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Joshua-Miller Stirs Memories of Frazier-Mathis and Another Era’s Garden Party

Bernard Fernandez



Joshua - Miller & Frazier - Matthis

What goes around eventually comes back around? Well, not always. But there are certain long-separated, seemingly unconnected events that draw such distinct parallels that it can appear as if history, or at least certain elements of it, is being repeated, with different players in previously assigned roles.

On June 1, IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) defends those titles against Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) in the DAZN-streamed main event in Madison Square Garden.

On March 4, 1968, Joe Frazier (who went in 19-0, with 17 KOs) won the vacant heavyweight championship – the version recognized by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maine, in any case – with an emphatic, 11th-round stoppage of Buster Mathis (then 23-0, with 17 KOs), in the first boxing card held in the current (and the fourth overall) incarnation of the Garden. Although Mathis, who was behind on two of the official scorecards (referee Arthur Mercante Sr. had it even), beat Mercante’s count, he was clearly discombobulated after getting nailed by “Smokin’” Joe’s signature shot, a short left hook to the temple. Mercante did the prudent thing by waving off the scheduled 15-rounder after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 33 seconds.

So, if the same plot from nearly 51 years ago is followed to a more or less identical conclusion, does it mean that Joshua – the more likely stand-in for Frazier – gets Miller,  suitable in so many ways to assume the role of Mathis – out of there in the later stages of a scheduled 12-rounder? Not necessarily. If there’s one thing we have learned from remade movies of familiar originals, it’s that endings can undergo radical revisions. Perhaps this eerily reminiscent do-over of Joe ’n’ Buster has the updated Mathis – uh, Miller – flipping the script and being carried out of the ring on his jubilant handlers’ shoulders, provided they are strong enough to handle the weight.

But the closing scene, whatever it is, doesn’t alter the fact that up to now much of what led to Frazier-Mathis is again playing out for a two-generations-later audience. It’s like one of the best-remembered sayings uttered by that master of malaprops, the late, great Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, who once observed that a particular set of circumstances was “like déjà vu all over again.”

Consider the following:

*Joel Fisher, executive vice president of Madison Square Garden Marquee Events, described Joshua-Miller, in which England’s Joshua will be making his much-anticipated American debut, as an “epic event” and an almost-certain sellout after it shattered MSG’s pre-sale record. Frazier-Mathis also was a box-office smash, with a paid attendance of 18,906 and a live gate of $658,563, which set a record (long since broken) of $511,000 for the third installment of the Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson trilogy in Miami Beach. For those not fortunate enough to hold tickets for Frazier-Mathis, it was available for viewing elsewhere via closed-circuit, although the fight was blacked out within a 150-mile radius of New York City, making for many angry would-be customers. The nearest cities offering the CC action to those in the restricted area were Philadelphia in one direction, Boston in the other.

*Regardless of the outcome of Joshua-Miller, the winner can’t claim to be the undisputed and absolute king of the heavyweights, since Deontay Wilder still holds the WBC belt as well as a loyal if more limited percentage of global devotees. Frazier-Mathis also was for a few small slices of a very large pie, much of the world and most of the United States still recognizing Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the Army, as the legitimate heavyweight champion.

*Joshua is a former Olympic gold medalist, having won the super heavyweight portion for the United Kingdom at the 2012 London Games. Frazier took heavyweight gold for the U.S. — as an alternate to the injured Mathis! – at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

*As previously noted, Joshua, the 8½-1 wagering choice, and Miller both come into their showdown undefeated, as was the case when Frazier, a 2-1 favorite, squared off against Mathis. Barring a draw, which would allow Joshua to retain his titles, somebody’s “oh” will have to go.

*Perhaps most significantly, the underdog in each instance was widely perceived, fairly or unfairly, as, well, fat. The 6-foot-4 Miller isn’t called “Big Baby” for nothing; although he has weighed as little as 242 pounds for a bout, that was 6½ years ago. He has tipped the scales at 300-plus for his last three ring appearances and, if he does so again (he was 315¼ pounds for his most recent fight, a fourth-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu on Nov. 17 of last year), he figures to outweigh the 6-6 Joshua anywhere from 45 to 70 pounds. His frame might be a bit more defined than the vintage Mathis, and if you want to describe Miller as large-boned or just sort of chunky, fine. The 6-3 Mathis came in at an almost-svelte 243½ against Frazier, but even so he outweighed his 5-11½ and harder-punching opponent by 39 pounds.

