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Richard Schaefer and Kalle Sauerland are the TSS 2019 Promoter(s) of the Year

Kelsey McCarson

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The founders and promoters of the World Boxing Super Series, Richard Schaefer and Kalle Sauerland, are the 2019 TSS Promoter(s) of the Year.

Who else would it be?

Boxing would have decidedly much less interesting over the course of the past 12 months had not the architects of the WBSS, Schaefer and Sauerland, continued their effort to put boxing politics aside and bring together the best fighters available from specific weight classes for single-elimination tournaments designed to crown the best overall fighter in the division.

“The World Boxing Super Series will create the next superstars in world boxing,” Sauerland said back in 2017 after the first season of the tournament was announced. “This tournament does not detract from the day-to-day nature of boxing, but it is completely the way forward for the sport.”

Kalle-Sauerland-and-"Associates"

Kalle Sauerland and “Associates”

Two years and the same number of WBSS tournaments later, Sauerland’s words seem prophetic in hindsight. How else besides this forward-thinking boxing tournament might the meteoric rise of eventual tournament winners Oleksandr Usyk and Naoya Inoue have happened without this great idea, and, perhaps more importantly, the tenacious follow-through it must have taken to get it done?

I’ll tell you how. Either very slowly or not at all. Because boxing careers outside the confines of the WBSS are moved painstakingly slow.

So, the WBSS is the best thing to happen in boxing in a long time. The fact that seemingly nobody else in the sport had the idea before Schaefer and Sauerland illustrates another important point.  Boxing’s most glaring need as a culture is to more fully embrace possible paths up the mountain that might carry the sport into a bold new future.

schaefer

Richard Schaefer

This year’s tournaments included fantastic fields in the bantamweight, junior lightweight and cruiserweight divisions. Some of the best fighters in the sport were involved, including bantamweights Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire and Ryan Burnett, junior welterweights Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis, and cruiserweights Mairis Briedis, Yunier Dorticos and Krzysztof Głowacki.

Perhaps even more impressive is that Fight of the Year candidates seemed to consistently unfold during the WBSS in 2019. Josh Taylor’s defeat of Regis Prograis in October at London’s O2 Arena to unify world titles in the 140-pound division was an old-school, throwback scrap between two undefeated world champions itching to prove they belonged at the highest levels of the sport. Both men certainly did that.

And some believe the bantamweight dustup between rising pound-for-pound superstar Naoya Inoue and future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire in November in Japan might have been the even better fight. Who could have predicted such a valiant effort from the 37-year-old Donaire against arguably the hardest-hitting knockout puncher pound-for-pound this side of Deontay Wilder?

Theoretically, these great fights could have been made without the WBSS, but that’s long been the problem in the sport full of great fighters but short of great fights made between them: Fights like these usually don’t get made.

Both 2019 tournament winners, Taylor and Inoue, were served greatly by their participation. The same could be said of Donaire whose effort summoned forth a greater appreciation of his great career. Perhaps the most amazing part about the whole deal is that the rising tide of the WBSS surely seems to lift all ships.

Because here is boxing in its finest form. For those who are brave enough, it’s a clear path toward divisional supremacy–one that reveals the very best things about the most daring fighters the sport has to offer.

That isn’t to say the endeavor has gone perfectly smooth. If anything, the fact that little hiccups have come up along the way proves just how massive in scope the WBSS truly is among boxing’s other big events.

From the reported storyline that the tournament was on the verge of collapsing over the summer over financial issues, to the relative slow move of some of the tournament brackets because locations, dates, and everything around the fights themselves have to be sorted out, nothing as starkly different as the WBSS has been launched among the stodgy old-world politics of boxing without running into a few problems.

For instance, the WBSS cruiserweight final is still waiting on a date and location to be set for the semi-final winners who earned their places back in June, Mairis Briedis and Yunier Dorticos.

Briedis, by the way, was stripped of his WBC belt for choosing to stay the course over mindlessly following the orders of a sanctioning organization that would rather keep those fees coming back to them all year long than wait for the WBSS to set a date.

Perhaps, though, such a turn of events fits our current narrative quite nicely.

Because how much longer might it take for everyone in boxing to realize that the prize the WBSS offers, both in terms of money and historical prestige, is worth much more to a fighter in the long run than the constantly growing number of alphabet belts spread throughout the boxing world could hope to be?

And how many more fighters will have to turn into stars right before our very eyes until the alphabet gangs realize what might happen in the long run if they don’t start getting their acts together?

Whatever the case, one thing is clear to us at TSS after a reviewing the WBSS’s 2019 campaign: Those two guys who created it and run the thing are geniuses, and there was no better job done by anyone in the sport last year of promoting fighters, fights and boxing as a culture.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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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.

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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