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Soboba Casino: Redkach KOs Alexander and Another Heavyweight Shocker

David A. Avila

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SAN JACINTO, Calif.-You never know what to expect when southpaws face each other but you can bet it won’t be boring.

Ivan Redkach used a left-handed uppercut to floor former world champion Devon Alexander and win by knockout in a welterweight showdown on Saturday.

Lefties. You got to love them.

Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs) walked in with a team consisting of two Hall of Fame fighters and one current world champion and defeated Alexander’s (27-6-1, 14 KOs) team that was led by another Hall of Fame fighter at Soboba Casino. He emerged with the winner and all celebrated at the desert casino located 20 miles southeast of Riverside.

It was a battle of veterans looking to redeem their status in the talented welterweight division. Alexander had a team led by Roy Jones Jr. and Redkach’s group consisted of Sugar Shane Mosley, Leo Santa Cruz and the great Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. Now that’s impressive backup.

Both looked tentative as is always the case when lefties fight lefties. It’s very uncommon for southpaws to face each other. It took both fighters a few rounds to make the necessary adjustments.

It was clear that Alexander seemed to be a few ticks slower than in his heyday and that Redkach might still be harboring nervous ticks from being blown out against John Molina in December 2017. Redkach was winning that fight but Molina pulled it out.

Both corners spent time shouting instructions that seemed to be accurate. The only problem was if their charges could pull the trigger.

At the end of the fifth round Redkach was admonished by Mosley who instructed him how to deliver a right hook left uppercut combination. It remained to be seen if he could mimic the master.

“I practiced that punch every day,” said Redkach. “Every single day we worked on that left hand and it did what I needed it to do.”

In the sixth round Redkach used that same Mosley instructed combination and down went Alexander like a bag of old boxing gloves. Somehow the St. Louis prizefighter made it to his feet, but he looked shaky. The referee allowed him to continue and down Alexander went again from a left uppercut-right hook combo. Alexander got up again. Another left uppercut-right hook sent Alexander down again but this time referee Tom Taylor waved the fight over at 1:10 of the sixth round.

“We felt that going the distance with the champion doesn’t go in your favor,” said Mosley. “I told him, ‘you need to go out there need to go out there and knock him out.’ That is what we practiced and that is what he did.”

Middleweights

Middleweight contenders battled in a 10-round clash with Willie Monroe (24-3, 6 KOs) pulling out the victory by unanimous decision after a fast start against Southern California’s Hugo Centeno Jr. (27-3, 14 KOs).

Monroe, a slick southpaw from New York, jumped out to a fast start against the taller Centeno with his quick jabs and combination punching. By the time Centeno got into gear he was already a few rounds behind.

Centeno seemed unworried by the slow start and never seemed to put the clutch in. He may have relied on knocking down Monroe. That never happened. After 10 rounds the judges had it 98-92, 97-93, 96-94 for Monroe.

Heavyweight Surprise

Another heavyweight shocker saw Northern California’s Rodney Hernandez (13-7-2, 4 KO) face the much taller Nigerian Onoriode Ehwarieme (17-1, 16 KOs) and knock him out in the first round. Ehwarieme ran into a stiff left jab by Hernandez and was then blasted out by two left hooks that crashed the undefeated fighter to the floor. Though the Nigerian fighter got up, he was visibly shaken and the fight was stopped by referee Rudy Barragan at 2:59 of the first round.

“I’m very calm but I like to throw fists,” said the smiling Hernandez of San Jose, California.

Jose Balderas (7-0, 2 KOs) won the battle of undefeated bantamweights with a knockout win over Wisconsin’s Julio Garcia (3-1, 2 KOs). After Garcia won the first round with combination punching, Balderas took over the fight with long jabs and strong combination punching. Balderas floored Garcia with an overhand right in the third round. When the fight resumed Balderas floored Garcia with a left hook to the body to end the round.

Garcia looked for a solution in the fourth round but a right and left to the body by Balderas sent the Wisconsin fighter to the ground once again. He got up and was sent to the floor again with a right to the belly. The fight was stopped at 2:18 of the fourth round.

“The game plan was to use my distance,” said Balderas. “I learned to be more confident.”

A featherweight battle saw Philippines southpaw Jhack Tepora (23-0, 17 KOs) out-punched Chicago’s Jose Luis Gallegos (16-7,12 KOs) over 10 rounds to win by unanimous decision. All three judges scored it the same 99-91 for Tepora.

