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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 33: After the Storm Comes the Deluge of Fights

David A. Avila

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After days of rainfall pummeling the coasts of California now it’s boxing’s turn to take a few swings of its own.

In three days five fully loaded fight cards take place mostly in Southern California with the Sunday punch erupting in Northern California. Those who love boxing may never be the same again with Gervonta Davis, Alberto Machado and Jose Carlos Ramirez coming through the pike.

From small promotion powerhouses like Thompson Boxing Promotions to older established mega monster outfits like Top Rank, fans in the Golden State will be able to watch world title fights, classic clashes and good old fashion club fights from Friday to Sunday on television, streaming or in person.

Let’s begin the tour.

Thompson Boxing

On Friday, Feb. 8, Thompson Boxing brings its usual impressive array of prospects to the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. The boxing company that introduced Timothy Bradley, Josesito Lopez, current world champion Danny Roman and many others will be showcasing several new prospects.

Over the years matchmaker Alex Camponovo has shown a keen eye in picking prospects from the pile. Who will emerge as its next star?

Bantamweights clash in the main event with Mario Hernandez (8-0-1, 3 KOs) facing Luis Saavedra (7-6, 3 KOs) in an eight round contest. Several other solid matchups are planned. Doors open at 7 p.m. and action starts at 8 p.m. For tickets and information call (714) 935-0900. The fight card can also be seen via stream on Thompson Boxing Promotions page on Facebook. Commentating for the first time will be Doug Fischer who replaces Steve Kim. Remaining as a lead commentator is Beto Duran.

Golden Boy

On Saturday Feb. 9, Golden Boy Promotions presents possibly its best boxing card in years though many may not see it that way. Top to bottom the lineup led by WBA super featherweight titlist Alberto “Explosivo” Machado (21-0, 17 KOs) defending against Andrew Cancio (19-4-2, 14 KOs) promises to be riveting at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.

And it should be. All of the cards will be streamed by DAZN and it’s in a battle for boxing relevancy with Showtime, Fox and ESPN. Nothing less than excellence will ensure its survival.

Facing Machado (pictured on the left) will be Blythe, California’ s Cancio who’s known for giving any aspiring superstar a run for their money. Many a title challenger has been toppled by Cancio who is like an NFL safety making a shoestring tackle on a running back heading for daylight. If you don’t have the goods Cancio will let you know.

“I know he hits hard but he’s been put down too,” said Cancio. “We’re going to see what he can take because after I feel him out we will see what happens. I’ve fought guys that hit hard before like Rene Alvarado and Dardan (Zenunaj).”

It was the fight against Zenunaj that caught the attention of fans as the two super featherweights put on a performance that many claim was the true “Fight of the Year.” It caught many by surprise at the ferocity both fighters showed that summer night last August.

Zenunaj is another fighter that should be brought back but that’s a topic for another time. Hopefully we see Zenunaj again.

On Saturday, Cancio expects Puerto Rico’s Machado to come out blasting.

“He likes to start fast and see if you can take it,” said Cancio. “I’m ready and thankful for this chance at a title.”

Another world title fight matches WBC super bantamweight Rey Vargas (32-0, 22 KOs) a tall, long and angular fighter from Mexico City who has made three world title defenses since snatching it away from Britain’s Gavin McDonnell in England two years ago.

Venezuela’s Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17 KOs) gets his crack at Vargas and has that hunger you can’t teach.

“He’s a really good kid and works hard,” said trainer James Gogue who works with Manzanilla in Colombia. “There are a lot of hungry fighters in Colombia who want their chance.”

Manzanilla is making his first visit to the USA and says his family and friends in Colombia and Venezuela are ecstatic about his opportunity.

“I know Vargas is a very good champion and I’m just happy for this opportunity to fight him,” said Manzanilla who is almost as tall as Vargas. “I’m very prepared for this fight.”

A third marquee fight features featherweight title contender Jojo Diaz (27-1, 14 KOs) facing local legend Charles Huerta (20-5, 12 KOs) in a fight set at 130 pounds instead of 126. Could the difference in weight make a difference?

