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Hits and Misses from a Huge Boxing Weekend

Kelsey McCarson

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Boxing fans were treated to some very important fights over the last weekend in October.

The riveting action included the final of the 140-pound tournament in the World Boxing Super Series between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis, a battle between unbeaten 126-pounders Shakur Stevenson and Joet Gonzalez for the vacant WBO title, the continued rebuilding of 154-pound prospect Erickson Lubin, and a slew of other significant matchups.

But with three massive fight cards spread across DAZN, ESPN+ and SHOWTIME on Saturday, who among the many fighters in action scored the weekend’s biggest hits? And which ones ended up with the biggest misses?

Behold, here were the biggest hits and misses.

HIT: The Coronation of Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor’s coronation as the best junior welterweight in the world didn’t come easy.

In fact, Taylor had to use every ounce of his ability and pour himself out completely to seize the 140-pound throne by defeating Regis Prograis on Saturday night in London. Among the many spoils Taylor earned from outworking Prograis over 12 grueling rounds, perhaps the most important one (to go along with retaining his IBF title and nabbing the American’s WBA belt) was the Muhammad Ali trophy awarded to all WBSS tournament winners.

It’s not so much the hardware. Sure, the trophy is beautiful and also aptly named for one of the most accomplished fighters ever. But the most important aspect of the thing through one-and-a- half seasons of WBSS tournaments is how each trophy winner has gone on to experience amazing leaps in terms of career trajectories after winning it.

Both Callum Smith and Oleksandr Usyk have enjoyed the better parts of their professional fighting careers after winning the WBSS. Now Taylor has the chance to do the same thing.

MISS: DAZN’s Production Quality of Otherwise Great Content

There’s just something off about the production quality of DAZN’s WBSS presentations.

Without knowing the inner workings, the disjointedness of its production—especially in regards to the digital assets used between fights—seems to point to DAZN having been given those highlight reels by the entity that runs the tournament, Comosa AG.

The problem with that model, or whatever process actually exists, is that there’s been a steep drop in quality from standard DAZN boxing shows to the WBSS shows. It really shouldn’t be that way. In fact, the WBSS has proven itself to be so vitally important in the sport in such a short amount of time, that it’s almost as if the opposite should be true: the production of a WBSS event should be among the best in the sport.

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, it has the appearance of one of those second-rate cards that have become the norm in this age of unlimited over-the-top streaming platforms showing fights that would have otherwise gone unseen under the previous model.

Whatever has to happen to get that corrected needs to happen now. There’s no reason such a huge event should look so paltry on fight night.

HIT: Shakur Stevenson’s Status as Future Pound-for-Pound King

Shakur Stevenson was supposedly in a blood-feud with Joet Gonzalez over having dated that fighter’s sister for the last three years without the approval of the Gonzalez family. That was the promotional angle for the Stevenson-Gonzalez bout in Reno, though on paper it didn’t really need that kind of WWE-type treatment because both Stevenson and Gonzalez were undefeated prospects who many envisioned having stalwart professional careers.

But Stevenson completely dismantled Gonzalez in such a way that it didn’t just prove he was one of the better young fighters in all of boxing. Rather, by the end of the fight, it was clear that Stevenson was on his way to perennially appearing on pound-for-pound lists. Just 22 years old, the former Olympic medalist is now the WBO featherweight champion and is already calling out the likes of IBF titleholder Josh Warrington for unification.

While Stevenson is still a work in progress, it’s not hard to envision him growing into a generational talent. His stalwart defense is reminiscent of a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his ice-cold ability to keep his emotions in check over the course of 12 full rounds in the face of a pretty strange circumstance indicates he has all the tools to become something really special.

MISS: The Exploitation of the Gonzalez Family Feud

Admittedly, I hit the full range of judgments and emotions when I was first presented with the promotional angle used for Stevenson-Gonzalez. Perhaps it was just me, but the first idea I had about the whole thing was that it was silly, exploitive and the type of thing that I understand makes sense from a promotional perspective but still hate anyway.

