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The Top Ten Super-Middleweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

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The Top Ten Super-Middleweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Super-middleweight offers a surprisingly shallow decadal well with a top two written in stone, no defined number ten and a fuzzy nine through six, although, as always, meetings between some of those fighters helped straighten a few things out.

That the 168lb Super Six tournament, the inaugural super series, was mid-flow on January 1st 2010 means that not all of those results are considered, which hits some harder than others. It took some time for a new generation to traverse the rubble left behind by the monstrous divisional number one and two, but when they did they flooded the top five, usurping men like Mikkel Kessler who left the best part of his career behind in the 00s.

The picture is complicated and often the differences between fighters are small but it made for a fascinating if under-whelming 168lb decade.

10 – David Benavidez

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 22-0 Ranked For: 32% of the Decade

A surprising inclusion, David Benavidez makes it in at ten based, in all honesty, upon the total absence of an outstanding candidate.

Lucian Bute was the early runner, and at the dawn of the decade it would have been hard to imagine him not making a list like this; a final paper record for the decade of 7-5 all but excludes him though and his best win being over a collapsing Glen Johnson is the final nail in that particular fistic coffin.  Andre Dirrell ran him close but actually achieved surprisingly little between his controversial 2009 loss to Froch and his 2015 defeat to James DeGale. It’s not clear-cut, but Benavidez is the right choice.

He survived a startling gut-check in 2017 when dropped by Romanian tough Ronald Gavril in the final frame of his first twelve round contest in a fight he won by the narrowest of margins. Benavidez proved the value of such lessons in an immediate rematch, winning almost every round in a near-shutout of high caliber.

As 2019 came to an end and with this list (then only thought of) completely bereft of a tenth entry, Benavidez stopped Anthony Dirrell, then the number four contender, to seal the low spot. It was an impressive performance as he out-hustled and out-jabbed a faster-handed fighter, a layered offense built of two-handed attacks to body and head barracking severe pressure. Benavidez has a bright future, here he is lauded for his fledgling past.

09 – Arthur Abraham

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 16-6 Ranked For: 66% of the Decade

Arthur Abraham lost majority of his big fights in the 2010s; by disqualification to Andre Dirrell; by shutout against Carl Froch; by outclass against Andre Ward: even against elite prospects once he had limped past his prime.

The two things that speak for him here are his dogged commitment to the weight-class, which he inhabited from 2010 until his retirement in 2018 and his series victory over Robert Stieglitz. Stieglitz, himself a contender himself for this list, was a highly ranked and formidable fighter who prioritized a regional rivalry with Abraham above all other things. Abraham, out of Armenia, had relocated to Germany, just as Stieglitz had done from Russia; the German yard seemed big enough for only one super-middleweight.

Abraham puts me in mind of a less dangerous Huck, which is perhaps damning with faint praise.  Nevertheless, it is hard not to see the similarities in the first fight between Abraham and Stieglitz as Abraham overcame a relative paucity of activity to surge from the ropes and win key sections of key rounds and a narrow decision. The fight was so close (I scored it a draw) that a rematch was inevitable, and Abraham lost that rematch, his left eye closed by an unerring Stieglitz right hand which saw him stopped in three one-sided and foul-filled rounds. In the third fight, by which time Stieglitz was being favored, the men were sharing a purse of over $3m; Abraham, viewed, perhaps, as sliding, was as good in the second half of this fight as he had ever been. In a chaotic, filthy match his punching was consistently cleaner, his footwork markedly better even in the exhausted twelfth round in which he received a beating for more than two minutes before countering with a gorgeous uppercut to seal the victory with a knockdown. In the fourth and final fight, Abraham was at last able to see off his great rival in a sixth-round stoppage.

This series is the bedrock of Abraham’s ranking in the 10s, his biggest wins over Jermaine Taylor and Edison Miranda all coming in the 00s.

08 – Gilberto Ramirez

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 34-0 Ranked For: 49% of the Decade

The inclusion here of Gilberto Ramirez may raise some eyebrows but in truth, leaving him out is next to impossible. He defeated Arthur Abraham after all, and so clinically that only Andre Ward and perhaps Carl Froch can claim to have matched him.

