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Three Sons of Pro Fighters Poised to Pursue Their NFL Dreams

Bernard Fernandez

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Maybe, if former heavyweight David Long Sr. and former middleweight Sanderline Williams had become highly paid and celebrated world champions, their sons would have chosen to follow in their fighting fathers’ footsteps. Then again, perhaps not. Look at what the great Evander Holyfield accomplished in boxing, but still his athletically gifted son preferred to make his mark in another sport that also requires its participants to hit and be hit.

The NFL draft is a frenzied, three-day meat market in which 32 league-member teams, after analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of hundreds of draft-eligible college players, make their selections in rounds one through seven, hoping that at least a couple of their rookie additions improve their rosters and thus their chances at going to the Super Bowl. And if the 254 drafted players aren’t enough to provide just the right youthful infusion of talent, there’s also a glut of undrafted free agents to be signed, with the same goal in mind.

No less impressive than the painstakingly thorough work of NFL scouts and front offices is that of ESPN and the NFL Network, which every year somehow manage to put together video highlights of every drafted player, even those who played at small colleges and whose games never make it onto anyone’s television screen. In showing those clips, the TV talking heads at the draft, which this year was staged in Nashville, Tenn., also have anecdotes and informational tidbits to pass along to viewers.

Thus were NFL draft junkies – of which I confess to be one – alerted to the sizes, statistics and stories of Dre’Mont Jones and David Long Jr., draftees who might or might not go on to pro football stardom with their new teams. And you can bet a lot more attention would have been devoted to Elijah Holyfield, a potential draftee who wasn’t one of the chosen 254 but shortly thereafter signed a free-agent contract. Elijah’s lineage is certain to be a hot topic when he reports to training camp with the Carolina Panthers this summer.

Given his higher draft position and the elite status of the college program for which he played – the Ohio State defensive end was taken in the third round, No. 71 overall, by the Denver Broncos – Jones likely will get a longer look in camp than either Long, a linebacker for the West Virginia Mountaineers who went to the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round, No. 188 overall, or Holyfield, the former Georgia running back whose legendary father won’t be of much assistance if his kid doesn’t show enough in camp to convince his coaches he’s NFL material.

Stats? Here they are for Jones, a 6-foot-3, 281-pounder who put together some commendable numbers during his junior season with the Buckeyes: in 14 games, he totaled 8½ sacks, 13 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one defensive touchdown scored and one interception. His pre-draft analysis describes him as “an undersized defensive tackle with above-average length and a quick first step. He’s a disruptive one-gap run-defender. He has heavy hands and flashes some violence with his initial punch rushing the passer.”

That “violence with his initial punch” bit might come from his father, Sanderline Williams, who was a pretty good middleweight from Cleveland until he began mixing it up with the division’s top performers. Williams, now 61, posted a 24-15-1 record with 14 knockouts, but at one point he was 22-4 with those 14 wins inside the distance. It’s hard to fault someone, though, for failing to maintain career momentum when you consider that he twice fought James Toney (earning a draw in their first matchup) as well as single bouts with Gerald McClellan, Reggie Johnson, Nigel Benn and Iran Barkley, all of whom at one point were, like Toney, world champions. Oh, one more thing to be considered: despite sharing the ring with a Murderer’s Row of opponents, Williams was stopped just once, by Lindell Holmes, in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-rounder on June 29, 1985.

It stands to reason that his pop taught Dre’Mont some boxing moves, if only to better protect himself on the street as the occasion warranted. But even if pro football doesn’t work out for the first-team All-Big Ten player and he eventually tries his hand at boxing, it almost certainly won’t be at Williams’ old weight class. Jones would have to shed 121 pounds to get down to middleweight, a slimming-down which, if nothing else, might net him a commercial for Nutrisystem.

David Long Jr., at 5-11¼ and 227 pounds, is already a virtual clone of his heavyweight father, but a bit on the smallish side for an NFL linebacker. His pre-draft analysis lists him as “an undersized linebacker with below-average length and top-end speed. He’s an instinctive run defender who fills gaps and sifts through traffic between the tackles. He masks below-average speed by reading the play quickly and chasing with great effort.”

