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The Biggest HITS and MISSES from Boxing’s Latest Weekend

Kelsey McCarson

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The Biggest HITS and MISSES from Boxing’s Latest Weekend

It was another slow weekend in boxing, from an American-centric perspective anyway. All eyes were pointed to the upcoming Super Bowl between the two best teams in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. But there was still enough boxing to watch over the weekend around the world so long as one committed to doing it.

Here were the biggest HITS and MISSES boxing’s latest weekend.

HIT – Clay Collard’s Huge Upset of Previously Unbeaten Prospect 

Nobody expected middleweight Clay Collard (pictured on the left) to defeat Raymond Guajardo on Saturday night during the PBC on FS1 preliminary card at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss. Heck, I’m not even sure Collard expected to win since he was so adamant beforehand that it would be his last boxing match before trying his hand at the Professional Fighters League MMA tournament later this year. But Collard, who formerly appeared in the UFC, dominated and stopped Guajardo in the second round in a terrific slugfest. It was an amazing and unexpected performance. Now Collard has way more opportunities than he would have before, and Guajardo has a ton of stuff to work on before moving on to his next fight. Boxing is the theater of the unexpected, and Collard-Guajardo was exactly the type of fight that makes the sport such a joy to behold each and every weekend.

MISS – Celebrity Pro Boxers Who Don’t Know How To Box

Technically, YouTuber Anesongib’s first-round knockout loss to fellow internet celebrity Jake Paul happened on Thursday evening at Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami, Fl., but since the card was so long and drawn out by DAZN for some reason, it lasted into the wee hours of Friday morning in some time zones. That makes it fair game for comment here. DAZN and promoter Eddie Hearn have a huge stake in celebrity boxing matches right now because it means they can sell more DAZN subscriptions to the masses. It’s not a bad grift (as grifts go), especially since everyone involved in it seems to know what it is and why they’re doing it. But it’s one thing to let the likes of Jake Paul, older brother Logan Paul and rival YouTube phenom KSI throw hands without headgear. It’s quite another thing to include Anesongib, who is one of the worst boxers I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It’s clear he didn’t do any serious training or even learn how to hit a heavy bag before his encounter with Paul. Subscriptions or not, there’s no good reason to ever let anyone with that kind of poor skillset into a professional boxing ring.

HIT – Fox’s Super Bowl Commercials for Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury 2 PPV

There they were, two undefeated heavyweight boxers, basking in the glory of their very own Super Bowl commercial. That was quite the sight to behold, especially in 2020 which most people would admit is far removed from boxing’s glory days. Look, the first fight only sold 325,000 PPVs last year, and historically most rematches, no matter how good they are, don’t outperform the original. But this one has the chance to certainly do that. With the might of both Fox Sports and ESPN behind it and the intriguing storyline of the split draw last year, Wilder vs. Fury 2 should turn out to be the biggest heavyweight fight in recent history. Will the buy rate reach 2 million like promoter Bob Arum claims? Not even close. But it’s nice to see the promoters and TV networks involved in the massively important heavyweight bout doing every single thing they can to sell it to the general public.

MISS – Rumble in the Jungle 2? 

It looks like famed boxing promoter Don King decided to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle in the least celebratory way possible: by leveraging its namesake for a vacant cruiserweight title bout between Ilunga Makabu and Michel Cieslak. This isn’t to discredit either fighter involved in what turned out to be a solid fight for one of the legitimate world titles in boxing. But Muhammad Ali’s eighth-round knockout over previously undefeated heavyweight menace George Foreman in 1974 was one of the most celebrated and important fights in boxing history. There was certainly a way to promote the Makabu-Cieslak event on its own without dragging such a pristine piece of boxing lore into the mix. Still, Makabu scored the important win and now adds another interesting storyline to the oft-overlooked cruiserweight division. It’s not nearly the most popular weight class in boxing, but it typically produces high-quality fights.

