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 Holly Holm’s Last Hurrah?

Ted Sares

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There are rumors that a fight between unified world lightweight champion Katie Taylor and former boxer Holly Holm might be in the works.

As Cillian Cunningham, the MMA writer for Pundit Arena, points out, “The Preacher’s Daughter” [Holm] holds an extensive and decorated history in the sport of boxing…. With a (33-2-3) record and eighteen successful title-defenses across three different weight-classes, boxing website BoxRec rates her as the ninth-greatest female boxer of all-time.”

Despite fighting only three of her 38 professional fights outside of her home state of New Mexico, Holly was The Ring magazine’s Female Fighter of the Year in 2005 and 2006.

That was then.

Now she is 37 and, at least in the sport of MMA, she is nearing the twilight of her illustrious, albeit grueling two-sport career. In recent years, she has had cage wars with Meisha Tate and “Cyborg,” and most recently suffered a savage loss at the hands of Amanda “Lioness” Nunes, done in by a vicious head kick in the opening round. This quick dispatching took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 6, 2019.

Calling it a “nightmare” loss, this is how Holly reacted: “I always say I get to live the life of a dream. I never actually dreamed of getting kicked in the face, that’s never part of my dream…That’s like the nightmare part, living a little nightmare, wake up every morning like, ‘Yup, that’s real, that just happened.’ But I just want you guys to know I’m feeling good and I know one thing: I’m still pushing forward. A lot of heartbreak right now, but I’m doing fine. I just want you guys to know I appreciate the love and support. And if you would like to have free lip filler, just get kicked in the face.”

As someone pointed out, Holly has pretty much used up the massive capital she gained by beating heavily favored and hugely touted Ronda Rousey in 2015. Rousey, by contrast, has shrewdly converted her career into a number of profitable ventures including different forms of pro wrestling, acting, and writing. Holm, not so much so.

Holly, who is 2-5 in her last seven Octagon appearances and 0-4 in her last four title shots, has begun to show the effects of her wars as she now has the features of someone who has weathered too many hard knocks.

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Getting another title shot is going to be daunting. Maybe it is time for Holm to return to boxing and maybe a fight with Katie Taylor makes sense, but she hasn’t appeared in the squared circle since 2103 when she beat Mary McGee.

Over the years as a boxer, she fought and beat the stiffest opposition imaginable, beating the likes of Chevelle Hallback, Diana Prazak, Mary Jo Sanders, Belinda Laracuente, Ann Saccurato, Jane Couch, Mia St John, and Christy Martin.

However, in 2011, she suffered one of the most brutal knockouts in female boxing history at the hands of Anne Sophie Mathis (25-1). After testing each other early with heavy stuff, things heated up and then the savagery began in the sixth round when referee Rocky Burke wrongly called a clear and hard knockdown of Holm a slip. A then semi-helpless Holm received a nonstop onslaught from the rugged Frenchwoman and was saved by the bell. She was on “Queer Street” as she wobbled back to her corner on legs of jello as the crowd shouted “Holly, Holly.” Inexplicably, she was sent out for the seventh round where she took incredible punishment and ended up like a semiconscious rag doll with only the ropes to keep her up.

The referee then untangled Holm from the ropes and unbelievably allowed the eager Mathis to render a molar rattling KO that left Holly unconscious. It was terrible to witness. In fact, this writer had that same helpless feeling he had when a seemingly paralyzed referee allowed Roberto Duran to pummel Davey Moore at will years ago. (As for the final blow, it was reminiscent of James “The Heat” Kinchen’s free shot KO bomb against Alex Ramos in 1984.)

This was Holly’s first loss since 2004, a span of 24 fights. In that one, her corner threw in the towel due to cuts. They should have thrown in the towel in this one as well.

“What part of white towel didn’t they get?”—Anonymous

The two fought again on June 15, 2012, for Mathis’s various welterweight titles. Bearing witness to her greatness, Holm won a unanimous decision, avenging her KO loss. The fact that the first fight was not career-altering for Holly remains a testament to her grit.

Back to Taylor

Katie Taylor (14-0) is coming off a thin and controversial MD win against Belgium’s Delfine Persoon in June in which she became only the third female boxer in history (following Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields) to hold all four major title belts. Since then, she has been weighing her options and now a fight with Holm has become one of them. If it materializes, the Irish fighter and former Olympian will be a big favorite to get a premier notch on her belt. Conversely, should Holly pull off a win, she could retire on a tremendous up-note and restore whatever luster she lost during her recent missteps in mixed martial arts.

