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A Trio of Beguiling St. Patrick’s Day Shows Augment the Big Shebang in Dallas

Arne K. Lang

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Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia clash on Saturday in the big enchilada at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The pay-per-view fight, which falls on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, is cocooned by shows in Philadelphia and New York that are in tune with the holiday and it overlaps a show in Boston that is likewise scented with shamrocks.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday, but fight fans in Philadelphia can get into the swing of things on Friday. The main go on Eddie Hearn’s show at the Liacouras Center, streamed live on DAZN, finds Philadelphia’s own Tevin Farmer defending his IBF 130-pound world title against Ireland’s Jono Carroll, but the real sizzle comes in the form of Katie Taylor, Ireland’s most admired athlete according to multiple research polls.

Hailing from the Irish seacoast town of Bray but now living in Vernon, Connecticut, the 32-year-old Taylor is the most decorated amateur boxer in the history of Ireland. As a pro she’s 12-0 (5 KOs) and has built a strong case that it is she – not Cecilia Braekhus or Claressa Shields or Amanda Serrano or Layla McCarter – who is the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world. In her last two fights against solid opponents – Cindy Serrano and Eva Wahlstrom – she won all 10 rounds on all three scorecards.

Taylor’s opponent Rose Volante, a 36-year-old Brazilian, is 14-0 but a mystery as she has always had the benefit of being the house fighter. Three of the four meaningful belts will be on the line in this 10-round lightweight contest.

The Farmer-Carroll fight is a battle of southpaws. In his last fight, Carroll (16-0-1) fought 12 rounds to a draw with veteran Guillaume Frenois of France who was 46-1 going in. From Dunshaughlin in County Meath, he’s a huge fan of Rocky and says he dreams at night of climbing the famous steps of City Hall while holding aloft his new IBF belt.

Carroll, whose birth name is Jonathan Beresford, may climb up the steps but we doubt he will be holding the IBF belt. With only three knockouts to his credit, it doesn’t appear that he has the power to hold off Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 1 ND), a late bloomer whose record hasn’t been blemished since September of 2012. Another undefeated Irishman, 11-0 lightweight John Joe Nevin from Mullingar, appears on the undercard.

Boston

On Saturday, promoter Ken Casey heats things up at the House of Blues.

Casey is an interesting character. A Boston area native, he’s best known as the bassist/frontman of the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys which he co-founded in 1996. When not performing, Casey, 49, writes songs, looks after the saloon he owns near Fenway Park, and promotes fights. Saturday’s show marks the fourth straight year he has cobbled a boxing event around Saint Patrick’s Day.

The headliner on Saturday’s card is Mark DeLuca. An ex-Marine who served in Afghanistan, DeLuca, 31, is touted as New England’s top boxing prospect. The southpaw from Whitman, Massachusetts, avenged his lone defeat in his previous bout, advancing his record to 22-1 (13 KOs). He is paired against New Haven’s Jimmy Williams (16-1-1) in a junior welterweight contest slated for 10 rounds.

Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, whose primary home is in Cork, Ireland, returns to the scene of some of his most notable triumphs in an 8-round contest against Worcester’s Khiary Gray.

A year ago, the colorful O’Sullivan was getting a lot of buzz. He was penciled in to fight Daniel Jacobs on April 18, 2018, but that fight fell out, ostensibly because O’Sullivan received a better offer, a chance to fight Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day, a bout that would supposedly transpire no matter the outcome of Canelo’s intervening Cinco de Mayo fight with Gennady Golovkin.

As we know, Canelo failed a pre-fight drug test and things got muddled. The Cinco de Mayo date vanished and Canelo’s rematch with GGG was pushed back four months.

The consolation prize for Spike O’Sullivan was a date with David Lemieux. A victory over Lemieux would have likely bumped him into a fight with Canelo, but it was not to be. To the contrary, it could not have turned out any worse for him. He was knocked out cold in the opening round.

And so, a potential seven-figure payday in a bout with Canelo Alvarez went down the drain and Spike now finds himself fighting in an 8-round preliminary on a club show in Boston. But this redounds to the benefit of those that will cram into the House of Blues on Saturday night as O’Sullivan (29-3, 20 KOs) is a proven crowd-pleaser. And it doesn’t figure that his opponent Khiary Gray (16-4, 12 KOs) will go quietly. Formerly known as Khiary Gray-Pitts, Gray is eight years younger than O’Sullivan at age 26 and was considered a very strong prospect until his career went south.

