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33 Boxing Notables Name Their Top ‘Must-See-TV’ Fighters: A New TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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Welcome to the first Quarterly TSS Survey of 2019. The following questions were asked: In the past, what ONE fighter did you most look forward to watching on week-end TV? How about today? Who is that ONE fighter that makes work go by faster on Friday in anticipation? As always, the respondents are listed alphabetically.

JIM AMATO — author, writer, historian and collector: Whenever Roberto Duran was on TV I would try to find time to watch him. Even in the 90s when he was fighting on the USA Network. He was such a clever technician. A true master of fisticuffs. Today I enjoy watching Mikey Garcia. He’s a real throwback to yesterday’s boxers. I respect the fact that he is willing to meet the talented and bigger Errol Spence Jr. A supreme challenge. Like Duran, Arguello, Basilio, Olivares, etc…Mikey is ready to take on the very best.

RUSS ANBER — trainer, elite cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: The one name that popped into my head above all others was Danny “Little Red” Lopez. I believe I watched every fight he had on mainstream television, and was thrilled every time. I also remember how heartbroken I was when he lost to the great Salvador Sanchez. I loved Little Red!

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI — TSS boxing writer: In the past it was Arturo Gatti. What can I say about Gatti that has not already been said? His fights were almost always fan friendly, high contact affairs with plenty of drama. Even his tune-up fights, like the one against Calvin Grove in 1997, turned out to be wars. Today, it is Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. He sure is exciting to watch. Just comes forward, abandoning defense, and only thinking about landing his own shots. Like Gatti, even Sor Rungvisai’s tune-up fights turn out to be exciting.

DAVID AVILATSS West Coast Bureau Chief: In the past Muhammad Ali was that fighter I would plan ahead to make time to watch. Even when he was suspended I read about anything he had to say. When he returned to boxing against Jerry Quarry, I celebrated. Today, I would say Canelo Alvarez. I saw his first fight in America and I’m amazed at his career.

BOB BENOIT — former pro fighter and current referee: Archie Moore was my favorite to look forward to in the past.  Presently, I don’t have one.

JOE BRUNO — former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: I would wait in anticipation to see any Joe Frazier fight. He gave it his all and never cheated the public. Same with Arturo Gatti. As for today, nobody comes to mind. Most of the potential great fighters are now fighting MMA which, to me, is unwatchable.

STEVE CANTONauthor and President of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame: I don’t think that I can say that there was just one fighter I looked forward to seeing on week-end TV. Growing up, I always looked forward to the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports Friday Night Fights with Don Dunphy. The fighters who appeared regularly were always a treat to watch, like Emile Griffith, Gaspar Ortega, Chico Vejar, Vince Martinez, Luis Rodriguez, Dick Tiger, Carlos Ortiz, Joe Brown, etc. etc. etc.

CHARLIE DWYERformer professional referee and member of U.S. Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: Micky Ward. Win, lose or draw it was going to be a good one to watch. Today, Gennady Golovkin, a disciplined, consistent, no-nonsense fighter.

STEVE FARHOOD — Showtime announcer, former editor of The Ring magazine and 2017 IBHOF inductee: In the days of weekend network TV, the fighter I most looked forward to seeing in action was Matthew Saad Muhammad. Fortunately, he fought often in Atlantic City, so I was usually able to attend his fights. I was never surprised by the twists and turns in Saad’s fights; after half a dozen times, I came to expect them. He was thrilling–and at a very high level. And I’d put Marvin Johnson up there, too, largely because he twice fought Saad. Today, that fighter would be John Molina. While Molina is, of course, defensively weak, and hasn’t proven to be championship caliber, his fights have been as consistently entertaining–and as consistently unpredictable–as those of any fighter you can name. He may not lead the league in home runs, but nobody has hit more eight-run homers than Molina.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — TSS mainstay and lifetime Member of the BWAA:  As a grade-school kid, I put Carmen Basilio right up there with my other sports heroes, Billy Cannon (LSU’s only Heisman Trophy winner), Bob Pettit (the NBA great and also an LSU product) and Stan Musial, who had nothing at all to do with LSU. The “Upstate Onion Farmer” was my dad’s favorite fighter, so he became mine, but I probably would have liked him anyway because he was in The Ring’s Fight of the Year five years running, from 1955-59. Later on, I was drawn to Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, who were so alike in some ways and so different in others.

Now? I admit to having a natural affinity for Regis Prograis, partly because he is a native New Orleanian, as I am, but also because he’s an action fighter with a big punch. Other southpaws whose bouts I never want to miss are Errol Spence Jr. and, of course, Vasiliy Lomachenko, who does stuff like nobody else can.

