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

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Christian Mbilli has the Wow Factor: Dismisses Mark Heffron in 40 Seconds

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A hockey Arena in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, roughly 100 miles south of Montreal, hosted tonight’s card on ESPN+, a co-promotion of Camille Estephan’s Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Arum wasn’t there; he was in Leeds, England, but the outcome would have mitigated his aggravation at seeing his fighter Josh Taylor fall short earlier in the day.

Super middleweight Christian Mbilli, of whom Arum owns a piece, needed only 40 seconds to conquer British import Mark Heffron who, on paper, was a very credible opponent. Mbilli backed Heffron into the ropes and collapsed him with a left hook that landed under his rib cage. Heffron, 30-3-1 heading in with 24 KOs, went down on all fours and was counted out. The contest was over almost before it began.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO. With the victory, he advanced his record to 27-0 (23 KOs). His next fight will reportedly come in August with rugged but battle-blistered Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the opposite corner. Mbilli has been chasing a fight with Canelo Alvarez, but has scant chance of landing it. At this juncture of his career, the red-headed Mexican undoubtedly wants less daunting assignments.

Co-Feature

Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, rebounded from his poor performance against Agit Kabayel with a second-round stoppage of sacrificial lamb Milan Rovcanin. Makhmudov (19-1, 18 KOs) knocked Rovcanin to the canvas with an overhand right in the opening round. The punch knocked Rovcanin sideways, his head resting on the ring apron. To Rovcanin’s credit, he beat the count and launched a futile offensive after he arose. A similar punch ended the brief bout at the 2:32 mark of the next frame.

Makhmudov is certainly heavy-handed, but he moves at a glacial pace and would be up-against-it against a world-class opponent with faster hands and better footwork. Rovcanin, who had  been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia, declined to 27-4.

Other Bouts of Note

In a bout contested at the catch-weight of 178 pounds, Montreal-based Mehmet Unal, a 31-year-old former Olympian for Turkey, scored the best win of his career with a fourth-round stoppage of 34-year-old Laredo, Texas campaigner Rodolfo Gomez.

Gomez, routinely matched tough and better than his record (14-7-3 heading in), protested loudly when the referee waived it off, but his corner stood poised to throw in the towel. He hadn’t previously been stopped, let alone knocked off his feet. Unal improved to 10-0 (8 KOs).

Super middleweight Mereno Fendero, a 24-year old French Army veteran, improved to 6-0 (4) with a six-round decision over 38-year-old Argentine journeyman Rolando Mansilla (19-15-1). Fendero won every round on all three cards including a 10-8 round on one of the cards although there were no knockdowns. Although badly out-classed, the teak-tough Mansilla, a glutton for punishment, earned his pay.

Local prospect Alexandre Gaumont, a middleweight, improved to 11-0 (7) with an unpopular 8-round split decision over Argentina’s Santiago Fernandez (8-1-1). Two of the judges gave Gaumont six rounds, ridiculed as home town bias, with the other awarding five rounds to the Argentine who received a loud ovation as he left the ring.

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Sweet Revenge for the ‘Cat’: Catterall Outpoints Taylor in a Fan-Friendly Fight

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Former unified junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall renewed acquaintances tonight in a sold-out arena in Leeds, England. Their first bout 27 months ago in Glasgow ended in favor of Taylor, a controversial winner by split decision as most felt that Catterall was robbed. Tonight, the Cat, as he is nicknamed, turned the tables, winning a unanimous decision in a 12-round non-title fight that was more entertaining than their first encounter.

Catterall, who closed a short favorite, came out fast and was plainly ahead at the mid-point of the fight. But Taylor closed the gap and on unofficial scorecards it was an even fight after 10 frames. Then, in the 11th, shortly after the referee halted the action to warn the fighters about something, Catterall turned the tide back in his favor, stunning Taylor with a looping left hand coming out of the break. Seconds later, both fighters went down in a heap in front of a corner post.

Both fighters were marked-up at the finish, more so Taylor who ended the fight with his right eye swollen and nearly closed shut.

A draw would not have been unreasonable, but two of the judges gave Jack Catterall nine rounds (117-111) and the other had it 7-4-1 (116-113).

In his post-fight interview, Eddie Hearn, Catterall’s promoter, conceded that the scores were too wide but opined that the right guy won. Few would disagree, but co-promoter Bob Arum had a different take. “Those scores were a disgrace,” he said, taking the microphone. “I feel sorry for Josh. I thought he won the fight….”

In avenging his lone defeat, Catterall improved to 29-1 (13). It was second straight loss for Taylor (19-2) who had been inactive since losing his unified title to Teofimo Lopez.

A rubber match would be welcome.

