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Odds and Ends from a Quick Visit to the Mayweather Boxing Club

Arne K. Lang

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Mayweather Gym

The Mayweather Boxing Club sits 2.7 miles from my house and I drop by often because you never know who you will run into there. On some days it’s a mini-United Nations, a reminder that boxing is a global sport. For some established boxers from overseas, a trip to Las Vegas wouldn’t be complete without a workout at Floyd Mayweather’s gym. It’s a rite of passage.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, I dropped by, not of my own volition but because I was summoned there with other members of the local fight media to interview Badou Jack who will take on unbeaten Marcus Browne in the chief undercard bout on the Pacquaio-Broner card on Jan. 19 at the MGM Grand Garden.

Shawn Porter was there, just killing time (he has his own gym in Las Vegas) as was Layla McCarter to work off the rust (which included sparring with a member of the opposite sex) in preparation for her fight next week with Argentina’s Yamila Reynoso.

Shooting the breeze with Shawn and Layla was a bonus. Both are extremely personable and always insightful.

Porter, who scored a mild upset over Danny Garcia in his last fight, will risk his WBC world welterweight title against Yordenis Ugas at the MGM Grand on March 9. The Cuban defector has won eight straight since returning to the ring after a 27-month hiatus.

Porter, 31, has never seen Ugas fight in the flesh, only on TV, but notes that Ugas’s style differs from that of other fighters who are products of Cuba’s vaunted amateur system. “He’s more of a power puncher,” says Porter. “Cubans like to use the entire ring.” The implication is that Porter, whose style is that of a swarmer, won’t have to hunt him down.

Shawn will be a substantial favorite. If he wins, as expected, he will have a lot of options going forward. A rematch with Keith Thurman seems like a natural. The undefeated Thurman, who has been sidelined for almost two years with assorted injuries, returns to the ring later this month for a bout with Josesito Lopez.

The Thurman-Porter fight, on June 25, 2016, aired on primetime on CBS, the first primetime fight on the “Eye” in 38 years. From an aesthetic standpoint, it was a rousing success. After 12 furious rounds, all three judges had it 115-113 for Thurman. There were scattered boos when the decision was announced.

Porter has called out Thurman in the past and there have been reports over the past three months that negotiations were underway for a rematch. Shawn says those reports were premature: “Thurman has showed that he doesn’t really want to fight me again. You can bet that he will have his fingers crossed that Ugas beats me.”

What about the winner of the forthcoming match between Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia?

Porter would take it, but allows that Mikey Garcia, who will be making his initial venture as a welterweight, has never been on his radar screen.

Most boxing insiders believe that Garcia has bitten off more than he can chew. In Errol Spence, he will be meeting a man who is bigger and stronger and has knocked out 21 of his 24 opponents including the last 11. But Porter believes that Garcia has a legitimate chance of springing the upset. He uses the word “textbook” in his analysis, using the word as an adjective to highlight Mikey Garcia’s high ring IQ.

Porter was in the audience for the Wilder-Fury fight and thought that the decision was fair. They will inevitably meet again and Porter favors Wilder in the sequel (no surprise as they share the same promoter). “But,” he says, “Deontay Wilder will need to make some adjustments. Big adjustments.”

When talking with Shawn Porter, the conversation invariably veers off to other sports. He was an all-conference running back and defensive back at Ohio’s Stow-Munroe Falls High School, the same school that spawned Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka, and is a big fan of the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns made great strides in 2018, finishing 7-8-1 after entering the season on a 17-game losing streak. And yet after the season the owner fired interim coach Gregg Williams who was 5-3 during his tenure. But Porter is okay with that. He expects the Browns to make another leap forward next year under the new man Freddie Kitchens, an offensive-minded coach who was promoted from within.

It figured that Porter, whose game is all about offense, would be partial toward an offensive-minded coach.

Layla

By and large, female fighters have short careers, in part because it’s a small universe and finding fresh opponents can be challenge. Layla McCarter is the exception. Now in her 21st year as a pro, the 39-year-old McCarter has 60 fights under her belt. “I never thought I would outlive my career,” she says.

McCarter’s 42-13-5 record is misleading. Six fights into her career, she was 1-4-1. She’s won 19 straight since losing to rugged Melissa Hernandez in 2007 during which she avenged that setback twice. TSS West Coast Bureau Chief David Avila, an authority on female boxing, calls her the most feared and most avoided fighter in her sport.

The longtime Las Vegas resident is a road warrior. Recent fights have taken her to New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico twice, and more recently Germany. Several Las Vegas fights fell out when NSAC head Bob Bennett wouldn’t approve her opponent. There’s nothing sketchy, however, about Yamila Reynoso. The Argentine, who is 11-5-3 with eight wins by stoppage, has competed in three bouts sanctioned for world titles and has never been stopped. Plus she’s only 22 years old.

