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Will the ‘Marination’ of Tyson Fury Backfire (and other Heavyweight Notes)?

Arne K. Lang

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Fury

When Bob Arum and his comrades at ESPN poached Tyson Fury from Showtime, they did it in the belief that Fury was better served by having his rematch with Deontay Wilder “marinate” for a while. Until that day comes, Fury, for his part, would prime the pump with one or more interim bouts.

We wouldn’t be surprised if this backfires.

Styles make fights, goes the old saying, and, in hindsight, Fury vs. Wilder was the perfect pairing for producing a fight that was competitive, entertaining, and replete with drama.

So, here’s the question: Would Tyson Fury be better served by engaging Deontay Wilder in an immediate rematch in which he comes out on the short end of a close call in another entertaining tiff, or would he be better served by taking an interim bout in which he defeats an opponent of modest skill in a dull fight?

A fight fan who tweets under the handle “The Fringe Contender” asked this question in a roundabout way, raising a point that seems to have gotten lost in all the hand-wringing over the stalled rematch: “I think Tyson Fury and others have forgotten how dreadfully boring his fights against, well anyone but Wilder are. Almost worse than boring. Who knows, he might actually drive his market value and high public perception down by having the interim fight. Lol.”

Speculation as to Tyson Fury’s next opponent has centered around Kubrat Pulev and Oscar Rivas, both of whom have ties to Arum’s Top Rank organization. But Pulev is seemingly out of the running as he has a fight scheduled on March 23 against defective Bogdan Dinu.

The venue for Pulev-Dinu is The Hanger at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California, heretofore a venue for mixed boxing and MMA low-budget cards cobbled together by promoter Roy Engelbrecht, a longtime fixture on the Southern California boxing scene.

– – – –

Four heavyweights of note were in action this past weekend, most notably Luis Ortiz who won a lopsided 10-round decision over German-Romanian invader Christian Hammer in the chief undercard bout on the Castano-Lara card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

How one judges Ortiz’s performance depends on whether one sees the glass half full or half empty. If one was seeing Ortiz for the first time, one likely wondered if this was the same guy who has been routinely identified as the most avoided heavyweight in boxing.

While acknowledging that this was a hard fight, Ortiz gave himself a high grade. “Every heavyweight out there should know that I still have it at 40-years-old,” said Ortiz. “Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, I’m ready.”

It’s interesting that Ortiz referenced himself as being 40 when his 40th birthday was ostensibly four weeks away. Other athletes from Cuba have been unmasked as older than their listed age and it has long been speculated that “King Kong” is one of them.

No matter how one rates Ortiz’s showing, his performance may redound to his credit in so far as securing a big money match. As a frequent TSS contributor notes, Christian Hammer, a durable fighter with a solid chin, was the perfect opponent if the intent was to make Ortiz look vulnerable.

—-

In Magdeburg, Germany, German heavyweights Agit Kabayel and Tom Schwarz kept their undefeated records intact. Kabayel, who is of Kurdish descent, out-boxed Andriy Rudenko to retain his version of the European heavyweight title. Schwarz blew away Kristijan Krstacic in the second round.

Schwarz (24-0, 16 KOs) was fighting in his hometown. He drew a softie in 38-year-old Krstacic whose 17-1 record going in was forged against a motley cache of opponents. Schwarz had him on the canvas three times before the referee intervened.

Kabayel, now 19-0, was extended the distance, but his Ukrainian adversary, Rudenko, was 32-3 going in and had never been stopped. Kabayel’s next opponent figures to be Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin who is also undefeated (20-0).

In a round robin tournament between Kabayel, Schwarz, and Wallin, there would be no clear-cut-favorite. They range in age from 24 to 28, in height from six-foot-three to six-foot-five-and-a-half, and each carries about 240 pounds. History informs us, however, that white European heavyweights not named Klitschko have low ceilings so it’s doubtful that any of them would pose a serious threat to the likes of Anthony Joshua.

—-

Lou DiBella, the former Senior Vice President of HBO Sports, is a busy beaver. He was the lead promoter for Saturday’s event at Barclays Center and on that same day an edition of his Broadway Boxing Series unfolded in Columbus, Ohio. (It figured that DiBella’s series would travel well. As the late, great R & B singer Wilson Pickett informed us, there’s a Broadway in every town and, yes, that includes Columbus, Ohio; we checked.)

In the main go of DiBella’s Columbus show, Junior Fa improved to 17-0 (10) with a first round stoppage of French import Newfel Ouatah. The fight was a travesty. Ouatah brought a 16-2 record but had defeated only four men with winning records and he was out of his league. Fa scored four knockdowns before the referee pulled the plug.

Travesty or not, it was a nice win for Fa who had several spotty performances last year that DiBella attributed to a health issue (anemia) that has since been remedied.

Fa, who carries 255 pounds on a six-foot-two frame, is on a collision course with fellow Kiwi and former amateur rival Joseph Parker. They split four fights as amateurs. When they eventually meet – assuming no intervening complications – it will be a huge fight in New Zealand and throughout Polynesia. Junior Fa’s roots are in Tonga, Parker’s in Samoa, and the two island nations have a longstanding rivalry that continues today on the rugby pitch.

True, relations are now cordial, due in part to the fact that so many Tongans and Samoans share a common religion (Latter Day Saints), but a big inter-ethnic boxing match has a way of re-opening old sores.

– – –

Switching gears, there’s an early frontrunner for Trainer of the Year.

“It says a lot about Buddy McGirt, as a trainer and tonight as a cornerman to have such an instant impact on a fighter. Particularly having had only one training camp with the fighter who doesn’t even share the same language as him,” tweeted  the writer of the “Laceupboxing” blog after Sergey Kovalev recaptured his WBO world light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Eleider Alvarez on Feb. 2 in Frisco, Texas.

Heading into the fight, Kovalev’s persona was that of a slugger with stamina issues. At age 35, it figured that his best days were behind him. But “Krusher” comprehensively out-boxed Alvarez and finished strong. CompuBox credited him with throwing 816 punches.

McGirt boxed professionally from 1982 to 1997, finishing with a record of 73-6-1. He will be formally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June and if he were to be named Trainer of the Year for 2019 he would be a two-time honoree. The Boxing Writers Association of America conferred this award on him in 2002.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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