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Avila Perspective, Chap. 93: Best of Prizefighting

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 93: Best of Prizefighting

Boxing powers are suggesting a return could be imminent but minus the clatter and chatter of a live audience. The threat of death by virus still looms large.

No fans allowed.

Television and streaming devices pay for the bulk of major prize fight confrontations so promotion companies like Top Rank, UFC, and Matchroom Boxing are considering a return next month, but minus the fans.

It got me thinking.

Though the actual combat participants may or may not be affected, whether its boxing or MMA the audience or fans will truly be missing a major reason they love prizefighting.

Watching a prize fight live in person just cannot be beat by any other sport. Though I love baseball, basketball, football and soccer without the flopping, when it comes to watching a world championship fight those other sports take a back seat.

Over the years I’ve witnessed some incredible feats in person. Watching fights on television is fine, but watching in person I’ve witnessed remarkable displays of physical talent that stand out. Here are some of the things I’ve seen:

Fastest Combinations with Power

Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr. Oscar De La Hoya

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao could reel off a powerful combination faster than most people could think. He did it against Marco Antonio Barrera and then did it again. There are a lot of fighters that have fast hands, but few could muster up a fast combination with power behind it. Pacman could. Today, not so much, but when he began mowing down the featherweight division it was something to behold. He seemed like a freak of nature.

Roy Jones Jr. could hit you with a lightning combination as could Oscar De La Hoya in their primes. Any one of their lightning blows could result in seeing another fighter unconscious.

Fastest Feet

Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Roy Jones Jr., Guillermo Rigondeaux

When Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson dominated the flyweights, he was near impossible to hit. He would dart in and out quicker than anyone I have ever seen. If he didn’t want someone to hit him, they could not hit him. But he did occasionally take some chances or else everyone in the audience would have fallen asleep from boredom. In his prime, he was untouchable.

Roy Jones Jr. was pretty fast on his feet too. What makes Jones special was he did it in the light heavyweight division for years. When those legs got older and heavier is when the competition finally caught up to Roy Jones. I still remember when he fought the late Julio Gonzalez at the Staples Center and though 10 feet away Jones covered the 10 feet distance in the blink of an eye and connected with a left hook. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux also has very quick feet and deserves honorable mention.

Best Left Hook

Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Mike Tyson

It was a sound I’ll never forget when Oscar De La Hoya connected with a left hook to the jaw of Rafael Ruelas in their lightweight unification battle in Las Vegas on May 6, 1995. It sounded like a bazooka blast. De La Hoya could unleash a left hook so potent and seemingly from any angle. When he knocked out Oba Carr that blow was almost invisible and left the talented fighter unable to defend himself. But that knockout against Ruelas when they met outdoors at Caesars Palace remains the single loudest punch I’ve ever heard in person. That sound remains vivid in my memory.

Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad also possessed a lethal left hook and it was fully loaded when he dropped and stopped David Reid outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

“Iron” Mike Tyson also had one heck of a left hook too. I only saw Tyson fight once live and witnessed his speed and power when he eliminated Orlin Norris when they met in Las Vegas. He was a human tornado.

Best Right Cross

Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr. Juan Manuel Marquez

Floyd Mayweather rarely knocked out opponents after he entered the welterweight division, but in his super featherweight and lightweight days that lightning quick right cross was deadly. Nobody throws a more perfect right cross than Mayweather. It is short, concise and undetectable. It’s also one of the hardest punches to land when the opposition knows it’s coming. Yet, Mayweather could land the right cross better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Just look at his knockdowns of Diego Corrales when they fought.

Roy Jones Jr. was cat-quick with his right cross, but needed his legs to deliver it. Because of his overall quickness, he was able to deliver a right cross from across the ring.

Juan Manuel Marquez had his right cross cocked and loaded at all times as he showed against Manny Pacquiao in their last fight that ended in knockout.

