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The Hauser Report: Teofimo Lopez Shines at Madison Square Garden

Thomas Hauser

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The last boxing card of the year at Madison Square Garden had trouble gaining traction with ticket-buyers. Promoter Bob Arum conceded prior to the final pre-fight press conference that the main event between Terence Crawford and Egidijus Kavaliauskas was “a 10-to-1, 12-to-1 fight, so there’s not much interest in it.” But fans who made it to The Garden on December 14 (the announced attendance of 10,101 included some yeast) got their money’s worth. There was a competitive undercard (a pleasant change from the norm in boxing these days) coupled with several storylines of note. When the night was done, Teofimo Lopez had stolen the show.

First, some introductory notes.

Edgar Berlanga, a 22-year-old super-middleweight prospect, came into his fight against Cesar Nunez (16-1, 8 KOs, 1 KO by) with twelve first-round knockout victories in twelve bouts. On one level, that’s good. But Berlanga hasn’t experienced what it’s like to go back to his corner after the first round of a professional fight, have his trainer rinse out his mouthpiece, and get ready for more. He didn’t know what it was like to get off his stool and hear someone saying, “Round five . . . Round six . . . Round seven.”

Nunez had been knocked out in Germany four months ago by a gentleman named Vincent Feigenbutz. The assumption was that he would give Berlanga some rounds and then get knocked out. But Berlanga has heavy hands. He dropped Nunez early in round one, put a beating on him, dropped him again, and the fight was over . . . KO 1.

The first of three featured bouts of the evening matched 2016 Irish Olympian Michael Conlan (12-0, 7 KOs) against Vladimir Nikitin (3-0, 0 KOs), the man who defeated Conlon on a questionable decision in Rio de Janeiro.

Among the thoughts Conlan offered during fight week were:

*         “When I got to the pros, I was a little surprised by how much of a business it is. Everything is business.”

*         “At first, when there were negative comments about me on social media, it bothered me. It gets to you a little. Then I realized there was no reason to give attention to it. I don’t even read it anymore.”

*         “I’d love to be in a position someday where I can call the shots and demand longterm VADA testing for all of my fights.”

Insofar as the pro-ranks version of Conlan-Nikitin was concerned, Conlan maintained, “This is straight business for me. There’s no personal or emotional attachment to it. Vladimir, obviously he beat me in 2013 when I moved up to bantamweight. In 2016, he [just] got the decision. But he knows deep down he needs to prove something on Saturday night. I don’t believe he will.”

“I don’t have to prove anything to anyone,”Nikitin countered. “I won two bouts against him in the amateurs. This is just another big step in my professional career.”

When the moment of reckoning came, Nikitin was the more aggressive fighter. But it was ineffective aggression. Conlan outboxed him throughout the fight and went to the body often enough that it was a factor. On those occasions when Nikitin managed to work his way inside, Mick got off first or tied him up en route to a 100-90, 99-91, 98-92 triumph.

Conlan has flaws as a fighter, including a notable lack of power. But he’s a hard worker, articulate, and marketable with a solid Irish fan base. As long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, Top Rank will move him well.

The most intriguing fght of the night – and the one that fight fans most wanted to see – was Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) vs. 22-year-old Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs).

Commey, a 32-year-old Ghanaian now living in the Bronx, came up short against Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov in earlier outings but captured the vacant IBF 135-pound belt earlier this year with a victory over unheralded Isa Chaniev before defending it successfully against Raymundo Beltran.

Lopez (a 2-to-1 betting favorite) has been groomed by Top Rank and was being tested at a world-class level for the first time. The feeling going in was that, if he couldn’t hurt Commey early, things would get interesting. And if he did hurt Commey early – well, that would be interesting too.

Round one saw Commey throwing cautionary jabs. Lopez was the hunter. He wanted to make something happen. Forty seconds into the second stanza, he did. Both men threw right hands. Teofimo’s landed explosively. Commey plummeted to one knee, pitched forward, and rolled onto his back. He rose through an act of Herculean will and was being battered against the ropes when referee David Fields stopped the slaughter at the 1:13 mark. It was a statement win for Lopez.

Next came the main event.

WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) unified the four major 140-pound belts in 2017 before moving north to claim the WBO welterweight title. For several years, he has been in the thick of boxing’s pound-for-pound conversation but says, “At the end of the day, it’s just opinion.”

Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs), a 31-year-old Lithuanian, was a typical mandatory challenger.

At a media sitdown just prior to the final pre-fight press conference, Crawford bridled when asked if he was frustrated by not getting fights against boxing’s other top welterweights because they’re signed with Premier Boxing Champions (which seems intent on freezing him out).

