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For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2019 Boxing Obituaries PART TWO

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The second half of 2019 was mottled by a particularly sorrowful July during which two fighters died from ring injuries suffered in fights staged one day apart. We pay tribute to them here in our annual year-end obituary page and toast the memory of other boxing personalities that left us this year. This is a continuation of Part One which covered January through May.

June 1 – J.T. ROSS – A World War II combat veteran, Ross, a tall middleweight, crammed 47 fights into a pro career that consumed less than five full years. He fought almost exclusively in central and northern California, but had his farewell fight in Madison Square Garden where he was stopped by Eugene “Silent” Hairston, reducing his final record to 41-5-2. At age 94 in Gilroy, CA.

June 8 – BILLY JOINER – He won the 1962 National Golden Gloves and AAU tournaments as a light heavyweight before turning pro under the management of George Gainford who also handled Sugar Ray Robinson. A small heavyweight, Joiner was only 12-13-3 as a pro, but he was matched tough, opposing Sonny Liston twice, Larry Holmes, and Oscar Bonavena in what would be Bonavena’s final fight. At age 81 in Springdale, OH.

June 22 – WILLIE MONROE – “Willie the Worm,” who turned pro at the Blue Horizon, stood tall in an era when Philadelphia was a hornet’s next of talented middleweights. In 1976 he outpointed Marvin Hagler and although Hagler would avenge that loss twice, Monroe would remain the only man to defeat Marvelous Marvin non-controversially. He finished 40-10-1 (26 KOs). At age 73 from complications of Alzheimer’s in the Philadelphia suburb of Sicklerville, NJ.

June 22 – EARL LARGE – The New Mexico featherweight was a regional attraction in the southwest and in Northern Mexico during a 12-year career in which he was 39-17-2. Before turning pro, Large, whose nickname was Soul Brother, was a national AAU and national Golden Gloves champion. At age 72 in Clovis, New Mexico.

July 14 – PERNELL WHITAKER – “Sweet Pea” breezed through the lightweight competition at the 1984 LA Olympics and went on to win world titles in four weight classes. One of the greatest defensive fighters in the annals of the sport, the crafty southpaw was 40-1-1 through his first 42 fights with both blemishes assailed as rip-offs. He was 55 when he was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking across a busy intersection in Virginia Beach, VA.

July 23 – MAXIM DADASHEV – A stablemate of Vasyl Lomachenko, Dadashev faced fellow unbeaten Subriel Matias at the MGM Grand National Harbor in Maryland on July 19 in a match billed for a 140-pound title eliminator. After 11 rounds, Dadashev insisted that he wanted to keep going but was overruled by his trainer Buddy McGirt who pulled him out. He left the arena in an ambulance and died four days later following emergency brain surgery. Laid to rest in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia, Dadashev was 28.

July 25 – HUGO ALFREDO SANTILLAN – The Argentine lightweight battled Uruguay’s Eduardo Abreu to a 10-round draw on July 20. As he was awaiting the decision, he passed out in the ring, fell into a coma, and died three days later at a hospital in Buenos Aires. A former South American super featherweight champion, Santillan (19-6-2) was 23 years old.

July 31 – BEAU WILLIFORD – A heavyweight, Williford didn’t go far as fighter, but became an important cog in the boxing apparatus — amateur and pro — from his base in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he ran the Ragin Cajun Boxing Club. He promoted dozens of small-budget shows up and down the Gulf Coast and into Oklahoma and was one of the most well-liked people in the industry. At age 69 (some say 72) in Lafayette.

Aug. 3 – JEAN CLAUDE BOUTTIER – A major celebrity in France during his boxing heyday, Bouttier compiled a record of 64-7-1 (43 KOs) during a 10-year career that began in 1965. He went 27 rounds with Carlos Monzon in two futile stabs at Monzon’s world middleweight title. In retirement, Bouttier worked as a movie actor and TV sports commentator. At age 74 in Gourney-sur-Marne, France.

