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Canelo’s Fate May Rest in the Hands of a Bolivian Soccer Guy

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Canelo’s Fate May Rest in the Hands of a Bolivian Soccer Guy

His name is Munir Somoya and, for now, he’s the least-known member of Team Canelo. But Somoya’s relative anonymity could well receive a major upgrade should Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs), making the always-risky two-division jump up from middleweight to light heavyweight for Saturday night’s DAZN-streamed challenge of WBO 175-pound champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs), win as impressively as, say, Michael Spinks did when he dethroned Larry Holmes, or Roy Jones Jr. did when he took down the much larger John Ruiz, or Bernard Hopkins did when he schooled Antonio Tarver.

The aforementioned champions, all of whom have been or soon will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Hopkins likely will be enshrined on June 14, 2020, and Jones is a mortal lock for the Class of 2022), successfully moved up two weight classes to win fights that history and their natural physical dimensions suggested might have represented an attempt to go a bridge too far. So, what did the Spinks Jinx, RJJ and B-Hop have in common? Their regular training regimens for those watershed matches were augmented by the addition to their corner teams of Mackie Shilstone, the now-celebrated New Orleans-based fitness expert whose methods once were deemed to be so untraditional as to be almost revolutionary. But there is no arguing with success; to a man, Spinks, Jones and Hopkins are effusive in their praise for the 69-year-old Shilstone, who KO magazine once named as one of the 50 most influential figures in boxing history.

Shilstone, who is not involved with Alvarez, also has a onetime boxing client list that includes Hall of Famer Riddick Bowe and future Hall of Famer Andre Ward (eligible for induction in 2021). Perhaps to demonstrate that he can take pounds off as sensibly as he helps to put them on, he oversaw the frequently flabby Bowe’s paring down from 272 to 235 for the first of his three confrontations with Evander Holyfield, in which the no-quite-as-large “Big Daddy” seized the WBA, IBF and WBC belts on a 15-round unanimous decision on Nov. 13, 1992.

It was Spinks’ upset of Holmes, who was attempting to match Rocky Marciano’s legendary record of 49-0, that made Shilstone something of a trailblazer in the field of nutrition and physiology, a reputation which over time he would go on to buff and polish to a sparkly sheen. But boxing represented only a small portion of Shilstone’s fitness empire. Over the past 30-plus years he has helped whip into supreme condition such other legendary athletes as tennis’ Serena Williams, football’s Peyton Manning, baseball’s Ozzie Smith and basketball’s Ralph Sampson and Manute Bol, scrawny skyscrapers who even more than any of Shilstone’s fighters needed all the help they could get in gaining weight the proper way.

“Their caloric machine is always in overdrive,” Shilstone once said of working with the 7-foot-4 Sampson and 7-7 Bol. “It’s like pumping blood up an elevator shaft.”

So what does Somoya have in common with Shilstone? Maybe nothing. And maybe quite a bit, as he is playing the role of a Shilstone equivalent for Alvarez, who is giving away four inches in height (he’s 5-8 to Kovalev’s 6-foot) and two inches in reach (Kovalev’s in 72½ inches to Canelo’s 70½). What may prove more consequential is that Kovalev has always been a light heavyweight, one who conceivably might have done what Alvarez is now attempting to do by bulking up to cruiserweight or possibly even heavyweight, as the undisputed light heavyweight titlist Spinks, with Shilstone’s assistance, did for Holmes. Alvarez, on the other hand, began his career as a junior welterweight. He was just 139 pounds for his pro debut, a fourth-round stoppage of Abraham Gonzalez on Oct. 29, 2005, although that bout took place when Canelo was just 15 years old. The precocious adolescent was in the 140s for his next 12 bouts, and 20 of his first 21 overall until he filled out to welterweight on the way up to junior middleweight and middleweight. The heaviest he has ever weighed for any professional outing was 167¼ for his third-round technical knockout of WBA “regular” super middleweight champ Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15, 2018, a massacre in which the Briton was floored four times. No one, however, is apt to equate the always-dangerous Kovalev with the out-of-his-league Fielding.