“I’m not frustrated by nothing,” Terence answered, “except I thought I’d get three fights this year and I only got two. I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now. Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Crawford also had words for media and fans who disparage fighters who box rather than slug.

“All those people that criticize boxers for boxing never been in the ring before. They never had the pleasure of getting knocked upside the head for twelve rounds. It’s not fun. We do it because it’s our job. But boxers go in the ring as one person and leave a different person. You go home; you eat your popcorn; and you say, ‘Oh, that was a great fight.’ It was a great fight for you to watch, but you don’t think about the fighters that went through hell to entertain you.”

Crawford-Kavaliauskas was an entertaining fight.

Crawford did what Crawford does best. He took his time, figured out what he needed to know, and broke Kavaliauskas down. But he was a bit sloppier and less surgical than usual.

Terence fights like he knows what he wants to do, while his opponents fight like, “Let me see if I can do something.”

Midway through round three, Kavaliauskas did something. He nailed Crawford with a sharp right hand that likely would have dropped him to the ring mat had Terence not held on. Egidijus then fired a hook to the body that deposited Terence on the canvas, but referee Ricky Gonzalez ruled it a slip (which looked like the wrong call).

More than most boxers, Crawford appears to take it personally when someone punches him in the face. Thereafter, he and Kavaliauskas fired back and forth. But Terence had the faster hands, sharper punches, and more effective body attack. Late in round seven, he put Kavaliauskas down with a right behind the ear. From that point on, it was a question of when the end would come rather than what the end would be.

Early in round nine, Kavaliauskas visited the canvas for the second time courtesy of right uppercut. He rose and, seconds later, was felled by a right hook. End of fight.

Crawford has an arguable claim to the #1 slot in boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings. But at age 32, he has yet to fight an elite fighter, and it’s unlikely that he will anytime soon. Meanwhile, it appears as though Teofimo Lopez, at age 22, will have the opportunity to make his mark in a signature fight against Vasyl Lomachenko in April.

Lomachenko-Lopez could be an interesting fight. Very.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

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Boxing Promoter Michelle “Raging Babe” Rosado Pulls No Punches

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Michelle Rosado, the founder and CEO of Raging Babe Promotions, made her promotional debut on Feb. 8, 2019 with a show at South Philly’s intimate 2300 Arena. The show drew an SRO crowd, a testament to Rosado’s tireless work ethic, but ended on a sour note when local fan favorite Christian Carto – potentially the next big thing on the Philadelphia boxing scene – stepped up in class and was brutally knocked out by Mexican veteran Victor Ruiz. A protégé of Hall of Fame boxing promoter J Russell Peltz (pictured on the left), Rosado recently appeared on the “Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer” to share her thoughts on some of the major issues in boxing. Here are excerpts from that interview compliments of publicist Keisha Williams.

ROSADO ON WHY CLUB SHOWS ARE IMPORTANT TO THE SPORT

“Club shows are where you are building those prospects, that’s where you’re developing those fighters you see the top promoters are pulling these opponents from. We’re developing these guys from the ground up, we’re almost like a farm system. Most of these guys you see on TV fighting for millions of dollars, and becoming world champions, a lot of them started at the club level.”

ROSADO ON STATE OF WOMEN’S BOXING

“Women’s boxing needs a platform, there’s nowhere for these girls to fight, they deserve some fairness in our sport. I’m not trying to say they deserve to be paid the same as Canelo, but they shouldn’t be paid 5 thousand dollars to defend their titles either, so in 2021

I’m going to get more involved in women’s boxing and try and be a voice for them because they deserve better and a platform.”

ROSADO ON HOW DIFFICULT IT IS BEING IT IS BEING A FEMALE PROMOTER IN BOXING

“I’ve been called every racial slur you can think of, I’ve had tickets thrown in my face, I’ve had my house vandalized, I’ve had a brick thrown threw my back window of my car. I’ve been called every kind of groupie you can imagine. She’s slept with everybody in the business and every fighter. I’ve earned my stripes, I’ve worked hard, no handouts, it’s just been all hard work and I’ve had to learn to turn the cheek. Most people know nine years in that I’m a hustler. You’ll never find a fighter that says she stole from me, she didn’t pay me, she lied to me, you’ll never find a fighter that says that!”

RAGING BABE ON FEMALE BOXING PROMOTERS

“Yes we have a lot more women in boxing, yes it still a little more difficult for us, but we’re there you hear us roaring. Behind every big promoter, he’s got a woman either as his right hand man or running the operation. And I mean all of them!”

ROSADO ON HER ULTIMATE GOAL

“I want to continue to promote good fights, I want to make Philadelphia the legendary fight town that it once was, I want to develop those guys from the ground up, I want old school and new school boxing fans to come to my shows and fall in love with boxing again, and them become interested in the bigger boxing world again because we’re losing that old school boxing fan. I want to uphold the reputation of real fights, real fighters, real fans that’s my passion.”

