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Three Punch Combo: Introducing Tyrone Spong, an Under the Radar Fight and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — After 11 months out of the ring, former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KO’s) makes his long-anticipated heavyweight debut on Saturday when he faces Tyrone Spong (14-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event of a DAZN card at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago. While Usyk is a known commodity in the sport, the same cannot be said of Spong. So, who is he and does he pose any threat to Usyk?

Spong, 34, was born in Suriname and grew up in the Netherlands. Beginning in the early 2000’s, he competed as a professional kickboxer, winning many big fights and titles along the way. In the midst of this successful kickboxing career, Spong (pictured) even dabbled a little in mixed martial arts and won a pair of bouts in that sport. In 2015, he turned to boxing.

Customarily carrying 225-230 pounds on a six-foot-two frame, Spong opened his pro boxing career with 12 straight knockouts. However, the level of competition he has faced has been very suspect. Perhaps his “best” win was this past August when he stopped 14-1-1 Jeyson Minda in the second round. Though Minda had a glossy record himself, most of his wins had also come against low-level opponents and in the middleweight division.

Spong, who fights from the orthodox stance, likes to come forward and press the action. He will sometimes work behind the left jab but often times attempts to simply walk down his opponent without firing off the jab. That jab is somewhat lazy and often times used by Spong as a range finder rather than being a punch he is trying to land. It is also a punch that can be easily timed by his opposition.

So, the big question is whether Spong’s punching power is real? From the clips I have seen on YouTube, my guess would be that although he does have fairly heavy hands, the knockouts are more a result of the opponents selected than anything else.

Defensively, Spong is actually pretty solid. When he comes forward, he displays good head movement and tends to keep his hands held high. He has also shown some slickness in being able to slip his opponent’s punches.

My best guess is that assuming he has any sort of chin (which I would think he would have, given his long background in kickboxing) we see him at the very least go rounds with Usyk. But I just don’t think Spong has the power to get Usyk’s respect. And, of course, Usyk has the far superior boxing skills.

Ultimately, this could be a replay of Usyk’s lopsided win last year over Murat Gassiev.

Under The Radar Fight

On the Usyk-Spong undercard, 24-year-old, 168-pound prospect Anthony Sims Jr. (19-0, 17 KO’s) looks to continue his way up the ladder when he faces Morgan Fitch (19-3-1, 8 KO’s). This is an interesting spot for the highly-regarded Sims who will be looking to make a statement following a somewhat lackluster performance in his last outing this past April.

A decorated U.S. amateur, Sims turned pro in 2014. In the early portion of his career, he scored highlight reel knockout after highlight reel knockout that had many buzzing about his potential. And many were anxious to see how Sims would look when he ultimately took a step up in class.

As his career moved forward, the quality of opposition seemingly did not improve from what he had faced in his first few pro contests. Some began wondering why he was being moved so slowly, especially given his amateur background.

Finally, in April of this year in his 19th pro fight, Sims took a jump in class when he stepped in the ring against then 14-2 Vaughn Alexander. In this fight, Alexander was not overwhelmed as were others by Sims’ power and he pushed Sims hard for ten rounds. Though Sims ultimately got the verdict on the scorecards, it was an underwhelming performance to say the least.

Fitch represents an interesting test for Sims. Fitch is athletic and possesses good hand speed. He fights as a natural boxer-puncher looking to land combinations behind the left jab. And defensively, he shows good movement and often keeps a nice tight guard making him difficult to hit clean.

Though Fitch has plenty of natural talent, he has yet to show it when he has stepped up in class. His issue has been that he tends to get too defensive and gets out-hustled. And, as his record indicates, he is not a big puncher, so if he falls behind, he does not have the eraser to get back into the fight.

Coming off the Alexander performance, Sims is certainly going to try to make a statement against Fitch. But Fitch is no pushover. I like this fight and will be very interested to see how it plays out.

What Is Next for Sergiy Derevyanchenko?

There will certainly be plenty of talk about Gennady Golovkin’s future following his hard-fought 12- round unanimous decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko this past Saturday. But what about Derevyanchenko’s future following his second close loss in less than a year vying for a middleweight title belt?

