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Anton Raadik — Seconds Away

Ted Sares

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WIKIPEDIA states that Anton “The Rampaging Estonian” Raadik was the most famous Estonia-born middleweight boxer of the 1940’s and 1950’s, but how many Estonian boxers could there have been back in the day or at any time for that matter?

Whatever the case, after a successful amateur career (he reportedly won 118 of 130 amateur fights) and after some early bouts in Europe, he moved to the multi-ethnic confines of Chicago where he gained great popularity among the Estonians and others from northern European countries.

The Estonian, who was a stalker and boxer/puncher (especially to the body), fought during a time when boxers treated their work as a craft. They did not resort to fancy trunks, music introductions, theatrics, pyrotechnics, manufactured anger at weigh-ins, large entourages, or inane belt waving. Main event boxers, wearing long unmarked robes, nodded modestly to the crowd when introduced in the manner of the great Joe Louis. They were serious- looking men with equally serious cornermen ready to do their job.

New York City’s Joey LaMotta was 32-2-2 when Anton (11-3) beat him at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1946. Anton was very active that year, having fought 12 times, but Joey had fought an incredible 28 times in 1945 alone amassing a record of 26-1-1. It was a nice scalp for Raadik, but brother Jake LaMotta (61-10-3) proved to be a tougher nut to crack as Raadik lost a UD just three months later in the vast Chicago Stadium. He bounced back with a stoppage win over popular Anton Christoforidis in 1947, again at the Chicago Stadium, and the legendary “Christo the Fisto” (the first Greek to become a world boxing champion) retired afterwards. Still another great win on Raadik’s resume.

As a testament to Raadik’s popularity, he was the main attraction on most of the shows on which he fought and it was not uncommon for thousands of fans to attend a Raadik bout.

The next two fights were losses at the hands of Georgie Abrams and Al Hostak, two very high profile boxers, but “The Rampaging Estonian” avenged the Abrams defeat by savagely stopping Georgie in 1948 at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. Like Christoforidis, Abrams retired after the loss.

Cerdan vs. Raadik (1947)

This was Anton’s career-defining fight. No one expected the tough-as-nails Estonian to give the great Marcel Cerdan (101-2 at the time) much trouble and those expectations were met as the “Casablanca Clouter” had his way for the first nine rounds, easily out-boxing Raadik. But then a shocking turn of events occurred as Cerdan began to tire in the 10th and Raadik, sensing his chance, raged after Cerdan as he lived up to his own nickname. Here is what eloquent Mike Casey had to say about this fight in a 2013 article for Boxing.com titled “Play it Again Sam, The Magic of Marcel Cerdan”:

“…, every great fighter has a few bad nights and Marcel most certainly had one of his in his next outing. It wasn’t bad at all for the first nine rounds against the rugged and dangerous Anton Raadik, memorably described by one reporter as a ‘rampaging Estonian.’ Raadik did indeed rage, but Marcel raged more to carry a comfortable points lead into the tenth and final round at the Chicago Stadium.

“Then the gods gripped hold of the rug under Cerdan’s feet and gave it an almighty tug. Raadik began to catch Marcel with head punches. Repeatedly so. Worryingly so. Cerdan’s American trainer, Lew Burson, must have felt his stomach bouncing off his shoes. It had to happen and it did. A right from Raadik knocked Cerdan down and very nearly through the ropes. Marcel jumped up right away but couldn’t get out of the firing line as his hunter surged forward, firing a combination of punches. Cerdan was driven around the ring and decked again for a count of four. Raadik saw his chance of glory and moved in to grab it with both hands. Backtracking into a trap of his own making, Cerdan was corralled in a neutral corner as Anton let rip with all he had. A left-right combination caused Marcel to bounce off the ropes and fall for the third time.

“A less rugged fighter would probably have gone under at that point, but the Frenchman was back on his feet after a “five” count. The bell sounded to end the fight and a dazed Cerdan trudged back to his corner. Manager Lew Burson cradled him in his arms and cried on his shoulder…..”