Huerta, now 32, has a vast amount of experience that he can unfurl on any fighter regardless of talent. One major question mark is rust. He suffered an Achilles Heel injury and was inactive for more than a year. But he’s one of the most intelligent fighters in boxing crazy Southern California and can topple anybody on any day.

 

“We’ve sparred before,” said Huerta, who lives in the Los Angeles area. “We know each other very well. I like these kind of fights that mean something.”

Back in the 1980s this type of fight between Southern California hotshots would have sold out the Olympic Auditorium. Expect fans of both fighters to travel 100 miles to see this fight at Fantasy Springs Casino.

Huerta and Diaz are not the only Southern California rival fight. A pair of lightweights are set to clash with San Diego’s undefeated Genaro Gamez (8-0) meeting L.A.’s Ivan Delgado (13-1-2) in an eight round contest. I guarantee this fight will light it up.

Five other bouts are scheduled including Armenian warriors Ferdinand Kerobyan and Azat Hovhannisyan in separate bouts. Plus, Durango’s Oscar Duarte and Coachella’s Rommel Caballero in two other separate bouts. Middleweight contender Tureano Johnson is also scheduled to fight on the ultra-stacked boxing card.

It’s absolutely the best boxing card Golden Boy has staged in years from top to bottom. If you can’t make it to Indio you can view the boxing card via DAZN.com.

PBC

WBA super featherweight southpaw slugger Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) defends his world title against last-minute replacement Hugo Ruiz (39-4, 33 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 9, at the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly StubHub Center) in Carson, Calif.

Davis was slated to face Abner Mares in a top notch matchup but an eye injury forced a cancellation. Now, Ruiz, fought last month in Las Vegas and won by decision against Alberto Guevara, is the replacement opponent for the mighty Davis. It’s just one of those quirks of fate that happens in boxing.

“All I know is that he is fast, he has some speed. It looked like he has some power and good timing,” said Davis about Ruiz. “I actually think that this is not a walk in the park, like people think.”

Ruiz knows what to expect.

“I think this is going to be an explosive fight. We’re both known for our knockouts and this is a fight that can end at any moment. It’s going to be by a knockout,” said Ruiz of Mexico.

Another fighter to watch is Mario Barrios.

The undefeated Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) meets Mexico’s Ricardo Zamora (19-2, 12 KOs) in a 10 round super lightweight clash. It’s another step-up fight for the 23-year-old from San Antonio, Texas. Last summer, Barrios clipped Jose Roman in a similar battle for legitimacy as a contender.

“This is going to be one of my toughest fights but I put in all the hard work in camp and I’m going into Saturday night with no doubts,” said Barrios who trained with Virgil Hunter in the Oakland, Calif. area for this fight. “I was getting great work, sparring with Devin Haney. We got about two or three weeks of great work just going at it. That was tremendous experience just keeping up with him. He’s a very explosive fighter and ahead of the curve for his age. I finished off camp sparring with Amir Khan, who is getting ready for his Terrence Crawford fight.”

Showtime will televise the main card and the undercard fights can be seen on the Showtime page on YouTube.com

Roy Englebrecht Events

Super bantamweights Humberto Rubalcava (9-0) and Jonathan Torres (8-6-1) clash in the main event on Saturday Feb. 9, at Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. The fight card is promoted by Englebrecht Events and features several local fighters.

Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131.

Top Rank

Because of the Saturday afternoon crush of fights Top Rank pushed its boxing card to Sunday afternoon where the sports calendar is free especially now with NFL football finished.

“That’s the beauty of working with ESPN,” said Bob Arum of Top Rank. “We can have a Sunday show and not have to deal with other competition.”

WBC super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez (23-0, 16 KOs) defends against Jose Zepeda (30-1, 25 KOs) in the main event at Save Mart Arena in Fresno, Calif. ESPN will televise.

Ramirez, 26, is making his second defense of the world title since winning it nearly a year ago in March 2018 against Amir Imam. His last fight was a firefight against Antonio Orozco that ended in a unanimous decision win. But for 12 rounds the two fired relentlessly nonstop. It was a riveting performance and considered one of the top fights of 2018.

