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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 24: Remembering Marty Denkin plus Upcoming Fights

David A. Avila

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Marty Denkin

Prizefighting in the state of California lost one of its senior members over the weekend as long-time referee and judge Marty Denkin passed away.

It was fitting that Denkin’s departure took place before one of the biggest fights of the last three years. Announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. honored the late official at the heavyweight world championship between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on Saturday. All paid their respects with a moment of silence and a 10-count.

Denkin, 84, was a former Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy and though born in New York, spent most of his life in California. Boxing was thoroughly in his blood.

Many who follow the boxing world knew Denkin as one of the long-serving officials of the California State Athletic Commission. He was the senior member and had served in many capacities including assistant executive officer in the Los Angeles office.

Others remember Denkin for his parts in movies like Raging Bull, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Of course he played the part of a boxing referee and is known as the official who counted out Rocky Balboa after getting floored by Clubber Lang the role played by Mr. T.

The last time I saw Denkin was just two weeks ago at a Thompson Boxing Promotions show in Ontario, Calif. He was wheeled to ringside by his daughter at the November 16 show. He had recently judged at a prior Thompson card in Ontario.

Denkin loved boxing.

He was always looking for ways to help the sport that at times can be rife with politics and sabotage. He had his supporters and opponents.

The first time I actually spoke to Marty Denkin was at a CSAC meeting in downtown L.A. around 2000. I had been covering the sport as a boxing writer for about seven years and he walked up to me and told me matter-of-factly “I heard you’re a straight-shooter and want to talk to you about a few things.” He became my introduction into the governing portion of the boxing world. I told Mr. Denkin that I don’t take sides but merely write the facts. From that point on he would let me know about his views on judging and scoring a fight. We would often compare scores right after a fight. He would hand over his scorecard to the referee and then look my way and silently ask what score I had. We usually had the same scores.

Once after a televised James Toney fight he was given a lot of criticism for his scoring. Any time Toney fought, especially in a close struggle, the Michigan prizefighter would display his high boxing IQ and score in ways that most ignore like hitting while being held. Denkin pointed this out after the fight and explained why he scored in favor of Toney. He willingly gave out his boxing wisdom.

Pat Russell, one of the best referees of all time, said years ago he once allowed a brutal fight to continue and one of the participants was taken to the hospital. He visited the hospital to see the fallen boxer who would survive. But the event left him shaken and distraught that evening.

“It was about four in the morning when I got a phone call and it was Marty Denkin,” said Russell, who retired as a referee a couple of years ago but still judges fights. “He told me that I had done everything right and not to worry.”

Russell further explained that Denkin’s call truly helped him through the event and he sincerely appreciated the thoughtfulness by the act.

“I never forgot it,” said Russell.

The boxing community in California will never forget Marty Denkin.

California Tsunami

Three large fight cards are spread out across Southern California this Saturday. This is a sign of the times.

Boxing is exploding.

Golden Boy

In the Coachella desert area Golden Boy Promotions stages a fight card led by Carlos “The Solution” Morales (17-3-3) who faces Nicaragua’s super tough Rene Alvarado (29-8) in the main event Saturday Dec. 8, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. For Morales this is a big test. Alvarado has become a genuine gatekeeper for the featherweight and super featherweight divisions. If you don’t have the goods, well, Alvarado will let you know.

Two other rising prospects Joet Gonzalez and Hector Tanajara are also on the card in separate bouts.

Tanajara (15-0, 5 KOs) has a tough lightweight matchup against Robert Manzanarez (36-2, 29 KOs) on the semi-main event. It’s rare when Tanajara, 21, fights someone taller than him and to make things more difficult Manzanarez is a southpaw. It’s a pick’em fight.

The fight card can be seen free on Facebook Watch.

360 Promotions

The StubHub Center in Carson hosts the 360 Promotions card featuring elite three female bouts including the woman considered by many the pound for pound best Cecilia Braekhus.

Braekhus (34-0) defends the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and IBO welterweight world titles against Poland’s Aleksandra Lopes-Magdziak (18-4-3) on Saturday Dec. 8. HBO will televise the showdown.

Add undefeated Claressa Shields (7-0) fighting Germany’s Femke Hermans (9-1) and you have a pair of the best female fighters in the world.

Expect to see many other great female fighters in attendance including Layla McCarter, Cyborg, Kali Reis, Christina Hammer, Jelena Mrdjenovich, and Laila Ali among others.

The male portion of the card showcases Juan Francisco Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs) versus Victor Mendez (28-3-2, 20 KOs) in a super flyweight clash. Both fighters hail from Hermosillo, Mexico so they are familiar with each other. Estrada has long been one of the best fighters out of Mexico that many people do not know. He’s an all-around boxer and puncher. Elite stuff.

