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Avila Perspective, Chap. 47: Notes on Live Boxing, Referees , Wilder and More

Arne K. Lang

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Live Boxing at the Olympic

Prize fights were slightly different back in the 20th century.

When you entered a prize fight at the Olympic Auditorium circa 1987 your face would be hit with a haze of cigar smell and you could see a ghostly waft of smoke floating above the boxing ring. The lights seemed dim and there was always a buzz of sound.

You could also hear strolling vendors selling beer, peanuts and hot dogs. It was part of the charm of watching live boxing at the old Los Angeles venue.

Today, 21st century prize fights have an entirely different feel with stringent laws that prevent smoking in public arenas. And no longer are strolling vendors allowed to hawk beer and peanuts. Yet, some things remain.

The sounds of punches connecting on each other echo in the arenas. Fans gather before and after the fights to talk about what they saw and the buzz and exhilaration from watching an exciting match provides its own endorphins. Those are priceless memories. Nothing compares to watching a live boxing card, especially for the very first time.

Luckily, Southern California leads the world in staging numerous boxing cards.

Thursday in Indio

Down in the desert region of Indio, Calif. a fight card at Fantasy Springs Casino features a little known lightweight slugger named Romero Duno (19-1, 15 KOs) facing Juan Antonio Rodriguez (30-7, 26 KOs) that promises to be a real head banging affair. Both guys pack a punch. Several other notable bouts are scheduled that include Manny Robles IV, Travell Mazion, and Rommel Caballero. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions main fights.

Speaking of smoke-filled arenas, one of the heroes of that bygone era, Ruben “El Puas” Olivares, will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans. Many consider Olivares one of Mexico’s greatest, if not the greatest bantamweight slugger of all time. The Mexico City native fought during the 1960s and 1970s and sold out the Inglewood Forum in his day. Olivares will be at Fantasy Springs Casino at 6 p.m.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Title Saturday

In Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. a suburban town in Los Angeles County near Long Beach, a Roy Englebrecht Events fight card features women in the main event.

Raquel Miller (8-0), a middleweight contender and former Olympic alternate, meets Huntington Beach’s Erin Toughill (7-4-1) in an eight round bout for the NABF middleweight title on Saturday May 18. The fight takes place at Hawaiian Gardens Casino. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Miller was the backup for Claressa Shields and we all know how good she is. The alternate has some bones to pick and it starts on Saturday with a title fight against Toughill a former boxer turned MMA fighter turned boxer again.

Toughill fought some extremely good fighters in her day like Laila Ali. Now 41, Toughill still has gas in the tank and nearly upset middleweight contender Maricela Cornejo a few months back.

“I think she beat Maricela,” said Miller who watched the streamed fight. “I expect a very good fight. She’s a veteran.”

Hollywood Sunday

Serhii “El Flaco” Bohachuk (13-0, 13 KOs) meets former world title challenger Freddie Hernandez (34-10) of Mexico in an eight round super welterweight match up at the historic Avalon Theater in Hollywood, Calif. Several celebrities are expected to attend the 360 Promotions fight card.

Bohachuk, 24, trains in Big Bear with Abel Sanchez and is very familiar with his next opponent Hernandez. His stablemate Alfredo Angulo fought Hernandez and lost three years ago to the Mexico City fighter.

“We have never talked about Freddie Hernandez but I know a lot about him,” said Bohachuk. “I expect a lot of things from him because he is a veteran with a lot of experience.”

So far no opponent of Bohachuk has ever heard the final bell. All have been knocked out.

Also, a super middleweight title fight pits Germany’s Alem Begic (22-0, 19 KOs) against fellow German Benjamin Simon (27-3, 26 KOs) in a 10-round fight for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental title.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

All the bouts can be watched on www.360promotions.com page on Facebook or Youtube.

Good referees and good trainers

Old school fighting returned last weekend in Virginia for the super welterweight world title and in Arizona for the super bantamweight and super featherweight world titles.

Boxing always gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to fights that end in an unpopular decision. Judges and referees take their fair share of criticism for their part. On this occasion referees played a big part in their success.

Referee Bill Clancy gave a clinic on exceptional refereeing during the world title fight between the eventual winner Julian “J Rock” Williams and former champ Jarrett “Swift” Hurd. During most of the 12 rounds both fighters fought in extremely close proximity and engaged in what some call “trench warfare.” It was like watching a fight from 1950s era boxing.

Clancy allowed both fighters to use their expertise in fighting in-close. In their back and forth battle the two prizefighters clinched maybe once. The only time the referee broke them apart was when the bell rang to end a round. It was a great example of professional refereeing. Most referees break up fighters even if one of their hands is free. That’s what is called over-refereeing.

Referees should allow more in-fighting. This is not the amateurs, this is prizefighting. Let the fighters show their skills. Outside fighting is not the only kind of fighting.

Now fans are calling the Williams-Hurd fight one of the candidates for Fight of the Year. If not for referee Bill Clancy it could have had a different tone.

In Tucson, Arizona, a couple of world title fights ended with the trainers stopping the fights on behalf of their defeated guys.

The most notable stoppage arrived when Francisco Vargas was getting battered in the sixth round by WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt. Immediately at the end of the frame trainer Joel Diaz looked at his fighter and waved to the ring referee and supervisors while signaling to end the fight. His guy was getting beat up and there was no sense in allowing punishment to continue.

Diaz and his brother Antonio Diaz have been in wars themselves and showed why many boxing experts consider them among the best trainers and ring seconds in the world. They take care of their fighters.

Wilder

Heavyweights collide with WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) defends against Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday May 18, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Showtime will televise.

Wilder returns to the ring five months after his highly entertaining fight with England’s Tyson Fury at Staples Center this past December. Despite knocking down Fury twice, the title fight ended in a split draw.

Now he gets to face Breazeale, a Southern California fighter who fought IBF heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua and lost by knockout three years ago. It’s a comparison test to determine whether a future title unification clash is warranted.

“I’ve grown a lot in the last few years. The Joshua fight was an eye opener.  It was good experience. I learned then that I was standing there a lot more and taking some damage that I didn’t need to take because of the big guy that I am,” said Breazeale.

Wilder wants a good fight from Breazeale.

“Dominic Breazeale better display himself on that night, because I put him on my card. He didn’t have to be on my card,” said Wilder. “I think this is the most excited I’ve been and the most I wanted to hurt a man since 2015 with Bermane Stiverne. And we all know what happened to him.”

The Showtime telecast begins at 6 p.m. PT.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonder what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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