HIT – Crafty Cuban Welterweight Yordenis Ugas Getting Semi-Huge Spotlight 

Maybe it wasn’t strange in the grand scheme of things for boxing’s Saturday night to be so light on action. It was Super Bowl weekend, after all, and all eyes were pointed toward the NFL. But Cuban welterweight Yordenis Ugas walked down Mike Dallas to score a seventh-round stoppage in an important bout for the 33-year-old welterweight, and it was nice to see him positioned in a place where all eyes in boxing would have to be pointed toward him. Ugas scored the win in the main event of the PBC on FS1 in Mississippi.

Ugas seems like the odd man out in the PBC’s cadre of welterweight stars, but he probably shouldn’t be. Shawn Porter barely got past Ugas via split decision last year in a fight some people believe Ugas deserved to win, and the crafty boxer is likely to play spoiler someday soon against the PBC’s bigger celebrities at 147. Ugas has won 10 of his last 11 fights. Someday he’ll be pitted against the likes of Porter, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or Errol Spence, if anything since the PBC seems so against letting them fight each other enough times by now to tell the complete story. But Ugas is legit. When he gets those fights, don’t be surprised to see him play the role of spoiler.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions

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Wilder – Fury Predictions & Analyses from the TSS Panel of Writers

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Whenever there is a big fight with a high level of intrigue, we survey members of our writing community to get their thoughts. In terms of pre-fight intrigue, Saturday’s rematch in Las Vegas between fellow unbeatens Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) ranks among the top heavyweight title fights of all time.

As is our usual custom, we are listing our panelists alphabetically. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose work has attracted a lot of buzz. Ayala’s specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his very cool work at his web site fight posium.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI — In the first fight, my prediction was that Fury would easily out-box Wilder. I am sticking to my guns with the same prediction for the second fight. I know Fury is making a lot of noise about knocking out Wilder but I think this is more psychological than anything else. Fury will box cautiously behind the jab, pick his spots to counter and focus very carefully on his defense. He is not going to go for the knockout and will turn this into an even more tactical affair than the first fight. But he will be more successful this time and coast to a wide unanimous decision victory.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — Fury is saying he’s going to meet Wilder in the center of the ring and take him out in two rounds. I’m guessing that’s a ruse, so I don’t put much stock in it. But even if the big Brit elects to outbox Wilder over 12 rounds, which he is capable of doing, that means he has to avoid getting clocked with a huge right hand for 12 rounds. Gotta go with the home run hitter here. Wilder by KO or stoppage in eight rounds.

JEFFREY FREEMAN — Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are equally charged with restoring much needed prestige to the heavyweight division in America. It’s a long slow slog. As a result, the powers caring about this have to be careful not to give away what they can sell. That’s why the first Wilder-Fury fight was called a draw. Neither fighter can afford a loss on their undefeated record and Bob Arum won’t be giving paying fans an actual result in exchange for their hard earned PPV dollars. Not yet anyway. So, it’s going to happen again! Wilder-Fury II ends in another draw but don’t worry, you can pay for the trilogy rubber-match “tie breaker” spectacular soon enough!

ARNE LANG – We performed this exercise before the first-Wilder Fury fight. No one was more bullish on Wilder than me. Properly chastened, I am going to pass the buck this time. Here are the observations of a long-time friend who resides on the Isle of Man and is known for having a sharp opinion: “Fury was cut badly in his last fight and will be very cautious, having tasted Wilder’s power. Training at Kronk isn’t the same without Manny Steward there. Fury has had multiple distractions and I don’t regard him as a world class puncher. DW has 36 minutes to land the one punch that will turn the tide.”

KELSEY McCARSON — Can you imagine what Deontay Wilder might feel on fight night? Across the ring from him will again be Tyson Fury, the same fighter who ate Wilder’s best punch and got back up on his feet. The only other time Wilder didn’t score a knockout was when he faced Bermane Stiverne in 2015. But Wilder broke his right hand in that fight, so he could explain that mystery away until he got the rematch with Stiverne two years later and ended up folding him in half in the first round like a lawn chair. But neither of Wilder’s hands were broken against Fury. Worse for the 34-year-old American is that Fury outboxed him for the majority of the fight. I like Fury to win the rematch by decision. Wilder will overcommit on his punches, and Fury will box his ears off for the clear victory.

