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Avila Perspective, Chap. 71: Canelo, Berchelt, Nevada Hall of Fame and More

David A. Avila

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It’s difficult to imagine that 11 years ago the Mexican redhead Saul “Canelo” Alvarez arrived in Southern California with his trainers Eddy and Jose “Chepo” Reynoso and a handful of brown T-shirts that had a photo of him plastered on the front.

Few, if any, knew about the kid called Canelo when he was set to fight Larry Mosley at a desert casino in Riverside County.

It was October 24, 2008, and that same night another fight card was taking place in nearby Ontario. But I received a call from Ramiro Gonzalez the publicist for Golden Boy Promotions who I’ve known since 1993. He told me that Chepo Reynoso had someone who he claimed was the best fighter he ever had.

Chepo Reynoso had groomed a number of world champions and contenders including Javier Jauregui and Oscar Larios. If Canelo was better than those two world champions, I had to take a look.

Alvarez arrived with the Reynosos and publicist Gonzalez and we all met and shook hands. Chepo handed me a Canelo T-shirt and was asked by a few people standing in line for one of the T-shirts. He declined, explaining he did not have many. I still have that brown T-shirt hanging in my closet.

That night Canelo faced his first American style prizefighter and it proved puzzling to the 18-year-old Alvarez. First, Mosley was a southpaw and, second, he had a defensive style not common in Mexico. Below the border, a fighter that displays pronounced defense is equal to fighting with cowardice. It’s just the way Mexicanos perceive defense – a cowardly tactic.

After a few rounds it was clear that Alvarez was having problems figuring out why Mosley was not attacking. He realized he could be losing and stepped into another gear to hit whatever was available to hit and won by decision.

The Mexican redhead fought once more in Florida and did not return to America for two years.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Slowly but steadily Canelo fought better and better opponents and defeated a number of recognizable fighters and world champions — Carlos Baldomir, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley and others. When he fought Floyd Mayweather, he met the crème de la crème and from that single loss learned more about the art of boxing.

Canelo and defense

Just before Alvarez fought Gennadiy Golovkin in their first encounter, we met inside a Hollywood theater and he joyfully explained how much he learned from his encounter with Mayweather. It led him and his team to learn all they could about the defensive tactics disdained in Mexico, but applauded by many, especially in Midwestern states like Michigan. The fighter you see today in Alvarez is the result of that loss to Mayweather six years ago in Las Vegas.

Alvarez, now 29 years old, realizes a prizefighter only has so many years to utilize the abilities he’s acquired and built up, and he’s gunning for the most of it by challenging himself and daring to be great.

“This is going to be a big challenge that we have in front of us, and we’re happy to take it with a lot of responsibility and a lot of discipline,” said Alvarez of his upcoming fight. “We wanted to make history in boxing and leave a big legacy, so it looked like a good idea. It’s a risk that we’re taking, but that’s boxing.”

Earlier this year Mikey Garcia dared to be great too when he challenged the welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. Though he was not successful, you need to admire any athlete willing to test himself. You only have so much time as a super athlete.

When Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) enters the ring to face WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the MGM Grand, the size difference will be rather staggering. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

The Mexican redhead is familiar with size disparities. Last December he met and defeated even taller Rocky Fielding for the WBA super middleweight title. But Kovalev presents an even bigger challenge as a more polished champion with deadly power.

Kovalev has no intention of underestimating Alvarez.

“This is the biggest fight of my career. I’ve never been in this situation, where someone is coming from middleweight. I’m not going to make a prediction, but I am going to go in there and defend my title,” said Kovalev. “This fight will be very interesting. It has a worldwide intrigue. I can’t wait.”

Dare to be great.

Top Rank in L.A.

For boxing fans unable to obtain tickets in Las Vegas, well there are tickets to watch another Mexican stalwart when WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt (36-1, 32 KOs) defends against Jason Sosa (23-3-4, 16 KOs) at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Saturday Nov. 2. ESPN will televise.

Many consider Berchelt to be one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. He’s actually pretty big for a super featherweight and seems more like a super lightweight. The big question: how long can he continue making the weight?

The Top Rank fight card also features IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21 KOs) making an eighth title defense, this time against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (21-1, 15 KOs).

The southpaw Filipino slugger Ancajas has endured a remarkable run in the super flyweight division. The division is filled with strong fighters. How long can he continue his run against so many good contenders?

Nevada Hall of Fame

If you are in Las Vegas don’t forget to visit the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. One of Mexico’s all-time greats Erik “El Terrible” Morales will be available for fans on Saturday Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Morales was involved in many memorable clashes especially on February 2000 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. It was the first and most violent of his three encounters with fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera. That night the two Mexican warriors lit up the night with blow after blow. The Tijuana prizefighter also had several other historic fights with Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and later met Marcos Maidana and Danny “Swift” Garcia in other battles.

Just meeting the great three-division world champion would be enough, but the museum also has many exhibits worth taking a look.

The museum is located at 3542 S. Maryland Parkway inside the Boulevard Mall. The actual museum can be found in the eastern portion of the indoor mall at the Headzup store. Tickets at the door are $25.

For more information call (702) 368-2463 or email michelle@nvbhof.com

Prograis and Taylor

Last weekend’s super lightweight clash between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis was one of the top fights of the year. If you haven’t seen it, go to DAZN and take a look.

The 12-round slugfest showcased just how deep and talented is the 140-pound super lightweight division. Taylor and Prograis matched blows evenly the entire fight and provided fans an eyeful into the talented division.

Think about it, the other champion Jose Carlos Ramirez has the WBC and WBO titles and he trains in the same Riverside, Calif. gym with Mikey Garcia who formerly held a super lightweight world title.

It’s definitely one of the most talented divisions in prizefighting today.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Showtime – 7 p.m. Xavier Martinez (14-0) vs Jessie Cris Rosales (22-3-1)

Sat. DAZN – 11 a.m. Katie Taylor (14-0) vs Christina Linartadou (12-1).

Sat. DAZN – 6 p.m. Saul Alvarez (52-1-2) vs Sergey Kovalev (34-3-1); Seniesa Estrada (17-0) vs Marlen Esparza (7-0); Ryan Garcia (18-0) vs Romero Duno (21-1).

Sat. ESPN – 7:30 p.m. Miguel Berchelt (36-1) vs Jason Sosa (23-3-4); Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2) vs Jonathan Rodriguez (21-1).

Sat. Fox Sports1 – 7:30 p.m. Brian Castano (15-0-1) vs Wale Omotoso (28-4).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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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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