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Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame Honoring Hopkins, Goossen, Chacon and Others

David A. Avila

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Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame Honoring Hopkins, Goossen, Chacon and Others

When people think of Nevada they mostly envision Las Vegas. But the elongated “Silver State” stretches nearly as far in length as its “Golden State” neighbor California.

Nevada also possesses as many riches in the sport of boxing going all the way back to 1897 when Bob Fitzsimmons wrested the heavyweight title from Jim Corbett in Carson City and including the famous fight in Reno in July of 1910 when the great Jack Johnson faced off against Jim Jeffries.

Since that epic battle that saw Johnson win by knockout, many other historic prize fights emblazoned the boxing rings from Reno to Las Vegas for more than a century. Nevada has a very rich prizefighting history.

More than a dozen prizefighters, judges and boxing notables will be honored and celebrated at the Seventh Annual Induction Ceremony by the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. All of the two-day events take place at the Red Rock Resort and Casino in Las Vegas beginning Friday, Aug. 9.

In alphabetical order, here are the fighters being inducted:

Joel Casamayor – the Cuban southpaw known as “El Cepillo,” or the “the Brush,” arrived in the US with a more aggressive style than most of his fellow Cubans. Fearless and determined, his battles with Acelino Freitas, Diego Corrales and Juan Manuel Marquez are among the fiercest and bloodiest fights ever seen. Anyone who ever saw Casamayor in the boxing ring knew it would be memorable. He now resides in Las Vegas and is a trainer.

Bobby Chacon – the native Los Angeles prizefighter known as “Schoolboy” passed away several years ago in 2016. He engaged in only a few battles in Nevada, but they were unforgettable. After participating in the Fight of the Year in 1982, Chacon then fought Cornelius Boza-Edwards in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace in the 1983 Fight of the Year. Few could match the pure guts and determination of the super featherweight Chacon. He was also one of the most beloved fighters the sport has ever known.

Humberto Gonzalez – the diminutive light flyweight from Mexico City known as “Chiquita” was part of a generation that propelled the little guys to million dollar fights. His battles with Arizona’s Michael Carbajal – especially their first encounter at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas in 1993 – were historic in bringing American attention to the light flyweight division. Chiquita is now a promoter.

Leroy Haley – the super lightweight was born in Arkansas but Las Vegas became a permanent base of operations for the fighter known as “Irish” Leroy Haley. Many of his fights took place at the old Silver Slipper in Las Vegas and were televised. For a while he fought almost weekly in the year 1973. He was an important cog in making Las Vegas a fight town. He captured the world title against the ultra-slick Saoul Mamby in 1982 and also won the rematch. Haley retired in 1985 and still lives in Las Vegas.

Bernard Hopkins – is one of the best middleweights to ever lace up the gloves. The Philadelphia fighter was one of the most scientific and disciplined boxers the sport has ever known. He proved it in his epic showdown against Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad then went on to the light heavyweight division and won a world title in the heavier weight class too while in his 40s. One of boxing’s most amazing athletes he fought many of the best such as Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Calzaghe. Now both Hopkins and De La Hoya are part of the same boxing company Golden Boy Promotions.

Juan Manuel Marquez – the Mexico City prizefighter remains one of his country’s most under-rated fighters of all time. Perhaps because his style was very scientific and precise, he is not appreciated as one of Mexico’s finest prizefighters. Who can forget his four intense battles against Manny Pacquiao that all took place in mega fights held in Las Vegas? Marquez won world titles in the featherweight, super featherweight, and lightweight divisions.

Wayne McCullough – the “Pocket Rocket” from Belfast, Ireland was always a crowd favorite with his high intensity prizefighting style. He captured the bantamweight world title in Japan but later made Las Vegas his home base. He fought a number of world title bouts in Nevada including his final world title challenge against Oscar Larios in 2005. McCullough is also a very beloved fighter outside of the ring and was recently training boxers in Southern California.