JEFFREY FREEMAN (aka KO Digest) — TSS boxing writer: Mike Tyson was my weekend warrior back in the good old days of cable television. I’d plan my busy work schedule around Tyson’s fights, always requesting those Saturday nights off. These days, I’m most excited about Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title bouts. With the DAZN app loaded onto my iPhone, I never have to miss any AJ action even if I’m at a wedding in Provincetown, Massachusetts like I was when he knocked out Alexander Povetkin. Joshua’s fights are global events and I will go out of my way not to miss the flagship fighter of boxing’s resurgent flagship division.

RANDY GORDON — writer, editor, radio show host and former head of the New York State Athletic Commission: When I was in college, Joe Frazier was the man! Today, I can’t get enough of Vasiliy Lomachenko, Regis Prograis and Deontay Wilder (I just can’t pick one!).

LEE GROVES – author, writer and Wizard of CompuBox: When I first began watching boxing, the fighter I looked most forward to seeing was Danny “Little Red” Lopez because he was an incredibly exciting fighter who often had to overcome adversity before securing victory. I also admired his humility and sportsmanship, assets that stood in contrast to the destruction he had just completed inside the ring. I soon learned that was the case for many big hitters, but he was among the first I saw that demonstrated that dynamic. As for today, I can only speak as a punch-counter, so, in that vein, I look forward to counting Leo Santa Cruz because he throws a lot of punches and those punches are easy for me to see and discern. Also, because he maintains his rhythm, it makes it easier for me to maintain my rhythm.

HENRY HASCUP – historian; President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame:  That’s a tough one. I know most people would say Tyson or Pacquiao and I would agree with them, but I also liked Matthew Saad Muhammad and Arturo Gatti. They didn’t win all the time but they sure gave us our money’s worth. Regarding today, I have several but none gives me the excitement of the ones I listed above!  I love watching guys like Crawford, Spence, Alvarez,  Lomachenko, Triple G, and the Garcias, but I just can’t pick just one!

JACK HIRSCH– former President and now lifetime member of the BWAA: There is no one particular fighter I can name. If absolutely forced to, I would say Ali and Frazier for the great drama they gave to the heavyweight division in the 60’s and 70’s.

BRUCE KIELTY — boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: Whether you liked him or hated him, Mike Tyson had the type of menacing charisma that compelled you to watch. Apparently many people felt the same way because it was once reported that Mike was responsible for 30% of HBO subscribers. Today, Errol Spence captures my attention. He has consistent excellence and poise beyond his years. More importantly, he carries himself with class, unlike so many of boxing’s ignorant buffoons.

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM – boxing commissioner emeritus, State of Michigan: Thomas Hearns fighting on national TV would have me and all of Motown watching. Without so many networks having boxing you do not have the same fan base until they reach Pay Per View, so I haven’t felt that same anticipation in years. Even a Floyd Mayweather fight you would have to mortgage your house to watch…then it would be like eating Chinese food. One hour after the fight you would feel hungry again for some action.

 JIM LAMPLEY– linchpin of the HBO announcing team; 2015 IBHOF inductee: In my youth, long before I could have envisioned working in boxing media, it was of course Muhammad Ali. Once I arrived in the sport, 1986, it was of course Mike Tyson. And regardless of recent results, among the current crop of great fighters, there are a flock of them but if you force me to choose one it is Triple G. “Big Drama Show” still applies. But as I hope my work demonstrated, for the most part I loved and appreciated them all. Collectively, they taught me about life. Their instruction in that regard is irreplaceable for me.

ARNE LANG — TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: I really can’t think of any fighters who were “must-see TV” for me other than those I knew personally. But I became smitten with the stumpy Avtandil Khurtsidze while watching him dismantle Antoine Douglas and was very much looking forward to seeing Khurtsidze fight Billy Joe Saunders. That would have been a great style matchup. Unfortunately, Khurtsidze got swept up by U.S. federal prosecutors in a sweep of the Russian Mafia and it’s likely we will never see him again.

RON LIPTON — former fighter, retired police officer, pro referee: Back in the early 60’s after seeing Rubin Carter knock out Florentino Fernandez and Emile Griffith in one round each, he was the one I looked forward to seeing in his next fight on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports the most. Then it became Ali and Mike Tyson that generated the most anticipation for me. As to today, I have to pass on that one as an active referee.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEUK barrister, author, and contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Boxing: I always looked forward to watching Hogan Jimoh, a lightweight, and Eddie Ndukwu, a featherweight, on Nigerian TV in the late 1970’s. They were the best that Nigeria could offer in the post-Dick Tiger era and attracted sizeable crowds to the National Stadium. As for today, I can’t pick one fighter as it invariably depends on the quality of opposition they are facing. So it could be the exceedingly skillful Terence Crawford one week or the very resourceful Oleksandr Usyk on the other.

