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Fullmer vs. Paret: Prelude to Tragedy

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In the movie The Harder they Fall, boxer Buddy Brannen (played by Max Baer) renders a horrific beating on Gus Dundee (played by former heavyweight contender Pat Comiskey) who thereafter suffers from terrible headaches, symptomatic of brain damage, heading into his next fight with the highly touted Argentinean giant Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). Everyone knows that Gus is damaged goods except the naïve, feather-fisted Moreno who knocks him out, whereupon Gus lapses into a coma and dies.

Max Baer was suitably cast as the menacing Brannen. Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger are at their very best in what is arguably one of the best boxing movies ever made. It’s great theater.

bogey

What was not theater was that heavyweight Ernie Schaaf compiled a record of 49-15-1 that included wins over the real Max Baer and Jim Braddock. In August 1932, he was decisioned by Baer in a rematch. However, he was actually saved by the bell when Baer knocked him out with seconds remaining in the fight.

Six months later, feather-fisted giant Primo Carnera knocked out Ernie in 13 rounds. Schaaf died four days later. Many believe the injuries suffered in his bout with Baer contributed to his death. Schaaf, of course, became the fictitious Gus Dundee. The fictional Moreno harked to Carnera.

Gene Fullmer

Later, in the 50s, former middleweight champion Gene “Cyclone” Fullmer (pictured) went on a tear after losing by spectacular left hook knockout to Sugar Ray Robinson on May 1, 1957 in the Chicago Stadium. The shot — often referenced as “The Perfect Hook” — caught the brawling and iron-chinned Fullmer flush on the chin.

“People tell me it was a great left hook, but I wouldn’t know. I never saw it.” – Gene Fullmer

Alternating between venues in Utah and large arenas elsewhere, Gene, a Utah Mormon, ran off eleven straight wins before drawing with Joey Giardello in Bozeman, Montana in April 1960. Among his victims were Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Spider Webb, Joe Miceli, and Carmen Basilio.

Fullmer stopped Basilio after the draw and then drew again (albeit controversially) with Sugar Ray Robinson (144-8-2) in December 1960 in Los Angeles. Three months later, he decisoned Sugar Ray in Las Vegas, thus going 2-1-1 over Ray during the course of his career.

Based on the level of his opposition and the frequency of his fights, Fullmer was the quintessential “best vs best” type fighter. Throw a dart and you were liable to hit the names of Paul Pender, Gil Turner, Del Flanagan, Rocky Castellani, Charlie Humez, Florentino Fernandez, or Eduardo Lausse. Tough and relentless, he just kept up the pressure from beginning to end; he kept coming and coming with endless stamina.

The Benny “Kid” Paret Fight (December 12, 1961)

Gene was 54-4-2 when he faced “The Kid” (35-10-3) at the Convention Center in Las Vegas. Paret had lost three of his last five bouts, all during a short period of time, and each of the fights had been against elite opposition.

Their contrast in styles did not bode well for the skilled Paret who had moved up in weight. The stronger and bigger Fullmer forced Benny into a brawl and then, after gaining control, butchered him in a sustained way that was difficult to watch and likely triggered shouts of “stop it” from ringside as the slaughter moved into the tenth round. This was a precursor to Duran vs. Moore as Fullmer was on a rampage and landed one thudding head and body shot after another leaving Paret bloodied and spent and ready to be taken out.

Here is how historian and author Mike Silver saw the action in a 2012 story written for Boxing.com: “In the tenth round the exhausted, bloodied challenger was the recipient of one of the most frightful and sustained beatings this writer has ever witnessed. Seven full power right hand punches were landed consecutively to Paret’s head before he went down. After getting up from the second knockdown he could barely stand. The referee, Harry Krause, inexcusably allowed the fight to continue for one more knockdown before finally counting him out.”

Amazingly, Benny was able to leave leave the ring without being stretchered out, but in retrospect that might have worked against him as he returned to action far too soon. It’s a cliché but it fits—Benny “Kid” Paret was now damaged goods.

Fullmer had also taken some heavy shots and his face was pulpy and beaten up. Importantly, however, he said that he hit Paret harder and more often than any other opponent.

