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WAR DeLuca: “The Bazooka” Deploys to the UK for Matchroom Battle vs Kell Brook

Jeffrey Freeman

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It is Friday afternoon, August 24, 2018, summertime in Quincy Market. I am standing at attention with Mark DeLuca outside of Boston’s historic public meeting house, Faneuil Hall.

It’s a zoo.

The buzz of Eddie Hearn’s boxing promotion rages all around us. DeLuca’s heavily muscled arms explode from a simple black-V-neck t-shirt. He wears a loaded look of pure determination.

DeLuca is humble cannon.

“Boston is hot right now and the fighters in Boston are making big splashes,” he says. “You’ve got Toka Kahn, Boo-Boo, Danny, Greg Vendetti just had a good win, Rashidi Ellis. We’re making a big comeback here. I’m happy where I am now but I’ll go wherever the opportunity presents.”

“So yeah, I’d love to fight in the U.K.”

On February 8, 2020, the Quincy, Massachusetts born super-welterweight has the biggest fight of his life coming up in Sheffield against former welterweight champion of the world Kell Brook.

Their main event, scheduled for 12 rounds, airs on DAZN and on Sky Sports.

Four days later, after the fog of war subsides, DeLuca will reach his 32nd birthday, a personal milestone for a United States Marine Infantryman who’s gone to war with America’s enemies on the battlefield of bombs and lived to see another day—haunted by the knowledge of men and women on his side who did not. Just the other day—another flag draped coffin came home.

DeLuca knows he’s not being sent over there by Eddie Hearn to win and that’s OK. This is what Corporal DeLuca has been waiting for since going pro as a boxer (and as a U.S. Marine) in 2007—to be engaged in a winnable war overseas, to be face-to-face with an elite adversary.

In 2011, he did a dangerous tour of duty in Afghanistan.

We rightly thank heroes like Mark.

And not just for his service to America, but also for his service to the unsung warriors of boxing, men like local light-heavyweight Brandon Montella (pictured on the left), a now happily married fitness trainer who went 9-0 (8) as a pro after willing himself to the New England Golden Gloves Championships in 2012.

deluca

Their respectful relationship born of “instant, willing obedience” was depicted in the single-season reality show The Fighters filmed in 2014 at Peter Welch’s South Boston gym.

The premise of the program was simple: “Each week, trainers from rival boxing gyms across Boston will choose their top amateur fighters to represent their gyms in a bout. After seven days of intense training, the fighters will face off in the ring with their professional futures at stake.”

DeLuca trained and tutored Montella (also a Marine) when the aimless new pro was gymless and coachless in 2015. The fighters share a similar moral code of calm patience and selfless service. “Mark would show up, wrap my hands and corner me,” Montella recalls with pride. It’s interesting to note that Montella is eight years older and outranks his younger fighting mentor.

“When Mark was in my corner it was like being in the Marines again with a leader you know has been there before and will go there with you. He was the leader I never got to follow into a battle.”

CRUCIBLE OF BOXING

At the Boston Garden in 2018, DeLuca avenged his only professional loss (a razor thin split decision defeat in the “Live Free or Die” New England State of New Hampshire) by outshooting Walter “Two Guns” Wright on a Matchroom USA sanctioned undercard. Promoted by Ken Casey’s Murphys Boxing based outta Boston, DeLuca’s fists are his weapons of war now.

They will do his talking.

So, I’ll say a few things about him.

DeLuca is a hope to many in a depleted locality.

The townie from Whitman, Mass could go on to become the New England region’s new and next Micky Ward (Pride of Lowell) or he might fade into mediocrity like Framingham’s Danny O’Connor. He’s 24-1 with 13 KOs. More boxer than brawler, DeLuca occasionally fights outside of his personality; a trap any popular boxer can fall into if he lets a noisy crowd dictate to him.

He is as physically fit as you’d expect for a United States Marine—and twice as quick. In 2017, he endured a huge cut over his right eye outgutting Chris Chatman in his “toughest fight to date.”

A southpaw, DeLuca won twice in 2019, first in March at the House of Blues in Boston where he decisioned Jimmy Williams and then in June in Providence, Rhode Island, beating the unbeaten Brandon “L-Jack” Brewer over ten entertaining rounds. He’s healthy and ring ready.

“I feel I have good momentum,” he tells me.

Brook didn’t fight at all in 2019.

DeLuca shrugs that off.

“He’s dangerous and hungry to get back.”

Hitting age 34 next May, Brook is known to bust up and has been beaten down before, first by Errol Spence in 2016 and then in 2017 by middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin. If he’s as shell-shocked as thought by some, DeLuca’s “Bazooka” fire could be too much to handle.

“There have been dark times,” admits Brook. “DeLuca is a strong gutsy fighter who’s always ready for war but I’m planning on making a statement to show I’m still a force at 147 or 154.”

Brook, the former IBF welterweight champion, is now 38-2 with 26 KOs. Matched conservatively in 2018, this will be his third consecutive bout in his hometown of Sheffield.

Known as the “Special One” in the ring, it’s been a few years since Brook has put on an especially special performance there. His 2014 upset of pressure fighter Shawn Porter to claim the IBF 147-pound crown was just such a special night in Carson, California on Showtime.

On that hot summer day in Boston back in 2018, I asked DeLuca about Kid Galahad, the chippy British featherweight who eight weeks later upset Toka Kahn by decision on the October 20 TD Garden show and who will be fighting at home on this February 8 card against Claudio Marrero.

Galahad was making his first media appearance outside the U.K. I was telling DeLuca about the bad blood between Toka and Galahad and confessing that I didn’t really know who Galahad was.

What DeLuca knows is the art of war. “It’s guys like that who come up from the rear and surprise everybody,” he explained. “They’re undercover. They show up and spoil the party.”

Known for his “chocolate brownie” right hand, Kell Brook better be careful in Sheffield or the unknown Mark DeLuca will go home to Whitman to celebrate with a 32 candle salute at his expense.

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonders what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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.

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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 6-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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