MATT McGRAIN — Predicting a Tyson Fury fight is rather like predicting the weather. Even with all the pertinent information on hand it’s impossible to know exactly what will occur. Fury has been running less but reportedly sparring more; he has spoken openly of targeting 270lbs for the weigh-in; he has a new trainer who may or may not be motivating him; he has looked consistently bored and disinterested at more recent pressers; he has spoken openly of the crushing depression that envelopes him every Sunday. So, we might get an overweight, disinterested, under-motivated Fury on Saturday night. And he still might win. Put me down for Fury on points, but the right answer is, ‘nobody knows’.

SEAN NAM — Tyson Fury’s body may be as taut as its ever been, but his mind is in free-floating mode these days. Between hinting at an early retirement and opening up about certain sexual proclivities, Fury seems to have one foot perpetually out of the ring. In fact, ever since he linked up with Top Rank, it has been one big, gaudy publicity tour after another for the Manchester man. A stint with the WWE, the publication of his autobiography (as though his legacy in the ring had already been set in stone), and repeated desires to fight in an MMA crossover bout give the impression that Fury may not be as dialed-in for the most important fight of his life. Not to mention, Fury inexplicably canned his former trainer, Ben Davison. Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder, he of the thunderous right-hand fame, has been quiet as a church mouse. Wilder TKO9.

TED SARES –  An in-shape Fury schools Wilder in the early to mid rounds with focus and discipline, but then Wilder’s right connects and a stunned Fury backs off. Wilder then presses the action and KOs the giant in the next round – maybe the 9th or 10th – with a windmill shot (left or right) or a paralyzing straight ala Breazeale. We know Fury can go down. We know he can get up. But so also do Wilder and Mark Breland.

PHIL WOOLEVER – Wilder’s KO percentage gives him the coin-flip edge (Fury better remember what happened to Stiverne) but I have no clear idea what might happen where I see another draw just as likely as a decision either way. What intrigues me most are the over/under bet propositions listed around the 11th (take the under) and the possibility of this rematch joining a list of outrageous circumstances like the long count, ear bite or paraglider.

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Wilder vs. Fury: What History Tells Us About the Boxer and the Puncher

Matt McGrain

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Wilder vs. Fury: What History Tells Us About the Boxer and the Puncher

Jack Dempsey was “so badly out-boxed and out-classed” according to pre-eminent newspaper man Damon Runyon “he seemed more of a third-rater than one of the greatest champions that ever lived.”

“Gene Tunney is the best man I ever fought,” said Dempsey himself. “But if we ever meet again, I’ll beat him. There’s no maybe about that, either. He’s a grand man and a great fighter, but I know I can stop him.”

“Time after time,” wrote ringside reporter David Avila of the first Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight, “Wilder’s windmill rights hit air.” But here the Dempsey-Tunney comparisons end. Wilder did find Fury, dropping him “hard and seemingly for good” in the twelfth, Fury undertook his miracle recovery and the unsatisfactory draw was rendered.

What about this Saturday’s rematch? And what about the Tunney-Dempsey rematch? And what about other heavyweight rematches where the puncher and the boxer met for a second time, and what do they tell us about the upcoming meeting between the best and second-best heavyweight on the planet?

The first months of boxer Gene Tunney’s heavyweight championship reign were troubled. He incurred the wrath of New York’s press and public who preferred their champions humble and brutal. Tunney was neither and was actually booed in Madison Square Garden when presented to the crowd two weeks after his triumph. Dempsey was subjected to a two-minute standing ovation that same night, a new experience for him.

Dempsey, the puncher, wrestled with uncertainty about his fistic future before matching the mercurial Jack Sharkey, who was immediately installed as an 8-5 favorite. Here parallels begin to emerge between Dempsey and Wilder who both elected to meet serious opposition behind their nightmare encounter with pure boxers, although Wilder certainly wasn’t an underdog for his November 2019 encounter with Luis Ortiz. Ortiz, like Sharkey, was technically superb and more skilled than his respective punching opponent. Just as Ortiz was able to outbox Wilder throughout their contest, Sharkey set all kinds of problems for Dempsey who struggled to impose himself despite Sharkey’s determination to fight him in the pocket.

