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The Heavyweight Scene

Arne K. Lang

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The Heavyweight Scene

The heavily hyped welterweight showdown between Errol Spence Jr and Shawn Porter at the L.A. Staples Center was as good as advertised. It pushed everything else off to the side including several significant developments in the heavyweight division.

It was common knowledge that Deontay Wilder’s next fight would be a rematch with Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortiz. Left hanging were the date and venue.

On Saturday afternoon at a press conference inside a V.I.P. lounge at the Staples Center, it was formally announced that the bout between Wilder (40-0-1, 40 KOs) and Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs) will take place at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Nov. 23. Wilder will be making the 10th defense of his WBC world heavyweight title.

The fight will air on FOX pay-per-view. The “suggested retail price” wasn’t included in the details shared with reporters, but it’s a fair guess that folks will have to pony up $74.99 to watch it at home, as was the case with Spence-Porter. The pay-per-view may be a hard sell considering that Canelo vs. Kovalev will be available at no extra charge to DAZN subscribers earlier in the month. The two fights, spaced three weeks apart, will both unfold at the MGM.

Tickets to Wilder-Ortiz II, available online, are scaled from $104 to $1,504.

Deontay Wilder will be making his first appearance in Las Vegas since January of 2015 when he won the vacant WBC title with a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne. This will be his third outing since he stopped Ortiz in the 10th round at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Wilder overcame a lot of adversity to win that battle. Ortiz almost had him out in the seventh round, a 10-8 round on all three cards although there was no knockdown. But Ortiz was unable to press his advantage and Wilder stormed back to pull the fight out of the fire.

Ortiz has had three fights since then, bombing out no-hoper Razvan Cojanu (KO 2), stopping rugged but limited Travis Kauffman (KO 10), and winning a one-sided 10-round decision over Christian Hammer. More relevantly, in the 30 months since Wilder-Ortiz I, the Cuban hasn’t gotten any younger. Ortiz is now 40, perhaps even older.

Heavyweight Young Guns

There’s a new generation of intriguing heavyweights coming up the ladder behind Luis Ortiz (40), Kubrat Pulev (38), Deontay Wilder (34 next month), Tyson Fury (31), Dillian Whyte (31), Andy Ruiz (30), and Anthony Joshua (30 next month). Two of the young guns were in action this past weekend.

At London’s venerable Prince Albert Hall, Daniel Dubois (pictured on the left) bombed out Ebenezer Tettah in 130 seconds. Dubois, who just turned 22 and doesn’t drive yet, improved to 13-0 with his 12th knockout.

Tettah, from Ghana, brought a 19-0 record that was terribly misleading. U.K. boxing writer Phil Jay, commenting on his ring walk, made this observation: “Tettah was like a frightened child on his way to face Dubois and looked as if he’d found a pair of boxing shorts on the floor of an old gym.”

Dubois’ signature fight, to this juncture of his career, was his fight before this with previously undefeated countryman Nathan Gorman. Dubois was favored to win, but the ease in which he dismantled his former sparring partner was an eye-opener. Nicknamed “Dynamite” (Triple G meet Triple D), the Londoner carries 240 pounds on a six-foot-five frame. He just may be the best of the new kids on the block.

The following day, in Nantes, France, Tony Yoka advanced to 7-0 (6) with a third-round stoppage of Germany’s Michael Wallisch. Yoka, who stands six-foot-seven, turned pro in June of 2017 with Virgil Hunter in his corner after winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. His career lost momentum when he was suspended for a year for missing three doping tests.

He knocked Wallisch down twice in the third round before the referee halted the contest. This was his second fight back after a 13-month hiatus. Ten weeks previously, he stopped behemoth Alexander Dimitrenko in the third frame, reducing Dimitrenko’s status from that of a journeyman to a trial horse.

Yoka isn’t the only Olympic gold medalist in his family. In 2017 he married boxer Estelle Mossely, his longtime girlfriend, with whom he now has a son. Mossely, who won gold in the lightweight division in the Rio games before turning pro, is in action this coming Saturday when she meets Argentina’s Ann Guichapani.

There are no odds on her fight, but maybe someday we will be able to bet a Mr. and Mrs. Yoka parlay.

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Press Release: The BWAA Names Floyd Mayweather Jr the Fighter of the Decade

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Floyd Mayweather was the most dominant fighter over the last decade, and that supremacy has been rewarded by the Boxing Writers Association of America as the first Joe Louis Fighter of the Decade recipient by going 10-0 (2 KOs) through 2010-2019.

Mayweather (50-0, 27 knockouts) beat out Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao for the honor, two fighters he defeated in the last 10 years. The list of nominees also included Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko.

In addition to Alvarez and Pacquiao, Mayweather defeated Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, Miguel Cotto, Marcos Maidana (twice), Andre Berto and UFC star Conor McGregor, in a fight “Money” hardly trained for. That’s one current Hall of Famer (Mosley), and three future Hall of Famers (Pacquiao, Cotto and Alvarez).

