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Ending a Boxing Career the Right Way: The Bookend Battalion

Ted Sares

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Most boxing careers reflect a variation of a bell-shaped curve. The downward slope on the right-hand side indicates the decline of the fighter in question. Sometimes, when a fighter is at the top of his game—like Larry Holmes, for example– the peak flattens and doesn’t spiral down. And often, a fighter might make a successful final run but lose his last career bout like Tony Bellew who won 10 straight before being waxed by Oleksandr Usyk. Lonnie Smith won 14 straight against horrible competition before stepping up and losing to Disobelys Hurtado in his last tiff. These somewhat predictable patterns are part of what makes up boxing.

The number of fighters who begin and finish on the upswing are much fewer. Here are a few:

Tony Alongi (1959-1967)

This under-the-radar and tough heavyweight was a fixture at the Auditorium in Miami Beach during the 60s and was 28-0 before being upset by Rudolfo Diaz in 1962. Tony lost again in1963—this time to Billy Daniels and then went on a final tear going 11-0-4. The draws were to George Chuvalo, Jerry Quarry (twice), and Bill McMurray. Tony bookended his admirable career nicely to finish 40-2-4.

Eder Jofre (1957-1976)

One fighter who epitomized perfect bookends was the legendary Brazilian “O Galo Do Ouro” (aka “Golden Bantam”) Eder Jofre who ended his magnificent career with a 72-2-4 record. During a two-year period in the mid-60s, Jofre lost twice to Fighting Harrada and drew with one Manny Elias. He was 47-0-3 coming into the first Harrada affair and 25-2-1 thereafter. The Golden Bantam was one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters of all time

Bobby Chacon (1972-1988)

Known as “The Schoolboy,” Bobby was 19-0 before being stopped by the legendary Ruben Olivares. After losing to Cornelius Boza-Edwards in a 1981 thriller, Chacon ended his illustrious run going 14-1 against strong opposition. His overall 59-7-1 record landed him in the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF).

“Tex” Cobb (1977-1993)

Randall “Tex” Cobb finished his career with a 42-7-1 mark facing off with some tough hombres along the way including Earnie Shavers, Ken Norton, Michael Dokes (twice), Larry Holmes, Buster Douglas, and Eddie Gregg He lost four between 1964 and 1985, but he won his first 17—all but one by stoppage.

After being taken apart by unheralded Collier in 1986, Tex closed out his colorful career by going18-0-1-1 including a win over a faded Leon Spinks in 1988. The other wins were over limited opposition but wins are wins.

Mickey Goodwin (1977-1994)

This left-hook artist out of Kronk was 33-1-1 when he suffered a monster stoppage upset in 1985 at the hands of Darryl “The Atomic Dog” Spain (6-6 at the time). The late and beloved Goodwin — sometimes known as ”Sneaky Pea” — then reeled off seven straight to close out at 40-2-1.

“It’s a shame that Mickey’s name will never carry the same weight as Tommy Hearns. But once upon a time, they were literally equals. I remember it well.” Karl Ziomek

Steve Collins (1986-1997)

The “Celtic Warrior” started fast winning 16 in a row before losing to Mike McCallum in 1960. He lost two more in 1992 but then, fighting mostly out of his native Ireland, he finished by winning 15 including nods over Chris Eubank (twice) and Nigel Benn (twice). Given his record of 36-3 and the off-the-wall level of his opposition, it’s a mystery why he is not in the IBHOF.

Billy Costello (1979-1999)

This Kingston, NY native was victorious in his first 30 outings before being shocked and destroyed by Lonnie Smith in 1985. Alexis Arguello would then stop Billy six months later. Costello regrouped and won his final eight including big one against Juan LaPorte in 1999 bringing his final slate to 40-2.

Jorge Paez (1984-2003)

“El Maromero” had an old school record of 79-14-5 and after his last career loss in 1999 to Jose Luis Castillo, he launched an undefeated streak of 18. Prior to his first defeat on U.S. soil to Tony Lopez, he had gone 35-2-3. “The Clown” won in streaks and was very underrated.

Fabrice Tiozzo (1988-2006)

In a 48-2 career, this outstanding French light heavy lost only two bouts –both to Virgil Hill. One in 1993, the other in 2000. He was 25-0 coming into the first fight, and finished his slate at 23-1 for almost perfect bookends. He also fought extremely tough competition which begs the question of why he isn’t in the IBHOF.

