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Remembering the Late Roger Mayweather, a Two-Division World Champion

Arne K. Lang

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Roger Mayweather, who held world titles at 130 and 140 pounds, died today (Tuesday, March 17) at his home in Las Vegas. The record books say that Mayweather was 58 although a close associate says he was actually one year older.

The second of three fighting brothers (older brother Floyd fought Sugar Ray Leonard; younger brother Jeff fought Oscar De La Hoya), Mayweather was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nicknamed the Black Mamba, he turned pro at age 20 under the management of high-stakes gambler Billy Baxter and had his first 12 fights in Las Vegas.

In his 15th pro fight, he sheared the WBA 130-pound world title from Puerto Rico’s Samuel Serrano with an eighth-round stoppage in San Juan. After two successful defenses, he was knocked out cold in the opening round by Rocky Lockridge, a 4/1 underdog, in Beaumont, Texas. The Sunday afternoon fight was nationally televised on NBC.

Sunday afternoons weren’t good to Roger. Six fights later, on Sunday, June 7, 1985, Mayweather was knocked out in the second round by defending WBO 130-pound champion Julio Cesar Chavez at the Riviera in Las Vegas in a fight televised by CBS.

Mayweather rebounded and on Nov. 12, 1987, he captured the WBC 140-pound title with an eighth-round stoppage of Rene Arredondo in Los Angeles. He made four successful defenses before risking the belt in a rematch with the great Chavez before a large and boisterous crowd at the LA Forum. Overcome by stomach cramps that woodened his legs, Mayweather gave in after 10 rounds.

Mayweather fashioned a seven-fight winning streak after his second meeting with Chavez, earning a shot at the vacant IBF 140-pound title where he opposed Rafael Pineda in Reno. The bout aired on HBO along with a 10-round contest between George Foreman and Idaho bruiser Jimmy Ellis.

The fight was even after eight rounds, but in the ninth Roger’s chin betrayed him again. Pineda put him to sleep with a frightening left hook. Mayweather was still wobbly when he left the ring eight minutes after the bout’s conclusion.

At the tail end of his career, Mayweather had five fights against carefully selected opponents at the Silver Nugget, a seedy joint in North Las Vegas where this reporter served as the boxing publicist and ring announcer. In 1994, I did a Q & A interview with Roger for a story in the bi-weekly newsletter “Flash.” Here are some excerpts.

  • “My best sport isn’t boxing. It’s ping pong.”
  • “I don’t doubt that Stanley Ketchel was a great fighter. He was the first world champion from Grand Rapids. I was next. Then came Tony Tucker and James Toney.”
  • “People forget I gave (Pernell) Whitaker his toughest fight. In his hometown. He kept hitting me low.”
  • “When I was young, I wasn’t always as disciplined about training, but I never ran with a bad crowd and I never put bad things in my body.”
  • “I think I’m the world’s best trainer right now. By a trainer, I don’t mean a guy who comes in a few days before the fight. I teach kids as young as eight years old. That’s where the real satisfaction comes, seeing someone develop from scratch.”
  • “How far will my nephew go? Little Floyd is the most talented amateur in the country and he’s only 17 years old.”

When “Little Floyd” was ready to turn pro, he hooked up with Uncle Roger in Las Vegas. (“Big Floyd” was then in prison.) It was an advantageous coupling. Roger and Floyd Mayweather Jr were a team for most of Floyd’s 50-0 career.

On March 12, 1997, the Mayweather brothers, Roger and Jeff, and their nephew appeared on the same card in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Roger TKOed Carlos Miranda in the 12th round for a fringe welterweight title. Jeff Mayweather, in what would be Jeff’s final pro fight, out-pointed Eric Jakubowski. And Little Floyd, competing in his fifth pro bout, stopped his opponent in the opening round. It was a glorious homecoming for the Mayweather clan.

Roger Mayweather had two more fights and then called it quits, leaving the sport with a record of 59-13 with 35 KOs. Several years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia. An insatiable gym rat, he was forced to relinquish his duties as a trainer at the Mayweather Boxing Club.

R.I.P. champ.

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Tyson Fury Roared and Deontay Wilder Remained Silent at their L.A. Presser

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TSS special correspondent LAUREN RODRIGUEZ was on the scene for the Top Rank Promotions press conference in downtown Los Angeles on June 15 at which the third meeting between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was formally announced. Here is her report.