And like Ortiz, Sharkey fell victim to a brutal knockout though Dempsey’s victory was awash with controversy and the accusation of a finishing low blow that even modern analysis of fight footage cannot settle. Each man was rescued by his power in a significant fight staged before their respective rematches. But how did Dempsey fare with Tunney second time around?

What was both different and exciting about the second fight was Tunney’s overwhelming confidence in meeting Dempsey’s fire with fire. He didn’t seek a brawl, but he did seek to smother Dempsey’s work on the inside while sharing space with him. Tunney had experienced Dempsey and found him wanting; he dominated their first fight so completely that he feels, now, that he can take certain liberties with his man.

Fury talks like this may be his own thinking. He feels, and is right in my view, that his dominance in the first fight was legitimate, for all that he found himself on the ground looking up. He now talks openly about knocking Wilder out. There is a certain kind of consistency in his thinking; he ruled before and so can rule more directly now. He’s also hyping a fight though, and we all know how that works.

Fury should note that Tunney went straight back to the box-and-move strategy that brought him success in the first fight; he should also note that Tunney was able to hurt Dempsey by bringing him on to accurate punches he himself was sitting down on, especially in the fourth. Finally, it’s worth noting that after ten hot rounds it was Dempsey, not Tunney, who was struggling to reach the final bell despite the latter’s trip to the canvas in the seventh. Just like Fury, Tunney climbed from the canvas and by the end of the round was out-boxing the puncher.

In summary, Tunney became a little over-confident, much to the disgust of his cornerman Jimmy Bronson who repeatedly warned him that he was becoming neglectful of the Dempsey left. For Dempsey, there appears to be no secured advantage from having previously boxed ten rounds with Tunney. He drew a comparable blank to his first effort, despite the knockdown.

Billy Conn was unable to recreate Gene Tunney’s success against the even more fearsome Joe Louis in the 1946 rematch of their legendary 1941 encounter. In that first fight, Conn, contrary to the popular retelling, hadn’t so much hit and run as stayed in the champion’s wheelhouse and tried to stay on him, a declared strategy but one Conn surprised everyone by following through on. In the second fight, Conn froze: “this is going to be the worst fight ever” he told his father-in-law minutes before the ringwalk. Here the balance of power shifted in favor of the puncher mainly due to the ravages of time and the excessive toll they take on the boxer’s legs as opposed to the puncher’s power; Conn substituted his fighting retreat of five years before with a straight-up retreat and was dusted off in eight.

Louis excelled in rematches. Lee Ramage made it to the eighth in their first contest but seemed near death such was the destruction of the knockout he suffered in just two rounds of their rematch.  Max Schmeling, famously, out-boxed and out-thought the great Brown Bomber in their first fight in 1936 but was summarily executed in a single round of their rematch. Bob Pastor made Louis “look silly” according to some, and even managed to win a couple of rounds of their 1937 contest; Louis became the first man to stop him in their 1939 rematch. Godoy, Simon, Buddy Baer, all suffered terribly in rematches for one reason: Louis had learned how they moved.

This is the real disaster for any box mover and although he excelled in rematches against all styles, Louis is the ultimate example of this. He may have struggled to find his man on occasion, but once he did, he had found him forever.

Most famously of all, this fate befell Joe Walcott, who extended Louis the full fifteen in the first fight but was brutally dispatched in the rematch. Walcott was a master boxer, a man so smooth he seemed to have been poured rather than born, but he was as susceptible to the heatseeking puncher as the next man. He bedeviled Rocky Marciano in 1952, seemed ahead of him at every turn until, finally, caught by the Rock in the thirteenth he was undone. In the second fight, the puncher found the boxer in just a single round, Walcott decoded by Marciano just as he had been by Louis.