At whichever weight, Mathis understood that no one was going to confuse him with an Adonis. Twice he defeated Frazier in the amateurs, and he was a very jiggly 310 when he outpointed him in the Olympic Trials finals in Flushing, N.Y. He doused Joe’s smoke by winning another four-round decision later on at the Olympic Box-offs in Los Angeles, fighting from midway in the first round with a fractured knuckle on his right hand. The injury kept Mathis, born in Sledge, Miss., as the youngest of eight children but who moved with his family to Grand Rapids, Mich., when he was a child, from representing his country in Tokyo. It pained him considerably when Frazier, in his stead, took the gold medal.

Mathis’ past brushes with Frazier of course added intrigue to their fight for those portions of Ali’s heavyweight realm lifted by organizational decree. Four years had passed since Mathis had twice bested Frazier in the amateurs, and while the oddsmakers figured that the Philadelphian was the wiser play because of the higher quality of his opposition to that point and the fact he packed more power, Mathis trainer Joe Fariello was convinced his guy was destined to disappoint that other Joe again.

“We don’t even think about losing. We haven’t made any plans for that,” Fariello said at Mathis’ training camp in Rhinebeck, N.Y., a village in Duchess County located 100 miles or so from midtown Manhattan. “Somewhere along the line, I have the feeling that Buster will knock him out. If by chance I’m wrong, Buster’s capable of going the distance, more so than the other guy.

“He’s never been on the floor in the amateurs, as a pro or in sparring. That means he’s got to be able to take a punch. I’ve seen him take good punches, too. Leotis Martin hit him on the chin. So did Jose Torres. Frazier got him squarely when they fought in the Olympic Trials.”

Publicly, Mathis expressed the same supreme confidence as Fariello. But privately, a seed of doubt had been planted in his mind and it was gnawing away at him. Out-boxing a still-raw Joe Frazier over four rounds a couple of times in the amateurs was one thing; trying to keep the more-experienced, wiser and just as hard-hitting left-hooking machine from Philly at bay for 15 rounds was quite another.

I spoke to Buster Sr. in August 1994 when he was training his son, Buster Mathis Jr., then 14-0 with three KOs, to take on former champ Riddick Bowe later in the month in Atlantic City, a fight in which Buster Jr. was knocked cold in the fourth round, although the outcome was changed to a no-decision because Bowe’s takeout shot landed with Mathis down on one knee. Buster the elder, even then suffering from a number of physical maladies, admitted he had gone into the Frazier fight with an unshakable sense of foreboding.

“Joe had that big left hook, his .357 Magnum,” Buster, then 51 and back up in the 300-pound-plus range, recalled. “Every second of that fight I was scared. I always knew he could land that Magnum.

“Two people have been living with me for the last 30 years – my wife (Joan) and Joe Frazier. In the quiet hours, when I’m sitting in my chair, lights out, everybody in bed, I think about Joe Frazier. I’ll bet I’ve fought Joe Frazier a million times in my mind. And you know what? I always beat him.

“But you can’t change the facts. You can cry over them when they don’t turn out your way, but you can’t change them. The fact is that when I did fight Joe Frazier, I lost. Got knocked out. I’m not complaining. I’ve had a pretty good life. I was never champion, but I guess everybody can’t get to be champion. I was fortunate enough to get close. That’s more than a lot of people in this business can say.”

Some might say that the “good life” to which Mathis referred could have been much better. His manager, Jim Iselin, one of the three young owners of Peers Management, turned on his fighter as if he had committed an unpardonable sin by losing to Frazier, which in retrospect hardly qualifies as a dishonor.

“It would be only anticlimactic to pursue such a course now,” a miffed Iselin said of his decision to stop distributing the keychains, lighters and buttons that had proclaimed Mathis as the “Next Heavyweight Champ.” “We’re taking Buster’s name off the gym (in Rhinebeck), and we’re taking down all the pictures on the wall. He’s not a prima donna any more.

