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It’s Showtime in Allentown for the Gary Russells and Rigondeaux

Bernard Fernandez

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. – To hear singer/songwriter Billy Joel tell it in his 1982 hit Allentown, this city of 121,433 souls, according to a 2018 census, might still be viewed by some as an urban slag heap whose remaining denizens are as devoid of hope as, say, some of their more recent forebears were of their hometown returning to the industrial glory days that extended from the early 1800s to the mid-1960s. This is how Joel depicted the place 38 years ago:

Well, we’re waiting here in Allentown

For the Pennsylvania we never found

For the promises our teachers gave

If we worked hard

If we behaved

So the graduations hang on the wall

But they never really helped us at all

No, they never taught us what was real

Iron and coke, chromium steel

And we’re waiting here in Allentown

But Joel’s lyrics are as outdated now as such ’80s fads as mullets and parachute pants. Allentown, located 60 miles north-northwest of Philadelphia, is no longer so fiscally dependent on its once-rich, now played-out coal beds. It is the fastest-growing city in the Keystone State, and its third most populous overall behind Philly and Pittsburgh. It also could evolve into a new destination for attractive boxing events, if Saturday night’s Premier Boxing Champions-staged, Showtime-televised card is any indication.

Like Allentown, the fighters topping the card in separate bouts at the 5½-year-old PPL Center — WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. and former long-reigning super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux – come here with notable pasts and reason to believe they can survive and even thrive as they author the next chapter in their pugilistic careers.

The main event pits the 31-year-old Russell (30-1, 18 KOs) against the WBC’s No. 1 featherweight contender, Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KOs), which is just one of three bouts on a card featuring two more of the boxing Russell brothers. Junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell (12-0, 12 KOs), 23, takes on veteran Jose Marrufo (12-9-2, 1 KO) in a scheduled 10-rounder while middle brother Gary Antonio Russell (16-0, 12 KOs), 27, swaps punches with Jesus Martinez (27-10, 13 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

“I have my younger brothers on the card with me and in camp, pushing me every day,” Russell Jr. said of the family affair. “We’re ready, focused and hungry.

“It’s amazing to watch my younger brothers and to have them on the same card. I’m excited to work their corners. There’s never been a set of three brothers to become world champions, and I think we’ll do that real soon. They’re both extremely talented and hungry. I expect them to be better than me by the time they’re at this point in their careers.”

Rigondeaux (19-1, 13) is going solo, without the benefit of supporting siblings, but his scheduled 12-rounder against another old head, Liborio Solis (30-5-1, 14 KOs), might be the most interesting scrap of the night when one considers the Cuban southpaw’s advanced age (39) and a 2017 defeat that so stained the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba that he is still trying to restore some of his lost luster.

Although he is the WBC’s second-ranked bantamweight in a new, lower weight class, Rigondeaux – a superb technician who for years was a staple on most experts’ pound-for-pound lists – caught more than a little flak after he quit on his stool after six rounds in a matchup with WBO super featherweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko in New York. Sometimes criticized for being “boring” as well as masterful, Rigondeaux, not always the most active of elite fighters, appears to no longer be quite so content schooling opponents en route to one-sided nods on points. He fought twice in 2019, stopping Giovanni Delgado in one round and Julio Caja in eight, but Solis, 37, presents a much sterner test. In fact, Solis, from Panama by way of his native Venezuela, is even ranked higher in the bantamweight division by the WBA at No. 1 to Rigo’s No. 2.

“Bantamweight is my division,” said Rigondeaux, who fights out of Miami and insisted he always has been a natural 118-pounder even when he was dominating at 122. I want to thank (trainer) Ronnie Shields for how he has prepared me for this fight. I can’t wait to step into the ring and become champion again.

“I’m going to be phenomenal in the ring. I’m going to unify at 118 pounds like I did at 122. I’m excited to get started.”

rigo

If Rigondeaux is still most of what he once was, he could prove troublesome to some of the division’s leading lights, maybe even to Japan’s Naoya Inoue, who holds the WBA and IBF belts and a spot on all those pound-for-pound lists where Rigo was once a fixture.

Speaking of pound-for-pound recognition, Gary Russell Jr. believes his absence from such is tantamount to a cold slap in the face. He considers himself one of the finest all-around fighters on the planet, even though he tends to ply his trade less regularly than most fans would prefer.  He fought just once each year from 2017 through 2019, and although he did fight twice in 2016, he did not fight at all in 2014, making for a leisurely slate of five bouts in five years.

