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Anthony Joshua vs. NYC

Springs Toledo

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Anthony Joshua vs NYC

If you were among those hurrying along Madison Avenue on Saturday afternoon, you might have seen him. He was laid out on the sidewalk under a propped sign, his head on a backpack. He was wearing one of those skinny suits that glint in the sunlight, the ones you usually see in threes on young professionals en route to a collaborative meeting or to entertain some client. This guy was one of them. He should have been up and at it, laughing with colleagues, sneaking looks at passing reflections. Something happened to him. His shoes were missing. Something happened and then something snapped and left him melting into the sidewalk, barefoot, his eyes closed as if to shut the world out. Madison Avenue gave him no more than a glance.

New York, New York, big city of dreams is also a destroyer. It got to a giant Saturday night. It got to him good.

Anthony Joshua was considering Frank Sinatra’s “The Theme from New York, New York” for his ring walk, which would have been the height of irony after that “if” in “if I can make it there” proved bigger than any billboard in Times Square. As it was, his supporters at the weigh-in had too much taste for one thing and not enough for another and shouted down Sinatra in favor of Neil Diamond. So while Joshua was in the dressing room at Madison Square Garden switching out of one groin protector and into another, the rest of us were subjected to a six-thousand-strong sing-along by beer-swilling Brits. “Sweet Caroline” never sounded so bad, so bad.

It was always a mistake to snub Sinatra. In 1969, Jimmy Roselli was a star. He was selling out the Copacabana and television was starting to notice. Then he turned down a request to sing at a charity chaired by Sinatra’s mother. A call was made and the next thing Roselli knew, he couldn’t get a gig or a record deal to save his life. He ended up selling his records out of his trunk on Mulberry Street and driving a delivery truck for Drake’s Coffee Cakes. You didn’t snub Sinatra. It might be worse to snub Sinatra’s ghost.

New York, New York got to Joshua early. Just before making his way to the ring, he hesitated and turned around to take a long swig of water, swishing it around as if he had dry mouth. When he climbed through the ropes and stood under the big lights he seemed to shrink. He was wide-eyed, looking around, chewing on his mouthpiece. He threw a couple of haphazard uppercuts. He took a deep breath. “That’s nerves,” someone said to no one in particular. One of his seconds placed one hand on the top of his head and massaged his neck with the other.

 “Six feet six and weighing in officially at two-hundred forty-seven point eight pounds . . . from London England, the fighting pride of the United Kingdom; the reigning, defending, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world . . .” Joshua’s American debut was announced with all the ballyhoo befitting a monolith or a mythical hero. “Nice and relaxed Josh,” his cutman said as he lifted the water bottle to the hero’s lips. “You need a drink?”

Andy Ruiz Jr. walked to the ring wearing a gold and white robe. His pudgy face was a mask of innocence peering out from under a fur-lined hood that recalled those winter jackets kids wore in the 1970s. His goatee was the only indication that he’s old enough to drink. Unlike Joshua, Ruiz wasn’t announced so much as introduced as a personable fellow we should like to get to know. He’s from Imperial, California. He’s fighting for his Mexican heritage. There was a warning there, in that Mexican heritage. It was hidden under drapes of flab and random abscesses and stretch marks. Joshua, already over his head in another battle, couldn’t see the iron; the ethnic pride and unconquerable self-belief.

When the two moved into each other in the first round, it looked like a comedy sketch. Ruiz’s trunks didn’t quite make it over his belly button and he stood no higher than Joshua’s collarbone. Every time he moved, something jiggled. But he was moving fast, shooting jabs at Joshua’s sternum, dipping under big rights. Joshua’s mouth was soon hanging open. The big city was beating him. Ruiz was getting to him too.

In the second round, the 20-to-1 underdog stunned him with an overhand right and his leg jerked out behind him. He was too distracted to adjust to what was happening. Ruiz was disguising his counterattacks with jabs and forays from the perimeter and by punching with him. When caught, Ruiz came storming back with combinations that told of his own dreams. And he wasn’t intimidated by the godlike dimensions in front of him or honking and roaring outside. He wanted to be king of the hill, A-number-one, and this was how to do it. This is where to do it.

In the third round, Joshua landed an uppercut that would have decapitated a middleweight and followed it with a left hook. Ruiz went down. As he was going down, he never took his eyes off Joshua. “I had to get him back,” he said at the post-fight press conference. Scant seconds later Ruiz was up and barreling forward, his dreams barely dented. Joshua landed a right blast and Ruiz surged at him with a left hook and a winging right, then dipped under the incoming counter right and countered that with a left hook. It caught the giant on the temple and triggered the long descent into what was as self-conscious a knockdown as you’ll ever see. Joshua was smiling, embarrassed, but his legs, already shaky, could barely get him upright. Before the end of the round, Ruiz reversed the combination and sent him down again.

