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Proposals for Boxing Movies: Part Two (L-W) of Our Latest TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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The question for our final quarterly survey of 2019 was this: “If you were to make a boxing movie, what would the subject be? How might you title it (optional)?” This question touched a nerve with many of our respondents as it generated our best response ever; nearly 60 people made suggestions, some very detailed. The turnout dictated that we publish the results of the survey in two parts. If you missed Part One, check it out here.

JIM LAMPLEY– linchpin of the HBO announcing team for 31 years; 2015 IBHOF inductee: The heavyweight nineties, from Tyson-Spinks in ‘88 to Lewis-Tyson in ‘02, with all the characters and the crazy ups and downs that subject entails.

ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: The great sportswriter John Lardner authored two magazine pieces that are among the most anthologized stories in all of sports. His story about the Dempsey-Gibbons debacle in Shelby, Montana, ran in the The New Yorker in 1948. Lardner’s profile of Stanley Ketchel, the Michigan Assassin, appeared in True magazine in 1954. Both have the makings of excellent movies. If forced to choose, I might go with “Shelby.” This would be the perfect vehicle for George Roy Hill who directed “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, Mr. Hill is deceased.

JIMMY LANGE — former fighter and promoter: I’d do a movie about a professional “opponent”…. someone who is a legit pro who knows he is brought in to lose. Not a fixed fight but a fight to help a prospect along. There are many interesting journeymen like Emanuel Augustus, Gerald Reed, Bruce “The Mouse” Straus, Reggie Strickland and hundreds more. This also would provide insight into the business of boxing.

RON LIPTON — member of NJ Boxing Hall of Fame, former fighter, retired police officer; pro referee: The movie I want to be made is one that WILL be made on my book still in progress, which is private and copyrighted intellectual property. Part of my book embraces the visceral behind-the-scenes accounts of my career as a referee in professional boxing, what I have witnessed as to what influences the assignment making process in big fights, the politics involved and how it has influenced the outcome of the big fights, along with in-the-ring experiences. There is also an interest in a separate high-profile documentary as to the actual boxing backgrounds of the people involved, how they arrived in that position and how they personally handled it. All on invulnerable legal ground buttressed with actual film footage.

PAUL MAGNO — author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: There are lots of movies to be made, lots of interesting characters and stories. I’ve always imagined, though, a great movie coming from the life and times of “The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus. What a character, what a career! I’d want the movie to touch on everything—fixes, robberies, triumphs, and the real-life battles of a fighter who never had the “right” connections and who kept getting pulled to the side of the road on his ride to the top.

DON MAJESKI — matchmaker, historian and affiliated with RING 8 and the NYSBHOF: I’d do a movie about Joe Gans. He was considered, by many, as greatest lightweight of the first half of the 20th Century and on par with Duran, Benny Leonard and the undefeated Packey McFarland as the greatest lightweight of all time. His bout with Battling Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada was one of the most historically significant in boxing. It was a $40,000 promotion where film rights were essential to the gate and it ushered in the career of Tex Rickard. He was victimized by racism, was involved in a notorious alleged “fix” against Terry McGovern, was the highest paid athlete in America at one point and died at the age of 37 – one of the most revered boxers of all time.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEU.K. barrister, author and contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing: I’d make a movie on Frankie DePaula, the Jersey City-born pugilist who was murdered in 1970. It would be a stunning, true-life drama of hubris, corruption, betrayal, and murder set against the backdrop of the sport of boxing and the world of the Mafia. DePaula was the archetypal juvenile delinquent; a kid from “Dead End” who is good-looking and charismatic. A street fighter cum pro-boxer who numbers Sinatra among his admirers. Frankie Valli and Joe Namath are close friends. But he’s a tortured soul and prone to trouble. Add in the mix a cast of characters such as the Humphrey Bogart-look-a-like priest who seeks to reform the adolescent wastrel, the physically irresistible ‘Mafia Princess’ who effortlessly lures him to his doom, ‘Jimmy Nap’, the gambling kingpin who is a force in the boxing world in the 1960s, and FBI agents who probe his involvement in a fixed world title bout and we have a dramatic rendition of the ‘American Dream’ gone wrong. Based on the book “JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula,” a movie would bear the raw components of “Rocky” meets “Raging Bull” on the “Mean Street(s)” of Jersey City.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI — boxing writer and author, Mr. “Biofile”: “Andrew Golota: The Uncrowned Champion.” A Don King quote after the Ruiz and Byrd robberies. A fascinating, intriguing character in and out of the ring. Maybe the understatement of the decade.