Terry Norris – the super welterweight was one of Abel Sanchez’s earliest champions and was known for his speed and electric power. Known as “Terrible” Terry Norris, the San Diego-based prizefighter could end a fight with a single punch and often did. He defeated a number of big punchers and champions such as John “the Beast” Mugabi, Sugar Ray Leonard, Donald Curry, and Simon Brown. He was always worth watching because knockouts were his specialty. But if he needed to box he was fully capable of providing that too.

Vinny Pazienza – the Rhode Island prizefighter has one of the more incredible stories in a sport filled with incredible stories. Paz won world titles as a lightweight and a super welterweight and fought as heavy as a light heavyweight and won. In 1991 he was involved in a serious car accident and suffered a broken neck. It was thought his career was over but Paz returned 13 months later and continued fighting. Among those Paz fought are Greg Haugen, Hector Camacho, Roy Jones Jr. and Roberto Duran. He had one incredible boxing career.

Hasim Rahman – the heavyweight champion shocked the boxing world when he knocked out Lennox Lewis in the fifth round in South Africa. Though he lost the rematch seven months later, Rahman proved to be an always dangerous heavyweight in a career that began in 1994 and ended in 2014. Among those he battled were David Tua, Trevor Berbick, Corrie Sanders and James Toney. Known as “the Rock” he was in the heavyweight mix throughout his career.

Winky Wright – the Florida native never was flashy, powerful or speedy, but whoever he fought he brought trouble with a capital T. From super welterweight to super middleweight Wright brought his close guard style against some of the fiercest fighters and defused their power. Among those he fought were Fernando Vargas, Shane Mosley, Ike Quartey, Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad. After dominating the Puerto Rican legend Trinidad retired a week later. Wright was always a tough nut to crack.

Non-Fighters

Dan Goossen – the Southern California-based promoter loved the sport of boxing and brought many of the best fights in history to both his native state and to Nevada. Goossen passed away in September 2014 and was beloved by all those who knew him. One of his proudest moments was staging James Toney’s upset knockout win over heavyweight legend Evander Holyfield in 2003. He also launched the careers of Andre Ward, Chris Arreola and Paul Williams.

Duane Ford – judged over 600 fights in Nevada and worldwide including Japan, Poland, Mexico, Germany, Panama and Thailand. Among those he oversaw in the prize ring were Wilfredo Gomez, Larry Holmes, Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard.

Dr. Edwin “Flip” Homansky – was a ringside physician for thousands of bouts including the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield battle in 1997. He also inspected fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Julio Cesar Chavez, Tommy Hearns, Felix Trinidad and thousands of others.

Floyd Mayweather Sr. – the father of Floyd Mayweather Jr. has long been a distinguished teacher of prizefighting beginning with his own son and including other future Boxing Hall of Fame fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya. His knowledge of the sweet science has been long sought by many and he continues to be a strong influence in the sport.

Marc Risman – the Las Vegas-based attorney represented Grammy and Emmy winners along with Olympians and boxing stars in his lengthy career. He also represented Don King and Julio Cesar Chavez and has long been a fan of the sport.

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Ted Sares

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Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev: Point Counterpoint

Putting pineapple on pizza is not a good idea but it IS an example of point counterpoint, and when these two boxers meet on Friday in Philadelphia with the WBC and IBF world light heavyweight titles at stake, it also will be a contrast—but not of tastes as much as styles..

There are, however, many similarities. Both are Eastern European boxers though one, Gvozdyk, is a Ukrainian and the other, Beterbiev, is a Russian and this particular regional difference has sparked a lot of conversation. (Interestingly, Beterbiev has never fought professionally in Russia, nor has the English-speaking Gvozdyk ever fought in the Ukraine.)

Both have superb amateur credentials but this has a flip side in that too many amateur fights can add to the wear and tear of these Eastern Euro warriors when they become professionals. Beterbiev is 34; Gvozdyk 32.

Both are undefeated with outstanding knockout percentages. Gvozdyk, aka The Nail, is 17-0 with 14 KOs. Beterbiev (14-0) has won all of his fights inside the distance.

