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3 Punch Combo: Two Fighters on the Fast Track, a Blue-Chip Prospect and More

Matt Andrzejewski

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3 Punch Combo: Two Fighters on the Fast Track, a Blue-Chip Prospect and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO – Given the plethora of boxing available on a weekly basis on various platforms, it can be easy to overlook some events. For example, this past Saturday there was a stacked card in Ekaterinburg, Russia featuring several up-and-coming fighters. One fighter in particular, cruiserweight Evgeny Tishchenko, piqued my interest.

Tishchenko, 28, won the Gold medal in the heavyweight division for Russia in the 2016 Summer Olympics. He turned pro as a heavyweight in 2018 but has since moved down to cruiserweight.

Tishchenko entered the fight with a record of 6-0 with 4 knockouts. His opponent was veteran Marcos Antonio Aumada who entered with a record of 21-8. Aumada was actually a big step down in class for Tishchenko. Tishchenko’s previous four opponents had a combined record of 64-4-1 and he was coming off an impressive knockout win of then 20-0 Issa Akberbayev in November.

Not surprisingly, Tishchenko (pictured) made easy work of Aumada, stopping him in the third round of their scheduled ten round fight.

While the result was expected, I continue to be impressed with what I see from Tishchenko. Aumada kept a tight guard, but Tishchenko used excellent footwork setting up just the right angles to find ways to penetrate it. Tishchenko, who fights as a southpaw, also showcased a sharp right jab which created openings to land the straight left behind it.

In addition to the above, Tishchenko is an excellent counterpuncher. He put his counterpunching skills on display early in the third round with a quick sneaky check right hook that landed pinpoint on the chin of Aumada, knocking him down. Finally, the punching power is certainly for real as is the finishing ability. Once he had Aumada on the canvas, Tishchenko went to work, hurting Aumada several more times before landing a series of crunching body shots that brought the fight to an end.

With the exit of Oleksandr Usyk, cruiserweight is a wide-open division. Tishchenko is on the fast track and could soon ascend to the top of the division.

Eimantas Stanionis

FS1 will broadcast a card this Saturday from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD that will be headlined by popular action fighter James Kirkland (34-2, 30 KO’s) who will take on Marcos Hernandez (14-3-1, 3 KO’s) in a scheduled ten round middleweight bout. While I will admit that I am curious to see how Kirkland fares in this contest, it is the scheduled ten round welterweight co-main event between Eimantas Stanionis (10-0, 7 KO’s) and Justin DeLoach (18-4, 9 KO’s) that really has my interest.

A highly decorated amateur, Stanionis, 25, represented Lithuania in the 2016 Summer Olympics. He turned pro in 2017 and has been on the fast track toward a world title shot.

In just his seventh pro fight in August of 2018, Stanionis put on an impressive performance in winning a lopsided eight round decision against veteran contender Levan Ghvamichava. That victory moved Stanionis from prospect to contender and in 2019 he continued his rise by going 3-0 with 2 knockouts.

Stanionis is a pressure fighter by trade. From his amateur days, he has developed a precision left jab that he will use to get within his opposition’s range. Once inside, Stanionis will use subtle footwork to shift around his opponents enabling him to land precision combinations. And as his record indicates, those combinations carry some power behind them.

An aspect of Stanionis’s game that I like is that he is relentless with his pressure and punching volume. He is constantly on the front foot attempting to overwhelm his opponent. But on the flip side, this can lead to some defensive flaws. In particular, Stanionis can leave himself wide open to be countered by a sharp puncher. And DeLoach just happens to be a sharp counterpuncher.

DeLoach, 26, was himself a highly touted prospect. During one stretch between 2016 and 2017, DeLoach strung off four straight wins against opponents with a combined record of 57-1-1.

However, since that stretch his career has hit a stumbling block; he’s dropped three of his last four. Now he finds his career at a crossroads and needs a win to avoid falling into that dreaded journeyman category.