LARRY MERCHANT– HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’d want a feature-length documentary on Tyson Fury. His life as an Irish Traveler (gypsy), raised in a clan of fighters. His professional career, climaxed by fights vs. W. Klitschko and D. Wilder (including rematch to come). His problems after Klitschko: addiction, weight. His difficulty adapting to social norms of Britain after gaining fame. His big, colorful personality. His comeback.

ROBERT MLADINICH — writer, author, former fighter. I have two choices. One would be called “Hard Luck,” about the travels and travails of the fighting Quarry family. The second would be “Misdemeanor Homicide,” about the circumstances surrounding heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson shooting to death his manager, Rick “Elvis” Parker.

ERNEST MORALES (aka Geno Febus) — former fighter, writer: The events and controversy leading up to the one of boxing’s most famous and scariest knockouts of our time. Marquez vs Manny 4 and aftermath!! First a review of the rivalry, the three close/controversial endings, including the national pride and opinions of both countries and heritages before the fight. Then the AFTERMATH in the ring and dressing rooms, the scenes of the fighter, fans and Mexicans celebrating and the teams, fans and country in mourning after the final, forever-remembered fight.

HARRY OTTY – boxing historian; his newest book is “The Tragedy of the Hogue Twins”:  I would have to go with Charley Burley – uncrowned welterweight and middleweight champion of the
world who campaigned from 1936 to 1950.

The life of Burley – who campaigned from 1936 to 1950 – is a great story. As a star amateur, he was
invited to box-off for a berth at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, he declined to take part due to the
racial and religious persecution taking part in Nazi Germany at the time. He attended an alternate event in Barcelona and ended up being one of the first Americans to be in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

Originally fighting out of Pittsburgh, Burley beat local favorites Fritzie Zivic (twice) and Billy Soose and fought many of the top black fighters of the day, including Archie Moore – dropping Archie three times en-route to a comfortable 10 round win in Hollywood in 1944.

Burley was avoided by many top-flight fighters as he was deemed a high-risk for a low reward. He eventually had to take on a job with the city and worked as a garbage man for many years. Burley was the
inspiration for Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson’s main character (Troy Maxon) in the play ‘Fences’  – recently made into a movie with Denzel Washington in the lead role.

CARLOS PALOMINO– former World Welterweight Champion and 2004 IBHOF inductee: I have a deal with a production Company to do my life story. The title is “Palomino.”

GENE PANTALONE — historian, writer and author of “Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero” Lew Jenkins: Lew Jenkins. Hall of Fame writer W.C. Heinz, who died in 2006, kept trying to get someone to do it, he thought Clint Eastwood would be best. Heinz was in touch with Jenkins’ family until the end. John Huston wanted to do it in the 60s. Also, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Garner met with Jenkins to discuss a movie, but it never happened.

DENNIS RAPPAPORT — former co-manager of Gerry Cooney, among others; elite promoter: These are just a few from the top of my head. The Hitman’s Son, the story of former heavyweight Jack O’Halloran, boxer, actor and son of Albert Anastasia. The Pearl of the Ghetto, the life and times of Benny Leonard. The Fighting Hobo, the Jack Dempsey Story, the Fighting Socialite, the Gene Tunney Story. The Collector, The Life and Death of Sonny Liston. Sweet as Sugar, The Ray Robinson Story. And from Hell And Back-The Orphan; The World Champion; The Scintillating Drama and The Return to Heartache, Heartbreak and Agony; that was The Living Nightmare—the Story of Saad Muhammad.

JOHN RASPANTI– lead writer/editor for MaxBoxing; author: A movie about the colorful and talented Billy Conn would be fantastic. Billy not only came close to beating Joe Louis, but fell in love at first sight, and also got into a fist fight with his future father-in-law! (among other things). Most people have forgotten that Billy was light heavyweight champion of the world. He beat Melio Bettina, Gus Lesnevich, Bob Pastor, Lee Savold and Tony Zale. His love affair with future and forever wife Mary was extraordinary. They were completely devoted to each other. His friendship with Louis endured till Louis passed away. His life had many ups and downs, but Conn fought till the end. ​​Carmine Vingo, who fought Rocky Marciano in 1949, and almost died, is also someone who’s a movie in the making. I’m likely going to write about him.

