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Deontay Wilder’s New Nuances Almost as Startling as His Trademark Right Hand

Bernard Fernandez

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How much improvement can a fighter, any fighter, demonstrate in only 137 seconds? How many sandpaper-rough stylistic edges can be smoothed in that comparatively brief snippet of time?

Before WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder entered the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Saturday night, the one thing everyone knew he had was a booming right hand that had accounted for virtually all of his previous 39 knockout victories, 19 of which were one-round quickies. At first glance it appeared another case of the same devastating stuff when Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs) landed his signature shot with less than a minute remaining in the opening round. Semi-conscious challenger Dominic Breazeale (20-2, 18 KOs) crashed onto his back, his arms and legs outstretched as if he were being spread-eagled, with referee Harvey Dock going through the formality of counting him out after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

But it was in those two-plus minutes prior to an ending that everyone in the live turnout of 13,181 and a Showtime audience should have expected that Wilder, at the relatively advanced age of 33, revealed that he might be more than a one-trick pony. This Wilder didn’t just use his boarding-house-reach of a jab as a range finder; he snapped it out with some authority. He threw and landed an early left hook to the body, notable because the Wilder with whom fight fans were familiar was almost exclusively a headhunter. And, most telling of all, the two big right hands that did find the mark – he got Breazeale’s attention prior to the putaway blow with one that didn’t quite land flush – weren’t his typical roundhouses.

“The quickest point from A to B is always that straight line, that right hand straight down the middle,” color analyst Paulie Malignaggi said of what would appear to be a new and improved version of Wilder’s weapon of choice.

“I’m an intelligent fighter. I’m very smart in the ring with the way I set these guys up,” Wilder said at the post-fight press conference. But if that were so, these additional wrinkles or nuances would have been unveiled earlier in a career that hasn’t always been as appreciated as it might have been. He is still trained by Jay Deas and Mark Breland, so the logical conclusion is that what they likely have been telling him all along in the gym must finally have sunk in. If that is indeed the case, then Wilder, whose startling power when unleashed in any form made him an omnipresent threat, had in those 137 seconds transformed himself into an even more dangerous dude.

They say history has a way of repeating itself. Another large heavyweight of considerable renown, Lennox Lewis, fought much like the unpolished Wilder in the formative stages of his Hall of Fame career. But after Lewis relinquished his WBC title to seemingly no-hope challenger Oliver McCall, who dropped and then stopped him in the second round on May 13, 1995, in London, he fired trainer Pepe Correa and replaced him with Emanuel Steward, who had worked McCall’s corner the night “The Lion” became an ex-champ. Steward, a brilliant tactician, radically retooled Lewis, especially his jab, which was upgraded from pawing range-finder to the instrument that made the big Briton’s overhand right even more effective. Following perfunctory TKOs of Lionel Butler and Justin Fortune in his next two bouts, the best of Lewis was revealed on Oct. 7, 1995, in Atlantic City, N.J., when he floored a bloodied Tommy Morrison four times en route to winning via a sixth-round stoppage.

“I really feel like I have one of the superior jabs in the heavyweight division right now,” a beaming Lewis said after that fight, in which he showcased not only his spiffy new jab but a left hook that the pre-Steward version seldom dared to employ. “I wanted to see how Tommy Morrison would contend with it. The first couple of rounds, he contended with it. But as the rounds went by, I found my jab started to get to him.”

Is Wilder going to continue to utilize more of the tools in what would appear to be an expanded tool box? Difficult to predict. As sample sizes go, 137 seconds isn’t much. Even his destruction of the limited Breazeale may not be conclusive proof that he has matched or supplanted Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) atop the heavyweight heap. The Englishman has three bejeweled championship belts (IBF, WBA, WBO) to Wilder’s one, and he is a wide favorite to retain them when he takes on late substitute challenger Andy Ruiz Jr. (32-1, 21 KOs) in Joshua’s U.S. debut June 1 in Madison Square Garden. There also are those who are convinced lineal champ Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) is superior to Wilder, despite the fact Wilder dropped him twice in their Dec. 1 bout last year that ended in a split draw.  Unless or until Wilder again faces Fury, or Joshua, he will be obliged to continue convincing however many doubters remain unswayed by his string of exclamation-point knockouts.

