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Avila Perspective, Chap. 77: Harrison-Charlo, Mikey Garcia and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 77: Harrison-Charlo, Mikey Garcia and More

ONTARIO, Calif.-Once in a while you get a rivalry so intense it’s put in a neutral area.

Detroit’s Tony Harrison and Houston’s Jermell Charlo can’t stand the sight of each other and their near hatred spills over whenever they meet.

“I don’t like him, I don’t like nothing about him. He wakes me up,” said Harrison.

That’s why Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) will defend the WBC super welterweight title against Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs) Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Toyota Center in Ontario, California. It’s neutral territory in this rematch that had to be made. FOX will televise.

The last time they met in Los Angeles they spit words so venomous toward each other that they nearly came to blows. And the time before that a similar eruption took place in Los Angeles last spring.

“All I know is I’m ready to fight and crush him. Break him,” said Charlo who lost the WBC title to Harrison a year ago on a controversial decision.

They hate each other.

Maybe the city of Angels is not for them, but Ontario 60 miles east off the I-10 Freeway just could be.

“We’ve done fights in Ontario before and have been successful in the past,” said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions. “This is going to be a great fight.”

Harrison, 29, a former pupil of the late great Emanuel Steward, was unable to fight Charlo last June due to an injury. The postponement caused further vitriol from the Houston-based fighter who instead fought Jorge Cota, and knocked him out in three rounds.

“It was a fake injury,” said an accusing Charlo of Harrison’s injury that postponed a rematch originally planned for last June in Las Vegas.

Harrison shakes his head.

“Nothing about me is fake, “Harrison said in front of the media on Thursday at Toyota Center in Ontario. “What’s between me and him is real.”

It’s the final battle of a large fight card that features 15 bouts including former Olympian Carlos Balderas, former title challengers Hugo Centeno Jr. and Andre Dirrell in separate fights, and heavyweight sluggers.

The Toyota Center formerly was called Citizens Business Bank Arena and hosted numerous boxing cards in the past including Chris Arreola, Josesito Lopez, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and the retired undefeated Andre Ward. Once again, it’s the center of a spotlight on boxing.

Sunday

All Star Boxing hosts its final show of the year and undefeated Ikeem Abdullah headlines the fight card at the Quiet Cannon Golf Course in Montebello, California on Sunday Dec. 22.

Abdullah (3-0-1) originally hails from Chicago but has fought primarily in Southern California on several All Star Boxing shows. He’s a tall super lightweight who fights out of a southpaw stance.

Most of the boxing card consists of young budding professionals itching to proceed in the boxing world.

Ed Holmes, the promoter, has ignited the career of an extensive list of who’s who in the world of boxing. Many of today’s best prizefighters began on his boxing cards including former champions Isaac Dogboe, Murat Gassiev and current female champion Mexico’s Mariana “Barby” Juarez.

The venue always attracts former greats like James “Lights Out” Toney and Paul Banke. Montebello is located just east of East L.A. right off the 60-Freeway.

Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information call (323) 816-6200.

Mikey Returns

Multi-divisional world champion Mikey Garcia returns to the boxing ring after yet another lengthy lay-off.

“I’m very excited to be here and get back in the ring,” said Garcia atop the WP4 restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to another stage of my career.”

The last time Garcia performed in the boxing ring he endured his first defeat against IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. last March 16, in Texas. It was the first loss for the boxing wizard who formerly captured world titles in the featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight divisions.

Now Garcia, 32, faces two-division world titlist Jessie Vargas a former two-division world titlist in the super lightweight and welterweight divisions. The Moreno Valley-based fighter will be looking up at Vargas who has an advantage in height by several inches.

“A fight with Jessie Vargas motivates me,” said Garcia who did not want to merely fight ranked opposition but fighters who posed a serious risk. “I like challenges.”

It’s not the first time the 5’7” Garcia faces a much taller opponent.

Garcia and Vargas will be fighting in Frisco, Texas under Matchroom Boxing Promotions. It’s a strange place to put this fight. Garcia has always lived in Southern California but rarely fights in his home state. Vargas was born in the Los Angeles area but raised in Las Vegas.

