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Avila Perspective, Chap. 75: Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton and Heavyweights

David A. Avila

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Two former featherweight champions — Oscar Valdez and Carl Frampton — dip their toes into the world of the 130-pound super featherweights, prizefighting’s deepest division.

Don’t get bit.

While Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs) meddles with Andres Gutierrez (38-2-1, 25 KOs) in a 10 round test, Northern Ireland’s Frampton (26-2, 15 KOs) tries out Tyler McCreary (16-0-1, 7 KOs) in another 10 rounder, both at the Cosmopolitan on Saturday in Las Vegas. It’s a roll of the dice that will be shown on ESPN+.

Frampton looks to become the first from his country to win world titles in three weight divisions. Not even the great Barry McGuigan could accomplish the feat.

Super featherweights have long been the litmus tests for those seeking greatness as multi-division winners. It’s a division where the men are separated from the boys and a single punch can wreck a career.

More than a few former greats passed through the super featherweight division to achieve greatness like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Even today the weight class has one of the deepest rosters of fighters that have a 50-50 chance of usurping any champion at any time.

Valdez, who is moving up after spending three years and six defenses as the WBO featherweight king, feels confident in delving into the talent-rich super featherweight division. He also has a new trainer in Eddy Reynoso who helped Saul “Canelo” Alvarez jump into the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.

“Eddy has shown me a few things that will help me in the next weight division,” said Valdez while in L.A. “I know my opponent is tough, but I plan on putting on a show for the fans. This is my third camp with Eddy Reynoso, and it’s going great. This is an important first step towards another world title.”

Frampton stands as the other half of the super featherweight equation. Should he defeat the undefeated McCreary, it could more than likely lead to a showdown with Valdez early next year.

It’s a dream fight for the Irish fighter who’s very familiar with Mexican fighters. He had two classic battles with Los Angeles-based Leo Santa Cruz who won a version of the WBA super featherweight title last weekend in Las Vegas. On the same day, Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado took the other WBA version away from Andrew “Chango” Cancio by knockout in Indio, Calif. Those are just two with titles. Several others hold super featherweight belts and all of them are equally talented and pose different obstacles like lanky southpaw Jamel Herring the WBO titlist, or Tevin Farmer the speedy IBF titlist. And then there’s Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt who many argue might be the best of them all.

It’s a loaded weight division and even the contenders pose danger like Mexico’s Andres Gutierrez who has almost as many knockouts as Valdez has wins. And he’s only 26 years old.

“I hope Valdez is prepared for a super featherweight war,” said Gutierrez who hails from Guadalajara. “I’m now training in Las Vegas with the professor, Ismael Salas, and ‘Memo’ Heredia. Boxing fans, get ready for a true Mexican-style battle.”

Frampton has no concerns about Valdez or Gutierrez. Not yet. He has his own dilemma with Toledo, Ohio’s McCreary.

McCreary knows all about Frampton.

“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, and I feel that every fight is a risk. This is one where, if anything, I would love to risk my undefeated record against a fighter like Frampton,” said McCreary. “A win here means a world title shot next.”

Frampton has world titles in the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions and seeks to be the first Irish fighter to claim three weight division world titles.

“It means the world to me to become the first,” said Frampton, 32, a native of Northern Ireland. “Nobody from my country has ever done it.”

The ultra-aggressive Irish fighter who handed Santa Cruz his first defeat, then was handed his first loss by Santa Cruz, confesses that the sport of boxing saved his life.

“I had many close friends that are dead or in prison,” said Frampton. “Boxing kept me from getting involved in the wrong direction.”

Weight has become an issue and Frampton believes this new weight class, though dangerous, presents an opportunity to not only win another world title but help him make history.

“It would give me a legacy as a three division world champion,” said Frampton.

It’s worth the risk.

“Carl Frampton and Oscar Valdez are great fighters moving into the next weight category,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum. “Either fighter can be a great match with Shakur (Stevenson).”

Stevenson currently holds the WBO featherweight title recently vacated by Oscar Valdez.

Though Stevenson just captured the title with a decisive victory over Joet Gonzalez last month, Arum sees the former Olympian moving up quickly to grab another division world title. He also envisions more co-promotions with Golden Boy Promotions who promoted Gonzalez and also Lamont Roach who was recently paired against Herring.

“The more we can do that stuff, the better,” said Arum.

Heavyweights

WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder’s electrifying knockout over Luis Ortiz last weekend in Las Vegas opens the door for a return showdown with Tyson Fury. It’s slated for February 2020.

Wilder is promoted by Premier Boxing Champions and will be facing Top Rank’s Fury early next year in Las Vegas.