JOE PASQUALE — elite boxing judge: I can only respond to the question as it pertains to retired boxers to avoid any conflict of interest perceptions on fighters I may be judging in the future. That said, Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime probably stands out as the one fighter I looked forward to watching on TV. His boxing IQ combined with his explosive abilities, heart and charisma always made Leonard a fighter full of intrigue for me. I am still thrilled when I watch the videos of his bouts.

J. RUSSELL PELTZ — venerable Philadelphia boxing promoter and 2004 IBHOF inductee: As a kid, Dick Tiger because there always was a chance for a knockout.  Also Sonny Liston but when I began watching late in 1959 I only saw him once with Eddie Machen. Henry Hank also was a pleasure due to his style. Emile Griffith because of his great back and shoulders. Also, Bennie Briscoe. Today, no one gets my juices going. Wilder is interesting because he can crack you at any moment in the fight.

CLIFF ROLD — boxing writer; founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board: Mike Tyson in the past, today Naoya Inoue.

FRED ROMANO — author and former ESPN researcher: There were so many great weekend warriors from the late seventies into the 90s. I particularly looked forward to the Mancini fights, such as those against Arguello, Frias and Espana. You were always guaranteed to get a good action fight. Today, I enjoy watching Lomachenko for his unique style and excellent technique and skill. If Tuesdays were included, my throwback choice would be Foreman and his comeback fights on the USA Network.

LEE SAMUELS — Top Rank publicist and 2019 IBHOF Inductee: Years ago seeing Muhammad Ali in action was awesome – a tremendous all-action bigger-than -life champion. As a writer with the Philadelphia Bulletin we covered two of Ali’s fights – his first fight with Leon Spinks, then in his finale against Trevor Berbick. Ali was a dynamic athlete, full of life and mischief in media rooms and always had something unique to say about his opponents. As far as today’s champions, Bob Arum said it best when he noted “Vasiliy  Lomachenko reminds me of Muhammad  Ali.” Loma, the greatest amateur of our time, is an unpredictable force who attacks from a variety of angles and is unquestionably the most exciting athlete in the ring today. Which brings us to Terence Crawford who amazingly takes time, rhythm and space to figure out his challenger and – while facing hard punching – finds a route to where he can take out his opponent in spectacular fashion. He is a must-see champion in the game of boxing right now.”

 ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY — former boxer; manager, trainer, TV commentator, writer, historian: When I was coming up as a kid watching weekend TV fights I never missed an Aaron Pryor fight. I remember him getting knocked down once and before the referee could even start an eight count he had done sort of a somersault while on the canvas and lifted himself off the canvas and started punching at his opponent before the guy could even get his hands back up. Never missed his fights after that.

Today I’m not as drawn to as many guys because they aren’t as visible as they were back when the three major networks along with USA and ESPN were showing fights on a weekly basis but I’d say in terms of action and watching someone who you know is going to produce or at least try as hard as he can to produce some fireworks every time he steps in there, Id’ say that Deontay Wilder is a must-watch type of guy.

 TED SARES — TSS writer: In the past it was Bobby Chacon. I watched him fight Olivares, Little Red, then two with Boza Edwards and three with Limon. It was scotch and cigar time each time. Today, it’s a tie between Loma simply because he does things I have never seen before, and Wilder because the concussive end can come at any time in the fight.

PETER SILKOV — boxing writer: In the past, (80s/90s) there was a whole host of fighters who would make me look forward to Friday and Saturdays, unfortunately, that isn’t the case now. If I had to pick one fighter from recent years who I have followed avidly it would be Roman Gonzalez, closely followed by GGG and Kovalev. Unfortunately, all three now seem to be at the end of their careers. If I had to pick a fighter for right now it would be Usyk, followed by Tyson Fury.

ALAN SWYER — filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: As a very young kid, I couldn’t wait to see Sugar Ray Robinson, especially when he was scheduled to fight Basilio. Today, the guy I most look forward to seeing is Terence Crawford. For an in-depth interview with Alan Swyer about “El Boxeo” please CLICK HERE

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS –the voice of “Boxing on the Beltway”: For me in the 80’s, it was Hector “Macho” Camacho. It was a lot of fun watching him during that time. He seemed to be a very cool character and someone fresh for that time.

BEAU WILLIFORD – former trainer and manager and Mr. Boxing in Louisiana’s Cajun Country: When I was a very young boy, my father took me to Lee Field House at Fort Bragg to see Rocky Marciano vs. Archie Moore. I became a huge fan of both. My favorite weekend boxer was Gaspar Ortega. Today I get excited when “Canelo” Alvarez is boxing.