The third fight between Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury (30-1, 21 KOs.) and Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) will go down July 24th in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena. This continued mash-up between the two comes 16 months since their last bout. The first fight, in December 2018, ended in a draw and their second in February 2020, ended in a victory for Fury in the 7th round.

Fury carried the press conference while Wilder remained largely muted.

The WBC champion Fury remains undefeated, a status he is adamant in maintaining. The heavyweight boasted a white suit patterned with images of himself in a crown and wearing the belt he won off Wilder.

“This is a reminder of what happened to him last time, this is a remembrance suit of Deontay Wilder’s ass-kicking.”

The “Gypsy King,” an entertainer, left little words unsaid as he berated his silent opponent.

“It shows how weak a mental person is, it shows the emotional effect the last fight had on his life… I was worried about him after the defeat I gave him,” said Fury.

An Alabama native, Wilder has a 93% knockout rate, the highest rate for any heavyweight.

Wilder wanted no part in other questions from Q/A moderator Christina Poncher, or the media, as he remained silent with headphones and sunglasses to shield him from questions.

Wilder’s trainer, longtime friend and former heavyweight contender Malik Scott answered very few questions for the fighter as tensions rose.

“He’s very stubborn, like most legends and gifted people they have their things with them. As long as he gives me what I want in the gym, I don’t care about the stubbornness cause we’re going to get this done,” said Scott.

If it’s one thing Fury and team all agree on, it’s that history will repeat itself in this third fight come July.

When it comes to what we can expect this time, Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward stated, “All I have to say is, over time, he [Fury] now has power to knock a man out with one punch. His boxing IQ is one-punch knockout power.”

In Gypsy King fashion, we will have an entertaining show come next month. Fury intends on moving his weight all the way to 300, so he can give Wilder a bigger knockout in the ring and fans a bigger show.

“This time I’m hoping to take him out early, one, two, three rounds max.”

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Tokyo-Bound Aussie Heavyweight Justis Huni Stops Rugged Paul Gallen in the 10th

Arne K. Lang

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Had Justis Huni fought Paul Gallen two months ago, the match would have been trashed as little more than exhibition. During his record-tying 19 years in rugby, Gallen evolved into one of Australia’s most well-known sporting personalities. When Gallen took up boxing in 2014, it was thought that he did it as a lark; as a way of cashing in on his name recognition. And his first 11 opponents were a motley bunch of former rugby players, MMA fighters, 40-somethings, and boxing novices.

Then came the night of April 21, 2021. In a shocker, Gallen demolished former WBA heavyweight titlist Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne in less than two minutes. “Gallen transformed from a rugby league player to a bona fide prize fighter before our very eyes,” said prominent Australian sports journalist Andrew McMurtry.

That knocked Lucas Browne out of a lucrative match with Justis Huni and vaulted Paul Gallen, who turns 40 in August, to the head of the queue. They met Wednesday night (Australia time) at a convention center in Sydney and Huni, five-and-a-half inches taller, 15 pounds heavier, and the younger man by nearly 18 years, saddled Gallen (11-1-1) with his first defeat.

Heading into the fight, Gallen conceded that the heavily favored Huni was faster. However, he thought that he could wear the bigger man down. “If I get through those first four to five rounds, I’ll be in his face the whole time and I think I can knock him out late,” he said.

It proved to be the other way around. Huni dominated the fight and when he knocked Gallen down in the 10th with a big right hook, the referee stepped in and stopped it. But Gallen, who had a bum shoulder from his rugby days and thought that he fought most of the fight with a broken rib, showed tremendous heart.

It was the fifth professional fight for Huni (5-0, 4 KOs) who won the Australian heavyweight title in his pro debut. Of Dutch, Swedish, Samoan, and Tongan heritage, he quit school at age 15 to give boxing his full attention and will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics which start next month.

Brisbane-born Huni is already being talked-about as the best-ever Australian-born heavyweight. The rap against him is a lack of one-punch knockout power which won’t be a detriment in Tokyo.

In undercard bouts of note, Brisbane middleweight Isaac Hardman (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a 4th-round stoppage of Emmanuel Carlos (12-2) and middleweight Andrei Mikhailovich, a Russian residing in Auckland, New Zealand, advanced to 16-0 (9) with a second-round stoppage of previously undefeated Alex Hanan (13-1).

