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Nigel Benn’s Ill-Advised Comeback is Yet Another Bad Look for Boxing

Ted Sares

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On November 23 in Birmingham, England, 55-year-old Nigel Benn (42-5-1, 35 KOs), will face 40-year-old Sakio Bika (34-7-3, 22 KOs), the former WBC super-middleweight champion from Australia by way of Cameroon. Nigel (pictured with his son Conor Benn, a 15-0 welterweight) is in good shape both physically and mentally and is a Born Again, but none of that matters when fighting a much younger roughhousing guy like Bika. This fight, licensed by the British and Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA), should never have been sanctioned.

Ill-advised comebacks are just that, ill advised. Sugar Ray Leonard, Alexis Arguello, “Little Red” Lopez, Razor Ruddock, Fitz Vanderpool, Ricky Hatton, David Tua, Gerry Cooney, Bert Cooper, Greg Page, Corrie Sanders, Ali, and Earnie Shavers found this out the hard way. But suddenly ill-advised comebacks seem to be metastasizing.

“At 35, I was good as ever; same with 45. But after 49-55, no injuries healed. Slaps on the head Caused confusion. So I said no more boxing……” -George Foreman

“A fighter never knows when it’s the last bell. He doesn’t want to face that.”-Sugar Ray Leonard

The Rain Man

Ray Austin, 48, is still fighting and still losing. After a promising start way back in 1996, he came a cropper against Wlad Klitschko in 2007 and it has been all downhill after that. He has lost six of his last seven albeit against stiff opposition. It’s time for Ray to get out of the rain.

The Atomic Bull

Oliver McCall unwisely decided to get back in the ring at the ripe old age of 53 and has shockingly won two bouts—one in 2018 against Larry Knight (3-20-1) and one this past June against Hugo Lomeli (21-14-1). While his record is 59-14, given his past issues outside of the ring, McCall, now 54, should not be anywhere near a boxing match. There are some who see him as unstable and in possible need of an interdiction.

McCall says, “I know I will stop Tyson [Fury] with body shots which will make his liver quiver and his whole body shiver…The major motivation for me is that I just love the sport of boxing…I want to make history.”

The Southern Disaster

Dominick Guinn, like McCall, has an iron jaw and remains very active but he now loses more than he wins. He also fights just about everywhere in the world. At 44, however, he is flirting with his own “disaster” and he needs to reconsider this line of work, especially given the very high level of his opposition.

Tank

Sherman Williams (42-15-2), another road warrior, has won five straight against fair to middling opposition. He too has the granite chin that seems to be at least part of the reason why these elders last so long (Saoul Mamby being a prime example of this). But that can have a nasty flip side. At any rate, if The Tank quits now, he could nicely bookend his career.

Brixton Bomber

Danny Williams once knocked out Mike Tyson. Now the 46-year-old is fighting wherever he can get a license and going up against men like Martin Stansky (3-42) for something called the Global Boxing Federation World Heavyweight Title. He also beat 42-year-old Pavel Siska who has lost 33 in a row, the great majority by stoppage. When Danny beat Iron Mike, his record was 31-3; now it’s 53-28. The once rock-solid fighter from the UK is now an accident waiting to happen.

The Man

Anthony Mundine is 44; he is scheduled to fight 43-year-old John Wayne Parr in November. All well and good, but Parr’s last fight was against Sakio Bika in 2003. This one has a side-show attraction.

The King

Likable good-guy Sam Soliman is 45 and still fighting. He beat Mark Lucas in April 2019 for a fringe middleweight title, but he needs to get out. He’s too nice of a bloke to stay in the game and risk a humiliation; that is, unless he can find someone even older to fight.

The White Wolf

Meanwhile, shopworn 43-year-old Siarhei Liakhovich is howling like a wolf and saying he wants to come back. “I am very serious about my comeback,” he said. “I’m looking forward to get what I got before: A title.” This comes six years after being KO’d by Deontay Wilder, a knockout that resembled someone being tasered as the White Wolf’s body twitched disturbingly. (Liakhovich defeated Dominick Guinn in 2004. Perhaps they can rematch and then both retire.)

Alexander The Great

Russia’s Alexander Ustinov, closing in on 43, appears useful as a gatekeeper for up and coming heavyweights, as had been true of Maurice Harris, 43, who hasn’t fought since July of last year and may have finally retired. Harris was stopped in the opening round in each of his last three fights and hopefully has seen the light.

