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What the “F” is Paulie Malignaggi Thinking ?

Thomas Hauser

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Malignaggi

On June 22, Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov will meet in a ring at the Florida State Fairgrounds Entertainment Hall in Tampa in what is being styled as a Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) grudge match. Under BKFC rules, fights are contested in a circular ring with a 22-foot diameter. Combatants can throw punches in a clinch or while grabbing the back of an opponent’s neck. No kneeing, elbowing, or kicking is allowed. The contract weight is 155 pounds.

Malignaggi is well known to boxing fans. He’s 38 years old and, when he enters the ring to face Lobov, it will have been 27 months since he saw combat. His last ring foray ended poorly when he was knocked out by Sam Eggington in eight rounds.

Lobov, age 32, is a mixed martial artist who has fought for various MMA promoters (most notably UFC) en route to a 16-15-1 record with one no contest. He has also had one fight in bare knuckle competition which he won by decision on April 6 of this year.

Lobov is friends with Conor McGregor and was a training partner with McGregor when the Irishman was preparing to fight Floyd Mayweather in 2017. During that time, Malignaggi was brought into camp to work briefly with McGregor as a sparring partner. Therein the story lies.

Malignaggi-Lobov moved onto the radar screen at a May 20 kick-off press conference in New York where Paulie was a poster boy for bad behavior. He spat on Lobov and tried to hit Artem on the head with a hand-held microphone. At various times, he called Lobov “a pussy hypocrit f—, a hypocrit pussy f—, a bitch-ass pussy f—, and a piece of s—.” Other thoughts he uttered included:

*         “My hands are like razor blades. Get a good look at this guy’s face right now because next month I’m gonna make it all look like a road map. Permanently, because these scars are not gonna go away.”

*          “You’re a piece of s— and I’m gonna treat you like the dirtbag that you are. After I beat the s— out of you, I’m gonna spit on you. I might take out my dick and piss on you. I’m gonna take out my dick after I knock your teeth out and piss in that toothless mouth of yours. You got five weeks to live, motherf—–.”

*          “Next month, I’m gonna put this guy in a f—— coma.”

The following day, for good measure, Paulie refered to Lobov and the mixed martial arts community as “your piece of s— community and your piece of s— people.”

Most of the reaction to Malignaggi’s conduct at the press conference has ranged from disappointment to condemnation. There are concerns that he’s acting in a self-destructive manner and adding to the ugliness that permeates public dialogue today. Others are worried that his actions might jeopardize his credibility as a Showtime and Sky Sports commentator.

There are two issues: (1) Paulie’s decision to fight again, and (2) his conduct in the build-up to the fight. Let’s start with his decision to fight.

On the surface, Paulie appears to have it made. He earned good money in boxing and kept a lot of it. He’s one of the best expert analysts in the business with several lucrative commentating contracts. And he retired from boxing with his faculties intact (although one might argue that his foray into bare-knuckle fighting contradicts that assumption).

Bare knuckle fighting is a huge step down in platform for a man who was at the center of the boxing world when he fought in main events at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena. So why is Paulie fighting Lobov?

One theory is that Paulie is a junkie for combat sports. That it’s not enough for him to call the action from ringside; he has to be in the ring. But after his loss to Eggington, he could no longer compete at a high level in boxing so he found a smaller pond where he’s still a big fish.

I spoke with Paulie at length this week, and he disputed that notion. He was calm and rational throughout our conversation. His primary reason for fighting, he said, is money. He doesn’t need it. But like most of us, he likes it.

“There’s a price for everything where you calculate risk-reward,” Paulie told me. “I’m making a lot of money for this fight. A lot of money. They came to me with a deal that was too good to turn down. There’s a big guarantee and, if the pay-per-view goes well, it will be one of my biggest paydays ever.”

“People say I shouldn’t be boxing anymore,” Paulie continued. “But at the end of my boxing career, my legs were the big issue. For short periods, my legs are still good. This fight is five two-minute rounds. I can go at an intense level for that. And maybe my reflexes aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be. But I don’t see me being at risk in this fight. If Lobov was a real boxer, I wouldn’t be doing this. But he isn’t. I think he’ll go wild and crazy at the start. And then, when I stuff my jab in his face a couple of times and hit him with some body shots, either he’ll just try to survive or fold completely. I look at this as a lot of money for an easy outing.”

And what about Paulie’s conduct at the kick-off press conference?

As noted above, Malignaggi sparred briefly with Conor McGregor two years ago. Thereafter, McGregor claimed to have gotten the better of him and released a snippet of video footage to bolster that apparently spurious claim. As time went by, Paulie felt more and more humiliated by the situation. Lobov, who piled on in support of McGregor, is a proxy for Conor and, in Paulie’s mind, worthy of scorn in his own right.

“This is bringing out a side of me that I thought I’d left in my past,” Malignaggi told me. “It’s a response to the lies and humiliation and pain to me and my family and everything else that this guy and his piece-of-s— friend Conor McGregor caused to be dumped on me. It reminds me of why I became a fighter.”

“I grew up in a not very nice place,” Paulie elaborated. “And I’m not talking about the neighborhood. I’m talking about what my life was like and the abuse I took. I went into boxing to get away from that place and to deal with the anger that I had inside me in an acceptable way.”

“You have to put the press conference in context,” Paulie continued. “There’s a whole back story that people don’t understand. I wish I’d never gone to spar with McGregor. They treated me like s— when I was there. Then they lied and dumped s— on my reputation afterward. But I did go spar with him and you can’t undo the past. And I still have to deal with it. You should have seen the social media after I sparred with McGregor. His idiot fans calling me a faggot, a little Dago, things they wouldn’t have the courage to come up to me on the street and say to my face. And they don’t just put it on their sites. They put it all over my social media pages. I can post a photo of me at the beach and, a day later, there’s all sorts of ugly s— attached to it. I have a young niece and nephew who read this s— about me. My mother sees it. It’s been two years since I sparred with that scumbag and this s— still follows me every day.”

And the comment about putting Lobov in a coma?

“I don’t usually wish anything bad for anybody,” Paulie answered. “And I certainly don’t want to see anybody hurt in that way. Usually. But this guy has been part of causing so much pain for me and my family. And he has talked so much s— about boxing. So do I actively want to put him in a coma? No. But if it happened, I wouldn’t care.”

I’ve been around boxing long enough now to have seen a lot of promising young fighters become champions and then grow old. I’ve followed the trajectory of Paulie’s career from the beginning. I remember sitting opposite him at the Brooklyn Diner in Manhattan shortly before his 2001 pro debut against Thadeus Parker. I remember talking with him for hours in my apartment before his 2006 fight against Miguel Cotto. I’ve been in his dressing room before and after hard-fought victories and heart-breaking defeats. We’ve always been honest with each other and respect each other’s point of view when our views differ.

There was a time when the stars were properly aligned and Paulie could command seven-figure purses. His last payday at that level came in 2015 when he fought Danny Garcia at Barclays Center. One year later, fighting in the same arena against Gabriel Bracero, his purse was $150,000.

I’ve been told in confidence what Paulie has been guaranteed and the per-view upside he can earn for fighting Lobov if the promotion does well. It’s good money. But is it worth the cost? A source with knowledge of the inner workings at Showtime says that the network pays Paulie well in excess of $10,000 per telecast to serve as an expert analyst. His Showtime earnings are supplemented by his work for Sky Sports. And Paulie saved money when he was fighting. He wasn’t a profligate spender.

Years ago, Paulie told me, “I hope to get old some day, but it won’t be in the ring.”

But in the ring, Paulie is now old. He’s confident that Lobov doesn’t box well enough to find him or hit hard enough to hurt him. Don’t forget; for sixteen years, Paulie fought skilled craftsmen like Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia. Lobov isn’t anywhere near their league as a boxer or a puncher.

But Paulie already has physical issues (such as nerve damage in his face) as a consequence of boxing that will shadow him for the rest of his life. His hands have been a problem throughout his career. Now he’ll be fighting with no handwraps and no gloves. He thinks he can slap Lobov silly, go the body, and take something off his punches to the head. But Lobov is likely to be in his face all night. Paulie wants the money. Lobov needs it. There are those who think that Paulie is walking into this fight with his hands down and his chin up in the air.

I hope Paulie has a letter of credit for his guarantee. I hope the check clears for whatever upside on the pay-per-view he might be entitled to. And by the way; if an iron-clad letter of credit isn’t in place before the fight, what does Paulie do? He should pull out. But if he does, social media (which played a role in Paulie’s decision to fight Lobov and also his meltdown at the May 20 press conference) will be unkind to him.

Society today is plagued by an ugly lack of civility. We’re living in an age when people hide behind the anonymity of social media and say things that they wouldn’t dare say face-to-face to another person. Racism, misogyny, and homophobia are extolled as virtues in some quarters.

In theory, Paulie’s hatred for McGregor and Lobov and his reference to MMA fans as a “piece of s— community” will help engender PPV buys. But it will also further antagonize MMA fans against Paulie and ensure more social media attacks. And it brings to mind the admonition of Charles Horton Cooley, who a century ago observed, “Hatred floods your mind with the idea of the one you hate. Your thoughts reflect his, and you act in his spirit. If you wish to be like your enemy, to be wholly his, hate him.”

Paulie has lamented the fact that his niece, nephew and mother have been exposed on an ongoing basis to the ugliness leveled against him on social media. But what will his niece, nephew, and mother think if they watch a video of Paulie at the May 20 press conference?

“After I beat the s— out of you, I’m gonna spit on you. I might take out my dick and piss on you. I’m gonna take out my dick after I knock your teeth out and piss in that toothless mouth of yours. You got five weeks to live, motherf—–.”

Life is about choices. On January 30, 2008, Paulie and I went to a meeting at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Frank Macchiarola (then president of St. Francis) was there with two administrators. Paulie had won the IBF 140-pound title on a 12-round decision over Lovemore Ndou the previous June and defended it successfully against Hermann Ngoudjo twenty-five days before the meeting.

Macchiarola saw untapped potential in Paulie. He offered to enroll him free of charge in a St. Francis College program that would help him earn a high school graduation equivalency diploma. Then Paulie could work toward a college degree.

“All your life, there have been people in school who told you you’re stupid,” Macchiarola said to Paulie. “You’re not. I know enough about you to know that you’re a very smart guy. There’s nothing you can’t do in the classroom if you put your mind to it. An education will give you options in life that you might not otherwise have. And it will give you tools to make better choices.”

It was a wide-ranging conversation. At one point one of the administrators told Paulie, “You’re a pretty important person. There aren’t many world champions. At St. Francis, people will know who you are but you’ll be treated like everyone else.”

Macchiarola also talked a bit about the philosophy behind the school athletic program. “I call it bait and switch,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Kids come here thinking they’re coming to play basketball, and then we give them an education.”

Paulie set up an appointment to take evaluation tests in English and math to determine what skills he needed to work on in preparation for his high school graduation equivalency examination. Then a tutoring program consistent with the demands that being a fighter put upon him would be implemented.

But the planning ended. Paulie decided to go in a different direction, one that he felt was better for him.

Now Paulie has another choice to make. Like a lot of people, I feel that the best place for him in combat sports in 2019 is behind a microphone.

Certain people are of unique value. Harold Lederman was like that. He created a role – the unofficial ringside judge – and made it his own. There have been dozens of “unofficial” scorers at ringside” on telecasts since then. In some instances, their scoring has been just as good as Harold’s. But none of them have become an integral part of the boxing scene. Harold was special. He had a passion for boxing. He loved the fights – not just the main events, all fights. He was accessible, not just to the powers that be but to everyday boxing fans. He was a boxing feel-good story.

Paulie has qualities that could enable him to help fill the void left by Harold’s passing. In some ways, Paulie and Harold are as different as night and day. Harold would not have threatened to knock out someone’s teeth, spit on him, and, while his victim was unconscious, urinate into his open mouth.

But Paulie, like Harold, is exceptionally knowledgeable about boxing and communicates information well. He treats four-round preliminary fighters with the same respect that he evinces for pound-for-pound contenders. He loves talking about boxing, has a unique style, and has a wellspring of good qualities in him. He could have a huge positive impact on boxing as a ringside commentator. But instead, he’s risking his health unnecessarily and becoming a poster boy for antisocial behavior. He’s justifiably angry about the ugliness that has been heaped upon him. But now he’s spewing more of the same into the public discourse. By giving vent to his anger in the way that he has, he has contributed to the ugliness. That’s a shame. Paulie can’t clean up the cesspool by himself. But he shouldn’t contribute to it.

And a final thought. I can’t say that my heart will be in Paulie’s gloves on June 22 because he won’t be wearing gloves. But I’ll be rooting for him.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Protect Yourself at All Times – 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.

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The Bones Adams Story (Part Two)

Arne K. Lang

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When Bones Adams retired from boxing, he was still in his mid-twenties. The kid from Henderson, Kentucky, now lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, and before leaving the sport he had made enough money to go on a home-buying spree.

Real estate in the form of rental homes was a sound investment, or so everyone told him. But that was before the Great Recession, a scourge that clobbered real estate speculators and new homeowners, hitting Las Vegas especially hard.

“Suddenly,” says Bones, looking back, “a house next door to one of my mine, a house that looked a lot like mine,” was on the market for half the price that I paid for mine. I didn’t have the equity to ride out the storm.”

One of Bones’ best friends worked as a limousine driver for Charles Horky. The friend suggested that Bones join the team. Horky, a big fight fan, hired him in a flash.

Horky was an American success story. Starting with one limousine, he built a mini-empire. His fleet serviced the MGM Grand properties, of which there were eight on the Las Vegas Strip. Many of his regular clients were celebrities.

A town like Las Vegas attracts a lot of predators. Charles Horky fit right in. The FBI would allege that he didn’t merely turn a blind eye when his drivers supplied hookers and drugs – cocaine, meth, Ecstasy – to his customers, but that he encouraged it and demanded a cut of the action. Then there was the little matter of unauthorized charges on credit cards, a common scam in Vegas, particularly in “gentleman’s” clubs. “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas,” goes the slogan, and what often stays is a lot more money than a visitor remembers spending.

On Dec. 13, 2012, the FBI arrested Charles Horky and eight of his employees or associates, including four limousine drivers, on racketeering charges. Clarence “Bones” Adams, identified in the papers as one of the limousine drivers, was caught up in the sting.

“I did some stuff I shouldn’t have,” Bones acknowledged when this reporter broached the subject. But he says he wasn’t a limousine driver except on his first day of work because Horky thought he was more valuable out in the field working as a starter, a person that works with the concierge at a hotel. (In Las Vegas, a taxi driver is prohibited from carrying more than five passengers. For larger parties, it’s often cheaper to hire a limo than taking multiple cabs.)

At his initial hearing, Bones pleaded not guilty. The attorney he hired, confident that he would receive only a slap on the wrist, got him to change his plea. Indeed, probation was what the prosecutors recommended. But the judge thought otherwise and Bones would serve six months at the federal correctional institution in Taft, California.

– – –

When we caught up with Bones Adams last week, he had just returned from shepherding his three youngest children to school (Bones has a daughter, Alexa, from a previous marriage). It entailed three stops – a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. The school buses don’t service his neighborhood, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the southwest part of Las Vegas.

The home that Adams shares with Millette, his wife of 14 years, and their children has a very deep back yard. Situated at the end of the long driveway is a 3,200-square foot building that houses a two-car garage and the boxing gym. The previous owner was a custom glass maker. This was his workshop.

Bones Adams doesn’t speak well of his former manager Cameron Dunkin, but Bones concedes that Dunkin did him a big favor when he sold his contract to James Prince. The change-over was made shortly after Bones’ first match with Paulie Ayala.

Prince, the Houston-based rap music mogul, was previously involved in the careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr, with whom he had a big falling out, and Andre Ward, among others. Today he is connected to a stable of boxers in Las Vegas who compete under the Prince Ranch insignia, the most notable of whom is former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter who meets undefeated Sergey Kuzmin at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13 in a match that will leave the winner well-positioned for a shot at a world heavyweight title.  Undefeated super bantamweight Raeese Aleem (pictured with Bones) is one of several rising contenders.

The gym that sits in Bones’ backyard was designed for Prince Ranch fighters but isn’t exclusively for them. “Basically,” says Bones, “whenever there is a really big fight in town, one of the fighters comes here.” Amir Khan used the gym to put the final touches on his preparation for Canelo Alvarez. Daniel Jacobs did likewise. More recently, Manny Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach were here during the final days preceding PacMan’s fight with Keith Thurman. Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood, the gym offers a marquee fighter a level of privacy he is unlikely to find elsewhere.

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When Khan was here in May of 2016, Bones Adams wasn’t yet immersed in the daily routine of a trainer. It would be more accurate to say that he was the facility’s caretaker. But he and Khan forged a relationship and when Khan was in the market for a new trainer – having left Virgil Hunter, who trained him for his bout with Terence Crawford — he thought of his new buddy back in Las Vegas.