“Thank you to the Boxing Writers Association of America for voting me Fighter of the Decade,” Mayweather said in a statement. “I am honored to be recognized by the media who covered my career throughout its’ many decades.

“Boxing has been a part of my life since I was two years old and I dedicated my life to it and gave it my all. I trained hard, showed up for every one of my fights and did my job successfully each and every time. To retire undefeated and achieve what I did in the sport is not only a gift to myself, but to the fans and most importantly, my team and family. I certainly didn’t do it alone and I appreciate anyone who played a part in it.

“Hard work and dedication, something I did for my entire career. I am grateful and humbled by this honor. Thank you so very much.”

Alvarez was Mayweather’s biggest threat in the voting.

In 2015, Mayweather beat Pacquiao by scores of 118-110 and 116-112 (2). In 2013, he outpointed BWAA 2019 Fighter of the Year Alvarez.

It’s why the BWAA has chosen Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only two-time BWAA Fighter of the Year in the 2010s (2013 and 2015), as the Joe Louis Fighter of the Decade.

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Tonight’s ‘ShoBox’ Telecast is Another Milestone for the Long-Running Series

Arne K. Lang

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ShoBox: The New Generation hits another milestone tonight. The long running, late night boxing series will air its 250th episode. The Hall of Fame broadcasting team of Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood, assisted by analyst Raul Marquez, will call the action from the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa (near Sioux City; 77 miles north of Omaha).

Partly because of its time slot (it’s tape-delayed for viewers outside the eastern time zone; meaning that everyone gets it at 10 pm) ShoBox doesn’t draw big ratings. But it’s must-see viewing for hard core fans and people in the industry.

The initial show in 2001 – when ShoBox aired late Saturday afternoons – featured two fighters with identical 17-0 records in the main event: Leonard Dorin and Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley, who hailed from the state of Washington where he was trained by former two-division world champion Greg Haugen, was in too deep but lasted nine rounds before the fight was stopped. Dorin, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist for Romania, then based in Montreal, went on to win the WBC 140-pound title, making him the first what are now reportedly 81 ShoBox alumni to have won a world title. (That’s Dorin on the right pictured with the late Arturo Gatti who took the title from him.)

Years from now, when the history of ShoBox is written, historians will note the synergy between it and Native American casinos. One wonders if the show would have lasted as long if not for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the 1988 federal law that legalized gambling on tribal lands, opening up a new horizon for boxing promoters. There are now full-fledged Native American casinos (i.e., with table games and slots) in 28 states. Many are off in the boondocks, a good distance from a major airport, and this is where ShoBox has frequently set up shop. (Don’t get into a U.S. geography trivia contest with any of the longtime members of the ShoBox gang.)

Over the years the #1 destination for ShoBox has been the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California (a cowboy town in California wine country), which has hosted 36 shows. In recent years, the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, has been a popular destination but that relationship, like that with Chumash, appears to have run its course.

Tonight’s ShoBox show is the eighth at WinnaVegas. Looking back, the most interesting card was the July 20, 2018 card that marked the ShoBox debut of Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Two rising Chinese fighters, light heavyweight Fanlong Meng and jumbo-sized heavyweight Zhilei Zang, appeared in off-TV bouts, and there was a zesty 8-round encounter between undefeated lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, a bout unfortunately marred by a horrendous decision. (The BWAA took the unprecedented step of publicly shaming the two Omaha judges that scored the bout for Mattice; the rematch produced a draw.)

A match-up of undefeated fighters has become a ShoBox staple. Tonight’s show was to feature a bout between undefeated super lightweights Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15 KOs) and Keith “The Bounty” Hunter (11-0, 7 KOs) but Hunter’s management thought better of it and had him pull out.

The 28-year-old Ergashev, a southpaw from Uzbekistan, remains on the card. Filling in for Hunter is Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24 KOs), a fighter from Mexico who trains in Fort Worth.

In the other bouts on the TV portion of the card, Vladimir Shishkin (9-0, 6 KOs) opposes Ulises Sierra (15-0-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight affair and super flyweight Jarico O’Quinn (13-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Oscar Vasquez (15-2-1, 3 KOs).

The show has a distinct Detroit flavor. O’Quinn was born and raised in the Motor City. Ergashev and Shishkin, a Russian, train with other Eastern European fighters at the reconstituted Kronk Gym where the headmaster is Javan “Sugar” Hill. The nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, Hill has been in the news a lot lately as the new trainer of Tyson Fury.

On paper this is far from the strongest ShoBox card. Shishkin, who reportedly had more than 300 fights as an amateur, in particular is matched soft. His opponent has defeated only three fighters with winning records. But over the years, ShoBox has produced more than its share of upsets so yet another tonight wouldn’t be all that shocking.

