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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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Pico Rivera Summer Fights See Cruz, Vega and Flores Win

David A. Avila

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Pico-Rivera-Summer-Fights-See-Cruz-Vega-and-Flores Win

PICO RIVERA, Ca.-Along the San Gabriel River on a soft summer evening, Red Boxing Promotions brought another slew of hot local prospects to the forefront on Saturday.

Chino’s Daniel “Cuetito” Cruz (3-0) burst into the fight like an energy bomb and simply overwhelmed southpaw Phillip Bounds (0-4) with lightning combinations to win by unanimous decision. More than 700 fans saw the Red Boxing fight card.

Though it was only his third pro fight, the high intensity prizefighter Cruz (pictured on the left) exhibited a level of confidence that allowed him to attack with impunity for the first two rounds.

Cruz switched to southpaw and had even more success against the lefty Bounds. The speed of Cruz proved too much to overcome for Bounds who tried different approaches but couldn’t find an antidote for Cruz who won by unanimous decision 40-36 on all three cards in the super lightweight match.

“I’m excited, I wanted to put on a good show,” said Cruz, 20. “I’m coming for all of the big names. Cuetito is here.”

Andre Marquez (2-1) overwhelmed the much taller Alvin Brown (0-8) from Louisiana with a whirlwind style that ended in a knockout in the fourth and final round of their super featherweight match. A left hook caught Brown flush and Marquez followed up with four more blows, forcing Brown to take a knee at 1:41 of the fourth round. Marquez was ruled the winner by knockout by referee Sharon Sands.

“My plan was to work his body,” said Marquez. “It worked out perfectly.”

Welterweights Bradley Pena (0-0-1) and Ed Nunez (0-0-1) blasted each other for four rounds, with Pena starting fast and Nunez ending strong. No knockdowns were scored in the fight that started the night and ended in a draw.

Main Bouts

A light flyweight clash saw Axel Vega (13-2-1, 8 KOs) of Ensenada, Mexico knock out Tijuana’s Giovanni Noriega (2-5-2) with a triple left hook in the second round. Vega, 19, trained out of Compton for this fight.

Welterweight prospect Steven Rodriguez (8-0) suffered a cut on his forehead due to a clash of heads but still managed to out-perform Las Vegas fighter Ryan Picou (3-12-1) after four rounds. All three judges scored the fight 40-36 in favor of Rodriguez. But Picou gave a stubborn defense against the constant rushes of Rodriguez and was able to score on occasion.

Santa Barbara’s Angel Flores (6-0, 4 KOs) defeated Mexico’s Roberto Almazan (9-12) by unanimous decision after six rounds in a super lightweight contest. Flores knocked down Almazan twice in the last round to clinch the win and get the victory by a landslide.

In the audience was former world champion Arturo Frias of East Los Angeles who won the WBA world lightweight title in 1982 and fought numerous times at LA’s  fabled Olympic Auditorium. Also in attendance was current super flyweight contender Adelaida “La Cobra” Ruiz of Los Angeles who is scheduled to fight on October 12 at the same Pico Rivera Sports Arena. Red Boxing Promotions will be staging the event.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results from Russia: Kovalev KOs Yarde in the 11th

Arne K. Lang

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Fast-Results-from-Russia-Kovalev-KOs-Yarde-in-the-11th

The consensus of opinion regarding tonight’s fight at Chelyabinsk between Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde was that….well, there was no consensus, save that it would not bode well for Yarde if both fighters were still standing at the final bell. Fighting in his hometown, and with a monster payday reportedly looming against Canelo Alvarez should he win, “Krusher” was unlikely to get the worst of it if the fight went to the scorecards. But there would be no controversial decision. In a fight that started slowly and then shifted Yarde’s way, Kovalev stemmed the momentum, took charge in the 10th, and then closed the show in the next round with a scorching left hand that left Yarde flat on his back, gasping for air.

In handicapping the fight, Kovalev certainly had more check marks in the plus column. A former three belt champion and the reigning WBO 175-pound title-holder, Kovalev would be appearing in his 16th world title fight, his second with Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt, with whom he had great rapport. By contrast, Yarde, although undefeated (18-0), had answered the bell for only 51 rounds and had defeated only nine fighters with winning records. Moreover, the Englishman had fought only 12 amateur fights before turning pro.