During the last 10 years Garcia fought only three times in Southern California. He has a large following here but despite 14 years in the business several promoters such as Top Rank and PBC keep sending him to Texas to fight. Now Matchroom has taken the same road. It’s puzzling.

Still, the match up pits two skilled fighters in their peak against each other. Don’t expect a knockout. Neither has ever been stopped despite facing some of the most powerful opposition in several weight classes. It’s going the distance.

“Some fans say it has Morales and Barrera written all over it,” said Vargas of the famous trilogy between Tijuana’s Erik Morales and Mexico City’s Marco Antonio Barrera that took place from 2000 to 2004. All of those battles were held in Las Vegas.

Garcia and Vargas will battle each other on February 29, 2020 at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing fight card.

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 4 p.m. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (51-3-1) vs Daniel Jacobs (35-3); Maurice Hooker (26-1-3) vs Uriel Perez (19-4); Liam Smith (28-2-1) vs Roberto Garcia (42-4); Gabe Rosado (24-12-1) vs Humberto Gutierrez Ochoa (33-8-2).

Fox Sports1 3 p.m. Hugo Centeno Jr. (27-3) vs Juan Macias Montiel (21-4-1).

Sat. FOX 5 p.m. Tony Harrison (28-2) vs Jermell Charlo (32-1), Efe Ajagba (11-0) vs Iago Kiladze (26-4-1), Carlos Balderas (9-0) vs Rene Tellez Giron (13-1).

Mon. ESPN+ 3 a.m. Ryoto Murata (15-2) vs Steven Butler (28-1-1).

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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The Canelo-Yildirim Travesty was Another Smudge on ‘Mandatory’ Title Defenses

Arne K. Lang

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Canelo Alvarez’s rout of grossly overmatched Avni Yildirim has once again cast a harsh light on the “mandatory challenger” gambit employed by the sport’s world sanctioning bodies. Canelo successfully defended his WBC 168-pound belt this past Saturday in Miami when Yildirim’s corner pulled him out after only three rounds.

During the nine minutes of actual fighting, Yildirim was credited with landing only 11 punches, none of which appeared to have been launched with bad intentions. A person posting on a rival web site likened Yildirim’s woeful performance to that of Nate Robinson’s showing against Jake Paul. Another snarky poster said that faint-hearted Adrien Broner, by comparison, had the heart of a lion. True, the 29-year-old Turk was sent in against a beast, but one yet has a right to expect more from a contest packaged as a world title fight.

Yildirim was coming off a loss. In his previous fight, he lost a split decision to Anthony Dirrell in a bout that was stopped in the 10th round by the ringside physician because of a bad cut over Dirrell’s left eye that resulted from an accidental head butt. He hadn’t won a fight in three-and-a-half years, not since out-pointing 46-year-old Lolenga Mock who predictably faded late in the 12-round fight, enabling Yildirim to win a narrow decision. Earlier in his career, he was stopped in the third round by Chris Eubank Jr in a fight that was one-sided from the get-go.

So, how exactly did Avni Yildirim build himself into position to become the mandatory opponent for the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter? Did he “earn” this opportunity and the rich payday that came with it by submitting the winning bid in an auction? Is that a rhetorical question?

In an ESPN Q & A, the award-winning writer Mark Kriegel said that Canelo-Yildirim was payback for certain favors that were granted to Canelo by the WBC, citing the organization’s new “Franchise Champion” category and to their decision to countenance Canelo’s fight with Callum Smith for their vacant 168-pound title. But this doesn’t answer the question as to how Yildirim ascended to the role of a mandatory challenger; it merely informs us why Canelo agreed to take the fight.

This was the second great mismatch in 10 weeks involving a mandatory challenger. On Dec. 18, Gennadiy Golovkin opposed Poland’s Kamil Szeremeta in the first defense of the IBF middleweight title that he won with a hard-earned decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The feather-fisted Szeremeta was undefeated (21-0, 5 KOs) but hadn’t defeated an opponent with a recognizable name.

