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The Friends of Tony Veranis, Part Two

Ted Sares

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The Friends of Tony Veranis, Part Two

During the period between 1966 and 1976, New England’s criminal underworld included many ex-boxers from the Boston area, many of whom were destined to die a violent death. Their intertwined histories would match those of George Higgins’s “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” except that here the common denominator is boxing.

Part One introduced many of the main characters including the notorious Joe “The Animal” Barboza. Next up is journeyman heavyweight George Holden who would meet his end along the banks of the Mystic River.

George Holden (1948-1973)

George, known as the “Medford Irisher,” fought mostly out of Portland, Maine as a heavyweight and chalked up a less-than-glorious record of 15-26-3. He went 9-3-3 in his first 15, but then the losses came in bunches and he would lose nine of his last 10. In his last bout against Jimmy McDermott (52-16-3), Holden disgraced himself by showing up drunk for which he was indefinitely suspended. He never fought again.

Like Rocco DiSiglio (introduced in Part One), little is known about Holden’s personal life except that he was a low-level operative in organized crime. Holden trained with the usual suspects and met a similar fate. On August 23, 1973, his body was found washed up along the mucky shoreline of the Mystic River in Charlestown, Mass. He had been executed gangland style with a gunshot to the head. George was 25 years old. His killers were never found. Holden’s murder was the 82nd homicide in the city of Boston in 1973.

Eddie Connors (1933-1975)

As a youth, Connors was a regular at the L Street Curley Gym and Bathhouse located in South Boston (i.e. Southie) where future gang leaders Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Frank “Cadillac Frank” Salemme hung out.

Eddie, nicknamed “Bulldog,” was a respected heavy-handed middleweight who fought like a bulldog during the ’50s and ran up a slate of 22-7-1 with 18 KOs against tough opposition. His last three fights — all losses by decision — were against Willie Green (27-4), Joe DeNucci (20-2 coming in), and former world champion Tony DeMarco (55-11-1). He also held the very capable George Monroe (37-13-3) to a draw. His brother James Connors (not to be confused with Jimmy Connors who fought out of New Bedford from 1957 to 1963 and who was trained by Clem Crowley) fought between 1959 and 1961 and retired with a 13-0-1 record.

Eddie would later use his boxing experience to handle drunk and disorderly customers in his notorious Bulldog Tavern in the edgy Savin Hill area of Dorchester –sometimes referred to as “Stab and Kill”— where he acted as both bartender and bouncer, and which he also used as his criminal headquarters for illegal gambling, drug dealing, loan sharking, and for planning armed robberies with his associates.

Later, because Connors was bragging too much about a murder he had helped orchestrate (of one James “Spike” O’Toole), the Bulldog had become a dangerous loose end. As such, he was set up for an ambush in The Dot. When Eddie arrived at a service station on Morrissey Blvd. on June 12, 1975, to make a pre-arranged phone call, a young Whitey Bulger, John “The Basin Street Butcher” Martorano, and Stephen Flemmi were waiting armed to the teeth. Connors was nearly cut in half in the phone booth by the hail of heavy artillery and the loose end was tied. Curiously, the deadly Martorano was the one who had machine gunned O’Toole in 1973.

Americo Sacramone (1937-1976)

When he finished his brief boxing career with a 5-1 record, Rico, from Everett, entered the rackets as member of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang. After being wounded in the hit on Buddy McLean in 1965, Rico went back to prison on a parole violation. In 1976, he was gunned down — this time for good — by parties unknown.

During his boxing days, Sacramone would often spar with the great Joe DeNucci (54-15-4), who later became the longstanding State Auditor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Tommy Tibbs (1934-1975)

While probably not a friend of Tony Veranis, Tommy (60-77-4) did fight George Monroe three times in 1953  — and just about everyone else including Willie Pep whom he beat in 1958 — and since Monroe fought to a draw against Eddie Connors in 1955, at least the possibility of a dotted line connection exists. Monroe was from Worcester and Tibbs made his residence in Boston. However, where Tommy warrants an honorable mention is the fact that he was shot and killed in a dispute in a Roxbury bar in 1975, one of the bloodiest years of living dangerously in Boston.