“I display greatness when I step in the ring,” Wilder said. “I put fear in any man. I know I have tremendous power. That’s no secret. At this point I think I’ve proved myself, with the record that I have and many a body that done hit the canvas.”

Truth be told, it is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss Wilder as a crude, wild-swinging brawler who was absent the day fundamental boxing skills were being taught. You want to say that some of the nine title defenses he’s made were against fringe contenders that didn’t exactly constitute a Murderer’s Row? Fine, but he went toe-to-toe with Luis Ortiz and weathered a few sticky moments before winning on a 10th-round stoppage, and he came ever so close to knocking out Fury in the 12th round, a rare late bolt of lightning that likely preserved his undefeated record. Oh, and don’t forget that he was willing to go to Moscow to defend his title against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, a bout which was scrapped when Povetkin tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

“Deontay will fight anyone,” said his co-manager, Shelly Finkel, who previously worked with, among others, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. “He was willing to fight Joshua for very little comparative to what he was worth. When someone wants to make a fight, they make it. When we wanted to get Fury, we overpaid him. We gave him anything he wanted in order to make the fight.”

There almost certainly will be more concessions made by Team Wilder to procure a date with Joshua, not the least of which will be the requirement to travel to the United Kingdom, where Joshua sells out soccer stadiums. Joshua, who had handed Breazeale his only previous defeat, by seventh-round TKO on June 26, 2016, had publicly stated that he hoped Breazeale would last at least until the eighth round against Wilder, if only to keep up appearances.

Maybe he isn’t the least flawed of heavyweights, but with his ninth consecutive heavyweight title defense – matching the number for sixth place all time shared by Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Vitali Klitschko, Lewis and Tyson – he has entered the conversation for being one of the hardest-punching of big men. It is not yet where he wants to be, but as a launching pad for bigger and better things, it ain’t half-bad.

The Real Godzilla is 5-foot-5 and 118 pounds

As impressive as the bomb Wilder detonated on Breazeale’s jaw, the top performance of the day came half a world away, in Glasgow, Scotland, where Japan’s Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs), whose nickname is “The Monster,” looked like the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world with his second-round knockout of Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12 KOs), the IBF bantamweight champion, in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series. Until Inoue floored him three times with left hooks Joe Frazier would have been proud of, Rodriguez, his face contorted in agony on each trip to the canvas, had never been knocked down as a professional.

Inoue’s victory moves him into the WBSS 118-pound final against veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs), the WBA and WBC Diamond titlist who also has a pretty good left hook.

So dominant has the 26-year-old Inoue been that there were immediate suggestions he move up – way up – in the pound-for-pound ratings, maybe far enough up to supplant Vasiliy Lomachenko or Terence Crawford at No. 1, depending on which list you choose to believe. It’s a reason for legitimate discussion, because Inoue really is that good. Maybe he already has done enough to rise above the great Hall of Famer Fighting Harada as the best ever from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Avila Perspective, Chap 111: Munguia, Tank and The Monster

David A. Avila

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Here come some more hardcore fights.

As the end of the year approaches contracts must be honored. That’s a good thing for fight fans even during a pandemic.

Golden Boy Promotions brings a loaded fight card led by Mexican swing-from-the-heels fighter Jaime Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs) moving into the middleweight division against Tureano Johnson (21-2-1, 15 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. DAZN will stream the Friday night fight card on Oct. 30.

Munguia (pictured opposite Johnson) just recently turned 24 years old; a couple of weeks ago. The former super welterweight world titlist out of Tijuana grew out of the division and now is mentored by boxing great Erik “El Terrible” Morales. No more swinging at anything that moves. Now it’s technical savagery.

Johnson, 36, hasn’t fought in over a year but in that last fight he knocked off Ireland’s undefeated Jason Quigley. That was not supposed to happen. The Bahamian native only has two losses and those were stoppages in the last round by Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Curtis Stevens. He has the technique, but does he have the chin?

Another savage battle involves welterweights.

New England’s Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis (22-0, 14 KOs) faces Orange County’s Alexis Rocha (16-0, 10 KOs) a hard-hitting southpaw in a showdown set for 12 rounds. Will it go that long?

Both have power and I doubt the fight goes beyond seven rounds. Both have ended fights in the opening rounds before. If someone blinks at the wrong time it could be over quickly.