What about Wilder?  Does he have that kind of fighting IQ?  Can he unravel a boxer of Tyson Fury’s quality having put a serious glove on him twice in the first fight?

It’s a confused picture, but there is data: Wilder has boxed two interesting rematches.  The first was against Bermane Stiverne in 2017, having previously handily out-boxed him in 2015. As a promotional prospect it hardly set the grass alight, but in fairness, Stiverne had remained ranked and fought in one of Wilder’s more reasonable title defenses. The fight itself was butchery, and if it were to be analyzed as a part of a pattern it wall fall firmly onto the Louis side of the equation: Wilder learned about Stiverne in the first fight and crushed him in the second fight.

Wilder’s more recent rematch with Ortiz contradicts that notion. It ended, once again, in a savage knockout for Wilder, and that, once again, hints at his having unlocked his man, but in fact Ortiz was once more completely out-boxing Wilder at the time of the stoppage. Wilder, I thought, was even beginning to become a little uncertain.

By the time of the second Stiverne fight Stiverne was on the slide having last won a meaningful fight nearly four years previously, and but one more fight and loss from retirement. Wilder had also improved, and some of his gliding offense belied his reputation at times. The combination is what makes Wilder’s destruction of Stiverne look so Louis-like, I think.

In the second fight with Ortiz, we saw a truer Wilder. Tyson Fury has named him “a seven-year-old with an AK-47.”  This sounds a little like Furybabble, but it’s actually rather succinct. Wilder is indeed over-armed relative to his technique and he throws punches that are wildly under-schooled. But that is a part of what makes him so dangerous.

Re-watching him in the second Ortiz fight I was struck by the notion of a wind-up toy rather than a child, a persistent and vitally dangerous one. Wilder didn’t so much decode his opposition as deploy himself with consistent venom and opportunism. It’s a fundamental and sinister combination that clearly makes him difficult to face but I don’t think he’s learning in the way Louis or Marciano learned. I think he’s “just” improving, and a heinous puncher.

What that means for the Wilder-Fury rematch is that the specific nature of the contest will be decided by Fury. It will be he who decides whether to try to out-box the puncher while moving as we saw in Dempsey-Tunney, smother and out-fight the puncher as we saw in Louis-Conn I, or even duel the puncher, something like what we saw Archie Moore try with Marciano. Fury decides. Wilder will just be Wilder.

It all comes down then to Fury’s choice and to each man’s relative preparedness for it. Has Wilder guessed right?  And has Fury? A poor selection on strategy would be disastrous.

Lastly, have I got this wrong?  If Wilder decoded Stiverne for the devastating second knockout, if he decoded Ortiz thereby stopping him sooner, if he’s channeling Joe Louis in seeing more the second time around, I think there is only one possible winner, whatever version of Tyson Fury shows.

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The Javan ‘Sugar’ Hill Factor, a Wild Card in the Fury-Wilder Rematch

Arne K. Lang

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True “pick-‘em” fights don’t come down the pike very often, but Saturday’s rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury is about as close as it gets. At last look, most shops listed Wilder a very slight favorite. A professional bettor with a range of off-shore accounts at his disposal could lock in a wager at “even money” no matter which side he fancied. But ferreting out the ultimate winner is a head-scratcher, at least for most people, or so it seems.

The first Wilder-Fury encounter was memorable. On Saturday when they renew acquaintances, Tyson Fury will have a new trainer in charge of his corner. Two months ago, in mid-December, the Gypsy King announced that he had hired Javan “Sugar” Hill to help him prepare for the rematch.

Fury is turning back the clock. Back in 2010, with 10 pro fights under his belt, Fury spent a month at the Kronk Gym in Detroit where Hill worked as the chief assistant to his uncle, the late Emanuel Steward. Fury was there with his cousin, the future WBO middleweight title-holder Andy Lee who had turned pro under Steward’s tutelage after representing England in the 2004 Olympics. Fury recalls that he would have stayed in Detroit longer but could not bear to spend more time away from his wife and baby daughter. (Mr. and Mrs. Fury, Tyson and Paris, now have five children.)