On September 21, 1948, Cerdan would snatch the world middleweight title from Tony Zale in Jersey City, but his path to that glorious moment would have been arguably blocked had his fight with Anton Raadik lasted just a few more seconds.

Bell vs. Raadik (1948)

Going into this one, Raadik by now had fought the likes of Rhode Island’s great Ralph Zannelli (81-33-7 at the time), Abrams (twice), Christoforidis, Jake and Joey LaMotta, Carl “Bobo” Olson, Steve Belloise (90-11), Danny Nardico, Harry “Kid” Matthews (twice), Sonny Horne (twice), and Robert Villemain.

His opponent, slick Tommy Bell, fought from 1942-1951. His resume included a who’s who of fighters: California Jackie Wilson (twice), Sugar Ray Robinson (twice), Jake LaMotta (three times), Al Hostak, Steve Belloise, Fritzie Zivic (157-65-9 for an astounding total of 231 fights), and Cecil Hudson. The combined won-lost record of Tommy opposition was astounding.

These were two tough hombres.

Bell, who had lost a split decision to Kid Gavilan in his most recent bout, was a slight favorite. During this brutally humid Chicago night at Marigold Gardens amidst the smell of cheap cigars and expensive perfume, cash was changing hands at a fast pace.  As the boxers emerged from their dressing rooms, the raucous fans were up and howling. This writer was one of them as he was witnessing his first live fight.

From the opening, Raadik began stalking Bell but couldn’t catch him. Tommy kept Raadik off of him with neat jabs, a slick defense, and good foot movement . But just as the fans became restless and began to boo, the Estonian unleashed a series of loud, crunching body shots that slowed Bell down. Raadik jumped on Tommy in the ninth again, attacking viciously to the body. Then Anton, a fighter with a solid ring IQ, went upstairs when Bell’s arms sagged and fired a series of malicious blows to Bell’s head that forced Tommy to one knee. When a bleeding Bell got up, he fell backward into the ropes and it was over.

When Raadik winked at this writer from the ring as his hand was being raised in victory, a chill went down the boy’s spine. He was hooked and has been feeding his now 70-year addiction ever since.

Tommy Bell would go on to close his career with a 53-29- 3 slate, losing 12 of his last 15, mostly on points. His last fight was a six-round TKO loss to Pierre Langlois in Paris.

Raadik boxed until 1952, losing far more than he won while fighting such top-level opponents as Carl “Bobo” Olson, Robert Villemain, and Harry (Kid) Matthews. Losing 13 of his final 15 — his last to rugged Garth Panter in Boise, Idaho by 10-round UD– Anton finished with a deceptive record of 37-25-1.

Anton Raadik passed away in Chicago in 1999 at the age of 82.

Ted Sares 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). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Grand Master class and plans to compete in 2019.

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Ted Sares

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Putting pineapple on pizza is not a good idea but it IS an example of point counterpoint, and when these two boxers meet on Friday in Philadelphia with the WBC and IBF world light heavyweight titles at stake, it also will be a contrast—but not of tastes as much as styles..

There are, however, many similarities. Both are Eastern European boxers though one, Gvozdyk, is a Ukrainian and the other, Beterbiev, is a Russian and this particular regional difference has sparked a lot of conversation. (Interestingly, Beterbiev has never fought professionally in Russia, nor has the English-speaking Gvozdyk ever fought in the Ukraine.)

Both have superb amateur credentials but this has a flip side in that too many amateur fights can add to the wear and tear of these Eastern Euro warriors when they become professionals. Beterbiev is 34; Gvozdyk 32.

Both are undefeated with outstanding knockout percentages. Gvozdyk, aka The Nail, is 17-0 with 14 KOs. Beterbiev (14-0) has won all of his fights inside the distance.

