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The Best Alley Fight Companion?

Ted Sares

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Sports commentator Pat Summerall once said, “If I’m gonna fight in the alley, I want [Scott] LeDoux with me.” Known as “The Fighting Frenchman,” LeDoux was indeed a rough, tough, 6’2”, 220 lb. road warrior out of Minnesota who fought the very best during the golden age of heavyweights in the 70s—a time when big boppers like Frazier, Ali, Quarry, Norton, Foreman, Shavers, Chuvalo, Terrell, Weaver, Jeff Merritt, Mac Foster, Joe Bugner, Leroy Jones, Jimmy Young, and Jimmy Ellis, among others, roamed the landscape. LeDoux fought tough guys because he was a tough guy during an era of tough guy heavyweights.

He also was a genuine nice guy and that probably disqualifies him from being a prime alley companion, Pat Summerall notwithstanding.

Others, of course, come to mind like Big George Foreman (first version), Sonny Liston (any version), Iron Mike Tyson, Earnie Shavers, Deontay Wilder, and 6’9” giant Tyson Fury. Each is suitable.

Speaking of giants, the 7’2″ Nikolai “The Russian Giant” Valuev has the ability to impress upon others a sinister demeanor threatening enough to scare away most potential alley opponents; yet his yen for writing poetry gives pause to his suitability. Also working against this monster is the fact that in 2011 he was elected to the Russian Parliament.

If this writer needed a companion when potentially engaging in an alley fight in, say, Chicago or New York City, he might consider Joe “The Boss” Hipp, also called by the less politically correct “Indian” Joe Hipp.

A fringe contender Back in the Day, Hipp, a member of the Blackfoot Tribe, was rough, tough, and durable. He was a gritty southpaw heavyweight out of Yakima, Washington, and the type of guy you didn’t want to meet in an unfriendly bar. He had plenty of heart, a strong chin, and exuded an extraordinary malevolence in the ring.

He was 24-2 and on a three-fight winning streak when he met Tommy “The Duke” Morrison in Reno, Nevada on a hot sunny afternoon in June 1992. Tommy (32-1) was on a four-fight winning streak of his own and was a strong favorite in what promised to be a pier six brawl. In the end, the fight exceeded expectations.

While Hipp lost in a bone-breaking, bloodletting non-stop ring war that featured shattered cheek bones, a broken jaw, fractured hands, and severe cuts, he exhibited traits that clearly would make him a marvelous companion to take with you into the alley. The late Tommy Morrison wouldn’t be all that bad either.

The President

But wait. Joe must step aside for royalty—he must make way for none other than the President, Ikemefula Charles “Ike” Ibeabuchi.

Pat Summerall wasn’t broadcasting when this heavyweight out of Nigeria burst onto the scene but if he had been, he might have changed his mind about Scott LeDoux.

Ike did his thing from 1994 to 1999, compiling a 20-0 mark with 15 wins coming by way of stoppage. Although he scored a rattling stoppage of Chris Byrd in what turned out to be Ike’s final pro fight, his 1997 upset of David Tua remains the signature moment of his ring career.

In this one, the 6’2″, 244 pound Nigerian with a reach of 77 inches, opened his tool box to reveal Tyson-like hand speed, controlled ferocity, solid footwork, devastating power, counter-punching ability and a rock-sold chin (he was able to walk through Tua’s best left hooks all night).

Both men threw heavy stuff and neither took a backward step. In the process, Ibeabuchi and Tua set a CompuStat heavyweight division record with 1,730 punches thrown. Ike also set the individual CompuStat record by throwing an incredible 975 punches, an average of 81 per round.

Ike had put the division on notice. After knocking out the previously undefeated Byrd, a slick southpaw, no one wanted to fight him. Quoting Lou DiBella, people were saying, “This guy’s a ****** animal. What do I need him for?” This, of course, is one of several good reasons why Ike bumps Joe Hipp from consideration.

The Demons

But there is more — much more, as Ike’s inner demons began to emerge and actualized what everyone hoped would not happen.

A couple of months after the Tua win, Ike was arrested for kidnapping the 15-year-old son of his former girlfriend and crashing his car into a concrete pillar on a Texas highway, badly injuring the boy. He pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, was sentenced to three months in jail, and paid a $500,000 civil settlement.

In July 1999, he was accused of attempted sexual assault of a Las Vegas escort in his hotel room at The Mirage casino. Other assaults then came to light and Ike was eventually sent to a state mental facility where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After an extremely lengthy trail, he was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment.

