Connect with us

Featured Articles

50 Years in Boxing: Philly’s J Russell Peltz Shares His Golden Memories

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

50-Years-in-Boxing-Philly's-J-Russell-Peltz-Shares-His-Golden-Memories

When he was a 22-year-old kid embarking on a boxing journey that might have ended almost as quickly as it began, J Russell Peltz – with big dreams and not-so-deep pockets — never considered issuing anything as portentous as a mission statement. But if he had, it might have read something like this:

You know what the secret is to surviving as a boxing promoter? Making good matches. It’s that simple. If you want to make a good match, you make a good match. If you want to get your guy a guaranteed win, pair him easy. But don’t charge your customers $50 or $75 to watch that garbage.

Peltz said that for a story I did for the Philadelphia Daily News in November 2012. Making good, competitive and entertaining matches has always been the touchstone of his remarkable longevity in a cannibalistic sport which tends to devour those not smart enough or tough enough to survive in the long term. But while Peltz has known both flush and lean times, adapting as necessary at junctures along the way, the guiding principle of Philly boxing’s onetime “Boy Wonder” has never changed. It is why he has been inducted into seven Halls of Fame and outlasted a host of competitors who sought to knock him off the local throne upon which he remains firmly ensconced. He said he still gets as much of a charge from seeing a dandy scrap as he did when, for his 14th birthday, his father took him to his first live fight card. What young Russell – the J in his full name, as was the case with the S with former President Harry S Truman, stands for nothing — saw that night left an indelible impression. Somehow, some way, he would make the fight game more than an avocation, but his life’s work.

Peltz’s first foray into the business end of boxing came on Sept. 30, 1969, when middleweight Bennie Briscoe needed just 52 seconds to dispose of Tito Marshall at the Blue Horizon, the main event of a card that included such young, future Philly legends as Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts. It was an astounding debut for Peltz, with a standing-room-only crowd of 1,606 jamming the 1,300-seat arena.

There would, of course, be some whiffs along with the home runs before Peltz evolved into an entrenched, iconic figure in his hometown’s fight scene. Both the hits and the misses have contributed to making him who and what he is, the sum total of his five-decade love affair with the sweet science to be celebrated first at an invitation-only Golden Anniversary Reception on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the 2300 Arena in South Philly, preceding an eight-bout fight card at the same site on Oct. 4. Dubbed “Blood, Sweat and 50 Years,” that show – topped by a six-rounder pitting Victor Padilla (5-0, 5 KOs) of Berlin, N.J., by way of his native Puerto Rico, against Romain Tomas (8-2, 1 KO) of Brooklyn, N.Y. — will be staged by Raging Babe Promotions’ Michelle Rosado, a Peltz protégé. In addition to her mentor being the guest of honor, Peltz also is serving as matchmaker, a role for which he has justifiably gained much distinction.

It also might be the last time Peltz acts in that capacity, an indication that, just possibly, his 50-year anniversary in boxing might mark the beginning of the end of a storied career which he has been contemplating for some time. In that same November 2012 Philadelphia Daily News story in which he issued his ersatz mission statement, Peltz dropped hints that nothing, not even his involvement in boxing, can last forever.

“At points in the last five years, I’ve thought about retiring,” he said then. “I think about it now. I’m certainly not going to be doing this when I’m an old man. I don’t want to be doing this when I’m an old man.

“Really, I don’t know how much longer I’ll go on. Maybe I’ll get out when I’m 70 or 71. But whenever I think about quitting, I become involved with a fighter (who piques his interest).”

And now? Peltz turns 73 on Dec. 9, hardly an old man in terms of his energy and enthusiasm, but he is inarguably a senior citizen according to the Social Security administration.

“I don’t think I’ll be making matches after Oct. 4,” he said when contacted for this story. “I don’t have the temperament to do it anymore. I can’t tolerate the mentality of a lot of the fight people in Philly who don’t want to fight other Philly guys. That’s what made Philly the fight town that it was.

“I go around the house screaming and Linda (his wife) says, `I know why you’re screaming. You’re making matches again. You said you weren’t going to do it. When you do it, you’re impossible to live with.’

“I think what I want to do is to advise fighters, maybe manage fighters. Some of these kids today deserve their own careers rather than being served up as cannon fodder for top prospects for Top Rank, Golden Boy, Eddie Hearn and PBC.”

If Peltz does in fact hew to that somewhat altered philosophy, it would in some ways represent his coming full circle. Despite whatever misgivings he might harbor about professional boxing as presently constituted, he has always gotten an adrenalin rush from identifying and nurturing young fighters who remind him of the twentysomething firebrand he used to be. For all his musings about stepping aside, it would stun no one if he elected to keep on keeping on in the manner of Top Rank founder Bob Arum, an occasional associate who is 87 and still active, or his dear, departed friend Don “War a Week” Chargin, a licensed promoter in California for a record 69 years who was 90 when he passed away on Sept. 28, 2018. Chargin was another staunch proponent of the concept that fans deserved real fights, tough fights, and not setups designed to make protected house fighters look better than they probably are.

But regardless of what the future holds for Peltz, the past 50 years make for an improbable tale even in a sport where improbable tales are more the norm than the exception. It starts even in advance of the Briscoe-Marshall bout that the golden anniversary celebrants will cite as his official launching point.

Then a sports writer for the now-defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Peltz had been squirreling away portions of his salary for the express purpose of establishing enough of a nest egg so that he could take the plunge. Toward that end, he says he spent “countless hours” in the Blue Horizon office of building owner and veteran fight promoter Jimmy Toppi, pestering the older man with questions about how to make his dream of doing what Toppi did a reality.