What most impressed me about Ramirez, who fought Abraham on the undercard of the Manny-Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley rematch from 2016, was how he handled the veteran’s tempo. Abraham had been fighting at title level for as long as Ramirez had been fighting and he ceded the tempo of the fight to the younger man early, allowing him to force the pace. Ramirez eschewed the classic mistake of pushing too hard. He accepted responsibility as the general and then boxed at his own steady rate, deploying a beautiful right hook to the body, moving well but not excessively, jabbing the Abraham high guard to keep him occupied, finding what gaps there were.

It was a beautiful performance.

Abraham, it might be argued, was past prime – it is worth reminding the reader though that he had just turned in two of his career’s best in 2014 and 2015 against Stieglitz. That was the Abraham Ramirez faced.

Ramirez spent almost the entire decade fighting at the poundage and his raw numbers are impressive. It’s jarring to see him at number eight, and perhaps revealing of 168lbs strength in depth, but he’s unquestionably a special fighter and arguably has the best signature win of anyone outside the top six.

A quick word for Andre Dirrell, who also holds a win over Abraham from 2010 but doesn’t make the list. Fairly or unfairly (and it’s unfair as Dirrell was clearly winning the fight at the time of the stoppage), a victory by disqualification is less impressive than a wide UD, so Dirrell misses out.

07 – James DeGale

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 20-3-1 Ranked For: 56% of the Decade

The most instructive fight of James DeGale’s career, and perhaps his best, is his 2015 points victory over Andre Dirrell. DeGale, slightly out-sped, was clearly uncomfortable in the very early moments of the round, Dirrell’s quick jab and a gorgeous counter-uppercut giving him pause for thought. A beautiful left hand from a stance neither southpaw nor orthodox but somewhere in between (DeGale switched), changed the direction the fight seemed to be taking. DeGale took over.

Then, in the seventh, he gassed. It was clear and it was sad, a fighter gone from close control fostered by deep combinations to walking in wide circles with low hands, pot-shotting. He clearly lost the seventh, eighth, ninth and then the tenth. It made his heart-fuelled rally in the eleventh and twelfth all the more thrilling.

A Rolls-Royce with a scooter’s gas-tank, DeGale’s great flaw made him a much more interesting fighter, drawing him into thrillers where a man of his talents probably would otherwise have coasted. It cost him dearly in legacy, however – every blip on DeGale’s record owes something to his stamina issues.

Dirrell was clearly his best win and to be frank it is troubling to me that his second is likely Caleb Truax – but Truax was only highly ranked as a super-middleweight because he had previously beaten DeGale in one of his most pronounced fades; he was barely able to avoid a repeat in the rematch.

That said, he could have taken a victory in his hairline defeat to early nemesis George Groves, sending him off on a different trajectory. Having looked carefully at him here, however, I’m struck by the idea that given his very real limitations, DeGale squeezed almost everything he could have from his rather fascinating career.

06 – Mikkel Kessler

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 4-1 Ranked For: 38% of the Decade

At first I thought Kessler’s decadal legacy may be the weakest of all the divisional number sixes we will run into. A wonderful fighter, he threw punches in anger just five times at the beginning of the decade and never ranked higher than #2. His inclusion here stands upon what is likely the single best 168lb performance of the decade not executed by Andre Ward, the April 2010 clash between he and Carl Froch.

Prime Kessler was such a rare sight. No fighter of the era struggled so desperately with injuries – back, eye, and especially elbow troubles tormented him; but on that April night in Denmark you saw the closest thing we ever saw to Kesslerian perfection.

Not that he had it all his own way; the fight was thrilling, brutal, accompanied by some horrible facial injuries and some violent punches. Technically superior to Froch and sporting arguably the best traditional one-two punch in the sport at that time, Kessler survived one of Froch’s patented late surges to pull out the final rounds on my card and win a desperately narrow decision. It was a thing of savage beauty.

He lost the rematch but in between did some fine work, including an unprecedented three round destruction of Brian Magee and a crushing knockout of super-six competitor Allan Green. So on second thoughts, Kessler is just about good for this spot, not an outstanding number six but probably not a problematic one.

05 – George Groves

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 21-4 Ranked For: 77% of the Decade

When George Groves met James DeGale in 2011 their combined record was 22-0, prospects foolishly but gloriously jumping the gun to settle a domestic rivalry that hadn’t even had the proper time to coagulate.