Others on the card including super featherweight contender Lamont Roach and super middleweight prospect Bektemir Melikuziev. Also, female contenders Sulem Urbina and Marlen Esparza square off. Opening bout begins at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Crazy Saturday

A Matchroom Boxing fight card stemming from England showcases a Southern California-based world champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) meeting Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) in the heavyweight main event.

Usyk, now 33, just recently conquered the cruiserweight division and was undisputed world champion and now deigns to move up in weight where the money is much better fighting the big boys. He’s a speedy Ukrainian southpaw who uses plenty of movement and has shocking power when he sets his feet.

Chisora, 36, has fought all of the top European heavyweights including another Ukrainian heavyweight named Vitali Klitschko. Though it hasn’t always been violets and roses for Chisora, he does pack a wallop and if he catches Usyk it could be all over. But his feet are made of stone and he will have problems moving in rhythm with the fleet-footed Usyk.

A co-main event features lightweight contenders Lee Selby (28-2, 9 KOs) pitted against George Kambosos Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs) in a Great Britain versus Australia battle.

Two female bouts with extra power are also on the card as Savannah Marshall (8-0) battles Hannah Rankin (9-4) for the vacant WBO middleweight title; and Amy Timlin (4-0) meets Carly Skelly (3-0) in a battle of undefeated super bantamweights.

The fight card will be streamed on DAZN at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Showtime

World champions collide with three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz daring to move up yet another weight division and challenge the ultimate danger in super featherweight and lightweight world titlist Gervonta “Tank” Davis for his titles.

Danger is written all over this Showtime pay-per-view card on Saturday Oct. 31.

Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) has yet to be truly challenged by anyone. Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) has always been a risk taker and could be going way over his limit against Tank.

“I’m facing the best fighter in the division. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I have to go against the best fighter,” said Santa Cruz. “I wanted to challenge myself. I know this is a dangerous fight for me, but I want to test myself.”

If Santa Cruz is still standing after 12 rounds then a big salute to him. Davis won’t allow that to happen. He’s not a guy who looks to win by decision. Tank looks to knock opponents unconscious so he can take pictures of them asleep.

“I don’t think I have to knock him out, I just have to go out there and be great. Forget everything else, I just have to go out there and show everyone that I’m the top guy in the boxing world. That’s my main goal,” said Davis.

Right.

It’s not the only good fight on the card.

Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA super lightweight title against Ryan Karl (18-2) in the co-main event.

Also, on the same card Regis Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs) meets Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10KOs) in a super lightweight matchup. Whoever wins will probably meet Barrios for his title soon after. That’s if Barrios beats Karl.

It’s a boxing card that could see the end of the line for one or two of the fighters.

Monster and Mayer

Japan’s Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA and IBF bantamweight world titles against Australia’s Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on Saturday October 31. It will be his Las Vegas debut and will be televised on ESPN+.

Inoue will be a big favorite and how can you blame odds makers when Moloney’s only loss was to Emmanuel Rodriguez who was blown out by the Monster?

But you never know.

“There are a lot of expectations, and I want to meet those expectations. I take those big expectations, and I use them as motivation and power to keep getting better with every fight,” said Inoue.

Inoue’s last fight nearly a year ago was an epic clash against Nonito Donaire in a classic battle that saw both deliver bombs and take them in a 12-round fight that ended in a close but unanimous victory for the Japanese star.

Boy was it close.

Until the 11th round it was nip and tuck as Donaire proved why he is destined to be a surefire Hall of Fame inductee when he retires.

Both punished each other and during their confrontation it was evident that Inoue does indeed have a solid chin. One big question will be if Inoue took too much punishment and can he handle a rough customer like Moloney.

“Every fighter should want to fight the best. That’s why we’re in this sport. My dream and my goal is to be the best bantamweight in the world, and the only way to make that happen is to beat Inoue,” said Moloney.

It should be an interesting match.

Also, female American Olympian Mikaela Mayer (13-0) challenges Poland’s Ewa Brodnicka (19-0) for the WBO super featherweight world title. Expect no quarter given by Mayer who has been gunning for a title challenge for the past two years with most of the titleholders in Europe ignoring her.

Brodnicka expects a tough fight.

“I have a lot of things against me. But I’m ready. I don’t care if she says that she doesn’t respect me. She makes a lot of mistakes, and I’m going to take advantage of all of them,” Brodnicka said.

Mayer is not in a good mood.