 PETER WOOD — former boxer and author of several books including The Boy Who Hit Back — There was once a wild heavyweight–a large human-shaped piece of muscle. He was dripping in id and marinated in pure ego. He was the only fighter who bested Muhammad Ali in a pre-fight press conference, calling Ali a “chicken…cheep! cheep! cheep!” and “a black kangaroo”. He was the only fighter who was ever able to knock Joe Frazier down twice in one round. He was the only fighter to be disqualified in the Pan-American Games for biting Lee Carr’s shoulder, and the only fighter to be shot dead at the Mustang whorehouse in Nevada–Oscar Bonavena. RIP … Today? Tyson Fury is an interesting character. He is cut out of the same maniacal cloth–id and ego.

Observations:

A very wide range of answers with Ali, Frazier, and Tyson being mentioned the most. As for today, Lomachenko, Spence, Crawford and Wilder get the nod but not by much.

Peter Wood’s contribution was especially enjoyable because it reflected his special way of writing. And Jim Lampley’s was as poignant as they get.

Many thanks to all the contributors.

P.S. How about you? Is there one particular fighter — past or present – who has you waiting for Saturday with bated breath?

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors. He is a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 74: Cancio, Wilder, Santa Cruz and More

David A. Avila

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Cancio vs. Alvarado, Wilder vs. Ortiz, Santa Cruz vs. Flores and More

Casinos are getting rich and boxing fan grunts are getting slightly frustrated.

It’s the big guys versus the little guys on Saturday with heavyweights in Las Vegas and featherweights in Indio, California going head to head in separate shows.

If only I could be in two places at once.

Let’s start with the little guys as WBA super featherweight titlist Andrew Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KOs) and his jackhammer hands defends against former foe Rene Alvarado (31-8, 20 KOs) at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

They clashed once before in 2015 with the Cancio winning by technical knockout in the eighth round due to a cut from a punch suffered by Alvarado. Until the stoppage, it was fierceness at its best.

“I wanted to give him (Alvarado) another chance,” said Cancio who still has his day job breaking cement with a jackhammer. “He deserves it. Who knows if I would have won if not for the cut?”

Cancio is a cool customer.

Also on the same card will be China’s Can Xu (17-2, 3 KOs) defending the WBA featherweight title against Manny Robles III (18-0, 8 KOs), the son of trainer Manny Robles Jr. who works with IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight champ Andy Ruiz.

Xu, who only has a couple of knockouts, can’t help from being involved in wars. He endured hell and back against Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas in his last U.S. appearance at the Toyota Center in Houston back in January. Now he gets Robles who has improved tremendously since his pro debut at the same venue back in 2012. It was not an impressive moment. But he’s slowly and determinedly added more skills in the last seven years. Now he’s 25 years old and has his man strength. It makes a major difference.

Another interesting return match features Rashidi Ellis (21-0, 14 KOs) against Eddie Gomez (23-3, 13 KOs) at the same venue as their first encounter. That first fight only lasted one brutal round. Can Ellis duplicate his first victory over the Bronx fighter?

Las Vegas

Speaking of rematches, WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 41 KOs) has to reload when he meets Cuban challenger Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. FOX pay-per-view will televise the PBC fight card. It’s been 20 months since their first clash ended in a knockout win for Wilder.

For those unaware, Wilder has held the WBC version of the title for almost four years and that includes nine title defenses. All but one has ended by knockout and the one that got away (Tyson Fury) will be his new date should he prevail against the southpaw Ortiz.

Wilder has pure athleticism and has added more technique each time he jumps in the boxing ring. The first time I witnessed Wilder in person was at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas back in 2010. He’s improved immensely since that time. I saw him later that year at Fantasy Springs. He traded knockdowns with Harold Sconiers and actually could have lost that fight, but the referee missed a crucial knockdown. Wilder could not get up and had there been a count, he would not have survived. But sometimes you get a break and Wilder has shown he knows how to cash in.

Ortiz has more skills than the champion but lacks the athleticism and is older. Some say he is much older than Wilder. He’s made some astute changes for his career and now the Cuban heavyweight can cash out or cash in, depending on the outcome. Either way he’s going to make some heavyweight money.

Heavyweights are a different ilk. They are large, carnivorous and pack immense power. Anything can happen at any time of the fight.

Need convincing?

Look at the Andy Ruiz fight against Anthony Joshua. The Mexican heavyweight was supposed to be an easy substitute opponent and despite getting knocked down, he got up and wiped the mat with Joshua.

In this Wilder-Ortiz rematch anyone can win. Ortiz had Wilder down in their first fight but could not finish the job. Wilder finished the job when he put Ortiz down. Will we see a repeat?