DeLoach is a natural boxer-puncher by trade. He is athletic and possesses good hand speed. While he can work combinations behind the left jab, DeLoach has often been most effective as a counterpuncher.

The skill set for DeLoach is quite impressive but he has struggled against pressure fighters. Inside fighting is not his strength and his chin has abandoned him at times. Against Stanionis, DeLoach will need to keep the fight at range in order to remain competitive.

DeLoach is clearly a step up for the fast rising Stanionis and has a style that could cause Stanionis some issues. I think DeLoach will have his spots even if he eventually wilts to the pressure of Stanionis. I am always up for a fun action fight that features a nice contrast of styles and that is what I think we will see when these two meet on Saturday.

Brandun Lee

Boxing on Showtime returns with yet another installment of the popular ShoBox series this Friday from the Grand Casino in Hinckley, MN. The quadruple header features eight fighters with a combined record of 54-4-2. While I am looking forward to all four contests, I am most excited to see the main event where 140-pound prospect Brandun Lee (18-0, 16 KO’s) takes a step up in class in facing Camilo Prieto (15-2, 9 KO’s).

Lee, 20, earned numerous accolades in the US amateur program before turning pro in January of 2017. He has stayed quite active as a pro and has scored some highlight reel knockouts. There is definitely quite a bit of buzz about Lee in boxing circles and his apparent immense potential in this sport.

On the surface, Lee appears to have all the tools. He is very fluid in both how he moves around the ring and how he throws his punches. The left jab, which he often works behind, is both sharp and accurate. And his right hand carries some serious power. In his ShoBox debut last September, Lee used that jab-right-hand combination to score a scintillating knockout of Milton Arauz.

The biggest knock on Lee so far in his career has been his level of competition. Arauz was the 17th opponent Lee had faced and the first who entered the ring with a winning record. So, while the performances have looked great and Lee has taken care of business, the jury is still out as he has yet to be remotely challenged.

The best thing that can be said about Lee’s opponent Prieto is that he does have a winning record. This is not saying a lot but Prieto has a better resume than that of Arauz so that alone qualifies Prieto as a step up for Lee.

There is limited video available on Prieto but from what I can see he likes to move around the ring while flicking his left jab out. In spots he will rush in and look to fire off some combinations. And he does generally keep a very tight guard with good head movement. I know this is not a ringing endorsement, but he should be more of a live body than any of the previous opponents that Lee has faced.

This will be Lee’s first fight headlining a major televised card and I am very interested to see how he performs. It could be the start to a breakout campaign in 2020.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Arne K. Lang

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Ring City USA, a new promotional entity, debuted on Nov. 19, 2020 with a show staged in the parking lot of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. Ring City stayed outdoors for their first offering of 2021, but the company was a long ways from California. Tonight’s card was staged on a roundabout near a municipal gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

The headline attraction was an attractive match between junior middleweights Serhii Bohachuk and Brandon Adams. The bout was originally set for Dec. 3, but had to be pushed back when Bohachuk tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bohachuk, a 25-year-old California-based Ukrainian, had stopped all 18 of his previous opponents. He had never gone past six rounds. Brandon Adams, a former world title challenger, represented a step up in class.

Bohachuk was well on his way to winning a unanimous decision when the tide turned dramatically in round eight. Fighting on a slick canvas, Adams suddenly found a new gear, unloading a series of punches climaxed by a thunderous left hook as Bohachuk retreated. The Ukrainian beat the count, but was teetering on unsteady legs and the referee properly called a halt.

Adams was without his regular trainer, 80-year-old Dub Huntley, who remained back in LA as a health precaution. In winning, he elevated his records to 23-3 (15). It was his best performance since defeating Shane Mosley Jr in the finals of Season 5 of the “Contender” series.