DeGale was favored; Groves won, a fascinating and tension-filled combat, unexpectedly boxing off the back foot to out-squabble and counter his way to the narrowest of victories. It was not undisputed by ringsiders.

Groves and DeGale never met again and their respective careers plunged in and out of the choppy 168lbs waters, now one pre-eminent, now the other. Both achieved the number one contender’s spot, both won straps, neither lifted the undisputed, legitimate championship of the world and here, in the end, I have Groves edging him out in terms of legacy.

Groves made his mark, but he did it the hard way, with grit, gumption, heart and nerve. People forget how close he was to retirement after his loss to Badou Jack and how much his status within the fight game was propped up by his two exciting losses to Carl Froch. Exciting losses are fine, perhaps, for gathering cash but are worth very little in the cold eyes of history.

It was important for Groves to carry on after the loss to Jack because his two most important wins, over Martin Murray and Chris Eubank, came after that night. This hardly makes for an impenetrable top-five resume for the decade, but as we’ve seen, competition is a little sparse and so his determination to fight on where so many may have slung in the towel scrambles him over the line.

04 – Callum Smith

Peak Ranking: Ch Record for the Decade: 27-0 Ranked For: 38% of the Decade

So, Groves becomes the gatekeeper to the decade’s true elite. Numbers four, three and two all defeated him and for each of them he was a win of major importance, none more so than Callum Smith.

This is true for two reasons. Firstly, Groves was nothing less than the world’s number one contender, and with no true champion on the throne, the most important fighter at the poundage.  For all that he was sliding, he had also summitted. The man to knock him off his perch was always going to benefit, and that man was Smith.

Secondly, Smith only arrived as a major force taking significant scalps at the decade’s end. The Groves fight, in 2018, was his first of any true global significance. After this he mercilessly buried contender Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in just three rounds before running into the diminutive John Ryder where he was arguably lucky to get a unanimous nod in a close fight.

Against Groves though, he had been dominating, imperious. Groves, who scored his two most meaningful career wins in the previous eighteen months, had only ever been stopped by Carl Froch, but this was something else again. There was a sense of overlapping generations, even eras, as Smith, who looked bigger, stronger, flat-out healthier, faster and more powerful, countered and battered Groves around the ring. It felt like the emergence of someone a little special.

His shaky performance against Ryder has since cast doubt upon that perception, but not upon his placement here. Smith is locked into the top five.

03 – Badou Jack

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 18-3-3 Ranked For: 48% of the Decade

Badou Jack’s 168lb career is fascinating and scoring his cornerstone fights is fascinating. Jack met Anthony Dirrell (W, MD), George Groves (W, SD), Lucian Bute (Draw, later changed to a DQ after Bute tested positive for drugs) and James DeGale (D). All fights that were called controversial for one source of another and all back to back. We don’t have the space here to deep-dive each but a brief summary is called for.

His fascinating tussle with Dirrell is one of my favorite lo-fi combats of the decade and sees Jack slowly take over from his more highly ranked opponent, finally going to work on him on the ropes to take a justified decision in a fight that seemed at times contested in the proverbial phone-booth, yet somehow rambled across the whole ring. Against Groves, in another fine fight, Jack started faster, scoring a knockdown with a pair of flashing right hands in the first, and finished the stronger, rattling his man with that same punch in the twelfth. Once more, the fight was close, but the scoring was justifiable. Against Bute, Jack was unlucky to see the official scorecards a draw, but this wrong was righted when Bute was unfortunately busted for performance enhancing drugs, the fight now listed a win for Jack. Finally, against DeGale, a justifiable draw was rendered, but given that he threw more punches and landed at a higher rate and came reasonably close to a stoppage in the twelfth, he can probably count himself a little unlucky here.

Jack’s appearance at number three may be unexpected to some, but it shouldn’t be. He mixed it at the highest level and for the most part he came off best. His single loss at the weight, a bizarre first round defeat to the little-known Derek Edwards should arguably relegate him to the fourth spot, but Smith arrived just one fight too late to overhaul him for me.

02 – Carl Froch

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 7-2 Ranked For: 50% of the Decade

I did no analysis at all before installing Carl Froch at number two and I’m glad that this decision has been borne out by the review. Nobody came close to usurping him and the gap between two and three is probably bigger than the gap between three and nine.