FRED ROMANO — boxing historian, author and former HBO Boxing consultant: A biography of Sugar Ray Robinson is long overdue. Perhaps the greatest boxer ever, he had a dynamic personality, and was also a WW 2 vet and a fair entertainer to boot. It defies logic as to why his story has not made it to the big screen. Although a couple of Louis films have been made, it has been a remarkable 65 years since the last. Like Robbie, his story is begging to be told by the modern filmmaker. Title would be “Pound for Pound.”

LEE SAMUELS — legendary Top Rank publicist; 2019 IBHOF inductee: A movie about Caesars Palace the Home of Champions – with mega fights held for years in a 24,000 outdoor arena headlined by Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hitman Hearns with Hagler vs Hearns arguably the best, most heated brutal action fight of our time. Title would be “Hail Caesar!”

TED SARES — TSS writer: Tony Veranis often sparred with Joe “The Baron” Barboza, Eddie “Bulldog” Connors, Jimmy Connors (Eddie’s brother), Rocco “Rocky” DiSiglio, George Holden, and Americo “Rico” Sacramone. Southie’s Tommy Sullivan also found his way into this mix. The thing about these guys was that in addition to being well known Boston area boxers, each was brutally murdered between 1966 and 1976. Tony was an extremely active fighter but also brash. He mouthed off once too often and was blown away by James Martorano-aka “The Basin Street Butcher.” The twists and turns in this one match those of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” Title: “The Friends of Tony Veranis.”

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY — all things in boxing: I’d like to see a movie about Alexis Arguello and his involvement in fighting against the powers in Nicaragua. Title: “The Humble Warrior”

PETER SILKOV — writer and keeper of “The Boxing Glove”: There are many untold stories in boxing and I think the film industry tends to go for the more mundane stories.  If I had to choose just one fighter for a biopic/film, it would be Matthew Saad Muhammad, and I’d call it something like ‘Saad: The Story of Boxing’s Miracle Fighter”…  close second would be Bobby Chacon “The School Boy”..

MIKE SILVER — author, historian: There is a great movie (documentary) to be made of my book, “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”–but I’d re-title it for the movies as, “What the Hell Happened to Boxing!”

ALAN SWYER — filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: I’d depict the life of a great boxer who was forced by politics to relocate to another country and reinvent himself from Cuban to Mexican, all the while demonstrating how and why boxing is called “The Sweet Science.” The man? Jose Napoles. The title? “Mantequilla.”

DON TRELLA — boxing Judge, member of CT Boxing Hall of Fame: I’d say Arturo Gatti. He was a fan favorite because of his lion sized heart in the ring. The ending of course would continue to leave us in suspense as to what really happened to end his life. Hard to believe that a fighter such as Gatti who never had any “quit” in him would take his own life. Maybe the title should be “Never Say Die – the Arturo Gatti Story”

HAROLD WESTON — former fighter and two-time world title challenger: Two people that a movie should be told: My “big brother” Emile Griffith and me, Harold Weston. Two great stories are there waiting to be filmed.

PETER WOODauthor, writer and former fighter: The film’s title: Broken Boxers. Two eight-year-old boys—innocent Raoul, (growing up in Tehran, Iran), and happy-go-lucky Jack, (growing up in Topeka, Kansas)—meet 15 years later in a boxing ring. Neither boy is still innocent or happy-go-lucky–or emotionally healthy. Why? Raoul is the victim of an American drone attack in Tehran, and Jack is the casualty of a heinous terrorist attack in Topeka.  Raoul is now missing half his left arm, and Jack is missing his right leg. Despite their grim handicaps, both boys were drawn to boxing in order to learn how to fight and, to purge the poison of anger, hate, fear and sadness within themselves. Two nations—and the entire world—watch as these two damaged, yet gallant men, advance to the finals of a bloody boxing match. The bell rings! At the end of the fight, these two broken boxers embrace each other, and become an inspiration to the world. Their fight, somehow, goes a long way to purge the political poison of anger, hate, fear in the world.

Observations: No particular fighter or story stood out although Mathew Saad Muhammad, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sam Langford, Alexis Arguello, and Arturo Gatti were mentioned more than once.