Holly vows to stay around and maybe boxing will become the allure. The key question: Does she have anything left in a boxing ring given that her last fight was in 2013?

We know the answer for the always fit and ready Taylor who says, “…I think for the first time in the history of women’s sport people are actually seeing the best of women’s boxing, seeing the best of women’s football and that’s why we are in the position we are in. To be actually living in the middle of all this now is actually incredible. It’s very, very exciting.”

Nostalgia says Holm. Reality says otherwise.

 Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8, a lifetime member of Ring 10, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is an active power lifter and Strongman competitor in the Master Class.

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NEWS FLASH: Leon Spinks Hospitalized; Reportedly Fighting for His Life

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The gossip site TMZ is reporting that Leon Spinks is hospitalized in Las Vegas and is fighting for his life. TMZ acquired this information from Spinks’ wife Brenda Glur Spinks after spying her social media post. “It’s been a tough year for us,” she wrote. “Leon has endured a lot of medical problems. I’m reaching to ask that you pray for my Beautiful Husband Leon. So that he may overcome the obstacles that crossed his path.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Leon’s son Leon Spinks III who posted this message on his facebook page: “My Dad isn’t doing so good now and his wife Brenda Glur Spinks and I ask that u pray that he weather’s this storm. My dad is all I have left and I really appreciate it if yall let God know that he is not in this battle alone.”

A gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, Spinks, 66, is best remembered for upsetting Muhammad Ali in 1978 to win the world heavyweight title. He lost the title back to Ali in his next fight.

This is a developing story. As new details emerge, we will share them with you.

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Terence Crawford puts his undefeated record and his WBO welterweight title on the line Saturday when he opposes Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden on ESPN. Kavaliauskas is no slouch. The two-time Olympian for Lithuania is also undefeated (21-0-1, 17 KOs), but Crawford is so highly regarded that he is a massive favorite.

If one were arranging the bouts according to the degree of intrigue, using the odds as the barometer, Crawford vs Kavaliauskas wouldn’t sit atop the marquee. That honor would go the IBF lightweight title fight between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez. Moreover, it’s a fair guess that if this fight were to fall out (perish the thought) it would result in more refunds than if Crawford were a late scratch.

The challenger, Lopez, is favored, currently in the vicinity of 9/4, but this is a price that usually translates into a very competitive fight and the stakes are high. The winner will almost assuredly advance to a rich engagement with Vasiliy Lomachenko who holds the other three meaningful 135-pound title belts

Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) won the IBF lightweight title – it was conveniently vacant – with a second-round stoppage of Russia’s Isa Chaniev and stopped Raymundo Beltran in eight rounds in his first title defense. Commey dominated both fights, scoring seven knockdowns in all, but the Russian was a sad excuse for a world title challenger and Beltran, although a solid pro, was past his prime at age 38.

Commey’s two losses came in back-to-back fights in 2016 and both were by split decision. He lost to Robert Easter Jr in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then, eight weeks later, was upended by Denis Shafikov before a tiny crowd at an actual boxing gym in Moscow.

There was nothing controversial about those losses, but in both instances Commey was in hostile territory. Toledo’s Easter brought a large delegation of fans to Reading and Shafikov was fighting on his home turf. The crowd on Saturday will almost assuredly be skewed against Commey again, but it won’t be as pronounced. Commey, born and raised in Ghana, has a home in the Bronx. Lopez was born in Brooklyn, a bond that his Brooklyn-born promoter Bob Arum likes to emphasize, but grew up in Davie, Florida.

Teofimo

At age 22, Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) is almost 10 years younger than Richard Commey. A year ago, at this very venue, he scored his most memorable triumph, a highlight-reel, 44-second, one-punch knockout of Mason Menard that was named the TSS Knockout of the Year. He has won three fights in the interim, most recently a 12-round decision over Masayoshi Nakatani.

Teofimo won comfortably on the scorecards, but his performance left much to be desired. The Japanese was a tall, rangy fighter. In Richard Commey, he is meeting a man of similar height. Both are listed at five-foot-eight.

Lopez has developed a large following in a short time and his in-ring heroics are only part of the story. He’s quite the showman. After each win he adds an exclamation point with a celebratory back-flip and outside the ring his brash persona has enhanced his notoriety.

When a fighter has a common surname, it helps to have a unique first name. The reality is that Lopez would not have built his brand as fast if his first name had been, say, Miguel, or Carlos, or Juan. And he had the foresight to supplement his unique first name with a unique nickname: The Takeover.