Best Uppercut

Vernon Forrest, Randall Bailey, Nonito Donaire

The late, great Vernon Forrest had one of the best uppercuts I’ve ever seen and when he delivered it the opponent was usually out. He caught Shane Mosley with that uppercut and almost turned out his lights. Forrest was a technically perfect fighter and his uppercut was a thing of beauty.

Randall Bailey was able to win world titles years apart thanks to his power punching. But when things got nasty Bailey could end the fight quickly via the uppercut. He won his first world title in 1999 against Carlos “Bolillo” Gonzalez by knockout. Lost the title in 2000 and kept his place in line via the uppercut until he regained a world title in 2012 against Mike Jones in Las Vegas.

Nonito Donaire had lightning in both fists but his uppercut was a thing of beauty. You never saw the punch coming. Whether his knockout win over Vic Darchinyan was a true uppercut or a slightly tilted left hook is debatable. But the uppercut he dropped Fernando Montiel in a world title unification battle in February 2011 was scary good. That was an uppercut to remember.

Best in the Pocket Defensive Fighters

James Toney, Winky Wright, Paulie Ayala, Floyd Mayweather

James “Lights Out” Toney was a master at fighting in close distance and making an opponent miss. Watch his fight against Evander Holyfield and be amazed. Or take a look at his fights against Mike McCallum or Iran Barkley. Amazing stuff. His defense is why I consider him the greatest fighter in the last 60 years. And his offense is not shabby either. He could write a master thesis on the subject.

Winky Wright often gets overlooked but if you need proof watch him disable Felix Trinidad’s offensive tools round by round when they fought. Wright might be one of the most under-rated fighters of all time. Nobody had an easy fight against Winky. Nobody.

Paulie Ayala is another who gets overlooked because he fought in close. But he could catch and parry with the best of them. Recently, Showtime televised some of his fights and it was a revelation. He could fight toe-to-toe and come out looking fresh as a daisy. Even CompuBox stats were bamboozled by his abilities to block, catch and slip. They seldom got the numbers right when Ayala fought.

Best Counter Punchers

Floyd Mayweather, James Toney, Juan Manuel Marquez

All three of these fighters are so equal in talent especially when it comes to counter-punching. Mayweather, Toney and Marquez could be lumped into one when it comes to delivering counter blows effectively.

All three of these fighters mentioned had so many examples that it’s needless to point out any single fight. My favorite of Mayweather was his single punch knockout of Ricky Hatton on Sept. 8, 2007. That night thousands of Brits invaded Las Vegas and saw Mayweather deliver his counter-punching magic.

Toney introduced his counter-punching skills to the boxing world when he knocked out the speedy Michael Nunn in May 1991. He brought back a surgical fighting style used by Ezzard Charles, or Jersey Joe Walcott, and dumped many a bigger man using his  counter-punching style throughout his career.

Mexico’s Marquez was another counter-punching master. He showed that speed is good, but timing is everything.

Best Chins

James Toney, Vitali Klitschko, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley

These fighters, all now retired, displayed chins made of granite during their careers. I vouch for all five of these retired fighters who absorbed some of the biggest blows and remained standing.

Klitschko, for example, took tremendous punishment when he fought Lennox Lewis in Los Angeles. He was tougher than his brother who was the technician. Vitali had one heck of a chin.

Toney was a middleweight fighting heavyweights when he finally retired. He never came close to hitting the floor.

De La Hoya began at super featherweight and showed his chin could withstand middleweight power. Mayweather also began at super featherweight and even super welterweights could not knock him out.

Mosley was another who fought incredible wars and remained standing despite fighting killers like Miguel Cotto, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Fernando Vargas and De La Hoya.

Best Jabs

Floyd Mayweather, Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya, Vernon Forrest

All four of these fighters could win a fight by merely using his jab. Mayweather, in particular, did it on several occasions. De La Hoya could split an opponent’s eye open with his jab. Forrest was one of the best and could have posed a big problem for smaller welterweights like Mayweather had he lived. We will never know. Calzaghe could fire off a four-jab combination jab like a machine gun. The guy retired undefeated because of his jab. So did Mayweather.