But then I noticed I was thinking about the fight a lot more than I did before I learned that the two fighters hated each other over Stevenson dating Gonzalez’s sister.  So, by the time the fight was about to start on Saturday night on ESPN+, I was all about completely immersing myself in the presented storyline.

But as the event unfolded, I couldn’t help but feel icky inside. Here was a real family locked in some serious turmoil by events that began long before these two fighters were ever in the position to face each other for a world title. Whatever happened in the ring wasn’t going to change any of that. This wasn’t just some storyline that’s sole purpose was my entertainment. These were broken relationships that no one outside the people involved ever really needed to know about.

To that end, let’s hope we don’t get any more of these type promotions in the future. There’s no need to exploit life’s harder parts in a sport that’s already filled to the brim of numerous heartbreaks and tragedies.

HIT: Dereck’s Chisora’s Plan to Fight Oleksandr Usyk

Dereck Chisora scored a highlight-reel knockout over David Price in the fourth round in the co-main of the Prograis-Taylor card in London.

Chisora never made it to the top of the heavyweight heap, but it’s been a joy to see him keep trying to scale the mountain anyway. The 35-year-old is a mainstay on the British boxing scene, and he’s really upped his game in recent years after linking up with former rival turned promoter David Haye.

While he tends to go overboard with self-promotion antics outside the ring, inside the ring he’s a hustling big man who always brings the action and consistently throws bombs. There aren’t many of those types in the sport, and it’s a good bet that anyone hoping to climb to the top of heavyweight division would be wise in first testing their mettle against Chisora.

After the win, Chisora said he wanted to fight Oleksandr Usyk next. That would be the perfect test for the former undisputed cruiserweight champion who just scored his first win at heavyweight over Chazz Witherspoon last month.

And Chisora isn’t the type to show up for a paycheck. He’s the type who would do everything in his power to wreck Usyk’s plans and grab that long-awaited world title shot for himself instead.

MISS: Joshua Greer’s Lack of Urgency About Getting Better

Joshua Greer’s gimmick is to bring a pillow to his fights for when he puts his opponent to sleep, but over the last few outings, it seems more like he should bring pillows for everyone else in attendance.

The 24-year-old bantamweight prospect seems to have a lot of talent, but having talent only implies the potential to do great things. It’s one thing to be able to do something. It’s entirely another thing to actually do it.

Greer has a wonderful backstory. Like many in the sport, he came out of some really tough circumstances that he says helped him realize just how precarious life can be. It’s hard not to root for a guy like that to be successful.

But after seeing him struggle to earn a close decision win over part-time fighter Antonio Nieves on Saturday in Reno just a few months after escaping with a majority decision over Nikolai Potapov, one wonders if Greer fully understands how important it is to continually get better.

His post-fight comments to ESPN’s Mark Kriegel suggest he doesn’t.

“At the end of the day, all I do is win,” said Greer.

No, Mr. Greer. All you do right now is escape with wins against lackluster opponents that future world champions should dominate.

HIT: The Continued Resiliency of Erickson Lubin

Lubin came up in the sport as an amateur prodigy who skipped trying to make the 2016 Olympic team so he could sign a promotional deal with Mike Tyson’s quickly defunct Iron Mike Productions. That didn’t work out and Lubin ended up fighting under Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions banner where he quickly made a name for himself as a legitimate junior middleweight prospect.

But Lubin’s world title hopes were dashed by then WBC champion Jermell Charlo in 2017 via one-punch knockout. After suffering such a devastating loss in the first round of his first world title opportunity, it might have been easy for Lubin to slip into self-pity and despair. Instead, Lubin simply went back to work and has now won four straight fights including his unanimous decision win over the hard-hitting Nathaniel Gallimore on Saturday night in Reading. PA.

Now, Lubin is right back to where he was before the Charlo loss. He’s a young prospect with lots of potential, and one who is again eager for his chance to win a world title.

It takes a considerable amount of resiliency to be humiliated like Lubin was on the national stage against Charlo and not let it affect one’s personal belief. Congrats to Lubin for climbing out of a difficult circumstance to take another run at his dream.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonder what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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