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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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Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part One

Ted Sares

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Britain’s Martin Murray has fought the very best and has now closed out a heartbreaking if not admirable and old school career.

Others are just beginning to hit their stride and suddenly the possibilities are mouthwatering.

The buzz is back on. The heat is coming. No excuses. No badly injured shoulders. No running. This is macho explosive. This is the best fighting the best like it used to be done. Cherry picking is not allowed.

Back in the day, warriors like Ernie Durando, Kid Gavilan, Joey Giardello, Tony DeMarco, Bobby Dykes, Paul Pender, Joey Maxim, Holly Mims, Bobo Olson, and way too many others to list here would fight other top-notch boxers. It was the norm; not the exception. Tony DeMarco beat Kid Gavilan in 1956 and then fought Gaspar Ortega three times in a row in a relatively short period of time.

In the process of compiling a 95-25-1 record, Ezzard Charles engaged in an eye-popping 27 fights against men who would go on to be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and/or the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

The List

Rocky Marciano (twice) – IBHF/WBHF

Joe Louis – IBHF/WBHF

Jersey Joe Walcott (four times) IBHF/WBHF

Archie Moore (thrice) IBHF/WBHF

Joey Maxim (five times) IBHF/WBHF

Jimmy Bivins (five times) IBHF/WBHF

Charley Burley (twice) IBHF/WBHF

Harold Johnson IBHF/WBHF

Lloyd Marshall (thrice) WBHF

Gus Lesnevich WBHF

In addition, Charles had three fights with Rex Layne, two with Ken Overlin, two with Elmer Ray, and one with Bob Satterfield

“Some day, maybe, the public is going to abandon comparisons with Joe Louis and accept Ezzard Charles for what he was—the best fist fighter of his particular time”  –Red Smith

Beau Jack, Aldo Minelli, Yama Bahama, Johnny Cesario, Fighting Harada, Eder “Golden Bantam” Jofre, Vicente Saldivar, Jose “El Huitlacoche” Medal, and then later Juan LaPorte and Livingstone “The Pit Bull” Bramble did not know what easy opponents meant. They were willing to fight anyone anywhere and were seldom stopped.

Vito Antuofermo, Ralph Dupas, Willie Pastrano, Curtis Parker, Bennie Briscoe, Kassim Ouma, Emanuel Augustus, Scott LeDoux, Ben Tackie, Ray Oliveira, Renaldo Snipes, Freddie Pendleton, John Scully, Charles Murray, Ted Muller, Anthony Ivory, and Alfredo “Freddy” Cuevas were also representative of those who would fight anyone anywhere. Picking made-to-order opponents was not what they were about.

Ali, Norton, Young, Quarry, fought one another. So did Duran, Leonard, Hagler, and Hearns. Across the pond, Watson, Benn, and Eubank did the same. Frazier, Holyfield, Mugabi, Tszyu, Cotto, and Chacon never ever backed away, nor did Mexican notables Castillo, Marquez (JMM), Morales and Barrera.

No one will accuse Floyd “Money” Mayweather of not fighting the best but they might point out that Floyd sometimes used long time intervals between bouts to his advantage. “Money” was not a particularly active fighter. The phrase “cherry picking” gained traction during this time.

Still, Andre Ward cleaned out an entire division. Cotto fought Pacquiao and Canelo, De La Hoya met Pacquiao, Klitschko faced Fury and then Joshua. Fury — after beating Klitschko — fought Wilder twice. Chisora will fight anyone they put in front of him. Heck, GGG fought 24 brutal rounds with Canelo and if that wasn’t the best fighting the best, what was?

“…great fights lead to other great fights.”—Max Kellerman

To be continued……

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Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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At the Moment Boxing is Dormant, but There Will Be Fireworks Aplenty in February

Arne K. Lang

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At the Moment Boxing is Dormant, but There Will Be Fireworks Aplenty in February

The month of January has been quiet on the boxing front and that’s putting it mildly. And making matters worse, the month’s best offering, a Golden Boy card on Jan. 30, bit the dust when Sergey Kovalev tested positive for a banned substance, harpooning his bout with Bektemir Melikuziev and forcing the cancellation of the entire card.

Once considered a shoo-in for Canastota, Kovalev has degenerated into a longshot and his match with Melikuziev didn’t figure to help his chances. The Uzbek southpaw, a Bronze medalist at the Rio Olympiad, has only six pro fights under his belt but is so highly regarded that the bookies installed him a 7/2 favorite.