Back to Tony (1938-1966)

Meanwhile, after beating Al Pepin in his pro debut, Veranis continued his attention-grabbing run as a professional. He was described as “one tough SOB; a Wildman who was courageous in the ring.” Others said he was well-trained and “a great prospect and that his boxing style was that of a slugger.”

In 1957, Tony fought an astonishing 26 times (the majority at the Rollway Arena in Revere). Tony’s best win may have been on December 3, 1957, when he stopped — and retired — the talented Bobby Murphy (19-3-1). Bobby, a former USA New England welterweight titleholder, had impressive wins over Vic Cardell (65-25-7), Fitzie Pruden (50-21), Rocky Sullivan (66-43-12) and Jackie O’Brien (65-17-8), as well as a draw with top contender Chico Vejar (63-5-1). A win over Murphy meant something.

Tony’s last fight in 1957 was against rugged Barry Allison on December 17 against whom he fought to an admirable draw. Allison (40-19-2) was at the center of New England boxing during the 1950s but was never able to reach world championship level though many think he should have gotten the nod against Johnny Saxton in 1958. As for Tony, he slaughtered Silby Ford in a bloody encounter in February 1958, one that had blood-splattered ringsiders aghast as Silby’s teeth and mouthpiece were knocked out. This moved Tony’s record to 25-0-2 before dropping back-to-back fights to Allison in a rematch for Allison’s USA New England middleweight title and to undefeated Joe Devlin at the Boston Garden.

Tony’s loss to Allison was one in which he took a terrible beating and one that undoubtedly rendered him damaged goods going into the Devlin bout — not taking anything away from the crafty Joe who would retire undefeated. These two fights occurred within a 16-day span in March 1958. After his brutal knockout defeat to Devlin in which he was decked in every round, he was taken to Boston City Hospital in bad shape and remained in a coma before recovering some three month later. But his boxing days were over.

After boxing, Tony reportedly suffered from severe migraine headaches, nausea, temporary mood swings, and blackouts — maladies that apparently were not treated and pointed to brain damage. When combined with heavy drinking and depression, this lethal mix could only spell major trouble for an ex-boxer. Tony was arrested for an unidentified crime on December 23, 1963, and sent to prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

While incarcerated he supposedly became an altar boy to serve at prison mass, prompting the prison chaplain Father John Fitzgerald to say, “He wanted to get straightened out, and I think he did. He was a wonderful boy who’d run with a bad crowd. He frequently stopped in to see me… after he got out, and everything seemed to be all right. He took me to the fights, and he was with respectable fellows.” Some portrayed him as a friendly and quiet guy who was the victim of circumstances beyond his control, but other saw him as a small-time hoodlum and mean drinker with a bad personality change who was more brawn than brain. Street lore and my own in-depth research clearly support the latter depiction.

Tony soon found himself in debt to South Boston loan sharks and being overdue to such types was hardly conducive to one’s well-being. Tommy DePrisco, a Barboza associate, attempted to collect from Tony in a South Boston bar but was embarrassed, maybe even punched, and forced to leave as this was Tony’s hangout. The following night, hitman John Martorano was at Billy O’s tavern in Dorchester when Veranis braced him and reportedly slurred, “I’m Tony Veranis, you know who I am. I just had a beef with your friend [DePrisco]. I kicked him outta Southie with his tail between his legs, f*** him and f*** you, too.”

As Tony allegedly reached for his gun, the taller “Butcher” beat him to the punch and fired down into Tony’s skull twice, blowing what was left of his already damaged brains all over the place. His body was dumped in the Blue Hills wooded area off Route 28 near where Milton and Dedham meet. He had $2.83 in his pocket. This was the end result when two former altar boys met up at the wrong time in the wrong place. One was 27, the other 26. Tony may have been tougher with his fists, but the Basin Street Butcher was faster with his gun.

John Martorano: Last Man Standing

“You Just Kill Them Before They Kill You” John Martorano

Many claimed credit for the hit on Tony Veranis and a few even suggested that Barboza was involved, but the most reliable accounting is that Martorano (known as “The Executioner,” among other aliases) was responsible. Early on, Martorano, who also was an altar boy, a good athlete, and well-educated in private schools, showed a marked proclivity for conflict resolution. He eventually became the chief enforcer for the Whitey Bulger gang, running up an astounding tally of 20 confirmed hits (all carried out in a cold, detached, so-called “professional” manner).

