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Looking for the Fight of the Decade? Start Your Search at 105 Pounds

Matt McGrain

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Looking for the Fight of the Decade? Start Your Search at 105 Pounds

Boxing is like any other product in that you must follow the money to understand how it works – but there is no unified theory, and for good reason. The rules that govern the money at heavyweight are not the same as the rules that govern the money at 105lbs, strawweight, minimumweight, once even “gnatweight”, the much maligned often-named smallest of all the divisions. It is no coincidence that the failure of Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua to meet during their dual “reigns” over their division holds the temporal record. Such profligacy in the lower divisions would be unthinkable. As a general rule (for all that it’s currently being flouted by divisional number one, Wanheng Menayothin), the top men at 105lbs can’t afford to duck each other. Economics dictates that they must meet. As we shall see, even this does not guarantee riches.

As the 2010s run out and the fight of year argument is subsumed in the fight of the decade argument, most of the best contests at 105lbs will be ignored. That’s unfair because 2010-2019 has seen some wars, two of which are stuck on contenders for the decade’s number one spot. Here then, we take a look at three of the most splendid matches made at the 105lb limit in the past decade. Footage from each is linked in the clickable sub-heading for each of the three entries.

Pornsawan Porpramook  Vs Akira Yaegashi, October 2011

Akira Yaegashi, out of Kanagawa, Japan, would have a serious part to play in the machinations of the lower weight division and its most famous denizens throughout the decade, but back in 2011 he was just another Japanese boxer carrying a mediocre 14-2 record.

Against Pornsawan Porpramook, a Thai, he would be given the opportunity to prove he was something else. Porpramook (aka Somporn Seeta) had been a hot ticket in the 2000s but had come to a juddering halt when he reached title level, then surprised in overturning beltholder Muhammad Rachman in what seemed his last chance. Yaegashi would be his first defense and their combat would be one of the most extraordinary fights of this or any other decade.

The two were careful early, Yaegashi especially, circling while ruling with the most gorgeous and varied series of two-piece left hands; uppercut body/head; uppercut/left hook; double jab; hook down/up, up/down. Porpramook was set adrift by those punches.

Adrift, but making determinedly for shore. He couldn’t quite cut the ring off on Yaegashi but he was able to catch him for fleeting moments and make him pay. He out-roughed and out-manned his challenger in those moments and Yaegashi, as would be demonstrated often in his late career, suffered from the dangerous and wonderful disease of machismo every bit as much as his Mexican counterparts. In spells, he began to meet and match Porpramook.

This all crystallised in round seven. This may or may not be the fight of the decade, but round seven was almost certainly the round of the decade; the two just stood in the pocket and traded for three minutes. There were no clinches. Nor was it inexcusably wild. It was just two men stood toe-to-toe trying to outthink each other. Again and again Yaegashi seemed on the verge of taking over – but Porpramook boxed incessantly, to the rhythm of a metronome only he could hear, slower than Yaegashi’s but unshakable. When the Japanese hit him with four thudding jabs in a row, the Thai gave him a quick nod of respect and went back to work.

Most natural would have been for both men to seek rest in the eighth – instead, they did it again and it remains one of the most absurd, terrible, beautiful things I’ve seen in the boxing ring.  Yaegashi dominated while Porpramook waved him in. Then Porpramook landed a winging right hand and Yaegashi seemed, momentarily, ready to go. They ended a round that seemed to last six minutes tossing exhausted bombs ring center.

It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. In the tenth, Porpramook finally succumbed, rescued on his feet by the referee even as he tried to reorganize behind the jab and come again.

It’s a fight that is remembered, but had it been staged in Las Vegas between two western middleweights it would be talked about by boxing fans for a hundred years; as it is the linked footage of round seven currently has fewer than 5,000 views.

Francisco Rodriguez Jr. V Katsunari Takayama, Aug 2014

For a short while during the past decade, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, out of Monterrey, Mexico, was the single best bet for making a great match. The kid came to fight, and within him beat the heart of a true Mexican. Rodriguez may have backed up occasionally, but it was only to bait his opponent onto a volley of sure punches.