This was a stroll in the park for GGG. Szeremeta was a glutton for punishment – he lasted into the seventh round — but at no point in the fight did he pose a threat to the 38-year-old Kazakh. Golovkin knocked him down four times before the plug was pulled.

In theory, the “mandatory challenger” ruling forestalls the very abuses with which it has become identified. It prevents a champion from fighting a series of hapless opponents while a more worthy challenger is left out in the cold. One could say that it stands as an example of the law of unforeseen consequences, save that it would be naïve to think that the heads of the sanctioning bodies didn’t foresee this versatility and venally embrace it.

Historians will likely lump Avni Yildirim with such fighters of the past as Patrick Charpentier and Morrade Hakker who were accorded mandatory contender status by the WBC so that they could be fodder for a title-holder in a stay-busy fight. Charpentier was rucked into retirement by Oscar De La Hoya who dismissed the overmatched Frenchman in three one-sided rounds at El Paso in 1998. Hakker was thrown in against Bernard Hopkins at Philadelphia in 2003. He brought his bicycle with him, so to speak, and thus lasted into the eighth.

In common with Yildirim and a slew of other mandatory challengers (Vaughn Bean comes quickly to mind), Charpentier and Hakker had misleading records. Steve Kim, in an article for this publication, said that Hakker’s record was more inflated than the Goodyear blimp.

A mandatory title defense isn’t always a rip-off. One wonders where Tyson Fury would be career-wise today if the WBO hadn’t established the Gypsy King as the mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko, setting the wheels in motion for a changing of the guard. That worked out well for the good of the sport as Fury, after some disconcerting speed bumps, would prove to be a breath of fresh air.

But a mandatory title defense between evenly-matched opponents remains a rarity and there’s no end in sight to the charade.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Canelo Pummels Yildirin Into Submission in Three One-Sided Frames

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez dismissed Avni Yildirim like a bothersome fly to retain the WBA and WBC super middleweight titles by technical knockout in a mandatory fight on Saturday.

Challenge completed.

After less than three months from his last victory, Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KOs) returned to the boxing ring and battered Turkey’s Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) to submission at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. Callum Smith or Yildirim please take your seat.

It was just 70 days ago that Alvarez took the WBA title away from England’s Smith but the Mexican redhead was eager to return to the ring and dominated Yildirim like the former sparring partner he was.

It was hardly a contest.

Yildirim spent most of 2020 working with Southern California’s famed trainer Joel Diaz, but there is only so much a teacher can teach. Regardless of the expertise given to the Turkish fighter the trainer can’t jump in the boxing ring. Despite repeated admonishments by Diaz, his fighter just could not pull the trigger.

“It doesn’t matter who trains him I just do my work and listen to my corner,” said Alvarez “I feel very strong at this weight.”

Alvarez pummeled Yildirim like a punching bag early and often during the first two rounds. Left and right uppercuts pierced through Yildirim’s guard and body shots pummeled the body. Return fire was seldom exchanged.

After two rounds of sustaining punishment to the head and body, Yildirim attempted to fire back. He paid for his gamble with a counter right fired through the guard by Canelo and down went the challenger.

Though Yildirim survived the third-round knockdown, as he returned to the corner his trainer Diaz warned that another round like the third would force a stoppage. Diaz decided after further inspection to end the fight then and there at the end of the third round.

“I said I would get the knockout and I got the knockout,” said Alvarez.

The win sets up a showdown with England’s Billy Joe Saunders who holds the WBO super middleweight world title.

“This year it’s going to be very special against BJ Saunders,” said Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn who is planning their encounter for May 8. “It’s going to be one of the biggest fights of the year.”

Canelo said he is eager for the pending encounter.

“He’s a difficult fighter. He has the WBO title and we need to go for him,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said his plans are to continue making history as a Latino fighter winning undisputed world titles in the super middleweight division.

“In Latin America it hasn’t been done,” Alvarez said. “I want to make history.”

Other Bouts

McWilliams Arroyo walked through Abraham Rodriguez’s punches and won by technical knockout in the fifth round to win the interim WBC flyweight title.