The seedy side of boxing (and the business of boxing) got its “due.” Bob Benoit’s response captured this dimension perfectly.

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). In 2019, he received Ring 10’s Harold Lederman Award for Historian. He still competes as a power lifter in the Master Class.

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Book Review

Thomas Hauser is the Pierce Egan of Our Generation

Arne K. Lang

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Thomas Hauser is the Pierce Egan of our generation. Two centuries ago, Egan chronicled the goings-on in the world of prizefighting in a series of articles. When he had completed a bunch of these, he knotted them together in a compendium under the title Boxiana; or Sketches of Ancient Pugilism. The first volume was issued in 1813. Four more volumes would follow.

Pierce Egan was drawn to the sport of prizefighting during the so-called Regency Era in England when prizefighting, although an outlaw sport, enjoyed a great burst of popularity. Aristocrats and commoners alike, bluebloods and lowlifes, caravanned to the big fights which of necessity were held outside areas of dense population. But, as indicated by the sub-title of “Boxiana,” Egan was also interested in the history of prizefighting which pre-dated the Regency Era. He wasn’t the first historian of the Sweet Science (a term that he coined), but he was certainly the most influential. Nearly 200 years after his death, a fellow interested in learning about the roots of modern prizefighting is encouraged to start by dredging up a reprint of “Boxiana.” (Or, if one doesn’t wish to be that immersive, checking out one of several collections by the great New Yorker essayist A.J. Liebling who rucked Egan out of obscurity.)

Which brings us to Thomas Hauser.

In common with Pierce Egan, Hauser gathers previously published articles about boxing into a book. A Hauser compendium has become an annual tradition at his publishing house, the University of Arkansas Press. Hauser’s latest offering, the 15th in the series, is fresh off the press. It bears the title Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing. TSS readers will recognize some of the nuggets as they first appeared at this web site.

Two hundred years from today, if mankind still exists, folks interested in the goings-on in the world of boxing during the first decades of the 21st century, will be directed to the writings of Thomas Hauser. And I have no doubt that a complete set of his annual anthologies, although released in paperback, will be a prized collectable.

Pierce Egan did round-by-round reports of major fights, but he was more interested in things that happened outside the ring. He saw the big picture; prizefighting as an ecosystem. Hauser likewise views the sport through a wide lens. The power brokers command his attention, as do those on the periphery. Hauser once wrote a story about ring card girls that was a fun read and would have also fit neatly as an insert in a textbook on the sociology of work.

“The boxing scene,” wrote Hauser, “is about so much more than the fights.”

In his role as an investigative reporter, for which he has won several awards, Hauser has written extensively about PED abuse in boxing and about the failings of the New York State Athletic Commission.

There’s less about PEDs in his newest book than in previous editions, inevitable perhaps considering that boxing activity in 2020 was stunted by the pandemic, but the NYSAC gets its usual comeuppance. The agency “has long been a favor bank for powerful economic interests and a source of employment at various levels for the politically well connected,” says Hauser, who informs us that for several higher-up employees, and one woman in particular, the job there is basically a sinecure and a good paying one at that.

Another recurrent theme in Hauser’s writings is boxing’s waning popularity among America’s youth and what can be done about it. In a story titled “Why Doesn’t Boxing Attract More Young Fans?” Hauser lists 11 reasons why it doesn’t, each of which can be reconfigured into a prong to be used in a campaign to stanch the erosion and reverse the trend.

None of Hauser’s compendiums would be complete without book reviews. Several years ago, Hauser wrote that “the written history of Muhammad Ali is an ongoing construction” and, in 2020, new construction continued at a brisk pace; there was a spate of new Ali books.

Hauser, needless to say, is well-versed in the subject matter. He interviewed more than 150 people for his 1991 book, “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times,” long considered the definitive Ali biography, and he takes a fine-tooth comb to any book that traverses the same territory. Factual inaccuracies gall him and he doesn’t hesitate to point them out in reviews of books concerning Ali by Todd Snyder, Stuart Cosgrove, and Rahaman Ali (Muhammad Ali’s brother) and in a book for young readers ostensibly co-authored by book-seller extraordinaire James Patterson.