The executive producer of ShoBox is Gordon Hall who has been there from the very inception. We here at The Sweet Science extend our congratulation to Mr. Hall and his cast and crew on the occasion of their 250th anniversary.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 81: Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy, ‘J-Rock’ and More

David A. Avila

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Stacked cars block the long entrance to Robert Garcia Boxing Academy where many of the best prizefighters in the Southwest prepare.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the first shift has arrived.

Just last weekend two RGBA-trained fighters Hector Tanajara Jr. and Joshua Franco returned to their native area San Antonio, Texas and showed off their fighting skills polished in the hills of Riverside, California. It’s a human factory of prizefighters of all sizes and ethnicities.

Trainer Robert Garcia, with help from his sons, runs the sizeable gym that includes three boxing rings like a choreographer. He doesn’t need charts or tablets, he simply directs the fighters to the ring and tells them the number of rounds they will be trading punches.

Gabriel Flores Jr. of Stockton is chosen to open up the sparring. He’s a 19-year-old speedy lightweight from Stockton, Calif. and so far has remained undefeated after 16 pro bouts.

First to spar with the Stockton fighter was Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, the slim power-punching super featherweight from Riverside. Early in his career he was trained by Garcia, first in Oxnard, then, when the Riverside operation was opened, he made the transition too. For more than two years Rodriguez had trained elsewhere but has returned to the Garcia machine. It’s hard to get better training.

Flores and Rodriguez sparred for multiple rounds of action that featured what each fighter does best. One is a counter-puncher and the other stalks and punishes. One utilizes speed and agility to offset attacks and the other pressures and pursues while looking for openings and mistakes.

It’s a perfect mesh of styles.

Next up was Luis Coria another lightweight with speed and aggressiveness like a wound-up top.

Coria was scheduled to fight Adam Lopez last November in Las Vegas, but when the main event featuring former WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez fell out due to the opponent weighing 10 pounds over the limit, Lopez was asked to step in. That left Coria without an opponent.

“He was well paid to step aside,” said Robert Garcia trainer and manager for Coria.

That night Lopez impressed the boxing world by flooring Valdez although eventually losing by stoppage. That could have been Coria. No problem, he will be fighting soon enough.

Coria sparred several rounds with Flores and both showed speed and a contrast in styles.

The gym always operates at crank level and somebody is always preparing for the next big fight. Coming up soon will be WBC and WBO super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez who will be traveling to China to defend against Viktor Postol on Feb. 2.

Later in February, Mikey Garcia returns to the ring for the first time since last March. The former featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight titlist is set to meet former super lightweight and welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas on Feb. 29, at Frisco, Texas.

Pick any season in the year and RGBA is always humming.

J-Rock

WBA, IBF and IBO super welterweight titlist Julian “J-Rock” Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs) finally returns to the ring and makes his first defense against Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs) on Saturday Jan. 18, in Philadelphia. FOX will televise.

It’s homecoming for Williams who grabbed the title with a riveting win over former champion Jarrett Hurd in what I felt was the Fight of the Year in 2019. Both engaged in trench warfare and exhibited the beautiful art of inside fighting rarely seen or allowed by trigger-happy referees anxious to create space. Close-quarter fighting takes talent.

Fighting in front of friends and family can be pretty stressful. Philadelphia is a true fight town and it could be an added distraction for Philly boxer J Rock.

“I try to just block myself from the world. Especially with a hometown fight, people are pulling you 50 different ways, tickets, asking me stupid questions. It’s crazy, so I just try to block myself from the world,” said Williams about the upcoming fight with Rosario. “Rosario brings ambition to the table. I think he’s an ambitious kid. I don’t think it’s a difficult fight (for me), to be quite honest. I just think it’s a matter of being focused and on top of my game, and I think I’ll take care of him. I don’t think it’s difficult, though. He’s a decent fighter. We’re not going to make him out to be Ray Robinson.”

Top Rank in NY

If you are one of the many who wondered whatever happened to Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo here’s your chance to watch the former phenom in action as he meets Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3, 5 KOs) at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs) fought once in 2019 and defeated cagey veteran Bryan Vasquez by decision last April in New York City. He remains a big draw but since turning pro nearly 10 years ago has failed to live up to expectations as the next Felix Trinidad. There’s only one “Tito” Trinidad.

Rumors abound when it comes to Verdejo who was supposedly involved in a motorcycle accident and other escapades. Life can get in the way. Here he is now 26 years old and looking to conjure up some of that old fervor he had as a teen.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Showtime 7 p.m. Shojahon Ergashev (17-0) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4).

Sat. ESPN 4 p.m. Eleider Alvarez (24-1) vs Michael Seals (24-2); Felix Verdejo (25-1) vs Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3).

Sat. FOX, 5 p.m. Julian Williams (27-1-1) vs Jeison Rosario (19-1-1); Chris Colbert (13-0) vs Jezzrel Corrales (23-3).

Photo: Eduardo Garcia, the Garcia family patriarch, is flanked by sons Robert and Mikey. Photo by Al Applerose.

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