Both are excellent finishers and when they have their man hurt, it’s all over.

Both have excellent corners and handlers and will be fit and ready to rumble.

“This could very well be the fight of the year…These are two evenly matched, undefeated light heavyweight champions. There is nothing better in the sport of boxing,” says promoter Bob Arum.

Styles

The 6’0” Beterbiev’s style is one of a stalking aggressor and he is especially dangerous when his opponent engages him in a heated exchange as that allows him to land one of his heavy-handed bombs. To use an old cliché, Artur has “bricks in his fists.” He also is dangerous when he is stunned as Callum Johnson discovered.

Some say Beterbiev’s chin is a question mark but his style allows an opponent to nail him (no pun intended) as he moves in. That may well be more a function of his go-forward movement than it is any weakness in his chin.

Conversely, The Nail is a very accurate and powerful puncher and is technically (and defensively) more sound than the bludgeoning Russian. He uses a super-fast jab and counters with sharp stuff. This 6’2” slickster combines exceptional speed and deceptive power. He is patient, relaxed, and fluid.

Intangibles

Has Gvozdyk’s psyche been altered by the events of his December 2018 fight with Adonis Stevenson wherein Adonis (thankfully now recovering) was severely injured? While The Nail was somewhat stymied by his last opponent, Doudou Ngumbu, the thinking here is that that had more to do with Ngumbu’s awkwardness than anything else—and that the Stevenson matter is mostly in the past. In short, the Nail’s focus on Friday should be right where it should be.

With a KO percentage of 100%, Beterbiev has answered the bell for very few rounds, only 52 to be exact. This could weigh against him.

Prediction: Gvozdyk’s superior boxing skills should begin to bear fruit in the mid to late rounds when a frustrated Beterbiev is forced to take risks for which he will pay dearly. I see “The Nail” winning by late stoppage or by UD.

A Russian vs. a Ukrainian — one who lives in Canada and the other who lives in California.  Heck, it’s the battle of ex-patriots. If ever a fight was much anticipated, this is the one.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Arne K. Lang

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Terence Crawford is Bob Arum’s Yuletide Gift to New York

Throughout history, boxing promoters have shunned the weeks before Christmas. The conventional wisdom is that the typical fight fan has little money at his disposal for a frivolity such as a night at the fights, having exhausted his funds buying Christmas presents. But don’t tell that to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who has flouted this dictum and profited handsomely.

Back in 1995, Arum secured Madison Square Garden for the night of Dec. 15 for a show that pitted Oscar De La Hoya against Jesse James Leija in the main event. The cynics said the date was all wrong, let alone the location for a match between two Mexican-Americans from out west, one from LA and the other from San Antonio. But lo and behold, the show was a big money-maker, attracting a crowd of 16,027, more than 15,000 paid.

Arum anticipates another box office bonanza on Dec. 14 when he plants an ESPN and ESPN Deportes tripleheader in America’s most famous sports arena, an event headlined by Terence “Bud” Crawford’s WBO title defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Crawford, who turned 32 several weeks ago, moved up to welterweight after grabbing all the belts at 140 and will be making his fourth welterweight title defense.

The opening bout on the telecast pits featherweight Michael Conlan against former amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan will be making his sixth appearance at the Garden. In the co-feature, Richard Commey defends his IBF world lightweight title against Teofimo Lopez.

Although many rate Terence Crawford the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, he has been something of a forgotten man lately. Almost 10 full months have elapsed since he last fought. Oscar De La Hoya, who had a bitter break-up with Arum late in his boxing career, recently took a swipe at Arum for not keeping Crawford more active, suggesting Arum’s “inertia” might be keeping Crawford out of the Hall of Fame.

The Crawford-Kavaliauskas match-up serves as Arum’s retort as it will shine a bright spotlight on Crawford, the pride of Omaha, Nebraska, as Arum’s show will air on ESPN directly following the Heisman Trophy presentation. Now it behooves Arum to pull some strings so that the Heisman Trophy show doesn’t run too long as has happened in the past.