The MGM Grand should be packed with fans eager to see the result.

Santa Cruz

In another world title clash Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs) moves up a weight division and fights Miguel Flores (24-2, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand on the pay-per-view portion on Saturday. It’s for another version of the WBA super featherweight title that Cancio is defending on the same day in California.

Yes, it’s confusing. You got a title and I got a title and everybody’s got a title.

Still, Santa Cruz is hunting for his fourth division world title. I still remember watching him for the first time in November 2007 at Morongo Casino. Bobby Pacquiao was the main event, Carlos Baldomir was a semi-main eventer and Santa Cruz wore braces for his teeth into the fight if I’m not mistaken.

Back in those days no major promoter wanted to take a chance on Santa Cruz. Though his older brothers had fought and were successful, many matchmakers were not convinced on little Leo. But he could always fight up a storm. He had a life and death struggle at Pala Casino with Robert DaLuz in 2009. After that fight he seemed to find himself and got on a tear much like a Major League Baseball player finding his stroke.

Since 2012 he’s won the bantamweight, super bantamweight, and featherweight world titles. He lost to Carl Frampton in 2016, then regained it in 2017 in the rematch. Now he fights Flores for the super featherweight title. They were supposed to fight back in February but Flores was forced to pull out with an ankle injury. Now they are finally meeting.

“I’m really glad I’m getting this second opportunity to fight Leo Santa Cruz,” said Flores. “I thought I would never get a second chance, but here I am.”

Santa Cruz has bigger plans than just securing a fourth division world title, he wants world domination at 130 pounds.

“I want to unify and fight everyone at 130,” said Santa Cruz. “Whoever they throw in front of me.”

First up is Flores. But 300 miles to the west, Cancio will be defending his version of the WBA super featherweight title too. And he’s not too happy.

“I think it’s a bunch of B.S. I got the short end of the stick once again. I’m not a big name to a lot of people like Leo Santa Cruz is. I feel like that’s why they did it,” said Cancio. “If I come out victorious Nov. 23 and if Leo comes out victorious Nov. 23, that’s a fight I definitely want to make. I feel like I’m the bigger, stronger 130-pound guy.”

That’s a fight many people would like to see made.

Friday Fights

In the sleepy town of Ontario, California, another Thompson Boxing Promotions card takes place at the Doubletree Hotel on Friday, Nov. 22.

Three interesting eight-round fights highlight the card including the newest finds by the Orange County based company in a lightweight contest. They specialize in finding talent.

Ruben Villa (10-0, 8 KOs) seeks to extend his unbeaten streak against Eduardo Lionel Rodriguez (8-1-1). The lanky Santa Monica fighter Villa emerged on top with a win over another undefeated fighter George Acosta last May. He followed that up with a quick two-round destruction over veteran Ruben Tamayo last July. Now he faces another test with Rodriguez.

Also on the Thompson card, is the return of Giovani Santillan (24-0, 14 KOs) who meets Wilfrido Buelvas (20-12) in a welterweight match. It’s been 19 months since Santillan was last in the ring and knocked out Alejandro Barboza on a televised match to retain the NABO title.

Santillan, 28, fights out of San Diego and his southpaw style allowed him to rise up the rankings in impressive fashion until his disappearance from the fight scene.

Does he still have it?

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first bell starts around 8 p.m. For more information call (714) 935-0900.

Al Mitchell

Al Mitchell, the trainer for female super featherweight star Mikaela Mayer, will be inducted to the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame on Friday Dec. 13, it was announced this week.

Mitchell, 76, has been an advisor for many top amateur boxers throughout the past 60 years and was the head coach for the 1996 US Olympic Team. He also advised on numerous Olympic teams that featured boxers such as Vernon Forrest and Floyd Mayweather.

“I want to thank all the coaches who worked under me and all the young fighters I’ve worked with,” said Mitchell. “I’m thankful that USA Boxing believed in me, putting 13 to 15 boxers in my program, and cream does rise to the top.”

Today, Mitchell has female fighter Mayer headed to a world title bid in 2020. The tall super featherweight will be accompanying Mitchell when he is inducted to the Hall of Fame at ceremonies held at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Al Bernstein will host the proceedings.

Others being inducted are George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mark Breland, Ray Rodgers and Sen. John McCain.

Fights to Watch

Fri. ESPN+ 7 a.m. Jack Caterall (24-0) vs Timo Schwarzkopf (20-3)

Fri. WWW.RingTV.com

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Callum Smith (26-0) vs John Ryder (28-4).

Sat. WWW.DBE1.com 4 p.m. Marie Eve Dicaire (16-0) vs Ogleidis Suarez (29-3-1); Raquel Miller (9-0) vs Alma Ibarra (7-0).