Irish pride will be at stake when Noel Murphy (12-1-1) opposes John Joyce in a welterweight contest. Murphy, like O’Sullivan, hails from Cork (but currently hangs his hat in the New York borough of Queens). Joyce, from Dublin, will be making his U.S. debut. He’s 7-0 but has yet to face a fighter with a winning record.

And then there’s heavyweight Niall Kennedy, a peace officer in the Dublin commuter town of Wicklow who, like O’Sullivan, will be making his 11th appearance in a New England ring. At age 34, Kennedy (12-0-1, 7 KOs) is still rough around the edges, but that description when applied to a heavyweight is tantamount to saying he has a fan-friendly style. At press time, his opponent had yet to be determined.

Ken Casey is a busy man. Dropkick Murphys has a 4-day gig at Boston’s House of Blues this week, the final leg of a 22-day tour. Saturday’s show is a matinee that will serve as the appetizer of sorts for his boxing card that evening.

New York

The Saint Patrick’s Day weekend festivities wrap up in New York on Sunday in the Theater of Madison Square Garden where Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization is staging an event hitched to the holiday for the third straight year. And once again the major attraction is featherweight Michael Conlan (pictured). The two-time Olympian from Belfast, whose double middle finger salute to the judges following his last amateur bout went viral, made his pro debut here in 2017 and returned last March 17 to blow away hapless Hungarian slug David Berna. This will be his fifth visit to the erstwhile Mecca of Boxing.

Conlan, now 10-0 (6 KOs), last fought in Manchester, England, where he stepped up in class and was extended 10 rounds for the first time in his career. His opponent on Sunday, Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez, is 24-3-2 (10). Hernandez’s first two losses were to undefeated fighters and his third came at the hands of formidable, if fading, Nonito Donaire in a bout that went the full 10 rounds.

It’s widely understood that Conlan is on a collision course with Top Rank signee Shakur Stevenson who was in Conlan’s pod at the Rio games, winning a silver medal. However, there’s been a new wrinkle. Top Rank recently signed Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, the beneficiary of the awful decision that went against Conlan in Rio. Conlan wouldn’t fight Shakur (who would be a heavy favorite) without first playing the avenger in a second meeting with Nikitin.

Nikitin, 2-0 as a pro, is on Sunday’s undercard, opposing Juan Tapia (8-3) in a contest scheduled for six rounds. This bout, indeed the full card, will be streamed on ESPN+.

The co-features to Conlan-Hernandez are a 10-round welterweight match between veterans Luis Collazo, a former world title holder, and Samuel Vargas, and a 6-round flyweight match pitting Belfast’s Paddy Barnes (5-1) against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1) from Dallas.

Like the aforementioned Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, a two-time Olympian, had a storied amateur career. Turning pro at age 29, his backers decided to move him fast and did him no favors. After only five pro fights, he was thrust into a title fight against Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosales, the WBC champion, and found himself in over his head. Rosales took him out with a wicked body punch in the fourth round. On Sunday he steps back several steps on the ladder as he begins the next phase of his career.

This being a Sunday, Top Rank’s Saint Patrick’s Day show has an early start. The first undercard bout is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET with the first of the three main fights going off at 6 p.m. ET. The ESPN+ app costs $4.95 per month with a 7-day free trial. Launched 11 months ago, the live-streaming platform reportedly has more than 2 million paid subscribers.

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Fast Results from the Big Apple: Crawford and Teofimo Win Impressively

Arne K. Lang

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Two world title fights ornamented Bob Arum’s pre-Christmas show at Madison Square Garden. In the main go, Terence “Bud” Crawford stopped brave but ultimately out-gunned Egidijus Kavaliauskas in the ninth stanza. The official time was 0.44. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) was making the third defense of the IBF welterweight title he won from Jeff Horn.