Aug. 16 – JOSE NAPOLES – They said Napoles was as smooth as butter, hence his nickname, Mantequilla. He left Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power and came to the fore in Mexico City. Napoles was 15-2 in world welterweight title fights during an era when there were only two reputable sanctioning bodies. He finished his career with a mark of 81-7 (54 KOs) and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. At age 79 (or thereabouts) in Mexico City from complications of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Aug. 24 – ARTHUR RAMALHO – He was called the patriarch of pugilism in Lowell, Massachusetts, a town with a rich boxing tradition. Ramalho’s West End Gym, which he opened in 1973, spawned numerous New England Golden Gloves champions and was featured in the movie “The Fighter,” wherein Mark Wahlberg portrayed Lowell boxing legend Micky Ward. At age 84 of lung cancer.

Oct. 9 – PADDY GRAHAM – Belfast’s Graham was 33-19-1 over the course of a 10-year career that began in 1953. A lightweight who matured into a welterweight, Graham’s opponents included Willie Toweel and future world title challenger Ted Wight. At age 87 of kidney failure in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Oct. 11 – ELOY PEREZ – Born in Mexico, Perez came to the U.S. as a toddler and grew up in largely rural Thurston County in the state of Washington. He suffered his lone defeat in what would be his final pro fight when he was stopped in the fourth round by defending WBO 130-pound champion Adrien Broner, finishing 23-1-2. Following a series of legal problems, he was deported to Mexico, dying in Tijuana at age 32. Some say a suicide and others say he was murdered.

Oct. 16 – PATRICK DAY – A 2012 U.S. Olympic Team alternate, Day suffered a traumatic head injury during the 10th round of a 10-round fight in Chicago with 2016 Olympian Charles Conwell and died four days later without regaining consciousness. Raised in a comfortable middle class home in Freeport, New York (his father was a physician), the extremely well-liked Day was 27 years old at the time of his passing.

patrick

Patrick Day

Oct. 30 – DON FRASER – “Dandy Don,” who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, was a major cog on the Southern California boxing scene for parts of eight decades during which he wore many hats, e.g., publicist, matchmaker, promoter. At age 92 of a sudden brain aneurism at his home in Toluca Lake, CA.

Nov. 9 – DWIGHT RITCHIE – An indigenous Australian from the state of Victoria, nicknamed the Fighting Cowboy, he collapsed after absorbing a body punch in a routine sparring session with Jack Brubaker and could not be revived. He finished 19-2 after coming up short vs Tim Tszyu in a ballyhooed fight for Australian 154-pound supremacy. Ritchie was 27.

Nov. 9 – ALAN RODRIGUES – After purchasing the Silver Nugget, a small North Las Vegas casino, Rodrigues converted the basement into a boxing pavilion and juiced up the club scene with shows featuring local talent such as a past-his-prime Roger Mayweather. He would later serve time in a federal correctional institution for telemarketing scams. At age 60 in Henderson, NV.

Nov. 13 – JAMES J. BEATTIE – The six-foot-nine Beattie, whose middle name was actually William, attracted a lot of buzz early in his career but a second loss to James J. Woody sent his stock plummeting. He finished with a mark of 40-10 (32 KOs) that included losses to world title challengers Buster Mathis, Leroy Jones, and Gopher State rival Scott LeDoux. Beattie portrayed Jess Willard in the movie “The Great White Hope.” At age 77 in New Brighton, Minnesota.

Dec. 17 – SAOUL MAMBY – Mamby, who grew up in the Bronx and served a tour of duty in Viet Nam, won the WBC super lightweight title in 1979 in Korea and successfully defended it five times, but would be best remembered as the greyest of boxing’s greybeards, having had his last pro fight at age 61. In a career that spanned five decades, Mamby was routinely matched tough, opposing 12 former or future world champions while building a record of 45-34-6. At age 72. Details are vague.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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