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Jesse Hart Wants Revenge vs. Joe Smith Jr., But Served Piping Hot

Bernard Fernandez

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Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, a French diplomat in the 1800s, is widely credited as the originator of the saying that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” which is to say that retribution is most effectively achieved when the would-be avenger’s immediate, inflamed passions have been tempered into steely, calculating resolve.

It has been a little more than three years since Father Time, with an assist from Joe Smith Jr., finally caught up with the great Bernard Hopkins, who suffered the only loss inside the distance in his 28-year professional career when he was knocked out in the eighth round by Smith on Dec. 17, 2017, at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Even though B-Hop was then just 29 days shy of his 53rd birthday, and Smith, a construction worker from Long Island, N.Y., was, at 28, young enough to be the old master’s son, a longtime fan of Hopkins’ was personally offended when Smith had the temerity to take some verbal swipes at the vanquished legend.

That fan, a native Philadelphian as is Hopkins, is Jesse Hart (29-2, 21 KOs), who squares off against Smith (24-3, 20 KOs) in the scheduled 10-round light heavyweight main event Saturday night in the Mark G. Etess Arena of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The bout will be televised by ESPN.

Even without Hart’s seemingly heartfelt revenge motive to stir the pot, this matchup of the self-appointed vindicator of Hopkins’ foiled fistic farewell, a two-time world title challenger as a super middleweight, and Smith, whose resume includes not only that signature conquest of Hopkins but a shocking, first-round stoppage of highly regarded Andrzej Fonfara on June 18, 2016, has implications within the 175-pound weight class.

The 30-year-old Hart, who is promoted by Top Rank and will be fighting for only the second time as a light heavyweight, nonetheless is ranked No. 3 in that division by the WBO, No. 4 by the WBA, No. 8 by the WBC and No. 10 by the IBF. An impressive victory over Smith, also 30, no doubt would enhance his credentials for another bid for a world title, while Smith, loser of two of his last three ring appearances, one by unanimous decision to WBA light heavy champ Dmitry Bivol, is hoping an upset of Hart will again vault him back into the ratings.

But, to Hart, those are details that can and will be worked out later. This fight, he insists, is personal. He might not really know Smith enough to dislike him, but he does know that Smith defeated and then dissed Hopkins, which to Hart, son of another Philly boxing legend, middleweight knockout artist Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, is unforgivable.

At a press conference in Philadelphia to hype the fight, Hart turned toward Smith and explained why he so badly needed to put a whipping on him.

“You didn’t hurt just me, you hurt my whole city,” Hart said of Smith’s demonstration that not even Hopkins is immune to the natural laws of diminishing returns. “Philadelphia is pressuring me about this fight. I keep hearing, now that I’m a light heavyweight, `You gotta get Joe, you gotta get some payback.’ That’s my motivation. That’s my mission.”

Smith said his motivation, his mission, is to again “get my face out there,” to remind everyone that he is still around and capable of restoring some of his lost prestige. But he admitted that he is aware that Hart holds him responsible for some sort of affront to Philadelphia as a whole and to one of its most acclaimed boxing icons in particular.

“I know Jesse Hart’s coming to fight after what I did to his mentor, Bernard Hopkins,” Smith continued. “I know how he feels about it. He’s holding a grudge.

“So I know he’s looking forward to coming in there and possibly taking me out, but I’m going in there to do the same thing to him.”

It would be reasonable to believe that Hart’s expressions of outrage are feigned, possible mind games to mentally discombobulate Smith, which was something that a prime Bernard Hopkins could do about as well as anyone. Cynics might even suggest that it is all just window dressing, a false injection of drama to raise the stakes and create spectator interest. It wouldn’t be the first time that one or both fighters slung invective at each other, then hugged after the final bell and admitted that there never really was any bad blood between them.

Hart, however, insists that what he feels is real. There is a score to be settled, and Hart wants to painfully extract what he believes Smith owes for his impudence of three years ago.

“This ain’t got nothing to do with business or purses or who I’m going to fight later on,” he told a couple of Philadelphia reporters whom he has known for some time. “I’m going in there to do some real damage. I got to get Joe.

“Look, y’all know how close I am to Bernard Hopkins. I’ve been talking to Bernard since I was seven years old, back when Bouie Fisher was training him. Bouie used to train my dad when my dad was 13. Bouie would put Bernard on the phone with my dad, and my dad would give him advice. Then he’d hand the phone to me and say, `Here, talk to Bernard.’

“I watched most of Bernard’s fights when I was coming up. When he beat Felix Trinidad he was, like, the hero of the whole city of Philadelphia. An instant icon. That was the biggest day of my life, to be up there on that stage with him when he was honored at the Lucian Blackwell thing (a ceremony hosted by the now-deceased Philly city councilman).”

The bond between Hopkins and Hart remains as strong as ever. When Hart looks at Smith, rightly or wrongly he sees a thief who stole a bit of his childhood and laughed about it.

“Bernard made a promise to his deceased mother (that he’d retire at 40),” Hart recalled. “He made that promise to his hometown and to his daughter. But because of the simple fact that he could still fight, he kept fighting. If it wasn’t for that loss (to Smith), he’d probably still be fighting now. It took that loss to make him stop.

“But when he lost that fight, it hurt that little boy who idolized him and still does. When he came back (from California), he told me, `I’m sorry, Jesse. I went in there and did my best. It just wasn’t my night.’ He hugged me when he saw tears in my eyes. I felt like I lost. The little boy inside me was crying.

“That subject is still sensitive to me. The only way to make it right is for me to do (Smith) in. When this fight was made, I talked to Bernard and I said, `It’s going to be all right. I got Joe Smith.’”

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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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