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Three Punch Combo: Three Makeable Fights Certain to Entertain and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo Three Makeable Fights Certain to Entertain and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO — It is easy to come up with a list of big fights that we’d like to see before the end of the year. But instead of touching upon those obvious fights, I want to focus instead on some less-buzzworthy fights that can be used to fill out the year-end schedule.

For the purposes of compiling this list, I am focusing on fights that should be easy to put together. So I won’t be including fights with fighters aligned with rival factions.

Dereck Chisora (31-9, 22 KO’s) vs. Oscar Rivas (26-1, 18 KO’s)

Rivas (pictured) and Chisora just fought on the same card earlier this month. Chisora was successful in his outing, scoring a second-round stoppage of Artur Szpilka. Rivas, on the other hand, dropped a hard-fought, 12-round decision to Dillian Whyte. Chisora and Rivas are both borderline top 10 heavyweights and a fight between them to close out the year makes a lot of sense.

Yes, I know Chisora is pursuing a fight with Joseph Parker. It remains to be seen if the Parker side is interested in such a fight. If not, Rivas would be a natural pivot for Chisora.

Not only is this an evenly-matched fight but their styles should mesh well, making for an entertaining heavyweight scrap. Both fighters rely on aggression and pressure inside the ring. They won’t have to look hard to find one another. Each is also somewhat limited defensively. This will be a high contact fight with the winner vaulting inside the top 10 of the division.

Yves Ulysse Jr. (18-1, 9 KO’s) vs. Ivan Baranchyk (19-1, 12 KO’s)

The 140-pound division is absolutely loaded at the moment. There is a clear top tier and then a middle tier with not much separation. In order to make a move in the division, some of these middle tier fighters will need to face off against each other. One such crossroads type fight that could be put together is a match between Ulysse and Baranchyk.

This fight would feature two evenly matched fighters with a clear contrast of styles. Ulysse is a boxer- puncher who likes to work behind the jab and keep the fight at a distance. Baranchyk is an ultra-aggressive, pressure fighter who likes to close the gap and fight at close range. Who could impose their style the best and come out victorious? I’d sure like to find out.

Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12 KO’s) vs. Jamal James (26-1, 12 KO’s)

Welterweight is an interesting division. The top fighters in the division all happen to be very big names in the sport. But there are some very good fighters who compose the middle tier who do not have quite near the name recognition. As such, they need to generate demand to fight one of the bigger names. The only way to do so is to fight one another and separate themselves from the crowd. And one such fight that could be made is between Lipinets and James.

Similar to Ulysse-Baranchyk, a fight between Lipinets and James would feature a contrast of styles. Lipinets is the aggressive pressure fighter whereas James is the classic boxer-puncher. Both have fine-tuned their craft after previous losses and each is fighting at a high level. This would be a fascinating fight that boxing fans would get behind and is easy to put together with both being under the PBC banner. The winner would then earn the opportunity to fight one of the bigger names in the division.

And How About Farmer-Berchelt?

As a boxing fan, I want to see the Tevin Farmer-Gervonta Davis title unification fight in the 130-pound division. However, given the political factions involved, that fight is unlikely to be made anytime soon.

In a previous column, I wrote about the need to make another 130-pound title unification fight between Jamel Herring and Miguel Berchelt. However, there has been a snag and neither of these title unification bouts appears likely to happen at this time.

Davis likely will face Yuriorkis Gamboa next and Herring will likely face his mandatory challenger in Lamont Roach. But I want to see a title unification fight in this division. And I say that since Farmer and Berchelt have no other dance partners at the moment, why not have them get together?

Farmer-Berchelt would be a dream fight. Think about it for a moment.  Farmer has mastered the sweet science. He has that rare ability to stand in the pocket and land combinations, all the while slipping punches. I once described him as a poor man’s Pernell Whitaker and I stand by that comparison.

Berchelt, on the other hand, has only offense in mind. The bell rings and he comes forward, abandoning all defensive principles, firing away power shots. He throws from all angles and has heavy handed power in both fists. And he doesn’t take his foot off the gas.