The elder Long, now 47, never went as far in the fight game as did Sanderline Williams, but he did post a 12-5-2 record with eight KOs as a pro. The Cincinnati native also has the distinction of sharing the ring with future WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who starched him in one round on Nov. 26, 2011. But at first glance that bout did not appear to be the total mismatch that the outcome suggested. Although Wilder came in at 19-0, all of the wins in abbreviated fashion, Long Sr., who weighed 228 pounds to Wilder’s 215½, was a respectable 11-1-2 (7) at the time.

It was a given that Elijah Holyfield would be picked in the later rounds of the draft, if at all, after he ran the 40-yard dash in an abysmal (for a running back) 4.78 seconds at the NFL combine. But the 5-10, 217-pounder had a very productive junior season in the ultracompetitive Southeastern Conference, rushing for 1,018 yards and scoring seven touchdowns for Georgia despite splitting time with second-team All-SEC choice D’Andre Swift, a sophomore who rushed for 1,049 yards and scored 10 TDs. The pre-draft analysis on Elijah Holyfield notes that he “possesses good size and strength, but did not perform well at the combine except for the bench press (26 reps of 225 pounds). He’s a patient runner with strong leg drive, runs behind his pads and almost always falls forward at the end of runs. He lacks elite, make-you-miss suddenness, but shows good stop-start ability and has enough lateral ability to weave in and out of creases. He is more quick than fast and lacks a second gear when he hits daylight.”

Given the fact that Elijah Holyfield boxed until he was 13 and showed some promise, it wouldn’t be a shocker if he ever got around to trying his hand at the sport that made his dad rich and famous. But, ironically, it is the son who lived the dream that his father first had as a young boy growing up in Atlanta as a huge fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and the NFL Atlanta Falcons.

“Wasn’t nothing I wanted more than to play for that team (Georgia),” Evander hold me in August 2015, for a story I did on the highly recruited Elijah, the eighth of Evander’s 11 children by several women. “Herschel Walker had won the Heisman Trophy for Georgia (in 1982). It was my dream to be another Herschel Walker, and then to play for the Falcons and be another Dave Hampton.”

But while it isn’t easy to be successful in pro football, there is at least one voice from beyond the grave that says that making it at the highest levels of boxing is even more difficult.

“Athletically, boxing is the toughest profession in the world,” the late, great trainer Angelo Dundee once told me. “Just because you’re big and strong and great in football has nothing to do with it. I’ve seen it many times over the years, football players walking into gyms, asking me to train them into boxers. It never works. The qualities that a boxer has to have to be really good are different than in any other sport.”

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Hot Prospect Ruben Torres Blasts Out Gabino Cota

David A. Avila

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ONTARIO, Calif.-Those heavy hands of Ruben “Ace” Torres showed up again as he steamrolled by Gabino Cota to win their lightweight clash by knockout on Friday.

Backed by a large fan base Torres (12-0, 10 KOs) rewarded them with a one-sided shellacking of Tijuana’s Cota (19-11-2, 17 KOs) at the Doubletree Hotel. There was never any doubt who packed the heavier firepower on the Thompson Boxing Promotions main event.

Torres opened up the fight behind a solid stiff jab that must have given Cota a quick indication of the power behind it, because the Mexican veteran seldom tried to engage early in the fight. A left hook followed by five blows wobbled Cota who leaned on the ropes in a kneeling position.

It was not ruled a knockdown but easily could have been.

In the next round Torres once again connected with a sweeping left hook and it was visible the blow hurt Cota. It seemed every time the taller Torres connected with the left hook a shock of pain crossed the Tijuana fighters face, but he would not go down.

Everything changed in the fourth round. As Cota waited to avoid the left hook, Torres shot a right cross to the body that took a second for the Mexican to register the pain and down he went. He could not get up and was counted out at 52 seconds of the fourth round.

