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KSI Beats Logan Paul and Haney and Saunders Win Title Fights in L.A.

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Two celebrity stars made their pro debuts in the main event and filled the arena with youngsters of all ages including more than a few brought by their moms on Saturday night.

KSI (1-0) defeated Logan Paul (0-1) by split decision to the cheers of some and the jeers of others before a packed Staples Center after a six round cruiserweight fight. It was the main event despite two legitimate world championship bouts that also took place before more than 13,000 fans.

It was a rematch of an amateur fight that took place year ago in the United Kingdom. This time no head gear.

After a year of intermittent training with professionals, the British-based KSI trained mostly in the U.S. and Paul trained in Los Angeles and both showed what they had learned.

Fans screamed loudly as if Mike Tyson were facing Lennox Lewis.

It was a strange yet electric atmosphere.

KSI opened the fight with a determined effort as Paul calmly avoided the windmill rights and lefts delivered his way by the British social media star. Aggression was the name of the game.

Back and forth the two went with KSI mostly the aggressor and Paul content to jab to the head and body and avoid the wild swings coming his way. Fans screamed at the near misses as if Babe Ruth had swung and missed at a fat curveball in the middle of the plate.

KSI grabbed the momentum with his constant attacks and was seemingly on his way to a solid win when Paul connected with a right uppercut. The bigger and taller American star Paul pushed down on the staggered Brit and hit him with the free hand and followed that with another blow to the back of the head. The British fighter stumbled a bit and referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight to allow KSI time to recover and to inform the three judges that he was deducting two points from Paul for the two infractions.

“I would have won,” said Paul about the deductions.

KSI resumed attacking the bigger man but caught some shots from Paul.

“I don’t stop. He hit me with a few little shots here and there,” said KSI. “I don’t stop, I’m a dog man.”

Paul was the bigger man and had his moments in the latter half of the six-round fight but did not seem to believe in his strength. He never took advantage of his superiority in power.

After six rounds one judge scored it in favor of Paul 56-55, but two other judges saw it otherwise 57-54 and 56-55 for KSI.

“I just want to say fair play to KSI, you’re one of the toughest people I know. I wish you the best,” said Paul.

World Title Fights

WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs) brought his flash and precision expecting to show off to the new fan base, but Dominican fighter Alfredo Santiago (12-1, 4 KOs) had other ideas. Still, Haney ran away with the win via unanimous decision.

Things looked good when Haney floored Santiago in the fifth round with one of his flashy combinations punctuated by a right uppercut. Down went the taller Santiago but he managed to survive the onslaught.

For the remainder of the fight both contestants managed to entangle each other as each sought to establish ground. Haney looked to unload one of his slick combinations but the Dominican fighter closed ground to take away Haney’s ability to unload his lethal combinations.  It was holding and more holding for the remaining seven rounds.

Devin Haney attacks Santiago Alvarez

After 12 rounds all three judges scored it for Haney 120-107 who retains the WBC lightweight title.

Haney said he hurt his shoulder midway in the fight, but despite the injury he was intrigued by the different fans that attended the boxing card.

“I’m very excited it’s a whole new fan base,” said Haney.

BJ Saunders

WBO super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14 KOs) may have been out of sorts in the Los Angeles climate but after 11 rounds of adapting to the air and Argentina’s Marcelo Coceres (28-1-1), the southpaw Londoner lowered the boom to win by knockout.

It took a while but he got the job done.

Saunders had never fought on American soil and seemed not quite sure what to do with the Argentine slugger who was also making his American debut.

BJ Saunders KOs Coceres

After 10 rounds of slipping and countering the left-handed super middleweight switched into high gear and unloaded with a blistering four-punch combination and down went Coceres. The crowd erupted after a rather slow fight. Coceres got up and tried to hammer it out with Saunders and was caught with a perfect right uppercut and down went the Argentine a second time. Again he got up and Saunders moved in for the attack and was on his way down from what looked like a slip but referee Ray Corona looked at the fighter and decided to end the fight at 1:59 of the 11th round. Saunders retains the WBO title.

“That performance was not worthy,” said Saunders after the knockout win. “I knew in my own mind I had to get him out of there…I had to go for the knockout.”

Saunders seeks a fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the new light heavyweight world titlist, but who is also the WBA super middleweight titlist. Alvarez is also the top money-maker in the prizefighting world and anybody that fights the Mexican redhead will make a huge pot of money.

Saunders also has a message for Alvarez:

“If you want to become full weight world champion take me now. I want Canelo Alvarez and now is the right time,” said Saunders.

Other Bouts

NABF super featherweight titlist Ronny Rios (32-3, 16 KOs) buzz sawed Colombia’s Hugo Berrio (28-8-1, 18KOs) with a withering body attack that kept got worse and worse until the knockout ending.

A lead right cross floored Berrio who looked like he was expecting anything but the right cross after absorbing body shots for three rounds. The end came at 2:56 of the fourth round. Referee Tom Taylor stopped the fight through mid-count exactly at the same time as Berrio’s corner fired in a white towel of surrender.

“I didn’t even know he was going to go down,” said Rios about the impact of his right hand knockout. “I’ve been practicing on sitting down on my punches.”

Local fighter Diego Pacheco with his long arms knocked out Aaron Casper with that seemingly elongated right after several rounds of pummeling in a super middleweight fight.

Pacheco, 18, kept the pressure against the veteran fighter but had some problems when Casper crowded him inside. But after several rounds of entanglement South Central L.A.’s Pacheco figured out the solution and floored Casper with a crisp right cross. Casper beat the count but was met with an eight punch barrage that sent the Georgia fighter down for good. Referee Rudy Barragan stopped the fight at 2:49 of the fourth round.

“He has a tremendous heart, he’s a warrior and I tip my hat to him,” said Pacheco of his fallen opponent.

Nikita Ababiy (8-0, 6 KOs) was the winner by disqualification over Jonathan Batista (19-16) in a super middleweight fight scheduled for four rounds. After Ababiy hit Batista behind the head and was deducted a point, the fight resumed and Batista slugged Ababiy repeatedly after the bell prompting referee Ray Corona to disqualify Batista at the end of round one.

Reshat Mati (5-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Cody Peterson (1-6) at 1:41 of the second round in a super welterweight match. Mati fights out of New York but is an Albanian native.

Another Celebrity fight

Josh Brueckner (1-0) of Michigan powered through Huntington Beach’s Tyler Smith (0-1) in a four round battle between former MMA fighters making their pro boxing debuts in a cruiserweight bout. Brueckner showed more speed and offense than Tyler who seemed bent on defending the rushes of his foe. After the victory Brueckner proposed marriage to his girlfriend Katie with whom he shares a popular Vlog on the Internet.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

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