“He’s going to have to wash dishes if he wants to be fed, and help clean the gym and his room. He either will respond, as did Joe Louis after being knocked out by Max Schmeling, and become a great fighter, or go the other way.”

Nobody can say that Buster didn’t try to shape up. He sweated himself down to a career-low 220½ pounds for his third fight after losing to Frazier, a 10-round split decision over Amos Lincoln on Sept. 5, 1968. But he would never get another shot at a world title, and the mental toughness required for him to overcome his genetic disposition for gaining weight to unhealthy levels soon began to ebb. The son of a 300-pound father and 180-pound mother, the three-pound preemie who had entered the world six weeks earlier than nature intended got picked on a lot as a child until, he said, “one day I woke up and I was a big boy,” one who soon gravitated toward boxing and a slew of might-have-beens.

Throughout his too-large and too-short life, Mathis retained a pleasant demeanor that seemingly was at odds with his brutal profession. In the winter of 1993, Frazier consented to appear at “Buster Mathis Day” in Grand Rapids, an invitation that some fighters would be loath to extend to the man who had extinguished their dreams of greatness. But then Buster Mathis was never one to hold a grudge.

“Joe is the nicest guy in the world,” said Buster, who in a 30-4 (21) career did get another high-visibility, potentially life-changing bout, losing a 12-round, unanimous decision to Ali for the minor NABA heavyweight belt on Nov. 17, 1971, in the Astrodome. “They were going to show a tape of our fight and Joe said, `Don’t let them show the 11th round. This is your day, Buster. Nobody wants to see you get knocked out, including me.’ That touched me to my heart.”

In a perfect world populated by those old enough to remember the way it was and in a position of authority to meld past and present, Buster Mathis and Joe Frazier would be at ringside and maybe to take a bow on June 1, before Joshua and Miller, no doubt unaware of events that had taken place more than a half-century before, did their thing in the ring. But Garden movers and shakers John F.X. Condon and Teddy Brenner have taken their celestial 10-counts, as have Smokin’ Joe, who was 67 when he died of liver cancer on Nov. 7, 2011, and Buster, just 52 when, on Sept. 6, 1995, he succumbed to a witch’s brew of ills that included two strokes, a heart attack that resulted in the installation of a pacemaker, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure.

Maybe Miller, 30, gets to live the dream that never quite came true for Mathis. His attitude appears to be positive enough, with the life-long Brooklyn resident insisting that he’s fighting not only for himself, but for “all the underdogs” in life that have been told they’re “not good enough.”

“Just keep pushing,” said Miller, a harder-edged, harder-hitting replica of Mathis seemingly not possessed of the more gentle nature that might have doomed his forebear, in a professional sense, as much as his legendarily insatiable appetite. “I’ve proven that with hard work and dedication that you can go far.”

Whether it will carry him far enough might depend on just how much of an approximation Anthony Joshua is to Joe Frazier where it counts, inside the ropes.

Photo (AP): Frazier and Mathis flank Emile Griffith who fought Nino Benvenuti in the co-feature.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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The Bones Adams Story (Part Two)

Arne K. Lang




When Bones Adams retired from boxing, he was still in his mid-twenties. The kid from Henderson, Kentucky, now lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, and before leaving the sport he had made enough money to go on a home-buying spree.

Real estate in the form of rental homes was a sound investment, or so everyone told him. But that was before the Great Recession, a scourge that clobbered real estate speculators and new homeowners, hitting Las Vegas especially hard.

“Suddenly,” says Bones, looking back, “a house next door to one of my mine, a house that looked a lot like mine,” was on the market for half the price that I paid for mine. I didn’t have the equity to ride out the storm.”

One of Bones’ best friends worked as a limousine driver for Charles Horky. The friend suggested that Bones join the team. Horky, a big fight fan, hired him in a flash.

Horky was an American success story. Starting with one limousine, he built a mini-empire. His fleet serviced the MGM Grand properties, of which there were eight on the Las Vegas Strip. Many of his regular clients were celebrities.