Kavaliauskas (21-1-1) had some good moments early and stung Crawford with a looping right hand in round three that generated an apparent knockdown that was ruled a slip. But Crawford, with his superior hand speed, ultimately assumed control, knocking his Lithuanian foe to the canvas in round eight and then again in round nine. The fight ended with Kavaliauskas on his feet but clearly beyond the point of no return.

In the co-feature, Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) turned in another spectacular performance, stopping Richard Commey in the second round to snatch away Commey’s IBF lightweight title.

Lopez and Commey launched right hands almost simultaneously, but Lopez’s punch got their first. Commey got up in a hurry after landing on his right knee, but his legs were spaghetti and he reeled about the ring like a drunken sailor. Lopez then pummeled him against the ropes, landing a slew of unanswered punches to force the referee to waive it off. Heading in, Commey was 29-2 with both losses by split decision.

Lopez has been calling out Vasiliy Lomachenko and it appears they will meet in April.

Other Bouts

In the TV opener, Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) scored a unanimous decision over former amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin (3-1). Russia’s Nikitin held two wins over Conlan at the amateur level, most famously a terrible decision in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The scores were lopsidedly in favor of Conlan (100-90, 99-91, and 98-92). While he was the rightful winner, the fight wasn’t as one-sided as the scores suggested. There were no knockdowns, but Conlan suffered a bad cut over his right eye in the eighth round, the best round of the fight.

Fast rising super middleweight Edgar Berlanga, a 22-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, did it again, scoring his 13th first round knockout in as many fights.  Berlanga scored two knockdowns, the first with a left hook and the second with a body shot, before the ref interceded to save Cesar Nunez from further punishment. A 34-year old Spaniard, Nunez entered the contest with a misleading 16-1-1 record.

Australian junior welterweight George Kambosos Jr improved to 18-0 (10) with a 10-round split decision over former world lightweight titlist Mickey Bey (22-4-1). The scores were 97-92, 96-93, and 94-95.

Kambosos sealed the win with a big 10th round, knocking Bey down with a right-left combination and pummeling him when the action resumed. It was a case of youth being served. At age 26, the heavily tattooed Australian was the younger man by 10 years.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Vergil Ortiz Jr KOs Brad Solomon at Fantasy Springs (plus Undercard Results)

David A. Avila

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INDIO, Calif.-Vergil Ortiz Jr hunted and pursued the elusive Brad Solomon for several rounds before lowering the boom with three knockdowns and ultimately stopping the formerly unstoppable fighter for a knockout victory on Friday.

It’s on to bigger and better things.

Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs) proved that styles didn’t matter and Solomon’s (28-2, 9 KOs) slippery moves couldn’t prevent the brutal outcome before several hundred fans and two Boxing Hall of Famers at Fantasy Springs Casino. It was Solomon’s first ever loss by knockout.

Despite winning all of his previous fights by stoppage, the lean Texan who trains in Riverside, Calif. had never fought a boxer with the pedigree of Solomon. It was the main question remaining for Ortiz. Could he figure out the winning equation to defeat a pure boxer?

He had the answer in his pocket all of the time.

Solomon moved smoothly around the ring from the opening bell. Ortiz followed with his tight guard and snap quick punches to the body and head. The first round revealed that Ortiz’s quick hands were just as quick as Solomon’s and much more powerful.

“I had to utilize my jab, figure out the right time to throw a punch,” said Ortiz. “He came to fight.”

After three rounds of chase and pursue, both fighters exchanged briefly and a body shot by Ortiz convinced the fleet opponent to go back on his toes. While trying to move away Ortiz fired a stiff left jab and down went Solomon. Body shots followed and Solomon was visibly affected by them. On one occasion he feigned a low blow but referee Raul Caiz ruled it was a clean blow.

“I can’t lie. I don’t think he was hurt right there,” said Ortiz of the jab knockdown. “

The subsequent blows would prove otherwise in the next round.

Ortiz opened up the fifth round at a rapid pace and though Solomon tried evasive maneuvering, it all proved in vain especially after a six-punch volley by Ortiz. Down went Solomon in the corner but he was able to beat the count. Solomon got up and tried to use his quickness to avoid Ortiz’s charge but a double left hook to the head sent him down once again. Referee Caiz waved the fight over at 2:22 of the fifth round to give Ortiz the knockout win and retain the WBA Gold welterweight title.