ROSADO’S TOP 5 POUND FOR POUND LIST

  1. Terence Crawford
  2. Canelo Alvarez
  3. Errol Spence Jr.
  4. Naoya Inoue
  5. Teofimo Lopez

Rosado on who’s boxing next big star and the best fighter out of Philly right now

“Boxing’s next big star is Tank….We got a lot of really good fighters in Philly, but Jaron “Boots” Ennis is that dude!”

The full in-depth interview is now available on YouTube (Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer) and all major podcast platforms (Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, etc.)

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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HITS and MISSES: Post-Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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It was another massive weekend in boxing. There were big fights on pay-per-view that maybe shouldn’t have been so big, and fights surrounded by lesser fanfare that will probably be looked back at as the more meaningful action by future historians.

Here are the biggest HITS and MISSES from another week on the boxing beat.

HIT: Mike Tyson, Roy Jones and the Unifying Power of Boxing

Whatever you think about the boxing exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. on Saturday night, the most important aspect of the whole night (to this writer at least) was seeing how easily a big fight in boxing could still unify our culture.

No, it wasn’t a legitimate prizefight, but people still wanted to see the 54-year-old Tyson go a few rounds with the 51-year-old Jones, and that’s exactly what they got. It was a ride built mostly around the power of nostalgia, and it featured all sorts of present-day celebrities, too.

By the end of things, it seemed the general reaction to the event on social media was positive.

Tyson vs. Jones showed how big a reach boxing still has. Tyson retired over 15 years ago, but people from all over the planet were still willing to pay $50 to watch him climb inside the ropes for a sparring session.

Seeing that left me with two exciting questions.

What awesome power will boxing’s next superstar have?

More importantly, where is he (or she) anyway?

MISS: Ring Announcer’s Steve Harvey Moment 

In 2015, comedian Steve Harvey accidentally announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant. As humiliating as that event was for Harvey, just imagine how the two women felt after having their hearts filled and slashed by his error.

That same thing sort of happened on Friday night when Danny Jacobs beat Gabriel Rosado via split decision in a 168-pound stay-busy fight streamed by DAZN.

Ring announcer Jeremiah Gallegos accidentally said the winner hailed from Philadelphia (where Rosado is from) before quickly changing it back to Brooklyn (where Jacobs is from).

So momentarily, the hard-luck Rosado, who never has been the beneficiary of a close decision in any important fight, thought he had just pulled off the upset of the year.

Instead, Jacobs was corrected as the winner and that had to be an awful experience for both fighters, one that was completely avoidable.

HIT: Joe Joyce: An Actual Juggernaut?

Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce is a popular fighter on the other side of the ocean because of his long and successful campaign as an amateur boxing star which culminated with Joyce winning the silver medal for Great Britain in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Still, as a professional prospect, there are lots of things not to like about Joyce. First, Joyce didn’t start boxing until he was 22. Late bloomers come around now and then, but they’re still a rarity in the sport. Second, Joyce is already 35, which means he’s already just outside the confines of his theoretical physical prime, something that ends around 33 years old and only gets worse. Finally, Joyce is just plain slow as molasses.

Regardless, Joyce stopped fellow Brit Daniel Dubois on Saturday in London.

Unlike Joyce, Dubois, 23, possesses plenty of attributes one looks for in a future world champion. But none of those things helped Dubois win the fight.

All this to say Joyce just keeps winning fights. Sure, he might appear to be a boulder tumbling slowly down a hill when he fights, but that rock is starting to gain some real momentum.

HIT: 54-1

Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin finally lost a fight over the weekend, but it should be noted that at least the fighter finally knows his limits.

Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) entered his fight against Petchmanee CP Freshmart (aka Panya Pradabsri) with a sterling record of 54-0. He left the contest 54-1 after judges rendered their verdict for the challenger.

Much was made of Menayothin’s glossy win streak last year when he surpassed retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 mark. But a combat sports culture obsessed with suffering no blemishes on a record is only a relatively new phenomenon. Moreover, the very nature of that path through the sport never reveals the true limits of a fighter.

All this to say that Menayothin now gets a better sense of his limits, and the boxing world as a whole gets to know that same thing about him, too. That’s wildly better than the alternative.

MISS: Nate Robinson Challenge

If you missed the Tyson vs. Jones pay-per-view event on Triller over the weekend, you didn’t see social media star Jake Paul’s viral knockout of ex-NBA star Nate Robinson.

It was clear from the start of the fight that Paul and Robinson weren’t evenly matched. That kind of thing happens all the time in boxing, of course, but here was a case of a person (Robinson) who maybe had been so mismatched against Paul that it was too dangerous to have happened at all.