So we would have the defensive wizard in Farmer against the all-offensive minded power punching Berchelt. And both are very good at what they do best. I would characterize Farmer-Berchelt as not only the best fight that can be made at 130 but one of the best potential fights in any division. Since neither has an opponent lined up and both have proclaimed to want big fights, I say make it happen.

Under the Radar Fight*

Boxing returns to FOX on Saturday with a tripleheader from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The card is headlined by what should be a slugfest between heavyweights Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15 KO’s) and Chris Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KO’s). While that fight is garnering most of the publicity, there’s a very interesting welterweight fight on the televised undercard between Andre Berto (32-5, 24 KO’s) and Miguel Cruz (18-1, 12 KO’s).

Berto-Cruz is the type of crossroads showdown we used to see on a weekly basis on the old USA Tuesday Night Fight Series in the 80’s and 90’s. I know a lot of fans may not be excited about this bout, but I like it a lot. I think the two fighters are evenly matched and that we are going to get a much more action-packed contest than is being anticipated.

Coming up the welterweight ranks, Berto had enormous expectations placed on his shoulders. Early on he showed some dazzling speed to go along with thunderous power. But though he has had plenty of success in his career, he is now seen as being a bit of an underachiever due to those enormously high expectations. Now 35, he is seeking one more big shot in his career.

Cruz is a very solid professional fighter. There is nothing that particularly stands out in his game but he is a grinder who does a lot of things well. There are some solid wins on his resume with the most notable being a pair of decision victories over Alex Martin. But that said, Cruz did struggle the one time he really stepped up in class against Josesito Lopez. At 29, Cruz is just entering the prime of his career and needs a signature performance to make a move in the division.

We all know that Berto has been involved in some clunkers. But he has also been involved in some shoot-outs. It is all dependent on the style of his opponent. Cruz is a come-forward pressure fighter who is not afraid to mix it up as he showed in that aforementioned contest against Lopez. I think Cruz presses the action and engages Berto, who has never been known for his defense, in some exciting exchanges.

Don’t sleep on this fight. It is going to be much more entertaining than most are forecasting.

– – –

*Editor’s Note: Two hours after this story was published it was announced that Andre Berto had to pull out. It was said that he suffered a torn bicep tendon this past Saturday (July 27) during his final sparring session for the fight.

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Recalling Three Big Fights in Miami, the Site of Super Bowl LIV

Arne K. Lang

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The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs collide on Feb. 2 in Miami in Super Bowl LIV (54) in what will assuredly be the biggest betting event to ever play out on American soil. It’s the 10th Super Bowl for the South Florida metropolis which ties it with New Orleans as the most frequent destination for football’s premier attraction.

With its heavily Latin population, Miami would seem to be natural for big fights. However, this hasn’t been the case. Several great champions fought here, including Roberto Duran who twice defended his world lightweight title in these parts, but these weren’t big fights. In the case of Duran, his opponents were lightly regarded and the Panamanian legend was still three years away from his first encounter with Sugar Ray Leonard, a match that increased his name recognition a hundred-fold.

There were, however, three fights in Miami that summoned the interest of virtually all of America’s A-list sportswriters. Here they are in reverse chronological order.

Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello (Nov. 12, 1982)

Alexis Arguello (72-5) was bidding to become boxing’s first four-division champion. In his way stood WBA junior welterweight title-holder Aaron Pryor (31-0, 29 KOs), a man now widely regarded as the best 140-pound boxer of all time.

Arguello, a Miami resident, having been exiled from his Nicaraguan homeland by the Sandanista rebel occupation, was a textbook boxer who defeated his opponents with surgical efficiency. Pryor was a typhoon. He mowed down his opponents with relentless pressure. It was a great style match-up and it didn’t disappoint. Contested before nearly 30,000 at Miami’s iconic Orange Bowl, Pryor vs. Arguello was a fight for the ages.

