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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 29: Uzcategui – Plant, Pacquiao – Broner and More

David A. Avila

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The boxing schedule is so full it’s overlapping and promoters are battling for space. Suddenly Sundays have become an open day for pugilists and will become a regular date for prizefighting.

First up is the showdown between IBF super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) and Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 13. Fox Sports 1 will televise.

Uzcategui had to battle both Andre Dirrell and the Maryland officials in their first fight which ended in an erroneous disqualification loss though he knocked out the Michigan southpaw in the eighth round. Immediately after the fight Dirrell’s corner attacked him for merely doing his job in the ring. Then the Maryland officials decide he should be disqualified for hitting after the bell. No person in the world could have stopped the punch that came as the bell rang. But the state of Maryland in all of its subpar wisdom disqualified poor Uzcategui. No matter, they fought again, this time in Brooklyn and with the same result: Uzcategui knocked out Dirrell in the eighth round.

“It should be a great fight with Plant, I will take the fight to him and I hope that he will be willing to engage and give the fans a spectacular fight,” said Uzcategui who trains in Mexico.

Plant is the next challenge and he’s been around the fight game for a bit. He’s originally from Tennessee but has been a regular on the Las Vegas fight scene since signing with Mayweather Promotions. He’s a slick customer with a hard edge to him and has been itching to get a shot like this.

“I think about this moment literally all day every day,” said Plant, 26, to the Nashville Post newspaper.

It’s yet another match up of Uzcategui’s Mexican style fighting versus the shoulder roll defense that Plant uses in his prize fights.

The fight card features 10 bouts including undefeated Brandon Figueroa (17-0) against Mexico’s Moises Flores (25-1) in a featherweight showdown. It also showcases the return of Cuban great Guillermo Rigondeaux who has not fought since facing Vasyl Lomachenko in December 2017.

Rigondeaux (17-1) will be in a warm up fight against Giovanni Delgado (16-8) set for eight rounds.

The doors open at 2 p.m. PT

Media Day at the Wild Card Gym

A couple of hundred reporters gathered at the Wild Card Boxing gym to wait for Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner to show on Wednesday.

Pacquiao showed and Broner changed plans.

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) and Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) are set to meet on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Showtime pay-per-view will televise the WBA welterweight title showdown.

The last time we saw Pacman in action was when he blitzed Lucas Matthysse to rip the WBA title away from the Argentine strongman. It was barely a contest as the speedy Filipino star shredded him into retirement.

In that fight Pacquiao entered the boxing ring minus his long-time trainer and confidante Freddie Roach. People seemed more concerned with that than the actual fight.

Roach didn’t know what to tell friends, fans and reporters. He was basically kept out of the loop with nary a phone call. But they’re together again.

“Manny wants Buboy to become more known as a trainer,” said Roach about why Buboy was in Pacquiao’s corner during the fight with Matthysse last July in Kuala Lumpur.

Roach let it be known there is no animosity whatsoever between him and Pacquiao and the past is the past.

Speaking of the past, while at a Filipino Day at an LA Clippers basketball game on Tuesday night, Pacquiao ran into Floyd Mayweather who regularly attends NBA games for the Clippers and Lakers. Both shook hands, smiled but it led to a firestorm of questions on whether they will meet again for a rematch.

For both Roach and Pacquiao that’s a moot point.

“First we have Broner,” said Pacquiao.

Broner is the first target.

The four division world champion Broner changed his media day to another location 20 miles away in Van Nuys at a later time. But he’s ready to face an icon as he said in his own words.

“His last fight he did stop Matthysse, so I’m pretty sure he still has power. But I’m going to be ready, I’m going to be ready for whatever he brings to the table. We’re in shape to get it done, I can tell you that,” said Broner. “This win makes me an icon. It makes me what I always wanted to be, and what everybody always thought I would be. A win here and I’m a legend overnight.”

Devin Haney on Showtime

Las Vegas lightweight Devin Haney (20-0, 13 KOs) defends the IBF North American title against Xolisani Ndongeni (25-0, 13 KOs) on Friday Jan. 11, at Shreveport, Louisiana. Showtime will televise.

Haney just turned 20 and in his last bout handily defeated Mexican veteran Juan Carlos Burgos by unanimous decision. It wasn’t even close.

With speed to spare and sound boxing technique Haney looks like the real deal. Though he rarely took a punch, the only thing we don’t know is if Haney can take a blow from a solid puncher.

South Africa’s Ndongeni has fought once in the US and has a lot of speed too. It’s a good matchup for both fighters. If Haney can pass the South African then he might be ready for better foes like maybe an Anthony Crolla or Robert Easter Jr.

“After this fight I want the whole world to know I’m no longer a prospect. I’m a contender,” said Haney.