Froch lost twice. In 2011, he was outclassed by one of the best super-middleweights in history, our number one, and the year before he was pipped by Mikkel Kessler in a thriller. The rematch, too, would be thrilling and is among the most fascinating I have seen in terms of adjustment and counter-adjustment deciding the outcome. Froch was “basic” according to Antonio Tarver and so many others, but in fact he was layered and thoughtful. If the Kessler performance doesn’t persuade you, the Arthur Abraham one certainly will. Froch turned pure-boxer that night, in his ungainly way, to all but shut Abraham out on the cards. Whether he was throwing over a thousand punches (Kessler II) or fighting in staged raids against a supposedly superior opponent (Lucian Bute), Froch tended to find a way to win.

And he did so against a glorious level of opposition, taking more ranked scalps than anyone on this list outside of Ward while actually doing slightly more damage to the top five. Froch squeezed every single drop out of his potential during a run (2008-2014) held to be the most difficult ever traversed by a British fighter. Had Andre Ward never been born, Froch would be the clear number one for the decade.

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01 – Andre Ward

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 11-0 Ranked For: 47% of the Decade

Andre Ward was born, however, and stands as a number one even more unassailable than Oleksandr Usyk who seemed so imperious at cruiserweight. In truth, he’s not that far ahead of Froch in terms of his 168lb resume, but the difference maker is his crushing victory over the divisional decadal number two, so one-sided as to be trivial.

Froch, who showed so many adaptions in his career, could do nothing with Ward. He tried the backfoot when Ward outfought him ring center, then he tried those two-handed surges that did so much damage against so many world class opponents. Ward was one step ahead of him at every turn, technically out-matching him with a left-hook stood against his high guard and also matching him for strength, so surprising for those who had not been paying attention; but Ward had done the same in out-classing Mikkel Kessler two years before and was never out-muscled in any fight I ever saw him in. A stinging rather than a hurtful puncher, he was otherwise as complete a fighter as walked the earth.

Why, it was often asked, did nobody just rush him? Ultra-aggressive fighters like Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham and Froch, why didn’t they just try to boom through him and make him pay? And the answer is that it was really, really hard. Froch got in and threw body punches and tried to rough his man up and was consistently out-fought and out-mauled, it was Ward, not Froch who won these spells. Abraham ended up stacked behind his ear-muffs, being savagely punished to the body. Allan Green, Chad Dawson, Edwin Rodriguez, they all had plans and they all failed utterly.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” said Froch after Ward demoted him to the era’s number two for all time.  “He’s a very tricky, very slick very awkward…very good fighter.  Credit to Andre Ward.”

Every man who ever faced Andre Ward ended up similarly disappointed. His was an understated reign of terror. The man brooked no resistance.

Photo credit: Tom Casino / SHOWTIME

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Rest In Peace Eder Jofre

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“I just thrill at that boy’s performance. He is a marvel of boxing perfection. There is nothing he cannot do.” – Barney Ross.

Between 1957 when he turned professional and 1965 when Fighting Harada caught up with him, Eder Jofre was 46-0-3. He reached heights that so few fighters have reached that you could probably name them without straining. He passed away this morning in Sau Paulo, Brazil, from pneumonia aged eighty-six. He had been hospitalised since March.

To say that his was a life well lived is an understatement.

Jofre was born in Sau Paulo in 1936, a decade that reflected this one in that it was a time of great political upheaval in his beloved Brazil, the thirties seeing the end of the Brazilian Republic, a communist uprising, a fascist uprising, and iterations of new constitutions peeled off like playing cards. It seemed to be sport, not politics that drove Jofre’s people though and his father had tried a fair hand at amateur boxing, later joining his brother to become a coach. The stars aligned and a fistic immortal rose from Brazil’s political ruins.

“At a young age,” wrote Chris Smith, author of the definitive Jofre biography Brazil’s First Boxing Champion, “[his father] put the gloves on Eder and started teaching him techniques and punching patterns…it wasn’t long before little Eder was jumping rope with the professionals.”

By the time he was seven years old, he was training like an amateur boxer and soberly asking his father’s permission to thrash school bullies. By the age of sixteen he was fighting as an amateur and in 1956 he was a part of the Brazilian Olympic team that travelled to Melbourne, Australia where he was eliminated before the medals by Chilean Claudio Barrientos – who would be stopped in eight rounds by Jofre when they met up again in the professional ranks.