At the moment, parlaying Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seems like a safe bet, but Egidijus Kavaliauskas, a two-time Olympian who was profiled on these pages in July of 2016, is no slouch.

True enough, Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) didn’t look all that sharp in his last outing when he was held to a draw by Ray Robinson, but Philadelphia’s Robinson had an awkward style (think former heavyweight contender Jimmy Young) and was fighting in his hometown.

If Kavaliauskas were a horse, we would say that he comes from a great barn. The 31-year-old Lithuanian is a stablemate of the Big Three in the barn of Egis Klimas: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) hails from Ghana but now hangs his hat in Brooklyn. His losses were both by split decision in back-to-back fights with Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov and he has won five straight since then, most recently an eighth-round stoppage of veteran Ray Beltran in the first defense of his IBF title.

Teofimo Lopez, 10 years younger than Commey at age 22, is moving up in class, but will yet go to post the favorite. In his last start, Lopez won a unanimous 12-round decision over Masoyoshi Nakatani, ending a skein of highlight reel knockouts. In December of last year, Lopez scored a one-punch knockout over Mason Menard in a bout that lasted all of 44 seconds. It was named the TSS Knockout of the Year.

Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) grew up in Davie, Florida, but was born in Brooklyn and currently has a home there, giving the show even more of a local flavor. He and his Honduras-born father of the same name are not shy when it comes to boasting of his prowess and Teofimo’s braggadocio has enhanced his appeal with young fans.

Michael Conlan (10-0, 7 KOs) and Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, all by decision) met in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Nikitin got the decision, a jaw-dropper that spawned the most indelible moment of the Games when an enraged Conlan gave the judges a two-middle-finger salute.

The rematch between them was hatched at that moment although it took awhile for Arum to rope the Russian into the fold. They were originally slated to fight on Aug. 3 at an outdoor show in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, but Nikitin suffered a torn bicep in training and had to pull out.

This is the kind of match that Bob Arum can really get his teeth in. The crusty octogenarian and former attorney would have it that all people of good character ought to be rooting for Conlan in the interest of seeing an injustice rectified.

Regardless, Arum’s Dec. 14 show is a nice Christmas present for Big Apple boxing fans.

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Three Punch Combo: Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Thoughts and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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Three Punch Combo — For hardcore fans, one of the most attractive fights of the year takes place on Friday when undefeated light heavyweight champions Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s) battle in a title unification bout. This contest will headline an ESPN televised card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. Here are a few subtle things that could play a factor in how this fight plays out.

A Tactical Fight?

Twenty years ago, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in a welterweight title unification fight. It was a super fight between two explosive punchers. Everyone expected fireworks, but as we all know, it turned into an all-out chess match for twelve rounds.

When two big punchers meet, sometimes we get fireworks and sometimes each fighter respects the other’s power so much that they both become somewhat tentative inside the ring.

Keep in mind we have seen in several Gvozdyk fights a somewhat cautious approach. He will take what is given and nothing more. As for Beterbiev, he has typically been a very aggressive fighter (more on that later) but has had his moments where caution has entered his mindset. Just take a look back at his 2017 fight with Enrico Koelling.

I know it is the unpopular opinion but we could certainly see a very tactical chess match between these two on Friday.

Beterbiev’s Defense and Chin

Beterbiev, as noted, is a very aggressive fighter. But with that aggression comes an almost complete lack of focus on the defensive side of the game.

So far, Beterbiev’s offense has been his best defense as many times his opponents have simply been too fearful of opening up. But at times the cracks have shown. Callum Johnson, for example, wasn’t afraid to throw in spots and when he did, his punches landed.

In that fight, we saw Beterbiev get hurt and dropped. Beterbiev showed a ton of heart to come back from that moment and later stop Johnson, but his chin is certainly a question mark. And Gvozdyk, aside from carrying one-punch power, is a very sharp and accurate puncher who has shown excellent finishing skills thus far in his career.