If youth is to be served, McCarter’s winning streak will end. And Layla had some qualms about taking this fight because it fell into her lap on such short notice. She spent time out of town with family during the holidays, pushing aside her daily training regimen.

Turning down the fight — it’s scheduled for eight rounds — wasn’t an option. Throughout her career McCarter has been paid what the late sportswriter Jimmy Cannon would have called “moving around money.”

“Trickle Down Economics doesn’t work,” says McCarter, “and it especially doesn’t work with respect to female boxing.” She alleges that although more money has filtered into female boxing from TV, promoters haven’t increased purses commensurately. She says this matter-of-factly, without rancor.

The biggest money fight out there for McCarter would be a match with Cecilia Braekhus. Ms. Braekhus holds the IBF world female welterweight title, among other belts. Last we checked, Layla McCarter held the women’s IBF world welterweight title. Note the difference in the wording. The IBF has no qualms about splitting semantic hairs to gather in an extra sanctioning fee.

“Cecilia Braekhus has made it plain that she doesn’t want to fight me,” says McCarter. That leaves Katie Taylor among potential opponents against whom McCarter would draw a sizeable paycheck. Layla thinks that fight will happen in 2019.

Taylor, who resides in Connecticut but is a huge star in her native Ireland, turned pro in November of 2016 after a long run on the amateur scene. She’s a great talent, but at age 32, despite only 12 pro fights, she has a lot of mileage.

“I know that I don’t have a long window to get out of this sport with a nice retirement nest egg,” says McCarter. “I’d like to invest in real estate and I’m hoping this is the year I make enough money to do it. I don’t have any concrete plans for when I quit boxing, but I’m sure I’ll always be around the sport.”

Badou Jack

Badou Jack is known for having a laid-back attitude. That was on display on Thursday as he talked about his upcoming clash with former U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne, a 12-round bout for a minor WBC title. The likely prize for the winner is a date with newly minted WBC 175-pound champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

“I look at it as just another day on the job,” said Jack, who turned 35 in October. “I feel young and like I’m still improving.” (In my mind, “thirty-five is the new twenty-five,” interjected Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, seated on the ring apron.) “I’m battle-tested,” continued Jack who has held world titles in two weight classes. He noted that his opponent has never fought on such a large stage.

The father of two young children, Badou is not only a professional boxer, but an entrepreneur and philanthropist. This past summer he co-founded Ripper Nutrition, a company whose products are described as pre- and post-workout non-prescription nutritional supplements for fitness addicts. The fledgling company has reportedly signed a lucrative deal to distribute their products in Asia. The Badou Jack Foundation focuses on improving the lot of people in refugee camps in the Middle East and Africa, particularly orphans.

Ellerbe

Leonard Ellerbe (pictured) calls the Pacquiao-Broner bout a “must-win” fight for both combatants. The loser will undoubtedly suffer a big dip in marketability. Broner, in Ellerbe’s estimation, is in the best shape of his life.

Another Mayweather Promotions fighter, Gervonta Davis, will be in action on the second Saturday of February. Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) defends his version of the 130-pound title against Abner Mares at the LA-area venue formerly known as the Stub Hub Center.

When Ellerbe raves about Gervonta Davis, one gets the sense that he believes every word of it. “Gervonta has that ‘it’ factor,” he says. “He has a connection with the younger generation. I believe he will be the first little fighter to command ridiculous purses.”

Having spent the last decade riding the Floyd Mayweather rocket ship, Ellerbe is familiar with ridiculous purses.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

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Recalling Three Big Fights in Miami, the Site of Super Bowl LIV

Arne K. Lang

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The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs collide on Feb. 2 in Miami in Super Bowl LIV (54) in what will assuredly be the biggest betting event to ever play out on American soil. It’s the 10th Super Bowl for the South Florida metropolis which ties it with New Orleans as the most frequent destination for football’s premier attraction.

With its heavily Latin population, Miami would seem to be natural for big fights. However, this hasn’t been the case. Several great champions fought here, including Roberto Duran who twice defended his world lightweight title in these parts, but these weren’t big fights. In the case of Duran, his opponents were lightly regarded and the Panamanian legend was still three years away from his first encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard, a match that increased his name recognition a hundred-fold.

There were, however, three fights in Miami that summoned the interest of virtually all of America’s A-list sportswriters. Here they are in reverse chronological order.

Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (Nov. 12, 1982)

Alexis Arguello (72-5) was bidding to become boxing’s first four-division champion. In his way stood WBA junior welterweight title-holder Aaron Pryor (31-0, 29 KOs), a man now widely regarded as the best 140-pound boxer of all time.