Defensive flaws and a good chin guaranteed action packed rounds and in the shape of Japanese whirlwind Katsunari Takayama he found his perfect foil. Arguably the world’s best 105lb fighter at the time of the contest, Takayama was also a volume puncher par excellence with the engine to make the nightmare real. No puncher, he overwhelmed opposition with sheer activity, forcing them to move, or trade.

Rodriguez chose trade.

Takayama literally ran from his corner at bell and the pattern for the fight was immediately determined: Takayama would move and flurry, Rodriguez would establish powerful left hooks upstairs and the two would share auspices to the body. The balance of combat here is exquisite.  Takayama will take a lead by virtue of his superior footwork. Rodriguez must endure but while he is enduring he must sap Takayama’s strength, knowing, as he does, that Takayama can complete twelve rounds at this pace if he is unfettered – the benefit of carrying barely more than a hundred pounds to the ring – but not if he, Rodriguez, can execute punishment severe enough to bring him down off his toes and into a Mexican wheelhouse.

Rodriguez found him late in the second, uppercut and a right hand, the punch he needed to establish to win the fight. The steam Takayama answered with in the third spoke of his awareness but the left hook he walked on to for a flash knockdown made the fight a desperate one from the fourth.

There are no rounds less than scintillating in this fight, but of the those remaining, the sixth may be the most interesting and in it there are echoes of the seventh and eighth between Ponpramook and Yaegashi. Rodriguez tries to establish a pace as quick as Takayama’s, to take away his volume advantage and for one minute he rules the fight. All the while, Takayama continues to deploy his punches as in the first five rounds and when Rodriguez, fighting at a pace unnatural to him, inevitably, wilts, Takayama once more takes control. Here the fight is won. Rodriguez must return to his left-hook heavy offense, lighter in number but heavier in artillery and nothing like enough to close the gap.

These are the two vintage 105lb displays from the decade and were it not for the rivalry between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez, they arguably would have been number one and number two at any weight for this century.

Oswoldo Novoa vs Wanheng Menayothin, November 2014

As noted above, the current 105lb number one, Wanheng Menayothin, is shirking the top challenges within the division, but as challenger, he did not have that luxury. The beginning of his stewardship of his alphabet strap of choice began back in November 2014 with victory over the Mexican, Oswoldo Novoa. Novoa was the weakest of the 105lb strapholders and to tempt him out to Thailand to meet Menayothin, his promoter broke the bank – with a tiny purse bid of $170,000. Keep in mind that to pull the same trick up at heavyweight, Anthony Joshua’s promoter had to pay Charles Martin an eye watering $5,000,000.

Fight fans who tracked this one down though, were rewarded with a spectacle. Not the equal of the two above wars, this was a high-class squabble from first to last, filled with surging exchanges and a ceaseless quest for dominance on behalf of both men.

Menayothin has rarely ventured into the top ten for opposition for his own defenses, but here, against the world’s then number six, he proves the more compact, more technically assured fighter and hinted at the beginnings of something really special.

Novoa became increasingly desperate but he never shirked the brawl, even when in the eighth and ninth he started to ship three and four punch combinations instead of single shots; even when his strength abandoned him and Menayothin was able to lay upon him and work ceaselessly.

Novoa’s corner finally pulled him from the contest, but for all that the concluding rounds were edging towards one-sided, his resistance, and the fight, remained stirring.

As 2019 trickles into 2020, the 105lb decade promises much and hopefully will deliver its fair share.  Missing these fights is all too easy with matches made in far-flung cities at all hours of the day and night but perseverance can bring reward – certainly one for noting is the possible match between Menayothin and Thammanoon Niyomtrong, the legitimate pretender to the number one throne and a man who shares his nationality if not his promoter.

Should it come off it will be a legitimate superfight east of India and more than likely a contender for all those “fights of the decade” lists you may choose to wade through in ten years.

Have a happy New Year.

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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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