“Broken Dreams” is divided into four sections, the last of which is titled “Boxing and the Coronavirus.” There are some stories in this section that I suspect wouldn’t make the cut if Hauser were assembling the book today. He writes that “the restoration of normalcy (in boxing) will be a long, slow process.” With the benefit of hindsight, the future wasn’t quite so gloomy.

Among my favorite stories in Hauser’s newest compilation, which clocks in at 308 pages, is a long piece about Gleason’s Gym which, like Madison Square Garden, is currently in its fourth location. There are 44 components in all, modules of various length, and it’s the sort of book that one can open to any page and find something interesting.

Notes

Thomas Hauser and Pierce Egan have other things in common aside from their association with prizefighting. Both wrote about other things. Egan, who died in 1849, achieved his greatest success with a work of fiction, Life in London, about the escapades of Corinthian Tom and his country cousin Jerry, excitement-seekers who flouted the norms of society as they caroused about the London metropolis. The book gave rise to a long-running play, to a popular 18th-century expression (“Tom and Jerrying” denoted a rowdy night on the town), to a once-popular Christmas cocktail, and to a cat and mouse team in a children’s animated cartoon series.

In his review of Hauser’s Ali biography, Dave Anderson of the New York Times noted that this was Hauser’s 14th book and that seven of his previous books were novels. Among the non-fiction books that Hauser authored prior to “Ali” was “The Execution of Charles Horman” about the murder of an American journalist who disappeared in Chile during a right-wing military coup. It was adapted into the Oscar-winning screenplay for the movie “Missing” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.

Lastly, a caveat: Although A.J. Liebling thought Pierce Egan was a real hoot, the average reader will likely find Boxiana hard to digest. The book is freighted with slang terms, some of Egan’s invention, that long ago disappeared from the lexicon.

Egan eventually turned away from boxing cold-turkey, purportedly disgusted by too many fixed fights. If Hauser follows his example, let’s hope that it doesn’t happen any time soon.

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

Bernard Fernandez

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

For that part of the sports world that takes notice of boxing, Shakur Stevenson announced himself as a superstar-in-the-making – well, maybe – in totally dominating and ultimately dethroning WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring Saturday night in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Shakur, the 24-year-old southpaw and 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, N.J., seemingly hit Herring, 35, a combat-toughened but outgunned Marine Corps veteran, with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink en route to a 10th-round stoppage that wowed, among others, former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist and ESPN commentator Timothy Bradley Jr., who had chided Stevenson, a sometimes risk-adverse defensive wizard, as a “boring” fighter in his most recent bout on the Worldwide Leader, a 12-round scorecard shutout of Namibia’s Jeremia Nakathila on June 12 in Las Vegas.

After referee Mark Nelson stepped in to save the bleeding and battered Herring 1 minute, 30 seconds into round 10, Stevenson surprised Bradley by thanking him for providing the motivation he needed to ramp up his offensive output.

“Shakur tonight showed a ton of maturity,” Bradley said of the new-look, presumably more fan-friendly version of Stevenson that was on display. “The fact that he thanked me and said that I motivated him is a beautiful thing. That showed even more maturity, because that’s all that I want from these young fighters. I want them to grow.

“This is what I wanted to see from Shakur Stevenson. But I knew he had it in him, and he showed it tonight.”

Not that Bradley has completely bought into the notion of all that Stevenson could be, citing the lack of the only weapon – one-punch power – in his otherwise well-stuffed trick bag. Maybe that will come should Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) continue to enhance his man-strength, and maybe what you see now is all that fight fans can ever expect to get. In baseball terminology, Shakur Stevenson was more or less categorized by Bradley as a high-average singles hitter with enough gap power to accumulate a fair share of doubles that can get opponents out of there on accumulated damage. Who could complain if Stevenson, whose avowed goal is to become a superstar and fixture at or near the top of everyone’s pound-for-pound lists, continues to show flashes of such stylistic predecessors as Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

On this night and in the fight’s host city, however, Stevenson took a worse media-coverage battering from Eddie Rosario than he had administered to Herring (23-3, 11 KOs) with his fists. Rosario, a trade-deadline acquisition of the Atlanta Braves, slugged a three-run homer to lift his new team to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at nearby Truist Park, sending the Braves into their first World Series since 1999. For now, Rosario, who went 14-for-25 with three homers in winning the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award, is the toast of the town and the focus of reams of space in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports section. But it wasn’t only Rosario who siphoned attention in the local paper away from Stevenson; the fight might have gotten a few lines in the print editions, but online it was completely ignored by the AJC, Rosario’s hot bat followed in the pecking order by stories about the NBA’s Hawks losing at Cleveland, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dropping a high-scoring contest at Virginia and a five-star high school defensive end prospect named Mykel Williams verbally committing to the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

