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Three Punch Combo: Under the Radar Fights, Potential December Upsets and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — While events on Showtime Championship Boxing and Showtime Pay-Per-View will dominate headlines this coming week, there are other fight cards on the docket. Here is a look at some of the under the radar events taking place this week.

On Friday night, former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri (21-3, 8 KO’s) will return to the ring to face journeyman Angel Hernandez (14-11-2, 9 KO’s) at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, NY. This will mark the first fight for now 34-year-old Algieri (pictured) since April of 2016 when he was stopped in five rounds by Errol Spence Jr., but he shouldn’t have too many problems shaking off the rust. Hernandez is tough and has never been stopped but is very limited.

Algieri’s return is significant and needs to be monitored in that opponents are needed for the many big names in both the 140-pound and welterweight divisions. With a win on Friday, Algieri is right in the mix to get a big opportunity in 2019.

For those wanting to watch live boxing on Saturday night but not wanting to shell over the PPV dollars for Wilder-Fury, there will be a free show streamed live on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE from San Antonio, TX. The main event of this Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions card features a pair of undefeated 140-pound fighters in Kendo Castaneda (14-0, 7 KO’s) and Gilbert Venegas Jr. (10-0, 6 KO’s).

There is not a lot of video available for these fighters but what I have been able to view suggests this should be a competitive, good action fight. Castaneda is considered more of the prospect and appears to stylistically be a classic boxer-puncher. He has decent hand speed and has scored some pretty spectacular knockouts although against very limited opposition. He scored his best win in August when he decisioned 14-2-1 Jesus Gutierrez.

Venegas actually appeared on a PBC on FS1 card a few years ago when he defeated then undefeated Deonte Wilson. In a four-round fight, Venegas used smart pressure to get the win. He out jabbed the taller Wilson and worked his way inside to throw combinations to the head and body outworking the more athletic Wilson.

Castaneda-Venegas is a solid fight that should be competitive and fan friendly. Kudos to FIGHTNIGHT LIVE for making this event available for free on Facebook.

Possible December Surprises

We are closing out the year in boxing with a loaded schedule in December. With so many events, there are bound to be at least a few surprising results. Here are a couple of upset possibilities.

As the chief support to the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding main event on DAZN December 15th, middleweight David Lemieux (40-4, 34 KO’s) returns fresh off his September first round knockout win against Gary O’ Sullivan to face Tureano Johnson (20-2, 14 KO’s). A win for Lemieux could mean a crack at Alvarez in 2019. However, Johnson could pose a real threat to Lemieux getting that big money fight.

I will make this very simple. Assuming Johnson is healthy – he’s had some injury issues in the past – this is not a good matchup for Lemieux.

Lemieux looks great against fighters who come at him. His knockout wins against Curtis Stevens and O’Sullivan are such examples. But fighters with foot speed who can box give Lemieux issues. Johnson has good speed and good boxing ability. He won’t come forward bringing the fight to Lemieux. Instead, he will rely on his legs and movement to out-box Lemieux from the outside.  And Johnson has the tools to out-box Lemieux.

A week later, Josh Warrington (27-0, 6 KO’s) will make the first defense of his featherweight title when he faces former two division champion Carl Frampton (26-1, 15 KO’s). This bout will be broadcast on ESPN+ in the United States. Frampton is a solid favorite in the sports books, but I like Warrington’s chances.

In my opinion, Warrington’s style is going to give Frampton fits. Warrington, who will be constantly moving, is shifty and very adept at setting up angles to land clean effective punches. In addition, he has a high work rate and has shown he can keep up a high output of punches through the course of a long fight. And coming off his best win against Lee Selby in May, he appears to be peaking.

I have not liked what I have seen recently from Frampton. I think Warrington will out-hustle him.