Semi Wind-up

In the chief supporting bout, Cheavon Clarke improved to 9-0 (7 KOs) with an eighth-round stoppage of Ellis Zorro. Clarke, who represented both his native Jamaica and England in international amateur competitions, won the BBBoC British cruiserweight title.

This fight didn’t provide a lot of action. The humdrum ended in the waning seconds of round eight when Clarke nailed Zorro with a chopping right hand. He seized the moment, swarming after Zorro, and chopped him down with a series of punches. None appeared to land very cleanly, but Zorro was counted out with a mere second remaining in the round. It was his second straight defeat after opening his career with 17-0. In his previous bout, Zorro was blasted out in the opening round by Jai Opetaia.

Clarke, 33, is eyeing the winner of the forthcoming fight in London between WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe.

Also

Welterweight Paddy Donovan, a Traveler from Limerick, Ireland, advanced to 14-0 (11 KOs) with a ninth-round stoppage of former British lightweight champion Lewis Ritson (25-4).

Donovan, trained by former middleweight titlist Andy Lee, fought off his back foot for the first seven rounds as Ritson forced the pace. He changed tactics in round eight which was a strong round for him and then closed the show in the ninth. A series of punches had Ritson plainly hurt and the referee stepped in after 32 seconds and waved it off. It was Donovan’s fifth straight win inside the distance.

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Okolie Demolishes Rozanski to Jump-Start a Busy Boxing Weekend

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The weekend boxing activity got underway today in Rzesnow. Poland where, to the dismay of the locals, Lukasz Rozanski, was blown away in the opening round by UK invader Lawrence Okolie. Heading in, the Pole was 15-0 with 14 knockouts, was coming off back-to-back first-round stoppages, and had never fought beyond the fourth round. And he was a world champion of sorts, making the first defense of his WBC bridgerweight title.

Okolie (20-1, 15 KOs) knocked him down hard on the seat of his pants with a straight right hand, the first of three knockdowns. The final knockdown was the result of a combination that knocked Rozanski to his knees with his head landing outside the ropes. There were only seconds to go in the round, but when Rozanski arose on unsteady legs, the referee properly waived it off. At age 38, his first career loss may also mark the end of his career.

A 2016 Olympian co-managed by Anthony Joshua, Okolie (pictured) was making his first start with trainer Joe Gallagher after previously working under Shane McGuigan and SugarHill Steward and his first start since losing his WBO cruiserweight title to Chris Billam-Smith.  At six-foot-five and with an 82-inch reach, the 31-year-old Londoner is a very interesting specimen. His stated goal when he turned pro was to unify the cruiserweight division before moving up to heavyweight.

Had Rozanski won, there was talk of him fighting Badou Jack. The guess is this may be Okolie’s first and last fight at bridgerweight (under 225), a division recognized only by the WBC which invented it. (The WBA is poised to follow its lead. The WBA board of directors recently approved the addition of a super cruiserweight weight class.)

Saturday

The action tomorrow in regard to major fights begins at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen where the Fighting Dane, Dina Thorslund (21-0, 9 KOs), defends her WBC/WBO female world bantamweight title against Turkey’s Seren Cetin (11-0, 7 KOs). Thorslund, whose name appears on many pound-for-pound lists, is appearing in her 11th world title fight.

The marquee event takes place in the late afternoon (USA time) in Leeds, England, where Josh Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) clashes with Jack Catterall (28-1, 13 KOs) in an eagerly-anticipated and twice-delayed rematch. Catterall will be seeking to avenge his lone defeat.

Their first encounter took place in February 2022 on Taylor’s turf in Glasgow, Scotland. Taylor won a split decision. To say that it was controversial would be putting it mildly. One pundit called it the biggest robbery in British boxing history. At stake was Taylor’s unified welterweight title which he would lose in his next outing when he was upset by Teofimo Lopez.

Catterall has fought twice since that night in Glasgow, most recently scoring a 12-round decision over globetrotter Jorge Linares who announced his retirement after the match. This is Taylor’s first ring outing since the Teofimo fight in New York. He and Catterall have engaged in a nasty war of words since their first encounter and the match – televised live exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ and around the world on DAZN — is an advance sellout. Check local listings for start times.

There’s been steady money on Catterall today and, if the odds hold up, Josh Taylor will assume the role of an underdog for the first time in his career.

Lastly

We’re back to ESPN+ again for a show in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, a co-promotion between Eye of the Tiger and Top Rank.

In the featured bout, Christian Mbilli (26-0, 22 KOs) meets England’s Mark Heffron (30-3-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight contest.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO.

In the co-feature, heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, returns to the ring looking to rebuild a reputation that was badly tarnished last December when he was manhandled by underdog Agit Kabayel in Saudi Arabia. Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) opposes no-hoper Milan Rovcanin (27-3, 18 KOs) who has been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia. The TV portion of this Saturday Night card has a scheduled starting time of 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

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