“Yes it was a pretty good fight for the fans and I give all respect to Antonio Orozco, but this is what I love to do,” said Ramirez while in L.A. recently. “I want to unify the world titles and this is the first step toward doing that.”

Ramirez also has dedicated his fight toward the war against cancer and will be donating part of his boxing wardrobe for an auction. The proceeds will go toward the local Community Cancer outreach.

Zepeda, 29, is a southpaw knockout puncher who has been around the Southern California fight scene for a while. He always presents a danger.

“I can’t underestimate Zepeda especially because he’s a lefty,” said Ramirez who trains with Robert Garcia in Riverside, Calif.

Also on the fight card is former champion Ray Beltran (35-8-1) who meets Japan’s Hiroki Okada (19-0) in a super lightweight contest in the semi-main event.

“It’s more of a challenge at 140,” said Beltran the former lightweight world titlist at 135 pound lightweight division. “It’s about that time in my life for another challenge.”

Saul Rodriguez, the super featherweight prospect out of Riverside, has his second fight under the Top Rank banner since returning. His next foe is a Brazilian knockout artist named Aelio Mesquita.

Rodriguez (22-0-1, 16 KOs) meets Mesquita (17-3, 15 KOs) in a 10 round contest at the lightweight limit. Both are hard-hitting fighters with speed. Mesquita has faced Shakur Stevenson and was stopped in two rounds. It’s an important test for Rodriguez who was among the top prospects before signing with Mayweather Promotions more than two years ago. But an inability to place Rodriguez in marquee fights forced the California fighter to return to Top Rank. Now he’s poised to break into contender status. This is step number two for Rodriguez.

ESPN will televise some of the fights and ESPN+ will stream the other fights on the streaming service. First streamed bout begins at 1 p.m. PT.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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Mad Max and Manny

Ted Sares

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The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” at the weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and Pacquaio’s beloved Pinoy fans are going wild. It’s a BIG event, bigger even than many heavyweight title fights.

Max

Meanwhile, Maxim “Mad Max” Dadashev’s wife Elizabeth is flying from her home in St. Petersburg, Russia, to be with her husband at a hospital in Maryland. Dadashev was critically injured on Friday night while suffering an upset loss to heavy-handed Puerto Rican bomber Subriel Matias at another MGM property, the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Dadashev, 28, was 281-20 as an amateur, undefeated in 13 professional fights, and the IBF’s third-ranked junior welterweight, but Matias had his number and dominated throughout in a tough and grinding affair.

Capture 9

Maxim Dadashev

At the end of the 11th round, Buddy McGirt told his fighter, “I’m going to stop it, Max.” Dadashev protested. Maybe Max’s brain signaled no, maybe not. But his heart surely said “I’m not done.”

McGirt overruled him, a sage move, but unbeknownst to anyone the damage had been done and it was severe.

“He had one hell of a fight,” McGirt told the Washington Post. “Tough fight, tough fight; took a lot of tough body shots. I just think it was time to stop it. He was getting hit with too many shots. I said to him, ‘I’m stopping it.’ He said, ‘No, don’t.’”

The scores at the time of the stoppage were 109-100, 108-101 and 107-102 in favor of Matias. According to CompuBox, Matias out-landed Dadashev 319-157; 112 of Matias’ punches were body shots.

Max was stretchered out of the arena and rushed to UM Prince George’s Hospital where his skull was opened up to relieve the pressure caused by bleeding. The cavity reveals brain damage, and memories of Mago surface. The dreaded and familiar scenario then begins as he is put into an induced coma. Hopefully, the swelling goes down, the bleeding stops, and no blood clot appears as the later would make a terrible situation grave. In any event, Max will never box again. His well-publicized dream to win a world title will not be fulfilled.

In a post-fight interview, ESPN’s ringside analyst Tim Bradley said, “That’s a scary situation and every time you step foot in the ring you know that was always the talk that I would have with my wife. You know before I would step foot in the ring, I would sit her down, I would look at her and I would say, ‘Look at me, honey. Take a good look at me, open your eyes wide open because I might not come out the ring, for one, and I know I’m not coming out of the ring the same way that I came in.’”