One of John’s familial Old World core values was that of loyalty, and when he later learned that Bulger and Flemmi were FBI informants who leaked useful information, some of it even accusatory against John, he became enraged. The fact is, he flipped out and then proceeded to flip on the flippers, becoming a key government witness and in the process exposing the links between the Bulger gang and the FBI’s Boston office. In return for his “cooperation” and confession to 20 murders, he served only 12 years and received $20,000 gate money upon his release. Said U.S. Attorney Donald Stern, “The only thing worse than this deal was not doing this deal.”

martorano

martorano

Regarding his hits, Martorano incredibly and calmly said, “I always felt like I was doing the right thing. Even if it was wrong, I always tried to do the right thing.”

Strictly business? Hardly. These sociopaths were close to being serial killers and they loved it.

Today, while the mother of all rats, Whitey Bulger, was recently beaten to death in prison, John Martorano and Kevin Weeks (another deadly Bulger enforcer and righteous snitch who wrote the compelling “Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger’s Irish Mob,” are free to walk the streets of Quincy, Dorchester, and South Boston having done their time and having made their deals. Maybe they take strolls on Carson Beach.

Unlike Barboza, they don’t need any witness protection because there is no one left from whom to be protected. Moreover, there IS something to be said for ratting out a rat.

John “Red” Shea (standup guy)

You don’t tell on anybody, you accept your responsibility, even if the other person can’t. You’re to be a man and keep your mouth shut. Period. There’s no gray area.” –Red Shea

There was another ex-boxer, but he chose another, more difficult path. His name was John “Red” Shea and he traded an exceptionally promising boxing career for a more lucrative life as an important operative and enforcer for the Bulger gang. But the thing about Red was that when he was finally caught, he didn’t flip, but held fast to the Irish code of silence. The 47-year-old Red served out his 12 years in prison without ratting out and is now considered a rare man of honor in the Boston area. He went on to write the hot selling “Rat Bastards: The Life and Times of South Boston’s Most Honorable Irish Mobster.” Red is now enjoying his freedom and the secrets of his life of crime most likely will be taken to the grave with him. His second book, “A Kid from Southie” was published to solid reviews.

Famous defense attorney Anthony Cardinale, a close friend of Red, once said, “He’s not big, but was very violent and very tough, and people are, to this day, scared to death of him…If, God forbid, I ever needed somebody next to me and I needed backup he’d be one of the first guys that I would ever go to.”

Joe DeNucci and Clem Crowley went on to live honorable and even celebrated lives before they passed, as did Joe Devlin, New Bedford’s Jimmy Connors, and Barry Allison. However, Eddie Connors, Rocky DiSiglio, Rico Sacramone, Joe Barboza, George Holden, and Tommy Sullivan — all fighters in the Boston area who were connected to one another in one way or another — were each murdered at a young age. I still meet with Jimmy Connors on a monthly basis in Dorchester and never tire of his stories from the past.

As an aside, I interviewed Joe Devlin about his fight with Tony at a lunch meeting at the Florian Hall in Dorchester. Among other things, Joe said that Tony’s brains were like “scrambled eggs.” Sadly, the affable Joe died of a heart attack on the very next day.

“Boxing got me out of a lot of trouble. It does that for a lot of kids.” – Tony Veranis

Pictured: Tony Veranis and Bob Murphy. The full photo has Pat MCarthy on the far left and Jimmy Connors on the far right.

 Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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SAN DIEGO-WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete won by unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez in a slugfest that had fans cheering nonstop on Friday night. Fans were mesmerized by the savagery.

More than 2,000 fans saw Mexico City’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) and Southern California’s Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) bounce brutal shots off each other for 12 successive rounds at Pechanga Sports Arena.

Both Navarrete and Gonzalez were about equal in height with the champion maybe a slight taller, but not by much. As soon as the first bell rang the two featherweights opened up in furious fashion.

Gonzalez was making his second attempt to grab a world title. His first attempt fell short a year ago. He was eager to atone for the defeat by clobbering Navarrete. Body shots were the weapon of choice.

The Mexican fighter Navarrete was accustomed to battling shorter fighters, this time the two were equal in size and in fury. Blows were flying in bunches and by the third round Gonzalez suffered a cut on his right cheek.

