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HITS and MISSES from the Last Weekend of a Lively November

Kelsey McCarson

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HITS and MISSES from the Last Weekend of a Lively November

To remain grateful in boxing is relatively easy these days, and that was hammered home over Thanksgiving weekend when a bevy of solid fights featuring some of the best fighters in the world took place just about the time everyone in the U.S. was done stuffing their faces with leftovers.

But what were the biggest HITS and MISSES from another busy weekend in the sport that saw former titleholders preparing themselves for bigger fights down the line as well as undefeated up-and-comers and undeterred underdogs looking for statement wins to add to their ledgers?

HIT: Patrick Teixeira’s Huge Upset Over Previously Undefeated Carlos Adames

At most, Patrick Teixeira was probably meant to give rising undefeated junior middleweight Carlos Adames a tough test on his way to bigger and better things. The two met for a vacant secondary title on the undercard of a Top Rank on ESPN+ card at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, but Teixeira did not comply with those assumed plans by the promoter.

Instead, a bloody battle ensued with Teixeira ultimately scoring the biggest win of his career by scores of 116-111, 114-113 and 114-113 after some highly competitive rounds. The difference came during the final moments of the seventh-round when the southpaw Texiera uncorked a barrage of right hooks followed by a left hand that dropped Adames to the canvas.

That it happened so soon after Teixeira seemed he might be on his way to being stopped himself made for some compelling action. It was the Brazilian’s fifth straight win since his only defeat, a second-round knockout to former world title challenger Curtis Stevens in May 2016.

Now, Teixeira is expected to be elevated to full champion by the WBO because current titleholder Jaime Munguia seems ready to move up to the middleweight ranks. That’s quite the turn of events for Teixeira who didn’t seem on track to win a world title anytime soon.

What an amazing win for a fighter seemingly brought in to just be an opponent.

MISS: Russell Mora’s Premature Stoppage of Valdez-Lopez

After original opponent, Andres Gutierrez, weighed 11 pounds over the 130-pound limit on Friday and was scratched from the fight, late replacement opponent Adam Lopez stepped into a really difficult circumstance against former featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez on Saturday night in the main event of the aforementioned card.

But Lopez acquitted himself well, dropping Valdez in the second round and giving the undefeated Mexican a very tough fight. After some riveting back-and-forth action, Valdez dropped Lopez with a well-placed left hook to the head followed by a right hand. Lopez rose to his feet and appeared to be weathering the storm when referee Russell Mora shockingly halted the action.

Due to the danger inherent in the sport, it’s certainly understandable why Mora would want to err on the side of caution. But it sure seemed like Lopez was still in the fight, and he probably should have been given the opportunity to continue considering how well he had done before that moment.

HIT: Casimero Punching His Way Into Bigger Bantamweight Fights

Could John Riel Casimero’s third title in as many weight classes have come at a better time in his career?

Casimero cracked Zolani Tete with a series of right hooks on Saturday in Birmingham, England to win the WBO bantamweight title. Tete was originally part of the recently completed World Boxing Super Series tournament but pulled out of his semi-final bout against Nonito Donaire who eventually lost in a Fight of the Year candidate to Naoya Inoue.

Before the injury sidelined his WBSS plans, Tete was favored over Donaire and had won 12 straight bouts. But Casimero stunningly pulled the upset and picked up the WBO bantamweight title in the process to go alongside the other alphabet belts he had won previously at 108 and 112 pounds.

More importantly than the historical nicety of being a three-division world champion though, Casimero made a solid case to get a big fight against Inoue. The thought of that bout isn’t something that really existed before Casimero’s big win over Tete, so seeing the 30-year-old manifest his own destiny was both surprising and admirable.

MISS: Frampton’s Second Act Being So Shockingly Unlike His First

Admittedly, calling Frampton’s dominant performance over Tyler McCreary on Saturday night on the Top Rank card in Las Vegas a miss is probably a little harsh. By all counts, Frampton’s performance was impressive as he boxed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision.

Still, the thing that made Frampton so spectacular during his run up the ranks during the better part of his career was his willingness to take on tough competition. Indeed, that’s the mindset that made Frampton a world champion in two different weight classes and one of the most popular Irish fighters in recent memory.

Frampton faced the inexperienced and unheralded McCreary in the first bout of the multi-fight deal the 32-year-old signed with Top Rank earlier this year after losing to IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington in December 2018. That move made sense for Frampton’s pocketbook. It also nabbed him TV money and allowed him to set up bigger fights down in the line in front of an American audience.

But Frampton doesn’t really seem like the same fighter he was when he stormed across the Atlantic to outfight Leo Santa Cruz in 2016. He doesn’t even really seem like the same guy who had the audacity to try it for a second time the following year.

Instead, Frampton now seems like an older fighter looking to make the most bang for his buck by taking the path of least resistance. That’s probably why after the win his promoters seemed to be targeting WBO junior lightweight titleholder Jamel Herring over any other names in the deep division, many of which seem more dangerous.

HIT: Matchroom’s Monte Carlo Menagerie 

Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn is a welcome addition to the world stage precisely because he always seems to be trying to push boundaries forward. Boxing has always been a global sport, but in recent years it seems to be growing into that in full force thanks to the new technologies and tools that didn’t exist before.

On Saturday, Matchroom promoted a card in Monaco featuring a full slate of interesting and noteworthy action that helped push boxing forward into the next era. Alexander Besputin defeated Radzhab Butaev in a battle of undefeated welterweights vying for a shot at Terence Crawford. Chinese heavyweight prospect Zhilei Zhang defeated Andriy Rudenko by 10-round decision in the 36-year-old’s first fight to go beyond six rounds. And undisputed women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus moved closer to a blockbuster showdown against lightweight champion Katie Taylor by successfully defending her crown against Victoria Bustos.

As suggested by our own Matt Andrzejewski, Besputin is likely on his way to facing Crawford soon because Top Rank and the PBC don’t seem all that interested in working together for fights at 147 pounds. Zhang is just as likely to find himself in a big heavyweight fight soon, even if it’s just on the regional level because his advanced age coupled with his huge fanbase makes matters super urgent. And there probably isn’t any bigger women’s boxing event than the proposed Braekhus-Taylor fight.

What an amazingly strange card, but one that made sense for the location while also helping define important paths forward in 2020.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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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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