The Cyclone from Utah did not fight for ten months and then went 0-2-1 against Dick Tiger ending an illustrious career (55-6-3) capped by his inclusion into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

The Kid, however, fought Emile Griffith just over three months later in Madison Square Garden; he should have been retired or, at a minimum, not have been allowed to fight for a controlled period of time. As Mike Silver writes, “Benny ‘Kid’ Paret” was doomed before he ever stepped into the ring…..[he] was literally a dead man walking. And  Emile Griffith, the other victim in this tragic scenario, was the final straw.”

The rest, of course, is well-documented history. The sensitive and extremely popular Griffith was inducted into the IBHOF in 1990.

Ironically, many observers declared that Griffith was a consummate fighter, except the one thing he did not do well was punch. Really?

“Boxers lasts only a short time, but managers go on forever.”–Joe Greb

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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The Sweet Science Rankings: Week of June 5th, 2023

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The Sweet Science Rankings: Week of June 5th, 2023

For the first time there are no changes in this week’s TSS Rankings. Two fighters ranked #1 in their weight class are in action this Saturday. Sunny Edwards, the top dog at 112 pounds, defends his belt against Chile’s Andres Campos at Wembley Arena in London. In a match with far more intrigue, Josh Taylor, the topmost fighter at 140, meets Teofimo Lopez at Madison Square Garden.

Pound-for-Pound

01 – Naoya Inoue

02 – Oleksandr Usyk

03 – Juan Francisco Estrada

04 – Dmitry Bivol

05 – Terence Crawford

06 – Errol Spence Jnr.

07 – Tyson Fury

08 – Saul Alvarez

09 – Artur Beterbiev

10 – Shakur Stevenson

105lbs

1            Knockout CP Freshmart (Thailand)

2            Petchmanee CP Freshmart (Thailand)

3            Oscar Collazo (USA)*

4            Ginjiro Shigeoka (Japan)

5            Wanheng Menayothin (Thailand)

6            Daniel Valladares (Mexico)

7            Yudai Shigeoka (Japan)

8            Melvin Jerusalem (Philippines)

9            Masataka Taniguchi (Japan)

10          Rene Mark Cuarto (Philippines)

108lbs

1            Kenshiro Teraji (Japan)

2            Jonathan Gonzalez (Puerto Rico)

3            Masamichi Yabuki (Japan)

4            Hekkie Budler (South Africa)

5            Sivenathi Nontshinga (South Africa)

6            Elwin Soto (Mexico)

7            Daniel Matellon (Cuba)

8            Reggie Suganob (Philippines)

9            Shokichi Iwata (Japan)

10          Esteban Bermudez (Mexico)

112lbs

1            Sunny Edwards (England)

2            Artem Dalakian (Ukraine)

3            Julio Cesar Martinez (Mexico)

4            Angel Ayala Lardizabal (Mexico)

5            David Jimenez (Costa Rica)

6            Jesse Rodriguez (USA)

7            Ricardo Sandoval (USA)

8            Felix Alvarado (Nicaragua)

9            Seigo Yuri Akui (Japan)

10          Cristofer Rosales (Nicaragua)

115lbs

1            Juan Francisco Estrada (Mexico)

2            Roman Gonzalez (Nicaragua)

3            Jesse Rodriguez (USA)

4            Kazuto Ioka (Japan)

5            Joshua Franco (USA)

6            Junto Nakatani (Japan)

7            Fernando Martinez (Argentina)

8            Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Thailand)

9            Kosei Tanaka (Japan)

10          Andrew Moloney (Australia)

118lbs

1            Emmanuel Rodriguez (Puerto Rico)

2            Jason Moloney (Australia)

3            Nonito Donaire (Philippines)

4            Vincent Astrolabio (Philippines)

5            Gary Antonio Russell (USA)

6            Takuma Inoue (Japan)

7            Alexandro Santiago (Mexico)

8           Ryosuke Nishida (Japan)

9            Keita Kurihara (Japan)

10          Paul Butler (England)

122lbs

1            Stephen Fulton (USA)

2            Marlon Tapales (Philippines)

3            Luis Nery (Mexico)

4            Murodjon Akhmadaliev (Uzbekistan)

5            Ra’eese Aleem (USA)

6            Azat Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

7            Kevin Gonzalez (Mexico)

8            Takuma Inoue (Japan)

9            John Riel Casimero (Philippines)

10          Fillipus Nghitumbwa (Namibia)

 126lbs

1            Luis Alberto Lopez (Mexico)

2           Leigh Wood (England)

3            Brandon Figueroa (USA)

4            Rey Vargas (Mexico)

5            Mauricio Lara (Mexico)

6            Mark Magsayo (Philippines)

7            Josh Warrington (England)

8            Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba)