“I have been calling out the champs for a while. It’s been something I feel like I’ve been ready for a few fights, but now in hindsight looking back, I think everything worked out perfectly. Like Bob Arum said, I’ve had some really great fights, and I’ve really been able to settle in to my pro style. I’m more ready than ever to take on these world champions. I feel like I’m the best in this division,” said Mayer.

Sunday

A Sunday afternoon boxing card by Thompson Boxing Promotions takes place at the Omega Products International in Corona, CA but will not include fans.

Undefeated lightweights Mike Sanchez (6-0-1, 2 KOs) faces Israel Mercado (8-0, 7 KOs) in the main event on Sunday Nov. 1. It will stream on Thompson Boxing Promotions web page and also on its Facebook page beginning at 4 p.m. PT.

Go to this link to watch the fight card: www.thompsonboxing.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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Usyk vs. Chisora Sets the Table for a Strong Night of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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It’s been largely lost in the ragout, at least on this side of the pond, but Saturday’s busy fight docket includes the return of Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic gold medalist who left the cruiserweight ranks as a legitimate four-belt champion. The 33-year-old Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), opposes tough but erratic Dereck Chisora, a 36-year old Londoner by way of Zimbabwe. Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs), has won five of his last six, the setback occurring in his second encounter with arch-rival Dillian Whyte.

Usyk vs. Chisora, a Matchroom promotion, will play out at Wembley Arena with no fans in attendance. The Ukrainian southpaw is ranked among the top three heavyweight contenders by all four major sanctioning bodies although he has fought only once as a heavyweight, turning away under-trained late sub Chazz Witherspoon who was all in after seven frames. Usyk weighed 215 for that contest and is expected to come in about 230 for Chisora.

Usyk, who has anglicized his first name to Alexander on his English-language twitter feed, is a big favorite, but this is a tricky fight for him. The consensus 2018 Fighter of the Year, Usyk has fought only twice since unifying the cruiserweight title with a lopsided decision over Murat Gassiev in July of that year and 55 weeks have elapsed since his last start. If he needs the early rounds to shake off ring rust, he could find himself clawing out of a hole, and sometimes the hole is too deep as Usyk’s stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko can attest. Moreover, Usyk has yet to face a naturally bigger man who can bang as hard as “Del Boy.”

The Usyk-Chisora card will air in North America on DAZN with the main event ring walks anticipated about 6 pm ET.

The tiff is hitched to an interesting undercard. Once-beaten Welshman Lee Selby, briefly the IBF featherweight champion, tangles with Australia’s undefeated (18-0) George Kambosos Jr. Savannah Marshall, who saddled Claressa Shields with her only amateur loss, meets former Shields opponent Hannah Rankin with a vacant world middleweight title at stake, Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy opposes Belgium’s Bilal Laggoune for a domestic cruiserweight title, and then there’s the heavyweight fight attracting buzz between popular Yorkshireman David Allen and Christopher Lovejoy.

The buzz surrounds the mysterious 36-year-old Lovejoy who is 19-0 as a pro with all but two of those KOs coming in the opening round.

All of Lovejoy’s fights were staged in Tijuana. Only one of his opponents brought a winning record. For a certain stripe of fighter, Tijuana is the equivalent of a feed lot, a place where livestock go to get fattened up before they are sent off to the slaughterhouse. David Allen is limited, but the most likely scenario in this fight is that it ends with Lovejoy sitting on his stool.

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Diego Magdaleno is Locked and Loaded for Saturday’s Fray in San Antonio

Arne K. Lang

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Diego Armando Magdaleno, the son of a former semi-pro soccer player, was named for Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona. But Diego’s father Jesus is hardly disappointed that his son devoted his energies to a different sport than soccer as Diego, the oldest of Jesus’s three boys, has carved out a nice career as a boxer. On Saturday, he faces Isaac Cruz at the San Antonio Alamodome and a win could thrust him into a third crack at a world lightweight title. Magdaleno vs. Cruz will be televised as part of a SHOWTIME PPV event anchored by a battle between title-holders Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

The bookies don’t know what to do with the Magdaleno-Cruz matchup. One can find odds on fights of lesser importance, but with the fight only four days away the pricemakers were in quandary. Team Magdaleno, however, is approaching the fight as if they are the “B” side. Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz, who boasts a 19-1-1 record and is undefeated in his last 15 starts, has a fan-friendly style and is only 22 years old. In theory, he has more value to the promoter going forward than Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) who turns 34 this week.