Showtime has a PBC card on Jan. 23 headlined by a WBO world title match between super bantamweights Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton, there’s an intriguing heavyweight match on the 29th between musty Manuel Charr and Don King’s undefeated Trevor Bryan, and Caleb Plant is slated to defend his IBF 168-pound belt the following night against Caleb Truax, but that’s it for this month, quite a limp slate, even considering that January is historically a slow month for the sweet science.

The good news is that things will heat up in February.

February 13

The 13th will be a particularly busy day. The action kicks off in the afternoon (U.S. time) when Josh Warrington, the Leeds Warrior, defends his IBF world featherweight title against Mexico City’s Mauricio Lara on a Matchroom/DAZN card. Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs) doesn’t pack a hard punch, but makes up for it with a high-octane attack. He will go to post a solid favorite over Lara (21-2, 14 KOs).

That evening, two West Coast shows will compete for eyeballs.

In Las Vegas, Joe Smith Jr. (26-3, 21 KOs) opposes Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) for the vacant WBA light heavyweight title. A Long Island construction worker who has branched out and started a tree surgery business, Smith will be forever remembered as the man who rucked Bernard Hopkins into retirement, but based on his recent efforts that was certainly no fluke. In bouts with Jesse Hart and former title-holder Eleider Alvarez, Smith showed that he is a skilled craftsman with a high boxing IQ.

The are two title fights on the Golden Boy card going head-to-head in Indio, CA. It’s Brazil vs. Argentina when Brazil’s Patrick Teixeira (31-1, 22 KOs) opposes Brian Castano (16-0-1, 12 KOs). Teixeira will be making his first start since copping the WBO 154-pound title with a mild upset of Carlos Adames in November of 2019. That was a bloody battle in which Teixeira overcame a big deficit to pull the fight out of the fire.

Teixeira will dress as the underdog vs. Castano, a second-generation professional boxer who was reportedly 181-5 as an amateur and who recently held a version of the WBA light middleweight title (doesn’t everybody?). The draw on Castano’s ledger came in a spirited skirmish with Erislandy Lara.

Teixeira vs. Castano will more than likely precede the match between Joseph “Jojo” Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs) and Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KOs) in the bout order. Diaz will be making the first defense of the IBF 130-pound title he won from Tevin Farmer in January of last year. Rakhimov, a native of Tajikistan who currently resides in Ekaterinburg, Russia, will be making his U.S. debut.

Feb. 20

The featured bout of the second Matchroon/DAZN event of 2021 is a 12-round welterweight contest between David Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KOs) and Josh Kelly (10-0-1, 6 KOs). The well-traveled Avanesyan has turned his career around after suffering a sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Egidijus Kavaliauskas in February of 2019. Since then, he’s won three straight in Spain, including back-to-back knockouts of the highly-touted and previously undefeated Spaniard, Kerman Lejarraga.

England’s Kelly, a former Olympian, is moving up in class, but at last look he was a very slight favorite over his Russian adversary. Akin to Warrington vs. Lara, the match is expected to take place at Wembley Arena where Anthony Joshua TKOed Kubrat Pulev before 1,000 fans on Dec. 12.

The all-Mexico showdown between Miguel Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) and Oscar Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) is the crème-de-la-crème of the February docket. On paper this bout, a Top Rank promotion pushed back from Dec. 12 when Berchelt tested positive for COVID, will warrant consideration for Fight of the Year.

Berchelt, who will be defending his WBC 130-pound world title, has knocked out 15 of his last 17 opponents. This will be the third fight at 130 for Valdez, a two-time Olympian who successfully defended his WBO world featherweight title six times before vacating the belt because he was having trouble making the weight.

If Berchelt  (pictured on the left) is victorious, he is expected to move up to lightweight where some rich paydays await in potential fights with Vasyl Lomachenko and bevy of young hotshots. If Valdez wins, it is expected that he will pursue a unification fight with the winner of the forthcoming match between Carl Frampton and Jamel Herring.

Top Rank honcho Bob Arum has indicated that both the Smith-Vlasov and Berchelt-Valdez fights will be staged in Las Vegas at an MGM property, but not necessarily at the MGM Grand where Top Rank promoted 24 shows without fans during the pandemic.

Feb. 27

On the last Saturday of the month, fight fans in the U.S. can take in a doubleheader if they can roust themselves out of bed in the middle of the night. In Auckland, New Zealand (18 hours ahead of New York), there’s a big domestic clash between heavyweights Joseph Parker (27-2, 21 KOs) and Junior Fa (19-0, 10 KOs). These two have been on a collision course since 2009 when Fa, the older man by 27 months, defeated Parker in the first of their four meetings as amateurs. Parker won two of the next three to even the series at 2-2.