The end came in the seventh. Joshua, down for the fourth time in the fight and the second time in the round, got up and lurched from mid-ring to his corner. He could no longer feel his legs and needed support. He needed a drink. He spread his great arms on the top rope and leaned back just as he had during the introductions, a seemingly casual position that’s anything but. The referee saw his exhaustion and ended the fight.

—Ended the fights. Joshua went 0-2 Saturday night.

A panoramic scan of the crowd revealed jubilation and shock; hands aloft, over mouths, clutching hair, clenched at temples, high-fiving. Ruiz was at the center of it all, celebrating with shameless abandon. It was a joy to see; the fat kid we all knew in school (and some of us were) had bopped his way to the top of the heap. Joshua too was caught up in the moment. He took a giant’s step outside of his own ego and smiled down at his unexpected conqueror. Then he embraced him like a friend and a brother. “He is genuinely over the moon for Andy Ruiz,” said Eddie Hearn, “but he’ll be absolutely devastated when this kicks in.”

Will he leave his shoes at Madison Square Garden and melt away on Madison Ave? Not a chance. He’ll make a brand new start of it, in old York or thereabouts.

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Three Punch Combo: The Fight That Could Steal the Show This Weekend and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — Boxing returns to DAZN on Saturday with a massive card from The Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, TX. This venue, which serves as the indoor practice facility for the Dallas Cowboys, will play host to a significant welterweight bout when Mikey Garcia (39-1, 30 KO’s) returns to the ring to face Jessie Vargas (29-2-2, 11 KO’s). Also on the docket is a much anticipated 115-pound title fight between champion Khalid Yafai (26-0, 15 KO’s) and former pound for pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KO’s). While I love both of these contests, it is another title fight on this card that I think may steal the show.

Fresh off his destruction in December of Cristofer Rosales to capture the WBC flyweight crown, Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12 KO’s) returns to the ring to make his first title defense against the undefeated Jay Harris (17-0, 9 KO’s).  Given their respective styles, we are all but guaranteed to see non-stop action from the opening bell to whenever the contest concludes.

As I have previously noted in these pages, Martinez is an absolute non-stop pressure fighter who rarely takes his foot off the gas. Possessing above average hand speed and heavy-handed power, he simply looks to break his opposition down with his combination of pressure and power. And thus far it has worked to the tune of him becoming a world champion in just 16 fights.

One difference between Martinez and other pressure fighters is the way that Martinez uses angles to find ways to land precision power shots. He will often switch fluidly between the orthodox and southpaw stances to create these angles.

Like many other pressure fighters, Martinez has a tendency to abandon defense for his own offense. He actually takes it to the extreme, often coming forward with his hands down along with no head movement. At some point, he is going to pay for this lack of attention to defense. Could it come against Harris?

After a short but solid amateur career, Harris turned pro at 23 in 2013 and has moved along steadily. He is coming off his two best wins against former world title challenger Angel Moreno and former amateur standout Paddy Barnes. In each of those fights, Harris showed steady progression and seems well poised for that next big step-up in competition.

Harris is a traditional boxer-puncher by trade but has shown tendencies to get into firefights. He is technically sound and likes to work behind a solid left jab to set up his power punching combinations. Harris possesses decent hand speed and, like Martinez, can be a solid accurate puncher.

In the aforementioned fight against Barnes, Harris showed some solid power in his left hook. He knocked Barnes down twice with the left hooks to the body, the second of which finished him off in the fourth round.

Martinez is going to bring the fight to Harris. But I think Harris is skilled enough to provide resistance and give back as good as he gets. If I am right, this is going to be one fan-friendly fight that could ultimately compete for fight of the year.

Some Thoughts on the Judging of McKenna-Mimoune

For those not familiar, MTK Global is running eight-man single elimination tournaments across several different weight classes in the UK with the winner in each weight class being awarded a lucrative management contract. This past Friday in London saw the semi-finals in both the featherweight and 140- pound divisions. And as so often happens in boxing, one of the contests, a 140-pound bout between Tyrone McKenna (21-1-1, 6 KO’s) and Mohamed Mimoune (22-4, 3 KO’s), ended in a controversial decision. McKenna was the beneficiary, winning the ten-round fight on all three cards.

My card sided with Mimoune. I had the fight 96-94 in his favor. However, unlike the commentators and many on social media, I was far from outraged that McKenna was given the nod.