Javan “Sugar” Hill, a former Detroit policeman who became the cornerstone of the Kronk Gym operation following the death of his uncle in 2012, was hired to improve Fury’s punching power. But is that possible?

“Power is one thing that can’t be mentored,” says long-time Montreal Gazette sportswriter Herb Zupkowsky, echoing a widely-shared opinion. “It’s a God-given talent. A fighter has it or he doesn’t. It’s that simple.” (It’s also worth noting that Fury stands six-foot-nine and that, historically, tall heavyweights don’t hit all that hard.)

That being said, it is a fact that Javan Hill, 49, has been in the company of some of the sport’s most fearsome punchers. He witnessed up close the evolution of  Thomas Hearns. As a pro, the “Hit Man” was never better than on the night he knocked Roberto Duran into dreamland with a bombshell of a right cross, leaving the legendary Duran splattered face first on the canvas in the center of the ring.

Four years after Hearns flattened Duran, another fighter who would become known as a great knockout artist, Michael Moorer, turned pro under the Kronk Gym banner. Moorer won his first 26 fights inside the distance, nine in the opening round, before being extended the full “10” by six-foot-10 Mike “The Giant” White, about whom it was said that his punches couldn’t crack an egg.

Javan “Sugar” Hill was involved only peripherally in the pro career of Moorer, but Steward entrusted him with rising light heavyweight contender Adonis Stevenson and they became a formidable duo. In 2013, Stevenson won the WBC (and lineal) light heavyweight title with a spectacular one-punch, first-round knockout of Chad Dawson.

But that wasn’t the most devastating one-punch knockout that Hill helped orchestrate. On Jan. 28, 2005, Johnathon Banks, carrying 193 pounds on his six-foot-three frame for his fifth pro fight, knocked out an Ohio journeyman named Arterio Vines in 31 seconds. This was a frightening knockout. It would be several minutes before Vines could be revived and a good 10 minutes before he could leave the ring on his own power. (Banks left the sport in 2015 with a record of 29-3-1 and, like his Kronk buddy Javan “Sugar” Hill, is now a prominent trainer.)

Leverage and torque are the keys to landing hard shots and neither is possible without the proper balance. Following Adonis Stevenson’s blowout of Chad Dawson, Hill was asked what was Stevenson’s chief asset. “His balance is exceptional,” he told the aforementioned Zupkowsky. “That’s why he’s bringing more and more punching power, from his balance. He can throw jabs and hurt you. He can throw hooks, body shots, left hands. Every punch is a dangerous punch.”

Interestingly, Tyson Fury  cited his need to be better balanced as the reason he hooked up with Hill. “I’ve always had this God-given athleticism and mobility, but while that herky jerky movement puts opponents off, I don’t only want to make ‘em miss, I want to make ‘em miss and make ‘em pay. This time I will be balanced and set to make Deontay pay when he misses,” he told Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail.

Fury was inactive for 31 months after deposing long-reigning heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in November of 2015. During his hiatus, as is well-documented, he battled depression and addictions and his weight ballooned to almost 400 pounds. He returned to the sport with a new trainer, Ben Davison.

That was a surprising choice as Davison was relatively obscure and four years younger than Fury. But in hindsight — and hindsight is always 20/20 — that was a smart pick. Fury’s first order of business was to push away his demons and get his body back in shape and Davison, who would come to define his role as that of a trainer, psychologist, physiologist, and nutritionist, was foremost a conditioning coach. He was the right man for the job.

Now that he has his act together, Fury doesn’t need a psychologist or physiologist to baby him back to what he used to be. Now the main emphasis is on sharpening his ring tools. Enter Javan “Sugar” Hill, the man from Kronk. (Ben Davison says he has no ill-feelings; that he and Tyson will always remain friends.)

Like most people with whom we have compared notes, we have no firm conviction as to who will win Saturday’s big fight. But the Javan “Sugar” Hill factor tilts us Tyson’s way, if only for the moment.

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