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New Orleans Native Bernard Fernandez Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame

Arne K. Lang

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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

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 7-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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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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