This may sound overly simplistic, but we need to keep in mind that fights are scored on a round by round basis. Each round is its own separate entity. And sometimes a round is won big by a fighter but scored just 10-9 in their favor without knockdowns. This would be the same score if that same fighter had just edged out that round.

In the case of McKenna-Mimoune, we saw Mimoune take control of the fight late and win many of those later rounds by a substantial margin. To be honest he completely dominated those rounds.

But in the early going, there were many close rounds that were hard to score. McKenna seemed to edge a couple and some were frankly a coin flip. If the judges sided with McKenna for those close rounds, and it appears they did just that, then there is a clear path to him getting the decision.

For me, this was somewhat reminiscent of Foreman-Briggs which I also thought was not a robbery. Maybe the scoring system in boxing needs to be changed but that is a topic for another day. I don’t think given the scoring system in place for this sport that the McKenna-Mimoune decision was all that outrageous.

What’s Next For Emanuel Navarrete?

This past Saturday, on the undercard of Wilder-Fury II, 122-pound champion Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KO’s) stopped tough Jeo Santisima (19-3, 16 KO’s) in the eleventh round. It was Navarrete’s fifth title defense in less than a year. So, what is next for the popular and busy Navarrete?

First off, I think we have seen the last of Navarrete at 122. It was well documented during the PPV broadcast that Navarrete was struggling to make the weight. In addition, there are political boundaries that need to be crossed in order to make any big fights for Navarrete at 122. So, a move north to featherweight is seemingly inevitable.

Top Rank, which co-promotes Navarrete, does have a champion at featherweight in Shakur Stevenson. But Stevenson is a prized young fighter and there is no way Top Rank puts him anywhere near Navarrete. Not in a few months or even a few years. And as with the 122-pound division, there are political boundaries standing in the way of putting Navarrete in with the other featherweight champions at this time.

So, with no immediate title fight realistically available for Navarrete at featherweight, I think Top Rank looks to put him in with a ranked contender. And I think the most logical option is Christopher Diaz (25-2, 16 KO’s) who is also tied in with Top Rank.

Diaz himself was once a highly-thought-of young fighter but an upset loss to Masayuki Ito for a 130-pound title belt in 2018 sent Diaz’s career sideways. He dropped down to featherweight after that loss where he has two wins sandwiched around a one-sided loss on points in a ten-round contest with the aforementioned Stevenson.

Diaz needs a jolt to his career and, frankly, Top Rank is probably nearing the end of the road with him. So, this can be viewed as a final opportunity for Diaz and a fight I think he jumps at if offered. And it’s an easy sell to the fans as Diaz on paper would certainly represent the best opponent for Navarrete since his two fights with Isaac Dogboe.

I think it’s very likely that we see this fight on a Top Rank platform sometime this spring or summer.

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The Gypsy King Destroys Wilder; Wins on a TKO in 7

Arne K. Lang

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Fury Destroys Wilder; Wins on a TKO in 7

Las Vegas, NV — The late New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding the opening bell of a world heavyweight title fight. In Young’s day, there weren’t four world sanctioning bodies, let alone three, and a world heavyweight title fight was front page news in all the tabloids.

Tonight, there was only one title belt at stake (okay, two if one counts the lineal diadem), but the tension was thick inside the MGM Grand Garden arena as Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, recognized in many quarters as the two best heavyweights in the world, made their ring entrances.

Fury entered the ring on a throne to the tune of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” an odd choice but somehow appropriate. It was an entrance that set a new bar for flamboyance. He looked supremely confident and with his namesake “Iron” Mike Tyson looking on, he delivered the goods with a smashing performance that ended at the 1:37 mark of round seven when the white towel of surrender was thrown in from Wilder’s corner.

At the opening bell, Fury came out of his corner with a rush and had Wilder fighting off his back foot. In round three, the Gypsy King decked Wilder with a punch that seemed to land behind his ear and may have resulted in Wilder suffering a busted eardrum.

Fury scored another knockdown in round five with a left to the body. Later in the round, referee Kenny Bayless docked Fury a point for what was apparently hitting on the break.

Fury dominated the sixth and it was more of the same in the seventh until Wilder’s corner saved him from suffering more punishment. Fury improved to 30-0-1 with his 21st knockout. Wilder suffered his first defeat in 44 pro starts.