Best Body Punchers

Marco Antonio Barrera, James Toney, Julio Cesar Chavez

I’m starting with Barrera because I saw him fight in person many more times than I saw Chavez. But, of course, Chavez was a master of the body shot or the “gancho.”

Barrera stopped two world champions, Johnny Tapia and Paulie Ayala, with body shots that still send shivers down my spine. If you have ever been hit with a good body shot you will never forget the pain. The Mexico City assassin was as good a body puncher as I’ve ever seen.

I only saw Chavez fight a few times live and he was not the young destroyer that used his body attack to render his opponents helpless.

Toney showcased his skills, especially when he broke down the bigger Evander Holyfield and defeated the gladiator by knockout via the body shots. Those body blows were fearsome and enabled the much smaller Toney to invade and defeat bigger competition throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Most Flamboyant

Prince Naseem Hamed, Jorge Paez, Hector Camacho Jr.

Who can forget Prince Hamed descending into the boxing ring dangling from a steel line at the MGM when he fought Marco Antonio Barrera. The speedy Brit was probably the most flamboyant fighter to ever come out of Europe. And he was as quick with the word as he was with his fists.

Jorge Paez, “El Maromero,” was the king of flamboyant when he fought and often to the point of distraction. More than once he fought in a dress. But the boxer from Mexicali, Mexico was a world champion. He could truly fight and was quite a character.

Hector Camacho Jr. once arrived to fight on top of a camel. I don’t think his pops did that.

Smartest Fighters

Ricardo Lopez, Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather

When it comes to intelligence these guys reign supreme. The quickest at analyzing and dissecting an opponent in my estimation was the little guy Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. The Mexican minimum and light flyweight world champion had a variety of moves and flinches that would open up an opponent’s defense. Once he figured it out, that guy was gone in an instant.

Perhaps the most spectacular was his one punch knockout over Thailand’s Anucha Phothong (Ratanapol Sor Vorapin) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Dec. 2, 2000. Both were two feet apart and frozen when Lopez fired a crisp uppercut and down went Phothong for a knockout loss. It was so quick and effortless that it left the audience amazed and dumbfounded. I asked one world champion what he thought happened and he said “the other guy blinked.” I felt that was a good enough answer.

Lopez never lost a fight and retired undefeated.

Talk about smart fighters, Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe were two of the smartest fighters to ever meet. They used every trick in the book against each other when they fought in 2008 in Las Vegas. It was like watching two warlocks cast spells on each other and sometimes it was difficult to decipher. But the busier fighter Calzaghe won by split decision and eventually retired undefeated. Hopkins was just getting started. He would fight for the light heavyweight world title and win when the odds were against him. According to odds makers Hopkins was not supposed to beat Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones Jr., Jean Pascal, Tavoris Cloud, or Antonio Tarver.

Then of course there is Mayweather. The Las Vegas fighter who began at super featherweight used his ring intellect to win world titles and become the richest fighter in the history of the sport. He figured out what he wanted to do and then used it to perfection such as his dominant signature wins over Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton. They don’t come smarter than Mayweather who like Calzaghe and Lopez retired undefeated.

Fights to Watch

Showtime Boxing will be televising Lucas Matthysse versus John Molina on Friday, April 24. They are also televising John Molina versus Mickey Bey. Both were interesting slam bang affairs that displayed Molina’s willingness to take a shot to give a shot. Great stuff.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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Haney-Garcia Redux with the Focus on Harvey Dock

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Saturday’s skirmish between Ryan Garcia and WBC super lightweight champion Devin Haney was a messy affair, and yet a hugely entertaining fight fused with great drama. In the aftermath, Garcia and Haney were celebrated – the former for fooling all the experts and the latter for his gallant performance in a losing effort – but there were only brickbats for the third man in the ring, referee Harvey Dock.