Those professional ranks beckoned him a few months after his Olympic failure, the same time at which he decided to become a vegetarian, something he remained committed to until his death.  Early results were good. While Jofre was troubled by a tiny handful of South American draws, a local phenomenon that called for a wider separation of the fighters that was generally called for in the rest of the world, “O Galo De Ouro” as he would soon come to be known had set upon the road that would culminate in one of the finest runs in bantamweight and boxing history.

Another foible of the South American boxing landscape of the 1950s and 1960s was that in the unlikely event that you were able to free yourself from the massed banditry of the local toughs, you would often have to meet with ranked opposition before you were even allowed to contest for regional titles. Imagine the horror this notion would inflict upon the rather spoiled fighters of today, fighters who often achieve world championships without having to meet with the best.

For his part, Jofre ran up against the Filipino Leo Espinosa in June of 1959. Espinosa, a former flyweight, had extended the immortal Pascual Perez the full fifteen in 1956, even picking up a few rounds, before conquering a man who would soon be a fine champion in his own right, Pone Kingpetch, in 1957. He had a pedigree in excess of Jofre who had boxed just twenty-five contests.  Jofre admitted to his father before this fight that he was afraid, and his father suggested they cancel.

“No.  That’s the way it is.  Afraid or not, I am fighting.”

Such was his life.

It was not just Jofre’s career which was in its infancy but also the boxing in Brazil – Espinosa seems to have been only the second world-class fighter to visit the country and so as Eder went, so did boxing in Brazil. Jofre did not let his countrymen down. In the fifth he dropped the visiting Filipino with a gorgeous left hook – there is a famous photograph of Jofre bouncing, looking away from his fallen foe, his feet not touching the ground, frozen with both feet an inch above the canvas, floating. Espinosa got his disorganised legs under him and although he remained cool as Jofre’s battle-fever and inexperience showed, there was little likelihood of his winning after suffering such a blow. Jofre had graduated in a ten-round decision.

This set him loose on the trail of the South American Bantamweight title, a far more worthy, storied championship than it is today and held by the world-ranked Argentine Ernesto Miranda. For those who are not aware, Argentina-Brazil is as great a sporting rivalry as exists and his series with Miranda was the key rivalry of the first half of Jofre’s career. The two had met twice in 1957, registering a pair of draws before their respective careers diverged, and now they were to settle matters for the title. Their third fight, in February of 1960, was a strange affair in which Eder fought aggressively but was made to miss by Miranda, who never looked like winning but who boxed carefully enough to undermine Jofre’s offence.

This lack of aggression makes Miranda’s behaviour prior to their fourth encounter a few months later even stranger. Miranda behaved like a man fueled by hate, even stooping so low as to send insulting letters to Jofre’s wife and family. One must be wary of projecting on to great historical figures in unpicking their motives but here it seems to me is a key moment for Jofre. His bad intentions seem to me to have been unlocked by Miranda, not just in the fourth and final fight of their rivalry but for all time. Not even world-class opposition would be safe after this night.

It was not that Jofre was more aggressive than in their third fight, but rather he seems to have been more controlled. He missed less, countered more and made a backfoot fight impossible for Miranda.  They waged war with not a moment’s doubt as to the outcome. It was Jofre in three. After destroying his rival in the ring, Jofre the man found it within himself to forgive Miranda for some obscene pre-fight behaviour and even take him into his confidences.

It was inevitable now that Jofre would receive a shot at the title although for the privilege, Jofre had to travel to Los Angeles where he dominated and stopped the overmatched Eloy Sanchez in November of 1960. A brief and disturbing brush with the Italian Mafia aside, the championship fight went off without a hitch. Jofre cheerly named the bantamweight title a wedding gift for his wife-to-be.

In 1961 Jofre was matched with the world-class Italian Piero Rollo. Rollo had been beaten before, but never stopped by punches – so brutally did Jofre handle him that he was unable to answer the bell for the tenth. It was a sensational display of total dominance.

“I am never in a hurry,” Jofre explained, that control again.

“He is the best bantam in the world,” offered a barely recognisable Rollo.