Rodney Toney (1992-2007)

“The Punisher,” a boxer-puncher type, hit the pros running and went 19-0-2 before being derailed by slick Quincy Taylor in 1995. After dropping three between 1996-1997, he bookended his career nicely by going undefeated in his final eight.

Michael Moorer (1988-2008)

Moorer finished with a possibly Hall of Fame-beckoning record of 52-4-1. He won his first 35 matches against solid opposition but came a cropper against Big George Foreman in 1994. After being embarrassed in 30 seconds by David Tua in 2002, “Double M” went 9-1 including a rousing upset stoppage over Vassiliy Jirov in 2004.

Herbie Hide (1989-2010)

“The Dancing Destroyer” lost four by stoppage between 1995 and 2004 and then retired. Hide had won his first 25—most by KO. He then returned to action in 2006 and proceeded to run off 14 straight wins to finish with a fine 49-4 record—one that was well bookended.

Vitali Klitschko (1996-2012)

“Dr. Ironfist” was 27-0 when he lost his first one in a major upset to Chris Byrd in 2000. Upon losing to Lennox Lewis in a bloodbath in 2003, the Doctor clubbed and bludgeoned his way to several big wins before retiring in 2004. In October 2008, Klitschko made one of the most remarkable comebacks in boxing history when he TKOd a prime Sam Peter (30-1). He then won nine more against stiff opposition to finish with a Hall of Fame record of 45-2 and a KO percentage of 87.23%

Jermain Taylor (2001-2014)

The highly touted Taylor started his boxing career 27-0-1 before losing back-to-back fights to Kelly Pavlik in 2007 and 2008. He was then savaged by Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham in 2009 during the Super Six Tourney and took two years off to regain his health before returning to the ring to beat Jessie Nicklow in 2011. By then, he was badly damaged goods, but he still managed to win four more and in his very last fight and against all odds, he beat Sam Soliman (44-11) to win the IBF World Middleweight Title after which he lapsed back into serious outside-the-ring issues.

“The downward spiral of a former champion is one of the hardest things to witness, especially when it is a former Olympian and undisputed middleweight champion.” Jules Philippe-Auguste

Shannon Briggs (1992-2016)

“The Cannon” got out of the gate fast winning his first 25 before getting damaged by Darrol “Doin’ Damage” Wilson in 1996. In 2010, in Hamburg, Germany, he was damaged for real (and hospitalized) by Vitali Klitschko. He stayed away from boxing until 2014 when he launched his final winning streak of nine. It came against less-than-compelling opposition, but did give him a fine final mark of 60-6-1.

There are others with similarly interesting records to peruse but they didn’t make the cut. Johnny “The Entertainer” Nelson came close as he finished with an undefeated streak of 21 but his start was abysmal. Bash Ali finished with 20 wins but again his start left something to be desired.  Willie de Wit (20-1-1) came close and so did Oleg Maskaev and Sung Kil Moon.

“Canelo” is a work in progress with 42-0-1 in the front and 10-1-1 in the rear.

There are others. Can you name some?

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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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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Avila Perspective, Chap. 126: Viva Puerto Rico, Claressa Shields, Canelo and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 126: Viva Puerto Rico, Claressa Shields, Canelo and More

In the age of Covid-19 fights get canceled and re-arranged and that’s found here in this second attempt to stage Serhii Bohachuk versus Brandon Adams in a super welterweight showdown.

This pairing was first talked about back when the Dodgers and Lakers both won world championships last October. Finally, it’s ready to cast off.

Beautiful Puerto Rico will be the locale for Bohachuk (18-0, 18 KOs) when he meets Adams (22-3, 14 KOs) on Thursday March 4, at Felix Pintor Gym in Guaynabo. NBC Sports Network will televise the Ring City USA fight card.

“Flaco” Bohachuk has rampaged through the super welterweight division like a ravenous Ukrainian version of Pacman. Who can stop him?

Adams has fought the better competition including a world title match against Jermall Charlo that he lost by decision less than two years ago.

Other factors exist.

Bohachuk was formally trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear Mountain but now works with Manny Robles at sea level. Will it make a difference when he trades blows against the smaller but seemingly stronger Adams?

“We’re taking this fight seriously against Adams,” said Robles who has trained numerous world champions including Oscar Valdez and Andy Ruiz. “Adams is a very strong fighter.”

Bohachuk last fought deep in the heart of Mexico and emerged with a stoppage that saw him scrap with little-known but tough-as-nails Alejandro Davila. Both landed serious stuff but Bohachuk just had more firepower.