Devin Haney was plainly ahead heading into the seventh frame when there was a sudden turnabout when Garcia put him on the canvas with his vaunted left hook. Moments later, Dock deducted a point from Garcia for a late punch coming out of a break. The deduction forced a temporary cease-fire that gave Haney a few precious seconds to regain his faculties. Before the round was over, Haney was on the deck twice more but these were ruled slips.

The deduction, which effectively negated the knockdown, struck many as too heavy-handed as Dock hadn’t previously issued a warning for this infraction. Moreover, many thought he could have taken a point away from Haney for excessive clinching. As for Haney’s second and third trips to the canvas in round seven, they struck this reporter – watching at home – as borderline, sufficient to give referee Dock the benefit of the doubt.

In a post-fight interview, Ryan Garcia faulted the referee for denying him the satisfaction of a TKO. “At the end of the day, Harvey Dock, I think he was tripping,” said Garcia. “He could have stopped that fight.”

Those that played the rounds proposition, placing their coin on the “under,” undoubtedly felt the same way.

The internet lit up with comments assailing Dock’s competence and/or his character. Some of the ponderings were whimsical, but they were swamped by the scurrilous screeching of dolts who find a conspiracy under every rock.

Stephen A. Smith, reputedly America’s highest-paid TV sports personality, was among those that felt a need to weigh-in: “This referee is absolutely terrible….Unreal! Horrible officiating,” tweeted Stephen A whose primary area of expertise is basketball.

Harvey Dock

Dock fought as an amateur and had one professional fight, winning a four-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at a non-gaming resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He says that as an amateur he was merely average, but he was better than that, a New Jersey and regional amateur champion in 1993 and 1994 while a student New Jersey’s Essex County Community College where he majored in journalism.

A passionate fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, he started officiating amateur fights in 1998 and six years later, at age 32, had his first documented action at the professional level, working low-level cards in New Jersey. The top boxing referees, to a far greater extent than the top judges, had long apprenticeships, having worked their way up from the boonies and Dock is no exception.

Per boxrec, Haney vs Garcia was Harvey Dock’s 364th assignment in the pros and his forty-second world title fight. Some of those title fights were title in name only, they weren’t even main events, but, bit by bit, more lucrative offerings started coming his way.

On May 13, 2023, Dock worked his first fights in Nevada, a 4-rounder and then a 12-rounder on a card at the Cosmopolitan topped by the 140-pound title fight between Rolly Romero and Ismael Barroso. It was the first time that this reporter got to watch Dock in the flesh.

Ironically (in hindsight), the card would be remembered for the actions of a referee, in this case Tony Weeks who handled the main event. Barroso was winning the fight on all three cards when Weeks stepped in and waived it off in the ninth round after Romero cornered Barroso against the ropes and let loose a barrage of punches, none of which landed cleanly. Few “premature stoppages” were ever as garishly, nay ghoulishly, premature.

With all the brickbats raining down on Weeks, I felt a need to tamp down the noise by diverting attention away from Tony Weeks and toward Harvey Dock and took to the TSS Forum to share my thoughts. Referencing the 12-rounder, a robust junior welterweight affair between Batyr Akhmedov and Kenneth Sims Jr, I noted that Dock’s Las Vegas debut went smoothly. He glided effortlessly around the ring, making him inconspicuous, the mark of a good referee. (This post ran on May 15, two days after the fight.)

Folks at the Nevada State Athletic Commission were also paying attention. Dock was back in Las Vegas the following week to referee the lightweight title fight between Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko and before the year was out, he would be tabbed to referee the biggest non-heavyweight fight of the year, the July 29 match in Las Vegas between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

The Haney-Garcia fight wasn’t Harvey Dock’s best hour, I’ll concede that, but a closer look at his full body of work informs us that he is an outstanding referee.

While the Haney-Garcia bout was in progress, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman threw everyone a curve ball, tweeting on “X” that Devin Haney would keep his title if he lost the fight. Everyone, including the TV commentators, was under the impression that the title would become vacant in the event that Haney lost.