Both are excellent finishers and when they have their man hurt, it’s all over.

Both have excellent corners and handlers and will be fit and ready to rumble.

“This could very well be the fight of the year…These are two evenly matched, undefeated light heavyweight champions. There is nothing better in the sport of boxing,” says promoter Bob Arum.

Styles

The 6’0” Beterbiev’s style is one of a stalking aggressor and he is especially dangerous when his opponent engages him in a heated exchange as that allows him to land one of his heavy-handed bombs. To use an old cliché, Artur has “bricks in his fists.” He also is dangerous when he is stunned as Callum Johnson discovered.

Some say Beterbiev’s chin is a question mark but his style allows an opponent to nail him (no pun intended) as he moves in. That may well be more a function of his go-forward movement than it is any weakness in his chin.

Conversely, The Nail is a very accurate and powerful puncher and is technically (and defensively) more sound than the bludgeoning Russian. He uses a super-fast jab and counters with sharp stuff. This 6’2” slickster combines exceptional speed and deceptive power. He is patient, relaxed, and fluid.

Intangibles

Has Gvozdyk’s psyche been altered by the events of his December 2018 fight with Adonis Stevenson wherein Adonis (thankfully now recovering) was severely injured? While The Nail was somewhat stymied by his last opponent, Doudou Ngumbu, the thinking here is that that had more to do with Ngumbu’s awkwardness than anything else—and that the Stevenson matter is mostly in the past. In short, the Nail’s focus on Friday should be right where it should be.

With a KO percentage of 100%, Beterbiev has answered the bell for very few rounds, only 52 to be exact. This could weigh against him.

Prediction: Gvozdyk’s superior boxing skills should begin to bear fruit in the mid to late rounds when a frustrated Beterbiev is forced to take risks for which he will pay dearly. I see “The Nail” winning by late stoppage or by UD.

A Russian vs. a Ukrainian — one who lives in Canada and the other who lives in California.  Heck, it’s the battle of ex-patriots. If ever a fight was much anticipated, this is the one.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Arne K. Lang

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Throughout history, boxing promoters have shunned the weeks before Christmas. The conventional wisdom is that the typical fight fan has little money at his disposal for a frivolity such as a night at the fights, having exhausted his funds buying Christmas presents. But don’t tell that to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who has flouted this dictum and profited handsomely.

Back in 1995, Arum secured Madison Square Garden for the night of Dec. 15 for a show that pitted Oscar De La Hoya against Jesse James Leija in the main event. The cynics said the date was all wrong, let alone the location for a match between two Mexican-Americans from out west, one from LA and the other from San Antonio. But lo and behold, the show was a big money-maker, attracting a crowd of 16,027, more than 15,000 paid.

Arum anticipates another box office bonanza on Dec. 14 when he plants an ESPN and ESPN Deportes tripleheader in America’s most famous sports arena, an event headlined by Terence “Bud” Crawford’s WBO title defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Crawford, who turned 32 several weeks ago, moved up to welterweight after grabbing all the belts at 140 and will be making his fourth welterweight title defense.

The opening bout on the telecast pits featherweight Michael Conlan against former amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan will be making his sixth appearance at the Garden. In the co-feature, Richard Commey defends his IBF world lightweight title against Teofimo Lopez.

Although many rate Terence Crawford the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, he has been something of a forgotten man lately. Almost 10 full months have elapsed since he last fought. Oscar De La Hoya, who had a bitter break-up with Arum late in his boxing career, recently took a swipe at Arum for not keeping Crawford more active, suggesting Arum’s “inertia” might be keeping Crawford out of the Hall of Fame.

The Crawford-Kavaliauskas match-up serves as Arum’s retort as it will shine a bright spotlight on Crawford, the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, as Arum’s show will air on ESPN directly following the Heisman Trophy presentation. Now it behooves Arum to pull some strings so that the Heisman Trophy show doesn’t run too long as has happened in the past.

At the moment, parlaying Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seems like a safe bet, but Egidijus Kavaliauskas, a two-time Olympian who was profiled on these pages in July of 2016, is no slouch.

True enough, Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) didn’t look all that sharp in his last outing when he was held to a draw by Ray Robinson, but Philadelphia’s Robinson had an awkward style (think former heavyweight contender Jimmy Young) and was fighting in his hometown.

If Kavaliauskas were a horse, we would say that he comes from a great barn. The 31-year-old Lithuanian is a stablemate of the Big Three in the barn of Egis Klimas: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) hails from Ghana but now hangs his hat in Brooklyn. His losses were both by split decision in back-to-back fights with Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov and he has won five straight since then, most recently an eighth-round stoppage of veteran Ray Beltran in the first defense of his IBF title.

Teofimo Lopez, 10 years younger than Commey at age 22, is moving up in class, but will yet go to post the favorite. In his last start, Lopez won a unanimous 12-round decision over Masoyoshi Nakatani, ending a skein of highlight reel knockouts. In December of last year, Lopez scored a one-punch knockout over Mason Menard in a bout that lasted all of 44 seconds. It was named the TSS Knockout of the Year.

Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) grew up in Davie, Florida, but was born in Brooklyn and currently has a home there, giving the show even more of a local flavor. He and his Honduras-born father of the same name are not shy when it comes to boasting of his prowess and Teofimo’s braggadocio has enhanced his appeal with young fans.

Michael Conlan (10-0, 7 KOs) and Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, all by decision) met in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Nikitin got the decision, a jaw-dropper that spawned the most indelible moment of the Games when an enraged Conlan gave the judges a two-middle-finger salute.

The rematch between them was hatched at that moment although it took awhile for Arum to rope the Russian into the fold. They were originally slated to fight on Aug. 3 at an outdoor show in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, but Nikitin suffered a torn bicep in training and had to pull out.

This is the kind of match that Bob Arum can really get his teeth in. The crusty octogenarian and former attorney would have it that all people of good character ought to be rooting for Conlan in the interest of seeing an injustice rectified.

Regardless, Arum’s Dec. 14 show is a nice Christmas present for Big Apple boxing fans.

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Three Punch Combo: Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Thoughts and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo — For hardcore fans, one of the most attractive fights of the year takes place on Friday when undefeated light heavyweight champions Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s) battle in a title unification bout. This contest will headline an ESPN televised card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. Here are a few subtle things that could play a factor in how this fight plays out.

A Tactical Fight?

Twenty years ago, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in a welterweight title unification fight. It was a super fight between two explosive punchers. Everyone expected fireworks, but as we all know, it turned into an all-out chess match for twelve rounds.

When two big punchers meet, sometimes we get fireworks and sometimes each fighter respects the other’s power so much that they both become somewhat tentative inside the ring.

Keep in mind we have seen in several Gvozdyk fights a somewhat cautious approach. He will take what is given and nothing more. As for Beterbiev, he has typically been a very aggressive fighter (more on that later) but has had his moments where caution has entered his mindset. Just take a look back at his 2017 fight with Enrico Koelling.

I know it is the unpopular opinion but we could certainly see a very tactical chess match between these two on Friday.

Beterbiev’s Defense and Chin

Beterbiev, as noted, is a very aggressive fighter. But with that aggression comes an almost complete lack of focus on the defensive side of the game.

So far, Beterbiev’s offense has been his best defense as many times his opponents have simply been too fearful of opening up. But at times the cracks have shown. Callum Johnson, for example, wasn’t afraid to throw in spots and when he did, his punches landed.

In that fight, we saw Beterbiev get hurt and dropped. Beterbiev showed a ton of heart to come back from that moment and later stop Johnson, but his chin is certainly a question mark. And Gvozdyk, aside from carrying one-punch power, is a very sharp and accurate puncher who has shown excellent finishing skills thus far in his career.