First, all the talk will be about a rematch with Golovkin. But that seems unlikely. Keep in mind that Derevyanchenko is still associated with PBC, Golovkin is aligned with DAZN, and their fight was a sanctioning body mandate. If Golovkin is going to face another high-risk opponent other than Canelo, it will probably be someone who is also affiliated with DAZN such as Demetrius Andrade.

As for other realistic options, Derevyanchenko is in a quandary. The Charlo brothers are also aligned with PBC and a fight between either one and Derevyanchenko would produce a massive payday, but he would represent quite a risk and I’m guessing both steer clear of him for the time being.

One possibility could be Brandon Adams (21-3, 13 KO’s). Adams has some name value having won the Contender series last year and is coming off a better than expected performance in losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Jermall Charlo in June in a bid for a middleweight title belt. Such a fight would push the winner right back into title contention at middleweight.

Derevyanchenko could also decide the time is right to move to 168. PBC has more options for him at 168 so this could be the direction he is headed.

If Derevyanchenko does move to 168, my guess would be that PBC looks to match him with Caleb Truax (30-4-2, 19 KO’s). Truax is rated number five by the IBF in that division and the winner would almost certainly be vaulted into a mandatory position. And if a fight between David Benavidez and Caleb Plant does occur early next year, the winner of Derevyanchenko-Truax would make for a natural opponent for the winner of that fight.

I am sure Derevyanchenko would love a rematch with Golovkin and I would love to see it, but that possibility seems remote as do Derevyanchenko’s chances of luring another big name into the ring with him anytime soon. So instead he will probably be forced into a high-stakes crossroads fight as a means of hopefully earning another title shot down the road.

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Johnny Famechon was a Hero in Australia Where Willie Pep Had a Bad Night

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Willie Pep was good at boxing. He wasn’t so good at math. Ah, but hold the phone; we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a story about Willie Pep, but about former world featherweight champion Johnny Famechon who passed away last Thursday, Aug. 4, in Melbourne, Australia, at age 77.

Famechon was five years old when his parents left his birthplace in Paris and settled in Melbourne. He came to the fore in an era when boxing was still a mainstream sport and home-grown champions were national idols. The locals turned out in droves for the parade in Johnny’s honor when he returned to Melbourne after taking the featherweight crown from the Cuban-born Spaniard Jose Legra in a big upset at London’s Prince Albert Hall.

HeraldSun

Famechon’s Welcome Home Parade

Famechon’s first title defense came against Japan’s Fighting Harada. They met in Sydney, Australia, on July 28, 1969.

At age 26, Harada was a battle-tested veteran. He previously held world titles at flyweight and bantamweight and would be remembered as the only man to defeat the great Brazilian boxer Eder Jofre, a feat he accomplished not once, but twice.

Only two boxers in history – Bob Fitzsimmons and Henry Armstrong – had won world titles in three of the eight classic weight divisions. Harada, who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, was bidding to become the third.

Team Harada insisted on a neutral referee. The British promoters chose Willie Pep. A legend in the sport, Pep had previously shared a ring with another Famechon, having out-pointed Johnny’s uncle Ray Famechon in a featherweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in 1950.

Some thought that Pep would favor Fighting Harada. American referees put a higher premium on aggression than did their foreign counterparts and Harada was a little buzzsaw who rarely took a backward step. But others thought that Pep’s selection favored Famechon, an elusive counterpuncher with whom the Connecticut “Will-‘o-Wisp” could identify; their styles were similar.

Pep had been the third man in the ring for four previous title fights, three in Jamaica and one in Brazil. But this fight would be different. He would be the sole arbiter. If the fight went the full 15 rounds, Willie Pep would be the judge and jury.

During the bout, Famechon scored one knockdown, sending Harada to the canvas in round five, but Harada scored three, knocking Famechon down in rounds two, 11, and 14. The last of the three knockdowns was the harshest, but Famechon made it to the final bell.

The fight ended in a clinch. Immediately upon separating the fighters, Pep raised both of their hands, a signal that the fight was a draw.

Fighting Harada’s handlers were outraged and demanded to see the scorecard. A policeman at ringside was empowered to give it a look-over (Australia had no boxing commission). What the policeman found was that there was indeed a discrepancy. However, it was the opposite of what Team Harada anticipated!