Regardless, Robinson did have the courage to train for the fight and step inside the ropes on fight night.

After he was knocked out, something called the “Nate Robinson Challenge” started trending on Twitter, and it was basically people from all over the world trolling the 3-time NBA dunking champ for getting knocked out in the fight.

Look, Robinson made his own bed by calling for the fight in the first place. But the Internet trolls that rag people for stepping outside their comfort zones probably would never dare to attempt that accomplishment themselves.

Robinson tried and failed. That’s the real challenge.

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Tyson and Jones Box to an Unofficial Draw in a Predictable Stinker

Arne K. Lang

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American institution, went belly-up in 2017, but a different kind of circus played to an empty house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight. The main attraction wasn’t Jumbo the elephant but Iron Mike Tyson in his first ring appearance in 15 years. In the opposite corner was Roy Jones Jr, who at age 51 was the younger man by three years.

Tyson vs. Jones was the main piece of a 4-hour boxing and music festival live-streamed in the U.S. on the TysononTriller.com app at a list price of $49.95. This was the first live event on “Triller” which allows people to create their own music videos and was designed as a rival to China-owned TikTok, one of the biggest recent success stories in the internet world.

The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the match, insisted that Tyson vs. Jones would be an exhibition. They would fight 8 two-minute rounds with 12-ounce gloves and if there were a knockdown, the referee would not give a count and the bout would or would not continue at his discretion. The rounds would not be scored and no winner would be named.

Of course, the promoter chafed at these restraints and did his best to create the impression that this was a legitimate prizefight. Retired boxers Vinny Pazienza, Chad Dawson, and Christy Martin were lassoed to serve as judges, scoring the fight from a remote location, and the WBC commissioned an honorary belt to present to the winner.

The advance hype was enormous. A clickbait-obsessed media lapped it up including photoshop-enhanced images of Mike Tyson’s physique.

In the second round, Tyson landed a double left hook and that was the only indelible moment in the match. By the third round, both looked and sounded tired and by the sixth round Jones was thoroughly gassed out and took to clinching to make it to the final bell.

For the record, the scores were 79-73 for Tyson (Martin), 80-76 for Jones (Pazienza), and 76-76 (Dawson). On the internet, the clear consensus was that Tyson had the best of it.

Mike Tyson, 50-6, 2 NC (44 KOs) last fought in June of 2005 when he was stopped by third-rater Kevin McBride. Roy Jones (66-9, 47 KOs) was active as recently as 2018 and won his last four, but against hand-picked opponents including a boxer making his pro debut. His last fight of significance came in 2011 when he was brutally KOed by Dennis Lebedev in Moscow.

Jones, who weighed 210 ½ tonight, weighed 157 when he made his pro debut in 1989. In his prime, he was pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, but that was back in the previous century.

Both fighters were reportedly guaranteed $1 million with Tyson’s take potentially reaching $10 million if certain financial targets were met.

Other Bouts

YouTube sensation Jake Paul, who we reluctantly concede has more than a modicum of talent in the fisticuffing department, knocked out Nate Robinson in the second round and it was a clean knockout with Robinson knocked out cold. The 36-year-old Robinson, the former NBA point guard who was a three-time slam dunk champion during his 11-year NBA career, is a well-rounded athlete, good enough to start as a cornerback in football during his freshman year at the University of Washington, but his athleticism didn’t translate to the squared circle as he looked like a common bar brawler.

Former two-division belt-holder Badou Jack (22-3-4), who said he appeared on the card as a favor to his friend Mike Tyson, was a clear-cut winner over hard-trying but out-classed Blake McKernan in an 8-round cruiserweight match.

At age 37, Jack’s career is winding down. He tipped the scales at 188 ¾, 14 pounds more than in his previous engagement vs. Jean Pascal. McKernan, a natural cruiserweight from Sacramento, was undefeated coming in (13-0), but was in over his head against Jack, a former Olympian and veteran of seven world title fights.

In a good action fight, Worcester, Massachusetts lightweight Jamaine Ortiz, a carpenter by trade, improved to 14-0 (8) with a seventh-round stoppage of Sulaiman Segawa (13-3-1), a Maryland-based Ugandan.

In the first bout on the program, Fort Worth featherweight Edward Vazquez improved to 9-0 (1) with an 8-round split decision over Jamaine Ortiz stablemate Irvin Gonzalez (14-3).

Heavyweight Juiseppe “Joe” Cusumano improved to 19-3 (17) with a sixth-round stoppage of late sub Gregory Corbin (15-4). It was the fourth straight loss for the 40-year-old Corbin who came in at a beefy 291 ¾ pounds.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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