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Tyson Fury Goes on the Offensive For Rematch With Wilder

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Tyson Fury Goes on the Offensive For Rematch With Wilder

It has been said that a kangaroo is a horse designed by a committee, but nature tends to work best when a horse doesn’t try to be anything but a horse and a kangaroo happily remains a kangaroo. But that doesn’t stop the experimenters among us, always looking to modify what was or is, from fiddling with the status quo in an effort to produce a new and hopefully superior version of something.

When lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) enters the ring for his rematch with WBC titlist Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) on Feb. 22 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, he won’t exactly be a patchwork kangaroo with a few residual equine traits. Nor will he have three trainers, all of whom have had their turn constructing the “Gypsy King” to their preferred specifications, working his corner that night. The last of that trio of chief seconds is recently hired Javan “Sugar” Hill, nephew of the late, great overseer of Detroit’s legendary Kronk Gym, Emanuel Steward. Manny, a 1996 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who was 68 when he died in 2012, was like a pass-happy offensive coordinator in football, as are his disciples, all partial to high-scoring contests in which their guy wins by making more splashy big plays (think knockdowns and impressive displays of power-punching) than whomever is working the other sideline and playing D.

There are two ways, and two ways only, to win any athletic contest or boxing match. One is to score more than the other side; the other is to allow the other side to score less than you do. Those objectives might sound the same, but they are fundamentally worlds apart. Rare is the team or fighter equally adept at mastering both strategies and employing them interchangeably.

Hill takes the place of the more defense-oriented Ben Davison, jettisoned after his most recent outing as Fury’s coach du jour, a unanimous but nonetheless worrisome decision over Sweden’s Otto Wallin on Sept. 14, 2019, at the MGM Grand, a bout in which Fury incurred an ugly gash over his right eye that required 47 total stitches to close. It would not have been a travesty of justice had referee Tony Weeks or the ring physician stopped the fight at some point in the later rounds and awarded the underdog Scandinavian southpaw a shocking upset victory.

“I had a good defensive coach in Ben Davison,” Fury, who also will have a new cut man, “Stitch” Duran, noted of the young trainer who took the place of his original trainer and uncle, Peter Fury, who also was determined to be lacking in some way. “We worked a lot on defense every single day for two years. It was defense, defense, defense.

“But I needed an aggressive trainer. I worked with Sugar Hill in the past. I knew he was a good guy. I knew we got on well, which was very important. Communication is key to any relationship. That’s why I brought him in. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Now that he is better acquainted with the attacking Kronk methods passed on by Steward to Hill and some of his other assistants, it is little wonder that the 31-year-old Fury is uncharacteristically predicting a second-round knockout of Wilder, whose modus operandi is always the same: throw right-hand bombs -until one connects and dude laying on the canvas has been counted out. If you want to call the “Bronze Bomber” from Tuscaloosa, Ala., a one-trick pony, that’s all right. He knows who and what he is, and he makes no apologies for unalterably adhering to the singular principle that has made him one of the hardest-hitting heavyweights of all time, and arguably the biggest bopper ever, according to Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, who promotes Fury. You wouldn’t think Arum would approve of Fury, a clearly more polished boxer, choosing to slug it out with Wilder in the center of the ring, but, as always, there are different paths to victory. The best fight plan indisputably is whichever one works.

“I have confidence in Tyson,” Arum said of his new-look heavyweight headliner. “There are guys who say they’re going to knock out their opponent, but it’s like a baseball player getting up to the plate and trying to hit a home run. Anybody who knows baseball will say that the guy who looks to make contact has a better chance to hit a home run than the guy that’s swinging from his heels.”

A let-’er-fly guy like Wilder, in other words.

“Tyson is a great boxer, but he has the determination to knock out Wilder,” Arum continued. “He’s not going to force it, but the knockout will come. Unlike the first fight, when he got Wilder into trouble – and Wilder was in trouble a couple of times – he’s not going to let him off the hook.”

To Fury’s way of thinking, the huge Briton – when you’re 6-foot-9 and 254½ pounds, as the badly bleeding Gypsy King was for his excursion into the danger zone against Wallin – the only certainty of outcome is when the winner snatches the pencils out of the judges’ hands. In their first clash, on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles’ Staples Center, Fury was floored twice, a flash knockdown in the ninth round and something far more perilous in the 12th and final round, but he barely beat referee Jack Reiss’ count and somehow managed to stay upright for more than two minutes until the final bell.