A town like Las Vegas attracts a lot of predators. Charles Horky fit right in. The FBI would allege that he didn’t merely turn a blind eye when his drivers supplied hookers and drugs – cocaine, meth, Ecstasy – to his customers, but that he encouraged it and demanded a cut of the action. Then there was the little matter of unauthorized charges on credit cards, a common scam in Vegas, particularly in “gentleman’s” clubs. “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas,” goes the slogan, and what often stays is a lot more money than a visitor remembers spending.

On Dec. 13, 2012, the FBI arrested Charles Horky and eight of his employees or associates, including four limousine drivers, on racketeering charges. Clarence “Bones” Adams, identified in the papers as one of the limousine drivers, was caught up in the sting.

“I did some stuff I shouldn’t have,” Bones acknowledged when this reporter broached the subject. But he says he wasn’t a limousine driver except on his first day of work because Horky thought he was more valuable out in the field working as a starter, a person that works with the concierge at a hotel. (In Las Vegas, a taxi driver is prohibited from carrying more than five passengers. For larger parties, it’s often cheaper to hire a limo than taking multiple cabs.)

At his initial hearing, Bones pleaded not guilty. The attorney he hired, confident that he would receive only a slap on the wrist, got him to change his plea. Indeed, probation was what the prosecutors recommended. But the judge thought otherwise and Bones would serve six months at the federal correctional institution in Taft, California.

– – –

When we caught up with Bones Adams last week, he had just returned from shepherding his three youngest children to school (Bones has a daughter, Alexa, from a previous marriage). It entailed three stops – a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. The school buses don’t service his neighborhood, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the southwest part of Las Vegas.

The home that Adams shares with Millette, his wife of 14 years, and their children has a very deep back yard. Situated at the end of the long driveway is a 3,200-square foot building that houses a two-car garage and the boxing gym. The previous owner was a custom glass maker. This was his workshop.

Bones Adams doesn’t speak well of his former manager Cameron Dunkin, but Bones concedes that Dunkin did him a big favor when he sold his contract to James Prince. The change-over was made shortly after Bones’ first match with Paulie Ayala.

Prince, the Houston-based rap music mogul, was previously involved in the careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr, with whom he had a big falling out, and Andre Ward, among others. Today he is connected to a stable of boxers in Las Vegas who compete under the Prince Ranch insignia, the most notable of whom is former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter who meets undefeated Sergey Kuzmin at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13 in a match that will leave the winner well-positioned for a shot at a world heavyweight title.  Undefeated super bantamweight Raeese Aleem (pictured with Bones) is one of several rising contenders.

The gym that sits in Bones’ backyard was designed for Prince Ranch fighters but isn’t exclusively for them. “Basically,” says Bones, “whenever there is a really big fight in town, one of the fighters comes here.” Amir Khan used the gym to put the final touches on his preparation for Canelo Alvarez. Daniel Jacobs did likewise. More recently, Manny Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach were here during the final days preceding PacMan’s fight with Keith Thurman. Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood, the gym offers a marquee fighter a level of privacy he is unlikely to find elsewhere.



When Khan was here in May of 2016, Bones Adams wasn’t yet immersed in the daily routine of a trainer. It would be more accurate to say that he was the facility’s caretaker. But he and Khan forged a relationship and when Khan was in the market for a new trainer – having left Virgil Hunter, who trained him for his bout with Terence Crawford — he thought of his new buddy back in Las Vegas.

Amir Khan is no longer an “A side” fighter in the United States. Canelo Alvarez starched him with one punch and he was flayed on social media for his weak showing against Crawford. But Khan, an Olympic silver medalist for England at age 17, remains one of the most well-known sporting personalities in the U.K. His supposedly tempestuous relationship with his attractive American-born wife has been a steady source of fodder for the tabloids.

Bones spent two-and-a-half weeks with Khan in Khan’s hometown of Bolton and another two-and-a-half weeks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Khan finished his training for his fight with Billy Dib, a late sub for India’s Neeraj Gorat who had to pull out after being injured in a car crash. The fight was hyped as a landmark event that would pave the way to a succession of bigger fights in Saudi Arabia.