Sulaiman cited the precedent of Corrales-Castillo II.

FYI: The Corrales-Castillo rematch, originally scheduled for June 3, 2005 and aborted on the day prior when Castillo failed to make weight, finally came off on Oct. 8 of that year, notwithstanding the fact that Castillo failed to make weight once again, scaling three-and-a-half pounds above the lightweight limit. He knocked out Corrales in the fourth round with a left hook that Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole, alluding to the movie “Blazing Saddles,” described as Mongo-esque (translation: the punch would have knocked out a horse). After initially insisting on a rubber match, which had scant chance of happening, WBC president Jose Sulaiman, Mauricio’s late father, ruled that Corrales could keep his title.

Whether or not you agree with Mauricio Sulaiman’s rationale, the timing of his announcement was certainly awkward.

Haney’s mandatory is Spanish southpaw Sandor Martin (42-3, 15 KOs), a cutie best known for his 2021 upset of Mikey Garcia. A bout between Haney and Martin has the earmarks of a dull fight.

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In a Shocker, Ryan Garcia Confounds the Experts and Upsets Devin Haney

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Its good to be crazy. Like a fox.

Ryan “KingRy” Garcia knocked down WBC super lightweight titlist Devin Haney three times to remind everyone of his fighting abilities in winning by majority decision on Saturday.

“I just knew what I could do,” Garcia said.

Fans will not forget the lanky kid from Victorville, California now.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) fooled everyone in playing crazy weeks before the fight, then showed shocking power to hand Haney (30-1, 15 KOs) his first loss as a professional at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Haney’s WBC super lightweight title was not at stake for Garcia because he weighed three pounds over the limit.

After Garcia seemingly acting out of control on social media, Haney’s guard must have slipped in the first round during the first few seconds as Garcia connected with that hellish left hook and Haney, with a look of shock in his eyes, almost went down. He barely survived the first round.

“He caught me with it,” said Haney.

During the next few rounds, Haney proceeded to advance toward Garcia seemingly fully aware of the lethal left hook. He used feints and rights to score with a busier approach as Garcia seemed cocked and ready to counter with a left hook.

In the fourth round it seemed Haney was confident he had regained control of the fight, but every time he opened up with more than a two-punch combination Garcia reminded him whose hands were faster and more dangerous.

Though Garcia seldom jabbed he seemed bent on looking for the right moment to unleash his deadly left hook. And every time the Southern California fighter opened up with a combination he scored and Haney dare not exchange.

A few times Haney smiled as if signifying he escaped.

In the seventh round Haney looked to punish Garcia’s body and instead was met with a three-punch combination included a left hook to the chin and down went Haney slumped on the ground. He managed to beat the count and as soon as Garcia came within reach Haney wrapped his arms around him with a python grip. Despite the warnings by referee Harvey Dock, the fallen fighter would not release and Garcia impatiently fired a weak punch during the break. The referee deducted a point from Garcia though he could have deducted a point from Haney for not obeying his instructions to release his hold. Haney actually went down three times in the round but only one was counted by the referee.

From that point on Haney was very cautious but still looking to win by decision.

Though Garcia kept using a shoulder-roll defense that left his body exposed, he would retaliate with three and four punch combinations that usually Haney could defend against other fighters.. But Garcia’s blazing combinations were too fast to defend.

In the 10th round Haney looked to attack and was countered by Garcia’s right and a blinding left hook to the chin and another two blows that sent the former undisputed lightweight champion to the floor again.

It didn’t look good for Haney to survive.

Garcia walked into the 11th round still composed and never out-of-control He dared Haney to exchange and when within striking distance Garcia unleashed another lightning combination and down went Haney again with a defeated look.

Both fighters had fought each other as amateurs six times so there were no surprises between them. But Garcia’s power and speed were superior and that was the difference in a professional fight.