Torres was ruled the winner by knockout.

“I know I could have stopped him a little earlier but his experience,” said Torres who attended school in Santa Fe Springs. “He was tough. I was definitely waiting for him in the later rounds. I saw he was reacting to the punches that they were hurting him. I’m glad I came out victorious.”

The Santa Fe Springs lightweight has been steadily impressing everyone with his heavy-handed power.

“Line them up and I’m going to do my best to knock them down,” Torres said.

Other Bouts

George Acosta (9-1) defeated Ivan Benitez (14-4) by unanimous decision after six rounds in a fight featuring tall lanky lightweights. Acosta was the busier fighter through most of the match. Scores were 60-54, 59-55, 58-54 for Acosta whose only loss was to Ruben Torres last year.

A bantamweight clash saw Saul Sanchez (13-1, 7 KOs) out-hustle Mexico’s Victor Trejo (17-12-2, 8 KOs) to win by decision after six white-hot rounds. Fans were pleased by the nonstop action fight and it was Sanchez first return to the boxing ring after suffering his first loss last August.

Cathedral City’s Jose “Tito” Sanchez (6-0, 4 KOs) defeated the taller Luis Montellano (1-7-2) of Tijuana by unanimous decision after four rounds in a featherweight match-up. Despite the poor record Montellano proved to be a very capable fighter and used his height well until Sanchez took the fight inside and turned it into trench warfare. Sanchez was adept at smothering Montellano’s blows inside while shooting uppercuts. Scores were 40-36 for Sanchez on all three cards.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Richard Brewart (7-0, 3 KOs) won by knockout over Mexico’s Erick Martinez (14-16-1, 8 KOs) in a battle fought at super middleweight. Brewart, who scored a sensational one-punch knockout here in February of last year, weighed only 157 pounds but fought Martinez who weighed 164 pounds and whittled him down to size with a blistering body attack from the opening bell. Finally, at 1:36 of the third round, Brewart sneaked a right uppercut to Martinez’s chin and down he went for good. Referee Rudy Barragan counted out Martinez.

Ivan Zarate (2-0) proved too strong for Mexico’s southpaw Ulises Gabriel (0-2) to win by unanimous decision after four rounds in a super bantamweight fight.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Wilder – Fury 2: Points to Ponder (Plus Official Weights)

Arne K. Lang

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This afternoon’s weigh-in, scheduled for 6 PM ET, will be closely monitored by gamblers who want to inspect the merchandise before making a wager. Tyson Fury has indicated that he will likely tip the scales at about 270 pounds, which would be 13 ½-pounds more than he carried in their first meeting and 15 ½-pounds more than what he carried in his last engagement vs Otto Wallin this past September. Deontay Wilder has also indicated that he plans to carry more weight for the rematch.

Andre Ward, for one, thinks that the added weight will be a detriment to Fury. “250 pounds is plenty big enough to push Wilder around,” said Ward at a media confab yesterday where the former two-division world champion shared the dais with the other talking heads from the networks that will be showing the fight. The implication is that any gains that Fury achieves in strength would be offset by less mobility.

For the record, back in 2009, in his first scheduled 10-rounder, Tyson Fury carried 247 pounds for his match with British countryman John McDermott. That was a difficult fight for the Gypsy King with many in attendance believing he earned no better than a draw. Nine months later he met McDermott again, this time carrying 270 pounds, and Fury dominated en route to a ninth-round stoppage. So, putting on more weight for a rematch worked to his advantage.

Interestingly, Andre Ward doesn’t believe that Deontay Wilder has reached his peak in terms of his ring IQ. Wilder, 34, is a former Olympic bronze medalist but had a very brief amateur career, a “small sample size,” as Ward put it. The Bronze Bomber, he said, “is still learning on the job.”

But he’s still one-dimensional, noted former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Asked which fighter he would prefer to fight if he were still in his prime, Lewis opted for Deontay Wilder, saying that Wilder would cause him fewer problems than Fury because Fury “gives you more looks.”

