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The Hauser Report…Kownacki-Helenius: That’s Why They Fight the Fights

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On March 7, FOX offered viewers a heavyweight tripleheader from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Frank Sanchez (14-0, 11 KOs), who came out of the Cuban amateur system, was a 10-to-1 favorite over Joey Dawejko (20-7-4, 11 KOs). Efe Ajagba (12-0, 10 KOs), a Nigerian Olympian now living in Texas, was a 30-to-1 favorite over Razvan Cojanu (17-6, 9 KOs). And Adam Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) was listed at 20-to-1 over 36-year-old Robert Helenius (29-3, 18 KOs).

Things went according to plan. Until they didn’t.

Sanchez, age 27, has been matched professionally against a series of limited opponents. Dawejko, who comes from the Andy Ruiz school of physical conditioning, fit that mold. He’s generously listed as 5-feet-10-inches tall and weighed-in for the bout at 247 pounds. He’d also lost three of four fights since 2017.

Don Elbaum promoted Dawejko early in Joey’s ring career. At one point, Elbaum thought he might be a prospect Then Dawejko struggled through a stretch when he won once in five fights against ordinary opposition, and Elbaum realized that he’d never get beyond being a club fighter.

Still, Elbaum respects Dawejko. “Let me tell you something,” he says. “Joey’s not afraid of anybody. Maybe he should be, but he isn’t. Joey always gives you everything he has trying to win.”

Against Sanchez, everything that Dawejko had wasn’t enough. The fight resembled a sparring session. Sanchez, who lacks power but can box, settled into a safety-first, jab-and-move mode. Dawejko plodded forward but rarely landed cleanly and didn’t have the power to hurt Sanchez on the all-too-few occasions when he did hit him.

CompuBox credited Sanchez with outlanding Dawejko by a 116-to-46 margin. Mystifyingly, judge Kevin Morgan gave rounds one and ten to Joey. Those were the only rounds that Dawejko won on any of the judges’ scorecards.

Put Dawejko in the ring with a guy like Dawejko and it will be a good fight. Put him in the ring with a guy like Sanchez and it will be a stinker.

Ajagba vs. Cojanu was next up.

Ajagba, age 25, has fought the usual suspects. Cojanu, a 33-year-old Romanian now living in California, has beaten one fighter with a winning record in the past five years and has now lost five of his last six outings while being knocked out in four of them.

In the early rounds, Ajagba kept jabbing and trying to set up his right hand. He has a somewhat wooden style that suggests a fighter who’s boxing by the numbers. Cojanu fights in slow motion, throws wide punches, and leans forward, chin out, when he throws them. By round five, there were scattered boos from the crowd. In the press section, more people than usual were checking their smart phones for messages.

Then, in round six, Cojanu tired and Ajagba started landing consistently. By round eight, Razvan was exhausted and dropped to the canvas from an accumulation of blows. That would have been a good time to stop the fight, but referee Ron Lipton chose not to. So Cojanu took an ugly beating until dropping to one knee at the 2:46 mark of round nine when Lipton waved off the carnage. Ajagba had a 244-to-83 advantage in punches landed.

That set the stage for Kownacki-Helenius.

Kownacki who will turn 31 on March 27, is a likeable man with a crowd-pleasing “hit me, and then I’ll hit you back, and then we’ll hit each other some more” style. In recent years, he has fought a series of overmatched opponents while (some would say) being readied as a sacrificial lamb with the intention of serving him to Deontay Wilder.

Tyson Fury’s February 22 knockout victory over Wilder was a setback for Kownacki. Adam had passed on an opportunity to fight Anthony Joshua for what might have been a huge payday at Madison Square Garden last June. Now any world title fight was on a distant horizon.

Helenius, who was born in Sweden and fights out of Finland, was regarded as a “safe” opponent for Kownacki.

Ten years ago, “The Nordic Nightmare” was being groomed as a prospect himself. He beat Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter, and Sergiy Liakhovich at a time when they’d been reduced to non-threatening opponents and won a controversial split decision over Dereck Chisora in Finland while Chisora was in the midst of a stretch that saw him lose four of five fights. More recently, Helenius had lasted twelve rounds against Dillian Whyte but lost eleven of them. He’d been knocked out by Johann Duhaupas and (eight months ago) Gerald Washington.

Kownacki matches up poorly against slick boxers. Helenius was once described as having the footwork of a stalagmite.

“Beating him doesn’t really do a lot for me,” Kownacki acknowledged at the final pre-fight press conference, “because I’m a big favorite in this fight.”

The crowd at Barclays Center was wholeheartedly behind Kownacki. This was his fifth fight in a row at the venue.

Adam had weighed in for the bout at 265 pounds (one under his career high); Helenius, a trimmer 238.

Earlier in the week, Cliff Rold had made a good point, writing about Kownacki (a volume puncher without much defense), “Watching boxing is supposed to be fun. That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? A fun fighter is still something to look forward to. Everyone isn’t necessarily going to be the future of their division, a future great, a legacy carver, or any of the other things that can distract from the root of why fans devote time and attention to the sweet science. Saturday night against Helenius, no matter how long it lasts, we’re going to see some leather fly. Isn’t that really all we’re asking for?”