Two weeks before Briscoe-Marshall, Peltz resigned as a full-fledged member of The Bulletin sports staff, although he did keep his hand in as a one-night-a-week, part-timer as a hedge against possible disaster on fight night.

“I had saved up about $5,000, which was a lot of money back then for someone my age,” Peltz recalled. “The woman who became my first wife asked me, before we got married, ‘What makes you think you can do this?’ I told her it’d take me about six months to blow the five grand, but then I’d have this great scrapbook to show my kids one day about the time their daddy was a boxing promoter.”

Not that he completely went through his savings, but Peltz – whose contingency plan was – gulp – to go back to sports writing if the grand experiment came a cropper – hit some dry holes after Briscoe-Marshall. He was obliged to seek and receive a loan of between $2,000 and $3,000 from his dad, Bernard, to help underwrite his second year as a struggling fight promoter. It also didn’t help that Peltz’s wife, he said, absolutely hated boxing and was providing no moral support on the home front.

“I told my father that if I couldn’t pay him back by the end of the season, I’d just go back to the newspaper business,” Peltz said. “I was making $7,500 a year at The Bulletin. My first year putting on shows at the Blue Horizon I cleared $4,600 from September through May. But in the summer of 1970, I accidentally found out that Bennie Briscoe’s contract was for sale. I knew that was my ace in the hole after I asked my brother-in-law (Arnold Weiss) to buy Bennie’s contract, which he did.”

But even that ace in the hole –- Briscoe, who three times fought for the middleweight championship of the world and appeared 45 times in all on Peltz-promoted or co-promoted cards – might not have been enough to keep Peltz’s nascent operation moving forward. What was needed was some positive publicity, which he got from then-Daily News sports writer Tom Cushman.

“If it hadn’t been for Tom Cushman, I never would have made it,” Peltz noted. “I met him when he came east to cover Temple  (Peltz’s alma mater) in the All-College (basketball) Classic, which they held every December in Oklahoma City. I was there covering for The Bulletin and The Temple News. We got friendly. So when I decided to become a boxing promoter, Tom, who by then was at the Daily News, thought it was really cool that a 22-year-old kid would do that. He gave me a load of good press, even more than I got at my own paper.”

There would be other puzzle pieces that fell into place at precisely the right moment. Now reasonably established if not exactly getting rich doing shows at the Blue Horizon and The Arena in West Philly, Peltz got his shot at the big time – or what seemed to be the big time – when in 1973 he was approached about becoming the director of boxing at the 18,000-seat Spectrum, home of the NBA’s 76ers and NHL’s Flyers.

“I got a call late in 1972 from Lou Scheinfeld at the Spectrum,” Peltz recalled. “Monday nights were dark there and it was costing them money to have nothing going on. I met with the Spectrum people and they hired me for a salary against a percentage of the profits. The first year we ran 18 shows and lost money on 16 of them. We were hemorrhaging money, and it had nothing to do with Monday Night Football in the fall.

“Allen Flexor, who was the Spectrum’s vice president and comptroller, asked me to go to lunch, ostensibly to fire me. We talked for a while and I said, `If I can get the Philly guys to fight each other, I can turn this thing around.’ He basically said `OK, we’ll give you some rope and see what you can do.’ I put up signs in all the gyms in the city about a meeting to be held at Joe Frazier’s Gym on such-and-such a night in December. I wanted all the managers and trainers to come to that meeting, and 50 to 60 of them showed up. I said, `Look, the Spectrum has the Sixers, the Flyers, concerts, Disney on Ice, the circus. They don’t need us. Unless you guys start fighting each other, we’re going to go back to The Arena, and I know you don’t want to do that.”

Given the depth and quality of Philadelphia fighters at the time – a mother lode of talent with Briscoe, Hart, Watts, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Jeff Chandler and other main-event-worthy locals – it was a plan that could not have failed. But it might have, had not one influential dissenter passed away unexpectedly.

saad

left to right: Bob Montgomery, Harold Johnson, Peltz, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Jeff Chandler

“If Yank Durham (Frazier’s manager and trainer) hadn’t died in September of ’73, we would have had big problems because he was against Philly vs. Philly,” Peltz continued. “But Eddie Futch took over after Yank died and he knew the value, coming from the Olympic Auditorium (in Los Angeles) when all those great Mexican fighters fought each other. Eddie said, `Let’s make Willie the Worm against Cyclone Hart,’ which was a monster show with a turnout of 10,000-plus. From the beginning of 1974 until the end of ’78 the Spectrum was as big as (Madison Square) Garden and the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Everybody wanted to fight at the Spectrum, and everybody did.”

But when the casinos in Atlantic City opened later in the decade, that siphoned from the Spectrum’s fan base to the point where the fight dates diminished, along with the massive crowds. But, Peltz says, wistfully, “Those last five years there were wonderful. I got a bonus every year.

“When Briscoe fought (Marvin) Hagler, it was a 10-round fight and we had a crowd of 15,000. It wasn’t for some bulls— title, either. We had good fighters and they weren’t afraid to fight other good fighters.”

There were occasional missteps for Peltz, too, which probably was to be expected. “A lot of good fighters slipped through my fingers,” he said, citing Hagler and Buster Douglas as two he might have signed to promotional deals before their price tags exceeded his budget. “You learn as you go, but you never stop making mistakes.”

So, if he had to choose his single best moment in boxing, and the worst experience, what would they be?

“You always fall in love with your first fighter,” he said of his continuing devotion to Briscoe, who was 67 when he died on Dec. 28, 2010. “That’s never going to change.