At several points Navarrete would connect with a solid blow and eagerly seek to finish the fight. Each time it happened Gonzalez would fight back even more furiously and beat back the champions attacks.

Gonzalez also connected with big shots and moved in for the kill only find Navarrete take a stand and fire back. Neither was able to truly gain a significant edge. After 12 rounds of nonstop action the decision was given to the judges. One scored it 118-110, two others saw it 116-112 all for Navarrete.

Fans were pleased by the decision and even more pleased by the breath-taking action they had witnessed.

Welterweights

Local fighter Giovani Santillan (28-0, 15 KOs) remained undefeated by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Tijuana’s Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The two southpaws were evenly matched.

San Diego’s Santillan was able to outwork Ruiz in almost every round. Though Ruiz has heavy hands he was not able to hurt Santillan even with uppercuts. It was clear very early in the fight that Santillan was the more technical and busier of the two. No knockdowns were scored.

After 10 rounds two judges scored it 100-90 for Santillan and a third saw it 99-91.

Other Results

Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) battered and knocked down fellow Mexican Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2) in the last round of an 8-round super lightweight bout, but could not score the knockout win.

Delgado, a Mexican Olympian, was the quicker and stronger fighter yet discovered Garcia Mendez has a solid chin. All three judges scored it 80-71 for Delgado.

Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) defeated Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6) by decision after eight rounds in a lightweight match.

Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) soundly defeated Darryl Jones (4-3-1) by decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Jones was tough.

Las Vegas bantamweight Floyd Diaz (3-0) knocked down Tucson’s Jose Ramirez (1-1) in the first round but was unable to end the fight early. Diaz won by decision.

Heavyweight Antonio Mireles (1-0) knocked out Demonte Randle (2-2) at 2:07 of the first round.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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Russell Peltz’s “Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye”: Book Review by Thomas Hauser

Russell Peltz has been promoting fights for fifty years and is as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia boxing as Philly gym wars and Philly fighters. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004 and deservedly so. Now Peltz has written a memoir entitled Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye that chronicles his many years in the sweet science.

Peltz started in boxing before it was, in his words, “bastardized by the alphabet groups” and at a time when “world titles still meant something.”

“I fell in love with boxing when I was twelve,” he writes, “saw my first live fight at fourteen, decided to make it my life, and never looked back.” He promoted his first fight card in 1969 at age 22.

Peltz came of age in boxing at a time when promoters – particularly small promoters – survived or died based on the live gate. Peltz Boxing Promotions had long runs at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia and both Harrah’s Marina and the Sands  in Atlantic City. His journey through the sweet science included a seven-year stint as director of boxing for The Spectrum in Philadelphia. At the turn of the century, he was a matchmaker for ESPN.

Along the way, Peltz’s office in Philadelphia was fire-bombed. He was robbed at gunpoint while selling tickets in his office for a fight card at the Blue Horizon and threatened in creative ways more times than one might imagine. He once had a fight fall out when one of the fighters was arrested on the day of the weigh-in. No wonder he quotes promoter Marty Kramer, who declared, “The only thing I wish on my worst enemy is that he becomes a small-club boxing promoter.”

Now Peltz has put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard. “The internet is often a misinformation highway,” he writes. “I want to set the record straight as to what actually went on in boxing in the Philadelphia area since the late-1960s. I’m tired of reading tweets or Facebook posts or Instagram accounts from people who were not around and have no idea what went on but write like they do.”

Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye is filled with characters (inside and outside the ring) who give boxing its texture. As Peltz acknowledges, his own judgment was sometimes faulty. Russell once turned down the opportunity to promote Marvin Hagler on a long-term basis. There are countless anecdotes about shady referees, bad judging, and other injustices. Middleweight Bennie Briscoe figures prominently in the story, as do other Philadelphia fighters like Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, and Matthew Franklin (later Matthew Saad Muhammad). Perhaps the best fight Peltz ever promoted  was the 1977 classic when Franklin knocked out Marvin Johnson in the twelfth round.

There’s humor. After Larry Holmes pitched a shutout against Randall “Tex” Cobb in 1982, Cobb proclaimed, “Larry never beat me. He just won the first fifteen rounds.”

