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The Blowout: Brief Encounters That Shocked and Amazed

Ted Sares

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Some might refer to it as a mugging, but a mugging takes a bit of planning and solid execution though the distinction between the two is a very fine one. It’s not a one-punch icing because that kind of end seldom happens early (Tua vs. Moorer being a notable exception). No, the blowout is an unmitigated assault launched at the opening bell as the perpetrator comes flying out of the chute motivated to end things quickly and decisively. The reaction of the crowd is one of shock and awe which is magnified if the man perpetrating the blowout is the underdog. Often the victim doesn’t even land a punch. And after possibly two or more knockdowns, the blowout is ended by a merciful referee.

Dee Collier vs. Tex Cobb (Oct. 29, 1985)

Denorvell “Dee” Collier fought out of California during the 80’s and finished with a modest record of 13-9. However, he was not one to be taken lightly. He had an iron chin and excellent power and a close inspection of his record reveals wins over some very tough opponents. Before his short career was over, Collier would twice defeat Mark Wills in bouts billed for the California heavyweight title, saddle Alex Garcia with his first defeat, ice – yes, ice – Monte Masters and go 10 hard rounds with a prime Buster Douglas.

Collier fought Tex Cobb at the Reseda Country Club in California. The iron-chinned Cobb had lost three straight, but he had failed to go the distance only once in his pro career, that coming in his second match with Michael Dokes, a bout stopped on cuts.  In fact, he had been knocked down only once in his career, that coming in his most recent fight against promising Eddie Gregg.

If the heavily favored Cobb could score an impressive win, he might be in line for title bout against the heavyweight champion, Michael Spinks, or at least back in the mix. Collier, whose record was then 7-4, was seen as nothing more than a club fighter and Cobb was expected to score a decisive, if not early win.

At any rate, once the bell rang, the 6’4” Collier immediately used Cobb as a punching bag. Cobb’s legendary iron chin turned to glass as he became a basketball, hitting the deck four times before the bout ended at the 2:41 mark of the first round.

This was an old fashioned Texas dry-gulch with the rugged Texan being the ambushee. Like many other victims of a blowout, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and never had a chance. Collier had done what Holmes, Shavers and Norton could not do in 33 combined rounds. Tex had his lunch eaten in Reseda and the guy who did the eating was a mugger named Dee Collier.

James “Bonecrusher” Smith vs. Tim Witherspoon (Dec. 12, 1986)

 “I knew his mind couldn’t be on the fight. He wasn’t thinking about me. My plan was to be all over him. He embarrassed me the last time and I wanted to pay him back. I did.” – James “Bonecrusher” Smith

In their rematch (Witherspoon won lopsidedly over 12 rounds in their first meeting), Bonecrusher, a last-minute sub, flew out of the chute at the opening bell and hurt Witherspoon with a right hand 10 seconds into the fight. Then Witherspoon walked into a solid left hook with about 90 seconds gone and was knocked almost through the ropes and down – for the first time in his career. He got up at the count of four on wobbly legs.

Smith never let up as he cautiously moved in, sensing the kill. He then sent Witherspoon down in a heap with another big right hand. Terrible Tim got up at five, spit out a tooth, root and all, and was in terrible shape as The Bonecrusher charged in. The staggering Witherspoon was met with a right hand that dropped him for the third time. Referee Luis Rivera immediately invoked the three-knockdown rule and waved the fight over at 2:12 of the opening round.

This one was a big upset which added to the shock value. Also noteworthy is that Witherspoon did not land a single punch as he was being blown away.

Iran Barkley vs. Darrin Van Horn (Jan. 10, 1992)

If you think Barkley was mad before the fight, wait until he sees how many people are taking part of his purse.”—Bob Arum, after his fighter, Iran Barkley, beat Darrin Van Horn

The “Schoolboy” met Iran “Blade” Barkley (27-7) at the Paramount Theater in Madison Square Garden. This was Barkley’s turf, far away from the University of Kentucky campus where Van Horn was a part-time student. Van Horn, who held the IBF version of the world super middleweight title, was the favorite and his camp badly underestimated the Blade, who should not have been taken lightly under any circumstance

As the schoolboy entered the ring, you could see some confusion and maybe something else beginning to take hold on his face. He began to look like a deer caught in the headlights. The loud and raucous booing was not directed at his opponent this time; it was directly at him. He was the focus of derision. He was in the Blade’s house now and would be lucky to get out alive. The crowd smelled blood.