As TSS contributor Matt McGrain has noted, middleweight champions, even Hall of Fame-caliber ones, have a spotty record when diving into choppy light heavyweight waters. A highly accomplished Shilstone alumnus, Andre Ward, might be correct in opining that the 37-year-old Kovalev, a 4-1 underdog who is 0-2 against Ward, is “no longer `The Krusher,’ he’s simply Sergey Kovalev,” but even a lesser version of the hard-hitting Russian who routinely belted out opponents much larger than Canelo figures to have enough of a power advantage to pose a constant threat to detonate a bomb on the Mexican superstar’s jaw. It’s a fairly safe bet that Alvarez, upon making the 175-pound limit for the weigh-in, won’t come in much higher than that on fight night. It’s also a fairly safe bet that Kovalev could rehydrate into the mid- to high-180s, or possibly even a bit north of that, further accentuating the size difference between the two men.

All of which makes Somoya, a Bolivian whose expertise mostly had been confined to working with soccer players in his home country, a bit of a wild card given his shadowy function as a sort of Shilstone equivalent. Although Shilstone’s methods were considered unorthodox when he first made his mark in boxing with Spinks, and were viewed with some suspicion by Spinks’ old-school trainer Eddie Futch, not much about the Somoya plan has garnered media attention, even though this is Somoya’s second time around with Canelo. The first came when he was brought aboard by Alvarez for his winning May 4 middleweight defense against Daniel Jacobs, which was hardly a walk in the park for the victor.

Unlike Spinks’ preparations for his first go at Holmes, in which Shilstone’s mad-scientist experiments – he had the challenger doing interval sprints instead of long jogs, among other innovations – were a fascinating subject to reporters 34-plus years ago, Somoya is just … there. Canelo hasn’t mentioned him often, and neither has his principal trainer, Eddy Reynoso. Even Eric Gomez, president of Canelo’s promotional company, Golden Boy, seemingly has only a vague notion as to what Somoya does.

“I’ve met the guy,” Gomez said of Somoya. “He has some sort of soccer background. I think he has a strategy and a plan, like he did for Jacobs. But not all fights are the same. I just know Canelo feels comfortable with him.”

Not surprisingly, Gomez does not view his guy as being too undersized, to cite an analogy used by trainer Teddy Atlas prior to the recent light heavyweight unification showdown of Atlas’ fighter, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, and Artur Beterbiev, as a piranha going up against a shark. As things turned out, Gvozdyk, the perceived piranha, didn’t have teeth large enough to out-chomp Beterbiev’s voracious shark.

“What people don’t realize is that Canelo’s a big kid,” Gomez said. “He’s like (Mike) Tyson, a tank. He has big, strong legs, big shoulders, a big back.”

But while other members of Team Canelo aren’t revealing any of Somoya’s secrets, whatever they are, leave it to Golden Boy executive and Shilstone fan Bernard Hopkins to offer his thoughts on a fight that is of massive consequence to the boxing industry, given Alvarez’s position as the highest-paid (the Kovalev fight is the third in his 11-bout, five-year, $365 million deal with DAZN) drawing card in the sport. Beating the bigger man, and especially if done in an emphatic fashion, makes Alvarez add the designation of giant-killer to his commendable portfolio. A loss doesn’t necessarily make him severely damaged goods, but it almost certainly would result in his moving down to super middle or, more likely, a more familiar comfort zone at 160.

“Canelo’s not the tallest light heavyweight, but you don’t have to be in order to be effective at 175,” said Hopkins, who reigned for extended periods at both middleweight and light heavy, with a wide points loss to Kovalev. “When I look at Canelo I think of the `Camden Buzzsaw,’ Dwight Muhammad Qawi, who was built kind of similar, wide and stocky. Yeah, Kovalev has advantages in height and range, but there are ways for a shorter fighter to neutralize that, especially if the shorter fighter has Canelo’s talent.”