Villa

On the same Showtime card on Friday, California’s Ruben Villa (14-0, 5 KOs) has his first dangerous challenge in facing undefeated Ruben Cervera (10-0, 9 KOs) of Colombia in an eight round featherweight clash.

Villa trains in Southern California with Danny Zamora and is co-promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions and Banner Promotions.

“Being able to fight on TV is going to finally put me on the map,” said Villa, a 21-year old southpaw. “After Friday night, people are going to be talking about me. They are going to see what I’m made of.”

New Las Vegas Card Added

Layla McCarter, the pride of Las Vegas and considered the best female fighter pound for pound, returns on Thursday, Jan. 17, at the MGM Grand against former super lightweight world title challenger Yamila Reynoso.

McCarter (42-13-5, 11 KOs) has not lost a fight in more than 11 years and has become the most feared and avoided fighter in the world. Reynoso (11-5-3, 8 KOs) is a big hitting former champion from Argentina who recently went the distance with power punching Amanda Serrano for 10 rounds. She has never been stopped.

Several other Las Vegas fighters are included on the boxing card including Cameron Krael.

Complimentary tickets are available for fans.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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NEWS FLASH: Leon Spinks Hospitalized; Reportedly Fighting for His Life

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The gossip site TMZ is reporting that Leon Spinks is hospitalized in Las Vegas and is fighting for his life. TMZ acquired this information from Spinks’ wife Brenda Glur Spinks after spying her social media post. “It’s been a tough year for us,” she wrote. “Leon has endured a lot of medical problems. I’m reaching to ask that you pray for my Beautiful Husband Leon. So that he may overcome the obstacles that crossed his path.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Leon’s son Leon Spinks III who posted this message on his facebook page: “My Dad isn’t doing so good now and his wife Brenda Glur Spinks and I ask that u pray that he weather’s this storm. My dad is all I have left and I really appreciate it if yall let God know that he is not in this battle alone.”

A gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, Spinks, 66, is best remembered for upsetting Muhammad Ali in 1978 to win the world heavyweight title. He lost the title back to Ali in his next fight.

This is a developing story. As new details emerge, we will share them with you.

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Terence Crawford puts his undefeated record and his WBO welterweight title on the line Saturday when he opposes Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden on ESPN. Kavaliauskas is no slouch. The two-time Olympian for Lithuania is also undefeated (21-0-1, 17 KOs), but Crawford is so highly regarded that he is a massive favorite.

If one were arranging the bouts according to the degree of intrigue, using the odds as the barometer, Crawford vs Kavaliauskas wouldn’t sit atop the marquee. That honor would go the IBF lightweight title fight between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez. Moreover, it’s a fair guess that if this fight were to fall out (perish the thought) it would result in more refunds than if Crawford were a late scratch.

The challenger, Lopez, is favored, currently in the vicinity of 9/4, but this is a price that usually translates into a very competitive fight and the stakes are high. The winner will almost assuredly advance to a rich engagement with Vasiliy Lomachenko who holds the other three meaningful 135-pound title belts

Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) won the IBF lightweight title – it was conveniently vacant – with a second-round stoppage of Russia’s Isa Chaniev and stopped Raymundo Beltran in eight rounds in his first title defense. Commey dominated both fights, scoring seven knockdowns in all, but the Russian was a sad excuse for a world title challenger and Beltran, although a solid pro, was past his prime at age 38.

Commey’s two losses came in back-to-back fights in 2016 and both were by split decision. He lost to Robert Easter Jr in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then, eight weeks later, was upended by Denis Shafikov before a tiny crowd at an actual boxing gym in Moscow.

There was nothing controversial about those losses, but in both instances Commey was in hostile territory. Toledo’s Easter brought a large delegation of fans to Reading and Shafikov was fighting on his home turf. The crowd on Saturday will almost assuredly be skewed against Commey again, but it won’t be as pronounced. Commey, born and raised in Ghana, has a home in the Bronx. Lopez was born in Brooklyn, a bond that his Brooklyn-born promoter Bob Arum likes to emphasize, but grew up in Davie, Florida.

Teofimo

At age 22, Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) is almost 10 years younger than Richard Commey. A year ago, at this very venue, he scored his most memorable triumph, a highlight-reel, 44-second, one-punch knockout of Mason Menard that was named the TSS Knockout of the Year. He has won three fights in the interim, most recently a 12-round decision over Masayoshi Nakatani.

Teofimo won comfortably on the scorecards, but his performance left much to be desired. The Japanese was a tall, rangy fighter. In Richard Commey, he is meeting a man of similar height. Both are listed at five-foot-eight.

Lopez has developed a large following in a short time and his in-ring heroics are only part of the story. He’s quite the showman. After each win he adds an exclamation point with a celebratory back-flip and outside the ring his brash persona has enhanced his notoriety.