“There was power, finesse, poise, courage and a tremendous ebb and flow,” said Associated Press writer Ed Schuyler who dubbed it Manila in Miniature. In the ninth, 11th, and particularly the 13th rounds, Arguello hit Pryor with straight right hands that would have felled an ordinary fighter, but Pryor had an iron chin.

In the 14th, Pryor buckled Arguello’s knees with a straight right hand and then unloaded a furious combination as Arguello fell back against the ropes. He was out on feet when referee Stanley Cristodoulou intervened and he would lay prone on the canvas for several minutes before he could be removed to his dressing room.

Sonny Liston vs. Muhammad Ali (Feb. 25, 1964)

If you happen to find a poster for this fight with the name Muhammad Ali on it, don’t buy it. It’s bogus. Liston met up with Muhammad Ali in their second fight. In their first encounter, Liston opposed Cassius Clay.

Clay’s Louisville sponsors, after a brief flirtation with Archie Moore, settled on Angelo Dundee as his trainer. Angelo operated out of his brother Chris Dundee’s gym located at the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. The fighter who took the name Muhammad Ali trained here and kept a home in Miami for most of his first six years as a pro.

Clay/Ali was 22 years old and had only 19 fights under his belt when he was thrust against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Liston was riding a 28-fight winning streak after back-to-back first-round blowouts of Floyd Patterson.

In a UPI survey, 43 of 46 boxing writers picked Liston. “Clay has no more chance of stopping Liston than the old red barn had of impeding a tornado,” wrote Nat Fleischer, the publisher of The Ring magazine.

This would be the first of many famous fights for Muhammad Ali who emerged victorious when Liston quit after the sixth frame citing an injured shoulder. What is not widely known, however, is that the fight, which was shown on closed-circuit in the U.S. and Canada, was a bust at the gate. The 16,448-seat Convention Center was only half full.

The expectation that Liston would take the lippy kid out in a hurry depressed sales, as did sky-high ticket prices ($250 tops when $100 was the norm). And there may have been more subtle factors. “This may not be the best place for a fight between two Negroes,” wrote Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times, cognizant that people of color were not welcome as guests at the ritzy beachfront hotels along Collins Avenue.

Jack Sharkey vs. W. L. (Young) Stribling (Feb. 27, 1929)

A big fight, as I define it, doesn’t have to be a blockbuster. An important fight that produces an upset automatically becomes a bigger fight in hindsight. The Sharkey-Stribling fight of 1929 didn’t draw an immense crowd by Jack Dempsey standards, but the turnout, reportedly 35,000, far exceeded expectations and the fight – which preceded Miami’s first Orange Bowl football game by six years — really established Miami as a potentially good place for a big sporting event.

Promoted by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, the bout was originally headed to a dog racing track but it quickly became obvious that a larger venue was needed. A stadium was erected on a Miami Beach polo field, taking the name Flamingo Park (not to be confused with the thoroughbred track of the same name).

Slated for 10 rounds, the bout was conceived as one of two “eliminators” to find a successor to Gene Tunney who had retired. What gave the fight it’s primary allure, however, was the North-South angle. Sharkey, born Joseph Zukauskas, hailed from Boston. Stribling, born into a family that traveled the fair circuit with a variety act, was from Macon, Georgia.

The fight, which aired on the NBC radio network, was a dud, a drab affair won by Sharkey who had the best of it in virtually every round. Both went on to fight Max Schmeling for the world heavyweight title. Stribling, dubbed the “King of the Canebrakes” by Damon Runyon, lost by TKO in fight that was stopped late in the 15th round. Sharkey took the title from Schmeling on a split decision after losing their first meeting on a foul.

Young Stribling died in a motorcycle crash at age 28, by which time he had engaged in 251 documented bouts, the great majority of which were set-ups. Jack Sharkey lived to be 91.

—-

The strong earnings of the Sharkey-Stribling bout inevitably drew the Madison Square Garden Corporation back to Miami for an encore. On Feb. 27, 1930, Jack Sharkey opposed England’s “Fainting” Phil Scott. Four years later, on March 1, 1834, Primo Carnera defended his world heavyweight title here against former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran, the Philadelphia Phantom.