And there are poignant notes. Writing about Tanzanian-born Rogers Mtagwa (who boxed out of Philadelphia), Peltz recalls, “He couldn’t pass an eye exam because he didn’t understand the alphabet.”

Remembering the Blue Horizon, Peltz fondly recounts, “”The Blue Horizon was a fight fan’s nirvana. The ring was 15-feet-9-inches squared inside the ropes. No fighter came to the Blue Horizon to pad his record. Fans wanted good fights, not slaughters of second-raters.”

That ethos was personified by future bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler who, after knocking out an obviously inept opponent, told Peltz, “Don’t ever embarrass me like that again in front of my fans.”

Thereafter, whenever a manager asked Peltz to put his fighter in soft to “get me six wins in a row,” Russell thought of Chandler. “I enjoyed promoting fights more than promoting fighters,” he writes. “If I was interested in promoting fighters, I would have been a manager.”

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

The first thing to be said here is that this is a book for boxing junkies, not the casual fan. Peltz is detail-oriented. But do readers really need to know what tickets prices were for the April 6, 1976, fight between Bennie Briscoe and Eugene Hart? The book tends to get bogged down in details. And after a while, the fights and fighters blur together in the telling.

It brings to mind the relationship between Gene Tunney and George Bernard Shaw. The noted playwright and heavyweight great developed a genuine friendship. But Shaw’s fondness for Tunney stopped short of uncritical admiration. In 1932, the former champion authored his autobiography (A Man Must Fight) and proudly presented a copy to his intellectual mentor. Shaw read the book and responded with a letter that read in part, “Just as one prayer meeting is very like another, one fight is very like another. At a certain point, I wanted to skip to Dempsey.”

Reading Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, at a certain point I wanted to skip to Hagler.

There’s also one jarring note. Peltz recounts how, when Mike Jones fought Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2012, Peltz bet five hundred dollars against Jones (his own fighter) at the MGM Sports Book and collected two thousand dollars when Bailey (trailing badly on the judges’ scorecards) knocked Jones out in the eleventh round.

“It was a tradition from my days with Bennie Briscoe,” Russell explains. “I’d bet against my fighter, hoping to lose the bet and win the fight.”

I think Russell Peltz is honest. I mean that sincerely. And I think he was rooting for Mike Jones to beat Randall Bailey. But I don’t think that promoters should bet on fights involving their own fighters. And it’s worse if they bet against their own fighters. Regardless of the motivation, it looks bad. Or phrased differently: Suppose Don King had bet on Buster Douglas to beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo?

Philadelphia was once a great fight town. in 1926, the first fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew 120,000 fans to Sesquicentennial Stadium. Twenty-six years later, Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott at same site (renamed Municipal Stadium) to claim the heavyweight throne.

Peltz takes pride in saying, “I was part of Philadelphia’s last golden age of boxing.”

An important part.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 156: A World Title Fight in San Diego and More

David A. Avila

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World championship prizefighting returns to San Diego.

Though the port city serves as a base for US Marines, US Navy and other fighting organizations, boxing has rarely held events in its city limits. But it’s no stranger.

WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) defends against L.A. native Joet Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs) on Friday night at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

One reason boxing events are rare in San Diego lies in the simple reason it’s located a mere 20 miles from Tijuana, Mexico. It is cheaper to stage boxing shows across the border and common to see up to five shows taking place simultaneously.

A world champion like Navarrete wants to be compensated in world championship style and that means fighting on American soil.

Navarrete, 26, hails from Mexico City and has beaten back-to-back featherweight contenders from the USA in Christopher Diaz and Ruben Villa. Before that, he upset Isaac Dogboe to win the super bantamweight world title before making weight forced him to move up a division. He’s a fighting machine.

“I think this is going to be a tough fight. He is a tough opponent,” said Navarrete.

Gonzalez, 28, was raised in a fighting family and has previously fought for a world title but was unsuccessful against Shakur Stevenson. The Los Angeles native had an extensive amateur career and as a professional he’s steadily adapted to the professional style. This is his shot at the world title.

“Navarrete has a style that’s very unique, very hard to figure out, and that’s why he’s a champion,” said Gonzalez. “I’m planning on leaving Friday night with that belt.”