I submit that Jofre was by this point already technically complete. When he met Johnny Caldwell the following year – Caldwell, too, made the awful mistake of making his contest with Jofre personal – he was as beautifully balanced as it is possible for a fighter to be, almost never out of punching position, delivering on boxing’s manual on shot after shot while also riffing on the classics. His uppercut, especially, was a thing of genuine beauty; Jofre could make space for that punch almost anywhere and throw it from unusual ranges and angles, making of it then a feint that certainly tied Caldwell in knots. An unbeaten Northern Irishman, it is hard to exaggerate just how tough this man was, but Jofre beat him so badly as to see him rescued by his distressed manager in the tenth.

The title picture, which had become confused by the retirement of Jose Becerra, was now clear – it was Jofre. Indisputably the world’s number one bantamweight, he would remain so for the first half of the 1960s, dismissing Herman Marquez, Kat Aoki, and, against the man most likely to rule if Jofre had never been born, he repeated his 1960 knockout of Jose Medel, this time in just six rounds. In 1964 he turned in his last great winning performance against Bernardo Caraballo, one of the most underrated bantamweights of all and the most underrated bantamweight of the era. Caraballo, out of Colombia, passed away himself earlier this year, and just as Jofre led the charge for boxing in Brazil, so did Caraballo in his country.

In the 1960s, in their primes, they duke it out ring-centre for control, both stylists, both big for the weight, both hungry for personal and national glory. This, I suspect, is not a fight any 118lb man could win against Jofre and soon enough Caraballo is moving away square, disorganised, harassed.  He succumbed in seven.

Jofre spans the eras. When he won his titles he was boxing for the old incarnations, the NYSAC, the NBA, by the time he lost them, he was defending the WBC and WBA championships, certainty ebbed even as his greatness flowed. The wonderful Fighting Harada was the man who came for him, by then tight at the weight and giving up a clear style advantage to his Japanese foe, Jofre was still able to make the rematch razor-thin after dropping a clear decision in the first fight. More glory awaited at featherweight in something of a second career, but Jofre’s best was behind him. He finally hung them up in 1976 during Muhammad Ali’s second reign; when he turned professional, Rocky Marciano had just retired.

This is a very short version of a very great ring-career. What is not posited here is his personal life. Eder’s was rich. He was happily married to Cidinha for more than fifty years; he had a close relationship with his children, who travelled with him, not least in his twilight years when Jofre revisited the site of his title-winning fight with Eloy Sanchez. He lived a life any one of us could be proud of after boxing, working in politics and Brazilian civil service, continuing to make friends right up until the very end.

I spoke to author Chris Smith about his enduring memory of Jofre, with whom he worked closely on their recently published book.

“A year ago, I had the pleasure of hosting him and his two kids and I asked him a few times “how are you feeling champ?” And he’d always respond “very, very happy.”  He told me he was the happiest person in the world.”

Beat that.

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Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Returns plus Local Philly Fight News

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Still coming out of a global pandemic which suspended the 2020 ceremony and forced a limited version of the celebratory weekend last year, 2022 marks not only a return to normalcy for the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame (ACBHOF), but it gives a chance for fans to get the full interactive experience. This year, for the first time, all of the weekend’s festivities including the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 9, will take place at one location, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

“This year we are really excited about the new things we have to offer fans, while we continue to deliver the type of access we’ve become known for,” states ACBHOF founder Ray McCline. “We want fans to understand that this weekend [second weekend of October] is going to be our home from now on. Working with Hard Rock has been special, and they’ve helped us with a lot of the logistics to really blend what they do [music entertainment] with the sports world and our event.” After listening to McCline passionately speaking about his goal to bring the sports legends and legendary fights back to life for the proud resort city that has a special role in boxing history, a sense of relief can be heard from McCline regarding the past obstacles the ACBHOF has dealt with.

“So far each of the past weekends have had their hiccups, those things happen when you’re hosting such a large event with so many moving pieces. This partnership allows for fans to come to one main site and stay immersed in all things boxing and music for the whole weekend,” says McCline. From the opening V.I.P. party on Friday night to the memorabilia show that will feature interactive displays with some of the sport’s legends teaching boxing basics, McCline wants the Hall of Fame Weekend to be known as the weekend when both fans and legendary boxers mingle in an up-close and personal way.

This year’s class includes Lennox Lewis, James Toney, Frank Fletcher, Kathy Duva (promoter), Kevin Rooney Sr. (trainer), and Pat Lynch (manager). Except for the V.I.P. party that starts the weekend and the Induction Ceremony that closes out the weekend, every other event is free and open to the public, notes McCline.