“My most memorable moment was Bennie’s fifth-round knockout of Tony Mundine on Feb. 25, 1974, at the Palais de Sport in Paris. “Mundine, an Australian, was like the heir apparent to (middleweight champion Carlos) Monzon. He was a certified star, who had beaten Emile Griffith and Max Cohen in Paris.

“I saw Reg Gutteridge (a British sports journalist who was doing color commentary for the telecast) in the hotel lobby before we left for the arena. He said, `I don’t get it. Mundine is the toast of Paris. He can name his price to fight Monzon. Why would he tune up with Briscoe?’

“It was a monster fight, as big as it could be without it being for a world title when world titles really meant something. Just a magical night. I was shooting film from the top row and when Bennie finally got him out of there, the camera was shaking because my hands were shaking.”

Another significant plus, both on the professional and personal levels, was Peltz’s marriage to second wife Linda, who understood she would have to share her husband with boxing and hasn’t minded it at all. It’s amazing what domestic tranquility can do for a fight promoter’s peace of mind at the office and at ringside.

“We started dating in February of 1976,” Peltz said. “Her first fight was the rematch between Briscoe and Hart, which drew 12,000 people to the Spectrum. She sat with me in the first row.

“Everybody loves Linda. People say, `How bad can Russell be? Linda married him.’  And there’s no doubt she’s smoothed over a lot of things through the years. She brought together some people in boxing I just couldn’t talk to, just like she brought together some estranged family members I hadn’t spoken to in years.”

The giddy highs of Briscoe over Mundine, and spousal bliss, were countered by what Peltz said remains his greatest disappointment in boxing, even more painful than the horrendously unjust decision that went against Peltz’s fighter, Tyrone Everett, in his Nov. 30, 1976, challenge of WBC super featherweight champion Alfredo Escalera at the Spectrum, a split decision that remains high on the list of boxing’s most outrageous heists.

“The low point of my career had to be my relationship with ESPN when I was hired to be their director of boxing (in October 1998),” Peltz said. “It was just a scam, a setup. I lost most of my power pretty quickly. At first I thought, `After all these years of making good fights, it’s finally paid off. They’re hiring me because they know I’m going to make more good fights.’

“Three or four months into the deal the people who hired me moved on to ABC and I was left to deal with the ol’ boys club which essentially turned me into an errand boy. I hung in there until the fall of 2004, but after six to eight months it was just agony. I got blamed for a lot of bad fights that were on ESPN I had nothing to do with.”

Peltz needn’t worry about any blame he might have received when weighed against the credit he has deservedly gotten. Seven Halls of Fame are proof enough that he has done far more right than wrong, and that some Boy Wonders can age gracefully with their place in history forever secured.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel  

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Featured Articles

The Top Ten Super Bantamweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matt McGrain

Published

on

The-Top-Ten=Super-Bantamweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019

It has been interesting to see how transient fighters are when they inhabit the smaller divisions. Up at cruiserweight, fighters spent on average 50% of the decade in their division to earn their spot among the top ten; here at 122lbs it is nearer 30%.

This results in a list of fighters with less purchase on the list, generally. Occasionally though, even at the smaller weights, a fighter will rack up a list of serious victories in a short space of time and hit the heights – and the divisional stalwart is also not unheard of. Here, one of each of these type towers over the rest of the decadal division but the numbers ten through three kick up a lot of interesting fights, and some very interesting fighters.

In accounting for these fighters, the term “one hit wonder” is used liberally. Here I am not seeking to denigrate either the fighter or his wider opposition; it merely denotes a fighter who has one win of real significance which is often accounted for in some detail.

This is another symptom of a generation of fighters happy to put on a mere four pounds to visit the next division up for their next big test.

10 – Rico Ramos

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 16-6 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

The tenth slot was a shootout between Kiko Martinez, who did a little more at the weight, and Rico Ramos, who did a little less, but who was defeated at the poundage only by Guillermo Rigondeaux; Martinez, meanwhile, was thrashed twice by Carl Frampton and once by Scott Quigg. The Scott Quigg tilts me towards Ramos, whose purple patch of 7-1 gets him over the line.

The jewel in his super-bantamweight crown for the period January 2010 until December 2019 was his come-from-behind knockout victory over Akifumi Shimoda, one of the top contenders of 2010 and 2011. Shimoda himself has a claim to the number ten spot based primarily upon his superb victory over Ryol Li Lee, but Ramos eliminated him when they clashed in Atlantic City in July of 2011.

Ramos, an American of Puerto Rican descent, had been boxing since he was eight years old but seemingly had no answer to the Shimoda jab which was opening up other opportunities for the Japanese; Ramos, circling to his right at the beginning of the seventh, brought Shimoda onto a left hand, but it was unheeded and Shimoda continued to boss the real-estate and find a home for his bodypunches. A right hand from Rico seemed to gather his attention though and having landed yet another left Rico finally had his man rooted to the spot, and circling, he landed a left hand as beautiful as any thrown in the 122lb decade. Shimoda was up at nine but immediately took a second header to the canvas.

Ramos was chased from the division by Rigondeaux, as noted, but certainly there is no shame there.

09 – Rey Vargas

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 34-0 Ranked For: 42% of the decade

Rey Vargas has traced an old-fashioned career arc, occupying a spot at super-bantamweight since 2015 and slowly creeping his way up the ranks to inhabit the number one spot, without, really, meeting anyone to justify that ranking. Sometimes longevity is its own reward.

