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

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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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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Australia’s Nikita Tszyu Stands Poised to Escape the Long Shadow of His Brother

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