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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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Today’s Deep Boxing Menu Kicks Off with a Heavyweight Super-Fight

Arne K. Lang

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Three world champions are in action today and also a former world champion and we’re not even talking about Saudi Arabia. Welcome to the new world order of boxing where two or more significant shows overlap seemingly every weekend and a man needs more than two eyes to keep track of all of them in real time.

December is historically a slow month for boxing but history doesn’t stand still. The big heavyweight shebang in Diriyah will cast a long shadow, burying the opposition in a tsunami of words, but that is of no consequence to some boxing promoters who are contractually obligated to their live-streaming partners to provide a steady stream of fresh content no matter the competition.

Two of the title-holders – WBO super bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete and IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (pictured) – are in action on the same card in Puebla, Mexico. Their bouts will air on ESPN+.

Navarette (29-1, 25 KOs) has won 24 straight and is defending his title for the fourth time in the last seven months. He is the ironman of active title holders and on the short list of fighters in the running for Fighter of the Year. His opponent, fellow Mexican Francisco Horta, is unbeaten in his last 13 starts, elevating his record to 20-3-1 (10), but he’s fought only one fight scheduled for more than eight rounds and that was back in May of 2015.

On paper this is a shameless mismatch.

Anjacas (31-1-2, 21 KOs) will be making the eighth defense of the title he won from McJoe Arroyo. The talented Filipino opposes Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8 KOs), a mystery fighter who, except for one fight, has fought exclusively in his native Chile.

Brooklyn

In the main go of the SHOWTIME card at Barclays Center, Jermall Charlo (29-0, 21 KOs) risks his undefeated record and his WBC world middleweight title against Dennis Hogan (28-2-1, 7 KOs). It’s the third defense for Charlo who previously held a world title at 154 pounds and has fought three of his last four fights in this building.

Jarmall Charlo, like his twin brother Jermell, packs a big punch but in his last two fights he was extended the distance by Matt Korobov and Brandon Adams and consequently his aura lost some of its sheen.

The opposite applies to Hogan. An Australian by way of Kilcullen, Ireland, Hogan saw his stock shoot up a hundredfold while losing to 12-round majority decision to Mexico’s undefeated knockout artist Jaime Munguia this past May in Monterrey, Mexico. The crowd booed the decision and several pundits called for an investigation of female judge Woleska Roldan who awarded Munguia eight rounds and had previously come under fire for scoring the Horn-Pacquiao fight 117-111 for Horn.

Topping the undercard is a 12-round middleweight match between Chris Eubank Jr and the aforementioned Korobov with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger for the Charlo-Hogan winner.

Montreal

David Lemieux (40-4, 34 KOs) returns to the ring after a 15-month absence to fight Max Bursak (35-5-2,16 KOs). It’s Lemieux’s maiden voyage as a super middleweight.

Lemieux’s co-promoter Camille Estephan says this fight is a litmus test for the former IBF middleweight champion to see if he can carry his power to the next level. Bursak, a 35-year-old Ukrainian, has never been stopped.

Lemieux’s hiatus was elongated by a hand-injury so it won’t be surprising if this fight goes the full 10. Bursak previously challenged WBO 168-pound title-holder Gilberto Ramirez and lost every round.

The chief undercard fight has even less intrigue. It pits the giant Russian heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov (6’5 ½”, 261 pounds) against former WBC heavyweight title holder Samuel Peter.

There was a time when Peter, the erstwhile Nigerian Nightmare, was considered the hardest punching heavyweight since a prime Mike Tyson, but that was long ago. He’s now 39 years old and playing out the string. The guess is that he hangs on for a few rounds before bowing out with an alleged injury, whereupon Makhmudov will improve his pro ledger to 10-0 (10 KOs).

—–

Here at The Sweet Science, our first priority will be to keep you informed of the goings-on in Saudi Arabia. We’ll get the result up fast and then, somewhat later in the day, publish a more in-depth story about the event by Hall of Fame boxing writer Thomas Hauser.

Stay in touch.

