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New Orleans Native Bernard Fernandez Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame

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The Sweet Science is proud to announce that BERNARD FERNANDEZ, who for the last few years has written exclusively for this web site, and frequent TSS contributor THOMAS HAUSER have been named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observers category. The official announcement was made today (Dec. 4) by IBHOF Executive Director Ed Brophy.

Fernandez and Hauser are joined by nine other living inductees plus Frank Erne, active from 1892 to 1908, who joins the Hall in the Old-Timer category, and bare-knuckle battler Paddy Ryan, named in the Pioneer category.

Modern Era boxers Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Shane Mosley are headed to Canastota, each having been named to the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Joining them are Pioneer women’s boxer Barbara Buttrick and Modern Era women’s boxers Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker. In the Non-Participant category, Lou DiBella, Kathy Duva, and the late Dan Goossen are the newest IBHOF inductees.

The newcomers will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, the highlight of the four-day Hall of Fame Weekend festivities in Canastota, NY.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ

Bernard Fernandez was born in New Orleans in 1947 on a day when the city was being lashed by a powerful hurricane. Perhaps there’s a metaphor there, but it eludes us as the Bernard Fernandez we know is a peaceable fellow.

Fernandez first got the idea of pursuing a career in sports journalism when he won a city-wide essay contest for eighth-grade students at Catholic schools. The top prize was one dollar.

At New Orleans De La Salle High School, he worked on the school newspaper and yearbook. In the summer between his junior and senior years of high school, he landed a job as a copy boy in the Times-Picayune Sports Department. It was, he says, the best summer job a high school kid could ever have.

It was there at the Times-Picayune, which had the widest circulation of the city’s two daily papers, that he received his first byline while covering American Legion baseball games. After graduation, he studied journalism at LSU, the state’s flagship university in Baton Rouge.

That Fernandez would gravitate toward the boxing beat was perhaps inevitable as his father, also named Bernard, had boxed as an amateur and had six pro fights in San Diego while serving in the Navy, going 4-1-1 under the name Jack Fernandez. An only child, Bernard was particularly close to his father who held the rank of captain when he retired from the New Orleans Police Department.

Fernandez met his future wife, Anne Marie d’Aquin, on a blind date when he was a senior at De La Salle and she a sophomore at a sister school. (De La Salle was an all-boys high school back then; it is now coed.)

The young lady must have made quite an impression. Some guys — lots of guys — can’t remember the date of their wedding anniversary. Bernard remembers that and also the date when he first met Annie on that blind date: Feb. 12, 1965.

They were married in 1968. Bernard was then early into a six-year hitch with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, assigned to a helicopter unit at the Naval Station in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

anne

Bernard and Annie, a retired ICU nurse, have four children and six grandchildren. His sons, Randall and Kevin, reside in the greater New Orleans area. Randall is a longtime deputy with the Jefferson Parish Police Department; Kevin is a Crime Scene investigator with the Gretna Police Department. His daughters, Melanie and Amy, reside in the Philadelphia area. Melanie is a tax consultant for an international company; Amy an office manager for a dentist/oral surgeon.

Last year, on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary, Fernandez wrote his most poignant column, a paean to Annie, his soulmate all these many years. Seldom has a blind date between teenagers turned out so well.

At the age of 22, Fernandez got his first full-time newspaper job at the Courier in Houma, a community an hour’s drive south of New Orleans. Quite unexpectedly, he was made the sports editor. The person that held that position quit right before he arrived.

He subsequently accepted positions at the Miami Herald, Jackson (MS) Daily News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Philadelphia Daily News where he spent the last 28 years of his newspaper career. With the Jackson paper, he covered his first live boxing event, the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome. This was a big, big event, a front-page news story in many papers, not merely the front page of the sports section. In time, he would cover literally dozens of big fights. He was in the small contingent of U.S. fight writers in Tokyo to see the fight between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas and had a bird’s-eye view of what was arguably the most famous upset in all of sports.

Philadelphia was a great fight town. When Fernandez arrived, the local gyms were bursting with world-class fighters. Moreover, nearby Atlantic City was in its heyday as a boxing Mecca. There were storylines galore for a boxing writer. And when things cooled down, he was assigned other beats. For a time, he covered the local NBA team, the 76ers, and Penn State football.