In the co-feature, an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Chevalier improved to 15-1-1 (12) with a third-round stoppage of Peru’s Carlos Zambrano (26-2). Chevalier scored two knockdowns, the first a sweeping left hook that appeared to land behind Zambrano’s head, and the second a punch to the liver that left Zambrano in severe distress. The referee waived the fight off in mid-count.

The official time was 2:21. Chevalier, a tall featherweight (5’11”) made a very impressive showing; he bears watching. This was Zambrano’s first fight since April of 2017 when he was knocked out in the opening round by Claudio Marrero in a bout for the WBA interim featherweight title.

The TV opener was an entertaining fight between contrasting styles that produced a weird conclusion when Danielito Zorrilla was awarded a technical decision over Ruslan Madiyev. The bout was stopped at the 1:16 mark of round eight after Zorrilla sank to his knees after absorbing a punch to the back of the head. The ringside physician examined him for evidence of a concussion, but ultimately it was Zorrilla’s choice as to whether the bout would continue. He declined and was reportedly taken to a hospital for observation.

Madiyev, a California-based Kazahk, was the aggressor. He fought the fight in Zorilla’s grill, often bullying him against the ropes. In round five, he had a point deducted for hitting behind the head, squandering what was arguably his best round.

The fight went to the scorecards with Zorrilla winning a split decision (77-74, 77-75, 73-76), thereby remaining undefeated: 15-0 (12). Ironically, Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs), suffered his previous loss in a similar fashion.

Madiyev’s new trainer Joel Diaz reportedly discouraged his charge from taking this fight for fear that he wouldn’t get a fair shake in Puerto Rico. Diaz’s apprehensions were well-founded.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Ring City USA

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Ed Odeven’s New Book Pays Homage to Sports Journalist Jerry Izenberg

Rick Assad

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It’s one thing to get to the top, but it’s something else entirely to remain there for more than half a century. Jerry Izenberg, longtime sports columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, now semi-retired and living in Henderson, Nevada, has done just that.

Izenberg is the subject of Ed Odeven’s book, “Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg,” which was released New Year’s Eve and is available at amazon.com.

“By all accounts, he should be recognized as one of the greatest American sports columnists,” said Odeven, a 1999 graduate of Arizona State University who has lived in Japan since July 2006 and is the sports editor for the website Japan Forward. “A versatile professional, he was equally skilled at writing books and magazine articles and producing sports documentaries and crafting essays for the groundbreaking ‘Sports Extra’ television program on Channel 5 in New York in the 1970s.”

Odeven went on: “Jerry has seen everything and been seemingly everywhere. He brought gravitas to the newspaper sports section with decades of sustained excellence.”

During a seven-decade career in sports journalism, the 90-year-old Izenberg, found time to write 15 non-fiction books and one novel. His affinity for the manly sport is reflected in his 2017 book, “Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age Of Heavyweight Boxing.”

“From the 1950s to the present day [including recent years’ coverage of Tyson Fury and Manny Pacquiao, for instance, Izenberg has shined in his boxing coverage,” Odeven said. “You can’t ignore his remembrance pieces on fighters and boxing personalities across the decades [such as a terrific column on the late Leon Spinks in which he weaved a tapestry of the fighter’s life and his family’s struggles into a powerful piece], either.”

One of Izenberg’s favorite topics is Muhammad Ali.

“Izenberg first observed the great fighter’s infectious personality, popularity and boxing talent on display at the 1960 Rome Olympics,” Odeven said. “Cassius Clay was unlike any other famous pugilist in those days and for the rest of his life.”

Odeven spoke about the support Ali received from Izenberg: “When very few were publicly taking a stand to support Ali, Izenberg wrote columns that defended his right to fight. He took the boxing establishment to task for stripping Ali of his titles even while Ali’s case was making its way through the courts – and ultimately the United States Supreme Court.”

Izenberg, a graduate of Rutgers University who covered the first 53 Super Bowls, and Ali were close. “As friends, they were around each other in all corners of the earth,” Odeven said. “They shared highs and lows during periods of personal and professional success and disappointment.”