His highest-ranking victim was Tomoki Kameda, and it showed when they met in July of last year; Tomoki had real success early and took a handy lead out of the first third of the fight. Vargas though is a freakishly tall superbantam at near 5’11 and he has the reach to match. From the fifth on, he deployed a controlling jab birthed by a pedigree amateur career that has been augmented by some serious professional experience. The double-uppercut right hand he landed in that round set him apart; the cards may have been a little wide but clearly Vargas was the right man.

He was the right man too five months previously when he was faced with another tough assignment in Franklin Manzanilla. Manzanilla, out of Venezuela, had scored an impressive victory over Julio Ceja in just four rounds in his previous fight and set some problems for Vargas with his rushes and fouling. Vargas found himself with cuts over both brows from “accidental” head-clashes as early as the eighth and Manzanilla had two points docked for hitting on the break and pushing. But Vargas showed some of his best boxing, dominating at distance with the jab and outlanding Manzanilla with fluid combination punching when they met at mid-range.

Vargas has a little more depth than these two fights – Azat Hovhannisyan and Ronny Rios have both made waves since he beat them – but they remain his fistic cornerstones, and despite some impressive boxing this makes him borderline for inclusion. His paper record and longevity in the ratings at 122lbs has seen me favour him over one-hit wonders like Jeffrey Mathebula and Akifumi Shimoda.

08 – Isaac Dogboe

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 21-2 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

Isaac Dogboe’s pressure appeared functional rather than thrilling before his big step up against Jessie Magdaleno in 2018. Magdaleno had been inactive but had also defeated no less a figure than Nonito Donaire in 2016 and was heavily favoured.

In the first round Dogboe was dropped while pressing Magdaleno too hard and he lost the third too, to a gorgeous Magdaleno counter left. But all the while his pressure was beginning to look a little more than workmanlike. He was adept at keeping Magdaleno moving and again and again Dogboe, out of London via Ghana, would fetch his man up against the ropes and let go. Still very much in touch on the scorecards after four, Magdaleno was being aggressively outgeneralled and was steadily losing touch with the fight. His solution was to come out at the opening of the fifth and attack; Dogboe promptly dropped him with a single left hook.

Dogboe so dominated Magdelano that night that the favourite found himself in need of a knockout by the ninth. The then world’s number one super-bantamweight showed no sign he might achieve it and in fact slipped further and further from his technical best, eventually reduced to sagging on the ropes and beckoning Dogboe in. It was a sorry sight and one the referee interrupted in the eleventh after Dogboe perpetrated the second knockdown of the round over his withering opponent.

It was an impressive and rather unexpected performance, albeit against an opponent who seemed to struggle a little with rust after a year out of the sport and it set Dogboe up as the world’s number one super-bantamweight.

Dogboe never added to his 122lb legacy though; his own nemesis was lurking in the wings.

07 – Emanuel Navarrete

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 31-1 Ranked For: 26% of the decade

Like Dogboe, Emanuel Navarrete fought the usual learning fights, stepped up to take on some journeymen and was then launched right into the deep end to face off with the world’s number one super-bantam. Dogboe-Navarrete was a fascinating contest in that it pitted a Johnny-come-lately against an even more recently arrived contender. Dogboe, as the man with the pedigree opponent on his ledger, was favoured.

Navarrete, who is tall with a reach that seems planetary, allowed Dogboe inside to do his work. It felt wrong and even dangerous until Navarrete landed a triple left hook, up and down, on the inside, to win the second round. From here he controlled the fight, impressive and dominant in out-fighting the smaller pressure fighter whose nightmare had come to visit him in the ring: a fighter he could not push back but rather who was pushing him back. The ninth through twelfth were a parade, the bigger man marching down the smaller pressure fighter in what amounts to the most disheartening position a pugilist of any kind can find himself.

Unfortunately for Dogboe he had a rematch clause. Navarrete, who now knew how Dogboe moved, thought and fought, beat him mercilessly in that rematch. The fight becomes difficult to watch around the eighth; Dogboe’s corner, brave to the near last, finally pulled him as he was blasted to the canvas in the twelfth and final round.

It seemed to me that something special had emerged in that fight, but the truth is we don’t yet know. Navarrete has fallen afoul of the ABC strap he wears in defending against underqualified challengers whose selection for their “title shot” is based upon matters other than fistic. So, the jury remains out on Navarrete, who nevertheless was impressive enough in his twin maulings of Dogboe to comfortably make the list.

06 – Jessie Magdaleno

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 27-1 Ranked For: 22% of the decade

Here, we meet the last of the one-hit-wonders on the list but Magdaleno possesses the finest of all of them: Nonito Donaire. Donaire, it is true, had had some of the glitter removed by Guillermo Rigondeaux, but in November of 2016 he remained the top contender to the legitimate title he had once held. Then Magdaleno came calling.

What most impressed me was Donaire’s near abandonment of his left hook. It was oft repeated that he had one of the “best left hooks in the sport” and if Bernard Hopkins had established the removal of such a potent weapon much ink would have been spent on his exaltation. Magdaleno was less fashionable and has remained so, but it was a wonderful technical achievement. Moving unhurriedly, seeking for single shots, he countered beautifully throughout with the right jab and right hook of his own, taking every opportunity to strike without – shades of Hopkins again – ever over-extending himself. The result was Donaire sheathing his own hook in obedience of the rule that you don’t hook with a hooker, while Magdaleno freely threw his own; to the body, especially, he was prestigious.

Donaire went to the straight right and a fascinating tussle ensued, summed up perfectly in the ninth where Donaire hurt Magdaleno on the ropes, only for Magdaleno to charge him and dominate the remainder of the round, putting him out of sight on the cards; Donaire closed with real strength as Magdaleno’s energy waned.