Ike’s trainer Curtis Cokes saw the warning signs. Cokes is quoted as saying: “His biggest problem is that he just doesn’t obey the rules. He wants to break the law…He needs help, and he and his family don’t see that. He thinks everybody’s after him. If Ike looks in the mirror, he’ll see the real problem. Something’s wrong with Ike…”

The most thorough account of the rise and fall of Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi is found in Eric Raskin’s excellent 2017 HBO From the Vaultarticle titled “Unrealized: The Story of Ike Ibeabuchi, The Great Lost Heavyweight.” It is written as an oral history.

Lou DiBella relates: “He was a prodigy. He had amazing power. He had fierce determination and he had no fear of anybody, and he believed that he was the king, that nobody could beat him. He’d walk into the ring and you would almost have this vision of a bull coming at a matador with the steam coming out of the nostrils. Unfortunately, here was a very scary man both in and out of the ring. And it’s unfortunate that we’ll never know what could have been.”

Former boxing publicist Greg Juckett says,There was a paranoia there. I don’t know what the clinical neurosis, the definition of it would be. But there was definitely a paranoia with Ike….He was very untrustworthy of people and something would occasionally scare him. He was a very quiet guy. Quiet to the point where it was a little unsettling.”

Other quotes are more disturbing. Sage matchmaker Eric Bottjer recalls saying to his boss, Ibeabuchi’s promoter, the late Cedric Kushner, “This guy’s crazy. He’s going to hurt somebody. I don’t want it to be me or you or anybody else. But he’s quite capable of killing somebody.”

In 2014, having served out his term, Ike made a much-publicized move to reignite his career, only to be picked up again by ICE. In 2016, he got arrested in Arizona for a probation violation and remains on a lifetime probation in that state.

Ike is back behind bars. It has been reported that he is due for release from the Arizona State Penal System later this month, whereupon he may be deported. Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that he will ever fight again.

Like Joe Hipp, Ike exhibited traits that clearly would make him a great companion to take with you in an alley fight, but his were clearly different. They were dangerous traits possibly fueled by paranoia and attendant mental issues. Still, if The Ringmagazine named him “Boxing’s Most Dangerous Man,” as it did in 1999, then I don’t need any more convincing. He’s my pick.

Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, a member of Ring 8, 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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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Russell Peltz has been promoting fights for fifty years and is as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia boxing as Philly gym wars and Philly fighters. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004 and deservedly so. Now Peltz has written a memoir entitled Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye that chronicles his many years in the sweet science.

Peltz started in boxing before it was, in his words, “bastardized by the alphabet groups” and at a time when “world titles still meant something.”

“I fell in love with boxing when I was twelve,” he writes, “saw my first live fight at fourteen, decided to make it my life, and never looked back.” He promoted his first fight card in 1969 at age 22.

Peltz came of age in boxing at a time when promoters – particularly small promoters – survived or died based on the live gate. Peltz Boxing Promotions had long runs at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia and both Harrah’s Marina and the Sands  in Atlantic City. His journey through the sweet science included a seven-year stint as director of boxing for The Spectrum in Philadelphia. At the turn of the century, he was a matchmaker for ESPN.

Along the way, Peltz’s office in Philadelphia was fire-bombed. He was robbed at gunpoint while selling tickets in his office for a fight card at the Blue Horizon and threatened in creative ways more times than one might imagine. He once had a fight fall out when one of the fighters was arrested on the day of the weigh-in. No wonder he quotes promoter Marty Kramer, who declared, “The only thing I wish on my worst enemy is that he becomes a small-club boxing promoter.”

Now Peltz has put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard. “The internet is often a misinformation highway,” he writes. “I want to set the record straight as to what actually went on in boxing in the Philadelphia area since the late-1960s. I’m tired of reading tweets or Facebook posts or Instagram accounts from people who were not around and have no idea what went on but write like they do.”

Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye is filled with characters (inside and outside the ring) who give boxing its texture. As Peltz acknowledges, his own judgment was sometimes faulty. Russell once turned down the opportunity to promote Marvin Hagler on a long-term basis. There are countless anecdotes about shady referees, bad judging, and other injustices. Middleweight Bennie Briscoe figures prominently in the story, as do other Philadelphia fighters like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and Matthew Franklin (later Matthew Saad Muhammad). Perhaps the best fight Peltz ever promoted  was the 1977 classic when Franklin knocked out Marvin Johnson in the twelfth round.

