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Best Moments from the 2019 IBHOF Induction Ceremony

Arne K. Lang

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The capstone of the annual Hall of Fame Weekend at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, a four-day event, is the ceremony for the new inductees. Eight new members were formally ushered into the Hall this year and the acceptance speeches of the seven living honorees were captured on YouTube.

Boxers (Modern Era)

James “Buddy” McGirt

Known for his high ring IQ, McGirt won world titles at 140 and 147 pounds and finished his career with a record of 73-6-1 (48 KOs). Five years after his final fight he was named Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, largely for his work with Arturo Gatti. As a trainer he has been associated with 11 world champions including Gatti, Vernon Forrest, Sergey Kovalev, and Antonio Tarver, the latter of whom was seated on the dais.

McGirt was the main event of sorts as he had the privilege of speaking last. A loud round of applause greeted him as he took the podium.

At times McGirt had difficulty keeping his composure as he was overwhelmed by the moment, especially when he reflected on the influence of his late mother, but of all the inductees he injected the most humor into his acceptance speech. He said that 30 years ago to this very day he had his first date with his wife who was there to share the moment with him. “I went from making out in a parking lot in Seacaucas, New Jersey, to making out at the Boxing Hall of Fame,” he quipped. “A woman who stays with a boxer even 30 days deserves a medal,” he added.

Donald Curry

The Lone Star Cobra was 34-6 (25 KOs). His heyday was brief but spectacular. “At the pinnacle of his career, Curry was as skilled as any fighter I ever saw in any weight division,” said the noted boxing historian Frank Lotierzo.

Reportedly 400-4 as amateur, Curry’s signature win was a brutal second round KO of Milton McCrory on June 12, 1985, at Caesars Palace. With that win he became the unified welterweight champion.

“I really don’t have words for this, but eventually they will come,” Curry reportedly said when informed that he had made the Hall after a lengthy wait. But the words never did come. He spent less than a minute at the podium but did manage to thank his longtime trainer Paul Reyes. His speech was thick.

Julian Jackson

A world title holder at 154 and 160 pounds, The Hawk was one of the hardest punchers of all time. He finished 55-6 with 49 knockouts in a 17-year career that began in 1981. He continues to work in boxing as a trainer and coach in his native Virgin Islands.

Jackson was accompanied to Canastota by many members of his large extended family and by a good-sized delegation of government officials from the U.S. Virgin Islands where he is a national hero.

Jackson compensated for Donald Curry’s brevity, as it were, with the longest speech of the afternoon. An ordained minister of an evangelical persuasion, his speech had two parts, the second part a sermon that he had undoubtedly delivered before, an inspirational talk that gave the ceremony the feel of a tent revival meeting. The gist was that a man must be willing to take risks, putting his trust in God for whom all things are possible. Promoter Don King was among those that Jackson thanked.

Boxer (Old-Timer)

Tony DeMarco

Born Leonardo Liotta in Boston’s North End, DeMarco (58-12-1, 33 KOs) won the world welterweight title on April 1, 1955, with a 14th round stoppage of Johnny Saxton. Before the year was out, he had two toe-to-toe wars with Carmen Basilio sandwiched around a first round stoppage of talented Chico Vejar. His second fight with Basilio was named Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine.

DeMarco was introduced by Al Valenti, the grandson of Hall of Fame promoter Anthony “Rip” Valenti. He noted that unlike other Boston sports heroes such as Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, and Larry Bird, DeMarco, the son of Sicilian immigrants, was actually born and raised in Boston which enhanced the affection the locals felt for him. DeMarco, noted Valenti, often walked back and forth to his engagements at Boston Garden where he fought 26 times. He was a true icon in Boston’s Italian-American community, said Valenti, who noted that there is a street named for DeMarco and a statue of him in Boston.

DeMarco, who worked as a security guard at the Massachusetts Statehouse after leaving the sport, spoke briefly. Now 87 years old, he seemed to be in very good shape for a man of his vintage. His wife was there and he made certain to have her stand up and take a bow.

Non-Participants

Guy Jutras

Montreal’s Jutras, who turned 87 (some say 88) in March, is a boxing lifer who has been involved in all facets of boxing including a 31-year career as a ringside judge during which he judged dozens of world championship fights involving many of the brightest stars in the sport.

In a rather curious speech, Jutras noted that there were a lot of unsavory characters in boxing at one time and credited the IBHOF, founded in 1989, for helping clean up the situation. “Some sources recognize that boxing (today) is one of the cleanest sports on earth,” said Jutras, a comment that drew a round of applause.

Lee Samuels

Known as one of the good guys in boxing, Samuels joined Top Rank as a publicist in 1983 after his paper, the Philadelphia Bulletin, went belly-up and he is still associated with Bob Arum’s organization today.