Kownacki won round one against Helenius by coming forward and throwing punches while Robert jabbed ineffectively and held. Round two was closer with Helenius inclined to trade and throwing the straighter punches. The third stanza belonged to Kownacki. He was throwing more and getting off first, outlanding Helenius by a 28-to-8 margin. Then . . .

Twenty seconds into round four, Kownacki got whacked with a straight right hand followed by a stiff jab that sent him to the canvas. He rose immediately, and referee David Fields incorrectly ruled it a slip. That call was soon academic.

Kownacki had been shaken. Five seconds after the action resumed, Helenius dropped him with a straight right hand followed by a left hook up top. Adam was on his feet at the count of three. This time, though, his legs were wobbly. Helenius battered him around the ring, and Fields halted the battle 68 seconds into the round.

Helenius had more left as a fighter than Kownacki and his team had realized. They disrespected him as an opponent and paid the price.

A little more than three months ago, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz – both Premier Boxing Champions fighters – held all four heavyweight championship belts. And Kownacki was in line for a huge title-bout payday.

After losing to Helenius, Adam was reduced to saying, “It wasn’t my night. It’s boxing. Things just didn’t go my way tonight. He hit me with a good shot. I knew what was going on. I’m just upset with myself. It is what it is.”

There are two morals to the story:

(1) Things can change very quickly in boxing.

(2) A fighter should never go into the ring thinking he has an easy fight ahead of him. In boxing, despite the odds, anything can happen.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / TGB Promotions

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

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Big money prizefighting returns to the Los Angeles area with back-to-back shows. First, Serhii Bohachuk heads a 360 Promotions card on Friday and then Alexis Rocha is featured on Saturday in a Golden Boy Promotions production. And on the same day Riverside’s Saul Rodriguez fights in his hometown.

Bohachuk, Rocha, and Rodriguez are aggressive big hitters.

Ukraine’s Bohachuk seeks to regain footing in the super welterweight division. He was rapidly climbing up the ratings ladder when first he was defeated by Brandon Adams two years ago. And then the invasion of his home country Ukraine stalled him even more.

On Friday Jan. 27, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Bohachuk (21-1, 21 KOs) meets Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Few fighters are as well-liked outside of the prize ring as Bohachuk. Always amiable, he’s one of the handful of fighters that always smiles. Inside the ring, he’s a killer. No one leaves without someone getting knocked out.

Gallimore, 34, is no slouch. He has a knockout win over former world titlist Jeison Rosario and has battled almost all of the top super welterweights. He is a veteran and very crafty.

The Quiet Cannon venue is not very large, but it does have a patio and good food and drink. Most of the crowd ventures from all over Southern California to attend the fights at that venue. It gets packed.

Golden Boy in Inglewood

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha headlines the Golden Boy Promotions card on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the brand new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the fight card.

Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs) faces George Ashie (33-5-1) in the main event set for 12 rounds. Finally, there is an opponent for the left-handed fighter from Santa Ana. It didn’t look like he was going to fight after opponent after opponent fell out for one reason or another.

“You have to be ready for anybody they put in front of you. If it’s you or George Ashie, I have to prepare for it. I have to focus on what I can do,” said Rocha.

Others on the card include super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev (10-1) vs Ulises Sierra (17-2-2) set for 10 rounds. Also, good looking lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Alberto Mercado (17-4-1).

Schofield fights out of Austin, Texas and looks like someone to watch.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

Neno Returns in San Bernardino        

Garcia Promotions stages a boxing card on Saturday Jan. 28, at the Club Event Center in San Bernardino. Garcia Promotions is associated with trainer Robert Garcia and family whose training compound is located in nearby Riverside.

A primarily local fight card featuring all fighters from Garcia’s gym will be performing.

Headlining is Saul “Neno” Rodriguez out of Riverside, California.

It’s been nearly three years since Rodriguez (24-1-1, 18 KOs) last fought and he faces Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo (6-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

At one time Rodriguez was a big fan favorite because of his fast work and knockout ability. Once he got to the top plateau he ran into another knockout puncher in Miguel Angel Gonzalez and lost by stoppage.

Prizefighting is a tricky road. One loss can mean difficulty in finding a big-time promoter or it can mean discovering what you need to do to re-establish your skills. A fighter can go the road of Kermit “The Killer” Cintron and find out other ways to win without a kill-or be-killed style. Or they can travel the road of Marco Antonio Barrera who was knocked out by Junior Jones but adapted a more boxer-puncher style that allowed him to defeat Erik Morales twice and Prince Naseem Hamed.

Rodriguez, 29, still has time to make a good run for a title bid. It all starts on Saturday.

Others on the Garcia Promotions card are fighters who are part of trainer Garcia’s stable including Gabriel Muratalla, Leonardo Ruiz, Jose Rodriguez and others.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with amateurs opening the boxing program.

Fights to Watch

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 11:30 a.m. Artur Beterbiev (18-0) vs Anthony Yarde (23-2).

Sat. DAZN  5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (21-1) vs George Ashie (33-5-1).

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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