Magdaleno relishes the underdog role. He was the “B” side in his most recent fight when he opposed Austin Dulay in Dulay’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and he carved out a clear-cut 10-round decision. Dulay, the younger man by nine years and less experienced at the pro level, was in over his head. Their fight was nationally televised on FOX.

Diego Magdaleno was born in Beverly Hills, California, but unlike many folks born there wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “We were more like the Beverly Hillbillies,” says Diego, a reference to the popular sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971.

For many years, Diego’s father, an immigrant from Sahuayo in the Mexican state of Michoacan, worked at the flagship West LA branch of an iconic Greater Los Angeles hamburger chain. Diego’s parents now manage a 7-11 in Las Vegas.

When Magdaleno first laced on the gloves it was at the Brooklyn Avenue boxing gym in the gritty Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, the same gym where Oscar De La Hoya trained for the Olympic Trials. He continued with the sport after his family – he has three older sisters – moved to Las Vegas.

Diego influenced both of his younger brothers to become boxers. Jessie Magdaleno surpassed him in name recognition when he upset Nonito Nonaire in November of 2016, earning him the WBO world super bantamweight title. Jessie lost the belt in his second defense, succumbing to Isaac Dogboe, but has won three straight since that mishap, advancing his record to 28-1. The youngest Magdaleno brother, Marco, was 4-0 as a pro when he abandoned the sport, having secured a job with good pay and benefits in the construction field.

Diego has applied some of his ring earnings toward a real estate investment in Scipio, Utah, where he owns a parcel of land adjacent to a pioneer home. Scipio is a four-hour drive from Las Vegas and figuratively a million miles away. What does one do for fun in Scipio, pop. 288? The first thing that popped up in our internet search was to go grab a sandwich at the Burger Barn.

There’s a back story there. The pioneer home, built in 1886, was recently purchased by Diego’s fiancée Shannon Torres, a descendent of one of Scipio’s founding families. She and Diego are restoring it. Diego professes to be amazed at the craftsmanship. “When we pulled up the carpets,” he said, “the original hardwood floors were still in great condition.”

Shannon Torres has a boxing background, having fought as an amateur and having sparred with the likes of Mia St. John. She is also a nutritionist. Diego confesses to having a sweet tooth, being fond of cheesecake and anything with peanut butter. “She knows how to make those things for me so they are not as unhealthy,” he says.

Magdaleno’s first loss came in April of 2013 when he lost a split decision to Ramon Martinez in Macau. Diego thought he won the fight, but only one of the judges concurred. At stake was Martinez’s WBO 130-pound world title. His second world title opportunity came against WBO lightweight champ Terry Flanagan on Flanagan’s turf in Manchester, England. That didn’t go well.

“When I got in the ring, it felt like there was sand under my shoes,” said Diego. “My right foot was sliding underneath me. I overcompensated and that caused me trouble.” Magdaleno loaded up on his punches, a fatal mistake, and was knocked out in the second round.

Top Rank dropped Magdaleno after that fight but would eventually bring him back to fight their rising star Teofimo Lopez. His fight with Austin Dulay was his first fight back after his loss to Lopez (TKO by 7) and his first with new trainer Bones Adams (pictured on the left) in his corner.

Mag

Isaac Cruz poses a different threat than Dulay partly because Cruz, who stands only 5’4 ½”, is a lot shorter. But Magdaleno is confident the result will be the same.

“His style is attack, attack, attack; it’s one-dimensional,” says Diego. “I have been in there and done things that this kid has never seen. I am a big step up for him.”

Unlike many prizefighters, Diego Magdaleno knows where he is heading after his career is finished; he is already a licensed real estate salesman with one listing to his credit. He’s bi-lingual despite having spent only three months living in Mexico, that as a first-grader, and his linguistic versatility will come in handy in his second career. “I know just enough Spanish to get by,” he says, but having heard him speak in his parents’ native tongue we can attest that he’s being much too modest.

For the time being, however, Diego isn’t looking past Saturday night. Magdaleno vs. Cruz is expected to go first on the four-fight PPV portion of the card which kicks off at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.

Magdaleno/Dulay photo credit: Stephanie Trapp

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