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Boxing is Heating Up in Vegas, but is this the Start of a Renaissance?

Arne K. Lang

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Beginning tomorrow (Thursday, April 25), there will be four shows in Las Vegas in a span of 10 days. They will be staged at four different venues.

On Thursday, Roy Jones Jr. brings a club show to Sam’s Town, a locals casino that sits approximately seven miles from the center of the Las Vegas Strip. On Saturday, former world title-holders Robert Easter Jr. and Rances Barthelemy will compete for the vacant WBA world lightweight title in the featured bout at the Cosmopolitan. Showtime will televise. On Thursday, May 2, there’s a Golden Boy Promotions card at the Hard Rock showcasing undefeated prospects in three 10-round matches. That show is a teaser for the lollapalooza two days later at the T-Mobile Arena, Canelo Alvarez vs. Daniel Jacobs.

That’s an awful lot of activity inside a short window, but does it portend a resurgence of boxing in the erstwhile Boxing Capital of the World? The reality is that the boxing scene isn’t as lively here as it used to be.

There were several watershed events that propelled Las Vegas into a place where boxing took on the flavor of a national sport. The 1980 fight between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes was a bummer, but a splendid concoction in the eyes of the beancounters. The fight, which was staged on a Thursday, was the first great “parking lot extravaganza” at Caesars Palace. From the standpoint of a spectacle, none were larger than the 1982 fight between Holmes and Gerry Cooney. From the standpoint of high drama inside the ropes…well, take your pick. Between 1981 and 1987, three iconic fights were staged under the stars at Caesars Palace, each of which was named Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine: Hearns-Leonard (1981), Hearns-Hagler (1985), and Hagler-Leonard (1987).

The opening of the MGM Grand in late December of 1993 heralded a new era in Las Vegas boxing. The self-styled City of Entertainment, the MGM Grand was the largest hotel in the world and fittingly had the largest arena on The Strip, the Grand Garden.

The honchos at the MGM Grand jumped into boxing with both feet, inking a multi-fight deal with promoter Don King. The timing was fortuitous as boxing was phasing out at Caesars Palace where ambitious expansion plans ate up the land previously dedicated to big outdoor fights.

The maiden show at the MGM Grand, on Jan. 29, 1994, was an 11-fight card topped by a welterweight title match between Felix Trinidad and Hector Camacho, but that wasn’t what the MGM honchos wanted. What they wanted was Mike Tyson, but that meant developing a relationship with Don King, as only King could deliver Tyson who was then locked away in an Indiana prison with a few more months left on his sentence.

Tyson made his MGM Grand debut in August of 1994 in a sham fight with Peter McNeely, the first of what would be seven Grand Garden engagements for Iron Mike.

Before the decade was out, the MGM Grand opened a sister property a short walk away, Mandalay Bay. It too embraced boxing. The first boxing shows at the property’s 12,000-seat Events Center featured Oscar De La Hoya. His May 22, 1999 lid-lifter with Oba Carr was a prelude to his Mandalay Bay megafight with Felix Trinidad.

The first few years of the new millennium were golden years for boxing in Las Vegas. In the three-year span from 2000 to 2002 there were 135 shows. Thirty-one of these were “big room” shows, meaning they were staged on a Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden or the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Most aired on HBO or Showtime. Many were pay-per-view.

Things slowed down near the end of the decade and the slowdown continued as we moved into the teens.

Here’s the breakdown for the last six years:

          Total Shows            Big Room Shows*

2013         16                               4

2014         20                               6

2015         25                               7

2016         21                               5

2017         19                               6

2018         19                               3

*The big room shows include six shows at the city’s newest arena, T-Mobile, which sits behind a sister property of the MGM Grand, and two shows at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV, an arena built to house the school’s basketball team when the team was a national power.

There are many reasons for the drop-off in boxing in Las Vegas. Although it doesn’t tell the full story, heightened competition is a major factor. The slump parallels the unfolding of boxing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn which has housed 34 shows since the arena opened in September of 2012. New gambling casinos continue to pop up every year, many of which have concert halls suitable for boxing events.

New casinos in places like Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota have siphoned away many small shows that in earlier years would have landed in Las Vegas. In theory, the diffusion of boxing across a wider landscape is good for the sport. But don’t tell that to the folks in Las Vegas who find work at these shows, either directly as boxing officials or indirectly as ushers, concessionaires, and so forth. Most are moonlighters, but for many a second income stream is needed to maintain a decent standard of living.

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Tony Yoka Makes Quick Work of Duhaupas; Yoka’s Wife Wins Too

Arne K. Lang

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An indoor rugby stadium in Nanterre, a township in an inner suburb of Paris, was the site today of a five-fight boxing show featuring Tony Yoka and his wife Estelle Mossely in separate bouts (when they fight each other, they do it in the privacy of their home). Attendance was limited to 5,000 with social distancing protocols in place.