In a semi-main event local fighter Giovani Santillan (27-0, 15 KOs) meets Angel Ruiz (17-1, 12 KOs) in a clash between southpaw welterweights set for 10 rounds. Both fought numerous times on Thompson Boxing Promotion cards in Southern California.

Santillan has fought as the main event on many occasions and provided upsets in nationally televised events.

“It’s very special for me to be fighting here in San Diego. I grew up close by here. To all my family and friends that are coming, expect the best version of me. I’m coming with everything,” said Santillan.

Ruiz also has fought on nationally televised events and upset a fighter or two. Southpaw versus southpaw can be puzzling. It usually comes down to who has the better right hook.

“He’s a great fighter. I’m a great fighter, too,” said Ruiz.

Doors open at 5 p.m.

Mikey Garcia Returns

It’s been almost two years since Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) last fought. He returns on Saturday, Oct. 16, to face Sandor Martin (38-2, 13 KOs) a slick fighting southpaw from Barcelona, Spain. Their super lightweight bout takes place in Fresno, Calif. at the Chukchansi Park. DAZN will show the fight.

Garcia has been one of the boxing masters and has captured world titles in four weight divisions. Very few can match his wisdom inside a prize ring. The last time he fought was on February 2020 when he defeated Jessie Vargas in a welterweight clash.

Now Garcia is back down to super lightweight. He had hoped to entice Manny Pacquiao for a big money fight, but the Filipino superstar chose another.

Martin has never fought on American soil and has only ventured out of Spain twice. He’s a big question mark when it comes to ability. Can he match skills with Garcia who has won world titles as a featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight?

We shall see.

The co-main event features WBO light flyweight titlist Elwin Soto (19-1, 13 KOs) of Mexico defending against Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Gonzalez (24-3-1, 14 KOs). As most of you know, anytime Mexico fights Puerto Rico anything can happen.

Heavyweight Examination

Tyson Fury’s victory over Deontay Wilder proved to be the best of the trilogy that began three years ago in Los Angeles. Anytime you see multiple knockdowns it exemplifies the fight game to its core. It’s a battle of wills and the best man wins.

Only once before had two larger heavyweights exchanged blows when seven-footer Nicolai Valuev and Jameel McCline battled in 2008. But that heavyweight match was held at Switzerland and only seen in Europe. And there was another fight between NBA size power forwards in Los Angeles that was equally exciting when Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko clashed in the Staples Center on June 2003. It turned out to be Lewis’s farewell fight and a classic.

Wilder and Fury put on another classic.

The 1990s seemed to be the last decade where heavyweight rumbles regularly took place. You had Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield torching each other with massive blows and skill to match. There was Lennox Lewis, of course, and his gentleman killer ways. And, of course, there was still Mike Tyson whose best decade was the 1980s, yet was the heavyweight with the biggest following.

In this age of social media driven world of entertainment, Fury and Wilder did participate in a lot of seemingly useless drivel. But once inside the ropes, they delivered like FedEx truck drivers on the clock.

Those old enough to remember recall the three battles between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Nothing tops their three clashes, especially the “Thrilla in Manilla” in 1975. If you get a chance, take a look at that savagery. Though no knockdowns were scored, it was that mesh of skill and intensity for nearly 15 rounds that mesmerized sports fans and made both fighters legends for all time.

This past Saturday, Fury and Wilder reminded sports fans that heavyweight splendor still exists. And that no other sport comes down to the basic man-versus-man in a boxing ring. The biggest and baddest slugged it out and the winner was Fury.

Boxing is the ultimate sport.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Lester Martinez (8-0) vs Raiko Santana (8-2).

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Santiago Dominguez (24-0) vs Jesus Antonio Rubio (13-4-1).

Fri. ESPN+ 6 p.m. Emanuel Navarrete (34-1) vs Joet Gonzalez (24-1); Giovani Santillan (27-0) vs Angel Ruiz (17-1).

Fri. Telemundo 11:59 p.m. Axel Aragon (14-4-1) vs Armando Torres (26-19).

Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Hughie Fury (25-3) vs Christian Hammer (26-7); Savannah Marshall (10-0) vs Lolita Muzeya (16-0).

Sat. DAZN 2 p.m. Mikey Garcia (40-1) vs Sandor Martin (38-2).

Sat. FITE.TV 3 p.m. Cletus Seldin vs William Silva

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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