Some tickets remain for the kick-off party and ceremony. Fans interested in attending can visit ACBHOF for all the details.

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Marshall Kauffman’s Kings Promotions is presenting a show tonight (Saturday, Oct. 1) at Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena featuring bantamweight standout Christian Carto (19-1, 13 KOs) taking on his toughest test since his return. He battles Argentina’s Hector Sosa (14-1, 8 KOs) the former South American super bantamweight champion. Carto is always in fan-friendly fights and with a victory over Sosa can reemerge as a potential world championship challenger soon.

Light heavyweight Atif Oberlton (6-0, 5 KOs) returns to action in the co-feature. Oberlton was an accomplished amateur and many local boxing observers are dubbing the Philadelphian a future world champion.

Next weekend, on Friday night October 7th, several staples in Philadelphia boxing return to the Xcite Event Center at Parx Casino in Bensalem. Joe Hand Promotions and Joey “Tank” Dawejko (22-10-4, 13 KOs) are teaming up with Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz for a night of action featuring some of the best local talent.

Dawejko, a long-time fringe heavyweight contender from the Tacony section of the city fought off any talk of retirement on Sept. 1 when he scored a fourth-round stoppage over Mike Marshall (6-3-1, 4 KOs). Dawejko was back in the ring for the first time in seven months after deciding to make one final push towards heavyweight glory.

Dawejko takes on veteran Terrell Jamal Woods (28-53-9, 20 KOs) of Forrest City, AR, in a scheduled eight-round bout. Prior to his victory over Marshall, Dawejko contemplated hanging up his gloves in favor of the roofing business that he established this year. However, after a lengthy conversation with promoter Russell Peltz, the two agreed to team up again for one last run in the sport. At just 32 years old, Dawejko has had a fruitful career and not just from a financial standpoint. He has competed all over the world and has never turned down an opportunity at a big fight, or to join top contenders and champions in their training camps.

Many of Dawejko’s major career opportunities were taken at the last minute. This last push by him is about finally reaching for the one thing missing from his professional career, a gold belt that he can display that signifies that he was at one point one of the best heavyweights on the planet. Against Marshall he displayed fast hands and pin-point accuracy and his fight against Woods on Oct. 7 should be no different in terms of action and his progression.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 205: Zurdo Ramirez and More SoCal Fight Talk

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Southern California gyms are heating up even more than usual with major prize fights on the horizon in October.

Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez greeted media in downtown Los Angeles recently to chat about his upcoming light heavyweight world championship challenge against WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol in Dubai.

Usually, downtown L.A. is busy with walking and driving traffic, but things are not completely back to normal says the security officer at the Golden Boy Promotions headquarters. The pandemic is still in effect to a small degree.

Mexico’s Ramirez (44-0, 30 KOs) signed to meet Russia’s Bivol (20-0,11 KOs) on Nov. 5, at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It’s a battle of undefeated light heavyweights and round two of Mexico versus Russia.

It was a mere five months ago that Bivol hung a loss over Mexico’s number one fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Now he meets Ramirez who is several inches taller than Canelo.

Ramirez (pictured with Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez) trains in Los Angeles and signed with Golden Boy primarily for one reason: he wanted a crack at stardom and to fight a world champion with clout. Enter Bivol who slapped Alvarez around for 12 rounds. Neither fighter was ever in danger of going down. Bivol won by unanimous decision.

Many say Bivol was too big for Alvarez, but I think Canelo simply has slipped a little in terms of preparing properly. I call it the “silk pajama syndrome.”

It’s hard to get up at 5 a.m. and train when you sleep in silk pajamas. Ever since Alvarez began hanging out with the yacht club guys and playing golf on a regular basis, he’s lost that hunger. If you’re a prizefighter, hunger is everything.

Canelo admits he plays golf almost every day including during his training periods. He’s also been seen attending Del Mar Racetrack to watch the ponies. Upper crust kind of stuff.

Ramirez, on the other hand, though he doesn’t appear like the usual Mexican roughneck, has a certain schoolboy kind of look. No one would ever guess he comes from a rough Sinaloa upbringing.

Even his manner of talk has a gentle charm.