Samuels reflected that he first became captivated by boxing after listening to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) fight Doug Jones on the radio. He was hired by Arum to assist in promoting a series of ESPN Thursday Night fights. Several years later he spent three months with Marvin Hagler at Hagler’s training camp in Palm Springs where Hagler prepared for his date with Sugar Ray Leonard. He then performed the same role for Donald Curry. It pleased Samuels greatly that both Hagler and Curry were on the dais with him.

Samuels thanked all of his Top Rank colleagues, acknowledged his late mentor, legendary publicist Irving Rudd, and gave a shout out to MGM Grand publicist Scott Ghertner, a frequent collaborator.

Don Elbaum

One of the last of the Runyonesque characters in boxing, Elbaum, who won’t reveal his age, promoted his first fight at age 17 and is as frisky as ever now that he’s in his eighties. He is thought to have participated in more than a thousand fights (mostly club fights in Pennsylvania and New Jersey) as a promoter, co-promoter, and/or matchmaker.

Elbaum related that he was first drawn into boxing at age seven when an uncle took him to a show in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Willie Pep was in the main event and he couldn’t take his eyes off him. “He made beautiful music,” said Elbaum, whose mother was a concert pianist.

In 1963, Elbaum, who grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, took Erie’s Johnny Bizzarro to Manila to fight unified junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde. Bizzarro lost but went the full 15 against a fighter that Elbaum said was better than Manny Pacquiao.

Elbaum noted that he has known Teddy Atlas for 30 years and said “it’s a shame and a disgrace and an embarrassment to the fans that Teddy is not back on the air.” This drew a hearty round of applause.

Observer

Teddy Atlas

Atlas, who needs no introduction, was recognized as an “observer,” a category set aside for “journalists, photographers, artists, and screenwriters.” Perhaps equally well known as a trainer, he coached Michael Moorer and Timothy Bradley, among others, to world titles, and currently works with lineal light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk. As a TV commentator he has covered the last five Olympiads. In addition, the Staten Island resident is a noted philanthropist.

The classy Atlas noted that 300 or so volunteers help make Hall of Fame Weekend in Canastota a special occasion and he started by acknowledging their efforts. Many of Atlas’s behind-the-scenes TV colleagues made the trek to Canastota to support him and he thanked them.

As would be true of Buddy McGirt, Atlas choked up when he acknowledged his wife and children. His work, he noted, often kept him away at special moments in their lives such as graduations, birthdays, and even one Christmas, and he expressed his gratitude that their bond was never ruptured.

Mario Rivera Martino

Martino died in 2017 at age 93 and was inducted posthumously. A U.S. Army veteran who spent his formative years in New York City, Martino returned to his native Puerto Rico where he lived the last six decades of his life, working as a boxing correspondent and ultimately serving as the President of the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission.

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Tyson Fury Overcomes Doughty Otto Wallin

Arne K. Lang

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Otto Wallin proved to be a more formidable opponent than Tyson Fury’s last victim, Tom Schwarz, by a long shot. One could sense that this wouldn’t be a walkover for the Gypsy King when Wallin backed Fury into a neutral corner in round two and got off a good volley of punches.

Wallin opened what became a very nasty gash over Fury’s right eye in round four. Fury pawed at it continually throughout the fight which went the full distance. Fury seemed to think that the cut resulted from a clash of heads, but the replay indicated otherwise. Near the end of round six, Wallin rubbed the cut with the laces of his gloves, earning a stern but silent rebuke from Fury and referee Tony Weeks who did not deduct a point.

Fury prefers to fight off the back foot until he has his opponent hurt, but with the cut he fought with more of a sense of urgency, pressing forward. The fight turned messy over the final third as the contest turned into somewhat of a hug-fest.

Wallin, who came in undefeated (20-0), landed some hard shots in the final round, but by then he needed a knockout to win. The final scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110. The 118-110 tally was overly severe, distorting the fact that this was a hard fight for the Gypsy King  who improved his ledger to 29-0-1.

The promoters say the rematch with Deontay Wilder, the second bout of a planned trilogy, is set for February but Wallin may have wrecked those plans. It would seem that Fury will need more time to heal that cut.

Co-Feature

Based on raw numbers, it figured that the fight between defending WBO world 122-pound champion Emanuel Navarrete and Juan Miguel Elorde would be competitive. Both had identical records (28-1) and both were riding long winning streaks; 23 straight wins for Navarrete and 18 straight for Elorde. But the son of Filipino boxing legend Flash Elorde was out of his league. Navarette, who is a big featherweight, was too strong for him. Near the end of round three, Elorde received a standing 8-count when he landed against the ropes, which kept him upright. Twenty-six seconds into the next round it was all over, with referee Russell Mora halting the bout to protect Elorde from taking more punishment.

