at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.

Hrgovic, three years younger than Ruiz and born in Zagreb, Croatia, comes off a difficult win against Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) at the Superdome in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Although the three officials handed in scorecards of 115-112 (2x) and 114-113 in favor of Hrgovic, Zhang had sent the European to the canvas in the opening round.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Artem Dalakian, Sunny Edwards, and the Most Storied Title in Boxing

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When the mighty Roman Gonzalez departed the 112lb division in 2016 he vacated the title and broke the longest remaining lineage in the sport. In a moment of quiet heartbreak for the boxing aficionado, the final direct link with boxing’s glorious past was cut forever.

That lineage had begun back in 1975 with perhaps the greatest flyweight champion, Miguel Canto.  Canto cleaned house that year, shading the wonderful Betulio Gonzalez and the evergreen Shoji Oguma, part of a calendar year that saw him go 6-0 and establish his absolute pre-eminence in the deepest of flyweight divisions. In 1979, old in the face, Canto was out-worked and even in some ramshackle way out-jabbed by a swarming, aggressive Korean named Chan Hee Park. Park was a good fighter, Shoji Oguma lay in wait to send him tumbling with counter-rights, taking his turn in an impressive second tour. In 1981, the new generation asserted itself in the form of Antonio Avelar.  Avelar seemed, briefly, to be the real deal but he was unseated by a murderous punching Colombian, Prudencio Cardona, who inflicted upon Avelar the most violent knockout in flyweight history.

This heralded the advent of a series of caretaker champions, good fighters, all, but no great ones as the early eighties evaporated while the hot-potato flyweight championship passed from Fredy Castillo to Eleoncio Mercedes to Charlie Magri and others, none of them holding it for more than a matter of months. When the mighty Sot Chitalada wrestled it from the last caretaker champion in 1984, Canto finally had a descendent who could be named a peer. In two spells, Chitalada held the title into the 1990s whereupon it was ripped from him by the Thai Maungchai Kittikasem who then dropped it to an early emergent of the Soviet and former Soviet schools in Yuri Arbachakov.  Arbachakov was the first flyweight whose legacy was to suffer at the hands of the ABC title-belt madness, his record-breaking spell as champion marred by matches with WBC-nominated journeymen. Despite his lengthy title reign, Yuri managed to fight men who were held to belong in the top ten just twice as champion.

Less than a year after the lineal title and Arbakachov were parted, it would be wrapped around the waist of a youngster named Manny Pacquiao, who had crushed Chatchai Sasakul in eight who had in turn outpointed Arbachakov. From the madness of the alphabet soup to the emergence of one of the greatest fighters of our time, the story of the flyweight lineal championship is the story of modern boxing untrampled by titular uncertainty. The history of the championship, of the divisional king, can be traced back to a time when Muhammad Ali ruled the world and so a fistic tendril connects Ali, a hero to his people, to Pacquiao, a hero to his. Pacquiao nearly ruined it all though.  Manny missed weight for his 1999 match with Boonsai Sangsurat and had he won that fight, the title would have been vacated as he departed the weight forever, but fortunately, a weight-drained mess, he was crushed in three rounds.

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam then, when he lifted the title in 2001, became the latest great to trace his lineage back to Canto. Wonjongkam’s reign was as modern as can be imagined, dictated thoroughly by ABCs, fought almost exclusively in his backyard, and despite amassing an astonishing twenty title defences in two spells as king, his win resume underwhelms. A list of the worst ever lineal title challengers would draw heavily from Wonjongkam’s opposition.

Wonjongkam made way for Sonny Boy Jaro of The Philippines who made way for Toshiyuki Igarashi and Akira Yaegashi, both of Japan, underlining what has always been the most international of championships. And finally, at the end of the longest road in modern boxing, the title was lain at the feet of a great fighter from Nicaragua, the wonderful Roman Gonzalez.

Roman Gonzalez was my favourite fighters for years, I watched his boxing obsessively. More than a decade ago, I wrote an article predicting his eventual enshrinement as a pound-for-pound number one and his likely vanquishment by a southpaw, even going so far as to predict this would occur up at 115lbs, all of which came true. But it cut me when he stepped aside in 2016, the lineage that had begun with Canto destroyed, a lineage that had run through four different abdications and coronations at 160lbs, that ran all the way back to the last golden age of the flyweight division.

From the ashes, finally, a phoenix menaces. Far from stipulated, certainly not sure, but stirring. On Saturday night, Ukrainian Artem Dalakian (pictured) came to London to meet David Jimenez on the undercard of the Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde fight. Dalakian-Jimenez is one of those rare and wonderful fights British and American fans are sometimes treated to, elite combat athletes who struggle to secure rewarding purses fighting low on a card which a just sport might see them headline. Jimenez, the challenger for Dalakian’s strap, refutes befuddlement with aggression, boxable but brutal, left floundering early in the biggest fight of his career against Ricardo Sandoval only to button up and fire forwards, hard-scrabbling enough rounds to conquer his more cultured foe. This would be his approach, too, against Dalakian. Dalakian is a fighter of no small culture whose activity suffered during those COVID months but with a legacy that stretches back to the last generation of top flyweights and a victory over Brian Viloria. Having boxed just twenty rounds in three years he was now bringing an unfortunate mix of rust and, at thirty-five years old, age.

Nevertheless, for me he dominated Jimenez. The younger man was reasonably quick-handed and tried to remain ambitious in his rushes, but Dalakian was never less than the cleaner puncher and rested on a steeper bank of experience that saw him nullify his more aggressive foe inside while consistently out-scoring him outside. It was a thoroughly impressive performance that confirmed Dalakian’s remaining superiority over most of the rest of the division. Jimenez, in just his thirteenth fight, had established himself firmly in the divisional top five and likely has a future at 112lbs if he wants it. This was a crossroads fight only in the sense that it tested the last generation with the new, and the new was found wanting.