9            Reiya Abe (Japan)

10          Otabek Kholmatov (Uzbekistan)

 130lbs

1            Joe Cordina (Wales)

2            Oscar Valdez (Mexico)

3            Hector Garcia (Dominican Republic)

4            O’Shaquie Foster (USA)

5            Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (Tajikistan)

6            Roger Gutierrez (Venezuela)

7            Lamont Roach (USA)

8            Eduardo Ramirez (Mexico)

9            Kenichi Ogawa (Japan)

10          Robson Conceicao (Brazil)

135lbs

1            Devin Haney (USA)

2            Gervonta Davis (USA)

3            Vasily Lomachenko (Ukraine)

4            Isaac Cruz (Mexico)

5            William Zepeda Segura (Mexico)

6            Frank Martin (USA)

7            George Kambosos Jnr (Australia)

8            Shakur Stevenson (USA)

9            Raymond Muratalla (USA)

10          Keyshawn Davis (USA)

140lbs

1            Josh Taylor (Scotland)

2            Regis Prograis (USA)

3            Jose Ramirez (USA)

4            Jose Zepeda (USA)

5            Jack Catterall (England)

6            Subriel Matias (Puerto Rico)

7            Arnold Barboza Jr. (USA)

8            Gary Antuanne Russell (USA)

9            Zhankosh Turarov (Kazakhstan)

10          Shohjahon Ergashev (Uzbekistan)

 147lbs

1            Errol Spence (USA)

2            Terence Crawford (USA)

3            Yordenis Ugas (Cuba)

4            Vergil Ortiz Jr. (USA)

5            Jaron Ennis (USA)

6            Eimantas Stanionis (Lithuania)

7            David Avanesyan (Russia)

8            Cody Crowley (Canada)

9            Roiman Villa (Columbia)

10          Alexis Rocha (USA)

 154lbs

1            Jermell Charlo (USA)

2           Tim Tszyu (Australia)

3            Brian Castano (Argentina)

4            Brian Mendoza (USA)

5            Liam Smith (England)

6            Jesus Alejandro Ramos (USA)

7            Sebastian Fundora (USA)

8            Michel Soro (Ivory Coast)

9            Erickson Lubin (USA)

10          Magomed Kurbanov (Russia)

 160lbs

1            Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan)

2            Jaime Munguia (Mexico)

3            Carlos Adames (Dominican Republic)

4            Janibek Alimkhanuly (Kazakhstan)

5            Liam Smith (England)

6            Erislandy Lara (USA)

7            Sergiy Derevyanchenko (Ukraine)

8            Felix Cash (England)

9            Esquiva Falcao (Brazil)

10          Chris Eubank Jnr. (Poland)

168lbs

1            Canelo Alvarez (Mexico)

2            David Benavidez (USA)

3            Caleb Plant (USA)

4            Christian Mbilli (France)

5            David Morrell (Cuba)

6            John Ryder (England)

7            Pavel Silyagin (Russia)

8            Vladimir Shishkin (Russia)

9            Carlos Gongora (Ecuador)

10          Demetrius Andrade (USA)

175lbs

1            Dmitry Bivol (Russia)

2            Artur Beterbiev (Canada)

3            Joshua Buatsi (England)

4            Callum Smith (England)

5            Joe Smith Jr. (USA)

6            Gilberto Ramirez (Mexico)

7            Anthony Yarde (England)

8           Dan Azeez (England)

9            Craig Richards (England)

10          Michael Eifert (Germany)

200lbs

1            Jai Opetaia (Australia)

2            Mairis Breidis (Latvia)

3            Chris Billam-Smith (England)

4            Richard Riakporhe (England)

5            Aleksei Papin (Russia)

6            Badou Jack (Sweden)

7            Arsen Goulamirian (France)

8            Lawrence Okolie (England)

9            Yuniel Dorticos (Cuba)

10          Mateusz Masternak (Poland)

Unlimited

1            Tyson Fury (England)

2            Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)

3            Zhilei Zhang (China)

4            Deontay Wilder (USA)

5            Anthony Joshua (England)

6            Andy Ruiz (USA)

7            Filip Hrgovic (Croatia)

8            Joe Joyce (England)

9            Dillian Whyte (England)

10          Frank Sanchez (Cuba)

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The Follies of Gervonta Davis: They Gave Him the Key to the City and Now He’s in the Slammer

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One surmises that Baltimore City Circuit Court judge Althea Handy has a lot of guts. When the 65-year-old jurist rescinded her decision to allow Gervonta “Tank” Davis to serve his 90-day sentence at the home of his trainer Calvin Ford and remanded him to the jailhouse, that undoubtedly didn’t sit well with some of the poobahs in Maryland’s largest city. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Davis was presented with a key to the city and a parade was held in his honor.