But the decision clearly belonged to Magdaleno.

It was not too long after this that Magdaleno ran into Dogboe. The reasonable question would be, if Dogboe beat Magdaleno how does Magdaleno come to be ranked above him here? It’s a fair question. The mathematics, for me, says that Magdelano’s defeat of Donaire is more impressive than Dogboe’s defeat of a rusty Magdaleno; I accept that this is arguable but balk at Magdaleno as low as eight given his wonderful performance against Donaire.

05 – Toshiaki Nishioka

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 4-1 Ranked For: 19% of the decade

Toshiaki Nishioka was the number one super-bantamweight coming into the decade and remained so until he was removed by the sumptuous power-punching of Nonito Donaire (and an over-excited referee).

How you feel about his overall standing here will depend upon how you feel about Rafael Marquez and his standing in October of 2011. Having lost three of his last six, including two of those wars with Israel Vazquez, Rafael was ostensibly on the slide, but the fight itself shows a fighter that, while no longer at his withering best, remained stoic and technically brilliant, very much a fighter that had to be mastered.

This, Nishioka did. To this day he maintains that Rafael is his most skilled opponent and he boxed with great care to control him, refusing to contest the inside and avoiding any over-commitment with the jab. Meanwhile he drilled Marquez with his trailing left, a wonderful punch that he throws with as much variety as anyone this century. Flying it quickly to the body was his stock in trade in the early going but he began to risk a wilder, wider, harder punch when he realised how wary Rafael had become. Rafael had success, not least in the second half of the eighth round where it seemed he might actually assume control of the fight, but Nishioka out-fought and out-worked the former lineal champion in the tenth and eleventh to put the decision to bed. It was a deeply impressive performance that cemented his status as the first number one super-bantam of the decade.

Nishioka’s other wins do little other than demonstrate his superiority over the field, especially his October 2010 contest with Rendall Munroe. Munroe brought guts but little else as the fight turned into something of a parade down the stretch; still, re-watching it was worth it for the feinted straight and uppercut through the middle that Nishioka used to tilt Munroe’s head back in the third.

Placing him at number five is a borderline call, but Nishioka was a clearer number one than anyone running eight through six. I am happy that should see him placed above, rather than below, the one-hit wonders.

04 – Leo Santa Cruz

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 24-1-1 Ranked For: 27% of the decade

Leo Santa Cruz departed 122lbs in 2015 with his undefeated record intact having made his impact on the first half of the super-bantamweight decade. His meaningful arrival at the poundage, the equivalent of a Mack truck pulling up inside a jewellery store, came in August of 2013 against Victor Terrazas. Terrazas, a tough, dangerous fighter was unsupported by the type of chin that would have made him genuinely world class. Nevertheless, the world’s number two contender was a serious proposition for Santa Cruz, and was coming off a nerveless, brutal battle with Cristian Mijares which he won by the narrowest of margins.

Terrazas started aggressively as Santa Cruz brought pressure, all high guard and work-rate. But, as we saw while looking at featherweight, Santa Cruz is much more than that. His punch selection is excellent, his sense for the backfoot superb for a front-foot fighter, his jab is thudding and accurate but he can box squarely enough – weight generally over his back leg, when he does so – to lead with the right without courting disaster. Terrazas was complimented during fight commentary for “making this an inside fight” – but an inside fight suits Santa Cruz just fine. He has reach and the technique to use it but is comfortable trying to land punches behind the elbows.

The two fought on even terms until they didn’t, when towards the end of the second Santa Cruz, tougher and better, opened up while the two stood head to head at the ropes. Terrazas emerged wounded and in the third, emerged giving ground. Dropped twice, he seemed broken in part by the psychological pressure, although it was the consistent, severe punching that did the damage.

Santa Cruz’s number two win was over Mijares, undoubtedly damaged goods, but still ranked. Santa Cruz couldn’t stop him, but what he did was in many ways worse: in a fight as different as that with Terrazas as could be imagined, he thrashed Mijares and rendered him a fistic irrelevance.

Santa Cruz was a very dangerous super-bantamweight.

03 – Carl Frampton

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 24-2 Ranked For: 35% of the decade

Carl Frampton slotted in right behind Santa Cruz at featherweight, but here he nips in just ahead of his great rival. A clash at 122lbs would have been helpful though – there is very little to separate them.

What does separate them is the additional work Frampton did at the very top of the division. He met no fewer than three top five contenders during his time fighting as Guillermo Rigondeaux’s understudy – the Cuban was champion throughout Frampton’s stay at the poundage – and soundly defeated all of them.

First up was Kiko Martinez, who Frampton had already defeated in a European title tussle but met again in 2014. Frampton, who probably entered his peak that night, couldn’t put the more experienced Martinez away as he had in their first fight but he did dominate almost completely with a healthy mix of jabs and bodyshots. Chris Avalos, who failed miserably when he moved up to featherweight but was a serious super-bantamweight, visited Frampton’s Belfast stronghold in 2015.  This was Frampton’s finest performance at the weight, his right hand excellent, despite the scruffy squabbling in the second his dominance near-complete.

Frampton’s final fight at 122lbs showed the toll weight-making was taking upon him. He was dominant over the first six against a reticent Scott Quigg, even breaking his jaw in the fourth, but the Englishman came on in the second half of the fight which was, in the end, very close.

Santa Cruz was more impressive in the victories he did have at 122lbs but it was Frampton, in the end, who scored the more numerous and more impressive victories.