The Arab nation has been in the news lately and we asked Bones for a few tips on the unlikely chance that we would ever go there. “I was told that I shouldn’t strike up a conversation with a woman I didn’t know, but what I found was that things had loosened up,” he said. “However, ‘no touching’ is still the rule (a no-no that covers everything from a handshake to a hug). The people over there were very warm. We were treated very well.”

Late in his boxing career, Bones’ hairline began to recede. The recession has now completed its journey, perhaps with a little assistance from a barber, and Bones is fashionably bald. But he looks younger than his age; the muscles in his arms are taut, fittingly so for a man who preaches that a boxing-themed workout is the best workout of all for a man that wants to stay physically fit.


When Bones looks back on his boxing career, he thinks about what might have been if those that had influence over his career had done a better job of looking out for his interests and if the deck hadn’t been rigged against him in several of his most important fights. But the bitterness has long since dissipated, usurped by an understanding that there were times when his life could have spiraled completely out of control and an appreciation for those that reeled him back in. Foremost is his wife Millette, whose name Bones spells out to make certain the reporter gets it right.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Clarence “Bones” Adams, but he is now in a good place. Back in the day, the WBA stripped him of his title for no good reason other than they could, but looking back Bones can see that owning all the title belts in the world wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans if he hadn’t met Millette who has stood by his side through thick and thin.

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Mexican Stalwarts Navarrete and Magdaleno Break-in the Banc of California

David A. Avila




LOS ANGELES-A new stadium got its boxing baptismal with two brutal Mexican wars to re-introduce Los Angeles fans to international prizefighting on Saturday evening.

WBO titlist Emanuel “El Vaquero” Navarrete of Mexico City retained the world title by knockout and former champion Jessie Magdaleno proved pure violence still prevails in Mexican style boxing in front of 3,944 fans at Banc of California Stadium.

Soccer took a back seat on Saturday.

It was baptism under fire as Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) roasted fellow Mexican Francisco “Panchito” De Vaca (20-1, 6 KOs) who was willing to jump into the flames but found it too hot to withstand. But did he try.

De Vaca arrived with only six knockout wins in 20 fights but that didn’t stop him from exchanging with the slightly taller and aggressive Navarrete. From the opening sound of the bell each traded blows with Navarrete landing two vicious left uppercuts to punctuate the first round.

Though Navarrete won the round De Vaca proved to have a sturdy chin.

The challenger from Phoenix erupted in the second round with a more aggressive attitude, but quickly discovered he was on the floor looking up after absorbing a sidewinder right cross from Navarrete. He got up and renewed the attack.

De Vaca never wavered from exchanging blows with the champion but it proved to be futile as the harder hitting Navarrete seemed to move the challenger back with each connected blow. De Vaca was hurt but refused to submit as Navarrete pummeled him with blows from multiple angles. After what seemed like a minute filled with machine-like blows, referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight though De Vaca never went down at 1:54 of round three to give Navarrete the win by knockout.

“De Vaca showed his fighting heart. He gave 100 percent in the ring tonight,” said Navarrete who hopes to return to Los Angeles. “I want to continue the tradition of Mexican boxing in Los Angeles. I want to fill arenas and follow in the footsteps of Mexican legends.”

Top Rank’s Bob Arum said Navarrete will be returning to the boxing ring next month in Las Vegas on the same fight card as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on Sept. 14.


Former super bantamweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) won by technical decision over Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs) in a fight stopped due to an accidental elbow slicing a cut on the Las Vegas fighter

“He’s an aggressive fighter, he’s a warrior as we say in boxing,” said Magdaleno who did not think it was an intentional elbow.

Magdaleno, a southpaw, breezed through three rounds with his slick boxing and power shots to the body. Rivera found it difficult to find openings until a clash of heads caused a cut on Magdaleno’s nose. Rivera was able to capitalize on the former super bantamweight world champion’s concern over the blood running down his nose.

In the next three rounds Magdaleno began targeting the body with strong lefts and rights. It seemed to visibly slow down Rivera. A left cross in the seventh round staggered Rivera who was barely able to stay on his feet.