“I just took my time,” said Ortiz. “He’s difficult to figure out and made me use my brain.”

Ortiz, 21, continued his domination of the welterweight division though many felt Solomon could stall his rapid ascent to the top.

El Flaco

Serhii “Flaco” Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) continued his knockout streak but needed a little time to figure out the switching tactics of Colombia’s Carlos Galvan (17-10-1, 16 KOs). But after five rounds he discovered that the body attack was the key. Bohachuk floored Galvan three times in the fifth round, two by body shots and the end came at 1:40 of the fifth round.

Other Bouts

Puerto Rico’s Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado (22-2, 18 KOs) snapped a two-fight losing streak by moving up to the lightweight division and knocking out Dominican Republic’s Luis Porozo (14-2, 7 KOs) with body shots in the second round. Machado had problems making the 130-pound super featherweight limit and showed a move up in weight was beneficial as he dropped Porozo three times until referee Tom Taylor ended the fight at 2:59 of the second round for a win by knockout.

Machado is co-promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions.

Alexis Rocha (15-0, 10 KOs) withstood an all-out assault from Mexico’s Robert Valenzuela Jr. (17-2, 16 KOs) early in the welterweight title fight and used a withering body attack to break down the taller fighter. After that it was all downhill sledding for the Santa Ana fighter who broke the will of Valenzuela with bludgeoning blows to the left and right side of the body.

“I was being lazy to be honest, so it’s my fault,” said Rocha on being bloodied by a counter uppercut while punching. “It’s very important, I came to fight and throw body punches to wear my opponent down. I think that’s very key in boxing in general.”

At the end of the fifth round the Mexican fighter was holding on. The fight was stopped at the end of the fifth round giving Rocha the win by knockout and he retains the WBC Continental Americas title in the welterweight division.

“I knew the body shots were taking a toll on him,” Rocha said. “Today was a good learning experience.”

Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3 KOs) boxed his way to a unanimous decision victory over Vaughn Alexander (15-4, 9 KOs) in a 10-round fight for the WBA Continental Americas title. But it was sort of strange to see a guy nicknamed “the Bully” dance around the ring avoiding contact. Still, he won every round but disenchanted fans with his unwillingness to exchange with the muscular Alexander. No knockdowns were scored in the fight. All three judges saw it 100-90 for Melikuziev.

Luis Feliciano (14-0, 8 KOs) knocked down Herbert Acevedo (16-3-1, 6 KOs) early in the 10 round NABF super lightweight title fight and then cruised to victory by unanimous decision. The Puerto Rican who trains in Southern California pummeled Acevedo’s body before delivering a two-punch combination that sent the challenger to the deck. It was Feliciano’s first defense of the title he captured by decision over talented Genaro Gamez.

“I give props to Herbert Acevedo. He’s a tough and rugged fighter. I thought he was out when I dropped him in the third round. I tried to get the finish, but he weathered the storm,” said Feliciano. “I’m happy to finish the year with a win, and we are on to the next.”

A super welterweight fight saw Ferdinand Kerobyan (13-1) destroy Fernando Carcamo (23-11) with two knockdowns in the first round and the fight was stopped at 1:46 of the first round.

A super middleweight match ended in the third round by knockout win for Erik Bazinyan (24-0) over Saul Roman (46-14),

Hall of Fame

Also present at the Golden Boy Promotions boxing card were Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins who was recently voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by the boxing writers. He will join De La Hoya who was inducted several years ago.

Hopkins was selected last week along with Sugar Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Their induction takes place next June in Canastota, New York. It’s quite an honor and well deserved for one of the greatest middleweights in the history of the sport. He also captured the light heavyweight world title. We will have more on this great Philadelphia prizefighter in the coming months.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Frank Erne Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame, a Well-Deserved Honor

Arne K. Lang

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Former featherweight and lightweight champion Frank Erne was back in the news last week with the announcement that he is entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Erne and the other members of the newest class will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Mr. Erne won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony. He’s been dead since 1954. However, were he alive, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that this honor is well-deserved.