Sat. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Andrew Cancio (21-4-2) vs Rene Alvarado (31-8); Can XU (17-2) vs Manny Robles III (18-0)

Sat. FOX pay-per-view 6 p.m. Deontay Wilder (41-0-1) vs Luis Ortiz (31-1); Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1) vs Miguel Flores (24-2); Luis Nery (30-0) vs Manny Rodriguez (19-1); Brandon Figueroa (20-0) vs Julio Ceja (32-4)

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Dubai Poised to Mirror Saudi Arabia in the New World Order of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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The royal family of Saudi Arabia is committed to making their fiefdom a major player in the world of professional boxing. The grand finale of the super middleweight tournament of the 2018 World Boxing Super Series (Callum Smith vs. George Groves) was held in Saudi Arabia as was Amir Khan’s last fight against overmatched Billy Dibs. Those fights, in retrospect, were overtures to the big shebang on Dec. 7, the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.

Saudi Arabia’s next-door neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, is poised to join the party. Tomorrow’s show at the plush new Caesars Palace resort at Bluewaters, a man-made island overlooking Dubai, is the latest manifestation of the incursion of boxing into the Arab world.

This isn’t the first boxing show in Dubai. In 2008, former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer closed the curtain on his pro boxing career in Dubai, knocking out South Carolina no-hoper Shelby Gross in the opening round. That allowed Moorer to bookend his career with KOs in one, taking his leave on the same note on which he walked in the door. (You could probably win a few bar bets with this piece of trivia.)

When that odd event took place, there was only one registered professional boxer in all of the UAE.

That number is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to Ahmed Seddiqi, the driving force behind Dubai’s Round 10 Boxing Club. Founded in 2013, Round 10 is the first gym in Dubai built specifically for boxing.

Seddiqi (pictured on the left with his cousin and business partner Abdulla Khoory) subsequently became a regional manager for MTK Global, a powerful boxing management company with a murky past. His association with MTK Global, which is now headquartered in Dubai, gave him the resources to bring in fighters from overseas to spiff up his promotions. And the relationship between Top Rank and MTK Global gave Dubai boxing greater exposure via Top Rank’s affiliation with ESPN+.

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Seddiqi and MTK Global manufactured the inaugural boxing show at Caesars Palace Dubai this past Sept. 13. The main event pitted Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem against Conrado Tanamor of the Philippines. The super flyweights were penciled in to fight eight rounds.

Tomorrow’s show has a larger budget reflected in a more interesting main event. England’s Jack Catterall, ranked #1 by the WBO at 140 pounds, opposes Timo Schwarzkopf, the Kosovo-born German, in a match slated for 10.

The undefeated Catterall (24-0, 13 KOs) is on a collision course with WBC/WBO 140-pound title-holder Jose Carlos Ramirez. That bout will almost assuredly take place, notwithstanding the fact that the fans would much prefer to see Ramirez, the pride of Fresno, in a unification fight with Josh Taylor and that Ramirez’s next title defense will apparently come against Viktor Postol, a bout seemingly headed to China in February.

Catterall is handled by longtime British promoter Frank Warren who currently has a very cozy relationship with Ramirez’s promoter Bob Arum, an upshot of their shared financial interest in Tyson Fury. Being ranked #1 by the WBO carries sway with Arum who is a de facto member of the WBO Board of Directors. Arum’s current title-holders (Terence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenko, Jamel Herring, Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrette, and Ramirez) sport WBO colors.

For Dubai locals, the undercard holds more appeal than the main event. Vijender Singh and Muhammad Waseem, who returns for an encore after knocking out Conrado Tanamor in the opening round, have built-in fan bases in a country where immigrants outnumber natives by a 9/1 margin with ex-pats from India (27.5 percent) and Pakistan (12.5 percent) comprising 40 percent of the total immigrant population.

Vijender Singh, 34, is a three-time Olympian. In 2008, in the second of his three Olympic engagements, he won the bronze medal — the first Olympic medal of any kind for a boxer from India. He returned to his homeland a national hero, a man who would transcend boxing in the world’s second-most populous country, appearing in layouts in popular fashion magazines and on numerous TV shows.

Singh (11-0, 8 KOs) signed a multi-fight contract with Top Rank in November of last year. His opponent, Charles Adamu, is a 42-year-old Ghanaian with a 33-14 record.

Adamu, who went 12 rounds with Carl Froch back in 2004, has been stopped only twice but Singh, despite being relatively inactive, expects to win comfortably. “I don’t expect him to put up too much of a challenge because I have noticed he is slower than me…So I am relaxed, nothing to worry there,” he told a reporter for the Hindustan Times.