Rivera gutted out the pain and battled back in the eighth round with renewed vigor. It looked like he was willing to go down swinging.

Magdaleno expected Rivera to come out smoking in the ninth round and he did not disappoint. Both slugged it out in the corner with Magdaleno decking Rivera with a short left cross but the Tijuana fighter beat the count and returned to the battle. During another exchange an inadvertent elbow by the Mexican fighter sliced the side of Magdaleno’s right eye. Blood spewed out and referee Tom Taylor on the advice of the ringside physician stopped the fight at 2:55 of the ninth round.

The fight was decided by the score cards with two judges at 89-81 and a third at 88-82 all for Magdaleno.

“It felt great, I felt strong, better than ever,” said Magdaleno about fighting in the 126-pound featherweight division. “I took off the ring rust. We fought smart. We put on our boxing shoes and out-boxed him.”

The former WBO super bantamweight who lost the title to Isaac Dogboe last year, now feels his victory over Rivera should open the door to a world title fight in the featherweight division.

When asked who he would like?

“I want them all, it don’t matter,” Magdaleno said.

Other Bouts

Super lightweight prospect Arnold Barboza (22-0, 9 KOs) was too big and too strong for Filipino Ricky Sismundo (35-15-3, 17 KOs) and battered the willing fighter for all four rounds. A three-punch combination by South El Monte’s Barboza dropped Sismundo in the third round who beat the count and tried battling back. In the fourth round Barboza continued the attack and at the end of the fourth round referee Ray Corona stopped the fight as Sismundo dropped to a knee at the end of the stanza.

Barboza was coming off a knockout win over former world champion Mike Alvarado and may be ready for a world title shot.

Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly floored Canada’s Stuart McLellan twice before ending the fight with a flourish of blows that forced referee Rudy Barragan to end the fight at 2:51 of the fifth round.

Alimkhanuly retains the WBO Global and WBC Continental America’s middleweight belts. He fights out of Los Angeles and is trained by Buddy McGirt.

A welterweight clash saw South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs) win by unanimous decision over Russia’s Aslanbek Kozaev (33-3-1, 8 KOs) in a bloody eight round war. The fight started slowly with Van Heerden hitting and moving but after cuts suffered by both fighters, the two began exchanging heavy blows to the delight of the crowd. Both bled heavily for the last four rounds but let loose with everything just in case the fight was stopped. After eight rounds two judges saw it 79-73 and a third 78-74 for Van Heerden.

After a close two rounds Javier Molina (20-2, 8 KOs) put some distance between him and Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KOs) to win by unanimous decision in a super lightweight match. Molina was able to take control with some nifty counter punches to catch Mendez walking in. It was never an easy fight as Mendez battled through each round. But after eight rounds two judges scored it 79-73 and a third 78-74 all for Molina.

“I moved down to 140 pounds and it felt comfortable,” said Molina a former 2008 US Olympian who fights out of Norwalk, Calif. “It felt good to be back in the ring.

Dominican southpaw Elvis Rodriguez dropped lefty Jesus Gonzalez with a short right hook in the first round of their super lightweight bout. The Texan got up and was caught with a jab left cross and down he went again. Referee Rudy Barragan halted the fight at 1:40 of the first round. Rodriguez is trained by Freddy Roach.

Russian lightweight Dmitry Yun (2-0) survived two knockdowns to win by decision over Austin’s Javier Martinez (4-7, 3 KOs). The Texan floored Yun with the first blow he landed –a right cross – in the opening round, then repeated it with a counter right cross in the third round. But problems with his mouthpiece and lack of footwork kept Martinez from gaining ground on the fleet but light punching Yun. Two judges scored it 57-54 and a third 56-54 all for Yun.

New Mexico’s Brian Mendoza (18-0, 13 KOs) brutalized Miami’s Rosemberg Gomez (20-8-1, 16 KOs) with body shots and eventually ended the fight at 2:12 of the first round in their welterweight clash.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

David A. Avila




WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

LOS ANGELES-World champions are gathering at a busy street corner of Los Angeles that has been the site of numerous heroic, villainous and emotional moments in the history of the second largest city in the USA.