In 1998, Fernandez won the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. Four years later, he was named the President of the organization. He held that post from 2002 to 2005 and again in 2008 and 2009 after being wooed back for an encore.

Founded in 1926, the BWAA was originally called the Boxing Writers Association of Greater New York (there were a heck of a lot more boxing writers back in those days). During Bernard’s tenures as President, the BWAA tripled its membership in part by drawing in writers from a wider geographic spectrum.

In 2012, at the annual BWAA banquet, and without his foreknowledge, the organization’s annual writing awards were named the “Bernies” in his honor. Three years later, he received the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing. Today’s news coming out of Canastota is the capstone of a distinguished career ignited by the gift of a dollar from the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.

It’s altogether fitting that Bernard Fernandez would be accorded this honor in Canastota, the little town in upstate New York whose name has become synonymous with the history of boxing. Bernard’s father’s favorite fighter was Carmen Basilio, the former welterweight and middleweight champion who had an incredible run beginning in 1955 when he appeared in The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year in five straight years. Bernard Fernandez Sr, who died at age 75 in 1994, passed on his admiration for Basilio to his son.

There might not be an International Boxing Hall of Fame and, if there were, it certainly wouldn’t be located here, if not for Carmen Basilio. The IBHOF is a monument to Basilio, the son of an onion farmer who was born and bred right here in Canastota.

Bernard Fernandez has been to Canastota many times, he’s even been a presenter, but 2020 will be different and he will likely be overcome with emotion as he remembers those days long ago when he and his dad bonded as they sat watching Carmen Basilio on their little black-and-white TV.

And how appropriate that Fernandez is entering the Hall in the same year as Bernard Hopkins. No boxing writer has covered Hopkins’ career as meticulously as Fernandez. He was ringside for the bookends: Hopkins’ pro debut in Atlantic City on Oct. 11, 1988, and his farewell fight in Los Angeles thirty years later. And over the years they became good friends, as friendly as a sportswriter can be with an athlete without compromising his objectivity.

Back in 2006, Robert Mladinich wrote a wonderful profile of Bernard Fernandez. That piece concluded with a quote. “I might have five, six, seven years left as a writer,” he said. “In this business, one day you have a byline, the next day you don’t. Newspaper journalists are like sand castles because they are very impermanent.”

Well, he was certainly right about the last part. And that observation smacks of a hint of foreboding because in 2006 it wasn’t yet obvious just how deep the digital revolution would scar the traditional print media, an upheaval that would pitch thousands of journalists and other kinds of newspaper workers out of work.

But that bit about having only five, six, or seven years left as a writer, well that completely missed the mark. Bernard Fernandez is still going strong and those of us that enjoy reading well-crafted stories about boxing are the beneficiaries.

Congrats, Bernie.

Editor’s Note: A profile of Thomas Hauser will be forthcoming

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel  

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Another Victory for Ukraine as Berinchyk Upsets Navarrete in San Diego

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Whether it was inspiration or perspiration, Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk motored past Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete by split decision to become the WBO lightweight world titlist on Saturday.

Just hours after his fellow countryman Oleksandr Usyk became undisputed heavyweight world champion, Berinchyk joined the club.

“This is a great night for all people of Ukraine,” Berinchyk said.

The undefeated Ukrainian Berinchyk (19-0, 9 KOs) gutted out a win over Navarrete (38-2-1, 31 KOs) who was attempting to join Mexico’s four-division world champion club in San Diego. The lanky fighter known as “Vaquero” fell a little short.

Through all 12 rounds neither fighter was able to dominate and neither was able to score a knockdown. Just when it seemed one fighter gathered enough momentum, the other fighter would rally.

A butt caused a slight cut on Navarrete in the 10th round. That seemed to ignite anger from the Mexican fighter and he powered through the Ukrainian fighter the next two rounds.

In the final round Berinchyk bore down and slugged it out with the Mexican fighter as both relied on their weapons of choice. For most of the night Navarrete scored with long-range uppercuts and Berinchyk scored with overhand rights.

After 12 rounds two judges scored it 115-113, 116-112 for Berinchyk and one 116-112 for Navarrete. Ukraine gained its third world titlist in one a week. Berinchyk joins Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko as world titlists.