“You should expect to see what you always see of me,” Russell said of those occasions when he does step inside the ropes. “Boxing at its best. A great deal of ring generalship. Good boxing IQ. Hand speed, Punching power. The total package as a fighter. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to figure out why I’m not on the pound-for-pound list given all of that. It’s an issue.”

Ironically, Russell – whose most recent ring appearance was a fifth-round stoppage of Kiki Martinez on May 18 of last year – hasn’t been off as long as Nyambayar, who will be ending a 13-month period of inactivity.

“I’m not worried about any ring rust,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard in the ring during training camp to make sure I’m the best I’ve ever been.”

Russell stressed that Mongolia has a history of producing renowned fighting men, although it’s been a really long time since Genghis Khan, emperor of the Mongol Empire, unified many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia in the 13th century.

In addition to Russell-Nyambayar and Rigondeaux-Solis, the third TV fight on Showtime is a 12-round WBA super featherweight title eliminator pitting Jaime Arboleda (15-1, 13 KOs), of Miami by way of his native Panama, against Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez (29-5-1, 14 KOs).

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Daniel Jacobs Edges Past Gabe Rosado on a Matchroom card in Florida

David A. Avila

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Former world champion Daniel Jacobs needed the last round to win by split decision against upset-minded Gabe Rosado and keep his place in line on Friday for lucrative super middleweight matchups.

But when the ring announcer erroneously announced the winner was from Philadelphia, confusion reigned for a moment until Jacobs was correctly called the winner.

Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) jumped out ahead against Philly fighter Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) and held on for the win in front of no fans at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. For a second, many thought Rosado had won.

Both were careful during the first three rounds measuring each other’s distance and looking for openings to counter. There were very few.

It was the kind of fight expected by those who know boxing: two veterans with immense experience against top-flight world champions. Mistakes were few.

Jacobs, a former middleweight world champion, had fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in close but losing efforts.

Rosado had battled Golovkin too, six years ago in a bloody affair that ended in a loss. He had also lost to other champions like Peter Quillin and Jermell Charlo. But none were able to knock him out.

Both were aware of each other’s reputation. Bitter words had been exchanged for years and now they finally got their chance to prove their mettle and they did.

Though Jacobs was recognized as a knockout puncher, Rosado’s resilience was just as well known. Both neutralized each other for most of the fight with their feints and jabs to the body. Neither was willing to leave openings for each other.

Jacobs scored big with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round. While Rosado wowed viewers with a sizzling right cross in the 11th round.

It was 1950s style, boxing with intelligence. Each found it difficult to land combinations, let alone find openings to score knockout blows. Instead, they had to be satisfied with scoring enough to convince three judges the actual winner.

Neither was able to pull out ahead with any conviction.

After 12 rounds one judge saw Rosado the winner 115-113 while two others saw Jacobs the winner 115-113 to give him the win by split decision.

“It felt just a little weird. It felt like a sparring match,” said Jacobs about fighting without fans in the audience. “This wasn’t a valiant effort.”

Rosado was certain he was the true winner.

“I thought I won the fight. I surprised him,” said Rosado who trained with Freddie Roach for this fight. “I’m a veteran, I know how to fight.”

Indeed, he does.

Jacobs now stands poised to fight one of many super middleweight champions in need of a marquee name.

“I live to see another day,” he said honestly.

Other Bouts

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6 KOs) proved he was not an easy touch and knocked out former world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12 KOs) to march forward in the welterweight division while grabbing the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title.

In a fight featuring southpaw versus southpaw Yeleussinov caught Indongo with a roundhouse left the first time they exchanged and down went the former super lightweight world champion. Indongo beat the count and survived the round.

Indongo wasn’t as lucky in the second round as Yeleussinov again connected with a left and down went the fighter from Namibia again. He would not get up at 1:24 of round two giving the knockout win for Yeleussinov.

A battle between undefeated heavyweights saw Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3 KOs) use roundhouse rights to stagger the heavier Sahret Delgado (8-1) to win by knockout in the third round. Majidov actually helped Delgado get to his stool after knocking him out on his feet at 47 seconds of the third round.

Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1) defeated Mason Menard (36-5) by majority decision after a 10- round lightweight fight that saw a lot of clinching and leaning.

Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy (10-0) out-fought Detroit’s Brandon Maddox (7-4-1) to win by unanimous decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Ababiy hurt Maddox with body shots but found Maddox more resilient than expected.

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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