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The Heavyweight Scene: Joshua-Pulev, Adam Kownacki, Daniel Dubois and More

Arne K. Lang

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Poland-born, Brooklyn-raised Adam Kownacki makes his 10th appearance at Barclays Center on Saturday. The undefeated Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) opposes Robert Helenius in the main go of a card with three other heavyweight fights. Kownacki, who has cultivated an avid following at Barclays, is rough around the edges but doesn’t figure to have too much trouble with Helenius, a 36-year-old Finn who ran out of gas and was stopped in the eighth round by Gerald Washington in his last significant fight.

Good heavyweights have always been a prized commodity and that is seemingly truer now then ever. And Bob Arum, the sport’s indefatigable 88-year-old “Bobfather,” currently has his fingers in more pots than any other promoter.

Arum co-promotes Tyson Fury who owns the WBC belt and is widely regarded as the best heavyweight in the world after his sensational performance against Deontay Wilder. And on June 20, Arum will attempt to sweep the board, in a manner of speaking, when his fighter Kubrat Pulev challenges Anthony Joshua who owns the three other meaningful pieces of heavyweight hardware. This will be Pulev’s third fight for Arum after signing a multi-fight contract with Arum’s Top Rank organization on Dec. 8, 2018.

This is not the fight that fans want to see. Pulev, a Bulgarian who will be 39 years old when this fight comes to fruition, hasn’t been particularly impressive in his two fights under the Top Rank banner. He struggled with Bogdan Dinu before putting him away in the seventh round and then looked flat while winning a unanimous decision over flabby Rydell Booker, a fighter from Detroit whose career had been interrupted by a nearly 12-year prison stint for cocaine trafficking.

There’s a general feeling that Joshua-Pulev will play out similar to Pulev’s 2014 match with defending heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He was stopped in the fifth round. That remains his only loss in 29 pro fights. Nonetheless, the fight will almost assuredly be a sellout.

Joshua and Pulev were originally slated to fight on Oct. 28 at Principality Stadium in Wales. The official press conference was held on Sept. 11 and the next day advance ticket sales purportedly reached 77,000. A shoulder injury forced Pulev to withdraw from that fight. He was replaced by Carlos Takam.

Although Joshua vs. Pulev doesn’t get the adrenaline flowing, the venue, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, gives the event a certain glow. The 62,303-seat facility in North London, which opened on April 3 of last year, is the sexiest new stadium on the international sporting scene. Among the amenities are an in-house bakery and a microbrewery. The stadium (which will eventually take the name of a corporate sponsor, perhaps as early as June) was built for the soccer club for which it was temporarily named, but with features built with an eye toward housing an NFL team on the assumption that a London franchise is imminent.

Five weeks prior to the Joshua-Pulev fight, another important heavyweight contest will take place in the UK when Dillian Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs) meets Alexander Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KOs) in Manchester.

Both appeared on the undercard of Joshua-Ruiz II in Saudi Arabia. Carrying a career-high 271 pounds, Whyte looked very ordinary while winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Mariusz Wach. In Whyte’s defense, he took the fight on short notice. Povetkin, a former Olympic gold medalist and former WBA world heavyweight titlist engaged Michael Hunter in an entertaining 12-round affair that was fairly ruled a draw. In the opinion of the pundits, the 40-year-old Russian showed that he still had plenty left in his tank.

Bob Arum won’t be at that fight. He will be in Glasgow, Scotland, where Top Rank fighter Josh Taylor defends his WBA and IBF 140-pound belts against Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong.

For many serious boxing fans, the most intriguing heavyweight fight on the horizon is the April 11 clash on London between fellow Londoners Daniel Dubois (14-0, 13 KOs) and Joe Joyce (10-0, 9 KOs). The buzz is even more palpable than when Anthony Joshua, then 14-0, opposed the aforementioned Dillian Whyte (16-0) in London in 2015.

Dubois is currently favored in the 4/1 range. His previous crossroads fight with fellow unbeaten Nathan Gorman was expected to be a tough test, but it turned out to be a one-sided affair that Dubois dominated en route to a fifth-round stoppage. An imposing physical specimen who carries roughly 240 pounds on a six-foot-five frame, Dubois, only 22 years old, has been anointed a future world heavyweight champion by no less an authority than Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail who has covered the sport for 50 years. But the 34-year-old, six-foot-six Joyce, who had a long amateur career that culminated with a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, doesn’t lack for supporters.

During the under-appreciated reign of Wladimir Klitschko, the heavyweight division lost its luster. But boxing’s flagship division has rebounded with a flourish.

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

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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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