Davis appeared before Judge Handy on May 5. He had already pleaded guilty to each of four counts stemming from a hit-and-run accident that happened shortly before 2 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 5, 2020. After running a red light, Davis crashed his Lamborghini into another vehicle before crashing into the fence of a 7-eleven. The four occupants of the other vehicle, including a pregnant woman, required medical attention. Gervonta and his two passengers fled the scene in another car.

The four charges to which he pled guilty, eschewing a jury trial, included driving on a revoked license. Had Judge Handy thrown the book at him, she could have packed him off to prison for a term of four years and two months. Instead, she sentenced him to 90 days home detention, three years’ probation, and 200 hours of community service.

Davis owns a home in tony Broward County in South Florida. If it had been his decision, that’s where he would have served his 90 days. But Handy had visions of the boxer lounging by the pool and wouldn’t allow it. She insisted that he serve out his sentence in his native Baltimore.

Althea Handy

Althea Handy (2002 photo)

It was agreed that Davis would be confined to the home of his longtime coach Calvin Ford for the duration of his sentence. The head trainer at the Upton Boxing Center in impoverished West Baltimore and the inspiration for the Dennis “Cutty” Wise character in the HBO series “The Wire,” Coach Calvin, as he is called, has been a father figure to Gervonta Davis and countless other boys. Gervonta was living with his grandmother after bouncing around between foster homes when he wandered into Upton at the age of seven. The boxer credits his coach with instilling within him the discipline needed to stay off the streets.

There was one small problem. Calvin Ford’s home had only one bedroom. It was far too small for the boxer and his entourage.

Davis needed to find a new crash pad. Being the resourceful type, he moved his tack to Baltimore’s luxurious Four Seasons Hotel before plunking down a reported $3.4 million on a 5,000-square-foot high-rise penthouse. When informed that the boxer had taken it upon himself to recalibrate his “punishment,” Judge Handy said, “not on my watch” or words to this effect, and had the boxer hauled off to the slammer.

Gervonta Davis was boxing’s youngest American-born world champion when he won his first title in 2017. On July 24, 2019, three days before his homecoming fight with Ricardo Nunez – his fifth 130-pound world title defense – he was presented the keys to the city by then mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in a ceremony at City Hall. “Welcome Home….We’re so proud of you!”, read the proclamation. Later that year, on Oct. 26, the boxer was feted with a parade in his old neighborhood.

In his most recent bout, a non-title affair contested at the catch-weight of 136 pounds, Davis stopped Ryan Garcia in the seventh round to advance his record to 29-0. The fight played out before an SRO crowd of 20,000-plus at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In his four fights prior to that, Davis drew capacity or near-capacity crowds to NBA arenas in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Washington, DC. When it comes to putting asses in seats, no other American boxer can match him.

—-

Davis turned pro under Floyd Mayweather Jr’s “Money Team” banner. As recounted in a previous story, Mayweather’s influence was pervasive. Gervonta came to mimicking Floyd’s lifestyle, reflected in what normal people would see as reckless spending, manifested in bling and in his growing collection of rare and expensive automobiles. The parallels are striking and to that list we can now add one more. When Gervonta emerges from his current abode he will have spent almost exactly as many days behind bars as his former promoter. Mayweather was sentenced to 90 days for domestic battery in 2012 and with time off for good behavior was out of jail in two months.

When Davis gets out, will his boxing tools be as sharp as ever? Based on Mayweather’s experience, his fans have nothing to worry about.

During Mayweather’s incarceration, his lawyer and personal physician submitted a document to the court in hopes of securing an early release. “Jail food and water,” it said, “didn’t meet Mayweather’s dietary needs and lack of exercise space in a cramped cell of fewer than 98 square feet threatened his health and fitness.”

Not to worry. Floyd had some of his best moments after he was set free, although it may be worth noting that he stopped knocking people out.