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Remembering Leotis Martin who KOed Sonny Liston 50 Years Ago Today

Arne K. Lang

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On Dec. 6, 1969, 50 years ago today, former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston fought former sparring partner Leotis Martin on the stage of the showroom of the newly built International Hotel in Las Vegas, a property that subsequently took the name Las Vegas Hilton and is called the Westgate today. The Sunday afternoon fight was televised by ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” with Howard Cosell behind the mic. The match was slated for 12 rounds. The victor would be recognized as the heavyweight champion of the newly formed North American Boxing Federation.

Leotis Martin, who resided in Philadelphia, was a former national Golden Gloves and national AAU middleweight champion. As a pro, he was 30-5 with 18 knockouts. But he was given scant chance of defeating Sonny Liston (49-3, 38 KOs) who had won 14 in a row, 13 inside the distance, since his second defeat to Muhammad Ali. Although Liston had defeated no one of note during this run, he had yet re-established himself in the public mind as one of the hardest hitting punchers ever.

Martin had several other things working against him. He was a small heavyweight. Liston, who came in at 220, would out-weigh him by 21 pounds. And he wasn’t a full-time boxer. In Philadelphia, he was a machinist for the Budd Company, one of America’s leading manufacturers of metal components for automobiles and railroad cars.

Martin had helped Liston train for his matches with Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali. When a big name fighter is matched against a former sparring partner, there is always the suspicion that a gentleman’s agreement is in effect.

Liston vs Martin played out somewhat like the recent fight between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz although it lasted two rounds longer.

After eight frames, Liston was ahead by two points on one of the scorecards and by three points on the others on Nevada’s “five-point-must” system. A flash knockdown of Martin in round four contributed to the imbalance.

Martin could sense that Liston was tiring, but it wasn’t apparent to those in the audience – reportedly 1,800 paid – and that made the drama that was about to unfold all the more dramatic.

In round nine, Leotis landed three unanswered combinations, one right after the other. The third was the classic one-two: left to the body, right to the jaw. Sonny Liston pitched forward, landing face first to the canvas, dead to the world. The ref counted “10” over his prone body. “He could have counted to 300,” said Review-Journal ringside reporter Jimmy Cox.

Nevada’s ringside physician, Dr. Donald Romeo, came equipped with capsules of ammonia. The first one that he broke and waved under Sonny’s nose had no effect. The second capsule brought Liston out of his slumber.

Sonny Liston was reportedly 39 years old, but was widely considered to be somewhat older than his listed age. The brutal manner in which he succumbed to Leotis Martin seemingly indicated that he had reached the end of the line, but he wasn’t done quite yet. Six months later, at the Armory in Jersey City, he butchered Chuck Wepner, the “Bayonne Bleeder,” in a fight stopped by the ring doctor after nine rounds.

That would prove to be his final fight. On Jan. 5, 1971, Sonny’s wife Geraldine returned to their home in Las Vegas from a 12-day holiday trip to St. Louis, her hometown, and found her husband dead in their bedroom. Rigor mortis had already set in.  The coroner’s report said Liston died from congestive heart failure, but that didn’t explain what brought on the coronary and there’s strong circumstantial evidence that he was a victim of foul play.

Leotis Martin’s triumph elevated him to #1 in the heavyweight rankings of the WBA, the sport’s paramount sanctioning body. A fight with fellow Philadelphian Smokin’ Joe Frazier was his likely reward. But it wasn’t to be.

Martin emerged from his fight with Liston with a detached retina. Back in those days, retinal detachment surgery was a hit-and-miss proposition. The most famous boxer to have his retina repaired mid-career was Sugar Ray Leonard, but that didn’t happen until 1982 and it was a far more complicated procedure than what it is nowadays. Three ophthalmic surgeons attended Sugar Ray during his two-hour operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Leotis Martin basically had no choice but to retire. His signature win would be the final fight of his career.