Frank Erne competed from 1892 to 1908. Of his 53 documented fights, 21 were slated for 20 rounds or more. His opponents included George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and Joe Gans, all of whom went into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. Dixon, a bantamweight, McGovern, a featherweight, and Gans, a lightweight, are widely considered the best of all time in their respective weight classes. Erne defeated Dixon and Gans although both turned the table in rematches.

Frank Erne becomes the first fighter born in Switzerland to enter the IBHOF. When he was six or seven years old (reports vary) his parents moved to Buffalo, New York. In his early teens, he found work as a pinsetter in a bowling alley that was part of a larger complex that included a boxing gym. An instructor there, a boxing professor as they were called back then, took Erne under his wing.

Erne had his early fights in Buffalo. In 1895, he went to New York and attracted national notice with back-to-back knockouts of Jack Skelly. A Brooklyn man, Skelly was such an outstanding amateur that there was little backlash when he was sent in against featherweight champion George Dixon in his very first pro fight (the opening match in the Carnival of Champions at New Orleans, an event climaxed by the historic fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett).

Skelly was no match for Dixon and ultimately no match for Frank Erne. Two months after their second meeting, Erne had his first of three encounters with Dixon. Their initial go was a 10-rounder that was fairly ruled a draw. The rematch was set for 20 rounds with Dixon’s title on the line.

Here’s Nat Fleischer’s post factum: “Erne proved to be in every respect a superior boxer on this occasion for he outpointed Dixon at long range, beat him decisively at in-fighting, had it all over Dixon in ring generalship, besides possessing courage and fearlessness.” The ringside correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, more measured in his assessment, called it “one of the fiercest and cleanest fights, as well as one of the most scientific, that has ever been seen.”

Dixon had lost only twice previously, the first by disqualification and the other in a 4-round contest, and would win back his title in the rubber match, clearly out-pointing Erne in a match that went 25 rounds.

Making weight was always a problem for Frank Erne. After surrendering his title to Dixon, he moved up to lightweight and challenged George “Kid” Lavigne. They fought twice.

In their first meeting, Lavigne, the fabled “Saginaw Kid,” retained his title thanks to a generous referee who scored the fight a draw, but justice was served in the rematch which was staged at an outdoor arena on the outskirts of Buffalo on the day preceding the Fourth of July,1899. Despite injuring his hand in the seventh frame, Erne gave Lavigne a good drubbing and had his hand raised at the conclusion of the 20-round match. He now had the distinction of winning world titles in two separate weight classes.

Erne first met Joe Gans in March of 1900 when Gans was still in his prime. The match, slated for 25 rounds, ended in the 12th when Gans suffered a terrible injury to his left eye – some reports say the eye was knocked out of its socket – from an accidental clash of heads. The referee ruled that Gans was at fault and awarded the contest to Erne. Based on newspaper reports, that was a fair adjudication as Erne, the defending champion, had all the best of it, leaving Gans in great distress at the end of the previous round.

Gans avenged the defeat 26 months later, knocking out Erne in the opening round at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Erne’s unrelenting battle with the scales had finally caught up with him.

Erne retired the following year, but returned five years later and had one more fight, winning a 10-round decision in Paris over British veteran Curly Watson in a fight billed for the welterweight championship of France. He remained in the French capitol for some time thereafter, working as a boxing instructor and promoting a few fights before returning to the United States and taking up residence in New York City.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Frank Erne was no fool with his money, but the stock market crash of 1929 dealt him a severe blow and he was forced to seek regular employment. He became a salesman for a fuel company.

Erne won’t be around for his formal IBHOF induction, but he wasn’t completely forgotten in his dotage. On Jan. 9, 1951, the day after his 76th birthday, he received a special award at the silver anniversary dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, a gala affair held in the posh Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria with entertainment provided by Jimmy Durante and other nightclub headliners.

Erne wasn’t honored only for his in-ring exploits, but for his good character. During World War II and again during the Korean War, it was common for famous boxers of yesteryear to visit wounded soldiers in VA hospitals and regale them with stories from their fighting days to boost their spirits. Frank Erne, although he had some infirmities, was especially active in this regard, “indefatigable” said New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley.

Frank Erne, it says here, is a worthy addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Kudos to the electors who placed him on their ballot.

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