The nickname, says Lopez, doesn’t just refer to taking over a specific weight division (he’ll move up to 140 before the year 2020 is over) but, rather, taking over the whole sport in the sense of becoming boxing’s biggest pay-per-view attraction. Early into his pro career, he began calling out Lomachenko.

Teofimo’s biggest cheerleader is his Honduras-born father and trainer of the same name and the elder Lopez has even more hubris than his son. “My son is too strong for Lomachenko….he would walk through anything that Lomechenko throws at him,” Teofimo Sr. told veteran boxing writer Bill Tibbs prior to his son’s match with Mason Menard. “Liston, he has God-given gifts and he’s simply the best out there. (My son) has the best parts of Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, GGG, Floyd, Andre Ward, all the best of them in him.”

The Lopez that defeated Nakatani would not have defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko. And there are those that think he won’t beat Richard Commey unless he brings his “A’ game. It’s an interesting fight.

—–

The main fights on Saturday’s Top Rank boxing card will air on ESPN’s flagship station. The boxing card, which opens with the rematch between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin, follows the show in which the Heisman Trophy is presented to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Heisman telecast will begin at 8 pm EST.

The same situation prevailed last year when Top Rank’s Madison Square Garden card was headlined by the fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza. To the consternation of diehard boxing fans, the Heisman presentation show ran late. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.

Photo credit: Stacy Verbeek

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Will U.S. Olympic Boxers Fare Better in Tokyo Thanks to Yesterday’s Ruling?

Arne K. Lang

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The road to the medal round for U.S. boxers at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics just got easier. But maybe not.

“Russia Banned From The Tokyo Olympics” screamed yesterday’s headline, but reading between the lines there’s more to the story. A more carefully worded headline would have read “Russian Olympic Athletes in Limbo.”

We have been down this road before. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, recommended banning Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The agency accused Russian authorities of a massive cover-up that erased hundreds of positive test samples.

WADA then did something of an about-face and decided to evaluate each case individually. Ultimately, 278 Russian athletes were approved to compete in Rio; 111 were denied. All 11 Russian boxers who survived the various qualifying events made the cut.

This new ban (which will be appealed) also emanates from WADA which alleges that the Russian authorities continued the massive cover-up using the “disappearance methodology.” But, if upheld, it’s a more severe penalty in that it bans Russia from major international sporting events for the next four years. That would include the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world by far. The next edition of the World Cup is slated for 2022 in Qatar.

“There’s still…the possibility of clean athletes to compete in the Games,” Svetlana Romashina, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, told Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth of The Guardian. “I believe the punishment of clean athletes to be unacceptable,” continued Romashina. “We have done nothing wrong.”

The reality, as it now stands, is that Russian boxers and other Russian athletes, if deemed clean, will be able to compete in Tokyo, just not under the Russian banner. As is common in some wrestling tournaments, their affiliation will be “unattached.” And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a big fan of amateur boxing and other combat sports, won’t be there. The ban prohibits Russian officials from attending major international sporting events if their team has been expelled.

—–

Historically, the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team has excelled in the Summer Games. But that’s yesterday’s news. In the last three Olympics, U.S. male boxers won only three medals, one silver and two bronze. By contrast, during the same period, Russian boxers walked off with 10 medals including three gold.

The prognosis for the 2020 U.S. team looked dim once again when the U.S. contingent earned only one medal (a silver by lightweight Keyshawn Davis) at the recent AIBA men’s World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The host team garnered four medals, including three gold. If one conjoined the Russian squad with former Soviet Union satellites Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the count grows to seven gold medals (of a possible eight) and 15 medals overall.

Russia’s gold medalists at the World Championships were welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy (pictured), middleweight Gleb Bakshi, and heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. Zamkovoy and the heavyweight (who will badly need a new name if he ever turns pro) are outstanding amateurs and may have been favored to win their divisions in Tokyo.

Zamkovoy, 32, represented Russia in the 2012 and 2016 Games and medaled in 2012 where he defeated Errol Spence Jr en route to the semi-finals. The heavyweight (a cruiserweight by pro standards) is an ever-improving, 22-year-old, six-foot-four southpaw who has already amassed an amateur record of 60-5.

The competition for the U.S. team at overseas tournaments has gotten a lot tougher in the last two decades as several Eastern European countries have become more like Cuba, investing state resources into their amateur boxing programs with an eye to building a powerhouse. Perhaps the WADA edict will aid the U.S. boxing team in shaking the doldrums in 2020, but that assumption seems premature.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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