Top Rank and PBC normally do not mix together, but in this instance, as proven a year ago, money talks, or better still Wilder wanted the match and Wilder will get the match again.

Wilder is the big wild card in the heavyweight division. He can be matched against any of the other heavyweights and a knockout will be expected – whether it is him or the other guy. Fans simply love knockouts. If you were to survey 100 boxing fans more than 90 percent would confess to liking wins decided by a knockout over a decision. That’s Wilder’s calling card.

“I’m a knock Fury out,” said Wilder following his knockout win of Ortiz. “I’m the hardest hitting man, most devastating puncher in the history of boxing.”

That’s impossible to prove but he very well could be today’s most powerful punching heavyweight. No doubt about it.

A match between Wilder and Fury could be the opening of a relationship between PBC and Top Rank. That could set the table for a future match between Terence Crawford and any of the many welterweights in the PBC kingdom like Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao or Errol Spence Jr. if he can recover from his recent injuries from a car accident. That indeed would make Wilder a man of influence.

Next week another heavyweight world title clash takes place when Chicano heavyweight Andy Ruiz puts the WBA, WBO and IBF titles up for grab when he faces former champion Anthony Joshua in a rematch. It happens next Saturday, Dec. 7, in Saudi Arabia.

If Ruiz wins again, then it’s almost guaranteed that he would fight the winner of Wilder-Fury later in 2020. Both fight under PBC. If Joshua wins, a fight could be made but it’s not a guarantee.

Wilder is holding all the cards now. He’s got a full house but is looking for the Royal Flush.

Fights to Watch

Sat. Nov. 30 DAZN 11 a.m. Cecilia Braekhus (35-0) vs Victoria Bustos (19-5); Radzhab Butaev (12-0) vs Alexander Besputin (13-0)

Sat. Nov.30 ESPN+ 7 p.m. Oscar Valdez (26-0) vs Andres Gutierrez (38-2-1); Carl Frampton (26-2) vs Tyler McCreary (16-0-1); Carlos Adames (18-0) vs Patrick Teixiera (30-1).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

There’s was plenty of quality boxing action available for consumption this weekend in the U.S., particularly on Saturday evening because of the competing cards put forth by the PBC on FOX and Top Rank on ESPN crews that have become chief rivals over the last year.

But what were the biggest HITS and MISSES seen during all the action? That’s what you’re here to find out.

HIT – Jeison Rosario’s Stunning Upset for two 154-pound Titles

Nobody expected Rosario to dethrone unified junior middleweight champion Julian Williams on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, but the massive underdog overcame the situation anyway to vault himself to the top of the junior middleweight division. The thing that saved Rosario was his stunning power. He appeared to be out-boxed by Williams early in the fight, but that changed just as soon as it became apparent Williams was slinging only his fists while Rosario was working with sledgehammers. Now the division has become more crowded than ever at the top with all roads amazingly leading to Rosario, the little known 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic who now owns the WBA and IBF titles.

MISS – Chris Colbert’s Fail to Impress

Junior lightweight prospect Chris Colbert was given a great chance by the PBC to impress fight fans on national television on the undercard of Williams-Rosario, but the talented 23-year-old didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Sure, Colbert was taking a step up in competition by taking on former world titleholder Jezreel Corrales for a vacant interim belt, but Colbert mostly came across as a talented fighter who just doesn’t seem quite capable of putting it all together yet. Colbert won the fight, but it wasn’t interesting or noteworthy in any way. Judging by how the PBC has worked in the past, he’ll get plenty more chances to shine, but I’m not sure anyone but the people who stand to gain monetarily from the fighter’s success will be looking forward to it.

HIT –  Eleider Alvarez’s Epic KO of Michael Seals

Former light heavyweight titleholder Alvarez scored the early leader for knockout of the year against Seals in the main event at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The fight was fairly lackluster until the explosive ending in the seventh round. It was an important victory for Alvarez, who was coming off losing his title to Sergey Kovalev via decision last February. Alvarez is 35, so it was imperative for him to get back to action and remind people he’s still a viable contender in the 175-pound ranks. And there’s no better way to do that in boxing than by thunderous knockout.

MISS – Felix Verdejo’s Fresh Start Starts Stale

Verdejo is still only 26 years old, but after defeating Manuel Rojas in a lightweight bout at Turning Stone, the once highly regarded prospect doesn’t appear to be any closer today than he was yesterday to living up to the tremendous promise he once possessed. To be completely fair to Verdejo, it was only his first fight under new trainer Ismael Salas and the fighter still has time on his side. Still, there appears to be plenty of work to do if Verdejo is ever to become a world champion. In fact, he didn’t look all that materially different from the fighter who was knocked out in 2018.