Another female fight offered is Aussie Louisa “Bang Bang” Lawton (8-2) who always entertains with her go-for-broke style. She’s fighting local pugilist Lorraine Villalobos who despite only three pro bouts is talented.

The StubHub always delivers great fights. Always. It seems to have a magic aura that produces memorable battles. All total there are nine bouts planned.

Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com.

Red Boxing

In the city of Industry, Red Boxing International has a nine-bout fight card at Industry Hills Expo Center.

The boxing card is filled with young prospects and features a heavyweight clash pitting Rodney Hernandez (11-7-2) against Nick Jones (7-1) in the main event. Hernandez upset LaRon Mitchell who was undefeated last June.

For tickets and information call (323) 769-9696.

Top Rank show in NYC

WBO and WBA lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1) meets Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (25-1) in the main event at The Theater in Madison Square Garden on Saturday Dec. 8. ESPN will televise.

Lomachenko is fresh from a broken arm but is ready for his clash against Pedraza who vanquished Ray Beltran to get to this point.

WBO super bantamweight titlist Isaac Dogboe (20-0) defends against Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (25-1) who hasn’t fought top tier fighters yet.

Another on the card is lightweight sensation Teofimo Lopez (10-0) fighting Mason Menard (34-3) for the vacant NABF lightweight title. This is Menard’s third shot at a regional title and he doesn’t get a break facing the talented Lopez.

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Introducing Top Prospect Raeese Aleem, the Pride of Muskegon

Arne K. Lang

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At age 29, Raeese Aleem has yet to appear in a 10-round fight, but that will almost assuredly happen this year. The undefeated (15-0, 9 KOs) super bantamweight from Muskegon, Michigan, takes another step in that direction on Friday, Feb. 14, when he opposes San Antonio’s Adam Lopez (16-3-2) at Philadelphia in a bout that will air on “ShoBox,” the long-running SHOWTIME series that’s been a springboard for 81 fighters who went on to win world titles.

Aleem earned a black belt in karate before taking up boxing and becoming a four-time Michigan Golden Gloves champion. As an amateur, he and his coach Terry Markowski did a considerable amount of traveling between meets to find good sparring. Grand Rapids, an amateur boxing hotbed, was just down the road, but Detroit and Chicago were a good three hours away and on occasion they went on an even longer excursion into Ohio.

Aleem turned pro in 2011 and had his first 10 fights on the Midwest circuit, venturing as far north as Green Bay and as far south as Cincinnati. At the time, he worked in the produce department of Meijer’s, a regional rival of Walmart. His bosses, he notes, were generous in letting him juggle his work schedule around his boxing assignments.

For a boxer with designs on winning a world title, the Midwest circuit is like a bicycle with training wheels. Aleem had to shake free of it to see how far he could go. Besides, getting fights was getting tougher and tougher. There’s a 28-month gap in his pro timeline that includes all of 2013. He had several fights fall out during this frustrating quiescence.

If you’re an aspiring film actor, you go to Hollywood. If you’re an aspiring boxing champion, you go to Las Vegas. Not a week goes by without a young fellow turning up here to test his mettle in one of the many local gyms with the hope of attracting the eye of one of the major promotional firms.

“When I came to Las Vegas,” says Aleem who has a daughter back in Michigan, “I had no family here, no friends.” He was directed to Barry’s boxing gym, run by ex-boxer Pat Barry and his wife Dawn, retired Las Vegas police officers, and started training under their son-in-law Augie Sanchez. But Sanchez, the last man to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr (accomplished when they were amateurs), had other priorities. He is an assistant coach with Team USA which obligates him to spend a good deal of his time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Things started looking up for Aleem when he joined the Prince Ranch stable under the management of Greg Hannley. At the Prince Ranch Gym, where the head trainer is Bones Adams, he has sparred with such notables as Nonito Donaire and former WBO 122-pound champion Jessie Magdaleno.

Aleem doesn’t miss the weather in Muskegon, a lakefront city where sub-freezing temperatures are the norm in the dead of winter and snow is forecast for all of next week. But he still has one foot in his hometown, as evident by his unbroken bond with Terry Markowski. In an era when some boxers appear to change trainers as often as they change their underwear, Aleem has remained loyal to Markowski who has been in his corner for all of his pro fights and will be there again on Feb. 14.

Markowski, who teaches boxing at the Muskegon Rec Center, is a protégé of Muskegon’s most esteemed boxer, the late Kenny Lane. The epitome of a crafty southpaw, Lane, a lightweight and junior welterweight, was a three-time world title challenger during a 100-fight career that began in 1953.