Manny

Back to the big fight the following evening:

The crowd chants “Manny, Manny, Manny” as he enters the ring to battle Keith Thurman for still another championship as his worshipers are now virtually in a state of mass hysteria and begin singing and cheering loudly. The scene borders on the surreal.

Across the Pond

Earlier on Saturday, across the pond in London, heavyweight David Allen took a bad beating from 6’9” David Price and required oxygen. He also was stretchered out and sent to a hospital, adding to the angst. But he will be okay. According to his promoter, Eddie Hearn, Allen had a broken orbital bone and a damaged tongue, but brain scans suggested he was okay.

David Allen — “Very happy and proud of David Price. I will be okay, but the last 12 months or so my health has been deteriorating and I’m glad I hung on, took the chance, and made money. [I’m] now probably done.”

“Manny, Manny, Manny”

In Las Vegas, Manny has decked Thurman in the first round and the place is delirious. The crowd senses that this is his night although Thurman is not backing up. In the tenth, Pac almost puts “One Time” away after landing a devastating body punch.

Finally, the fight is over and Manny is declared the winner. The decibel count goes off the chart as the Pinoys sing “We Are The Champions.” Viewers hit the mute button. These are not fans as much as they are cultists. One wonders if those who are chanting even know that this has been a week where boxing exposed its grim side.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, 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). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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The Hauser Report: Caleb Plant is Making His Mark

Thomas Hauser

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The July 20 IBF 168-pound title fight between Caleb Plant and Mike Lee wasn’t expected to be competitive. But it was a coming out party for one of boxing’s more compelling personalities.

Plant was born and raised in Tennessee. As his ring career progressed, he moved to Henderson on the outskirts of Las Vegas to hone his craft. On January 13 of this year, he scored an upset decision victory over Jose Uzcategui to claim the IBF belt and bring his record to 18-0 with 10 KOs. Prior to that, his hardscrabble origins had been scarred by tragedy.

Plant grew up in a home where alcohol and drug abuse were common. His own daughter, Alia, was born with severe brain damage.

“She had zero motor skills,” Caleb recounted last year. “She couldn’t sit up. She couldn’t hold her head up. She couldn’t lift her arm. She couldn’t eat. She ate through a tube in her stomach. I didn’t know if she was gonna know who I was. I didn’t know if she knew that I loved her. She was never gonna stand and say ‘I love you, dad’ or ‘Merry Christmas, dad.’ She’s not gonna know what it’s like to have friends. But what if I could just give her a nice life, a life that I didn’t have. What if I could work so hard that I can give her a life and things that I never had as a kid. We won’t be able to have the relationship that I had with my dad. But I’ll give her my all, my best, no matter what. This is what I can try to give her. A roof over her head; food in her stomach even if it’s not through her mouth.”

In 2015, at nineteen months of age, Alia was in the hospital on life support for the fifth and final time in her young life. Plant’s words speak for themselves.

“The doctors were telling me, ‘Mr. Plant, your daughter is gonna pass away. That’s a tough conversation to have. She was slowly going down and down and down and down. I went to her. It was just me, and I said, ‘You know, this has been a long nineteen months, and I know you have to be tired. And if you are over this, then I’m okay with that. I’m not gonna be mad at you. I’m not gonna be disappointed in you. I’m not gonna be upset with you. If you’re tired of this and you’re done and you don’t want to do this anymore, then your daddy supports you. And I’m gonna be right here.’ And right after that conversation – a conversation that I had never had with her before because, every time before, it was ‘No, this is not gonna happen’ – she started going down. I said, ‘I want you guys to take this stuff off of her because I don’t want her to pass with these tubes down her throat and an EEG machine on her head and sticky and all that stuff.’ They took all that stuff out. They cleaned her off and washed her hair. They took everything out. I got to sit there with her. She took her last breath at 10:55. And I just sat with her there for a long while.”