Not once during yesterday’s media confab did anyone address the cut that Fury suffered against Wallin. It was a wicked gash that required 47 stitches. The view from here, and it’s a widely shared opinion, is that the fight would have been stopped if the stakes hadn’t been so high.

cut

Wilder has 36 minutes to land the punch that would turn the tide in his favor and thus far only two of his 43 opponents has lasted until the final bell. But the possibly of the cut re-opening, say several reporters with whom I brain-stormed, is just as likely as the fight ending via one of Wilder’s patented one-punch knockouts.

A shade over five months has elapsed since Fury suffered that bad cut. Was that a sufficient length of time for the cut to heal properly? And with this fight packaged as Chapter Two of a trilogy, a loss on cuts by Fury wouldn’t necessarily damage his pocketbook which may factor into the ring doctor’s decision of whether or not to stop it if this issue rears its head again.

If there is a third fight – and it’s supposedly a done deal – there’s virtually no chance that it will be staged in England. So says co-promoter Bob Arum. That’s because the PPV receipts for a mega-fight are far and away the biggest piece of the revenue pie.

If Wilder-Fury III were to be held in the UK, the fight would start in the late afternoon throughout most of North America. “The pay-per-view disappears when you hold a fight in England,” says Arum. “It’s true that you would pick up more subscribers in Europe, but that’s a little number compared to the big number you would lose.”

“What the heavyweight division has lacked in recent years,” said Mark Kriegel at yesterday’s confab, “has been a great rivalry.” Kriegel alluded to the three-fight series between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.

Will the Wilder-Fury rivalry become as celebrated as that intense rivalry or, more ambitiously, become as celebrated as the hallowed rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? That’s asking an awful lot but stay tuned.

UPDATE: Tyson Fury tipped the scales at 273 (he weighed in with his shirt and shoes on)

Deontay Wilder came in at 231.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

Any time Yanks fight Brits, expect a battle of epic proportions, but when you add rival networks, well now it’s getting downright nasty.

When undefeated WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) steps in to face lineal champion face Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 22, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it pits not only PBC versus Top Rank, but FOX versus ESPN pay-per-views.

These are all good things.

Aside from bragging rights for the winner’s side, the absolute winners could be boxing fans especially those waiting for other potential fights between PBC and Top Rank. This heavyweight clash could be the foot-in-the-door needed for boxing.

Think: welterweight showdowns between Top Rank’s Terence Crawford and PBC’s Errol Spence Jr. as a follow up. There are many other potential matchups.

All this could be the next step after this repeat heavyweight showdown.

Wilder brings his explosiveness against Fury’s tactical and incredible agility for this return match. Can they match their first encounter?

Back in December 2018, in Los Angeles, the two heavyweights boxed and slugged their way to history with the best heavyweight world championship fight of the 21st century, even topping 2003’s Lennox Lewis versus Vitali Klitschko that also took place in Los Angeles.

Great heavyweight battles are not as common as one would think. They don’t throw as many blows as welterweights and usually they are as slow as glaciers. They can lull you to sleep with their slowness.

“I’m the hardest hitting heavyweight of all time,” said Wilder when in Los Angeles.

Wilder and Fury mesmerized the public with their clash of styles especially after the tall Brit with the clever lines was dropped in the ninth and 12th rounds. How he got up to fight remains a mystery to me and many others.

“He put me down twice and here I am,” said Fury who twice beat the count after knockdowns in their first encounter at the Staples Center.

Very few heavyweight title fights can equal Fury-Wilder’s first meeting.

Memorable Heavyweight Battles of the Past

Here are a few heavyweight world title fights I saw that I actually think measure up:

Riddick Bowe versus Evander Holyfield 2 in Las Vegas on November 6, 1993.

Larry Holmes versus Ken Norton in Las Vegas on June 9, 1978.

Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier 3 in Quezon City, Philippines Oct. 1, 1975.