The relationship between Raeese Aleem and Terry Markowski dates back to 2003 when Aleem resided in the nearby village of Ravenna, where Aleem’s father, the patriarch of a large blended family, planted Raeese and his siblings to get them away from the temptations of Muskegon which has several blighted areas. “It was a culture shock for me when I started going to school in Ravenna,” says Aleem, looking back, as none of his schoolmates looked like him.

This will be Aleem’s fifth fight in Pennsylvania where he has made four of his last five starts. The connecting thread is Reading, Pennsylvania gym operator-turned-promoter Marshall Kauffman who has been credited with keeping boxing vibrant in the Keystone State.

This being Aleem’s national television debut, it’s important that he make a good showing. His Las Vegas trainer Bones Adams, a former world champion in Aleem’s weight division, expects nothing less. “I’m confident he will be a world champion someday,” says Adams.

Photo credit: Mario Serrano / Prince Ranch Boxing

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A Bouquet for Danny Garcia in This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Two-division champion Danny Garcia had the spotlight all to himself over the weekend in a stay-busy fight against Ivan Redkach on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader that had the odd privilege these days of not being counterprogrammed by a Top Rank show on ESPN or any other kind of boxing card on DAZN.

So Garcia, 31, from Philadelphia, had the chance to remind people how excellent a fighter he is in full force, which would help him greatly in his effort to secure an unlikely bout against WBA champ Manny Pacquiao or remain first in line to face WBC and IBF champ Errol Spence whenever the Texan recovers from the injuries he sustained in a car accident in October.

But did Garcia pull it off? Here’s the latest edition of HITS and MISSES.

HIT – Danny Garcia’s Pristine and Precise Technique 

The best parts about Garcia were on full display against Redkach. That was made easier by Redkach’s lack of anything that might have given Garcia any real problems, but nonetheless Garcia was able to show the lovely footwork and balanced countering ability that made him so formidable at junior welterweight. There’s just something special about seeing Garcia fight. The economy of his movement inside a boxing ring is something that is just plain different than just about any other world-class fighter in the world today. In a fight that most people probably would have preferred he just skipped, and one that didn’t turn out to be any different than everyone expected, at least Garcia’s beautiful boxing was on display.

MISS – Showtime Sparring Sessions

In addition to Garcia-Redkach, Showtime rounded out its tripleheader with undefeated junior featherweight Stephen Fulton taking on former Muay Thai fighter Arnold Khegai and former unified junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd taking on career welterweight Francisco Santana. While Fulton’s fight against Khegai seemed like a legitimate prizefight, there was something about the other two bouts that screamed sparring sessions. That was especially the case for Hurd’s bout. Not only was Hurd in there with a middling welterweight, but he also used the rounds of the fight to work on vastly different boxing techniques than what made him so popular in the first place. Showtime might not have the pull they once had with the people over at the PBC offices, but they for sure need to get more involved in vetting matchups if they hope to remain afloat within the competitive boxing landscape of today.

HIT – Stephon Fulton’s Title Chances at 122 Pounds

Fulton is a very solid boxer who digs to the body and has a fast, clean jab. Khegai was the perfect kind of opponent for the 25-year-old. He was very game and never stopped trying to win. Additionally, his background in Muay Thai offered some different looks to Fulton that should help him on his way toward world title contention. In the end, Fulton outworked Khegai to hand the tough 27-year-old the first loss of his career. Now let’s hope Fulton is off to bigger and better things such as challenging for a world title. He’s ready right now.

MISS – Andy Ruiz’s Continued Soap Opera

The best thing former unified champion Andy Ruiz could have done after blowing the rematch against Anthony Joshua in December is getting right back to work in the gym. What better way to show trainer Manny Robles that he was taking responsibility for his actions than to get right back to work with the same team he had just let down so badly? Instead, Ruiz fired Robles and is considering other trainers. That would make more sense if there had been some sort of tactical error in the fight. But Ruiz already admitted he simply didn’t train for arguably the biggest fight of his life, and that’s not anyone’s fault but his own.

HIT – Former Middleweight Titleholder Andy Lee’s Second Act

It appears former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee found his second act in life as a trainer, which makes a ton of sense if you followed Lee’s career under the tutelage of the late Emanuel Steward. Lee, 39, left Ireland after his amateur days to live with Steward in Detroit and train at Kronk. The two had a very close personal relationship and that experience ultimately helped Lee win the world title in 2014 two years after Steward’s passing. Now, Lee is passing on what he knows in the same way Steward did with him to other fighters. He trains and manages Irish upstart Paddy Donovan, is guiding Jason Quigley back to contention and even helped orchestrate distant cousin Tyson Fury bringing on Javan “SugarHill” Steward for the heavyweight’s upcoming rematch against Deontay Wilder.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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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 wonders 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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