“He’s a very tough guy,” said Berinchyk of Navarrete.

Welterweights

A battle between undefeated welterweights saw Brian Norman (26-0, 20 KOs) knock out Giovany Santillan (32-1, 17 KOs) in the 10th round to become the interim WBO titlist.

For nine rounds both welterweights engaged in brutal inside warfare as each tried to beat the sense out of each other.

Norman worked the body early as Santillan targeted the head. Neither fought more than two inches from each other.

The younger Norman, 23, connected with a right cross during an exchange that wobbled Santillan in the eighth round. From that point on the Georgia fighter began setting up for his power shots. Finally, in the 10th round, uppercuts dropped Santillan twice. In the second knockdown Santillan went down hard as referee Ray Corona stopped the fight immediately at 1:33 of the 10th round.

Other Bouts

Heavyweight Richard Torrez (10-0, 10 KOs) knocked out Brandon Moore (14-1) in the fifth round for a regional title.

Lightweight Alan Garcia (10-0) defeated Wilfredo Flores (10-3-1) by decision after eight.

Photo credit: German Villasenor

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UNDISPUTED ! – Usyk Defeats Fury ! – Plus Undercard Results from Riyadh

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The most ballyhooed fight of the young century played out today at Riyadh Arena in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where Ukraine’s amazing Oleksandr Usyk became an undisputed world champion in a second weight class with a split decision over WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

This was a memorable fight with twists and turns. Usyk had some good moments early, but the middle rounds belonged to the Gypsy King. Heading into the second half of the bout, the old saying that a good big man will always beat a good little man, appeared to be holding up once again. Fury was having good success working the body as his trainer SugarHill Steward exhorted him to do, and when he went upstairs, he rattled Usyk, notably in round five when a big uppercut appeared to lift the Ukrainian off his feet. But Usyk finished round seven strong, a prelude of what was to come.

Usyk plainly won round eight and in round nine, he came within a whisper of ending it. A flurry of punches sent Fury reeling. He crashed into the ring ropes which dictated a standing-8 count from referee Mark Nelson. If Nelson had waited a few more seconds, he would have likely waved the fight off as Fury was on queer street. But this dramatic turnaround came late in the round and the Gypsy King was saved by the bell.

Among other things, Tyson Fury is known for his amazing powers of recuperation. He not only stayed the course, but appeared to win the final round. But in the end, Oleksandr Usyk, now 22-0 (14) saddled Fury (34-1-1) with his first defeat. Two of the judges favored him (115-112, 114-113) with the dissenter scoring it for Fury 114-113.

A draw wouldn’t have caused much of a stink and now they will do it again. The sequel is tentatively scheduled for October. Both are getting a little long in the tooth – Usyk is 37 and Fury is 35 – so we will be surprised if the rematch lives up to the hype.

Semi-wind-up

The first encounter between Jai Opetaia and Mairis Briedis was a grueling fight. Opetaia, an Australian Olympian at age 16, won the battle (a fair decision) but yet took the worst of it. Early in that bout, he had his jaw fractured in two places and for the next two months was forced to eat out of a straw.

The rematch tonight in Riyadh was a monotonous fight through the first nine rounds. Briedis, now 39 years old and inactive since their first meeting, looked old and rusty. But the fight heated up in round 10 and the championship rounds belonged to the Latvian.

It came too little, too late, however, as Briedis needed a knockout to win. At the conclusion, the judges favored the Aussie by scores of 117-111 and 116-112 twice.

Opetaia, 28, improved to 25-0 (19).  Briedis, who has defeated everyone that he has fought with the exceptions of Opetaia and Oleksandr Usyk (and the Usyk fight was close) falls to 28-3.

The first fight between Opetaia and Briedis was for the IBF cruiserweight title. Tonight’s match is for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title (don’t ask).

Cordina-Cacace

In a major upset, Belfast’s Anthony Cacace, a 12-year pro, captured the IBF 130-pound world title with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Joe Cordina who went to post a consensus 7/1 favorite. The end came 39 seconds into round seven with Cacace pummeling Cordina against the ropes.

The Irishman was the busier fighter and landed the harder punches, but the bout was not without controversy. In the third frame, Cacace stunned Cordina with a punch that landed after the referee ordered the fighters to break. That put Cordina on the defensive and before the round was over, Cacace put him on the canvas with a wicked uppercut and Cordina, badly hurt, barely survived the round. Cacace (22-1, 8 KOs) had a big sixth round and closed the show in the next stanza.