Adams says he has seen firepower like Bohachuk’s before. He went toe-to-toe with Charlo for the WBC middleweight title and never touched the canvas. He’s smaller but more muscular and has fought taller guys most of his career.

This is one of those fights that used to be held at the Olympic Auditorium back in the day. Ironically, there is a documentary that has just been released about those days before it was closed to boxing in 2005.

Added note: Fernando Vargas Jr. will also engage on the fight card. The son of “El Feroz,” Fernando Vargas Jr. fights out of Las Vegas and will be in his second pro fight as a super middleweight.

Women’s pay-per-view

An all-women fight card led by Claressa Shields takes place on Friday March 5. It will be streamed by FITE.tv beginning at 6 p.m. PT. Price is $29.99.

Shields (10-0) faces her toughest foe yet when she steps in the boxing ring against Canada’s undefeated Marie Eve Dicaire (17-0) for the undisputed super welterweight world championship.

Dicaire is a tall southpaw with speed and agility who has defeated several world champions.

Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and former undisputed middleweight world champion and super middleweight titlist who dropped down two weight divisions to pursue this venture.

Also, just added is Marlen Esparza, a USA Olympic bronze medalist, and current flyweight contender.

Esparza (8-1) agreed to fight on the pay-per-view card and meets Shelly Barnett (4-3-2) in a six-round bout set for the super flyweight division. Her last fight took place in October and she handed talented Sulem Urbina her first loss as a pro.

Barnett is a Canadian veteran of nine pro fights including an eight-round battle with Florida’s Rosalinda Rodriguez.

Rumor has it that Esparza is getting prepared for a showdown with Mexico’s Ibeth “La Roca” Zamora for the WBC flyweight world title later in the spring.

It’s a pretty good pay-per-view card that also features Danielle Perkins, Logan Holler and Jamie Mitchell in competitive fights. If you haven’t seen women fights, take a look. Shields alone can astonish with her fighting skills.

Canelo

That redhead from Mexico continues to decimate the competition whether its from England, Turkey or Russia. Line them up and let them fly.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez holds the WBA and WBC super middleweight world titles and was forced to fight the number one contender Avni Yildirim and promptly stomped him out like a bug on the rug.

Fans get upset. They don’t understand that ratings exist and with four or five sanctioning organizations all having different standings, a fighter like Alvarez who has two titles is forced to fight fighters ranked number one through 10. But it’s just a part of boxing that has to be done.

Alvarez had already skipped Yildirim before to fight Callum Smith for the WBA title which he won by unanimous decision. Now he will be meeting another Brit in Billy Joe Saunders who has the WBO version of the super middleweight title. It will take place on May 8, most likely in Las Vegas. That’s Cinco de Mayo weekend. Las Vegas needs the bank. Once again it depends on the Covid-19 situation.

Off topic, Canelo recently had an exchange with Claressa Shields who posted on social media that the Mexican redhead is one of her favorite fighters. She likes working on technique and posted one of her workouts where she is hitting a heavy bag with a combination that she saw Canelo use.

Canelo saw it and gave her a few tips. Champion to champion. That was kind of cool.

Farewell to L.A. Favorite

Featherweight contender Danny Valdez passed away on Sunday February 28 in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Valdez held the California Featherweight title when the state championship was not easy to gain. He also vied for the world title against Davey Moore in April 1961 in Los Angeles.

Many of his battles took place at the vaunted Olympic Auditorium where he fought the likes of Gil Cadilli and Sugar Ramos. Back in those days there was no better place to fight than the Olympic. But Valdez did engage in battles at Wrigley Field and the Hollywood Legion Stadium too.

Though Valdez fought up and down the West Coast in Oregon and California, he primarily battled at the Olympic Auditorium, a total of 24 times in all. If you ever watched a boxing card at the Olympic, it was a magical place.

Fights to Watch

(All Times are Pacific Time)

Thurs. 6 p.m. NBC Sports Network Serhii Bohachuk (18-0) vs Brandon Adams (22-3)

Fri. 6 p.m. FITE.tv.  Claressa Shields (10-0) vs Marie Eve Dicaire (17-0); Marlen Esparza (8-1) vs Shelly Barnett (4-3-2); Logan Holler (9-0-1) vs Schemelle Baldwin (3-1-2); Danielle Perkins (2-0) vs Monika Harrison (2-1-1); Jamie Mitchell (5-0-2) vs Noemi Bosques (12-15-3).

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