02 – Nonito Donaire

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 18-5 Ranked For: 25% of the decade

The decade 2010-2019 produced two legitimate super-bantamweight champions and it is fitting that these two lead the pack. Nor is it close – there is so much clear blue water between Nonito Donaire at #2 and Carl Frampton at #3 that they may as well be on different lists.

Donaire stepped up to 122lbs in 2012 and immediately tackled a divisional strapholder, the number eight contender, Wilfredo Vazquez; after taking a decision form him over the twelve, it was Jeffrey Mathebula, the number six contender who towered over Donaire but nevertheless gave up a similar decision. This second fight is crucial because against both he and Vazquez it is possible to see Donaire over-reaching, under-boxing, pushing far too hard for the knockout which he openly demanded of himself in the press. In the tenth round of his fight with Mathebula, Donaire was so completely out-boxed that in the eleventh and twelfth he limited himself to his more direct sphere of influence and in doing so dominated Mathebula completely, cracking one of his teeth in the process. You could almost hear the penny drop.

I consider that Donaire found himself at 122lbs that night and the result was Donaire’s 118lb form suddenly materialising in the super-bantamweight division. His next fight was against no less a figure than Toshiaki Nishioka, the most accomplished fighter in the division, a meeting between the two best super-bantams in the world and so the beginning of a new lineage at the weight. Donaire was the absolute pinnacle of cool as far as his inherent aggression would allow; he won every round and devastated Nishioka in the ninth round of a non-competitive rout propelled by his right hand rather than left hook. When he butchered Jorge Arce two months later, in December of 2012, he had completed the single best unbroken run of the decade at 122lbs and one of the better runs at any weight.

This being boxing, the end of that run was just around the corner.

01 – Guillermo Rigondeaux

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 15-1 Ranked For: 92% of the decade

Donaire met with Cuban amateur legend Guillermo Rigondeaux in April of 2013 in a huge fight between the two best super-bantamweights in the world. It was also as one-sided as any top tier match of the decade as Rigondeaux, in absolute control for ten of the twelve rounds, picked Donaire’s wings off in a study of lethal economy.

Rigondeaux breaks rhythm. A combination of feints, very astute defensive dips and slips and single power-punches make establishment of offense against him agonising. Donaire, a fluid fighter who counter-pressures his opponents to the canvas, was particularly afflicted by the Rigondeaux malaise.  Rigondeaux threw infrequently; still he out-landed Donaire in every round but one.

The Cuban spent the years in which Donaire was tying together his superb 122lb run emerging from the pack and was just 6-0 when he tangled with number five contender Ricardo Cordoba. Rigondeaux dominated with ease until Cordoba snapped his head back with a jab, flashing him.  Rigondeaux responded in away entirely unacceptable to the American fight fraternity: he ran away.

Rigondeaux took a split decision and learned his final lesson: professional fighting in America calls for more fighting than amateur boxing does anywhere. Rico Ramos, then still unbeaten at 20-0, was the man to bear the brunt of this newly learned lesson as he was blasted to the canvas in the first round and tormented through the sixth when a body punch – and the better part of valour – kept him on the canvas.

So Rigondeaux was primed when he stepped into the ring with Donaire, for all that he was professionally inexperienced. Donaire was made to understand it and the litany of excuses he laid out after the fight – his shoulder was bad, he didn’t study his opponent, his was distracted by his wife’s pregnancy – could not disguise his out-and-out inferiority to Rigondeaux.

The argument as to who would be the decadal number one at 122lbs ended there, but there is more to recommend Rigondeaux as one of the longest serving lineal champions in boxing. In a division that sees fleeting commitment, even by its most prominent fighters, Rigondeaux’s devotion to super-bantamweight has been unusual.

He never became the superstar his management wanted to make him – too technical, too careful, too defensive – but there is no questioning his status as the best of the decade.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Remembering “Doin’ Damage”

Ted Sares

Published

on

Remembering-Doin'-Damage

On June 3, 1997, Darroll “Doin’ Damage” Wilson met Courage “No Limit” Tshabalala at Philadelphia’s legendary Blue Horizon where no seat was a bad seat. The fight was a true Philly Classic, one of the most exciting fights of the year. The result was a surprise, but not as surprising as the upset that Darroll Wilson pulled off in March of the previous year when he fought the much bigger Shannon Briggs at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Wilson vs. Briggs

Brooklynite Shannon Briggs (25-0) had achieved a reputation for being a guy who ended his fights early, as in first-round KO’s, but on this occasion, things kind of reversed themselves, as the gutsy Wilson (15-0-2 going in) survived a furious first round and then used his superior skills to shockingly take out “The Cannon” with a sharp left hook two rounds later.

Wilson, who lived close to Atlantic City in Mays Landing, N.J., had done considerable damage to his opponents until he met David Tua (24-0) in Miami and was KOd in the last second of an otherwise even first round by the streaking “Tuaman.” But losing to the short but super-powerful Tua was no disgrace. In fact, for Darroll, the best was yet to come.

 After beating limited Ron McCarthy, Darroll met the highly-touted Tshabalala (20-1). “Courage” had previously been shocked by Brian “Bam Bam” Scott (21-3) in the late Scott’s career definer in 1996, shattering the myth of the South African’s extraordinary power and alleged 72-1 amateur record (with 71 knockouts). Scott won using a fast and sharp combo, stopping him in the second round. Most of the 270-pound native of Kansas’s opponents had losing records which further amplified the shock factor– though Courage’s level of opposition was equally suspect.

Wilson vs Tshabalala (June 1997)

After Ed Darian Derian announced the fighters, the bell rang and Courage quickly decked Wilson with a power jab and then dictated matters for the rest of the round as he went on the stalk. The second round was uneventful until the last 15 seconds when Tshabalala opened up with a number of power shots. Wilson answered, but his answer came after the bell for which he received a firm warning.

