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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 42: Pound for Pounders Lomachenko, Shields and More

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Lomachenko

One of the wizards of boxing Vasyl Lomachenko leads a trio of the best fighters on the planet headlining separate events this weekend. The other two pound for pound best are female prizefighters.

WBA and WBO lightweight titlist Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) meets England’s Anthony Crolla (34-6-3, 13 KOs) on Friday April 12, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card live.

Six years have elapsed since Ukraine’s Lomachenko made his pro debut after dominating the amateur boxing scene for years. In the half dozen years as a pro the speedy southpaw has evolved into a full-fledged professional fighter. No more slap shots and dosy-does around the ring.

Hyperbole comes easy in the boxing promoting world, but in the past two years against elite competition the fighter known as “High Tech” has graduated into another level. Wins over Jorge Linares and Guillermo Rigondeaux have added spit shine luster to a glowing resume.

“He’s one of the greatest fighters of his generation,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who’s seen them all for the past 50-plus years in the boxing world.

Lomachenko, 31, has acclimated into the hurt game and graduated to a higher form of prizefighting. Fans should expect a high octane performance. Nothing less.

Can Crolla force him to another realm?

“I saw his fights with Linares. Anthony Crolla has a very defensive style. I have my strategy,” said Lomachenko during media day. “I will find the key to his defense. I have to be aggressive and throw a lot of punches.”

Any time a pound for pound fighter performs is worth watching. Lomachenko definitely belongs in the top 10 in the world. Next up to try and stop the Lomachenko machine is Crolla.

“This would be the pinnacle of my career and then some. I think we’ll see a bit of everything on the night. I know I am prepared to leave everything in the ring,” said Crolla. “I’ve got fans, family, friends and gym mates coming to LA to cheer for me and that just spurs me on even more.”

Also on the same card is WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez (39-0, 25 KOs) trying out the light heavyweight division against Tommy Karpency (29-6-1, 18 KOs) in a battle of tall southpaws. Lefty versus lefty changes up everything.

It’s merely a try out.

“Ramirez is just going to see if he likes it,” said Arum. “If not, he will go back.”

Ramirez possesses the height at 6’2 and though he seems to have long arms, prefers fighting on the inside Mexican style.

“I know Tommy is an experienced guy, but if Bob gives me a big fight with Callum Smith at 168, I can make the weight. That would be a fantastic fight,” said Mexico’s Ramirez, 27.

Karpency, 33, stands an inch over 6-feet in height and has fought numerous world champions in the past and has a win over Chad Dawson.

“We’re both southpaws, so that makes for a better flow than righty versus lefty. And we’ll see what happens,” said Karpency.

Another interesting matchup pits undefeated Arnold Barboza (20-0, 7 KOs) against former world champion Mike Alvarado (40-4, 28 KOs) in a super lightweight clash set for 10 rounds at the Staples Center on Friday.

“I don’t think he had a choice,” said Alvarado who engaged in some of the most intense battles in L.A. several years ago against Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios and Juan Manuel Marquez. “I think they made him fight me.”

Alvarado hasn’t lost in four years.

The ESPN+ broadcast begins at 5 p.m. PT.

Shields and Hammer

You couldn’t pick two better names than Shields and Hammer.

The pending middleweight unification battle between Claressa Shields (8-0, 2 KOs) and Christina Hammer (24-0, 11 KOs) on Saturday April 13, at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, between two pound-for-pound combatants who are both undefeated in the female fight world has never happened before with women. It’s almost happened before, but didn’t.

Years ago Laila Ali and Ann Wolfe were in a similar position but despite the clamor and hoopla the two female middleweights never met in the boxing ring. It remains one of the travesties of female boxing history.

Today, we have America’s Shields with her two Olympic gold medals draped over her shoulders and attacking the female pro fight world like a speeding bullet. She’s ripped through every opponent put in front of her and shredded them with nary a blip. Except against Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels who managed to knock down Shields but was henceforth dominated.

In the other corner we have Hammer a tall blue-eyed prizefighter from Germany, home to many excellent female boxers in the past 25 years. The 28-year-old boxer/puncher with a rifle jab has never been defeated in 24 pro fights despite fighting for nearly a decade. She’s a very strong fighter who prefers to fight on the outside so she can batter opponents with her jabs. She also wields a strong right cross.

It’s Shields speed and agility versus Hammer’s long stiff jabs. Can Shields get on the inside where she can unleash those blazing combinations?

Or will Hammer wrap her up with her holding tactics that rendered Kali Reis helpless when they fought twice. Hammer’s jab is relentless.

They’re both primed for the fight of their life.

“I don’t want to let the women who came before me down. They never got to have a fight as big as this one,” said Shields, 24. “I don’t want anyone to say it’s all hype. I want to put on a show.”

Hammer is equally aware of the spotlight.

“I want to show that I’m the undisputed champion. I’m the longtime champion and I’m going to let the people see that women’s boxing is exciting just like the men. This is a great match to show that,” said Hammer, 28.

All of the belts will be the prize including WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF titles. Showtime will televise this historic moment beginning at 6 p.m.

Teofimo

Top Rank’s Arum said he admires the tournament exhibiting the best super lightweights in the world. He has a couple of his own and is willing to put his guys against the winner of that tournament.

One is Teofimo Lopez, 21, their undefeated lightweight at the moment, who is not shy about fighting world champions now.

“He’s like a wild stallion,” said Arum. “We don’t know how good he is or can be.”

Arum said a possible match between Lopez and IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey is an immediate possibility for the Brooklyn-based fighter.

“We can’t keep him trotting, he wants to run,” said Arum about Lopez, adding that he foresees him moving up in weight to challenge the super lightweights.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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