Here’s Jerry Izenberg talking about Ali’s humanity: “I was a single father and when my children came to live with me, they were very nervous. I took them to Deer Lake [Pennsylvania] for a television show I was filming as an advance to the Foreman-Ali fight. After the filming, knowing my situation, (Ali) took my son aside and put his arm around him and said, “Robert, you have come to live with a great man. Listen to him and you will grow to be a great man just like him.

“On the way up my daughter, who was seven, had said, ‘I hope Foreman beats him up because he brags too much and you always told me to not brag.’ “I told her, ‘you are seven and you have nothing to brag about. Both of these men are my friends. When you get there, keep your mouth shut.’ When we were packing up the equipment, he saw her in the back of the room and hollered, ‘come up here little girl. You with the braids.’ She was convinced I had ratted her out about what she said and tried her best to melt into the wall because she was frightened. As she walked toward him, she lost the power of speech and mumbled. He was 6-3 and she was 4-5. He grabbed her and held her over his head. ‘Is that man your daddy?’ All she could do was nod. ‘Don’t you lie to me little girl, look at him,’ and he pointed at me. ‘That man is ugly…ugly. You are beautiful, now gimme a kiss.’ On the way home she said, ‘I hope Muhammad can win,’ and I said, ‘you are just like the rest of them. The only difference is your age.’ He was one of my five best friends. When he died, I cried.”

Odeven offered his slant on why Izenberg was at home at major boxing events: “It was clear that Jerry was in a comfort zone on the week of a big fight, writing the stories that set the stage for the mano a mano encounter and the follow-up commentary that defined what happened and what it meant.”

Izenberg, noted Odeven, had worked under the legendary Stanley Woodward, as had Red Smith and Roger Kahn, among others, the latter most well-known for having penned the baseball classic, “The Boys Of Summer.” Many insist that Woodward, who read the classics, was the greatest sports editor.

Woodward, Odenven believes, helped shape Izenberg’s world outlook. “Izenberg became keenly aware of this human drama at its rawest form that existed in boxing,” he said, noting that in decades past the public was captivated by the big fights. “Examples, of course, include the first and third Ali-Frazier bouts and The Rumble In The Jungle [against Foreman]. Let’s not forget they were cultural touchstones.”

Referencing the third installment of Ali-Frazier in Manila, Izenberg said, “I’ve probably seen thousands of fights, but I never saw one when both fighters were exhausted and just wouldn’t quit…My scorecard had Ali ahead by one which meant if Joe knocked him down in the 15th, he would have won on my card. But there was no 15th because Joe’s trainer, Eddie Futch, ordered the gloves cut off after the 14th.

“At the finish, Ali collapsed. Later as Ali walked slowly up the aisle supported by his seconds, he leaned over toward the New York Times’ Dave Anderson and me and said through puffy lips, ‘Fellas. That’s the closest you will ever see to death.’”

Izenberg remembered his lead: “Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier did not fight for the WBC heavyweight title last night,” he wrote. “They did not fight for the heavyweight championship of the planet. They could have fought in a telephone booth on a melting ice flow. They were fighting for the championship of each other and for me that still isn’t settled.”

What makes Izenberg relevant even today? “His canvas was the global sports landscape and he explored the human condition in each of his columns in some way,” Odeven stated. “He recognized what made a good story and sought out individuals and topics that fit that description – and he still does.

“You could read a random stack of columns about any number of topics from the 1960s or ’90s and be enlightened and entertained at the same time…He has always had a razor- sharp eye for details that illuminate a column and a source’s words to give it added verve.” Moreover, added Odeven, Izenberg had a never-wavering commitment to championing a just cause: “Speaking out against racism and religious bigotry, he gave a voice to the voiceless or those often ignored.”

Note: Jerry Izenberg was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category in 2015.

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