The fight was scored on the antiquated system whereby the winner of a round was awarded five points and the loser four points or less. In the case of an even round, both fighters got five points.

After 13 rounds, Fighting Harada had amassed 59 points on Pep’s card. He won the 14th round, giving him an aggregate total of 64 points. But when Pep added up the numbers “59” and “5” in the column where he kept the aggregate total, he came up with “65.”

Oops.

When Pep signaled that the fight was a draw, people stormed the ring from all sides. Newspaper reports said the belligerents were about evenly divided. Famechon, the Aussie, was the crowd favorite, but Fighting Harada was well-backed in the betting markets, a very big industry in Australia. Many were even angrier when Famechon was summoned back to the ring to have his hand raised.

The Famechon-Harada fight aired live on Japanese television. In Japan, there was a great outpouring of outrage. Pep had been instructed to score a round 5-4 if the round was narrow and 5-3 if there was a clear-cut winner. Despite the knockdowns, Pep scored every round 5-4 or 5-5. In the revised tally, he had Famechon winning 6-5-4 in rounds.

“Harada loses to referee” was the headline in Japan’s leading sports daily. Willie Pep made no friends in Australia either. There were shouts of “Yankee go home” as he left the ring.

Famechon and Harada met again five months later in Tokyo. One would assume that Fighting Harada proved superior and got a fair shake, winning the third title denied him in Sydney. But don’t assume.

Harada was well ahead after ten rounds but faded. On the deck in round 10, Famachon returned the favor three rounds later, knocking Harada down hard with a perfectly placed left hook. Harada was in dire straights when he came out for round 14 and Famechon put him away.

Harada never fought again and Famechon left the sport six months later after losing his crown to Vicente Saldivar. Johnny was only 25 years old, but had crammed 67 fights into a nine-year pro career and said enough is enough.

Famechon’s post-boxing life took a tragic turn in 1991 when he was hit by a car while out jogging on a Sydney highway. He spent several weeks in a coma and several years in a wheelchair but eventually recovered most of his motor skills and regained his speech to the point where he could serve as a boxing color commentator on television. In 2018, a larger-than- life statue of Famechon was unveiled at a public park in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston where he was a longtime resident.

For the record, Johnny Famechon finished his career with a record of 56-5-6 with 20 KOs. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to his loved ones.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Fast Results from Fort Worth Where Vergil Ortiz Jr Won His 19th Straight by KO

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In a match pushed back from March 19, Vergil Ortiz Jr moved one step closer to a mega-fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford or Errol Spence Jr or Boots Ennis with a ninth-round stoppage of England’s feather-fisted Michael McKinson. The end came 20 seconds into round nine when McKinson appeared to injure his knee as he fell to the canvas, an apparent residue of the body punch that put him on the deck late in the previous stanza. To that point, Ortiz had seemingly won every round.

It was the 19th win inside the distance in as many opportunities for Ortiz who resides in nearby Grand Prairie and was making his first start with new trainer Manny Robles. McKinson was undefeated heading in, but had scored only two knockouts while building his record to 22-0.

Ortiz, ranked #1 at welterweight by the WBA and the WBO, pulled out of the March 19 bout after being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder associated with over-training.

Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, says that Ortiz will fight the winner of Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford next assuming that the fight gets made, and if doesn’t get made, Ortiz’s next fight will be with one or the other. The WBA, which stamped tonight’s fight an eliminator, may push to have Ortiz fight their secondary title-holder, Eimantas Stanionis.

Co-Feature

Houston’s Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) successfully defended her WBA/WBC world flyweight title with a unanimous decision over plucky 4’11 ½” Venezuelan southpaw Eva Guzman who had won 14 straight coming in, albeit against soft opposition. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Guzman (19-2-1) was game, but just didn’t have the physical tools to overcome Esparza whose lone defeat came at the hands of talented Seneisa Estrada.

Other Fights of Note

In a 10-round match contested at the catchweight of 150 pounds, Blair “The Flair” Cobbs rebounded from his first defeat with a career-best performance, a wide decision over former WBO 140-pound world titlist Maurice Hooker. It was the second straight loss for Hooker who returned to the ring after a 17-month hiatus and came out flat. Cobbs put him on the canvas in the opening frame with a combination and decked him twice more with straight lefts in round two.