Meanwhile, the menacing-looking Barkley, wearing an old-school hooded robe, was pacing back and forth in his corner like a caged tiger, waiting for the bell to ring so he could launch what everybody expected to be an all-out bull rush. And that’s exactly what he did using a blitzkrieg attack.

The fight was almost anti-climactic as Barkley mauled the Schoolboy and dismantled him in less than two full rounds. Van Horn had come in with no game plan and ended up getting mugged in New York City (at a time when muggings in New York City were not all that unusual). After wobbling Darrin in the first round, Barkley decked the Kentuckian three times in the second before the slaughter was stopped 93 seconds into the round by referee Arthur Mercante Jr.

Dana Rosenblatt vs. Sean Fitzgerald ( Dec.10, 1993)

In a match between two fighters from Massachusetts — a match with more than a touch of old school ethnicity to it — “Dangerous” Dana Rosenblatt (16-0) met Sean “The Irish Express” Fitzgerald at Foxwoods. Fitzgerald was 18-1-2 with his only loss coming against Roberto Duran.

Team Fitzgerald was confident that the red-headed Irishman would beat the untested Rosenblatt. However, two minutes into the bout, Dana threw a 1-2 combination that sent Fitzgerald to the canvas, dazed and hurt. The fight ended 30 seconds later with Fitzgerald KOd following a Rosenblatt onslaught. This one was more shock and surprise than anything else as the Irish Express had been derailed.

Rosenblatt was somewhat of a specialist in blowout wins as Chad Parker and Howard Davis Jr, later found out. He finished with a superb record of 37-1-2

Lou Savarese vs. Buster Douglas (June 25, 1998)

This one was on a star-studded event at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut. The date was June 25 and I was there. In fact, I recall that Julio Cesar Chavez (with a monster entourage) fought Ken Sigurani on the undercard—yes, I said “undercard.”

Big Lou Savarese, who won his first 36 professional starts, was coming off a win over overmatched Brett Lally but he had lost his two fights prior to that, getting outpointed by George Foreman and then savagely KOed by David Izon.

Buster opened up with his patented stiff jab and some sharp fast-handed combos; he seemed ready to rock and roll. In fact, most thought he would win this one. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he was dropped by a perfect Savarese right. The fans were up and shouting. Then another more malefic right put him down and this time he was visibly hurt. The end was near. After launching a fast and furious volley, Lou ended matters. How do you say “blowout”? The entire affair took just 2.34.

David Lemieux vs. Elvin Ayala (June 11, 2010)

Shock and awe was expected and shock and awe delivered as Lemieux dropped the game Ayala three times in the first round. It would be a precursor to many more Lemieux blitzkrieg wins.

Fast Forward (2019)

Last month, on Jan. 18, Pablo Cesar Cano shocked the boxing world by dropping Jorge Linares three times and scoring a first round TKO. Cano’s size and power at 140 pounds were too much for Linares, a title-holder in three lower weight classes, suggesting that he move back down to 135 pounds.

The first knockdown came just 15 seconds into the match when Cano landed a clubbing right. Then, with 84 seconds on the clock, the second came from another heavy right overhand. Cano then wisely switched to a vicious left hook to send Linares down again and prompting referee Ricky Gonzalez to perform a mercy stoppage.

The seven examples above are representative of a certain kind of fight; a blowout. Can you think of any others that might fit the criteria?

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and Strongman competitors and plans to compete in at least three events in 2019. He is 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).

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Jan. 29, 1994: A Stunning Upset Animates the Debut of Boxing at the MGM Grand

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-six years have elapsed since the first boxing card at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The inaugural show took place on Jan. 29, 1994, the eve of Super Bowl XXVII.