Floyd was 35 years old when he regained his freedom. Gervonta Davis will be 28. There’s no reason to think that he won’t be as good as ever, but that’s assuming that he keeps his nose clean. He doesn’t need any more of these kinds of distractions.

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Claressa Shields Defeats Maricela Cornejo in Detroit

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In front of a Detroit crowd familiar with boxing legends, Claressa Shields demonstrated her place among the legends with a start-to-finish win over number one contender Maricela Cornejo to retain her middleweight world championship on Saturday.

“Maricela is just super tough. She was just in shape and knew how to get away from shots,” said Shields

More than 10,000 fans entered Little Caesars Arena and witnessed the fight.

Despite last-minute changes in opposition, Shields (14-0, 2 KOs) accepted always strong Cornejo (16-6, 6 KOs) and proved that former Detroit boxing legends such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis and Tommy Hearns need to move over.

The champion wasted little time in opening-up with looping overhand rights that barely missed the mark. Cornejo was careful to avoid the bombs. Though few punches landed it was clear that Shields was on the attack.

Cornejo was scheduled to fight another foe and had been preparing in Las Vegas with famed trainer Ismael Salas. She was fully prepared to face anyone, but Shields is not anyone. Her defense was on point but the speed ratio of Shields punches is almost impossible to practice.

Still, Cornejo did enough by connecting with a strong right cross that kept Shields from overwhelming her.

“Just stay smart and not get hit with her big right hand,” said Shields about her battle plan against Cornejo who replaced Hanna Gabriels who failed a PED test.

Though Cornejo had two inches height advantage, Shields had faced others that were taller before such as Christina Hammer and Savannah Marshall. Shields adjusted well.

“Height don’t matter, power don’t matter,” Shields said. “It’s all about skills and wills and I always have more.”

Over the years Shields has carefully added more ammunition to her offensive arsenal and fighting a taller opponent with power has become second nature. Shields kept a perfect distance at all times and made it difficult for Cornejo to time her attacks with a big right cross.

Cornejo jabbed her way trying to close the distance, but Shields agility and reflexes kept the taller fighter from her goal. Shields snapped Cornejo’s head back numerous times during the fight, but the Mexican-American fighter from the state of Washington has always shown to have one of the best chins in women’s boxing. No one has ever knocked her down.

Shields came close, especially in the seventh round. Cornejo opened the frame with a strong right lead that seemed to awaken the gates. Shields unleashed the blinding combinations that have bewildered every foe she’s ever faced since childhood. The speed and fury of the blows forced Cornejo to hold and maneuver out of range. She survived the onslaught but if it had been a three-minute round the fight might have been over. Instead, after the two-minute round expired, Cornejo had survived.

Shields had expended a lot of energy attempting the knockout. It takes a lot of to fire off dozens of blows with blinding speed and accuracy. Most of the eighth round was fought by both at a much slower tempo, until the last 20 seconds when Shields and Cornejo opened up the guns.

After saving energy in the prior round, Shields stunned Cornejo with a strong one-two that snapped the head of the challenger. Shields kept on the attack but in measured tones. Though she won every round it was evident that Cornejo was looking for one big counter shot that could turn the momentum.

It did not happen. Shields kept control of the fight until the very end. After 10 rounds both hugged each other in respect and the judges gave their verdict 100-89, 100-90 twice for Shields who keeps the middleweight world championship.

“I felt great. I won every round like I knew I could,” said Shields. “I tried for the KO, but Maricela was tough, had a strong right hand.”

For Shields it was her sixth defense of the middleweight championship.

“I thought I looked really, really good,” said a very content Shields. “Thank you for coming out.”

Other Bouts

Local fighter Ardreal Holmes (14-0) defeated Haiti’s Wendy Toussaint (14-2) by technical split decision after the fight was stopped early due to a bad cut following a clash of heads in the super welterweight match.

Toussaint was the aggressor through most of the fight but when a savage cut opened up above his forehead the referee stopped the fight though the ringside physician had given approval to continue.

The fight was stopped at 1:54 of the eighth round and Holmes won 76-75, 77-74, 74-77. The Detroit crowd booed the decision loudly.

A middleweight contest saw Michigan’s Joseph Hicks (7-0, 5 KOs) use his height and reach to dominate Atlanta’s Antonio Todd (14-8) from the outside. All three judges scored it 80-72 for Hicks.

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