In common with Singh, Muhammad Waseem (9-1, 7 KOs) is the most well-known boxer in a country where cricket is the national sport. The Quetta, Pakistan, native, 32, previously fought for the IBF world flyweight title, losing a close but unanimous decision to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalene in Kuala Lumpur.

Waseem has something in common with headliner Jack Catterall. Both spent an extensive amount of time in Las Vegas at the Mayweather Gym. Catterall helped Floyd Mayweather Jr prepare for his bout with Manny Pacquiao. For a time, Muhammed Waseem’s head trainer was Jeff Mayweather.

Waseem had a wealth of international amateur experience, but has answered the bell for only 61 rounds as a pro. By contrast, his Mexican opponent, former WBC light flyweight champion Ganigan Lopez (36-10, 19 KOs), has answered the bell for 311 rounds. It’s an interesting match, notwithstanding the fact that Ganigan, 38, was knocked out just six weeks ago by a journeyman in Mexico City.

In common with the first boxing show at Caesars Palace Dubai, tomorrow’s event is called the Rotunda Rumble. The Rotunda is the free-standing entertainment venue at the resort, a structure, says management, inspired by the Roman Pantheon although for most folks the referent would be an Eskimo’s igloo. Nearby on the island, accessible to the mainland by a causeway, sits the world’s largest ferris wheel.

rotunda

Can boxing at Caesars Palace Dubai ever match the heyday of boxing at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? That’s very doubtful. In Las Vegas, the early Caesars Palace shows in the indoor tennis pavilion were designed to showcase the property. The fights were televised on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Management expected an increase in casino activity, but were surprised at the extent of the increase. Boxing, they quickly learned, was a magnet for high rollers, the impetus for raising the bar, begetting the outdoor extravaganzas.

Caesars Palace Dubai is a non-gaming hotel. There is no legal gambling in the Arab world. Moreover, the crowds at the fights in Dubai will never resemble the crowds at the big fights in Las Vegas where a secondary diversion is ogling the scantily-clad young women who arrive on the arms of their benefactors. Dubai is a country where an unmarried couple can be arrested for sharing a hotel room.

But let’s not sell Dubai short. You won’t find a pari-mutuel window at Dubai’s swanky Meydan Racecourse, but since 1996 the facility has been home to the world’s richest thoroughbred horse race. So, if the nation’s rulers become enamored of boxing, it’s a fair guess they will parrot neighboring Saudi Arabia and go all in.

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The Official TSS Wilder-Ortiz 2 Prediction Page

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Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) and Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) renew acquaintances on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They first met on March 3 of last year at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Wilder won by TKO in the 10th round but was himself nearly stopped in the seventh when Ortiz hammered him from pillar to post.

In our survey of TSS writers prior to their first meeting, Wilder was the consensus choice with several of the respondents correctly picking the exact round in which Ortiz succumbed. But Ortiz had his supporters. Those that favored the big Cuban southpaw pointed out that he was more technically sound — unlike Wilder he didn’t loop his punches – and that the Bronze Bomber hadn’t yet been tested by a foe as formidable as Luis Ortiz.

Heading into their first confrontation, there was a sentiment that the fight wasn’t on the level. Why would the Bronze Bomber take such a big risk when a unification fight with Anthony Joshua was percolating, a fight that figured to be the richest heavyweight fight in history provided that both remained undefeated? Those that bought into this theory expected the Wilder-Ortiz fight to end in an unsatisfactory manner, a routine occurrence when there is a gentlemen’s agreement.

There are none of those insinuations attending the rematch, but yet Ortiz money is very scarce.

In our surveys, it’s been our custom to list the panelists alphabetically. This time we are flipping the switch and listing them in reverse alphabetical order. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his acclaimed drawings at his web site fight posium. Here’s the link.

PREDICTIONS

Another anything can happen type matchup in a strong boxing season. There’s an equal chance the bout is either as wild as Foreman-Lyle or as lackluster as Tyson-Bonecrusher. I’m thinking Wilder by overwhelming TKO, the question is whether that happens in the first or second half of the fight. – PHIL WOOLEVER

*

This time Ortiz may be too slow, too fat, and too old to do what he did last time, but his ring smarts and vicious uppercuts still make him very dangerous. Wilder, meanwhile, knows that he can do major damage to the Cuban, so mentally he has that edge going in. I see a short period of feeling out and then the boom and attendant KO will be lowered on Ortiz either via a straight right or a windmill shot. Kong will then amble off into the sunset with that juicy early retirement check and a reputation—like Chuvalo, Quarry, and Shavers– for having been one of the best fighters to have never won a world championship. – TED SARES