Late in the third round, Wilson was hit clean by a perfect Courage right cross. He went down hard, got up, and then fell back down on Queer Street. Just as Referee Rudy Battle was about to signal the end of the fight, the round ended and Wilson was allowed to continue. Lou Duva, Courage’s manager, protested the call in his usual hyper/hysterical fashion but to no avail. Lou’s signature protests had acquired the feel of the little boy who cried wolf too often and this one was no exception.

Tshabalala came out fast in the next round trying to put away a still stunned Wilson, but the muscular Darroll did what he did against Briggs and, weathering the fierce storm, began to connect with his own shots. Both men went at it full-tilt boogie until the South African, exposing a stamina issue, finally went down, spit out his mouthpiece, and was counted out. He had nothing left. The Blue Horizon went bonkers.

Tshabalala had now participated in one of the upsets of the year and one of the most exciting fights of the year. Though a loser in both, he was nevertheless on everybody’s radar.

Bert Cooper (September 2002)

Darroll would go on to win some and lose some but against the very best opposition including David Izon, Frankie Swindell, Mike Rouse, Tim Witherspoon, Ray Mercer, and Oliver McCall. He ended his career in 2006 with a 27-10-2 slate and– before he took three years off–he scored another big win by stopping Bert Cooper (36-21) at the Blue Horizon in 2002. After this loss, Bert himself would take an eight-year hiatus from boxing, but for all practical purposes, he was done. (Cooper was a tragic figure with a deceptive record—a quintessentially sad boxing story– and the ups and downs of his life beg for a telling.)

As for Darroll Wilson, he always gave his best and on at least three occasions, he did some remarkable damage.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com or on Facebook.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Leo Upends Williams as Boxing Returns to ‘Showtime’

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Leo-Upends-Williams-as-Boxing-Returns-to-Showtime

Showtime Boxing kicked off their late summer/fall season tonight with a three-fight card behind closed doors at the Mohegan Sun Casino Resort in Uncasville, CT. Tonight’s show is the first of nine live boxing events that the cable TV giant announced on July 22. The season will run through Dec. 12 with the concluding match a WBC bantamweight title bout between defending title-holder Nordine Oubaali and ageless showstopper Nonito Donaire.

Unfortunately for Showtime, there was a COVID-19 complication right out of the box. Philadelphia bantamweight Stephen Fulton, who would have been the “A” side in tonight’s main event, tested positive on Wednesday, forcing some shuffling. Tramaine Williams was bumped up from the co-feature to challenge Angelo Leo for the WBO world super bantamweight title vacated by Emanuel Navarette.

Angelo Leo hadn’t prepared for a southpaw and it took him a bit find his groove, but he found it and won a fairly lopsided decision over a previously undefeated opponent who was fighting in his home state. The scores were 117-111 and 118-110 twice.

Leo, 26, worked the body well and had more fuel in his tank as the bout progressed into the late rounds. In winning, Leo became the first world title-holder from Albuquerque since Johnny Tapia. Promoted by Floyd Mayweather’s “Money Team”, he advanced his record to 20-0. It was the first pro loss for New Haven’s Williams who fell to 19-1.

It figures that Leo will make his first defense against Stephen Fulton.

Other Bouts

In another 122-pound match that was also penciled in for 12 rounds, Ra’eese Aleem thoroughly outclassed late sub Marcus Bates en route to a 10th round stoppage. This was their second meeting and Bates, who entered the contest 11-1-1, was looking to avenge his lone defeat. In their initial go in Philadelphia in April of 2018, Aleem won comfortably on the scorecards. Bates recently explained that loss away by saying that he believed that someone tampered with his water bottle, giving Aleem an advantage.

Aleem, 30, steadily broke Bates down. The referee halted the one-sided match when Bates, who appeared to have sprained his right wrist, turned his back on Aleem after absorbing a hard left hook. Aleem, the pride of Muskegon, Michigan, improved to 17-0 with his 12th knockout.

In the opener, a light heavyweight match slated for 10 rounds, Houston’s Joseph George (11-0, 7 KOs) landed a bombshell of a left uppercut in the ninth frame to put away Marcos Escudero (10-2) who was well ahead on the scorecards when lightning struck.

This was a rematch. When they fought last November on ShoBox, Escudero outworked George, but George landed the crisper punches and prevailed on a split decision. Escudero, who is from Argentina but had his early pro fights in Florida, outworked George again (George likes to fight with his back against the ropes, a strategy he needs to reconsider) but as they say, it only takes one punch in this business, and Joseph George, who is managed by NFL all-pro tackle Trent Williams, brought the howitzer.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Showtime

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Joshua-Franco's-Journey-from-San-Antonio-to-World-Champ
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Joshua Franco’s Journey from San Antonio to World Champ

Vergil-Ortiz-Jt-Continues-KO-Streak-at-Fantasy-Springs
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Vergil Ortiz Jr. Continues KO Streak at Fantasy Springs

The-Top-Ten-Super-Featherweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

The Top Ten Super Featherweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

What-is-the-True-Mark-of-Greatness-on-Boxing?
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

What is the True Mark of Greatness in Boxing?