Justin Cardona (3-0, 2 KOs) won by early knockout over JC Sanders (0-3). The end came at 1:56 of the first round in their super lightweight fight. Cardona fights out of Salinas, Calif. Sanders is from Louisiana.

Photo credit: Sean Michael Ham

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The WBA’s 50-Year-Old Cruiserweight Contender and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing’s seniors tour continues on Sept. 11 when Oscar De La Hoya returns to the ring after an absence of almost 13 years to fight former MMA star Vitor Belfort. The bout is scheduled for eight two-minute rounds and will count against De La Hoya’s professional boxing record which currently stands at 39-6 (30). More details will be revealed tomorrow at a Los Angeles press conference.

De La Hoya turned 48 in February. If he is looking for inspiration, he need look no further back than this past Saturday where cruiserweight Firat Arslan continued his ascent toward yet another world title shot with a fourth-round stoppage of Argentina’s Ruben Eduardo Acosta. Arslan is older than Oscar, he’s 50!

The match took place in Goeppingen, Germany, before a small gathering in Firat Arslan’s gym. It was sanctioned by the WBA for an “international” belt. A southpaw of Turkish descent, Arslan (pictured on the right) entered the contest ranked #5 by the repugnant organization and will presumably move up a notch.

Arslan is in his 24th year as a pro. His signature win was a 12-round decision over Virgil Hill in 2007. Hill was then 43 years old. Coincidentally, the man that Arslan just defeated was also 43.

The victory over Hill, a future Hall of Famer, earned Arslan a world cruiserweight title. He lost it to Guillermo Jones after one successful defense and would come up short in three other stabs at a world cruiserweight title, losing to Marco Huck twice and to Yoan Pablo Hernandez.

One doesn’t know if Ruben Eduardo Acosta turned up in Germany intent on rendering an honest effort. He went down three times from body shots and was counted out on his last trip to the mat. But the Argentine sported a decent record (38-17-5) and had gone seven years without being stopped, a pocket of 17 fights.

There’s an obvious difference between Arslan and De La Hoya. Arslan was out of the ring for 21 months after losing his title to Jones, but has otherwise maintained a steady schedule. His weight has never ballooned between fights and he has the physique of a man twenty years younger. De La Hoya has led a sedentary life since leaving the ring and is effectively starting over. He figures to weigh about 170 for Vitor Belfort which would be 25 pounds more than he carried for his last fight against Manny Pacquiao.

De La Hoya vs. Belfort is being promoted by Triller and will air on FITE. Triller and FITE are also collaborating on the Aug. 3 event at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden. The headline attraction of what will supposedly be a 10-fight card finds heavyweight contender Michael “The Bounty” Hunter taking on former amateur rival Mike “White Delight” Wilson.

Those attending the event who are over the age of 15 must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative test result within the previous 72 hours. Despite this potential deal-breaker, tickets purportedly disappeared fast, portending a complete sell-out.

Of course, there’s more to the event than boxing. Local rap groups DIPSET and THE LOX will battle it out in a competition ballyhooed as iconic in the promotional literature.

—-

A more compelling fight takes place in North London on Sept. 25 when IBF/WBO/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua defends his belts against former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. It will be the first boxing event at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which opened in April of 2019. Built for the Tottenham Hotspurs, a Premier League soccer club, the stadium was also conceptualized with an eye toward housing an NFL team.

The soccer pitch is retractable. Underneath is an artificial turf for American football. Having the football field at a lower level than the soccer pitch will allow spectators in the first row to see over the heads of football players and coaches standing on the sideline. In soccer, the front row can be closer to the playing field because soccer players sit on chairs when they are not in the game. Moreover, the stadium has a separate entrance dedicated to NFL events and the press sections for American football and for soccer are configured differently.

Pro football fans in the U.S. tuning in on television will be get a bird’s eye view of the new stadium on Oct. 10 and again Oct. 17 when the NFL plays games in London, renewing a tradition that was interrupted last year by Covid-19. The NFL recently signed a 10-year deal with the landlord of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

For the record, the Oct. 10 game features the Falcons against the Jets. On Oct. 17, it’s the Jaguars against the Dolphins. Both games will start at 9:30 am ET, 6:30 am PT. Football fans on the West Coast are advised to set their alarm clocks.

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Fast Results from London: Massive Heavyweight Joe Joyce Keeps on Rolling

Arne K. Lang

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Ponderous but formidable Joe Joyce moved one step closer to a title fight tonight at the Wembley Arena with a sixth-round stoppage of Carlos Takam. Carrying 264 pounds on a six-foot-six frame, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist was simply too big for his 40-year-old French-Cameroonian adversary.