Remembering Tszyu-Hurtado

HBO’s Boxing After Dark series routinely produced classics in its early years in the mid-to-late 90’s. As a matter of fact, there were so many great fights on the series that some classics have gone forgotten. One such forgotten classic took place twenty years ago on November 28th, 1998 at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA, when Kostya Tszyu (21-1-1, 17 KO’s) met Diosbelys Hurtado (28-1, 19 KO’s) in a 140 pound contest.

Tszyu was originally slated to face Miguel Angel Gonzalez but Gonzalez pulled out about two weeks prior due to an injury. Those involved in the event wanted to keep Tszyu on the card. Scrambling to find a suitable replacement, they quickly located Hurtado who was just coming off a fight of his own.

Tszyu had won three straight since suffering a stunning loss to Vince Phillips in May of 1997. Hurtado had fought once previously on HBO, giving Pernell Whitaker a tough test before getting stopped in the 11th round, and was riding an eight fight winning streak since suffering that defeat.

Tszyu came out aggressively and put Hurtado down with a vicious right hand followed by hard left hook less than one minute into the fight. Hurtado appeared badly hurt but as Tszyu charged in for the finish, Hurtado landed a counter right that floored Tszyu. Tszyu would get to his feet and come back firing but would get clipped with another counter right that planted him on the canvas for a second time. The two would then slug it out to close the round but Tszyu seemed to turn the tide having Hurtado a bit wobbly as the wild first round ended. However, as Tszyu walked back to his corner there was visible swelling around his right eye.

The next three rounds saw some blistering action. Tszyu continued to press forward landing hard shots both to the head and body, but Hurtado stood his ground and found Tszyu an easy target to counter. Hurtado couldn’t miss with the counter right in particular which caught Tszyu clean on several occasions.

Tszyu started the fifth round strong, seemingly making a more conscientious effort to work behind the jab. He hit Hurtado clean on several occasions with that powerful left jab, freezing Hurtado, which allowed him to then pound away to the head and body. Hurtado was clearly getting broken down as the round progressed and eventually would get dropped by a clean left hook to his liver. He got up but Tszyu landed another left hook, this time to his midsection, and that put Hurtado down for good.

HBO’s Boxing After Dark produced some memorable wars during its run. Tszyu-Hurtado hasn’t gotten the press of some others on the series, but was another classic.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

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Harper and Jonas Battle to a Draw in Episode 2 of ‘Matchroom Fight Camp’

Arne K. Lang

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The second edition of Eddie Hearn’s “Fight Camp” summer series unfolded today in the backyard of the mansion that serves as the Matchroom Sport headquarters in Brentwood, Essex, England. The main event was ostensibly the 12-round bout for the Commonwealth cruiserweight title between Chris Billam-Smith and Nathan Thorley, but most of the pre-event talk was about the women’s match between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas which went last in the program. Harper was making the first defense of the WBC world super featherweight title that she took from long-reigning title-holder Ewa Wahlstrom in February.

Harper vs. Jonas, originally scheduled for April 24, was the first-ever female world title fight between two Brits and it proved to be a very entertaining scuffle, building on the momentum of the inaugural Fight Camp offering last Saturday when Ted Cheeseman and Sam Eggington put on a splendid show.

When the smoke cleared, Terri Harper retained her belt by virtue of earning a draw, but the question of which English boxer was superior remained unanswered.

At age 23, Harper was younger by 13 years, but Liverpool’s Jonas, a 2012 Olympian, had the stronger amateur pedigree. Jonas started fast but Harper had the edge plus youth on her side as the bout wended into the final furlongs. In round eight, however, Jonas rocked her with a left-right combination and she hurt her again in the next round.

Harper had to dig deep in the final round to arrest the momentum and she rose to the occasion, staving off defeat. The judges had it 96-94 for Harper, 96-95 for Jonas, and 95-95.

Harper remained undefeated at 11-0. It was the second loss for Jonas in 11 pro fights.