The victorious Navarette, from Mexican City, was making the third defense of the title he won from Isaac Dogboe. Las Vegas hasn’t been good to Elorde whose lone prior defeat came at nearby Mandalay Bay in a 4-round contest.

Other Bouts

In a mild upset, Jose Zepeda, won a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza. A 2008 Olympian for Puerto Rico and former two-division belt-holder, Pedraza declined to 26-3.

Zepeda (33-2), a native Californian who entered the ring draped in the Mexican flag, did his best work early and late. In the middle rounds it appeared that Pedraza was taking control with superior marksmanship but he couldn’t sustain it. The seventh round was furious as were the waning moments of the 10th. All three judges had it 97-93.

In an 8-round featherweight bout, Isaac Lowe, a fellow Traveler and stablemate of Tyson Fury, remained undefeated with an 8-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Ruben Hernandez. The scores were 78-74 and 77-75 twice.

Lowe, who showed good boxing skills but isn’t a hard puncher, improved to 19-0-2 (6 KOs). Hernandez falls to 25-5-2.

In the first walk-out fight, Guido Vianello, a 6’4″, 240-pound heavyweight from Rome, Italy, improved to 5-0 (5 KOs) at the expense of Cassius Anderson,  a 35-year-old former Toledo U. linebacker, whose corner pulled him out after the fourth round. Vianello knocked Anderson down in the first few seconds of the fight, but Anderson wasn’t of a mind to leave that quick.

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Fast Results from The Big Apple: Haney, Hunter, and Serrano Win Handily

Arne K. Lang

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions was at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden tonight with a 10-bout card that produced no surprises. In the featured bout, 20-year-old lightweight Devin Haney stayed on course for a hoped-for showdown with Vassiliy Lomachenko with a dominant performance over Russia’s little-known Zaur Abdullaev. The fight was stopped after four one-sided rounds with Abdullaev apparently suffering from a fractured cheekbone.

Haney (23-0, 15 KOs) was far more athletic. Abdullaev, who brought an 11-0 record into his U.S. debut, had trouble handling Haney’s speed and was simply overwhelmed by Haney who was the far busier fighter.

Co-Features

Amanda Serrano, who has won more titles in more weight classes than Carter has pills, added the WBO world featherweight title to her dossier with a lopsided decision over fellow Brooklynite Heather Hardy. This fight appeared that it would end early; Serrano’s punches were harder and cleaner. But Hardy, seven years older at age 37, refused to fold and actually did some good work in the middle rounds. The scores were 98-92 and 98-91 twice.

Serrano improved to 37-1-1. It was the first pro loss for Hardy who fell to 22-1.

In a 12-round heavyweight contest, Michael Hunter won his sixth straight, improving to 18-1, with a 12-round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin (15-1). Although Hunter is on a nice roll, this was not the sort of performance likely to win him any new fans. His best moment came in round five when he knocked Kuzmin flat on his back with a left hook, but from that point on, he seemed content to out-box his Russian adversary who had a 37-pound advantage but was conspicuously slower.

All three judges had it 117-110. After the bout, Hunter expressed a desire to fight Alexander Povetkin on the Joshua-Ruiz II card in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7.

Other Bouts of Note

It was a mixed bag for 32-year-old Azerbaijan heavyweight Magomedrasul Majidov who won his pro debut with a fourth-round stoppage of Ed Fountain but didn’t look all that impressive. More was expected of Majidov, a three-time world amateur champion who scored three wins over Anthony Joshua as an amateur. Fountain (12-7) lost his fifth straight.

Kazakh welterweight Daniyar Yeleussinov, a two-time Olympian and 2016 gold medalist, looked sensational while advancing his record to 8-0 (4) with a vicious first-round knockout of Reshard Hicks. Yeleussinov, who is trained by his father, knocked Hicks to the the canvas twice, the second of which left Hicks face down, forcing referee Ron Lipton to end the bout without the formality of a count. It was the first pro loss for Hicks (12-1-1), a 34-year-old ex-G.I. from Killeen, Texas.

Uzbekistan super bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev improved to 7-0 (6 KOs) with a fourth-round stoppage of Columbia’s Wilner Soto (22-7). This was a stay-busy fight for the 24-year-old former Olympian who was originally slated to challenge WBA/IBF title-holder Daniel Roman who had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury suffered in sparring. Akhmadaliev toyed with the overmatched Soto for the first three rounds before unleashing the heavy artillery.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing USA

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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 64: New York, L.A. and Las Vegas Fights

David A. Avila

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Three of the Big Four promoters in prizefighting are showcasing young and old talent in the next two days from New York City to Los Angeles.

Las Vegas speedster Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) headlines a Matchroom Boxing card at Madison Square Theater in Manhattan when he fights Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) on Friday Sept. 13. DAZN will stream the boxing card live.