Adding to the tragedy in Plant’s life, his mother was shot and killed by a police officer in March of this year. According to the Tennessee Bureau of investigation, Beth Plant was being taken to a hospital by ambulance when she became unruly and pulled a knife from her backpack. The driver pulled over to the side of the road and called for assistance from law enforcement. When a policeman arrived, Plant came toward him brandishing the knife and he shot her.

After Plant’s mother died, Caleb posted a message on Facebook that read, “Love you forever and always momma. You always said ‘work hard bubba’ and I did. I know that we spent a lot of time wishing the relationship we had was different but you was still my momma. We both wished we could start from scratch so we could go back and you could have a fresh start with me and Maddie. Regardless you was one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever come across. You had your demons but you’d give the shoes off your feet and your last dollar to someone who needed it less than you. I love you momma and I know you are up there with Alia now and her and grandma finally get to spend time together like we talked about way back. You are the first one out of all of us to see what Alia is really like so make the most of that and kiss her up and tell her that her daddy loves and misses her. I know in the end it’s your demons we always talked about that got the best of you. Maybe you always told me because you knew I’d understand because we shared some of the same ones.”

The saving grace in Plant’s life has been boxing.

“I’ve been boxing since I was nine years old,” Caleb says. “There ain’t never been a Plan B. Not to go to college. Not to get a nine-to-five. Not to get a job. Not to be in the NFL. Not any of that. All I’ve ever had is boxing. I’m from the metho-heroin capital of the U.S. where a mother will sell her child’s last toy for one Xanex. Where a mother will lock her son and her daughter in a room for hours, not taking care of them, just so she can be locked away in her room doing her own stuff. I’m from where the Bethesda Center gives out-of-date canned food to you because you ain’t got no food. There ain’t no Plan B.”

Elaborating on that theme during a July 1 media conference call, Plant declared, “Boxing has always been like a sanctuary for me. It’s been a place that I could go and be somebody. As a kid, I was somebody that nobody would want to be, living in a place where nobody would want to be in. When I got to go to the gym, then I got to be somebody that everybody wanted to be. Grown men looking up to me, oohing and ahhing. And once I got back out of those doors, I had to go back to being that kid that nobody wanted to be. So that became like an addiction for me, to want to be there, want to be in the gym.”

“Through everything that came and left in my life,” Plant continued. “Through all the things that I’ve lost, through all the things I’ve been deprived of or haven’t had, boxing has always stood by my side. Boxing has always been there for me through thick and thin. Boxing is like a woman. If you treat her right and you do good by her, then she’ll stand by you and she’ll do right by you. But she’s a jealous woman. And the difference between me and my opponent is, I haven’t glanced off of her. I haven’t endeavored into other things.”

Mike Lee comes from a world that Caleb Plant is unfamiliar with.

Lee went to high school at the Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. Virtually all of Benet’s students go on to college. Lee spent a year at the University of Missouri before transferring to Notre Dame, where he graduated with a degree in finance. “I relax by watching CNBC,” he told writer Kieran Mulvaney several years ago. “And I like reading the Wall Street Journal.”

For most of Lee’s ring career, he was well marketed and well protected by Top Rank. At one point, he parlayed his Notre Dame pedigree into a much-commented-upon Subway commercial. Recently, he left Top Rank to campaign under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. Now 32 (five years older than Plant), he came into Saturday night’s fight with a 21-0 (11 KOs) record and had fought his entire career at light-heavyweight or a shade higher.

Plant’s opposition had been suspect prior to his victory over Uzcategui. Lee’s opposition had been worse. “The typical Mike Lee opponent,” one matchmaker observed, “has had ten fights and won all but nine of them.”

Kick-off press conferences are usually characterized by the lack of anything eloquent being said. The May 21 press conference for Plant-Lee was different. Lee spoke first, voicing the usual platitudes.

“Every single fight is different. I don’t really care what his other opponents have done in or out of the ring. It doesn’t matter. On fight night, the bell rings, it’s just me and him. The best man will win. I’ve been in so many press conferences where opponents either talk shit or they’re dismissive or they’re respectful. I’ve beat them all. This is an incredible opportunity and I will make the most of it. I’m going to shock a lot of people”

Then it was Plant’s turn.