Yoka and Mossely, the parents of two young children, the youngest a boy born in May, were each gold medal winners in boxing at the 2016 Rio games. The six-foot-seven Yoka defeated Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the gold medal round.

Today Yoka, in his first scheduled 12-rounder, was matched against 39-year-old French warhorse Johan Duhaupas who was 38-5 (25) heading in. Duhaupas went 12 rounds with Jarrell Miller, extended Deontay Wilder into the 11th frame, and knocked out Robert Helenius, the conqueror of Adam Kownacki. Despite his advanced age, he represented a step up in class for Yoka, 28, whose pro career was disrupted by a one-year suspension from the French Boxing Federation for being a no-show at three PED tests. At the very least, Duhaupas was expected to give Yoka some rounds.

But Yoka had other ideas. He needed only 121 seconds to dismantle his countryman and show that he belongs in the conversation with Daniel Dubois, Jared Anderson, the aforementioned Hrgovic and others when talking about the next generation of heavyweight stars.

Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) dropped Duhaupas midway through the opening round with an overhand right. Duhaupas didn’t appear to be badly hurt, but he had no antidote for the barrage that followed. The coup-de-gras was a big right uppercut that sent him flying backward against the ropes. The referee stepped in immediately.

Yoka’s U.S. promoter is Top Rank which is seeminly out to corner the market on bright young heavyweight prospects. When Yoka turned pro it was under the tutelage of Virgil Hunter, the trainer of Andre Ward. Yoka has spent considerable time in Las Vegas while serving as the chief sparring partner for Joseph Parker.

estelle

Estelle Mossely kept pace with her hubby. Mossely, 28, advanced her record to 7-0 (1) with an 8-round unanimous decision over countrywoman Aurelie Froment. The scores were 80-72 across the board.

This was an assignment designed to shed the rust. Froment, 33, entered the fight with a 3-0-1 record, but hadn’t previously met an opponent with a winning record. In fact, none of Froment’s previous opponents had ever won a fight. In the aggregate, the foursome was 0-32-5 at the time that she fought them. Even the world sanctioning bodies steered clear of this affair, refusing to cloak the fight in some sort of title.

That observation aside, it was a nice win for Mossely coming so soon after giving birth. Born in France of Congolese and Ukrainian descent, she is rated the world’s best active female lightweight by BoxRec.

Hot prospect Souleymane Cissikho was originally scheduled to be on the card, but pulled out for an undisclosed reason. An Olympic teammate of Tony Yoka, Cissikho is a  special talent.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series Concludes on Saturday in Munich

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PRESS RELEASE: The hotly-anticipated World Boxing Super Series Season II Cruiserweight Final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos takes place behind-closed-doors in a film studio at Plazamedia Broadcasting Center in Munich, Germany on Saturday, 26 September. On the line: The Muhammad Ali Trophy, IBF World Title, and vacant Ring Magazine 200 lbs belt.

The final will be shown live on DAZN in the US and Sky Sports in the UK.

“A final for the Muhammad Ali Trophy has proved to be something extraordinary. We have seen that it brings out the best in boxers which reflects the DNA of our tournament as to deliver and continue to deliver boxing at its very best to fans of the sport,” said Andreas Benz, CEO of Comosa, the event organizer.

“Plazamedia is a phenomenal solution, the studios are providing a controlled environment which is of huge benefit to us and the production team to keep everyone safe while also putting on a great show.

“At the same time, we have done everything to secure fair conditions for both teams, and to ensure they remain healthy and isolated until the action starts.”

Mairis Briedis, tournament No. 1 seed, qualified for the final through wins over Noel Mikaelian (UD) and Krzysztof Glowacki (TKO3), while Dorticos, No. 2 seed conquered Mateusz Masternak (UD) and Andrew Tabiti (KO10) to enter the 200 lbs decider.

“We are very happy about the announcement of the final,” said Latvia’s Mairis Briedis. “I love the fact that it will be in Munich as it reminds me of every time I went to train with the Klitschko brothers in Germany and the flights were always via Munich. Those are some great memories of the time spent with them there.”

Said Miami-based Cuban, Yuniel ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos, IBF World Cruiserweight Champion: “To all my fans worldwide, In Europe and especially in Munich, Germany: I am super happy the World Boxing Super Series final will take place in Munich, Germany, and I will see you all on Saturday, September 26th. The KO Doctor is back and ready to prescribe another dose of pain and take the Muhammad Ali Trophy back to Miami.”

Kalle Sauerland, Chief Boxing Officer of the WBSS, said: “On 26 September we will not only crown the best cruiserweight on the planet but also send a sign to the world that boxing is back with the first major transatlantic championship bout between the undisputed number one and two in their division.

The final is not only about honour and glory, but cementing a legacy. The winner will become a member of an exclusive ‘Ali Trophy Winner Club’ that includes Oleksandr Usyk, Callum Smith, Naoya Inoue and Josh Taylor. It doesn’t get much bigger in boxing, and we expect Briedis and Dorticos to have an absolute barnstormer!”