Cordina, a 2016 Olympian who was undefeated in 17 pro fights heading in, is a close friend and frequent workout partner of Lauren Price who captured the WBC female welterweight title last week. She now stands alone as the only current world champion from Wales.

Kabayel-Sanchez

In a mild upset, Agit Kabayel continued his late career surge with a seventh-round KO of previously undefeated Frank Sanchez. As was the case in his last fight when he upset Arslanbek Makhmudov, Kabayel (25-0, 17 KOs) finished his opponent with body punches. A left-right combination knocked Sanchez to his knees and then, after Sanchez got to his feet, a straight right to the belly sent him down again and he wasn’t able to beat the count.

Sanchez, who was 24-0 heading in, entered the bout with a brace over his right knee that compromised his mobility. Kabayel, the aggressor throughout, was comfortably ahead at the time of the stoppage. The official time was 2:23 of round seven.

Kovalev-Safar

In a dull 10-rounder, unsung Robin Safar, a Swedish-born fighter of Kurdish descent, may have written the finish for the career of Sergey Kovalev. At age 41 in his second fight as a cruiserweight and coming off a two-year layoff, the “Krusher” was a pale imitation of the fighter that won nine straight light heavyweight title fights before losing a controversial decision to Andre Ward in their first encounter.

Safar, who improved to 17-0 (12) punctuated his triumph by knocking down Kovalev (35-5-1) with a big right hand inside the final 10 seconds of the final round. The judges had it 99-90, 97-92, and 95-94.

Two early fights ended in early knockouts.

Moses Itauma, a 19-year-old, six-foot-six southpaw who was raised in London by a Nigerian father and a Slovakian mother, stopped Ilya Mezercev at the 50-second mark of the second round. Mezercev made it to his feet after being decked with a big right hook, but his legs were jelly and the fight was waved off.

Trained by Ben Davison, Itauma (9-0, 7 KOs) has been hailed as the next Anthony Joshua. As an amateur, he was reportedly 24-0. Mezercev, a Germany-based Kazkh, declined to 25-9.

British lightweight Mark “Thunder” Chamberlain (16-0, 12 KOs) looked sensational while blasting out Joshua Oluwaseun Wahab in the opening stanza. Chamberlain had Wahab (23-2) on the deck twice before the bout was waived off at the 2:42 mark.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

Argue all you want about the appeal of other sports, only boxing grabs fans on all levels and stratum.

It’s the oldest sport that has an international swag that only the World Cup can rival once every four years. Boxing has it every year.

Heavyweights take the forefront in Saudi Arabia while lightweights battle in Southern California. It’s an all-day affair pitting champions from all parts of the world.

Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs), the WBC and lineal heavyweight champion, finally meets Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 15 KOs) who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on Saturday, May 18, at Riyadh. DAZN ppv, ESPN ppv, and PPV.Com will stream the massive fight card at 9 a.m. PT/ 12 p.m. ET.

It’s a rare opportunity to decide who truly is the “baddest man on the planet.” Ever since the emergence of the alphabet titles, few know the name of the heavyweight champion. Not since Mike Tyson ruled the prize ring could fans tell you the name of the champ.

Some people still think Tyson is the heavyweight champ.

Now we have England’s “Gypsy King” Fury ready to prove that he indeed is the biggest and baddest of all the heavyweights in the world. He’s got his dad head-butting people to prove it.

“I predict that somebody’s ‘0’ has got to go. And it’s going to be that team over there, unfortunately for them,” said Tyson Fury who at six-feet, nine-inches tall towers over most opponents.

Facing Fury is Usyk, the Ukrainian fighter who twice defeated Anthony Joshua for several versions of the heavyweight championship.

Though several inches shorter and much lighter in weight, Usyk has displayed mobility and agility that allows him to dart in and out of danger. Will this tactic work against Fury?

“I have a plan. It’s a better plan. And it’s a great plan,” said Usyk. “I will have the opportunity to become undisputed for a second time.”