“I’ve been boxing my whole life,” Caleb said. “No college degree for me. No high school sports. No acting gigs. No Subway commercials. Just boxing, day in and day out, rain, sleet, or snow. He may have a financial degree. But in boxing I have a Ph.D and that’s something he don’t know anything about. Something else I have a Ph.D in is being cold and being hungry and being deprived, coming from very rock bottom. That’s something he don’t know anything about. So if this guy ever thought for one second that I would let him mess this up for me and send me back there; unlike him, I have everything to lose. This is how I keep a roof over my head and food in my belly. That’s something he don’t know anything about. So if he thinks he’s going to mess this up for me, he’s not half as educated as I thought he was.”

At times, the dialogue seemed to verge on class warfare. And it continued in that vein through fight week.

“There are zoo lions and there are jungle lions,” Plant said at the final pre-fight press conference two days before the bout. “The zoo lion will look at the jungle lion and think they’re the same thing. And from a distance they look the same. Until it’s time to eat or be eaten.”

“The trash talking goes back and forth,” Lee responded. “That’s as old as time. Nothing he’s saying is new. It’s all recycled stuff he’s heard on TV or heard in movies. It’s nothing new to me. It doesn’t even bother me. I laugh at it.”

Plant-Lee was broadcast live on Fox as a lead-in to the Pacquiao-Thurman pay-per-view card. Lee was a 15-to-1 underdog. The consensus was that he had as much chance of beating Plant in a boxing match as Yale would have of beating Notre Dame in football.

Nevada’s choice of 76-year-old referee Robert Byrd as third man in the ring was a bit of a surprise. Byrd was once a capable referee, but his performance in recent years has been erratic. The most egregious example of this was his mishandling of the June 15 World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semi-final bout between Mairis Briedis and Krzysztof Glowacki.

Byrd is past the point where he can move nimbly around the ring and was out of position for much of Briedis-Glowacki. His judgment was also faulty. In round two while the fighters were in a clinch, Glowacki hit Breidis in the back of the head with a rabbit punch. Briedis retaliated by flagrantly smashing an elbow into Glowacki’s face, driving the Pole to the canvas. In a post-fight in-the-ring interview on DAZN, Briedis acknowledged the foul, saying, “I did a little bit dirty.”

Glowacki, for his part, noted, “The elbow was really strong and clear to the chin. I did not know what happened. I do not remember a lot after that.”

Byrd deducted a point from Briedis but didn’t give Glowacki additional time to recover. Still hurt, Glowacki was knocked down fifteen seconds later by a two-punch combination that ended with a right hand to the back of the head. He rose. The bell rang to end the round. And Byrd didn’t hear it.

“The bell’s gone,” DAZN blow-by-blow commentator Jim Rosenthal shouted. “They’re carrying on. Come on, referee. I can hear it. Get in there.”

But Byrd allowed the action to continue. With people at ringside waving their arms and screaming at him that the round had ended, he allowed Briedis to batter Glowacki for another eight seconds until Mairis scored another knockdown.

“He’s gone down after the bell,” Rosenthal proclaimed. “What is occurring in there? What is occurring? That bell was ringing for ages. It’s farcical. He’s saying he couldn’t hear the bell. He must have been the only one in the arena.”

A badly damaged Glowacki was allowed out of his corner for round three but the fight was stopped twenty seconds later. In the same post-fight interview on DAZN, Briedis conceded that he’d heard the bell ending round two but kept punching.

As for Plant-Lee, the fight lived down to expectations. Lee tried to fight aggressively but didn’t have the tools to do it. Plant was the faster, stronger, tougher, better schooled fighter. He dropped Lee with a lead left hook late in round one, dug effectively to the body throughout, and put Lee on the canvas thrice more in the third stanza. After the final knockdown, Byrd stopped the mismatch. According to CompuBox, Lee landed just eight punches in the entire bout.

