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Ronny Rios Shocks Diego De La Hoya in L.A. Fight Card

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CARSON, Calif.-It was a night of upsets on a summer eve.

Ronny Rios toppled Diego De La Hoya in a super bantamweight showdown while another super bantamweight scrap saw WBC titlist Rey Vargas manage to hang onto his strap in a close 12-round affair on Saturday.

Upsets and reversal of fortunes were the name of the game for the more than 2,000 fans at the Dignity Health Sports Park. The Golden Boy Promotions fight card featured a pair of upsets and one near derailment. The fight card was streamed on DAZN.

None was more shocking than the showdown between two longtime members of the Golden Boy team, Rios and De La Hoya.

Santa Ana’s Rios (31-3, 15 KOs) walked into the ring happily as the underdog and it proved beneficial as he handed Diego De La Hoya (21-1, 10 KOs) his first pro loss and by knockout in their 12-round featherweight fight.

De La Hoya was the big favorite to remain undefeated on his quest to a world title but Rios snatched that opportunity away with a gritty example of trench warfare. Even more surprising was the end that came by knockout. Rios is not a big puncher and De La Hoya is known for his ability to take a blow like his older cousin and boss Oscar De La Hoya.

But not on this night.

Rios had lost his one and only world title opportunity when he fought Rey Vargas two years ago in this same venue. Before walking into the boxing ring on Saturday he had promised to show what he can really do as the underdog.

“I love being the underdog,” Rios said on Wednesday.

On Saturday he showed why underdog status was an advantage as he caught De La Hoya repeatedly with left hooks and right uppercuts. That same combination put De La Hoya down for the first time in his career. He could not continue and referee Rudy Barragan stopped the fight at 1:17 of the sixth round. It gives Rios the win by knockout and the NABF super bantamweight title.

“I saw a lot of tape and noticed he has a really high guard. It leaves him open to the body. We were working on that in the gym a lot. Honestly, it was shock. I didn’t know he was going down,” said Rios. “I know Diego, he is a warrior and he’s never been down.”

De La Hoya was gracious in defeat.

“I didn’t feel well. I didn’t feel right,” said De La Hoya. “You have to accept the losses just like you accept the wins.”

Rey Vargas

WBC super bantamweight world titlist Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KOs) had his hands full with Japan’s Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20 KOs) who showed up with plenty of Mexican and Japanese fans and plenty of tricks in his bag. But Vargas was able to hit and hold his way to another victory despite the fan outcry that saw the judges favor Vargas with a unanimous decision.

The taller Vargas used his height, speed and reach to keep the fight on the outside. But Kameda, who trains in Mexico, had other thoughts and used his quickness and hand speed to connect with telling blows throughout. He was especially effective with wide left hooks and overhand rights.

Kameda tried for most of the fight to get inside and  engage in close, but every time he got inside the reach of Vargas the Mexican fighter would grab hold of the Japanese fighter. Despite constantly using this illegal tactic referees seem to ignore the egregious  use of holding so Vargas continues to use it.

In the final round as Kameda tried valiantly to get inside, Vargas held him again and as the referee Jerry Cantu tried to break the stranglehold Kameda connected with a blow that buckled the Mexican fighter. The referee deducted a point from Kameda for the hit during the break but never warned Vargas for holding in any round of the fight.

“I believe that he won the fight tonight and I respect him as a champion. He won,” said Kameda. “I need to learn and to practice more in order to get another chance to be champion again.”

Hundreds of fans booed the announcement declaring Vargas the winner by unanimous decision, 117-110 on all three cards. Also in the audience was WBA and IBF super bantamweight titlist Danny Roman.

Vargas spotted him and asked for a unification match.

“You know when a Mexican fights another Mexican, it’s a war,” said Vargas to Roman.

Not when a fighter holds as much as Vargas.

 Joet Gonzalez

After several years of eyeing each other as prospects Joet Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs) battered Manuel Avila (23-2-1, 8 KOs) to win by knockout once he got going. Ultimately the Glendora, California featherweight used a relentless attack to surprisingly force referee Jose Cobian to end the fight at 2:27 of round six.

Avila started quickly in the fight with his speed and movement as Gonzalez patiently stalked the Northern California fighter. Occasionally Gonzalez fired a lead right to the head or body but allowed Avila to take the lead in their dance.

In the third round Gonzalez took over the fight and began pressuring Avila behind a tight guard and unleashed a five-punch combination that caught Avila’s attention with the impact and accuracy. A strong left jab and a right cross connected solidly for Gonzalez at the end of the round.

For the next three rounds Gonzalez grabbed total control of the fight and cut off all escape routes for Avila. A six-punch barrage ended with a right uppercut and Avila’s face looked bruised and swollen. Gonzalez did not ease up on the pedal and kept Avila on his back foot. A left to the body and several blows up and down saw Avila lower his head and then go down. Gonzalez had leaned on his head so referee Jose Cobian ruled it a push down but Avila was surprised by the referee’s decision. He got up and Gonzalez attacked again and with another four-punch combination put Avila down on the floor for a knockdown. Avila got up but looked bewildered.

Gonzalez allowed a couple of quick one-two combinations by Avila in the sixth round then pummeled him relentlessly until the referee stopped the fight at 2:27 of the sixth round. Gonzalez now holds both the WBO Global and WBA Continental Americas featherweight titles.

“I am not like these cherry pickers. I will fight the best and beat the best. I just want the champions,” said Gonzalez.

Another Upset

Within seconds of the opening bell, both Venezuela’s Roger Gutierrez (22-3-1, 19 KOs) and Mexico’s Rocky Hernandez (28-1, 25 KOs) were bloodied from each other’s blows. By 2:39 after some brutal exchanges Gutierrez connected with a right cross and floored the shorter Hernandez. Though he tried mightily to get up, Hernandez just couldn’t master his balance and tumbled downward. Referee Rudy Barragan waved the fight over.

Alexis Rocha (14-0, 9 KOs) of Santa Ana, Calif. pounded out a victory by knockout in the eighth round over Puerto Rico’s Berlin Abreu (14-3, 11 KOs) in a welterweight fight. Referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight at 2:56 of round eight. Rocha is the younger brother of Ronny Rios.

Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Madiyev (13-1, 5 KOs) out-fought Ricky Sismundo (35-14-3, 17 KOs) of the Philippines to win by unanimous decision after eight rounds in a super lightweight bout.

Jousce Gonzalez (9-0-1, 9 KOs) of Glendora, Calif. knocked out Mexico’s Jorge Padron (3-4, 3 KOs) at 2:15 of the second round in their lightweight match. Gonzalez is the younger brother of Joet Gonzalez.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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