Terri Harper is a good human interest story. Before she was coaxed out of retirement in 2017, she was peeling potatoes in a fish and chips shop in her hometown of Denaby in County Yorkshire. As for her next fight, she now has three apparent options: a unification fight with Poland’s Ewa Brodnicka, the WBO belt-holder and a recent Matchroom signee, a match with Mikaela Mayer (Brodnicka’s “mandatory”), or a rematch with Natasha Jonas. Whatever develops, her next match will be eagerly anticipated.

Other Bouts

The fight between Chris Billam-Smith and Nathan Thorley, which actually went second in the bout order, was a soft defense for Billam-Smith. Trained by Shane McGuigan, Billam-Smith (11-1, 10 KOs) blasted out Thorley in the second round. He ended the one-sided scrap with a short right hand as Thorley was boring in, knocking him to his knees. Thorley beat the count, but his legs were unsteady and the referee properly stopped it.

A 27-year-old Welshman, Thorley came in undefeated (14-0), but he had been feasting on slop – his previous opponents were collectively 106-549 – and the result wasn’t unexpected. The official time was 2:05.

In a 10-round contest in the super-welterweight division, Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler, another Shane McGuigan protégé, improved to 13-1 (10) with a seventh-round stoppage of game but out-gunned Adam Harper (9-2). Fowler, a gold medal winner at the 2014 Commonwealth Games as a middleweight, had no fear of the light-punching Harper and was in full control from the get-go. His lone defeat came by split decision to rising contender Scott Fitzgerald.

In a featherweight contest, 20-year-old Leeds southpaw Ivan “Hopey” Price improved to 3-0 with a 6-round shutout over Jonny Phillips (5-5).

A fifth fight, a scheduled 8-round clash between lightweights Kane Baker and Aqib Fiaz, was canceled when Fiaz took ill.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 100: Global Impact of Prizefighting

David A. Avila

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Boxing is huge.

Unknown to many, professional prizefighting extends to almost every country on this planet. Only soccer exceeds it in appeal.

Prizefighting could very well be the very first professional sport ever established in history. Scholars of history concur.

This weekend you can get a taste of boxing’s reach to other parts of the world.

London, England will be boxing central on Friday Aug. 7.

DAZN will be streaming a Matchroom Boxing fight card that features cruiserweights Chris Billiam-Smith (10-1) and Nathan Thorley (14-0) battling for the Commonwealth cruiserweight title. It’s an eight-hour time difference between London and Los Angeles, California where the start time will be 11 a.m.

The main feature, however, pits WBC super featherweight titlist Terri Harper (10-0) against Olympian Natasha Jonas (9-1) in a 10-round bout. Both of these fights take place at Fight Camp, the home of promoter Eddie Hearn.

If the set up looks familiar, years ago America’s Hugh Hefner used to stage boxing cards at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California. The late magazine mogul loved the sport and invited many of his friends in the entertainment industry to watch prizefighting. People watching from their living rooms saw via television the rich enjoying their riches.

It’s the closest I will ever come to being rich.

One of the first events I ever saw at the Playboy Mansion showcased female fighters. Hefner was a true believer in female boxing and always included a female bout if possible. It was one of his stipulations.

Daytime Boxing

This Friday morning on the West Coast, boxing fans get an opportunity to re-visit an outdoor setting similar to the Playboy Mansion fights. DAZN will be streaming the card live from England.

If Americans think they are the only boxing fans in the world, well, they definitely are not.

When it comes to boxing, the Brits, Irish, Scots, Welsh and neighboring countries all love boxing more than Americans do. Even when you go further east into Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and all the other countries that used to be part of the defunct Soviet Union, they all love boxing. Let me reiterate, they love boxing.

In America, we’re accustomed to acknowledging that Mexicans love boxing as well as the Cubans and Puerto Ricans. But when it comes down to it, all of Latin America loves boxing. It comes second to soccer but that’s it. Boxing is a staple in Latin America.

In the good ole U.S. of A. the majority of people – including newspaper editors – favor team sports. Individual sports like tennis, track and field, and prizefighting take a back seat on newspapers or television network sports news.

But when boxing or MMA comes on a television screen or is scheduled for an arena, the American fans of those sports come out rain or shine.