Amir Khan is no longer an “A side” fighter in the United States. Canelo Alvarez starched him with one punch and he was flayed on social media for his weak showing against Crawford. But Khan, an Olympic silver medalist for England at age 17, remains one of the most well-known sporting personalities in the U.K. His supposedly tempestuous relationship with his attractive American-born wife has been a steady source of fodder for the tabloids.

Bones spent two-and-a-half weeks with Khan in Khan’s hometown of Bolton and another two-and-a-half weeks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Khan finished his training for his fight with Billy Dib, a late sub for India’s Neeraj Gorat who had to pull out after being injured in a car crash. The fight was hyped as a landmark event that would pave the way to a succession of bigger fights in Saudi Arabia.

The Arab nation has been in the news lately and we asked Bones for a few tips on the unlikely chance that we would ever go there. “I was told that I shouldn’t strike up a conversation with a woman I didn’t know, but what I found was that things had loosened up,” he said. “However, ‘no touching’ is still the rule (a no-no that covers everything from a handshake to a hug). The people over there were very warm. We were treated very well.”

Late in his boxing career, Bones’ hairline began to recede. The recession has now completed its journey, perhaps with a little assistance from a barber, and Bones is fashionably bald. But he looks younger than his age; the muscles in his arms are taut, fittingly so for a man who preaches that a boxing-themed workout is the best workout of all for a man that wants to stay physically fit.

Capture

When Bones looks back on his boxing career, he thinks about what might have been if those that had influence over his career had done a better job of looking out for his interests and if the deck hadn’t been rigged against him in several of his most important fights. But the bitterness has long since dissipated, usurped by an understanding that there were times when his life could have spiraled completely out of control and an appreciation for those that reeled him back in. Foremost is his wife Millette, whose name Bones spells out to make certain the reporter gets it right.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Clarence “Bones” Adams, but he is now in a good place. Back in the day, the WBA stripped him of his title for no good reason other than they could, but looking back Bones can see that owning all the title belts in the world wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans if he hadn’t met Millette who has stood by his side through thick and thin.

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Mexican Stalwarts Navarrete and Magdaleno Break-in the Banc of California

David A. Avila

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Mexican Stalwarts Navarrete and Magdaleno Break-in the Banc of California

LOS ANGELES-A new stadium got its boxing baptismal with two brutal Mexican wars to re-introduce Los Angeles fans to international prizefighting on Saturday evening.

WBO titlist Emanuel “El Vaquero” Navarrete of Mexico City retained the world title by knockout and former champion Jessie Magdaleno proved pure violence still prevails in Mexican style boxing in front of 3,944 fans at Banc of California Stadium.

Soccer took a back seat on Saturday.

It was baptism under fire as Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) roasted fellow Mexican Francisco “Panchito” De Vaca (20-1, 6 KOs) who was willing to jump into the flames but found it too hot to withstand. However, he did try.

De Vaca arrived with only six knockout wins in 20 fights but that didn’t stop him from exchanging with the slightly taller and aggressive Navarrete. From the opening sound of the bell each traded blows, with Navarrete landing two vicious left uppercuts to punctuate the first round.

Though Navarrete won the round, De Vaca proved to have a sturdy chin.

The challenger from Phoenix erupted in the second round with a more aggressive attitude, but quickly discovered he was on the floor looking up after absorbing a sidewinder right cross from Navarrete. He got up and renewed the attack.

De Vaca never wavered from exchanging blows with the champion but it proved to be futile as the harder hitting Navarrete seemed to move the challenger back with each connected blow. De Vaca was hurt but refused to submit as Navarrete pummeled him with blows from multiple angles. After what seemed like a minute filled with machine-like blows, referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight though De Vaca never went down at 1:54 of round three to give Navarrete the win by knockout.

“De Vaca showed his fighting heart. He gave 100 percent in the ring tonight,” said Navarrete, who hopes to return to Los Angeles. “I want to continue the tradition of Mexican boxing in Los Angeles. I want to fill arenas and follow in the footsteps of Mexican legends.”

Top Rank’s Bob Arum said Navarrete will be returning to the boxing ring next month in Las Vegas on the same fight card as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on Sept. 14.

Magdaleno

Former super bantamweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) won by technical decision over Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs) in a fight stopped due to an accidental elbow slicing a cut on the Las Vegas fighter.

“He’s an aggressive fighter, he’s a warrior as we say in boxing,” said Magdaleno, who did not think it was an intentional elbow.