The Real Deal

Even 56-year-old Evander Holyfield, emboldened by some sparring,  plans returning to the ring next year for a charity event in Japan. The details are still developing.

While boxing is not going anywhere soon, it doesn’t need side show attractions or money grabbing exhibitions in Japan.

There are many others who need to get out and/or not come back.

The Vacillating Nature of Boxing Fans.

Fans are becoming hyper-fickle of late, or so it seems, and this has added to the current cynicism. For example:

GGG in tough and “drama”tic fight   –now he’s a loser.
Fury gets sliced up                                –now he’s a loser.
Spence wins close one                          –now he’s a loser
Joshua is upset                                      –now he’s a loser

The Shields Affair

Finally, the Claressa Shields vs. Ivana Habazin WBO and WBC 154-pound world title fight was cancelled following a bloody altercation prior to the official weigh-in that resulted in an injury to Habazin’s trainer James Ali Bashir (not to be confused with former boxer Bash Ali), a troubling incident that continues to play out in the news.

Recently, there have been a number of things that have come off that have hurt the image of boxing; the assault of James Ali Bashir was merely the latest. Boxing goes through these stages from time to time and maybe it’s an inherent part of the business, but when incidents and proposed events play with the health of the participants, the tolerance threshold needs to come down. Let’s hope things start to move in a more positive direction.

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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HITS and MISSES: Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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It was another massive weekend in boxing. There were big fights on pay-per-view that maybe shouldn’t have been so big, and fights surrounded by lesser fanfare that will probably be looked back at as the more meaningful action by future historians.

Here are the biggest HITS and MISSES from another week on the boxing beat.

HIT: Mike Tyson, Roy Jones and the Unifying Power of Boxing

Whatever you think about the boxing exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. on Saturday night, the most important aspect of the whole night (to this writer at least) was seeing how easily a big fight in boxing could still unify our culture.

No, it wasn’t a legitimate prizefight, but people still wanted to see the 54-year-old Tyson go a few rounds with the 51-year-old Jones, and that’s exactly what they got. It was a ride built mostly around the power of nostalgia, and it featured all sorts of present-day celebrities, too.

By the end of things, it seemed the general reaction to the event on social media was positive.

Tyson vs. Jones showed how big a reach boxing still has. Tyson retired over 15 years ago, but people from all over the planet were still willing to pay $50 to watch him climb inside the ropes for a sparring session.

Seeing that left me with two exciting questions.

What awesome power will boxing’s next superstar have?

More importantly, where is he (or she) anyway?

MISS: Ring Announcer’s Steve Harvey Moment 

In 2015, comedian Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant. As humiliating as that event was for Harvey, just imagine how the two women felt after having their hearts filled and slashed by his error.

That same thing sort of happened on Friday night when Danny Jacobs beat Gabriel Rosado via split decision in a 168-pound stay-busy fight streamed by DAZN.

Ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos accidentally said the winner hailed from Philadelphia (where Rosado is from) before quickly changing it back to Brooklyn (where Jacobs is from).

So momentarily, the hard-luck Rosado, who never has been the beneficiary of a close decision in any important fight, thought he had just pulled off the upset of the year.

Instead, Jacobs was corrected as the winner and that had to be an awful experience for both fighters, one that was completely avoidable.

HIT: Joe Joyce: An Actual Juggernaut?

Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce is a popular fighter on the other side of the ocean because of his long and successful campaign as an amateur boxing star which culminated with Joyce winning the silver medal for Great Britain in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Still, as a professional prospect, there are lots of things not to like about Joyce. First, Joyce didn’t start boxing until he was 22. Late bloomers come around now and then, but they’re still a rarity in the sport. Second, Joyce is already 35, which means he’s already just outside the confines of his theoretical physical prime, something that ends around 33 years old and only gets worse. Finally, Joyce is just plain slow as molasses.

Regardless, Joyce stopped fellow Brit Daniel Dubois on Saturday in London.

Unlike Joyce, Dubois, 23, possesses plenty of attributes one looks for in a future world champion. But none of those things helped Dubois win the fight.

All this to say Joyce just keeps winning fights. Sure, he might appear to be a boulder tumbling slowly down a hill when he fights, but that rock is starting to gain some real momentum.