Despite a change of opponents within the last week Arroyo (21-4, 15 KOs) was able to adapt to last-minute opponent Rodriguez (27-3, 13 KOs) and work the body and head until the Mexican fighter’s corner tossed in the white towel to end the fight at 1:41 of the fifth round.

A battle of heavyweights between China’s Zhilei Zhang (22-0-1, 17 KOs) and America’s Jerry Forrest (26-4-1) ended in a majority draw after 10 rounds. Despite three early knockdowns scored by Zhang, the momentum changed after Forrest attacked the body inside. The scores were 95-93 Forrest and 93-93 twice for a majority draw.

In a super middleweight fight between two extremely tall prospects Diego Pacheco (11-0, 8 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Rodolfo Gomez Jr. after eight rounds. No knockdowns were scored between the two fighters who each towered at 6-feet 4-inches.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Results from Auckland: Parker UD 12 Fa; Ahio KO 7 Long

Arne K. Lang

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New Zealand heavyweights Joseph Parker and Junior Fa met four times as amateurs and each man won twice. On Saturday night in Auckland, they met for the first time as professionals and the heavily favored Parker broke the deadlock with a 12-round unanimous decision.

The bout beat the clock, in a fashion. During the match the crowd at the waterfront arena, estimated at 8,500, was informed that Auckland was reverting to Phase Three effective at 6:00 in the morning, following the discovery of a new Covid-19 infection. That meant, among other things, that public gatherings would be restricted to 10 people and schools would be open only to the children of essential workers.

The fight was a rather drab affair in which both men had trouble landing clean punches, perhaps owing partly to ring rust. Parker (28-2, 21 KOs) was making his first start in 12 months; Fa (19-1, 10 KOs) had been inactive since November of 2019.

Parker, the former world title challenger who went the distance with Anthony Joshua, had the upper hand in the early rounds and opened a small cut over Fa’s left eye in the seventh round, perhaps the result of an errant elbow. The cut became larger and bled profusely as the bout continued but it was never in danger of being stopped.

Parker had a worried look on his face as he awaited the reading of the scores, but he had nothing to fear. The judges had it 115-113, 117-111, and a head-scratching 119-109.

After the fight, Parker said, “It was a lot closer than we expected.”

Ahio vs. Long

The undercard was rubbish, but the Ahio-Long fight warrants a mention. A stablemate of Junior Fa, Hemi Ahio improved to 17-0 (12) with a wicked seventh-round knockout of Julius Long who was thoroughly gassed when Ahio caught him against the ropes and landed his haymaker. They had previously met in a 6-round affair that went the distance.

If the name Julius Long sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because he’s been around since 2001. Listed at seven-foot-one but likely an inch or two shorter, the boxer nicknamed the Towering Inferno came to New Zealand in 2013 to serve as a sparring partner for David Tua and never left.

Nearly 15 full years have elapsed since Long was whacked out in the opening round by Samuel Peter on a Duva Promotions card at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino.

George Kimball was ringside for TSS and described the scene: “The overmatched Long had already been down once when Peter smashed him with a left-right combination…(Long) hit the ropes with such force that he shot back off them like he was bouncing from a trampoline. Unfortunately for Long, the slingshot effect propelled him straight into the path of the right hand Peter had dispatched toward his head, effectively doubling the force of the blow. Long went down as if he had been whacked with a sledgehammer and lay motionless on the canvas. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr waved it off without a count, but he could have counted to 100.”

Long is now 43 years old. Since his crushing defeat by Samuel Peter, he is 4-17-1 and counting his defeat last night has been stopped seven more times. For his rematch with Akio, he weighed in at 326 ¾ pounds, more than 100 pounds more than his opponent.

In his adopted home, Julius Long, who grew up in Detroit, is a qualified chef, an occupation that requires an apprenticeship and many hours of training. He supplements his income moonlighting as a freelance prizefighter. By all accounts, he’s a very likeable man, but someone needs to take away his boxing gloves and burn them.

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