It will be interesting to see how Plant progresses from here, in and out of the ring. In that regard, it should be noted that writer Jeremy Herriges talked at length recently with Carman Jean Briscoe-Lee (Alia’s mother, who was once Caleb’s companion). Thereafter, Herriges wrote a thought-provoking article for NY Fights that calls portions of Plant’s narrative into question.

A Missing Part of the Caleb Plant Story 

 

Meanwhile, Caleb remains a work in progress.

“I’m not a grown man,” he said during a July 1 media conference call. “I’m a growing man. So I’m going to continue to become better in the ring. I’m going to continue to become a better man outside the ring. Thus far, I think I’ve done a good job of handling that responsibility. If I just continue to follow what I’ve done, I think I’ll be on the right path.”

Let’s see how the journey unfolds.

Thomas Hauser’s new email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing  – will published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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Manny Pacquiao Defies Father Time, Whips Thurman

David A. Avila

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Manny Pacquiao Defies Father Time, Whips Thurman

LAS VEGAS-Father time, hold on.

Manny Pacquiao knocked down Keith Thurman with his electrifying speed in the first round then managed to keep the lead and defeat Keith Thurman by split decision and retain the WBA welterweight world title Saturday. It was one exciting firefight.

Pacquiao showed the young guns he still has bullets left in the chamber.

The pride of the Philippines, Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) also showed he still has star attraction and startling speed in front of the crowd of 14,356 at the MGM Grand. And he still has enough in the gas tank to defeat a young powerhouse like 30-year-old Thurman.

But it was razor close.

Pacman jumped to the lead in the first round with a sizzling combination capped by a lightning right hook that floored a surprised Thurman. The Florida fighter smiled while getting up.

“He caught me when I was moving back,” said Thurman. “After that knockdown it was just a numbers game.”

For the first five rounds Pacquiao bedazzled Thurman and the fans with his jitterbug style that has confused dozens of opponents in more than 20 years as a professional. But once he slowed down, Thurman began connecting and connecting.

Thurman had never tasted defeat and used a body attack to slow down the rushes by Pacquiao. It proved effective and from rounds six through nine the taller Thurman was connecting on a slower moving Pacquiao.

Just when it looked like Thurman was about to take over with body shots and rights in the 10th round, Pacquiao stopped the onslaught and unleashed a multiple-punch rally including a powerful left to the body that buckled Thurman who was visibly pained by the body blow. Somehow he hung on as Pacquiao unfurled a barrage of blows in search of the killing blow he once knew so well. Thurman survived.

“I felt like I was grabbing some momentum back. I felt like I needed to possibly get a knockdown,” Thurman said. “But definitely I was obviously hurt in that round.  I tried to push him to his limit and he came up on top.”

Pacquiao was able to carry over the momentum to the 11th round by targeting Thurman’s weakened body. But at 30 years old the Floridians recovery time was quick and he was able to stave off Pacquiao’s attacks with well-placed right counters.

In the final round Thurman kept pressure on the shorter Pacquiao who seemed a little tired and careful about getting caught with Thurman’s sharp right counters. The fight ended without serious further altercations.

Judge Glenn Feldman scored it 114-113 for Thurman while judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham tabbed it 115-112 for Pacquiao who retains the WBA welterweight title by split decision.

Once again the record-making eight-division world champion Pacquiao defied the ageing process with a victory over another younger world champion. If naysayers felt retirement was overdue he proved once again that he is one of the wonders of prizefighting.

“He’s a good fighter, he’s strong,” said Pacquiao. “We did it for the fans. I’m sure they were happy tonight. Even though it was close he’s not an easy opponent, he’s strong.”

Thurman was gracious in defeat.

“I knew it was close,” said Thurman. “This is a beautiful night for boxing. Manny Pacquiao is a great, great champion. I wish I had a little bit more as he was getting tired, but it was a great night for boxing.”

“This guy is a fighter,” said Pacquiao. “I think I can rank this like a (Antonio) Margarito fight, an Oscar De La Hoya fight, a Juan Manuel Marquez fight and Marco Antonio Barrera fight. You saw what we did in the ring, it’s the first time I encountered an opponent like Keith Thurman. Keith hits like Margarito. I think because he was too big for me and heavy handed.”

