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Brother Naazim’s Remarkable Life is Now a Wrap

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Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once noted that “you can see a lot of stuff by looking,” and part of the legend of Naazim Richardson, who passed away today at 56 after years of declining health, is his attention to even the most seemingly mundane of details, like the wrapping of a fighter’s hands.

Although Richardson’s place in his hometown of Philadelphia’s boxing annals was already secure, or mostly so, his national and global profile rose considerably the night of January 24, 2009, when he served, for the first time, as the chief second for “Sugar” Shane Mosley, who was 37 years of age and a 4-1 underdog heading into his challenge of WBA welterweight champion Antonio Margarito in Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Margarito was being hailed as one of the sport’s most devastating punchers after he had beaten the great Miguel Cotto bloody in winning by 11th-round stoppage six months earlier.

But in Margarito’s dressing room before the fight to observe the wrapping of his hands, a chore for which many untrained or disinterested state inspectors often give short shrift, Richardson spotted something that very well may have been a determining factor in the outcome, a rousing 11th-round TKO by Mosley. Officials for the California State Athletic Commission, alerted to the fact Margarito’s hand wraps were illegal (and may well have been for the Cotto fight and others, which might be why Margarito was suspended for one year by the CSAC), agreed that Richardson’s objection was valid. All of a sudden, Margarito’s’s vaunted power seemed less so with rewrapped hands, and after the seventh round, as Mosley continued to pound away at the Mexican, HBO blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley excitedly advised viewers that every big-name fighter considering a change in his corner would soon have Richardson’s phone number on speed-dial.

As was his wont, “Brother” Naazim, a devout Muslim disinclined to seek out the spotlight, refused to take much credit for his fighter’s bravura performance. Nor was everyone inclined to give him his due then; noted trainer Teddy Atlas even downplayed the hand-wraps issue, calling Richardson the “flavor of the month” in a business that is “fickle that way.”

The same scene played out earlier, on September 29, 2001, with Richardson serving as the assistant trainer under Bouie Fisher for Bernard Hopkins’ middleweight unification showdown with the favored Felix Trinidad in Madison Square Garden. Again in the opponent’s dressing room to observe the hand-wrapping, he pointed out a violation to inspectors for the New York State Athletic Commission who almost needed to be prodded into adhering to commission rules prohibiting “layering.” Hopkins then went out and dominated from the opening bell, scoring a dramatic 12th-round TKO, arguably the most impressive performance of his long career.

“If you put on tape, then gauze, then tape, then gauze, it’s like a (plaster) cast. Naazim did a brilliant job in spotting what (Felix Trinidad Sr.) was doing with the wraps,” Hopkins said in describing layering, which is in violation of rules that stipulate tape cannot be applied directly over the knuckles, and that the required 10 yards of gauze and two yards of tape must be applied in one winding.

Once again, the modest Richardson – who returned to his training duties after recovering from the stroke he suffered in 2008 — was disinclined to try to horn in on Hopkins’ moment of glory. “Bernard just didn’t get hit a lot,” he said. “If Trinidad had bricks in (his gloves), he still wouldn’t have beaten Bernard that night.”

A 2014 inductee into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, Richardson would move up from Hopkins’ assistant trainer to the top spot after B-Hop and Fisher had a falling out in 2006, being the primary voice in the corner for several more of the cagey veteran’s signature victories. In addition to his work with Hopkins and Mosley, a Californian, he also received kudos for the improvements made on his watch by another Philly guy, cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham.

“He worked with some good fighters, and it was obvious they were all fundamentally sound,” Atlas, who came to regard Richardson as something more substantial than a flavor of the month, said upon hearing of his fellow trainer’s passing. “That’s the mark of a good trainer. He gave his fighters a base upon which to raise their skill level.”

John DiSanto, founder of Phillyboxinghistory.com, is a historian of Philadelphia boxing and he said that Richardson has earned his place alongside a great fight town’s most legendary trainers.

“Naazim will always be remembered as one of the best trainers to come out of Philly,” DiSanto said. “Just an amazing guy. There was nobody who liked to talk boxing more than him. If the conversation was about boxing, he’d just wear you out. He’d talk you under the table.

“The guy’s a legitimate star, and he’ll be greatly missed.”

But while Richardson is mostly known now for his association with world champions such as Hopkins, Mosley and Cunningham, he first began to draw attention as the father of a couple of eight-year-old phenoms, identical twins Rock and Tiger Allen, as well as Mike and Karl Dargan, whom he coached at the Concrete Jungle Gym in North Philadelphia.

As precocious grade-schoolers, the Allen twins drew attention for being able to crank out literally thousands of pushups and in tandem winning dozens of national tournaments. They were to have become as renowned and accomplished as was Hopkins, but a dark cloud arose at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in Tampa when both twins were disqualified. Tiger was the only one of the 96 entrants to fail to make weight, coming in a whopping 4½ pounds over the 125-pound limit. Rock won his opening match in the 132-pound weight class, but the reigning U.S. national champion was disqualified when officials of USA Boxing determined that Tiger had attempted to weigh in in his stead, and signed paperwork indicating he was Rock.

Rock swallowed his disappointment and returned for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, earning a spot on the American squad that competed in Athens, Greece, where he lost his first-round bout.

Upon turning pro, Rock, more dedicated to achieving his pro goals, was 15-0 with seven KOs as a rising welterweight prospect when he and Tiger, both 29, were both seriously injured in a one-vehicle crash on June 7, 2011. It weighed heavily on him that two young fighters he had defeated at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander, went on to become world champions as pros.

“He’s seeing guys that he beat go on with their careers,” the father said in May 2013. “You don’t think it bothers him that he won’t – can’t – be where they are? It does, man. It hurts.”

Naazim Richardson’s passing closes the book on a chapter of Philadelphia boxing that, at varying turns, is both celebrated and controversial. But one thing is undeniable: when it came to anything related to the sport to which he devoted so much of his life, as DiSanto noted, Naazim Richardson definitely knew his stuff.

– – –

A New Orleans native, Bernard Fernandez retired in 2012 after a 43-year career as a newspaper sports writer, the last 28 years with the Philadelphia Daily News. A former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Fernandez won the BWAA’s Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 1998 and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service in 2005. Last year, Fernandez was accorded the highest honor for a boxing writer when he was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the class of 2020.

This past April 30, Fernandez’s memoir, “Championship Rounds,” was released by RKMA Publishing. For more information about “Championship Rounds” including where to purchase the book CLICK HERE.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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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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