This victory, a unanimous decision over twelve, was a significant one for Dalakian, however. For me, it establishes him as the number one flyweight in the world but at worst he is the number two. The man with whom he shares the top table is one Sunny Edwards, a London boy and very much the division’s coming man. Edwards has boxed nearly as many contests in the upper echelons of the division as Dalakian, and Dalakian’s victory over Viloria aside, Edwards probably has the most meaningful victory of the two having defeated the ageing Moruti Mthalane in early 2021. The recency of his important victories is the source of the tension concerning the number one divisional flyweight currently.

Sunny

Sunny Edwards

The hope is the two will settle this in the ring.

While it is not unusual for a fighter to arrive from foreign shores and never be seen in a British ring again, it is more often the case that they arrive with targeted opposition when they are boxing at title level, and from Dick Tiger to Zolani Tete, Britain welcomes foreign winners with open arms. It is likely that Dalakian has been brought to Britain to tease a fight with the only man in the division that might be seen as his better and in the only fight either man could hope to box and be similarly enriched. Some promotional tensions exist, but what would be unusual money for a flyweight contest might tip the scales.

And if they settle it in the ring, as the number one and number two flyweight contenders, they will start a new lineage, a new passage of the flyweight title. More than that, the fight would be a fascinating and evenly matched contest between Dalakian, a technician who will likely be forced to box with pressure as a result of his physical limitations and Edwards, a quick-footed slickster who will nevertheless have to commit to outworking maybe the only fighter in the division with superior straight punches. That is not to say that Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez will be excluded – clearly the division’s number three, he may yet have a say.

But if a new and meaningful lineage is to begin it is Dalakian and Edwards, the two best flyweights on the planet, who must seed it.

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Emanuel Navarrete Aims to Become Champion in a Third Weight Class on Friday

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Champion in both the super bantamweight and featherweight categories, the strong Mexican puncher Emanuel Navarrete will try to be champion at 130 pounds on Friday, February 3, when he faces Australian Liam Wilson at the Desert Diamond Arena in the city of Glendale, Arizona. ESPN will be broadcasting the fight.

For Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs), who has a 31-fight winning streak since his one and only setback in July 2012, the duel with Wilson will be his debut into the super featherweight division.

Navarrete, 28 years old and born in San Juan Zitlaltepec, defeated his countryman Eduardo Báez with a sixth-round knockout last July in San Diego, California, where the winner made his third successful defense of the WBO featherweight title.

Subsequently, Navarrete decided to seek the WBO championship at 130 pounds which had been vacated after the talented American southpaw Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was unable to make weight on the scale before unanimously defeating Brazilian Robson Conceicao on September 23rd in New Jersey.

The WBO accepted Navarrete’s request to fight for the vacant title and opened the doors to fellow Aztec Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), ranked second by the WBO and third by the WBC.

But in December, Valdez’s camp announced that he was withdrawing from the fight after undergoing a medical evaluation. Australian Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs), ranked third by the WBO, was designated to take Valdez’s place.

A confident Navarrete stated: “This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown. Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”

Navarrete began his string of 31 wins after losing in four rounds against his compatriot Daniel Argueta on July 26, 2012, at the José Cuervo Hall in the finals of the XVIII Gold Belt Tournament. Despite the setback, Navarrete was the one declared champion of the contest, as Argueta failed to show up for the mandatory weigh-in.

Although he is on the verge of conquering his third championship in a third weight division, Navarrete has not defined what his immediate steps will be.

“Let’s see how things evolve,” Navarrete said. “We will see how I feel (at 130 pounds), and then make the right decision. It all depends on how I perform in February and analyze the result. How my body assimilates to the new weight class and things like that.”

Likewise, Navarrete confirmed that he was having difficulty making 126 pounds and that during his career in both the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions he had tried to unify the titles with the other champions without success.

“You know that I have been seeking unification fights in other weight classes,” stated Navarrete. “That is what I want, and what I’m looking for. I hope I can unify in this weight class (130 pounds). But first I hope to win against Wilson, and then we will decide.”

When analyzing his possibilities in the super featherweight division, Navarrete said that he has a tall stature which can benefit him. In the same sense, he considered that now at 130 pounds he will not have to wear himself out to make weight so he will be strong.

Wilson, 26 years old, won the vacant WBO International belt against Argentine Adrián Rueda (37-2, 32 KOs) on June 29th of last year in Brisbane, Australia. Wilson’s lone loss came from Filipino southpaw Joe Noynai (20-3-2, 8 KOs), who knocked him down once in the 1st round, twice in the 4th round, and again in the fifth round on July 7, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia, before referee Phil Austin stopped the lopsided match.

Wilson, however, got even eight months later in a rematch where he chloroformed Rueda in the second round and regained the WBO Asia-Pacific title.

For his upcoming fight, Wilson has set up a seven-week training camp in Washington DC at Headbangers Boxing Gym where Isaac Dogboe trains. Dogboe has fought Navarrete twice and can hopefully provide some valuable insight. “I’m only going off YouTube footage, so to get the advice off Isaac and his trainer over here, they’ve been in the corner against him, they’ve seen him in person, up close, so I have to take their advice onboard,” Wilson added.

Wilson is confident going into this fight, even though he has less professional experience. “He’s been in these fights so many times before. This is my first 12-rounder,” Wilson said. “In a sense, he has every reason to overlook me – I’ve only been in 10 rounders, he’s been 12 rounds multiple times, he’s a two-division world champion and for him it’s just another fight, for me it’s what I’ve dreamed of. I think I’ll be the bigger, stronger fighter. I believe I’ll be the biggest puncher he’s fought.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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