HIT: 54-1

Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin finally lost a fight over the weekend, but it should be noted that at least the fighter finally knows his limits.

Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) entered his fight against Petchmanee CP Freshmart (aka Panya Pradabsri) with a sterling record of 54-0. He left the contest 54-1 after judges rendered their verdict for the challenger.

Much was made of Menayothin’s glossy win streak last year when he surpassed retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 mark. But a combat sports culture obsessed with suffering no blemishes on a record is only a relatively new phenomenon. Moreover, the very nature of that path through the sport never reveals the true limits of a fighter.

All this to say that Menayothin now gets a better sense of his limits, and the boxing world as a whole gets to know that same thing about him, too. That’s wildly better than the alternative.

MISS: Nate Robinson Challenge

If you missed the Tyson vs. Jones pay-per-view event on Triller over the weekend, you didn’t see social media star Jake Paul’s viral knockout of ex-NBA star Nate Robinson.

It was clear from the start of the fight that Paul and Robinson weren’t evenly matched. That kind of thing happens all the time in boxing, of course, but here was a case of a person (Robinson) who maybe had been so mismatched against Paul that it was too dangerous to have happened at all.

Regardless, Robinson did have the courage to train for the fight and step inside the ropes on fight night.

After he was knocked out, something called the “Nate Robinson Challenge” started trending on Twitter, and it was basically people from all over the world trolling the 3-time NBA dunking champ for getting knocked out in the fight.

Look, Robinson made his own bed by calling for the fight in the first place. But the Internet trolls that rag people for stepping outside their comfort zones probably would never dare to attempt that accomplishment themselves.

Robinson tried and failed. That’s the real challenge.

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Tyson and Jones Box to an Unofficial Draw in a Predictable Stinker

Arne K. Lang

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American institution, went belly-up in 2017, but a different kind of circus played to an empty house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight. The main attraction wasn’t Jumbo the elephant but Iron Mike Tyson in his first ring appearance in 15 years. In the opposite corner was Roy Jones Jr, who at age 51 was the younger man by three years.

Tyson vs. Jones was the main piece of a 4-hour boxing and music festival live-streamed in the U.S. on the TysononTriller.com app at a list price of $49.95. This was the first live event on “Triller” which allows people to create their own music videos and was designed as a rival to China-owned TikTok, one of the biggest recent success stories in the internet world.

The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the match, insisted that Tyson vs. Jones would be an exhibition. They would fight 8 two-minute rounds with 12-ounce gloves and if there were a knockdown, the referee would not give a count and the bout would or would not continue at his discretion. The rounds would not be scored and no winner would be named.

Of course, the promoter chafed at these restraints and did his best to create the impression that this was a legitimate prizefight. Retired boxers Vinny Pazienza, Chad Dawson, and Christy Martin were lassoed to serve as judges, scoring the fight from a remote location, and the WBC commissioned an honorary belt to present to the winner.

The advance hype was enormous. A clickbait-obsessed media lapped it up including photoshop-enhanced images of Mike Tyson’s physique.

In the second round, Tyson landed a double left hook and that was the only indelible moment in the match. By the third round, both looked and sounded tired and by the sixth round Jones was thoroughly gassed out and took to clinching to make it to the final bell.

For the record, the scores were 79-73 for Tyson (Martin), 80-76 for Jones (Pazienza), and 76-76 (Dawson). On the internet, the clear consensus was that Tyson had the best of it.

Mike Tyson, 50-6, 2 NC (44 KOs) last fought in June of 2005 when he was stopped by third-rater Kevin McBride. Roy Jones (66-9, 47 KOs) was active as recently as 2018 and won his last four, but against hand-picked opponents including a boxer making his pro debut. His last fight of significance came in 2011 when he was brutally KOed by Dennis Lebedev in Moscow.

Jones, who weighed 210 ½ tonight, weighed 157 when he made his pro debut in 1989. In his prime, he was pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, but that was back in the previous century.

Both fighters were reportedly guaranteed $1 million with Tyson’s take potentially reaching $10 million if certain financial targets were met.

Other Bouts

YouTube sensation Jake Paul, who we reluctantly concede has more than a modicum of talent in the fisticuffing department, knocked out Nate Robinson in the second round and it was a clean knockout with Robinson knocked out cold. The 36-year-old Robinson, the former NBA point guard who was a three-time slam dunk champion during his 11-year NBA career, is a well-rounded athlete, good enough to start as a cornerback in football during his freshman year at the University of Washington, but his athleticism didn’t translate to the squared circle as he looked like a common bar brawler.