Both bouts were big money losers, as were the great majority of major fights during this period. Eight months after the Sharkey-Stribling cash cow, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. Few Americans could afford to vacation in Florida, let alone travel anywhere for a big fight.

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Star Power: Ryan Garcia and Oscar De La Hoya at West L.A. Gym

David A. Avila

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Under gray skies and very cool temperatures Ryan Garcia arrived with his father and a couple of others at the Westside Boxing Gym on Monday.

Waiting anxiously were about 100 people comprised of mostly videographers and photographers who had already surrounded Oscar De La Hoya who arrived earlier.

Golden Boy greets the Flash.

Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) has a fight coming soon against Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca (25-2-2, 19 KOs) on Friday Feb. 14, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Golden Boy Promotions show will be streamed by DAZN.

“I’m ready for this fight,” Garcia said quickly.

Some say it has been a rather quick road for the fighter from Victorville known as the Flash. But if you ask Garcia, it has been too slow.

“I think he (Garcia) will be world champion this year,” said De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.

Years ago, De La Hoya arrived with the same hoopla but his travel to the top seemed even faster. By his fifth pro fight he was matched with Jeff Mayweather. Yes, those Mayweathers. At the time Mayweather had fought 27 professional fights and had only two losses. De La Hoya stopped him in four.

In his eighth pro fight De La Hoya met Troy Dorsey, a tough Texan who had formerly held the IBF featherweight world title and who would later win a super featherweight world title. De La Hoya stopped him in one round.

Two years after winning the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, the Golden Boy met WBO world titlist Jimmi Bredahl at the Olympic Auditorium and after dropping him several times finally stopped him in the 10th round. It was De La Hoya’s first world title and he was 21 years old.

Garcia is now 21 and ready to test the loaded lightweight division waters. For a while he was fighting at super featherweight, a division loaded with talent. But lightweights are the Maginot Line when it comes to boxing’s big hitters. Everybody can punch in the 135-pound limit lightweight division.

When Garcia met Romero Duno last November in Las Vegas many expected the speedy Victorville fighter to get his come-uppance. Instead the lanky slugger lit up the strong Filipino fighter and dropped him into the ether world.

It was mesmerizing stuff.

Now he’s back with a load of credibility after shutting down detractors with his devastating knockout win over Duno. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Just like it wasn’t supposed to be that easy when De La Hoya raced by world champions like Secretariat did in the Kentucky Derby decades ago. It’s not supposed to be that easy, but for some it truly is.

Garcia seems to be headed for a journey so remarkable that he has other world champions like WBC titlist Devin Haney eyeing him for their next challenges. It barely results in a yawn for the fighter who will be facing a very credible foe in Fonseca next month.

“I’m not even the champion and he’s calling me out,” said Garcia with a whatever kind of look.

Other fighters and promoters can see what Garcia represents and want to get a slice of it too. Its intangible yet most of the boxing world can sense something is coming and Garcia might be part of it.

That’s called star power and it’s difficult to explain. Some have it, many want it and others have no chance of ever attaining it.

Time will tell how far Garcia’s star power will venture.

One man lived that life and, in a sense, still lives that life and that is De La Hoya. Even he senses a déjà vu moment with Garcia.

“It’s why we made him one of the richest young prospects in boxing today,” De La Hoya said.

Expect several thousand ardent fans of Garcia to fill the seats on Valentine’s Day. How else can you explain it but, star power.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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The Much Maligned Boxing Judge

Ted Sares

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Identifying bad judges is pretty easy, but that’s not the purpose of this essay. To the contrary, the emphasis here is on fine judges and the many ways they can be unjustly labeled.

Now to name a few of today’s best boxing judges is to risk excluding others and that’s admittedly unfair but space is limited. Quickly coming to mind, however, are these judges, all currently active: Julie Lederman (pictured), Steve Weisfeld, Glen Feldman, Dave Moretti, Glenn Trowbridge, Joe Pasquale, Max DeLuca, Hubert Earle, Benoit Roussel, Burt Clements, Tom Shreck, Don Trella, Gary Ritter, Patricia Morse Jarman, Pat Russell, Pinit Prayadsab, Raúl Caiz, Jr., and, of course, the South African legend Stanley Christodoulou.