However, at age 36, Kovalev was getting long in the tooth and in some of his more recent fights he had stamina issues. Moreover, there was a school of thought that Yarde was a beast. In his 30 fights, amateur and pro, he had scored 28 knockouts.

Yarde’s first good round was the seventh and he followed that up with a very strong eighth in which he hurt Kovalev and had the Krusher looking tired. But the assumption that he had paced himself brilliantly proved to be a mirage. As the bout moved into the home stretch, it was the younger man that was more fatigued.

Kovalev backed Yarde against the ropes and hurt him in the 10th. The Russian repeatedly had success with his hard left jab (shades of Larry Holmes) and it was a jab that ended it. Yarde was too exhausted to make it to his feet and was counted out.

Kovalev reportedly has already agreed to meet Canelo in November or December. Tonight he may have added an extra zero to his purse.

Kovalev vs. Canelo, likely at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, will be a blockbuster. Let the hype begin.

Co-Feature

The co-feature between knockout artists Aleksei Papin and Ilunga Makabu wasn’t expected to last the distance, but it went the full 12 and was a highly entertaining affair climaxed by a great 12th round. When the smoke cleared, Ilunga, who went to post a slight favorite, improved to 26-2 (24) by dint of winning a majority decision. It was the second straight win on Russian soil for the Congolese southpaw who fights out of Johannesburg. In his previous go, he stopped Dmitry Kudryashov in the fifth round at Ekaterinburg.

Papin was 11-0 going in with 10 knockouts but the 31-year-old Russian, a former kickboxing champion, was moving up in class against Makabu, a former world title challenger. In the 12th, Makabu scored a knockdown with a straight left after buzzing Papin with a left-right combination, but Papin wasn’t badly hurt and came back to rock him in the final seconds. The knockdown seemingly spelled the difference as two judges had it 115-113 with the third scoring it even (113-113).

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Tanaka and Hatanaka Stay Undefeated in Nagoya

Arne K. Lang

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Kiyoshi Hatanaka, the former world super bantamweight champion, now runs a boxing gym and promotes fights in his hometown of Nagoya. The top fighters in his gym are 24-year-old Kosei Tanaka, who has already won world titles in three weight classes, and Kento Hatanaka, Kyoshi’s 21-year-old son. Both were in action today and both were victorious, but not without anxious moments.

Tanaka, the reigning WBO 112-pound champion, improved to 14-0 (8 KOs) with a seventh-round TKO of Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1) in an action-packed bout. There were five knockdowns in all, four by Tanaka, before the referee waved it off with merely a second remaining in the seventh stanza.

Gonzalez took a knee after being hurt by a body punch in round three. But he returned the favor, knocking Tanaka down with a counterpunch in the next stanza, and seemingly had the fight in hand when he dominated the fifth. But Tanaka regained the momentum and scored three knockdowns in Round 7 to close the show.

Kosei Tanaka is overshadowed as a sports personality by countryman Naoya “Monster” Inoue, but is carving out quite a legacy. At age 19, in only his fifth pro fight, he defeated WBO minimumweight (105 pound) champion Julian Yadras of Mexico. He then gathered in titles at 108 and 112, accomplishing the hat trick in only his 12th pro fight, tying Vasiliy Lomachenko’s record.

With only a few pounds separating each of the lowest weight classes, Tanaka likely isn’t done jumping up in weight. There’s already talk of a showdown with 115-pound title-holder Kazuto Ioka. But Tanaka has indicated that he wants to expand his opportunities overseas, following the example of Inoue. There are still holes in his defense, but that makes for exciting fights and a match between him and someone like “Chocolatito” Gonzalez would be worth the price of admission.

Jonathan Gonzalez, a southpaw with a good amateur pedigree, had fought his previous three fights in Kissimmee, Florida. When in his native Puerto Rico, he trains in the same gym as former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez. We certainly haven’t seen the last of him.

The 10-round co-feature between super flyweights Kento Hatanaka and Jaysever Abcede was also a crowd pleaser that saw both combatants score knockdowns. Hatanaka improved to 10-0 but was extended the distance for the first time in his pro career. Abcede, a noted spoiler from the Philippines, saw his winning streak end at four and fell to 19-9. The scores were 95-93, 96-93, and 96-92.

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