Pacific Ocean and Other Areas

Across the Pacific, in the Australia and Asian continents, boxing also has a firm grip. Smaller weight classes have been dominated by Japanese, Korean and Philippine fighters for years.

They love boxing too.

A dream of mine has always been to see a fight card at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. Japanese boxing fans are able to watch boxing almost every week at the legendary fight palace.

Asia has always produced great fighters in the lower weight classes.

Manny Pacquiao arrived more than 20 years ago barely a blip on the boxing radar. Who would have guessed he would be revered as one of the greatest fighters of his generation?

Can American fight fans imagine what the boxing world would be like without fighters from other countries?

Imagine boxing without Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Vasyl Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue or Roman Gonzalez. It’s easy to forget that all of these fighters mentioned are not from the USA. Each has fought many times in front of American audiences.

In America, we fail to realize we don’t have a monopoly on talent.

Last week, both DAZN and Showtime placed fight cards on the same day. DAZN started early and brought a thoroughly entertaining boxing card including a possible Fight of the Year between super welterweights that saw Ted Cheeseman win over Sam Eggington after 12 raucous rounds of action.

Later, on the same night, Showtime brought super bantamweights, and boxing fans got a look at new WBO super bantamweight title winner Angelo Leo win by decision over last-minute entry Tramaine Williams. The replacement fighter accepted the challenge after scheduled fighter Stephen Fulton tested positive for the coronavirus.

Saturday Expectations

On Saturday night, Showtime returns with super tall welterweight Jamal James (26-1, 12 KOs) meeting Thomas Dulorme (25-3-1, 16 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Both James and Dulorme suffered losses to Yordenis Ugas.

It’s a shame that the virus has shut down audiences throughout the world. Los Angeles would have been eager to watch this event, especially in the heart of downtown. Rumors spreading are that one or two major fight cards will be held in L.A. later in the year.

Fans can watch on television as Dulorme and James battle to see who can crack that top 10 tier of welterweights. Dulorme miraculously salvaged a draw against Jessie Vargas when they fought by scoring a knockdown late in their fight. James has beaten solid competition but no one convincingly. This is an opportunity for either fighter to prove his worth.

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Pete Hamill Was Much More Than a Boxing Writer

Arne K. Lang

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Pete Hamill was one of my heroes. It pains me to write that the legendary journalist died today, Aug. 5, at age 85.

Hamill grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, the oldest of seven children of an immigrant from Belfast who lost a leg to an injury suffered in a semi-pro soccer game. Like much of gentrified Brooklyn, Park Slope is a trendy neighborhood, but that certainly wasn’t true during Hamill’s boyhood when the air was ripe with the scent of the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal.

In one of his early non-fiction books, Hamill recollected the time during his adolescence when he called an acquaintance a kike while the Hamill family was gathered around the dinner table. This angered his father who reached over and slapped him. “Benny Leonard was a kike,” snarled the elder Hamill, referencing the esteemed 1920s-era lightweight champion. Awkward language aside, the old man was teaching his son something about the importance of respecting people of all backgrounds – and indirectly something about the nobility of prizefighters.

Hamill would write that in his blue-collar Brooklyn neighborhood in the years after World War II, there were only two sports that mattered: baseball and boxing. The institutions in his community, he wrote, were the factory, the church, the police station, the saloon, and the boxing gym. “There were fights in old dance halls, in bankrupt skating rinks, in National Guard armories, all of them serving as farm clubs for the big arena: Madison Square Garden.”

In his teens, Hamill took to hanging around boxing gyms. He befriended Jose Torres (pictured with Hamill in their later years) before Torres turned pro. Once he became established as a journalist, Hamill encouraged Jose’s literary ambitions and Torres, who won the world light heavyweight title under the tutelage of Cus D’Amato, went on to become a writer of considerable repute, “Boxing’s Renaissance Man.”