Caleb Plant

IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant had predicted Mike Lee was not a true challenge and then proved it with three rounds of domination to win by technical knockout in the third round.

Plant floored a hyper Lee in the first round with a left hook but the Chicago fighter shook it off. The second round was better for Lee who managed to land some blows against the speedy Plant but still lost the round. Worse things were in store for Lee.

Las Vegas-based Plant opened the third round with two quick jabs and rifled a right cross missile that dropped Lee with a thud. The former Notre Dame football player got up enthusiastically ready for more and Plant obliged with a check left hook and down went Lee again. Luckily for Lee, referee Robert Byrd missed the knockdown and called it a slip. Lee couldn’t get up right away but managed to gather himself. When the fight resumed Plant zipped a right cross and down went Lee hard. Referee Byrd stopped the fight without a count though Lee angrily disagreed with the stoppage.

Plant was deemed the winner by technical knockout at 1:29 of the third round to retain the IBF super middleweight world title. It was his first title defense since winning it earlier this year in Los Angeles against Jose Uzcategui.

“I’ve been telling you it’s not going 12,” said Plant. “I take my hat off to Mike, it takes a true man to go in the ring.”

The Tennessee native said he’s ready for anyone whether it’s a super middleweight or light heavyweight.

“I ain’t hard to get ahold of, just come to Las Vegas,” said Plant.

Nery KOs Payano

In a tough battle between southpaw sluggers for the WBC Silver bantamweight title Mexico’s Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) finally solved Dominican’s Jose Carlos Payano (21-3, 9 KOs) by directing his big blows to the body to win by knockout in the ninth round. It was Nery’s 11th consecutive knockout win.

“He had a complicated style but I adapted by the sixth round and went to the body and focused on that,” said Nery who lives and trains in Tijuana, Mexico.

After back and forth blows for nine rounds Nery caught Payano with a crackling left to the body and down went Payano for more than five minutes. The Dominican was counted out by referee Vic Drakulich at 1:43 of the ninth round.

Ugas wins Ugly

If not for a point deducted Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas (24-4, 11 KOs) would have won every round over Texas fighter Omar Figueroa (28-1-1, 19 KOs) but he had to settle for winning by unanimous decision in winning the eliminator for the WBC welterweight title.

It was an ugly fight.

The first round looked good for Ugas who nailed Figueroa with a wicked overhand right. Figueroa was saved from hitting the floor by the ropes and the referee wisely called it a knockdown. But after that, darkness and frustration set in as Figueroa hugged his way inside and Ugas showed he did not how to fight at close distance. Instead of fighting he held and held until referee Russell Mora took a point away in the fifth round.

Figueroa’s charges inside were ineffective for 11 rounds as both were unable to allow a fight to break out. After 12 rounds all three judges scored it the same 119-107 for Ugas. It was Figueroa’s first loss as a pro.

Lipinets

Former super lightweight world titlist Sergey Lipinets faced last-minute replacement Javar Inson, a southpaw, and knocked out the Filipino fighter with a counter left hook in the second round. It was advice that his new trainer Joe Goossen had directed him to do.

“(Joe Goossen) is an exceptional trainer. He just wanted me to make sure I block his punches with my elbows and just counter,” said Lipinets.

During a exchange of blows Lipinets countered with a left hook that Inson did not see and was dropped for a knockdown. Referee Jay Nady looked at his eyes and stopped the fight at 57 seconds of the second round for a technical knockout win for Lipinets.

“You never know what to expect because you train for one style and get another. He was looking for it. A great fighter executes what he expects,” said Goossen.

Other Bouts

Nigeria’s Efe Ajagba (11-0, 9 KOs) out-punched Turkey’s Ali Eren Demirezen (11-1,10 KOs) over 10 rounds to surprisingly win by unanimous decision instead of by knockout. Both heavyweights entered the ring with prodigious knockout records but neither was able to knock the other down. Two judges scored it 99-91 and a third 97-93 for Ajagba.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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