There’s humor. After Larry Holmes pitched a shutout against Randall “Tex” Cobb in 1982, Cobb proclaimed, “Larry never beat me. He just won the first fifteen rounds.”

And there are poignant notes. Writing about Tanzanian-born Rogers Mtagwa (who boxed out of Philadelphia), Peltz recalls, “He couldn’t pass an eye exam because he didn’t understand the alphabet.”

Remembering the Blue Horizon, Peltz fondly recounts, “”The Blue Horizon was a fight fan’s nirvana. The ring was 15-feet-9-inches squared inside the ropes. No fighter came to the Blue Horizon to pad his record. Fans wanted good fights, not slaughters of second-raters.”

That ethos was personified by future bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler who, after knocking out an obviously inept opponent, told Peltz, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again in front of my fans.”

Thereafter, whenever a manager asked Peltz to put his fighter in soft to “get me six wins in a row,” Russell thought of Chandler. “I enjoyed promoting fights more than promoting fighters,” he writes. “If I was interested in promoting fighters, I would have been a manager.”

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

The first thing to be said here is that this is a book for boxing junkies, not the casual fan. Peltz is detail-oriented. But do readers really need to know what tickets prices were for the April 6, 1976, fight between Bennie Briscoe and Eugene Hart? The book tends to get bogged down in details. And after a while, the fights and fighters blur together in the telling.

It brings to mind the relationship between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. The noted playwright and heavyweight great developed a genuine friendship. But Shaw’s fondness for Tunney stopped short of uncritical admiration. In 1932, the former champion authored his autobiography (A Man Must Fight) and proudly presented a copy to his intellectual mentor. Shaw read the book and responded with a letter that read in part, “Just as one prayer meeting is very like another, one fight is very like another. At a certain point, I wanted to skip to Dempsey.”

Reading Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, at a certain point I wanted to skip to Hagler.

There’s also one jarring note. Peltz recounts how, when Mike Jones fought Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2012, Peltz bet five hundred dollars against Jones (his own fighter) at the MGM Sports Book and collected two thousand dollars when Bailey (trailing badly on the judges’ scorecards) knocked Jones out in the eleventh round.

“It was a tradition from my days with Bennie Briscoe,” Russell explains. “I’d bet against my fighter, hoping to lose the bet and win the fight.”

I think Russell Peltz is honest. I mean that sincerely. And I think he was rooting for Mike Jones to beat Randall Bailey. But I don’t think that promoters should bet on fights involving their own fighters. And it’s worse if they bet against their own fighters. Regardless of the motivation, it looks bad. Or phrased differently: Suppose Don King had bet on Buster Douglas to beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo?

Philadelphia was once a great fight town. in 1926, the first fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew 120,000 fans to Sesquicentennial Stadium. Twenty-six years later, Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at same site (renamed Municipal Stadium) to claim the heavyweight throne.

Peltz takes pride in saying, “I was part of Philadelphia’s last golden age of boxing.”

An important part.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 156: A World Title Fight in San Diego and More

David A. Avila

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World championship prizefighting returns to San Diego.

Though the port city serves as a base for US Marines, US Navy and other fighting organizations, boxing has rarely held events in its city limits. But it’s no stranger.

WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) defends against L.A. native Joet Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs) on Friday night at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

One reason boxing events are rare in San Diego lies in the simple reason it’s located a mere 20 miles from Tijuana, Mexico. It is cheaper to stage boxing shows across the border and common to see up to five shows taking place simultaneously.

A world champion like Navarrete wants to be compensated in world championship style and that means fighting on American soil.

Navarrete, 26, hails from Mexico City and has beaten back-to-back featherweight contenders from the USA in Christopher Diaz and Ruben Villa. Before that, he upset Isaac Dogboe to win the super bantamweight world title before making weight forced him to move up a division. He’s a fighting machine.

“I think this is going to be a tough fight. He is a tough opponent,” said Navarrete.

Gonzalez, 28, was raised in a fighting family and has previously fought for a world title but was unsuccessful against Shakur Stevenson. The Los Angeles native had an extensive amateur career and as a professional he’s steadily adapted to the professional style. This is his shot at the world title.

“Navarrete has a style that’s very unique, very hard to figure out, and that’s why he’s a champion,” said Gonzalez. “I’m planning on leaving Friday night with that belt.”