A little background: The MGM Grand opened on Dec. 17, 1993. With its 5,005 rooms, it was the largest hotel in the world. The MGM Grand Garden arena, effectively the municipal auditorium of the self-styled “City of Entertainment,” was christened on New Years Eve with a concert by Barbara Streisand. Twenty-nine days later, the bill of fare was an 11-fight boxing card promoted by Don King.

Looking back, seven of the participants – boxers Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad, Hector Camacho, Thomas Hearns, and Christy Martin and referees Richard Steele and Joe Cortez – would go on to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Hearns, who was nearing the end of his career, having grown into a cruiserweight, was matched soft, as was Christy Martin who was making her Las Vegas debut and was then looked upon as a sideshow novelty act. Two other notables, heavyweight Razor Ruddock and welterweight Meldrick Taylor, were likewise deployed in stay-busy fights. The undercards of Don King’s major promotions typically took this tack – big names in little fights.

Topping the bill were three world title fights. WBC 154-pound title-holder Simon Brown opposed Troy Waters. Trinidad defended his IBF welterweight title against Camacho. And in the grand finale, the great Chavez, who held a junior welterweight title, was matched against Frankie Randall.

Simon Brown had a more difficult time than expected against Troy Waters, a teak-tough Australian, but prevailed on a majority decision. Trinidad, at age 21 the younger man by 10 years, chased Camacho all over the ring en route to winning a unanimous decision. And Chavez….

The MGM Grand Garden was scaled to hold 15,200, but there were a lot of empty seats; the announced attendance was 12,777. One would have expected a sellout as Las Vegas is chock-full of revelers on a Super Bowl weekend, but there was an extenuating circumstance.

Twelve days before the fight, at 4:30 am on Jan. 17, Southern California was struck by an earthquake. Centered in the San Fernando Valley, about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the Northridge Earthquake damaged buildings as far as 85 miles away. It buckled portions of some heavily-traveled freeways, forcing their closure and repairs were hindered by a scattered series of aftershocks that lasted the better part of two weeks.

Visitors from Southern California are the backbone of the Las Vegas tourism industry. Most arrive by car. The earthquake had the effect of reducing hotel occupancy as many Southern Californians cancelled their reservations and that assuredly spilled over into the fight, hurting attendance. But those that were there witnessed a memorable main event.

Frankie Randall, nicknamed the Surgeon, hailed from Morristown, Tennessee. He had an excellent record (48-2-1, 39 KOs), but Julio Cesar Chavez, who owned the most eye-catching record in boxing (officially 89-0-1), was so highly regarded that he was listed as a 17/1 favorite in the MGM sports book.

Randall started strong, an indication that he would be a hard nut to crack. But the middle rounds belonged to Chavez with his patented body attack. In round seven, one of those body punches strayed too low and Richard Steele deducted a point.

In round 11, Steele deducted another point for the same infraction and, worse for Chavez, he was knocked down for the first time in his career. It was a straight right hand that did the damage, a clean punch, and although Chavez was up at the count of “three,” it was a 10-8 round for Randall.

During the early rounds, shouts of “May-hee-co, May-hee-co” reverberated through the arena. Late in the fight, when one could sense that an upset was brewing, shouts of “USA, USA” punctuated the din.

The 11th round proved decisive. When the scores were read, the Mexican judge favored Chavez 114-113, but he was overruled by the Puerto Rican judge (114-113) and the Las Vegas judge (116-111). If not for those two points deducted by referee Richard Steele – the same referee who had controversially stopped Chavez’s fight with Meldrick Taylor with one second remaining on the clock in the final round – Julio Cesar Chavez would have retained his title — and his undefeated record — on a split decision.

Chavez did not take losing very well. He bellyached that he was robbed, an opinion that found few sympathizers. A fast rematch was arranged which took place at the MGM Grand on Cinco de Mayo weekend. In this fight, an accidental clash of heads late in round eight left Chavez with a bad gash on his forehead and the fight was stopped. By rule, it went to the scorecards where Chavez emerged the winner by split decision, a very controversial denouement (and a story for another day). There would be a rubber match in Mexico City when both gladiators were in their 40’s, a dull 10-round affair scored in favor of Chavez.