The outcome – a split draw – satisfied neither Wilder, who figured two knockdowns should have given him the edge, nor Fury, who seemingly stockpiled most of the non-knockdown rounds as a squirrel might horde acorns for the winter. The tabulations read 115-111 for Wilder on Alejandro Rochin’s scorecard, 114-112 for Fury on Robert Tapper’s, and 113-113 on the one submitted by swing judge Phil Edwards.

“I didn’t get the decision because I didn’t keep working on my boxing,” Fury said. “I believe I can outbox Deontay Wilder very comfortable, but the fact of the matter is I outboxed him very comfortable the last time. But it’s no good me believing it; the judges have to believe it. To guarantee victory, I’ve got to get a knockout. I don’t want another controversial decision.

“Look, I’m not a judge. They see what they see. That’s what they get paid to do. This time my destiny lies in my own two fists.”

But what of the presumed imbalance of power? What if Wilder really does wield the biggest hammer in heavyweight history? Won’t going toe-to-toe with him be like engaging Babe Ruth in home run derby or Michael Jordan in a slam-dunk competition?

“That was one of my easiest fights,” Fury said of his first go at Wilder. “Other than the two knockdowns it was a pretty much one-sided fight. I’ve had fights much harder than that. My toughest opponent was Steve Cunningham, the former cruiserweight champion (who decked Fury in the second round of their April 20, 2013, bout in New York before finally succumbing on a seventh-round stoppage). It was my first step up to anybody with that type of ability. He was slick and hard to hit, awkward but a very good boxer.”

It is Fury’s contention that his various trainers have supplied him with the versatility to enter the lion’s den and emerge relatively unscathed, while Wilder lacks the imagination and ability to go to a Plan B, if indeed he has one.

“I think there’s nothing to worry about,” Fury said of what he expects from Wilder. “He’s got a big right hand and that’s it. He’s a one-dimensional fighter. The one who should be concerned is Deontay Wilder. He had me down twice, but he couldn’t finish me. He landed the two best punches any heavyweight in the world could ever land on somebody else and the Gypsy King rose, like a phoenix, from the ashes.

“I’m match-fit, I’m ready, I’m confident, I’m injury-free. I’m ready for a war, one round or 12. And when I get him hurt, I’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink at him. He won’t know what hit him.”

Maybe. But if another stylistic makeover on short notice doesn’t yield the desired result, Tyson Fury could wind up looking like the horse that tried to be a kangaroo.

Wilder-Fury II can be accessed via ESPN+ and Fox Pay-Per-View. The suggested list price is $79.99.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Former World Bantamweight Champion Richie Sandoval Passes Away at Age 63

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Richie Sandoval, who won the WBA and lineal bantamweight title in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s and then, not quite two years later, suffered near-fatal injuries in a title defense, has passed away at the age of 63.

News circulated fast in the Las Vegas boxing community on Monday, July 22, the grapevine actuated by a tweet from Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler: “Boxing and the Top Rank family lost one of our own last night in the passing of former WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval. It hurts personally and professionally to know that Richie is gone at age 63. RIP campeon.”

Details are vague but the cause of death was apparently a sudden heart attack that Sandoval experienced while visiting the Southern California home of his son of the same name.

Richie Sandoval put the LA County community of Pomona, California, on the boxing map before Shane Mosley came along and gave the town a more frequently-cited mention in the sports section of the papers. He came from a fighting family. An older brother, Albert “Superfly” Sandoval, became a big draw at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium while building a 35-2-1 record that included a failed bid to capture Lupe Pintor’s world bantamweight title.

Richie was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that was stranded when U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and many other world leaders) boycotted the event as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

As a pro, Sandoval’s signature win was a 15th-round stoppage of Jeff Chandler. They fought on April 7, 1984 in Atlantic City. Chandler was making the tenth defense of his world bantamweight title.

Despite being a heavy underdog, Sandoval dominated the fight, winning almost every round until the referee stepped in and waived it off. Chandler, who was 33-1-2 heading in and had avenged his lone defeat, never fought again.

Sandoval made two successful defenses before risking his title against Gabby Canizales on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace. In round seven, Sandoval, who had a hellish time making the weight, was knocked down three times and suffered a seizure as he collapsed from the third knockdown. Stretchered out of the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors reduced the swelling in his brain and beat the odds to save his life. This would be Richie’s lone defeat. He finished his pro career with a record of 29-1 (17 KOs).

Bob Arum cushioned some of the pain by giving Richie a $25,000 bonus and offering him a lifetime job at Top Rank which Richie accepted. And let the record show that Arum was good to his word.

A more elaborate portrait of Richie Sandoval was published in these pages in 2017. You can check it out HERE. May he rest in peace.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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