Dripping with talent, Haney has passed all of the tests so far in his brief and meteoric career including rumbling with Mexican tough guys like Juan Carlos Burgos and obliterating Antonio Moran.

But like all prospects and young contenders, the big question always is can he take a punch?

Abdullaev only has 11 fights and though he has seven knockouts, he has yet to face quality opposition. But his backers say he can fight and that’s all anyone can hope to see.

The fight native New Yorkers and followers of the female fight world want to see is the world title clash between Brooklyn’s undefeated Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs) defending the WBO featherweight strap against Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs) in a 10 round semi-main event. It’s going to be a dog fight.

The WBC Diamond belt will be another reward for the winner. Both girls will be tested for PEDs in accordance with WBC rules. For years female prizefighters were virtually untested.

Los Angeles – Munguia, Ryan Garcia and Franchon

WBO super welterweight titlist Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs) of Mexico meets Ghana’s Patrick Alottey (40-3, 30 KOs) in a world title challenge on Saturday Sept. 14, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. This Golden Boy Promotions card will be part of the Mexican Independence Day weekend celebration and also Munguia’s last foray in the 154-pound weight class.

Munguia’s lack of defense has made every fight a 50/50 proposition and even this fight against the shorter Alottey could test the Mexican’s chin. The Ghanaian fighter has 30 knockouts on his resume with all wins taking place in Africa.

Ryan “The Flash” Garcia will bring his army of fans to the outdoor arena once again. The last time he fought at Dignity Health Sports Park it was called the StubHub Center and he slugged it out with the very tough Puerto Rican Jayson Velez in May 2018. That night the slender fighter won by decision.

For about a year Garcia has been working under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso in San Diego and the change was immediately visible. The head trainer for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has tweaked Garcia’s defense and head movement. He has also polished the vast offensive weaponry the 21-year-old possesses. He’s still learning.

Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs) faces Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs) who walked into a press conference in the Golden Boy Building with singing artist Usher. The big question most are asking is if Usher will be present at the fight on Saturday. That’s not Garcia’s query.

“Avery can fight and he’s got skills. He’s no pushover,” said Garcia, adding that the lightweight division is growing with young budding talent. “The new generation is here with Teofimo (Lopez), Devin (Haney), I’m excited and want to be in the best fights to show that I belong with these other fighters.”

Also on the boxing card will be women’s WBC super middleweight titlist Franchon Crews (5-1) who was scheduled to face WBC heavyweight world titlist Alejandra Jimenez who was dropping down in weight for the fight. But the Mexican fighter was allegedly unable to obtain a visa and could possibly be replaced by former foe Maricela Cornejo (13-3, 5 KOs).

Crews defeated the classy Cornejo for the world title a year ago in Las Vegas and the Mexican middleweight had sought a rematch. Cornejo was recently posting photos of herself in Israel on her social media accounts. If she does accept the fight it definitely shows Cornejo has confidence and that’s a big plus. One of the remarkable things from their first fight was watching Cornejo clapping and congratulating Crews in earnest after their fight. It was a sincere gesture and made me appreciate Cornejo even more.

Las Vegas – Fury, Navarrete

England’s Tyson Fury, the lineal heavyweight world champion, meets Sweden’s Otto Wallin in a battle of undefeated heavyweights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday Sept. 14. ESPN will show and stream the Top Rank fight card.

Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) who defeated Wladimir Klitschko for all of the titles back in November 2015, then dropped out of the boxing world for a few years. He has returned to activity and is changing the boxing landscape with both his charisma and fighting skills. His fight against Deontay Wilder last December was one of the more memorable heavyweight world title fights in the last 30 years.

Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) is a southpaw who can crack as almost all heavyweights can. He’s represented by Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who leads the career of female star Claressa Shields. That should say a lot about the big Swede’s talent.

Also on the card is Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs), the WBO super bantamweight titlist who fought just last month in Los Angeles against Francisco De Vaca and knocked him out in three rounds. He defeated Isaac Dogboe for the title last December and then stopped him in the rematch last May. He’s an angular looking fighter with long arms, incredible stamina and knockout power. He will be meeting Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs) of the Philippines in another world title fight.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. PT DAZN – Devin Haney (22-0) vs Zaur Abdullaev (11-0), Heather Hardy (22-0) vs Amanda Serrano (36-1-1).

Sat. 3:30 p.m. PT DAZN – Jaime Munguia (33-0) vs Patrick Alottey (40-3), Ryan Garcia (18-0) vs Avery Sparrow (10-1), Franchon Crews (5-1) vs Maricela Cornejo (13-3).

Sat. 4:30 p.m. PT ESPN+ – Tyson Fury (28-0-1) vs Otto Wallin (20-0), Emanuel Navarrete (28-1) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1).

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

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