In the final round both were cautious with Garcia’s combination punching proving too dangerous for Haney to open up. Garcia celebrated early as the round ended confident of victory.

After 12 rounds Garcia was seen the victor by majority decision 112-112, 114-110, 115-109.

“You really thought I was crazy,” Garcia told the interviewer and the crowd. “You guys hated on me.”

Other Bouts

Arnold Barboza (30-0) won a curious split decision victory over United Kingdom’s Sean McComb (18-2) in a 10-round super lightweight fight. McComb’s long reach and busy southpaw style gave Barboza trouble. But he managed to win the fight though the crowd was not pleased.

Bektemir Melikuziev (14-1, 10 KOs) defeated France’s Pierre Dibombe (22-1-1) by technical decision after eight rounds due to a cut on his eye from an accidental head butt. It was a very competitive super middleweight fight.

Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (16-1, 11 KOs) outworked John “Scrappy Ramirez (13-1, 9 KOs) in a 12-round scrap to upset the Los Angeles based fighter. After a few close rounds Jimenez simply bullied his way inside and forced Ramirez against the ropes and unloaded his guns.

After 12 rounds two judges saw it 117-111 and 116-114 all for Jimenez.

“I’m a hard-working man from Cartago I come from nothing,” said Jimenez. “My corner told me I had to work inside.”

Charles Conwell (19-0, 14 KOs) stepped on the gas early with vicious body shots and uppercuts and blasted through the resilient Nathaniel Gallimore (22-8-1, 17 KOs) for several rounds. After a brutal fifth and sixth round the referee halted the one-side beating in favor of Conwell who was fighting for the first time under the Golden Boy banner.

Another winner was Sergiy Derevyanchenko (15-5) by decision over Vaughn Alexander (18-11-1) in a super middleweight match.

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

One young man flew halfway around the world to take on a world champion in his own living room; not once, but twice. The other young man quit prior to one fight, and then again during another one.

The first guy mentioned is an obedient son of an ultra-streetwise father.  The type of parent where, if he doesn’t know the answer (and more times than not he most likely does), he will know where to find it. The second guy doesn’t appear to have that quality guidance scenario going on for him, which is probably for the best, because he believes he has all the answers.

The first guy is on record as saying he wants to go down in boxing history as an all-time great.  The other guy?  He decided not to continue in a fight while he was still sporting an undefeated record.  You may think to yourself if there was ever a time to soldier through, right?

Then yesterday, that same guy missed making weight by 3.2 pounds, and seemed to be more than fine with it, to the point where he actually appeared to be quite pleased with himself.

If you haven’t heard, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia are going to share a boxing ring in a twelve round go for God knows what will be at stake by the time they actually punch off.  The fact that no one from Garcia’s team has stepped in and rescued him from these unfolding events, his own personal well-being, and/or not to mention Devin Haney is, well, troubling in and of itself.

Back in the amateur days, the record shows they split six fights.  They were boys back then, so it means zero.  If anything, you’d want to be the older of the two, and Ryan had over a three-month age advantage.  If you’ve only been on the planet for a total of 120 months or so, every extra month could be a big enough difference in strength and development. Now as world class professionals in their prime?  That’s different.  Younger is always better.  Devin is that guy.

Haney and Garcia fought six times for free but will fight only once as professionals.  Then one of them will continue with their march for historic greatness, while the other will head back to Kamp Krazy, where he’s the current Mayor.

It’s never smart to lay 8-1, 9-1 in boxing.  And if you see taking Garcia as a value bet with +500 to +600 and beyond, you don’t understand value and you evidently don’t like money.

There is, however, a wagering opportunity here.

Total Rounds:  Fight doesn’t go 10.5 rounds.

Take anything over +125.  It’s worth a unit on a scale of 5.  Logically, there are a lot of ways to cash this ticket: legitimate victory, meltdown, catching lightning in a bottle, etc.  Or simply the exiting stage left of a guy who may be already plotting his next career move.

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