Martin returned to Philadelphia and to his job in the foundry and lived out his days quietly in the city’s racially diverse Mount Airy neighborhood. In November of 1995 he passed away after suffering a stroke brought on by diabetes and hypertension. He was 56 years old.

By the way, Tim Dahlberg was one of the ringside reporters. This was his first prizefight. In time he would travel the globe as the National Sports Columnist for the Associated Press and he’s still going strong today.

Reminiscing about his first prizefight with Las Vegas sports columnist Ron Kantowski, Dahlberg recalled that there was a young heavyweight on the Liston-Martin undercard that looked pretty good.

The kid’s name was George Foreman.

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Downtown LA Fight Results From the Exchange

David A. Avila

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Downtown LA Fight Results From the Exchange

LOS ANGELES-Built in 1931 the Exchange was the former home of the stock market exchange for the West Coast. On Thursday night it was the home for professional boxing.

Jessy Martinez led a slew of prospects ready to showcase their fighting skills among the many business types at the Exchange located on the 600 block of Spring Street. He didn’t need more than one round to reveal his talent at the Bash Boxing show.

Martinez (14-0, 9 KOs) used the first minute or so to determine the incoming fire from Mexico’s Carlos Huerta (6-5-2), a fighter of similar height and speed. Once he learned the magnitude and strength of the punches coming his way, Martinez (pictured on the left) unfurled his own combination and saw his right cross visibly do damage.

A slow developing 12-punch combination by Martinez rocked Huerta who tried to evade the blows to no avail. Finally an overhand right dumped a bleeding Huerta into the ropes as referee Wayne Hedgpeth immediately waved the fight over at 2:26 of the first round.

It was a short but destructive win for Martinez who fights out of toney Woodland Hills, California.

“Hard work pays off,” said Martinez.

Another featured fight saw Compton featherweight Adan Ochoa (11-1, 4 KOs) slug it out with Chile’s Juan “La Maquina” Jimenez (8-9) for five destructive rounds. Though Ochoa had the height, speed and skill advantage, the Chilean fighter walked through every exchange and was cut in the first round because of his reckless charges.

But he fought hard.

Ochoa seemed to have Jimenez in trouble early with single power shots, but was unable to put the final touch. In the fifth round a clash of heads resulted in a gash above Jimenez’s forehead and blood came streaming down. The fight was stopped and due to the cut caused by an accidental clash of heads, the fight was stopped and Ochoa was deemed the winner by technical decision 50-45 twice and 49-46.

“He’s an Hispanic fighter and all Hispanic fighters are tough,” said Ochoa.

A welterweight fight saw Vlad Panin (7-0) use his physical superiority to defeat Mexico’s Daniel Perales (11-19-2) in a four round contest. Panin is a fighter of Belarus lineage and had solid support from his fans who saw him handily defeat Perales by unanimous decision.

Other Bouts

Five of the bouts featured four-round fights and the best of them all saw Orange County-based Victor Rodriguez make his pro debut. He looked very sharp for someone getting his baptism under fire.

Rodriguez (1-0) trains at Grampa’s Gym in Westminster and showed off a very sharp left jab that kept Osman Rivera (2-12-1) from penetrating into the fire zone. Both boxers had large followings and the crowds exchanged competitive cheers for their fighters throughout the four round match. Rodriguez was just a little too sharp for Rivera who was slightly frustrated. All three judges scored the fight 40-36 for Rodriguez.

Other results: Keehwan Kim (4-1) defeat Percy Peterson (3-16-3) by majority decision in a super featherweight contest that opened the show.

Isaac Lucero (1-0) won his debut by knockout in the first round over Anthony Zender (1-6) in a welterweight clash. Lucero floored Zender twice before the fight was stopped at 1:29 of the first round.

Austin Gudino (5-0) remained undefeated by decision after four rounds versus Nobelin Hernandez (0-4) in a super lightweight fight.

Moises Fuentes (4-1) slugged out a win over Sacramento’s tough Moris Rodriguez (8-16-1) after six rounds in a welterweight clash. Each round was hotly contested. The scores were 60-54 twice and 58-56.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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