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Three Pros are Joining the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Ruffling Some Feathers

Arne K. Lang

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USA Boxing, the agency that controls amateur boxing in the United States, has a rule that prohibits professional boxers from competing in their tournaments. That rule remains in effect, but yet three pro boxers – middleweight Troy Isley, lightweight Keyshawn Davis, and featherweight Duke Ragan – will suit up for the United States in the forthcoming Tokyo Games. The announcement, which fell largely under the radar, came on June 7.

USA Boxing is subservient to AIBA, the sport’s international governing body, and to the International Olympic Committee. The Boxing Task Force of the IOC changed the rules to allow Isley, Davis and Ragan to compete and the honchos at USA Boxing are none too happy about it.

Blame the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the postponement and ultimately the cancellation of several qualifying tournaments including the “Americas” tournament in Buenos Aires at which boxers from 42 national federations – including the United States — would be competing for the Olympic slots allocated to this region. A total of 286 boxers from around the world will compete in Tokyo in the eight men’s and five women’s weight divisions with the coveted slots dispersed among four Continental Regional Divisions.

With no tournament, the Task Force redesigned the quota allocation process using world rankings to determine the national squads. The rankings were formulated using a point system from events held between January 2017 and October 2019.

The re-jiggering opened the door for Isley, Davis, and Ragan to rejoin the team. Isley and Davis had their first pro fight in February of this year. Ragan turned pro in August of 2020.

Team USA protested that the BTF allocation was unfair to the boxers that finished first in the final domestic qualifying tournament (December 2019 in Lake Charles, Louisiana), but their claim was denied. Isley and Ragan were knocked out of that tournament before reaching the finals; Davis finished first when his opponent in the finals took ill and had to pull out, but he was subsequently booted off the team, reputedly for missing too many practices which he attributed to a family health emergency. That unfrocking has been rescinded.

Before he left the team, Keyshawn Davis was considered the U.S. boxer with the best chance of winning a gold medal in Tokyo. A southpaw, he earned his spurs at the Alexandria Boxing Club in North Alexandria, Virginia, which was also the home gym of Troy Isley who lived right down the street.

The common thread between all three of the returnees is Kay Koroma who coached Davis and Isley at the Alexandria club where he was the top lieutenant to the club’s patriarch Dennis Porter and at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where he served as an assistant to Billy Walsh. Duke Ragan, who hails from Cincinnati, is Koroma’s nephew.

Koroma came to the fore in 2016 when he earned raves for his work with Olympians Claressa Shields. Shakur Stevenson, Charles Conwell and others. But Koroma, one of the hottest young trainers in the sport, won’t be available to work with the 2020/21 team before it heads off to Tokyo. “My plate is too full,” he told The Sweet Science.

Koroma, like many of his former pupils, turned pro himself. He continues to work with Shakur Stevenson, whom he has known since Shakur was 13 years old, he assists veteran coach Al Mitchell with Mikaela Mayer and he recently replaced Ronnie Shields as the head trainer of rising heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba.

Isley, Davis, and Ragan comprise three-fifths of the men’s Olympic team. Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr and welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson flesh out the quintet.

USA Boxing released a letter to its membership expressing frustration over the decision of the IOC Task Force which killed the dreams of seven boxers who hoped to snare an Olympic berth at the Buenos Aires tournament or, barring that, the Last Chance tournament in Paris which was also a casualty of the pandemic. The letter can be read at the USA Boxing web site.

The seven boxers who were fenced out are:

Darius Fulgham (heavyweight, Houston, TX)

Rahim Gonzalez (light heavyweight, Las Vegas, NV)

Joseph Hicks (middleweight, Lansing, MI)

Charlie Sheehy (lightweight, Brisbane, CA)

Bruce Carrington (featherweight, Brooklyn, NY)

Anthony Herrera (flyweight, East Los Angeles, CA)

and

women’s flyweight Andrea Medina (San Diego, CA).

USA Boxing insists there are no plans to allow professionals to compete for the United States in the 2024 Olympiad and beyond. This is a one-shot exception forced by a unique circumstance. But, needless to say, when it comes to amateur boxing, nothing is etched in stone.

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