HIT – Floyd Mayweather Wins Prestigious BWAA Award 

I honestly had some concern that Mayweather wouldn’t win the BWAA’s Fighter of the Decade award before it was announced on Friday via press release. After all, Mayweather lost the previous decade’s top honor to Manny Pacquiao in 2010, and Sports Illustrated had just named Andre Ward its Fighter of the Decade winner the week prior. It’s only one person’s opinion, of course, but I think there would have been something wrong with Mayweather not picking up the honor at least once in the last two decades. After all, he’s quite easily the generation’s best overall fighter and he’s transcended the sport to mainstream celebrity status, too. Congrats to Mayweather for winning the well-deserved honor.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions

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South African Trailblazer Peter Mathebula Dead at Age 67

Arne K. Lang

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Peter Mathebula wasn’t a great fighter. He suffered nine losses during his 45-bout career. He was stopped five times. But Mathebula, who died yesterday (Jan. 18) at age 67, was a historically important fighter. He was the first black South African to win a world title. He was the first South African boxer of any color to win a world title on foreign soil. His predecessors, bantamweights Vic Toweel and Arnold Taylor, won their titles in Johannesburg. Mathebula won his in Los Angeles.

Mathebula took the WBA flyweight title on a split decision from Korea’s Tae-Shik Kim on Dec. 12, 1980 at LA’s Olympic Auditorium. The fight was originally headed to Seoul but Mathebula was denied a visa.

In those days, South Korea barred tourists from South Africa as a protest against that country’s policy of apartheid. Mathebula was a victim of apartheid, but that made no difference as the ban was a blanket ban, covering all South Africans, regardless of color.

Olympic Auditorium matchmaker Don Fraser acquired the orphanded fight. Southern California had a large Korean population and Fraser thought the fight would go over big with this demographic.

The fabled Olympic Auditorium was noted for raucous SRO crowds. But not on this particular night. The crowd was overwhelmingly Korean-American, but there weren’t more than 3,000 in attendance. Kim vs. Mathebula didn’t resonate with the Olympic Auditorium regulars.

The fight was very close but most thought the decision was fair. The Korean started fast, wrote LA Times ringside reporter Mark Heisler, but Mathebula fought his way back into the fight in the middle rounds and won the 14th and 15th stanzas on his card, sufficient he thought to secure the win.

The victory made Mathebula a big star in South Africa. His purse for the fight with Tae-Shik Kim was only $7,500 (approximately $23,500 in today’s dollars) but he made up for it in endorsements. He appeared in ads for automobiles, Old Buck Gin, Bostonian shoes and a line of splashy clothes according to Joseph Lelyveld, the New York Times man on the scene.

Mathebula’s celebrityhood crossed racial lines. Newspapers that took little cognizance of goings-on in the black community showered Mathebula with a copious amount of ink. When he defended his title against Argentina’s Santos Laciar, it was front page news in white and black newspapers.

Mathebula opposed Laciar a mere 13 weeks after winning his title in Los Angeles. The match was held in Soweto’s Orlando Stadium, a facility built to house the Pirates, Soweto’s all-black soccer team. Three years earlier, South Africa had legalized interracial sporting events but few whites dared venture into Soweto which was ground zero for anti-apartheid demonstrations.

Despite the great esteem in which Mathebula was held, the fight wasn’t a sellout. A local black nationalist organization launched a campaign to boycott the fight on the grounds that the government, which paid to set up Mathebula in a fancy hotel and paid for his motorcades, was using international mixed-race sporting events as a propaganda tool, an early illustration of what has come to be called “sportswashing.”

Peter Mathebula couldn’t catch a break and that may have impacted his performance against the Argentine. It was woeful. Laciar knocked him down in the fifth and then bull-rushed him out of the ring (the ref called it a push) and the bout was stopped in the eighth with Mathebula complaining that his vision was compromised.

Before the year was out, Mathebula lost twice more. Fighting on hostile turf in Venezuela, he was stopped twice by Betulio Gonzalez, first in the 10th and then in the sixth. A three-time world title-holder, Gonzalez had a great career but he was approaching his 32nd birthday, old for a flyweight, and his best days were behind him.

In the span of less than 10 full months, Peter Mathebula went from the penthouse to the proverbial outhouse, but with the passage of time his people remembered his historic achievement in Los Angeles and pretty much forgot the slew of disappointments that quickly followed. The word “legend” suffuses reports of his death in South African papers.

Mathebula reportedly had multiple health issues and spent the last three weeks of his life in Leratong Hospital in the province of Gauteng, not far from the all-black township where he was born. May he rest in rest in peace.