Former two-division belt-holder Badou Jack (22-3-4), who said he appeared on the card as a favor to his friend Mike Tyson, was a clear-cut winner over hard-trying but out-classed Blake McKernan in an 8-round cruiserweight match.

At age 37, Jack’s career is winding down. He tipped the scales at 188 ¾, 14 pounds more than in his previous engagement vs. Jean Pascal. McKernan, a natural cruiserweight from Sacramento, was undefeated coming in (13-0), but was in over his head against Jack, a former Olympian and veteran of seven world title fights.

In a good action fight, Worcester, Massachusetts lightweight Jamaine Ortiz, a carpenter by trade, improved to 14-0 (8) with a seventh-round stoppage of Sulaiman Segawa (13-3-1), a Maryland-based Ugandan.

In the first bout on the program, Fort Worth featherweight Edward Vazquez improved to 9-0 (1) with an 8-round split decision over Jamaine Ortiz stablemate Irvin Gonzalez (14-3).

Heavyweight Juiseppe “Joe” Cusumano improved to 19-3 (17) with a sixth-round stoppage of late sub Gregory Corbin (15-4). It was the fourth straight loss for the 40-year-old Corbin who came in at a beefy 291 ¾ pounds.

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Fast Results from London: Joe Joyce Stops Daniel Dubois in the 10th

Arne K. Lang

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The historic Church House which sits in the shadow of Westminster Abbey was the site of tonight’s clash in London between unbeaten heavyweights Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce. The bout lacked the gloss of a world title fight, but didn’t need it. The oft-postponed match, originally slated for the 02 Arena in London on April 11 with promoter Frank Warren anticipating a sellout, was fairly hyped as the most anticipated fight since Fury-Wilder II which was the last big fight before the coronavirus clampdown.

Dubois, 15-0 with 14 KOs heading in, was a consensus 7/2 favorite in man-to-man betting, He was younger, faster and punched harder, but ultimately it would be his “O” that had to go. Joe Joyce, an inch taller at six-foot-six and 15 pounds heavier at 259, emerged victorious with a 10th-round stoppage in what was a good back-and-forth fight with a divided opinion as to who had the edge through the completed rounds.

Joyce really didn’t do much but throw a jab, but he landed that jab consistently and it was a hard, thudding jab that caused Dubois’s left eye to start swelling during the mid-rounds of the fight. The damaged eye eventually shut and when Joyce reached it with another hard jab in the 10th, Dubois surrendered by taking a knee. The presumption was that he had suffered a broken orbital bone.

The 35-year-old Joyce, nicknamed Juggernaut, is of Scotch-Irish and Nigerian descent. He lost by split decision to Tony Yoka in the semifinals of the 2016 Olympics and had to settle for a silver medal. Prior to turning pro, he was 12-1 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing with his lone defeat coming at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk. With today’s career-defining win, he upped his pro ledger to 12-0 (11).

Other Bouts

Top-rated WBC super lightweight contender Jack Catterall (26-0) won a predictably one-sided 10-round triumph over 33-year-old Tunisian Abderrazak Houya (14-3). Catterall scored two knockdowns en route to winning by a 99-90 score. This was a stay-busy fight for the Lancashire man who was the mandatory challenger for title-holder Jose Carlos Ramirez and accepted step-aside money with the promise that he would meet the winner of the unification fight between Ramirez and Josh Taylor which is expected to come off in February.

The lead-in fight was a 10-round contest in the super welterweight division between 21-year-old Hamzah Sheeraz and 33-year-old Guido Nicolas Pitto. The fight was monotonous until Sheeraz (12-0, 8 KOs) kicked it into a higher career in the final stanza and brought about the stoppage. Pitto, from Spain by way of Argentina, declined to 26-8-2. The official time was 1:11 of round 10.

In an 8-round cruiserweight bout, Jack Massey improved to 17-1 (8) with a 79-74 referee’s decision over Mohammad Ali Farid (16-2-1). Massey was making his first start since losing a close 12-round decision to Richard Raikporhe in December of 2019 for the vacant BBBofC title. The well-traveled, one-dimensional Farid had scored 16 knockouts in his previous 18 fights while answering the bell for only 33 rounds.

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