Magdaleno, a southpaw, breezed through three rounds with his slick boxing and power shots to the body. Rivera found it difficult to find openings until a clash of heads caused a cut on Magdaleno’s nose. Rivera was able to capitalize on the former super bantamweight world champion’s concern over the blood running down his nose.

In the next three rounds Magdaleno began targeting the body with strong lefts and rights. It seemed to visibly slow down Rivera. A left cross in the seventh round staggered Rivera who was barely able to stay on his feet.

Rivera gutted out the pain and battled back in the eighth round with renewed vigor. It looked like he was willing to go down swinging.

Magdaleno expected Rivera to come out smoking in the ninth round and he did not disappoint. Both slugged it out in the corner, with Magdaleno decking Rivera with a short left cross but the Tijuana fighter beat the count and returned to the battle. During another exchange, an inadvertent elbow by the Mexican fighter sliced the side of Magdaleno’s right eye. Blood spewed out and referee Tom Taylor, on the advice of the ringside physician, stopped the fight at 2:55 of the ninth round.

The fight was decided by the score cards with two judges at 89-81 and a third at 88-82, all for Magdaleno.

“It felt great, I felt strong, better than ever,” said Magdaleno about fighting in the 126-pound featherweight division. “I took off the ring rust. We fought smart. We put on our boxing shoes and out-boxed him.”

The former WBO super bantamweight who lost the title to Isaac Dogboe last year, now feels his victory over Rivera should open the door to a world title fight in the featherweight division.

When asked who he would like?

“I want them all, it don’t matter,” Magdaleno said.

Other Bouts

Super lightweight prospect Arnold Barboza (22-0, 9 KOs) was too big and too strong for Filipino Ricky Sismundo (35-15-3, 17 KOs) and battered the willing fighter for all four rounds. A three-punch combination by South El Monte’s Barboza dropped Sismundo in the third round who beat the count and tried battling back. In the fourth round, Barboza continued the attack and at the end of the fourth round referee Ray Corona stopped the fight as Sismundo dropped to a knee at the end of the stanza.

Barboza was coming off a knockout win over former world champion Mike Alvarado and may be ready for a world title shot.

Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly floored Canada’s Stuart McLellan twice before ending the fight with a flourish of blows that forced referee Rudy Barragan to end the fight at 2:51 of the fifth round.

Alimkhanuly retains the WBO Global and WBC Continental America’s middleweight belts. He fights out of Los Angeles and is trained by Buddy McGirt.

A welterweight clash saw South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs) win by unanimous decision over Russia’s Aslanbek Kozaev (33-3-1, 8 KOs) in a bloody eight round war. The fight started slowly with Van Heerden hitting and moving but after cuts suffered by both fighters, the two began exchanging heavy blows to the delight of the crowd. Both bled heavily for the last four rounds but let loose with everything just in case the fight was stopped. After eight rounds two judges saw it 79-73 and a third 78-74 for Van Heerden.

After a close two rounds, Javier Molina (20-2, 8 KOs) put some distance between himself and Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KOs) to win by unanimous decision in a super lightweight match. Molina was able to take control with some nifty counter punches that caught Mendez walking in. It was never an easy fight as Mendez battled through each round. But after eight rounds two judges scored it 79-73 and a third 78-74 all for Molina.

“I moved down to 140 pounds and it felt comfortable,” said Molina, a former 2008 US Olympian who fights out of Norwalk, Calif. “It felt good to be back in the ring.

Dominican southpaw Elvis Rodriguez dropped lefty Jesus Gonzalez with a short right hook in the first round of their super lightweight bout. The Texan got up and was caught with a jab left cross and down he went again. Referee Rudy Barragan halted the fight at 1:40 of the first round. Rodriguez is trained by Freddy Roach.

Russian lightweight Dmitry Yun (2-0) survived two knockdowns to win by decision over Austin’s Javier Martinez (4-7, 3 KOs). The Texan floored Yun with the first blow he landed –a right cross – in the opening round, then repeated it with a counter right cross in the third round. But problems with his mouthpiece and lack of footwork kept Martinez from gaining ground on the fleet but light punching Yun. Two judges scored it 57-54 and a third 56-54, all for Yun.