The crowd was pro-Fury and typical of any boxing crowd with a large body of Brits, very boisterous. At the conclusion, many sang along as the Gypsy King serenaded the crowd with a version of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” It was an event that will linger long in memory.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Full Undercard Results from the Wilder – Fury Card at the MGM Grand

Arne K. Lang

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Full Undercard Results from the Wilder – Fury Card at the MGM Grand

Las Vegas, NV — Tonight’s mega-fight between undefeated heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury was buttressed by a nine-fight undercard. The prelim accorded the status of the semi-main was a heavyweight contest between Californians Charles Martin and Gerald Washington billed as an IBF title eliminator.

Martin formerly held the IBF belt. Anthony Joshua sheared it from him, ending Martin’s title reign after only 85 days, the shortest in history. Martin, a southpaw, appears to have improved since then. Tonight he scored a one-punch knockout, knocking Washington on the seat of his pants in the second minute of the sixth round with a straight left hand, bringing a sudden conclusion to what had been a rather drab affair. Washington beat the count but was in no condition to continue and referee Tony Weeks waived it off. Martin advanced to 28-2-1 with his 25th knockout. Washington, a 37-year-old Navy veteran and former USC defensive end, fell to 20-4-1. All four of his losses have come by stoppage.

WBO world 122-pound title-holder Emanuel Navarrete, 31-1 (27 KOs) extended his winning streak to 26 with an 11th-round stoppage of Jeo Santisima (19-3). Navarrete, a busy bee who is big for his weight class, was making the fifth defense of the title he won in December of 2018. In the 11th, Navarrete took a breather, lying with his back against the ropes, and then rushed after Santisima with a storm of punches that forced referee Russell Mora to intervene. Santisima, making his first start outside his native Philippines, had won 17 straight coming in since starting his career 2-2. Mora, in the estimation of many, should have stopped the fight a few punches sooner.

Junior middleweight Sabastian Fundora, a 22-year-old southpaw nicknamed The Towering Inferno, improved to 14-0-1 with a 10-round unanimous decision over Australia’s Daniel Lewis (6-1). Lewis is listed at 5’10”, but at the weigh-in, the 6’6” beanpole Fundora appeared to be at least a foot taller. Lewis, a 2016 Olympian had his moments getting inside Fundora’s long reach, but ate too much leather as he pressed the action. The scores were 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.

In a junior welterweight contest shortened from 10 to eight rounds, former U.S. Olympian Javier Molina scored a mild upset over former world title challenger Amir Imam, winning a unanimous decision. The scores were 79-73 and 78-74 twice. The 30-year-old Molina improved to 22-2. Imam, who lost for the third time in 24 starts, was making his second start under the Top Rank banner since shaking loose of Don King.

In a great action fight in the welterweight class, Petros Ananyan, a 31-year-old Brooklyn-based Russian, came on strong in the late rounds to score a 10-round upset over previously undefeated Subriel Matias. Ananyan (15-2-2) rocked Matias with four chopping rights followed by a left hook in round seven. The ropes kept Matias from falling and referee Robert Byrd properly called it a knockdown. Puerto Rico’s Matias had won all 15 of his previous pro fights inside the distance.

Gabriel Flores Jr, a 19-year-old lightweight from Stockton, CA, remained unbeaten with a wide 8-round decision over Matt Conway of Pittsburgh, PA. Flores, 17-0 (6 KOs) knocked Conway (17-2) to the canvas in the opening round, but the Pennsylvania lad hung tough and had his moments in a contest that was more competitive than the final scores (79-72, 80-71 twice) indicated.

Featherweight Isaac Lowe, a neighbor and training partner of Tyson Fury in Morecambe, UK, improved to 20-0 (6 KOs) with a lopsided 10-round unanimous decision over Mexico’s Alberto Guevara (27-6). It was an ugly scrum in which both fighters had three points deducted for a variety of infractions. Lowe effectively sealed the win when he knocked Guevara down with a short left in the eighth frame. The scores were 95-88 and 96-87 twice.

Las Vegas native Rolando Romero improved to 11-0 (10) with an impressive second round stoppage of Arturs Ahmetovs in a junior welterweight contest slated for eight rounds. Romero knocked Ahmetovs down twice, first with a straight right and then with a left hook before the bout was stopped at the 1:22 mark.  It was the first pro loss for Akhmetovs (5-1), a 30-year-old Latvian now based in Delray Beach, FL.

In a 4-round welterweight contest, Vito Mielnicki Jr, a 17-year-old phenom from Roseland, NJ, improved to 5-0 with a unanimous decision over Corey Champion (1-3). Mielnicki knocked Champion to his knees in a neutral corner in the waning seconds of round one, but Champion made it the final bell. The scores were 40-35 across the board.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Be sure to check back in for a full review of the Wilder vs Fury II Main Event.

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