In a semi-main event local fighter Giovani Santillan (27-0, 15 KOs) meets Angel Ruiz (17-1, 12 KOs) in a clash between southpaw welterweights set for 10 rounds. Both fought numerous times on Thompson Boxing Promotion cards in Southern California.

Santillan has fought as the main event on many occasions and provided upsets in nationally televised events.

“It’s very special for me to be fighting here in San Diego. I grew up close by here. To all my family and friends that are coming, expect the best version of me. I’m coming with everything,” said Santillan.

Ruiz also has fought on nationally televised events and upset a fighter or two. Southpaw versus southpaw can be puzzling. It usually comes down to who has the better right hook.

“He’s a great fighter. I’m a great fighter, too,” said Ruiz.

Doors open at 5 p.m.

Mikey Garcia Returns

It’s been almost two years since Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) last fought. He returns on Saturday, Oct. 16, to face Sandor Martin (38-2, 13 KOs) a slick fighting southpaw from Barcelona, Spain. Their super lightweight bout takes place in Fresno, Calif. at the Chukchansi Park. DAZN will show the fight.

Garcia has been one of the boxing masters and has captured world titles in four weight divisions. Very few can match his wisdom inside a prize ring. The last time he fought was on February 2020 when he defeated Jessie Vargas in a welterweight clash.

Now Garcia is back down to super lightweight. He had hoped to entice Manny Pacquiao for a big money fight, but the Filipino superstar chose another.

Martin has never fought on American soil and has only ventured out of Spain twice. He’s a big question mark when it comes to ability. Can he match skills with Garcia who has won world titles as a featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight?

We shall see.

The co-main event features WBO light flyweight titlist Elwin Soto (19-1, 13 KOs) of Mexico defending against Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez (24-3-1, 14 KOs). As most of you know, anytime Mexico fights Puerto Rico anything can happen.

Heavyweight Examination

Tyson Fury’s victory over Deontay Wilder proved to be the best of the trilogy that began three years ago in Los Angeles. Anytime you see multiple knockdowns it exemplifies the fight game to its core. It’s a battle of wills and the best man wins.

Only once before had two larger heavyweights exchanged blows when seven-footer Nicolai Valuev and Jameel McCline battled in 2008. But that heavyweight match was held at Switzerland and only seen in Europe. And there was another fight between NBA size power forwards in Los Angeles that was equally exciting when Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko clashed in the Staples Center on June 2003. It turned out to be Lewis’s farewell fight and a classic.

Wilder and Fury put on another classic.

The 1990s seemed to be the last decade where heavyweight rumbles regularly took place. You had Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield torching each other with massive blows and skill to match. There was Lennox Lewis, of course, and his gentleman killer ways. And, of course, there was still Mike Tyson whose best decade was the 1980s, yet was the heavyweight with the biggest following.

In this age of social media driven world of entertainment, Fury and Wilder did participate in a lot of seemingly useless drivel. But once inside the ropes, they delivered like FedEx truck drivers on the clock.

Those old enough to remember recall the three battles between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Nothing tops their three clashes, especially the “Thrilla in Manilla” in 1975. If you get a chance, take a look at that savagery. Though no knockdowns were scored, it was that mesh of skill and intensity for nearly 15 rounds that mesmerized sports fans and made both fighters legends for all time.

This past Saturday, Fury and Wilder reminded sports fans that heavyweight splendor still exists. And that no other sport comes down to the basic man-versus-man in a boxing ring. The biggest and baddest slugged it out and the winner was Fury.

Boxing is the ultimate sport.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Lester Martinez (8-0) vs Raiko Santana (8-2).

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Santiago Dominguez (24-0) vs Jesus Antonio Rubio (13-4-1).

Fri. ESPN+ 6 p.m. Emanuel Navarrete (34-1) vs Joet Gonzalez (24-1); Giovani Santillan (27-0) vs Angel Ruiz (17-1).

Fri. Telemundo 11:59 p.m. Axel Aragon (14-4-1) vs Armando Torres (26-19).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Hughie Fury (25-3) vs Christian Hammer (26-7); Savannah Marshall (10-0) vs Lolita Muzeya (16-0).

Sat. DAZN 2 p.m. Mikey Garcia (40-1) vs Sandor Martin (38-2).

Sat. FITE.TV 3 p.m. Cletus Seldin vs William Silva

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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