Of course, size doesn’t always matter when it comes to heavyweights. History has taught us the bigger man doesn’t always win. From Jack Dempsey whipping Jess Willard to Joe Frazier beating Buster Mathis, size doesn’t dictate the winner when it comes to heavyweights.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum summed up the importance of this heavyweight clash.

“After this fight, there is one ‘Baddest Man on the Planet,’ the undisputed heavyweight champion. That means everything in the sport of boxing. That means everything for fans who love boxing,” said Arum.

Two other world titles fights are also planned.

IBF super featherweight titlist Joe Cordina (17-0, 9 KOs) defends against Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs).

Cordina was seen in Santa Monica, California sparring various super featherweights in preparation for this match. His last match against Texan Edwin Vazquez was a squeaker but you can never tell what the Welsh fighter will do.

Who can forget his two-round demolition of Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa?

Cruiserweights also battle. IBF titlist Jai Opetaia (24-0, 19 KOs) of Australia defends against Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20 KOs). This is a rematch. They fought two years ago with Opetaia winning by decision in Australia. Can Opetaia do it again in neutral territory?

PPV.Com

Headlining the PPV.COM announcing crew for the Fury-Usyk card will be Dan Canobbio, Chris Algieri and Kevin Iole. They will be commentating and also discussing the fight via text on social media.

It’s been almost a year since this this style of reporting was adopted. Fans like the opportunity to discuss the fight with the experts.

San Diego Fights

Three-division world champion Emanuel Navarrete (38-1-1, 31 KOs) attempts to become a four-division world champion when he meets Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk (18-0, 9 KOs) for the vacant WBO lightweight title on Saturday, May 18, at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. ESPN will televise.

The Mexican fighter known as “El Vaquero” seeks to become the sixth Mexican fighter with four division world titles and join the prestigious elite. Among those accomplishing the feat are Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Jorge Arce and Leo Santa Cruz.

Navarrete barely survived his last fight with a majority draw against Robson Conceicao last November in Las Vegas. Perhaps the extra five pounds will help?

On the co-main event welterweight contender Giovani Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) of San Diego returns home to face Georgia’s Brian Norman (25-0, 19 KOs) for the interim WBO welterweight title.

Santillan, 32, is coming off a big knockout win over Alexis Rocha last year. The southpaw has always stepped up when bigger and better competition confronts him. Can he do it again?

Norman, 23, is a hard-hitting welterweight who fought 16 times in his first two years. Many of those fights took place in Mexico. It’s a big test for him.

East L.A. Fights

Super featherweights Dariial Kuchmenov (7-0) and Daniel Lugo (5-2) meet Saturday May 18, at Salesian High School in East Los Angeles. The Elite Boxing USA promotions card begins at 6 p.m. The card features several other bouts including female fighter Mayra Ruiz.

For tickets go to www.tix.com/ticket-sales/eliteboxing/7

18th & Grand Exhibit

The final day to visit the “18th & Grand” exhibit takes place on Sunday May 19, at La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes located at 501 N. Main Street in downtown Los Angeles 90012. The exhibit is free.

Inside you will find photos and art of the Olympic Auditorium that was the center of boxing, wrestling, roller derby, and rock concerts for decades.

For boxing fans, its where the sport showcased the likes of Henry Armstrong, Baby Arizmendi, Art Aragon, Jerry Quarry, Mando Ramos, Scrap Iron Johnson, Art Hafey, and many others.

The exhibit is free of charge.

Jake Paul vs Mike Tyson

Tickets went on sale this week for the return of Iron Mike Tyson who will face Jake Paul in a heavyweight match commissioned as an actual fight.

Most Valuable Promotions will stage Tyson versus Paul along with the rematch between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano on July 20, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Netflix will stream the card live.

A number of other bouts are planned for the mega event.

Paul’s first actual boxing match took place when Tyson fought Roy Jones Jr. in Los Angeles several years ago.

“I started Jake off and I’m gonna finish him,” promised Tyson when they fight.

Paul said he respects Tyson like family.

“I love you like a father loves his son, but I must discipline you. You’re going down, man,” said Paul.

Fights to Watch

Sat. PPV.COM 9 a.m. Tyson Fury (34-0-1) vs Oleksandr Usyk (21-0).

Sat. ESPN, 7:30 p.m. Emanuel Navarrete (38-1-1) vs Denys Berinchyk (18-0).

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