In his previous bout, Joyce methodically dismantled favored Daniel Dubois with a steady dose of his thudding right jab. Dubois quit in the 10th round with a busted eye socket. Tonight’s fight followed a somewhat similar pattern.

Takam landed some good shots in the first two rounds as Joyce was slow to find his rhythm, but Joyce stuck to his game plan which was to wear him down and Takam’s punches gradually lost steam in the face of Joyce’s constant pressure.

Early in round six, Joyce rocked Takam with a big right hand and didn’t let him off the hook. Takam protested when the referee indicated that he had seen enough and the stoppage did strike many as premature, but the handwriting was on the wall for the veteran who declined to 39-6-1. The official time was 0:49.

Joyce is of Scotch-Irish and Nigerian descent. College educated with a degree in fine arts, he acknowledges that he has no great passion for the sport of boxing and is in it for the financial rewards, not the glory. At age 35, he isn’t going to get any better, but he appears to have a rock-solid chin and his nickname, Juggernaut, is quite fitting.

Joyce entered the bout ranked #2 by the WBO, a notch below Oleksandr Usyk who challenges title-holder Anthony Joshua on Sept. 25.

Other Bouts of Note

Ekow Essuman, a 32-year-old Nottingham man, born in Botswana, unseated British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Chris Jenkins, winning on an eighth-round stoppage. A hard right hook followed by a flurry of punches forced the referee to waive it off. The official time was 0:53.

Essuman, who was favored in the 3/1 range, improved to 15-0 with his sixth win inside the distance. A Welshman, Jenkins (22-4-3) was making the fourth defense of his domestic title.

London super welterweight Hamzah Sheeraz, who has been training at the Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys, California, improved to 13-0 (9 KOs) with a fifth-round stoppage of Spain’s Ezequiel Gurria (15-2). Gurria was down twice in the fifth round before the bout was halted at the 2:23 mark.

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Steen, Bocachica, and Martino Jules Stay Unbeaten in Cornhuskerland

Arne K. Lang

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The long-running Showtime series ShoBox:The New Generation was at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska last night. Super middleweight Isaiah Steen and welterweight Janelson Figueroa Bocachica, both of whom are managed by 2020 BWAA Manager of the Year David McWater, were featured in the main bouts.

Cleveland’s Steen, the half-brother of 2016 U.S. Olympian Charles Conwell, improved to 16-0 (12) with a 10-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Kalvin Henderson (14-1-1). Steen started slow and slowed down again in the final two rounds, but dominated the middle rounds and won by scores of 96-94 and 97-93 twice. Henderson, a part-time schoolteacher in Fayetteville, Arkansas who earned a degree in music from the University of Arkansas, was hampered by a pulled muscle in his right shoulder which he believes happened in the fourth round.

Steen hopes to land a spot on the big show coming up in Cleveland in five weeks. Charles Conwell is already booked. He will oppose Massachusetts veteran Mark DeLuca in a supporting bout to the freak fight between Jake Paul and Tyrone Woodley.

Janelson Figueroa Bocachica, a Detroit native of Puerto Rican ancestry, kept his undefeated record intact, but just barely. He was held to a draw by Shinard Bunch who appeared to have done enough to edge it.

Bunch, whose middle name is Showtime (no fooling) fights out of Trenton, New Jersey and is trained by Chino Reyes who guided Jason Sosa and Tevin Farmer to world titles. He entered the bout with a 15-1 (13) record but was moving up in class in his first scheduled 10-rounder. Only six of his wins had come against opponents with winning records.

Bocachica (17-0-1) performed below expectations for the second straight fight, having been hard-pressed to turn away Mark Reyes Jr. in his previous go. One of the judges scored it for him (96-94) but the others had it 97-93 Bunch and 95-95.

The TV opener was an 8-round featherweight contest between Martino Jules, a 24-year-old southpaw from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Aram Avagyan, a 30-year-old Armenian who began his pro career in Russia and is currently domiciled in California.

Although neither were big punchers, the Armenian had the odds in his favor. A 2016 Olympian, he had fought the tougher schedule and was the bigger man, coming in two pounds over the featherweight limit (which reportedly cost him $2000). But his performance was sloppy – he was repeatedly warned for leading with his head – and the decision was a foregone conclusion when Jules was credited with scoring a knockdown late in the final round.

In his biggest win to date, Martino Jules improved to 11-0. It was the first pro loss for the 30-year-old Avagyan who declined to 10-1-2.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

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