Two full scale riots erupted and flamed out on that corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Figueroa Avenue in the 60s and 90s.

A presidential debate took place between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon on those same grounds when they were running in 1960.

NBA superstars Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan performed their magic on that corner too.

On Saturday, WBO super bantamweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (27-1, 23 KOs) defends against Arizona’s Francisco De Vaca (20-0, 5 KOs) in the main event at the sparkling new Banc of California Stadium. ESPN will show the Top Rank fight card.

The stadium stands on the same location where the LA Memorial Sports Arena once stood proudly until it fell into disarray and was torn down several years back.

Sixty years ago, the first world championship boxing match was held on these same grounds and fans saw France’s Alphonse Halimi lose to Mexico’s Jose Becerra by fifth round knockout at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. Seven months later they fought again next door at the LA Coliseum and Becerra won by knockout again.

That was only the beginning, others like Muhammad Ali, Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bobby Chacon, Jerry Quarry, Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, Ruben Olivares, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Amir Khan all fought on those same grounds.

Imagine, when Navarrete (pictured above) rises from his corner to fight Phoenix’s De Vaca on Saturday, he will be continuing the ever-growing streak of civil and professional fights that took place on that same historic street corner.

WBO Super Bantamweight Title

Navarrete erupted on the fight scene like a ghost when he first defeated Isaac Dogboe last December at Madison Square Garden. It was supposed to be a Broadway opening for Dogboe, but instead turned into a horror story as those long arms of the Mexican fighter proved perplexing. The rematch was even more horrific for Dogboe.

Now the Mexico City fighter meets little known challenger De Vaca, who comes from an area that has recently been developing boxing talent in the desert city of Phoenix.

“The truth is that it doesn’t matter who is my opponent. I always prepare 100 percent for each of my fights, and this was no exception,” said Navarrete, 24, who is making his second defense of the WBO title. “We already did the hard work in the gym, and we are ready for a great fight. If De Vaca comes to fight hard, I am prepared to go even harder. I’m ready to give a great battle to all the fans.”

Can De Vaca do what Navarrete did to Dogboe last year?

“I wanted to fight for a world title since I was 5 years old, and now that we have the opportunity, we are going to make our dream come true this Saturday,” said De Vaca, 24, who fought once in Southern California back in 2016. “Come Saturday, there will be a new world champ for Phoenix and Michoacán. I’m coming for that world title.”


Former super bantamweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) meets Rafael Rivera (27-3-2, 18 KOs) in a featherweight match set for 10 rounds. After struggling to make the 122-pound super bantamweight limit, the Las Vegas southpaw now fights at 126 pounds. It’s made a difference.

“He’s a totally different person at 126 pounds,” said Frank Espinoza who manages Magdaleno. “Even the way he talks and thinks is different. Who would have thought four pounds would make such a difference.”

Magdaleno, the former WBO super bantamweight titlist, now meets Tijuana’s Rivera who never fails to provide high intensity fisticuffs.

“I don’t take none of these guys lightly. Every opponent is difficult. He’s fought great fighters. He’s been in there with great fighters and done a hell of a job. I can’t overlook him because he’s here to put on a great show as well,” said Magdaleno, 27. “He throws a lot of punches, and he’s quick. That’s what I am, and that’s what is going to make a hell of a fight for this fight card.”

Rivera fought featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz earlier this year. Though he lost by decision, he gained fans for his ferocity.

“I’ve been fighting against top-level fighters for a long time, so I feel confident and secure that whether it’s against a world champion or a former champion, I’ll put up a good fight,” said Rivera, 25. “Jessie is a good fighter. I’ve seen him fight before. He’s an aggressive fighter, but I’m just here to do my work.”

It’s a rather strong and lengthy fight card to baptize the new stadium into the world of prizefighting. Expect a lengthy line of fans on the same corner where many historic events have taken place.

Boxing has returned to the same street corner where legends like Ali, Sugar Ray, Quarry and Schoolboy Chacon previously performed. It’s a corner with many memories, both pleasant and notorious.

Photo credit: Hector De La Cruz

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