Although Gomez said it will be up to Alvarez to decide which weight class he chooses to campaign in should he defeat Kovalev, Hopkins figures the most logical course would be for this fight to be a one-and-done before Canelo slims back down to middleweight and a more appealing variety of opponents that can be easily sold to the public by DAZN.

“The great thing about the middleweight division is that it’s loaded, maybe more than it’s been in the last 10 or 15 years,” Hopkins said. “Even if Canelo wins on Nov. 2, what’s his choice going to be? I don’t think 175 is that deep. I mean, Beterbiev is impressive and dangerous, but who really knows him? I see light heavyweight as a stopover for Canelo.

“I want Canelo to be undisputed (champion at middleweight). He can grab that IBF title that got stripped from him (and is now held by familiar foe Gennadiy Golovkin, against whom Alvarez is 1-0-1). There’s Demetrius Andrade (the WBO middleweight ruler), and the Charlo twins (Jermall holds a version of the WBC middleweight crown and Jermell is the WBC’s No. 1 contender at junior middleweight).

“Ultimately, Canelo’s body is going to tell him what to do to some extent, but you have to look at what matches are out there for him as well. I don’t think there’s as many big names at super middle, which is why he jumped over 168 and went straight to 175. DAZN is paying him a lot of money, so those people are going to want him to take the biggest fights at whichever weight he chooses to fight at because the fans are going to demand that.”

All of which begs one question, and maybe two. Will a victory over Kovalev suddenly make Munir Somoya a hot property, as Spinks’ upset of Holmes did for Shilstone? And would Somoya still have a place with Canelo if, should he elect to go back down to middleweight, he has to sensibly take off the weight he put on for Kovalev?

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 287: Boxing Wars on Tap in Philadelphia and Las Vegas

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Those boxing wars continue.

Rival promoters battle it out in America as Matchroom Boxing shows off its newest prize Jaron Ennis while Top Rank presents a world title fight in the middleweight division.

Take your pick. Both are scintillating.

Philadelphia’s Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) makes his promotional debut for the British boxing promotion company and faces David Avanesyan (30-4, 18 KOs) for the IBF welterweight world title on Saturday June 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s been a year since Ennis last fought and meanwhile he was bestowed the IBF title without throwing a punch. He earns it on Saturday.

“Having this time off isn’t going to affect me at all. I just want to get back in the ring,” said Ennis whose last fight was a knockout win over Roiman Villa back on July 8, 2023.

A promotional war ensued for the right to sign Ennis. Matchroom Boxing was the winner and they’re itching to showcase one of the most talked-about welterweights to come along since Sugar Ray Leonard.

Avanesyan was selected to replace original opponent Cody Crowley who was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. The Armenian fighter has upset a few in his career including Sugar Shane Mosley and England’s Josh Kelly a few years back.

He’s not shy.

“I think that this is a 50-50 fight. He’s younger, He’s strong, it’s a very good fight,” said Avanesyan who lives in the United Kingdom.

Ennis had no qualms about facing a veteran like Avanesyan.

“It’s a better fight than Cody Crowley but I’ll beat him up, break him down and get the knockout,” Ennis said.

For the past several years boxing experts have been crowing about the Philadelphia prizefighter’s immense talent. On Saturday in front of a hometown crowd he continues the journey toward stardom.

Also, on the same card female WBC featherweight titlist Skye Nicolson (10-0) defends against Dominican stalwart Dyana Vargas (19-1). The Aussie southpaw makes her first real world title defense.

Las Vegas

IBF and WBO middleweight titlist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0, 10 KOs) defends against Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday July 13, at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank boxing card.

Its Kazakhstan versus Russia as Alimkhanuly continues the middleweight tradition established by his countryman Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Can he continue to dominate?

Alimkhanuly, 31, is a southpaw slugger and still learning how to corral a moving target. But he has power and shouldn’t have a problem finding Mikhailovich who packs power too.