The Muhammad Ali Trophy was created by the late world-renowned artist Silvio Gazzaniga who also designed the iconic FIFA World Cup Trophy.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 106: Return of LA Boxing, Josh Taylor, Charlos and More

Let’s call this week the Big Build Up.

Back in the 1920s to the 1950s the City of Angels was known as the place where Humphrey Bogart lived and played characters out of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Books like the “Big Sleep” and “Lady in a Lake” were made into movies based in Los Angeles.

Well, here we are back where boxing thrives, people or not.

Los Angeles kicks off the big boxing week starting with a televised fight card that features home grown featherweight Vic Pasillas at the Microsoft Theater in the downtown area. Fox Sports 1 will televise the Premier Boxing Championship card on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Pasillas (15-0,8 KOs) faces Dominican fighter Ranfis Encarnacion (17-0, 13 KOs) in the co-main event at a fan-less event that begins a crowded week of boxing as we near the end of 2020.

“Coming out on top against Encarnación is going to catapult me into some big fights at featherweight. The division is wide open and I know with hard work I can take it over,” said Pasillas who is originally from Los Angeles. “This is by far the most important fight of my career. I’m coming with everything I got, because I know this is the turning point that will lead to bigger and better fights. I am ready to bring an exciting fight to the fans and get my hand raised in victory.”

Both Pasillas and Encarnacion are undefeated and unknown to most of the boxing world. A win changes everything especially when it’s difficult to even stage a boxing card.

Promoters are anxious to get their fighters in the ring by any means necessary.

On Thursday in Biloxi, Mississippi, super lightweight Michael Williams Jr. meets Thomas Miller in the headline attraction of a boxing card that will be streamed by UFC Fight Pass.

On Friday in southern Mexico, Serhii Bohachuk (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alejandro Davila (21-1-2, 8 KOs) in Merida, Yucatan. No word if it will be streamed. The super welterweight from Ukraine has a 17-fight knockout streak and has become a main attraction in Hollywood, California for 360 Promotions.

“Serhii has become one of the most talked about rising stars in boxing,” said Tom Loeffler, promoter of 360 Promotions. “Boxing fans are excited to see if he can continue his knockout streak against Alejandro Davila, the toughest opponent he’s faced. He’s been training very hard with Manny Robles for this fight and if victorious, we’re certain there will be bigger opportunities for him in the near future.”

These are all tasty appetizers for the big buffet coming on Saturday.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Saturday morning, especially if you live in the California area, ESPN+ will showcase the IBF, WBA super lightweight world title fight between champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs) and Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs) in London. It will be streamed live on Sept. 26, Saturday morning, starting at 11 a.m PST.

This is an important match for Taylor (pictured on the left) who needs a win to nail down a unification clash with Jose Carlos Ramirez the WBC and WBO titlist. If Scotland’s Taylor emerges victorious the super lightweight clash will be one of the top fights of the year.

And if that fight happens to take place, then that winner more than likely meets WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

But first things first. Taylor needs to defeat Thailand’s Khongsong on Saturday.

“I didn’t want a warm-up fight, so getting straight back in there against my mandatory challenger is great, as it’s kept me fully focused. I want big fights in my career, so this is an important fight with my belts on the line,” said Taylor.

Charlos Pay-per-view

The Charlos brothers asked for it and they got it.

Long have the brothers from Houston, Texas asked for a pay-per-view fight card and it never seemed possible until now. The Charlos will headline a pay-per-view double-header on Saturday via Showtime.

Beginning at 4 p.m PT/ 7 p.m. ET the Showtime pay-per-view card begins with three top notch bouts:

WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero (29-4) vs Ghana’s Duke Micah (24-0, 19 KOs).

WBA super bantamweight titlist Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KOs) vs Damien Vazquez (15-1-1, 8 KOs).

WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) v Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs).

Charlo was not impressed with Derevyanchenko’s performances against Daniel Jacobs and Gennady Golovkin because both were losses. He expects to dominate.

Derevyanchenko says he’s ready for Charlo.

“Golovkin is a very different fighter than Charlo, but Jacobs is similar stylistically, so that’s something I’ll be used to,” said Derevyanchenko. “This training camp has been very similar to camps for my previous fights though. We just brought in different sparring partners for this one. We’re using fighters who can show us what Charlo will bring to the ring.”

After a 30-minute intermission the second half of the boxing card begins.

Former bantamweight world champion Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) moves up in weight to face Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant WBC super bantamweight world title. Both fighters are from Mexico.

Former super bantamweight titlists Danny Roman (27-3-1) and Juan Carlos Payano (21-3) meet in a 12-round bout.

In the grand finale WBC super welterweight titlist Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) challenges IBF and WBA super welterweight titlist Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight for all three belts.

“We lions,” said Charlo.

It’s a very big week for boxing that begins on Wednesday and ends Saturday.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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