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Ringside in Verona: Alvarez Capsizes Seals Plus Undercard Results

Matt Andrzejewski

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VERONA, NY — The main event of an ESPN televised card at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY between light heavyweight contenders Eleider Alvarez (25-1, 13 KO’s) and Michael Seals (24-3, 18 KO’s) started with a whimper but ended with a bang. After six-plus rounds of lackadaisical action, Alvarez scored a stunning sensational one punch knockout just before the end of the seventh round of their scheduled ten round fight.

The first three rounds saw more clinches than punches landed. Seals seemed to be looking to land one perfect punch and in doing so barely unleashed any punches. Alvarez, for his part, was not very active in these rounds but certainly moved his hands more and landed more than Seals.

In round four, Seals came out much more aggressive and had his best round of the fight. But in the fifth, Seals went back to looking for that one punch and Alvarez took back control of the action. Toward the end of the round, Alvarez staggered Seals with a right hand.

Alvarez continued to be in control of the fight in rounds six and seven by simply moving his hands more. And then towards the end of round seven, Alvarez connected with a picture perfect overhand right that sent Seals crashing to the canvas. Referee Danny Schiavone did not reach a full 10-count before waiving the fight off.

For Alvarez, this was a big bounce-back win after his loss to Sergey Kovalev in their light heavyweight title rematch last February. With the light heavyweight division flush with talent, it seems Alvarez is in prime position to get a big opportunity his next time out.

In the co-feature, lightweight contender Felix Verdejo (26-1, 16 KO’s) put on a workmanlike effort in winning a wide ten round unanimous decision against Manuel Rey Rojas (18-4, 5 KO’s). While Verdejo was in complete control of the contest from the opening bell, the performance certainly lacked sizzle and may raise even more questions on the potential of the once can’t-miss prospect.

Verdejo utilized a very patient approach throughout the night working behind the left jab. While the jab was effective, Verdejo only occasionally looked to unleash power punches behind that jab. Reyes, for his part, played mostly defense keeping a very tight guard and looking to selectively counter Verdejo’s jab.

Verdejo’s defense, which had been criticized in the past, looked better but still showed some leaks. In the fifth round, Reyes landed a sharp right hand flush on the jaw of Verdejo that seemed to momentarily get Verdejo’s attention. And in the ninth, Reyes landed a hard right that snapped Verdejo’s head back. If Reyes could punch harder, either of those two rights may have altered the course of the fight.

But aside from those brief moments from Reyes, Verdejo dictated all the action. He easily out-worked and out-landed the mostly defensive minded Reyes. In the end it is a win for Verdejo and he can proceed forward towards what he hopes will be an eventual title shot in the lightweight division.

In a bizarre heavyweight fight between two former 2004 Olympians, Devin Vargas (22-6, 9 KO’s) was awarded a disqualification victory in the eighth and final round against Victor Bisbal (23-5, 17 KO’s). Bisbal scored a knockdown in round two with a left hook but was deducted two points in round four for various infractions.  Aside from the knockdown round, Vargas seemed to out-hustle and out-land Bisbal. Ahead on all three scorecards (67-63 twice and 66 -64) entering the final round, Vargas absorbed a low blow from Bisbal. At this point, referee Michael Ortega decided to disqualify Bisbal.

Abraham Nova (18-0, 14 KO’s) scored a one-sided fourth-round TKO of tough veteran Pedro Navarette (30-25-3, 19 KO’s) in a lightweight contest that was scheduled for eight rounds. Nova scored knockdowns in rounds two, three and four before the fight was waived off.

Knockout out artist Jonathan Guzman (24-1, 23 KO’s) rose from the canvas to score a fourth-round knockout of Rodolfo Hernandez (30-10-1, 28 KO’s) in a 122-pound slugfest. The heavily favored Guzman scored two knockdowns with body shots in the opening stanza and appeared on his way to an easy win. But Hernandez flipped the script in round three with a hard right hand just before the bell sounded that put Guzman on the canvas and nearly out. The two went toe to toe in the fourth when a vicious left hook to the body from Guzman put Hernandez down and this time out for good.

In a battle of former world title challengers, Freddie Roach trained Christopher Diaz (25-2, 16 KO’s) scored a wide eight round unanimous against Adeilson Dos Santos (19-8, 15 KO’s) in a featherweight contest. Diaz dominated the fight from the opening bell and hurt Dos Santos on a few occasions but ultimately had to settle for the decision victory.

The opening fight of the night saw heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson (3-0, 3 KO’s) easily dispatch Andrew Satterfield (5-4, 3 KO’s) in the first round of their scheduled four round fight. Anderson scored two knockdowns in what was a dominant performance.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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