By the way, on the day following the debut of boxing at the MGM Grand, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-13 at Atlanta. As Super Bowls go, this one didn’t attract all that much buzz. The same teams had met in the Super Bowl the previous year and Dallas had won by “35.”

By all indications, the forthcoming Super Bowl will be a doozy. Enjoy the game.

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Introducing Top Prospect Raeese Aleem, the Pride of Muskegon

Arne K. Lang

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At age 29, Raeese Aleem has yet to appear in a 10-round fight, but that will almost assuredly happen this year. The undefeated (15-0, 9 KOs) super bantamweight from Muskegon, Michigan, takes another step in that direction on Friday, Feb. 14, when he opposes San Antonio’s Adam Lopez (16-3-2) at Philadelphia in a bout that will air on “ShoBox,” the long-running SHOWTIME series that’s been a springboard for 81 fighters who went on to win world titles.

Aleem earned a black belt in karate before taking up boxing and becoming a four-time Michigan Golden Gloves champion. As an amateur, he and his coach Terry Markowski did a considerable amount of traveling between meets to find good sparring. Grand Rapids, an amateur boxing hotbed, was just down the road, but Detroit and Chicago were a good three hours away and on occasion they went on an even longer excursion into Ohio.

Aleem turned pro in 2011 and had his first 10 fights on the Midwest circuit, venturing as far north as Green Bay and as far south as Cincinnati. At the time, he worked in the produce department of Meijer’s, a regional rival of Walmart. His bosses, he notes, were generous in letting him juggle his work schedule around his boxing assignments.

For a boxer with designs on winning a world title, the Midwest circuit is like a bicycle with training wheels. Aleem had to shake free of it to see how far he could go. Besides, getting fights was getting tougher and tougher. There’s a 28-month gap in his pro timeline that includes all of 2013. He had several fights fall out during this frustrating quiescence.

If you’re an aspiring film actor, you go to Hollywood. If you’re an aspiring boxing champion, you go to Las Vegas. Not a week goes by without a young fellow turning up here to test his mettle in one of the many local gyms with the hope of attracting the eye of one of the major promotional firms.

“When I came to Las Vegas,” says Aleem who has a daughter back in Michigan, “I had no family here, no friends.” He was directed to Barry’s boxing gym, run by ex-boxer Pat Barry and his wife Dawn, retired Las Vegas police officers, and started training under their son-in-law Augie Sanchez. But Sanchez, the last man to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr (accomplished when they were amateurs), had other priorities. He is an assistant coach with Team USA which obligates him to spend a good deal of his time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Things started looking up for Aleem when he joined the Prince Ranch stable under the management of Greg Hannley. At the Prince Ranch Gym, where the head trainer is Bones Adams, he has sparred with such notables as Nonito Donaire and former WBO 122-pound champion Jessie Magdaleno.

Aleem doesn’t miss the weather in Muskegon, a lakefront city where sub-freezing temperatures are the norm in the dead of winter and snow is forecast for all of next week. But he still has one foot in his hometown, as evident by his unbroken bond with Terry Markowski. In an era when some boxers appear to change trainers as often as they change their underwear, Aleem has remained loyal to Markowski who has been in his corner for all of his pro fights and will be there again on Feb. 14.

Markowski, who teaches boxing at the Muskegon Rec Center, is a protégé of Muskegon’s most esteemed boxer, the late Kenny Lane. The epitome of a crafty southpaw, Lane, a lightweight and junior welterweight, was a three-time world title challenger during a 100-fight career that began in 1953.

The relationship between Raeese Aleem and Terry Markowski dates back to 2003 when Aleem resided in the nearby village of Ravenna, where Aleem’s father, the patriarch of a large blended family, planted Raeese and his siblings to get them away from the temptations of Muskegon which has several blighted areas. “It was a culture shock for me when I started going to school in Ravenna,” says Aleem, looking back, as none of his schoolmates looked like him.

This will be Aleem’s fifth fight in Pennsylvania where he has made four of his last five starts. The connecting thread is Reading, Pennsylvania gym operator-turned-promoter Marshall Kauffman who has been credited with keeping boxing vibrant in the Keystone State.