In a 1996 piece for Esquire, Hamill wrote, “I came to believe that fighters themselves were among the best human beings I knew. They were mercifully free of the macho bull**** that stains so many professional athletes. They were gentle in a manly way.” But by then Hamill had become disillusioned with boxing, viewing it as the detritus of a less advanced age. The tipping point was a dinner he attended where everybody tried to avoid looking directly at the guest of honor, Muhammad Ali, whose tremors were so bad that he was unable to lift a piece of chicken to his mouth. But Hamill continued to turn up at some of the big fights.

A high school dropout, Hamill briefly occupied the top editor’s chair at New York’s two major dailies, the Post and the Daily News. His published works include ten novels, more than a hundred magazine stories, two memoirs (one of which, “Downtown: My Manhattan,” serves as an excellent travel guide for anyone visiting New York), and several teleplays including the boxing-themed “Flesh and Blood” which was adapted by CBS into a two-part, four-hour telecast with a young Denzell Washington in a supporting role.

I once had the privilege of having lunch with Pete Hamill. The invitation came from my friend Harvey Rothman, rest his soul. Harvey had been the entertainment director at Caesars Palace when the Miami mob ran the joint and was unceremoniously dumped and left to his own wiles when the mob was kicked out. Hamill was in town to research “The Neon Empire,” a crime drama about Las Vegas commissioned by Showtime. The three of us had lunch at Caesars Palace and, if memory serves, Pete and I covered the tab as Harvey’s comping privileges had been revoked.

At the time, I didn’t know much about Hamill. My only recollection of him was seeing him on the David Susskind Show, a TV talk show in New York that dealt with current affairs. I don’t remember much of what was said at our luncheon other than we reminisced about New Orleans where we had both hung our hat for a spell. He was disappointed to learn that Sidney’s News Stand on Decatur Street was gone and the property had morphed into a seedy liquor store.

I would later learn that we had much in common other than the fact we were both born in Brooklyn (I grew up on Long Island so I wasn’t an authentic Brooklynite). During our early teen years, we both discovered the world of books through the novels of James T. Farrell, the great Chicago writer (long out of vogue) whose masterwork was the “Studs Lonigan Trilogy.”

Pete and I met up again when I hosted a late-night sports talk radio show in the Sportsbook of the old Stardust Hotel. My guest that night was the fabled boxing press agent Harold Conrad (purportedly the inspiration for the Humphrey Bogart character in the movie “The Harder They Fall”), who was then working for Don King. To my great surprise, Conrad arrived with Pete Hamill. Harold was then in his seventies and his memory was starting to fail him. Hamill could foresee that there would be some pregnant moments during the show if I didn’t have someone else to bounce questions off.

When someone dies at a ripe old age, it’s normal to say that he led a full life. But it’s hard to imagine anyone leading a life as full as the life that Pete Hamill led.

He was there marching along and taking notes as Dr. Martin Luther King led a march from Memphis to Jackson. He was there in Belfast at the height of “the troubles.” He was there when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and helped subdue the attacker. He was on assignment in lower Manhattan when terrorists took down the World Trade Center and then spent the next 11 days documenting the recovery efforts. He dated Shirley MacLaine and Jackie Onassis. And, of course, he was ringside for the Fight of the Century, the first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Writing for Harper’s Bazaar, he called it the most spectacular event in sports history and no one who was there that night would disagree.

Pete Hamill was Forrest Gump. At the moments that define the timeline of my generation, he was seemingly always there.

Pete Hamill is survived by his second wife, journalist Fukiko Aoki, two daughters and a grandson. His eldest daughter Deirdre, a travel photojournalist based in Arizona, worked for a brief time at the Las Vegas Sun where she honed her craft covering the club fights. Pete’s brother Denis Hamill, younger than Pete by 17 years, is also a noted journalist.

Hamill, who was suffering from diabetes and using a walker, died in his bed at New York Presbyterian / Brooklyn Methodist hospital where he had gone after breaking his hip in a fall. The hospital is located in Park Slope. The well-traveled Pete Hamill had come full circle.

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