*

Luis Ortiz may have whipped himself into a career best shape for this fight and understandably so, given what is at stake. But at 40, one wonders if he has the reflexes and the legs to keep up with Deontay Wilder for 12 rounds, assuming the bout even goes that far. In his last bout against the lowly Christian Hammer, Ortiz looked every bit his age, sluggish and noticeably fatigued. Hammer employed his awkward, impish style to throw Ortiz off his game and, most tellingly, was able to land the straight right with surprising frequency. That is not a reassuring sign for Ortiz. Deontay Wilder is no one’s idea of a textbook fighter, but that is also what makes him dangerous. As ungainly and coarse as his approach may be, Wilder is able to unload that right hand cannon without the slightest hitch. Ortiz may see it coming, but his legs won’t likely let him move out of the way in time. As competitive as the first fight was, something tells me Ortiz already missed his window of opportunity. Wilder TKO 7 – SEAN NAM

*

Heavyweight punchers are fascinating in re-matches. Think of Joe Louis against Billy Conn, Arturo Godoy or Bob Pastor. Think of Rocky Marciano against Joe Walcott. In all of these examples, we have a puncher who was stretched in a first contest who won by savage knockout in the return. When punchers learn how boxers move the blinds are often closed on the boxer in the rematch. There are, of course, opposed examples – Jack Dempsey against Gene Tunney is perhaps the classic. Wilder-Ortiz is of course not a reasonable foil for these contests because Ortiz is no box-mover. But the result here should tell a tale. Will Wilder prove that his devastating rematch knockout of Bermane Stiverne was no isolated incident? Is he a fighter who can apply maximum gains from a first fight? There is intrigue here in decoding the possibilities for a rematch with Tyson Fury in February. Wilder will win; if he can turn the trick quickly we’ll know a good deal more about him, I think. And that’s my pick: I’ll go for Deontay in the second round. – MATT McGRAIN

*

I like Wilder by stoppage somewhere around the sixth round. Ortiz is dangerous but only if he’s able to turn back the clock a bit and keep Wilder guessing as much as he did during their first fight last year. The main problem Ortiz is facing in the return fight is that Wilder seems to have gotten better since then while Ortiz looks like he’s regressed a bit. Those are some pretty big obstacles to overcome, especially when you consider that as solidly as Ortiz performed in their last meeting, he still got knocked down three times overall and stopped in the tenth round. – KELSEY McCARSON

*

One of the hallmarks of a great champion is that he is lethal in rematches. Joe Louis (Max Schmeling, Arturo Godoy, Buddy Baer, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott) is the classic example. Deontay Wilder has fought only one man twice, namely Bermane Stiverne who ended Wilder’s 32-fight knockout streak in the first meeting and was annihilated in the sequel. No, I’m certainly not suggesting that Wilder is in the same league with Joe Louis. The Bronze Bomber is rough around the edges and has no inside game, but I want no part of the 40-something Cuban who is likely to fade again if this fight goes beyond the eighth round. Wilder by KO. – ARNE LANG

*

Wilder by knockout. Deontay is better than he was before and Ortiz is older. – THOMAS HAUSER

*

Deontay Wilder will improve upon his performance in the first fight against Luis Ortiz by scoring an early knockout. I don’t suspect this rematch will be competitive. Ortiz gave Wilder his best the first time they fought and it wasn’t even close enough to being good enough and he got knocked out. It happens again, sooner this time, within three rounds. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

*

The Year of the Upset is drawing near an end, and the temptation is to keep leaning toward another shocker, or at least a semi-shocker. But at some point, reason must prevail, right? Andy Ruiz Jr. spoiled all that anticipation for a matchup of undefeated champions Wilder and Joshua, but are we now to expect a less-anticipated showdown of Ruiz and Ortiz? Another spoiler of an outcome that throws Wilder-Fury II out the window? “King Kong” is still formidable, but he’s got a lot of miles on his tires and has been knocked out by Wilder before. Make it twice. Wilder by KO around, say, the seventh round. – BERNARD FERNANDEZ

*

The first time Deontay Wilder faced Luis Ortiz in March 2018, Wilder prevailed via technical knockout in the 10th round. In the second go-around, Wilder will once again retain his World Boxing Council heavyweight title bcause of his superior punching power and relentless, piston-like jab. Ortiz is in tip-top shape, but will be stopped in the 11th round. – RICK ASSAD

*

Remember the first four rounds of Wilder-Ortiz I? They were tactical with very few punches being thrown by either man. Of course, the action did pick up but both men also now know they can be hurt by the other. As such, I see both being cautious throughout the contest and a very tactical listless twelve round fight with not much separating the two. With so many close, hard to score rounds, I ultimately see a split draw. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI

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