Here we have a bout with international significance that is also a match for neighborhood bragging rights. Parker and Fa grew up in the same South Auckland neighborhood and attended the same LDS church. But yet it won’t be hard to contort this fight into a grudge match. Parker’s family roots are in Samoa; Fa’s in Tonga. The two nations have a fierce rivalry in rugby.

This fight was more than two years in the making and when the bout was finally signed, 9,000 tickets went on sale to the general public.

Later that day, at a yet undetermined site in London, Carl Frampton (28-2, 16 KOs) seeks to become a title-holder in a third weight class when he challenges WBO 130-pound title-holder Jamel Herring (22-2, 10 KOs). The twice-postponed fight will air in the U.S. on ESPN+.

Frampton is currently a consensus 3/2 favorite over Herring who suffered an eye injury over his right optic, described as scraped lens, in his messy September fight with billy goat Jonathan Oquendo. A former Marine and former Olympian, Herring currently trains with Terence Crawford in  Omaha

As we move into March, the first Saturday will bring the rematch between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin. Whyte dominated the first meeting until Povetkin found a home for a hellacious uppercut in the fifth frame, terminating the bout. Whyte, at age 32 the younger man by nine years, is favored to avenge that bitter defeat. As for the location, promoter Eddie Hearn has had conversations with potential suitors in Gibraltar and Monaco.

So, hang in there, fight fans. January may be dry, but there’s a whole bunch of interesting fights lurking around the corner.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 121: Prizefighting in 2021

David A. Avila

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Prizefighting actually dipped underground for the past nine months with professional boxers training illegally in darkened gyms behind shuttered windows and locked doors.

It still remains an underground sport.

The slow death cloud of the coronavirus led to government restrictions forbidding large gatherings especially in enclosed facilities. Boxers still train.

It was a primary reason that prizefighting among the elite was never more bare.

When Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder met at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for their rematch, a crowd of more than 15,000 fans witnessed the heavyweight spectacle. That took place on February 22, and it was the last hurrah in 2020.

A new year begins but the old ways of doing things are no longer in place. Those large purses are unattainable without fans, but it’s difficult to convince the prizefighters. All they know is they want to get paid with pre-2020 checks.

Very few of the top male prizefighters took to the prize ring.

One leading American matchmaker, who did not wish to go on record, said fighters do not understand that ticket sales are an important aspect of the fight game. Many prizefighters feel they are underpaid and being cheated when offered purses that fall under their pre-2020 monies.

No fans, no money.

Television or streaming app revenue is not enough without the clicking of the turnstile.

Fans are the reason that fighters get paid and without fans prizefighting does not exist.

Reality in 2021

Before the advent of television, prizefighters were paid strictly on the basis of ticket sales. The more fans a fighter could attract, the bigger the purse. When television arrived it drastically changed the landscape.

Television networks who delve into boxing bring their own budgets and cable networks like HBO and Showtime drastically changed the landscape. Instead of thousands, millions were being paid to the stars. Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather were the prizefighters leading the way past $20 and $30 million dollar purses. MMA still hasn’t reached those figures. Not even close, unless they are fighting against a boxer as Conor McGregor did several years ago.

During the past three years new players arrived with streaming apps like ESPN+ and DAZN entering the boxing world. One primary advantage has been its worldwide ability to transmit boxing events. However, because not all of the world has access to high tech, those streaming apps are still in the pioneering phase when it comes to building a fan base. At the moment, television still holds the upper hand but the gap is closing quickly.

Lately, DAZN has taken to inserting sponsors logos into their live programming without skipping a beat. It was only a matter of time before they realized the capabilities of inserting commercials digitally. It’s not a new idea; it was explored decades ago by our own BoxingChannel.tv.

Still, as long as the pandemic exists and fans are unable to attend boxing cards the mega fights that drive prizefighting will not take place. The arrival of various vaccines for the coronavirus are a big plus for the sport emerging out of the underground state of boxing. But the fighters need to fight.

Tyson Fury needs to meet Anthony Joshua in a battle for the heavyweight championship and Errol Spence Jr. must fight Terence Crawford this year. Others like Teofimo Lopez are doing their part to open the eyes of fans to the new breed of prizefighters who can fight, talk and excite with their electrifying skills.

Potential stars like Serhii Bohachuk, Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Charles Conwell are catching the eye of fans and all are basically around the same weight classes. They took advantage of the openings for television and streaming spots.

Prizefighters everywhere need to understand this pandemic may last longer than you think. God forbid, but there could be another looming around the corner. It’s time to go for broke and get back in the prize ring. Time is not on your side.

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