Boxing judges, unlike referees, are far easier to criticize because the average fan can score a fight using whatever criteria he or she selects and the view from a TV is pretty good. This contributes to the relatively high number of maligned boxing judges.

Being a boxing judge is a thankless endeavor where attention is received only when something controversial and/or negative occurs. And once a judgment is made about a bad job, that judgment influences future perceptions. This is known as “confirmation bias.” Thus, when a boxing commentator like the outspoken Teddy Atlas launches into a tirade over the judging in a particular fight, he may be engaging in confirmation bias—a kind of “See, I told you so.” Those who might criticize based on one poor performance may feel their suspicion of botched judging confirmed. Thus, the tagged judges’ reputation may be unfairly tarnished in the future.

Out-of-town fighters going to Texas to fight are aware of the risks based on the post-fight rants of Paulie Malignaggi, Atlas and many others. If so, the solution is to use out-of-state judges or avoid Texas altogether.

However, even if the elite judges make one “questionable” call in the eyes of fans and certain boxing commentators (or have an off day) they can be labeled as “bad” judges while simultaneously serving as a dart board for Bob Arum’s selective and quite nasty criticism.

No judge is perfect. They deal in a subjective world. Even the legendary IBHOF member Harold Lederman was harshly criticized for his scoring in the Maurice Harris vs. Larry Holmes fight in 1997. And even his daughter Julie has served as a target for some of Arum’s especially vicious criticism.

“She is the best judge in our household”—Harold Lederman

“You have people who are concentrating for three minutes, looking at nothing but the gloves, nothing but the punches. These other people are judging from TV, they’re judging from twenty rows back and they don’t see the effect of the punches all the time.”—Dave Moretti

“It’s easy to criticize boxing judges. But it’s not that easy to have a sound basis for the criticism. One needs to see the fight the judge saw to be in the position to rightly criticize. Critics should temper criticisms in light of the situations boxing judges are in when judging fights. And judges should likewise understand criticisms from the boxing public, however baseless these may seem.   Epifanio M. Almeda (PhilBoxing.com)

All it Takes Is One Bad Apple

In the recent Jesse Hart vs. Joe Smith Jr. fight in Atlantic City, a somewhat under-the-radar judge got it terribly wrong. Two judges had it for Smith, 98-91 and 97-92, but the judge in question shockingly had it 95-94 for Hart. He was scorned, tagged, labeled and God knows what. The criticism took on the form of a tsunami.

Bob Arum had this to say: “That judge should be banned from scoring a fight — and I promote Hart. How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”

Al Bernstein added, “…He should never be allowed to judge again….”

A look at his past record as a judge since 2015 doesn’t reveal anything untoward. But he has now been tagged—perhaps justifiably so– and if he somehow gets through this and slips up again, there will be one very loud “we told you so.” It’s the nature of the beast; It is what it is.

The Pod Index

Matt Podgorski (a former boxing official) came up with a method to evaluate the performance of judges worldwide by determining the percentage of instances his or her scores are consistent with the other two judges working the same fights. He calls it the Pod Index. “Boxing and MMA judges are often evaluated based on whether or not they have had a controversial decision. This is a poor way to assign and regard professional judges,” said Podgorski in an interview with former RingTV editor Michael Rosenthal.

Matt’s Disclaimer: “We are not claiming that judges with low Pod Index scores are bad judges. The Pod Index is simply a measurement of round by round variation compared to other judges.”

Steve Farhood

farhood

2017 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Steve Farhood is a lot of things: analyst, writer, historian, commentator, and an unofficial judge for Showtime fights. If he were an official judge, his Pod Index score would undoubtedly be at or near the top. Steve seldom gets it wrong. He may be the best “judge” in boxing.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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