Things got somewhat dicey for Cobbs in round five when he suffered a bad gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt, but Hooker, who had stablemate Bud Crawford in his corner, hesitated to let his hands go and couldn’t reverse the tide. The judges had it 96-91 and 97-90 twice for the flamboyant Cobbs who improved to 16-1-1 (10). Hooker, a consensus 5/2 favorite, lost for the third time in his last five starts and slumped to 27-3-3.

In the opener to the main portion of the DAZN card, Uzbekistan’s Bektimir Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), a super middleweight growing into a light heavyweight, dominated and stopped overmatched Sladan Janjanin. Melikuziev put Janjanin down with a body punch in the opening minute of the fight and scored two more knockdowns before the bout was halted at the 2:18 mark of round three.

This was Melikuziev’s third fight back after his shocking one-punch annihilation by Gabriel Rosado. Janjanin, a well-traveled Bosnian who fought three weeks ago in Massachusetts, declined to 32-12 and was stopped for the eighth time.

Also

Chicago welterweight Alex Martin (18-4, 6 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia journeyman Henry Lundy. The judges had it an unexpectedly wide 98-91, 97-92, 97-92.

Martin was coming off a points loss to McKinson and this bout was his reward for taking that fight on short notice. Lundy (31-11-1) has lost five of his last seven.

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a lightweight who appears to have a big upside, advanced to 11-0 (9 KOs) at the expense of Mexican trial horse Rodrigo Guerrero whose corner wisely pulled him out after five one-sided rounds. It was the ninth straight loss for Guerrero (26-15).

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Conlan Wins His Belfast Homecoming; Breezes Past Lackadaisical Marriaga

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“The Return of the Mick” was the label attached to tonight’s show at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reference was to local fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan who returned to his hometown in hopes of jump-starting his career after suffering his first pro loss in a brutal encounter with Leigh Wood.

In that bout, a strong “Fight of the Year contender, Conlan was narrowly ahead on all three cards heading into the 12th and final round when the roof fell in. Wood, who was making the first defense of his WBA world featherweight title on his home turf in Nottingham, knocked the favored Conlan unconscious and clear out of the ring.

This was the sort of fight that can shorten a man’s career. Hence the intrigue in Conlan’s homecoming fight tonight against Miguel Marriaga. On paper, the Colombian, a three-time world title challenger, was a stern test considering the circumstances.

To the contrary, Marriaga had no fire in his belly until the final round when he hit Conlan with a shot that buckled his knees. But, by then Conlan was so far ahead without overly exerting himself that there was virtually no chance of another meltdown.

While Conlan won lopsidedly, the scores – 99-89 and 99-88 twice – were somewhat misleading. True, “Mick” had Marriaga on the deck in rounds 7, 8, and 9, but the punches that put him there did not look particularly hard.

Conlan, 30, improved to 17-1 (8). Marriaga, 35, declined to 30-6.

After the fight, Conlan expressed the hope that Leigh Wood would give him a rematch.

Other Bouts of Note

In an entertaining 10-round welterweight scrap that could have gone either way, Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) rebounded from his defeat in Dubai to Regis Prograis (TKO by 6) with a hard-fought unanimous decision over 33-year-old Welshman Chris Jenkins (23-6-3). The judges favored the local fighter by scores of 97-94 and 96-95 twice.

Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth title-holder, had the best of the early going, working the body effectively while frequently finding a home for his uppercut, but he could not sustain his advantage.

Thirty-four-year-old Belfast super middleweight Padraig McCrory who got a late start in boxing, scored the most important win of his career with a fifth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Periban, a former world title challenger. McCrory had Periban on the deck three times – once in the second and twice in the fifth – before the bout was halted at the 2:14 mark of round five.

It was the fourth straight win inside the distance for McCrory who improved to 14-0 (8 KOs). Mexico’s Periban, who returned to the sport in April after missing all of 2020 and 2021, fell to 26-6-1.

Highly-touted welterweight Paddy Donovan improved to 9-0 (6) with an 8-round unanimous decision over Yorkshireman Tom Hall (10-3). The referee scored every round for Donovan, an Irish Traveler trained by Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy Andy Lee, the former world middleweight title-holder.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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