While it had to be frustrating to Stevenson and Atlanta’s fight fans for the event to be ignored by AJC, there were other deserving participants on the card who were similarly overlooked by the press in Georgia’s largest city. Not that anyone in the Internet age still pastes newspaper clippings into scrapbooks, but 19-year-old middleweight prospect Xander Zayas might be at a similar embryonic stage of development once occupied by Stevenson a couple of years ago. He deserved at least some recognition in the paper for his fourth-round stoppage of Dan Karpency, as did two other undercard fighters with celebrity familial ties: middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the great Muhammad Ali, who scored a third-round TKO of James Westley II, and junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, son of four-time heavyweight champion and Atlanta-area resident Evander Holyfield – can it be nearly 30 years since “The Real Deal” shook off an early knockdown to stop Bert Cooper in seven rounds on Nov. 23, 1991, in Atlanta’s since-demolished Omni Coliseum? — who bombed out Charles Stanfield in two rounds.

But Atlanta is not the only metropolis that devotes fewer newspaper column inches, if any, to the sport that once made Evander Holyfield as important a local sports figure as any Falcon, Brave or Hawk. It will be up to Stevenson to break through, if he can, to a level where his every ring appearance becomes a must-see because boxing’s viability is and has always been largely tied to the popularity of its larger-than-life figures.

“I wanted a fun fight – show my skills, my boxing, my power,” Stevenson said of the modifications he and trainer/grandfather Wali Moses made from the relative dreariness of the wide points nod over Nakathila to the pulse-quickening pummeling of Herring, who apologized to the Marine Corps in general for his defeat, not that any such admission was necessary. Herring seemed to be contemplating retirement, but there has never been any occasion when he failed to conduct himself honorably inside the ropes.

The question now is, will Stevenson continue to hew to demonstrate the aggressiveness he exhibited against Herring? His comments following the Nakathila bout suggest that it might not always be so. His style is evolving, but what works better on one night might not be advisable on another.

“To be honest, I didn’t really like my performance,” Stevenson said after his paint-by-numbers dismissal of Nakathila. “I felt I could’ve performed a lot better. I was being real careful because he has power. He was real scary. I got the best defense in boxing. But I’ll be better in my next fight.”

Former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, a 2021 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who also did commentary for Herring-Stevenson, said Shakur shouldn’t feel pressured to become something he is not in order to meet anyone else’s expectations.

“I think we got to kill some of these misnomers that have been around the sport for far too long, that fighters that go about their craft a certain kind of way, hit and don’t get hit, (means) there’s something not tough about them,” Ward said. “I heard that my whole career. Floyd Mayweather heard that his whole career. Just because a skillful fighter who can think and plays chess when everybody else is playing checkers doesn’t mean he can’t get down and dirty. It only means we’re going to get down and dirty when we have to.

“Fighters who have (high) IQs and skill, keep doing what you’re doing. Some people are going to like it and others won’t. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If a good fighter has a bad night, he can still win every round. If a guy who takes two to (land) one had a bad night, it’s a pretty ugly night. He’s probably going to get knocked out or take a lot of punishment.

“I wasn’t who they wanted me to be. I just beat all those guys, all the guys they said were going to get me. I just kept winning. And winning covers a lot of problems and issues.”

A lot, for sure, not all. In addition to Whitaker, Mayweather and maybe Ward, there are elements of Stevenson’s makeup that call to mind the technical proficiency of two-time Cuban gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, a former Top Rank fighter. Stevenson has been groomed by Top Rank for a prolonged and successful run at the elite level, but what so far has been a mutually beneficial working relationship could hinge in part to the fighter’s willingness to more regularly perform as he did against Herring than he did against Nakathila and a few other opponents that led to the perception that he was supremely talented, yes, but also a touch boring.

Prior to Rigondeaux’s release by Top Rank, company founder Bob Arum complained that his style leaned more to Masterpiece Theater than Rocky, which made Rigo a poor box-office and television attraction. Arum even said that when he brought the Cuban’s name up to HBO executives, “they throw up.”