Mikhailovich, 26, fights out of New Zealand but has never had a professional fight outside of the island nation. Will he be able to ignore the glitter of Las Vegas?

Also, Southern California’s Ray Muratalla (20-0, 16 KOs) faces former super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (33-5-1, 8 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for 10 rounds.

It’s another step-up fight for Muratalla who had a four-fight knockout streak snapped in his last fight against South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni this past March. It won’t get any easier against speedy Farmer.

Golden Boy and 360 Promotions

Tickets are available for the super welterweight showdown between Vergil Ortiz and Serhii Bohachuk that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

A press conference was held today at the Golden Boy headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Both fighters were present to kick off the promotion that will feature the two fighters with almost 100 percent knockout rate.

Ortiz has won every fight by knockout. Bohachuk’s last fight ended in a win and was the first time he didn’t obtain a victory by knockout. But the Ukrainian fighter did pick up the interim WBC title with the win over Brian Mendoza who previously had knocked out current champion Sebastian Fundora.

Both Bohachuk and Ortiz train in Southern California.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Nelson Hysa (17-0) vs Thorsten Fuchs (13-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jaron Ennis (31-0) vs David Avanesyan (30-4-1); Skye Nicolson (10-0) vs Dyana Vargas (19-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 8 p.m. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0) vs Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0); Ray Muratalla (20-0) vs Tevin Farmer (33-5-1).

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

There’s a church in Arizona that has its own motto: “A church that cares where you’re going and not where you’ve been.” It’s the catchline of The Rock, a non-denominational Christian church in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

That phrase undoubtedly resonates with Trevor McCumby, a member of the congregation. “I’ve been to some dark places,” says McCumby who was working at a 7-11-style convenience store a few years ago and now finds himself on the cusp of some big paydays in the sweet science.

If McCumby’s name rings a bell, it likely relates to something that had its genesis on Nov. 26, 2016, when he knocked out Donovan George in the opening round on a card in Las Vegas.

The result was changed to “no contest” when traces of two banned substances were discovered in McCumby’s pre-fight urine specimen. Also, McCumby acknowledged receiving an intravenous infusion to rehydrate after the weigh-in which was against the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

It wasn’t until July of the following year when McCumby learned his fate. The boxing commission suspended him for 18 months, retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and fined him $3,750.

He maintains that he never knowingly took a PED. He pointed the blame at a multi-vitamin supplement allegedly contaminated with anabolic agents. (Trevor’s advice to his fellow boxers: If using a supplement, save the receipt and keep the empty container; it may come in useful someday.)

McCumby quit boxing at this juncture but returned in 2018 and recorded two more wins, pushing his record to 25-0 with 17 knockouts. Eleven of those kayos came in the opening round and that doesn’t include his demolition of Donovan George which effectively never happened.

And then, Trevor McCumby fell off the map. Four-and-a-half years would elapse before he returned to the ring, his comeback stalled by a knee injury suffered in sparring.

A light heavyweight during his run to 25-0, he returned as a super middleweight. Two wins in Phoenix prefaced his ProBox debut on Jan. 31 of this year when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over 17-3-1 Christopher Pearson. Up next is former IBF world super middleweight champion Caleb Plant who has been in with the top dogs in the division. It’s not official yet, but it’s an open secret that McCumby and Plant have agreed to touch gloves on August 17, likely in Florida.

Trevor McCumby, now 31 years old, was introduced to boxing by his father, a police officer in Niles, Illinois, and former Marine who once served as a presidential honor guard. The minimum age for an amateur boxer in Illinois was eight, but the elder McCumby lied about his son’s age and Trevor started competing with oversized gloves at the age of seven. (Trevor McCumby and his dad are pictured in a story about amateur boxing in the Windy City that ran in the Chicago Tribune in April of 1999. At the time, little Trevor would have been six years old.)