Wilder and Fury 2 should be similar to their first encounter but expect the fight to end in less than 12 rounds. They know each other’s tendencies, strengths, and definitely know each other’s weaknesses. Expect a knockout but it remains to be seen who gets the knockout.

Yes, we know Wilder has the power but does he have the chin?

This time Fury will be willing to test Wilder’s chin with a full-out attack and that should come early in the fight. This fight should not go past five rounds. Either Wilder goes down and out or Fury goes to sleep. Someone’s not beating the count.

I truly don’t know who wins this rematch.

20th Anniversary for Thompson

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I attended Thompson Boxing Promotion’s first boxing event at the very same Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California back on March 5, 2001. Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez was the headliner on that card and the super welterweight fight ended in a technical draw due to a clash of heads opening a cut on Bojorquez.

That was the first Thompson Boxing card and here we are on Friday February 21, 2020 with the Orange County-based company showcasing another gem in Ruben Torres.

One thing about Thompson Boxing they know how to discover talent and have a string of world champions and contenders in its 20 years of existence. Torres could be the next. They still have Danny Roman who recently lost the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles by a narrow decision. But regaining a world title remains a reality.

Torres (11-0, 9 KOs) faces Gabino Cota (19-10-2, 17 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight clash that will probably not go the distance.

I’ve seen all of Torres’ fights and through this three-year journey the 5’11” tall lightweight has been honed into a precision fighting machine by trainer Danny Zamora in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Zamora rarely gets credit for his ability to develop boxers into world class prizefighters but he has an extensive history of success. From Yonnhy Perez to Torres the Santa Fe Springs trainer has quietly produced multiple elite pugilists for just as long as Thompson Boxing has existed. Catch his act.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets or information call (714) 935-0900.

Ryan’s World

It’s been nearly one week since Ryan “The Flash” Garcia knocked out Francisco Fonseca in the first round of their regional title fight at the Honda Center in Anaheim. If you haven’t seen the highlight, go ahead and take a look. The entire fight lasted only 1:20 and it seemed shorter.

Garcia was not fighting a low caliber fighter. Let’s get that straight. Fonseca gave both Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis a difficult time. He couldn’t do the same against Garcia.

Fonseca has a lot of talent and a good chin. In fact, the day after losing to Tank Davis by illegal blows behind the head, the fighter who lived in Costa Rica visited my home in Southern California and seemed more than healthy despite the fouls committed against him and allowed by the referee and Nevada State Athletic Commission. Though Fonseca’s team took their complaint to the Commission – with extensive footage showing the hits behind the head – the loss was not overturned.

Over the years I’ve seen Garcia fight both as an amateur and professional and it was obvious to me and almost every major promoter in America that he has talent. All were interested in signing Garcia once he turned 18.

Well, Golden Boy signed him and here he is on the precipice of a world title challenge. It’s not a surprise to those in the boxing game. It’s only a surprise to those that truly don’t know prizefighting. This kid is for real.

Oxnard

On open workout for the public will be held by Diego Magdaleno at La Colonia Gym in Oxnard, California on Friday, Feb. 21. The workout begins at 5 p.m. and equipment will be donated to the boxing club by Shannon Torres Gilman.

Magdaleno, a lightweight contender who scored a big win on national television last weekend on the Plant-Feigenbutz card, is the older brother of former world champion Jessie Magdaleno. He is also training and managing former female world champion, Crystal Morales, who is scheduled to fight on March 27 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 8 p.m. Thompsonboxing.com – Ruben Torres (11-0) vs Gabino Cota (19-10-2).

Fri. 11:30 p.m. Telemundo – Saul Juarez (25-10-2) vs Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1).

Sat. 6 p.m. FOX or ESPN pay-per-view – Deontay Wilder (42-0-1) vs Tyson Fury (29-0-1); Emanuel Navarrete (30-1) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2); Charles Martin (27-2-1) vs Gerald Washington (20-3-1); Javier Molina (21-2) vs. Amir Imam (22-2).

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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