Arguello, a Miami resident, having been exiled from his Nicaraguan homeland by the Sandanista rebel occupation, was a textbook boxer who defeated his opponents with surgical efficiency. Pryor was a typhoon. He mowed down his opponents with relentless pressure. It was a great style match-up and it didn’t disappoint. Contested before nearly 30,000 at Miami’s iconic Orange Bowl, Pryor vs. Arguello was a fight for the ages.

“There was power, finesse, poise, courage and a tremendous ebb and flow,” said Associated Press writer Ed Schuyler who dubbed it Manila in Miniature. In the ninth, 11th, and particularly the 13th rounds, Arguello hit Pryor with straight right hands that would have felled an ordinary fighter, but Pryor had an iron chin.

In the 14th, Pryor buckled Arguello’s knees with a straight right hand and then unloaded a furious combination as Arguello fell back against the ropes. He was out on feet when referee Stanley Cristodoulou intervened and he would lay prone on the canvas for several minutes before he could be removed to his dressing room.

Sonny Liston vs. Muhammad Ali (Feb. 25, 1964)

If you happen to find a poster for this fight with the name Muhammad Ali on it, don’t buy it. It’s bogus. Liston met up with Muhammad Ali in their second fight. In their first encounter, Liston opposed Cassius Clay.

Clay’s Louisville sponsors, after a brief flirtation with Archie Moore, settled on Angelo Dundee as his trainer. Angelo operated out of his brother Chris Dundee’s gym located at the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. The fighter who took the name Muhammad Ali trained here and kept a home in Miami for most of his first six years as a pro.

Clay/Ali was 22 years old and had only 19 fights under his belt when he was thrust against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Liston was riding a 28-fight winning streak after back-to-back first-round blowouts of Floyd Patterson.

In a UPI survey, 43 of 46 boxing writers picked Liston. “Clay has no more chance of stopping Liston than the old red barn had of impeding a tornado,” wrote Nat Fleischer, the publisher of The Ring magazine.

This would be the first of many famous fights for Muhammad Ali who emerged victorious when Liston quit after the sixth frame citing an injured shoulder. What is not widely known, however, is that the fight, which was shown on closed-circuit in the U.S. and Canada, was a bust at the gate. The 16,448-seat Convention Center was only half full.

The expectation that Liston would take the lippy kid out in a hurry depressed sales, as did sky-high ticket prices ($250 tops when $100 was the norm). And there may have been more subtle factors. “This may not be the best place for a fight between two Negroes,” wrote Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times, cognizant that people of color were not welcome as guests at the ritzy beachfront hotels along Collins Avenue.

Jack Sharkey vs. W. L. (Young) Stribling (Feb. 27, 1929)

A big fight, as I define it, doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. An important fight that produces an upset automatically becomes a bigger fight in hindsight. The Sharkey-Stribling fight of 1929 didn’t draw an immense crowd by Jack Dempsey standards, but the turnout, reportedly 35,000, far exceeded expectations and the fight – which preceded Miami’s first Orange Bowl football game by six years — really established Miami as a potentially good place for a big sporting event.

Promoted by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, the bout was originally headed to a dog racing track but it quickly became obvious that a larger venue was needed. A stadium was erected on a Miami Beach polo field, taking the name Flamingo Park (not to be confused with the thoroughbred track of the same name).

Slated for 10 rounds, the bout was conceived as one of two “eliminators” to find a successor to Gene Tunney who had retired. What gave the fight it’s primary allure, however, was the North-South angle. Sharkey, born Joseph Zukauskas, hailed from Boston. Stribling, born into a family that traveled the fair circuit with a variety act, was from Macon, Georgia.

The fight, which aired on the NBC radio network, was a dud, a drab affair won by Sharkey who had the best of it in virtually every round. Both went on to fight Max Schmeling for the world heavyweight title. Stribling, dubbed the “King of the Canebrakes” by Damon Runyon, lost by TKO in fight that was stopped late in the 15th round. Sharkey took the title from Schmeling on a split decision after losing their first meeting on a foul.

Young Stribling died in a motorcycle crash at age 28, by which time he had engaged in 251 documented bouts, the great majority of which were set-ups. Jack Sharkey lived to be 91.

—-

The strong earnings of the Sharkey-Stribling bout inevitably drew the Madison Square Garden Corporation back to Miami for an encore. On Feb. 27, 1930, Jack Sharkey opposed England’s “Fainting” Phil Scott. Four years later, on March 1, 1834, Primo Carnera defended his world heavyweight title here against former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran, the Philadelphia Phantom.

Both bouts were big money losers, as were the great majority of major fights during this period. Eight months after the Sharkey-Stribling cash cow, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. Few Americans could afford to vacation in Florida, let alone travel anywhere for a big fight.

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