Gvozdyk’s Mindset

A little more than ten months ago, Gvozdyk wrested away the title from Adonis Stevenson. But on what was supposed to be the night where Gvozdyk’s dream came true, things almost turned tragic as Stevenson suffered a brain bleed that nearly took his life.

Gvozdyk has had one fight since against journeyman Doudou Ngumbu. Though Gvozdyk won easily, there was something about his performance that just didn’t feel right. Gvozdyk had a fighter in front of him who offered little resistance but seemingly didn’t want to fully step on the gas.

In order to compete with Beterbiev, we have to see the same Gvozdyk that we saw against Stevenson. But has Gvozdyk’s mindset permanently been altered by the events of that evening?

Under The Radar Fight

A pivotal crossroads bout in the welterweight division between Luis Collazo (39-7, 20 KO’s) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO’s) is also on Friday’s ESPN broadcast. The winner will be in prime position for a title shot in 2020.

Collazo, a world welterweight titlist back in 2005, is in the midst of yet another career resurrection. After getting stopped by defending WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman in 2015, Collazo has won three straight. And these wins were not against subpar opposition. Two were against up-and-coming young fighters in Sammy Vasquez and Bryant Perrella; the other against fringe contender Samuel Vargas.

At age 38, Collazo has proven he still has plenty in the tank and has clawed back up the rankings in the welterweight division. But to get one more shot at a title, Collazo must find a way to get past another young up-and-comer in Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov.

Abdukakhorov, 26, is coming off the biggest win of his pro career this past March when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former 140-pound title challenger Keita Obara. That win boosted Abdukakhorov into the number one position in the IBF at welterweight and in line to one day be the mandatory challenger for current belt-holder Errol Spence Jr.

Stylistically, I love this matchup. Abdukakhorov is an aggressive boxer-puncher. He will look to press the attack and won’t be afraid to lead looking to land his best punch which is the overhand right. Collazo is a southpaw who is a natural counterpuncher. He will look to make Abdukakhorov’s aggression work against him and should find plenty of opportunities to do so.

I think we are going to get an action-packed, competitive fight. This should serve as an excellent appetizer to Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.

What’s Next For Dmitry Bivol?

This past Saturday, Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s) successfully defended his WBA light heavyweight title with a wide unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KO’s). Though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, the win keeps Bivol in line for bigger opportunities down the road. So, what’s next for him?

Saturday’s title defense marked Bivol’s second consecutive appearance on the streaming service DAZN. DAZN needs future opponents for its two biggest stars in Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Clearly part of the reason for DAZN showing interest in Bivol is geared toward him potentially getting one or the other down the road.

Though Alvarez is fighting at light heavyweight in November, this appears to be a one-time appearance for the Mexican superstar in that division. He is likely headed back to middleweight or the 168-pound weight class. As for Golovkin, he has fought his entire 13-year career at middleweight. A move at some point soon to 168 would not be a surprise.

Bivol and his team have made it very clear that he can get down to 168. With DAZN’s two biggest stars hovering around that division, a move down to 168 seems likely.

The WBA champion at 168 is Callum Smith who is slated for a title defense in November against UK countryman John Ryder. Assuming Smith prevails, he would make a logical opponent for Bivol in the spring of 2020.

Smith-Bivol would be a big fight between two young undefeated fighters and the winner would then be in position for a mega fight later in 2020 against either Alvarez or Golovkin.

But what if Smith goes a different direction following the Ryder fight? If that is the case, Bivol may instead just look to dip his toes in the water at 168 with someone like Rocky Fielding.

Fielding is a tough, gritty competitor who is popular in the UK and has name recognition in the US based on his fight last December with Canelo. But as we saw in that fight, Fielding is very limited.

Fielding is just the type of opponent who could bring out the best in Bivol. A spectacular knockout would help erase some of Bivol’s recent lackluster performances. And this would, of course, make Bivol much more marketable for a future date with Alvarez or Golovkin.

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