‘I feel happy and excited to fight for the title with Dmitry Bivol,” said Ramirez inside the Golden Boy headquarters. “I’m ready to show in this fight what I can really do. I’m ready for whatever he brings to the ring.”

Both Bivol and Ramirez have sparred before.

“We didn’t do a lot of sparring,” said Ramirez, adding that it was enough to surmise what to expect when they meet in November.

Another who sparred Ramirez is former two-time super middleweight titlist David Benavidez. Both sparred recently and when asked who was better, Ramirez leaned toward Benavidez.

Interesting.

Zurdo and Benavidez also want a crack at Canelo the Golden Fleece of boxing. But the red head from Guadalajara has balked.

Though Benavidez and Ramirez are very good and capable of giving Canelo a struggle, neither has made a mark on sales. It’s one thing to be undefeated; it’s an entirely different thing to attract fans on television or sell tickets.

If Ramirez beats Bivol he is on the right path. If Benavidez, a very strong fighter, can attract a big name to enter the prize ring with him, then he too can entice Canelo to a showdown.

Jojo and Zepeda in San Diego

Another who appeared in Golden Boy headquarters were lightweight contenders Jojo Diaz and William Zepeda set to clash at the end of October in San Diego.

Diaz, a former American Olympian and two division world champion, last fought in December 2021 against Devin Haney before Haney became undisputed lightweight world champion. Diaz did far better than George Kambosos did against Haney.

The former featherweight and super featherweight world titlist showed moving up in weight was not a problem. And though he lost to Haney, he competed at a high level and landed solidly far more often than the Aussie did.

“When I looked at the tape I saw I could have done more,” said Diaz (32-2-1, 15 KOs) about his loss to Haney.

Now, the South El Monte fighter has a Mexican fighter streaking toward the top in Zepeda.

Mexico City’s Zepeda (26-0, 23 KOs) burst on the American scene two years ago during the height of the pandemic and soundly defeated two ranked American fighters in Roberto Ramirez and Hector Tanajara. Add two more knockout wins since then and the hard-hitting southpaw has blazed a path to the top.

Now its lefty versus lefty at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego on Saturday Oct. 29. Tickets are now on sale.

“I’m facing a very talented young fighter,” said Zepeda, 26. “It can be a good victory to beat a former world champion.”

Diaz, 29, expects and desires only hard fights.

“This fight represents everything. I’m coming off a defeat to Devin Haney,” said Diaz. “I’ve got a big set of balls and love to fight the best.”

It’s a Golden Boy Promotions card and will also feature the return of welterweight contender Alexis Rocha.

Commerce Casino

Six undefeated prospects are set to perform on Saturday Oct. 1, at Commerce Casino in the City of Commerce, California. The boxing card is staged by Elite Promotions and Red Boxing and partnering with nonprofit Breast Cancer Angles from Los Alamitos, Calif. to support their cause.

Situated near East Los Angeles, the casino has recently become a popular location for local club shows. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Expected to perform on the fight card are Brandon Mendoza, Cristopher Rios, and William King. For more information contact: redboxinginternational@gmail.com.

Premier Boxing Champions

Super welterweight contenders Sebastian Fundora (19-0-1, 13 KOs) and Mexico’s Carlos Ocampo (34-1, 22 KOs) meet on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Dignity Sports Park Complex in Carson, Calif. Showtime will televise the interim WBC super welterweight title fight.

Known as the “Towering Inferno” because of his 6’5” height, Fundora lives and trains in Southern California and defeated world title challenger Erikson Lubin by technical knockout last April in Las Vegas. He’s trained by Ben Lira.

Tickets are on sale for the card that also features Dominican fighter Carlos Adames who upset Sergiy Derevyanchenko last December by majority decision. Adames meets Mexico’s Juan Macias Montiel who battled Jermall Charlo 12 rounds and lost by decision for the WBC middleweight title.

SoCal note

Riverside’s veteran trainer Willy Silva contacted us to mention his nephew Sebastian Estrada (4-0, 4 KOs) faces undefeated Fidel Samano Lopez (5-0, 4 KOs) in a battle of undefeated super lightweights on Saturday in San Luis Rio, Mexico. It’s the main event.

Silva has trained many former top contenders such as Mauricio Herrera, Carlos Bojorquez, and Jose Reynoso the nephew of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s first trainer Jose “Chepo” Reynoso.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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