When a fighter has a common surname, it helps to have a unique first name. The reality is that Lopez would not have built his brand as fast if his first name had been, say, Miguel, or Carlos, or Juan. And he had the foresight to supplement his unique first name with a unique nickname: The Takeover.

The nickname, says Lopez, doesn’t just refer to taking over a specific weight division (he’ll move up to 140 before the year 2020 is over) but, rather, taking over the whole sport in the sense of becoming boxing’s biggest pay-per-view attraction. Early into his pro career, he began calling out Lomachenko.

Teofimo’s biggest cheerleader is his Honduras-born father and trainer of the same name and the elder Lopez has even more hubris than his son. “My son is too strong for Lomachenko….he would walk through anything that Lomechenko throws at him,” Teofimo Sr. told veteran boxing writer Bill Tibbs prior to his son’s match with Mason Menard. “Liston, he has God-given gifts and he’s simply the best out there. (My son) has the best parts of Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, GGG, Floyd, Andre Ward, all the best of them in him.”

The Lopez that defeated Nakatani would not have defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko. And there are those that think he won’t beat Richard Commey unless he brings his “A’ game. It’s an interesting fight.

—–

The main fights on Saturday’s Top Rank boxing card will air on ESPN’s flagship station. The boxing card, which opens with the rematch between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin, follows the show in which the Heisman Trophy is presented to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Heisman telecast will begin at 8 pm EST.

The same situation prevailed last year when Top Rank’s Madison Square Garden card was headlined by the fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza. To the consternation of diehard boxing fans, the Heisman presentation show ran late. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.

Photo credit: Stacy Verbeek

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Will U.S. Olympic Boxers Fare Better in Tokyo Thanks to Yesterday’s Ruling?

Arne K. Lang

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The road to the medal round for U.S. boxers at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics just got easier. But maybe not.

“Russia Banned From The Tokyo Olympics” screamed yesterday’s headline, but reading between the lines there’s more to the story. A more carefully worded headline would have read “Russian Olympic Athletes in Limbo.”

We have been down this road before. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, recommended banning Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The agency accused Russian authorities of a massive cover-up that erased hundreds of positive test samples.

WADA then did something of an about-face and decided to evaluate each case individually. Ultimately, 278 Russian athletes were approved to compete in Rio; 111 were denied. All 11 Russian boxers who survived the various qualifying events made the cut.

This new ban (which will be appealed) also emanates from WADA which alleges that the Russian authorities continued the massive cover-up using the “disappearance methodology.” But, if upheld, it’s a more severe penalty in that it bans Russia from major international sporting events for the next four years. That would include the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world by far. The next edition of the World Cup is slated for 2022 in Qatar.

“There’s still…the possibility of clean athletes to compete in the Games,” Svetlana Romashina, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, told Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth of The Guardian. “I believe the punishment of clean athletes to be unacceptable,” continued Romashina. “We have done nothing wrong.”

The reality, as it now stands, is that Russian boxers and other Russian athletes, if deemed clean, will be able to compete in Tokyo, just not under the Russian banner. As is common in some wrestling tournaments, their affiliation will be “unattached.” And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a big fan of amateur boxing and other combat sports, won’t be there. The ban prohibits Russian officials from attending major international sporting events if their team has been expelled.

—–

Historically, the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team has excelled in the Summer Games. But that’s yesterday’s news. In the last three Olympics, U.S. male boxers won only three medals, one silver and two bronze. By contrast, during the same period, Russian boxers walked off with 10 medals including three gold.

The prognosis for the 2020 U.S. team looked dim once again when the U.S. contingent earned only one medal (a silver by lightweight Keyshawn Davis) at the recent AIBA men’s World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The host team garnered four medals, including three gold. If one conjoined the Russian squad with former Soviet Union satellites Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the count grows to seven gold medals (of a possible eight) and 15 medals overall.

Russia’s gold medalists at the World Championships were welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy (pictured), middleweight Gleb Bakshi, and heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. Zamkovoy and the heavyweight (who will badly need a new name if he ever turns pro) are outstanding amateurs and may have been favored to win their divisions in Tokyo.

Zamkovoy, 32, represented Russia in the 2012 and 2016 Games and medaled in 2012 where he defeated Errol Spence Jr en route to the semi-finals. The heavyweight (a cruiserweight by pro standards) is an ever-improving, 22-year-old, six-foot-four southpaw who has already amassed an amateur record of 60-5.

The competition for the U.S. team at overseas tournaments has gotten a lot tougher in the last two decades as several Eastern European countries have become more like Cuba, investing state resources into their amateur boxing programs with an eye to building a powerhouse. Perhaps the WADA edict will aid the U.S. boxing team in shaking the doldrums in 2020, but that assumption seems premature.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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