The McCumbys then lived in Yorkville, Illinois, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Trevor recalls traveling almost every day after school to the gritty south side of Chicago for training. Sweating side-by-side with inner city kids couldn’t help but speed up his development. He had a fine amateur record (127-11 by his count) and, at age 17, with the Olympics yet two years away, was ready to say “yes” when he got a surprise call from Cameron Dunkin who wanted to manage him. Renowned for his keen eye as a talent scout, the late Mr. Dunkin had one of the foremost stables in boxing.

McCumby was then living in Phoenix. He would finish high school in Las Vegas before making his pro debut in Los Angeles at age 18.

Looking back, Trevor says, “I didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have. After each win, it was time to go out and party.” His hiatus from boxing was sobering on many levels. Working in a convenience store was humbling and his priorities changed when he met Kenzie (short for McKenzie), a member of the worship committee at The Rock and his future wife. Trevor is now the father of a 3-year-old son, a 1 ½-year-old daughter and there’s another girl on the way, due in November. As for the knee injury, a torn ACL, Trevor says, “it took about a whole year of rehab but feels better now than it ever did.”

McCumby opened his camp for the Plant fight during the week of July 4 at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas. His training is being coordinated by Brandon Woods, a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Kenny Adams.

He and Caleb Plant have a common opponent in a manner of speaking. Plant went 12 rounds with David Benavidez in his last outing, losing a unanimous but relatively close decision. The “strength of schedule factor” in Plant’s favor will weigh heavily in setting the odds for McCumby vs. Plant. But McCumby has also shared the ring with Phoenix-native Benavidez, and on many occasions. “We gave each other great work,” he says. “You could have sold tickets to those sparring sessions.”

There was a time when it seemed that Trevor McCumby would be remembered mostly for putting his hand in the cookie jar and failing to maximize his talent. But hold the phone. His boxing journey is far from finished and this is a story that may ultimately prove uplifting.

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Fernando Martinez Ratches Up the Heat in the Hot Super Flyweight Division

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On Sunday in Tokyo, Fernando Martinez picked up a second piece of the world super flyweight title with a mild upset of Kazuto Ioka. Martinez owned the IBF belt and added Ioka’s WBA scalp to his bedpost. That gives the Argentinian globetrotter one more belt than Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez if you are keeping score.

Of course, there isn’t a little man on this planet who would be favored over “Bam” at the moment, excepting Naoya Inoue who competes two divisions up at 122. The San Antonio southpaw was so impressive in dismantling Juan Francisco Estrada on July 29 that he stifled all talk of whether he belongs on the pound-for-pound list. The debate now is about his placement; how high should it be? But despite Bam’s towering presence in the 115-pound division, there are some good fights out there for him beginning with Martinez.

Kazuto Ioka brought quite a resume. The first fighter from Japan to win world titles in four weight divisions, he was 31-2-1 heading in with both losses by split decision and was appearing in his twenty-fifth world title fight. But Martinez showed no fear of him. He took the fight to Ioka and closed strong, winning by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and 116-112. (The 120-108 tally by California judge Edward Hernandez Sr was assailed as ludicrous; the fight was much closer than that…but there was no disputing the verdict, the right guy won.)

A fight with Bam Rodriguez, who was in attendance, would be the most lucrative for Fernando Martinez, but he has other options. WBO belt-holder Kosei Tanaka is out there as is former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Both are in action this month. Chocolatito (51-4, 41 KOs) fights this coming Friday on his home turf in Managua against Colombian journeyman Rober Barrera (27-5). Tanaka (20-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt on July 20 in Tokyo against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (25-2-1). Tanaka has won four straight since getting dominated and stopped by Ioka in 2020.

The outcome of the Ioka-Martinez bout was no surprise to Matt McGrain who previewed the contest in these pages. And, as McGain noted, Martinez doesn’t have much time left to build up his fan base outside South America and the Orient. His current record (17-0, 9 KOs) betrays the fact he turns 33 next week.

The smaller weight divisions have never attracted a large following in the United States, but that has something to do with a historical dearth of American-born fighters at the pinnacles. Bam Rodriguez is making even casual fans stand up and take notice and his ascent comes at a time when his division is percolating.

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