New Mexico’s Brian Mendoza (18-0, 13 KOs) brutalized Miami’s Rosemberg Gomez (20-8-1, 16 KOs) with body shots and eventually ended the fight at 2:12 of the first round in their welterweight clash.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

David A. Avila

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WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

LOS ANGELES-World champions are gathering at a busy street corner of Los Angeles that has been the site of numerous heroic, villainous and emotional moments in the history of the second largest city in the USA.

Two full scale riots erupted and flamed out on that corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Figueroa Avenue in the 60s and 90s.

A presidential debate took place between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon on those same grounds when they were running in 1960.

NBA superstars Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan performed their magic on that corner too.

On Saturday, WBO super bantamweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (27-1, 23 KOs) defends against Arizona’s Francisco De Vaca (20-0, 5 KOs) in the main event at the sparkling new Banc of California Stadium. ESPN will show the Top Rank fight card.

The stadium stands on the same location where the LA Memorial Sports Arena once stood proudly until it fell into disarray and was torn down several years back.

Sixty years ago, the first world championship boxing match was held on these same grounds and fans saw France’s Alphonse Halimi lose to Mexico’s Jose Becerra by fifth round knockout at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. Seven months later they fought again next door at the LA Coliseum and Becerra won by knockout again.

That was only the beginning, others like Muhammad Ali, Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bobby Chacon, Jerry Quarry, Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, Ruben Olivares, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Amir Khan all fought on those same grounds.

Imagine, when Navarrete (pictured above) rises from his corner to fight Phoenix’s De Vaca on Saturday, he will be continuing the ever-growing streak of civil and professional fights that took place on that same historic street corner.

WBO Super Bantamweight Title

Navarrete erupted on the fight scene like a ghost when he first defeated Isaac Dogboe last December at Madison Square Garden. It was supposed to be a Broadway opening for Dogboe, but instead turned into a horror story as those long arms of the Mexican fighter proved perplexing. The rematch was even more horrific for Dogboe.

Now the Mexico City fighter meets little known challenger De Vaca, who comes from an area that has recently been developing boxing talent in the desert city of Phoenix.

“The truth is that it doesn’t matter who is my opponent. I always prepare 100 percent for each of my fights, and this was no exception,” said Navarrete, 24, who is making his second defense of the WBO title. “We already did the hard work in the gym, and we are ready for a great fight. If De Vaca comes to fight hard, I am prepared to go even harder. I’m ready to give a great battle to all the fans.”

Can De Vaca do what Navarrete did to Dogboe last year?

“I wanted to fight for a world title since I was 5 years old, and now that we have the opportunity, we are going to make our dream come true this Saturday,” said De Vaca, 24, who fought once in Southern California back in 2016. “Come Saturday, there will be a new world champ for Phoenix and Michoacán. I’m coming for that world title.”

Co-Main

Former super bantamweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) meets Rafael Rivera (27-3-2, 18 KOs) in a featherweight match set for 10 rounds. After struggling to make the 122-pound super bantamweight limit, the Las Vegas southpaw now fights at 126 pounds. It’s made a difference.

“He’s a totally different person at 126 pounds,” said Frank Espinoza who manages Magdaleno. “Even the way he talks and thinks is different. Who would have thought four pounds would make such a difference.”

Magdaleno, the former WBO super bantamweight titlist, now meets Tijuana’s Rivera who never fails to provide high intensity fisticuffs.

“I don’t take none of these guys lightly. Every opponent is difficult. He’s fought great fighters. He’s been in there with great fighters and done a hell of a job. I can’t overlook him because he’s here to put on a great show as well,” said Magdaleno, 27. “He throws a lot of punches, and he’s quick. That’s what I am, and that’s what is going to make a hell of a fight for this fight card.”

Rivera fought featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz earlier this year. Though he lost by decision, he gained fans for his ferocity.

“I’ve been fighting against top-level fighters for a long time, so I feel confident and secure that whether it’s against a world champion or a former champion, I’ll put up a good fight,” said Rivera, 25. “Jessie is a good fighter. I’ve seen him fight before. He’s an aggressive fighter, but I’m just here to do my work.”

It’s a rather strong and lengthy fight card to baptize the new stadium into the world of prizefighting. Expect a lengthy line of fans on the same corner where many historic events have taken place.

Boxing has returned to the same street corner where legends like Ali, Sugar Ray, Quarry and Schoolboy Chacon previously performed. It’s a corner with many memories, both pleasant and notorious.

Photo credit: Hector De La Cruz

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