There are many ways to win a prizefight, and now Shakur Stevenson has shown that he can win with chamber music or semi-heavy metal playing in the background. How far he advances in his march toward the truly elite status he is convinced is his destiny may be determined by the method he chooses to employ should a much-discussed showdown with Mexican blaster Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) take place in 2022. The hard truth is that a lot of fight fans not only like, but require splashes of blood-and-guts mixed in with their favorite sport’s artistic side.

Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrives this fall. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com, in hard or soft cover, and other book-selling websites and outlets.

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Fast Results from Atlanta Where Shakur Stevenson Turned in a Masterful Performance

Arne K. Lang

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Former world featherweight title-holder Shakur Stevenson turned in his career-best performance tonight at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta while wresting the WBO 130-pound world title from the shoulders of Jamel Herring via a 10th-round TKO. At age 24, Stevenson was the younger man by 11 years and it was a case of youth being served.

As a pro, Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) has lost precious few rounds. The rap against him was that he is content to outclass an opponent, providing few fireworks. In this vein, the assumption was that tonight’s bout would be a tactical (i.e., tame) affair. But while there were no knockdowns and Shakur fought a measured fight, there was more snap in his punches than had been the norm and he finished the bout on a high note.

Early into the fight, Herring’s left eye began to swell. In round nine, Stevenson opened a nasty cut over Herring’s other eye. In round ten, with the cut bleeding profusely, Stevenson revved up his attack, forcing referee Mark Nelson to waive it off. The official time was 1:30.

After the fight, Stevenson called out his WBC counterpart Oscar Valdez. Herring, an ex-Marine and former U.S. Olympic team captain, falls to 23-3.

Other Bouts

Fast-rising 19-year-old middleweight Xander Zayas shellacked intrepid Dan Karpency whose father and chief cornerman pulled him out after four rounds. A future star, born in Puerto Rico, Zayas is now 11-0 (8). One of the three fighting brothers, Karpency (9-4-1) will return to his day job as a registered nurse at a maximum-security prison in Western Pennsylvania. He hadn’t previously been stopped

In the first bout airing on ESPN’s flagship station, middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, the 21-year-old grandson of Muhammad Ali, scored a third-round stoppage of scrappy but out-gunned James Westley II, a 36-year-old from Toledo, Ohio. Walsh (2-0, 2 KOs) knocked Westley down with a straight right hand in the waning seconds of round two and knocked him to his knees with another short right hand early in the next stanza. Westley wasn’t badly hurt, but his corner saw fit to throw in the towel.

Junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, one of 11 children fathered by the great Evander Holyfield, knocked Charles Stanford flat on his back with a harsh left-right combination in round two, advancing his record to 8-0 (6). The official time was 0:30. Stanford, a 35-year-old Cincinnati man with an MMA background, was 6-3 heading in.

Middleweight Troy Isley, a 23-year-old U.S. Olympian from Alexandria, VA, improved to 3-0 (2) with a first-round stoppage of 37-year-old Nicholi Navarro (2-2), a former Army Ranger from Denver. Isley rocked his overmatched opponent several times before putting him on the canvas with a combination, forcing the ref to intervene. The official time was 2:48.

In an upset, Erik Palmer saddled Atlanta’s Roddricus Livsey with his first defeat, winning a split decision. Palmer, from the Karpency family stable, was 12-14-5 heading in, versus 8-0-1 for Livsey. The scores were 58-56 twice and a curious 59-55 for the hometown fighter.

Haven Brady Jr, a 19-year-old featherweight from Albany, Georgia, improved to 4-0 (3) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Corpus Christi’s Roberto Negrete (3-1).  The scores favoring Brady were 40-36 across the board, but Negrete was no slouch.

Chicago welterweight Antoine Cobb made an impressive pro debut with a brutal one-punch knockout of Jerrion Campbell (2-2). It was all over in 58 seconds. Cobb, 25, is a protégé of former light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin.

In the opening bout on the card, 21-year-old Brooklyn lightweight Harley Maderos, a 2021 USA national champion, improved to 2-0 (1) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Deljerro Revello (0-2). Maderos scored a knockdown in the opening frame and won all four rounds on all four cards but wasn’t particularly impressive.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty images.

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