Gvozdyk’s Mindset

A little more than ten months ago, Gvozdyk wrested away the title from Adonis Stevenson. But on what was supposed to be the night where Gvozdyk’s dream came true, things almost turned tragic as Stevenson suffered a brain bleed that nearly took his life.

Gvozdyk has had one fight since against journeyman Doudou Ngumbu. Though Gvozdyk won easily, there was something about his performance that just didn’t feel right. Gvozdyk had a fighter in front of him who offered little resistance but seemingly didn’t want to fully step on the gas.

In order to compete with Beterbiev, we have to see the same Gvozdyk that we saw against Stevenson. But has Gvozdyk’s mindset permanently been altered by the events of that evening?

Under The Radar Fight

A pivotal crossroads bout in the welterweight division between Luis Collazo (39-7, 20 KO’s) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO’s) is also on Friday’s ESPN broadcast. The winner will be in prime position for a title shot in 2020.

Collazo, a world welterweight titlist back in 2005, is in the midst of yet another career resurrection. After getting stopped by defending WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman in 2015, Collazo has won three straight. And these wins were not against subpar opposition. Two were against up-and-coming young fighters in Sammy Vasquez and Bryant Perrella; the other against fringe contender Samuel Vargas.

At age 38, Collazo has proven he still has plenty in the tank and has clawed back up the rankings in the welterweight division. But to get one more shot at a title, Collazo must find a way to get past another young up-and-comer in Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov.

Abdukakhorov, 26, is coming off the biggest win of his pro career this past March when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former 140-pound title challenger Keita Obara. That win boosted Abdukakhorov into the number one position in the IBF at welterweight and in line to one day be the mandatory challenger for current belt-holder Errol Spence Jr.

Stylistically, I love this matchup. Abdukakhorov is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He will look to press the attack and won’t be afraid to lead looking to land his best punch which is the overhand right. Collazo is a southpaw who is a natural counterpuncher. He will look to make Abdukakhorov’s aggression work against him and should find plenty of opportunities to do so.

I think we are going to get an action-packed, competitive fight. This should serve as an excellent appetizer to Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.

What’s Next For Dmitry Bivol?

This past Saturday, Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a wide unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KO’s). Though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, the win keeps Bivol in line for bigger opportunities down the road. So, what’s next for him?

Saturday’s title defense marked Bivol’s second consecutive appearance on the streaming service DAZN. DAZN needs future opponents for its two biggest stars in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Clearly part of the reason for DAZN showing interest in Bivol is geared toward him potentially getting one or the other down the road.

Though Alvarez is fighting at light heavyweight in November, this appears to be a one-time appearance for the Mexican superstar in that division. He is likely headed back to middleweight or the 168-pound weight class. As for Golovkin, he has fought his entire 13-year career at middleweight. A move at some point soon to 168 would not be a surprise.

Bivol and his team have made it very clear that he can get down to 168. With DAZN’s two biggest stars hovering around that division, a move down to 168 seems likely.

The WBA champion at 168 is Callum Smith who is slated for a title defense in November against UK countryman John Ryder. Assuming Smith prevails, he would make a logical opponent for Bivol in the spring of 2020.

Smith-Bivol would be a big fight between two young undefeated fighters and the winner would then be in position for a mega fight later in 2020 against either Alvarez or Golovkin.

But what if Smith goes a different direction following the Ryder fight? If that is the case, Bivol may instead just look to dip his toes in the water at 168 with someone like Rocky Fielding.

Fielding is a tough, gritty competitor who is popular in the UK and has name recognition in the US based on his fight last December with Canelo. But as we saw in that fight, Fielding is very limited.

Fielding is just the type of opponent who could bring out the best in Bivol. A spectacular knockout would help erase some of Bivol’s recent lackluster performances. And this would, of course, make Bivol much more marketable for a future date with Alvarez or Golovkin.

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