This being Aleem’s national television debut, it’s important that he make a good showing. His Las Vegas trainer Bones Adams, a former world champion in Aleem’s weight division, expects nothing less. “I’m confident he will be a world champion someday,” says Adams.

Photo credit: Mario Serrano / Prince Ranch Boxing

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A Bouquet for Danny Garcia in This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Two-division champion Danny Garcia had the spotlight all to himself over the weekend in a stay-busy fight against Ivan Redkach on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader that had the odd privilege these days of not being counterprogrammed by a Top Rank show on ESPN or any other kind of boxing card on DAZN.

So Garcia, 31, from Philadelphia, had the chance to remind people how excellent a fighter he is in full force, which would help him greatly in his effort to secure an unlikely bout against WBA champ Manny Pacquiao or remain first in line to face WBC and IBF champ Errol Spence whenever the Texan recovers from the injuries he sustained in a car accident in October.

But did Garcia pull it off? Here’s the latest edition of HITS and MISSES.

HIT – Danny Garcia’s Pristine and Precise Technique 

The best parts about Garcia were on full display against Redkach. That was made easier by Redkach’s lack of anything that might have given Garcia any real problems, but nonetheless Garcia was able to show the lovely footwork and balanced countering ability that made him so formidable at junior welterweight. There’s just something special about seeing Garcia fight. The economy of his movement inside a boxing ring is something that is just plain different than just about any other world-class fighter in the world today. In a fight that most people probably would have preferred he just skipped, and one that didn’t turn out to be any different than everyone expected, at least Garcia’s beautiful boxing was on display.

MISS – Showtime Sparring Sessions

In addition to Garcia-Redkach, Showtime rounded out its tripleheader with undefeated junior featherweight Stephen Fulton taking on former Muay Thai fighter Arnold Khegai and former unified junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd taking on career welterweight Francisco Santana. While Fulton’s fight against Khegai seemed like a legitimate prizefight, there was something about the other two bouts that screamed sparring sessions. That was especially the case for Hurd’s bout. Not only was Hurd in there with a middling welterweight, but he also used the rounds of the fight to work on vastly different boxing techniques than what made him so popular in the first place. Showtime might not have the pull they once had with the people over at the PBC offices, but they for sure need to get more involved in vetting matchups if they hope to remain afloat within the competitive boxing landscape of today.

HIT – Stephon Fulton’s Title Chances at 122 Pounds

Fulton is a very solid boxer who digs to the body and has a fast, clean jab. Khegai was the perfect kind of opponent for the 25-year-old. He was very game and never stopped trying to win. Additionally, his background in Muay Thai offered some different looks to Fulton that should help him on his way toward world title contention. In the end, Fulton outworked Khegai to hand the tough 27-year-old the first loss of his career. Now let’s hope Fulton is off to bigger and better things such as challenging for a world title. He’s ready right now.

MISS – Andy Ruiz’s Continued Soap Opera

The best thing former unified champion Andy Ruiz could have done after blowing the rematch against Anthony Joshua in December is getting right back to work in the gym. What better way to show trainer Manny Robles that he was taking responsibility for his actions than to get right back to work with the same team he had just let down so badly? Instead, Ruiz fired Robles and is considering other trainers. That would make more sense if there had been some sort of tactical error in the fight. But Ruiz already admitted he simply didn’t train for arguably the biggest fight of his life, and that’s not anyone’s fault but his own.

HIT – Former Middleweight Titleholder Andy Lee’s Second Act

It appears former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee found his second act in life as a trainer, which makes a ton of sense if you followed Lee’s career under the tutelage of the late Emanuel Steward. Lee, 39, left Ireland after his amateur days to live with Steward in Detroit and train at Kronk. The two had a very close personal relationship and that experience ultimately helped Lee win the world title in 2014 two years after Steward’s passing. Now, Lee is passing on what he knows in the same way Steward did with him to other fighters. He trains and manages Irish upstart Paddy Donovan, is guiding Jason Quigley back to contention and even helped orchestrate distant cousin Tyson Fury bringing on Javan “SugarHill” Steward for the heavyweight’s upcoming rematch against Deontay Wilder.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 81: Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy, ‘J-Rock’ and More

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