Remembering-Doin'-Damage
Featured Articles2 days ago

Remembering “Doin’ Damage”

Avila-Perspective-Chap-99-Reopening-in-California
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 99: Re-Opening in California

Sunday-Boxing-by-Thompson-Boxing-Ruben-Torres-and-More-on-$6-PPV
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Sunday Boxing by Thompson Boxing: Ruben Torres and More on $6 PPV

Fast-Results-from-the-Bubble-Takam-UD-10-Forrest-Castro-Dismantles-Juarez
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Fast Results from the Bubble: Takam UD 10 Forrest; Castro Dismantles Juarez

Michael-Dutchover-Wins-in-Corona-on-the-Thompson-Boxing-Card
Featured Articles1 week ago

Michael Dutchover Wins in Corona on the Thompson Boxing Card

Charlo-Brothers-in-World-Title-Defenses-in-Unique-PPV-Twin-Bill-in-September
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Charlo Brothers in World Title Defenses in Unique PPV Twin Bill in September

Ted-Cheeseman-Outpoints-Sam-Eggington-in-a-Backyard-Beauty
Featured Articles3 days ago

Ted Cheeseman Outpoints Sam Eggington in a Backyard Beauty

Re-Visiting-the-Fury-Klitschko-Fight-A-TSS-Classic
Featured Articles6 days ago

Re-Visiting The Fury – Klitschko Fight: A TSS Classic

Leo-Upends-Williams-as-Boxing-Returns-to-Showtime
Featured Articles3 days ago

Leo Upends Williams as Boxing Returns to ‘Showtime’

Fast-Results-from-the-UK-Michael-Wallisch-is-Easy-Meat-for-Joe-Joyce
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fast Results from the UK: Michael Wallisch is Easy Meat for Joe Joyce

Brother-Naazim's-Remarkable-Life-is-Now-a-Wrap
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Brother Naazim’s Remarkable Life is Now a Wrap

Fast-Results-from-the-Bubble-A-Virtuoso-Performance-by-Mikaela-Mayer
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Fast Results from the Bubble: A Virtuoso Performance by Mikaela Mayer

Beware-Fearless-Freddie
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Beware Fearless Freddie

Avila-Perspective-Chap-99-Errol-Spence-and-More
Featured Articles4 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 99: Errol Spence and More

Live-Boxing-at-the-Drive-In-Theater-A-Ringside-Report
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Live Boxing at the Drive-In Theater: A “Ringside” Report

Iran-Barkley-and-Junior-Jones-After-the-Bell-the-Real-Fight-Began
Featured Articles1 week ago

Iran Barkley and Junior Jones: After the Final Bell, the Real Fight Began

The-Top-Ten=Super-Bantamweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles15 hours ago

The Top Ten Super Bantamweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Remembering-Doin'-Damage
Featured Articles2 days ago

Remembering “Doin’ Damage”

Leo-Upends-Williams-as-Boxing-Returns-to-Showtime
Featured Articles3 days ago

Leo Upends Williams as Boxing Returns to ‘Showtime’

Ted-Cheeseman-Outpoints-Sam-Eggington-in-a-Backyard-Beauty
Featured Articles3 days ago

Ted Cheeseman Outpoints Sam Eggington in a Backyard Beauty

Avila-Perspective-Chap-99-Errol-Spence-and-More
Featured Articles4 days ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 99: Errol Spence and More

Re-Visiting-the-Fury-Klitschko-Fight-A-TSS-Classic
Featured Articles6 days ago

Re-Visiting The Fury – Klitschko Fight: A TSS Classic

Iran-Barkley-and-Junior-Jones-After-the-Bell-the-Real-Fight-Began
Featured Articles1 week ago

Iran Barkley and Junior Jones: After the Final Bell, the Real Fight Began

Michael-Dutchover-Wins-in-Corona-on-the-Thompson-Boxing-Card
Featured Articles1 week ago

Michael Dutchover Wins in Corona on the Thompson Boxing Card

Fast-Results-from-the-UK-Michael-Wallisch-is-Easy-Meat-for-Joe-Joyce
Featured Articles1 week ago

Fast Results from the UK: Michael Wallisch is Easy Meat for Joe Joyce

Sunday-Boxing-by-Thompson-Boxing-Ruben-Torres-and-More-on-$6-PPV
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Sunday Boxing by Thompson Boxing: Ruben Torres and More on $6 PPV

Vergil-Ortiz-Jt-Continues-KO-Streak-at-Fantasy-Springs
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Vergil Ortiz Jr. Continues KO Streak at Fantasy Springs

Brother-Naazim's-Remarkable-Life-is-Now-a-Wrap
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Brother Naazim’s Remarkable Life is Now a Wrap

The-Top-Ten-Featherweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Top Ten Featherweights of the Decade 2010-2019

Charlo-Brothers-in-World-Title-Defenses-in-Unique-PPV-Twin-Bill-in-September
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Charlo Brothers in World Title Defenses in Unique PPV Twin Bill in September

Fireworks-at-the-Bubble-Valdez-TKOs-Velez-KO-Machine-Berlanga-Keeps-on-Rolling
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Fireworks at the Bubble: Valdez TKOs Velez; KO Machine Berlanga Keeps on Rolling

Beware-Fearless-Freddie
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Beware Fearless Freddie

Heavyweight-Hopeful-Agit-Kabayel-Wins-as-Expected-in-Magdeburg
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Heavyweight Hopeful Agit Kabayel Wins as Expected in Magdeburg

Avila-Perspective-Chap-99-Reopening-in-California
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 99: Re-Opening in California

Fast-Results-from-the-Bubble-Resurgent-Verdejo-Blasts-Out-Madera
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Fast Results from the Bubble: Resurgent Verdejo Blasts Out Madera

Fast-Results-from-the-Bubble-A-Virtuoso-Performance-by-Mikaela-Mayer
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Fast Results from the Bubble: A Virtuoso Performance by Mikaela Mayer

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement