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HITS and MISSES: Halloween Weekend Edition

Kelsey McCarson

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HITS and MISSES: Halloween Weekend Edition

It was an absurdly busy weekend in boxing, so let’s get right to all the action.

Here are boxing’s biggest HITS and MISSES after Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz, Naoya Inoue vs. Jason Maloney, Oleksandr Usyk vs. Derek Chisora, Jaime Munguia vs. Tureano Johnson and so much more.

HIT: Gervonta Davis Breaks the Internet

Davis broke Leo Santa Cruz, then the Internet on Saturday night by delivering a savage uppercut to his opponent’s jaw in the sixth round of the main event of a Showtime pay-per-view card in San Antonio, Texas.

Davis, 24, received high praise for the spectacular one-punch KO from all over the world, including the likes of NBA superstar LeBron James, UFC megastar Conor McGregor and many other celebrities.

In a nutshell, his epic performance shows two very important things about “Tank”.

First, Davis is an excellent enough fighter to make good on his incredible promise. Davis was favored to beat Santa Cruz, but the 32-year-old had owned world titles in three divisions and appeared to be in prime form at the Alamodome.

Second, Davis is already drawing tons of attention, and it’s the right kind of attention, the kind that shows what an amazing fighter he is and how he really might be the next Floyd Mayweather.

MISS: Deontay Wilder’s ‘Heinous Accusations’ 

Ex-champ Deontay Wilder finally broke his silence about Tyson Fury choosing to move on to bigger and better things in his career other than the third fight against him that almost nobody wants or needs to see.

Wilder started by posting a bizarre rant via social media on Saturday in which he accused Fury of loading his gloves in both of their previous fights. Things only got worse from there, though, as Wilder went on to accuse his own ex-trainer Mark Breland of poisoning him during the second fight as well as tossing out several other wild accusations.

As noted by Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, Wilder’s “heinous accusations” are backed by no evidence but are evidence themselves that Wilder probably shouldn’t be boxing again anytime soon. Wilder is clearly in need of some kind of mental or emotional help. That, or he just needs to stop surrounding himself with the types of people who lead him down these dangerous and ridiculous ways of thinking.

HIT: Naoya Inoue and Jaime Munguia

Lebron and Conor might have loved watching Davis do his thing, but hardcore boxing fans had two other young boxing stars to get excited about, too.

It started on Friday night when ex-154-pound titleholder and new middleweight contender Jaime Munguia stopped a very game Tureano Johnson in the sixth round of a DAZN card at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.

Munguia, 24, from Mexico, is still a work in progress. Heck, Munguia even still appears to be growing into his frame. But the rising Mexican star wins fights, and he does so in a fan-friendly style that should only help build him a larger and larger fan base for years to come.

Meanwhile, Naoya Inoue, from Japan, finally made his main event debut for his new promoter Bob Arum in the United States. “The Little Monster” walloped Jason Moloney in the seventh round on Saturday night in a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After the fight, The Athletic’s Lance Pugmire hailed the undefeated World Boxing Super Series winner and unified bantamweight champion Inoue as “best fighter I’ve seen in years in person…he has the ability to be as popular as Manny Pacquiao.”

That’s incredibly high praise, and something that can’t be argued against at this point in his career. Inoue is already a pound-for-pound elite superstar. He’s still just 27, and he constantly seems to be getting better.

MISS: Too Much Boxing?

Is too much boxing going on at the same time a bad thing? Maybe in the past, I would have said that the idea was silly, but after experiencing Saturday in the McCarson household, I’m starting to think maybe there is such a thing as too much.

Boxing is one of the best sports in the world, but as the television networks and streaming platforms continue to proliferate faster than the alphabet gang can come up with names of titles, there might be a point where boxing is just punching itself in the face.

Covering combat sports is my full-time job, yet there seemed to be no way for even someone like me, who wanted to watch all the fights, had all the required cable packages and subscription services, and possessed the vested financial interest to do it could actually pull it off in real-time.

Maybe that’s just the way things are going. Content creators see 168 hours in each week and aim to fill every bit of it. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I’m equally not able to understand how any regular fight fan out there was supposed to keep up with everything all at once.

HIT: Everything About Oleksandr Usyk vs. Derek Chisora

Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk continued his march toward challenging for a heavyweight title by outworking veteran contender Derek Chisora over 12 rounds in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing card at Wembley Arena in London.

Usyk, 33, from Ukraine, hopes to follow in the footsteps of Evander Holyfield, the first undisputed cruiserweight champion in history and the only one to accomplish the same thing as a heavyweight. Like Holyfield, Usyk needs time to acclimate to the much bigger fighters in boxing’s glamour division, so Chisora seemed the perfect next opponent.

The fight itself was a fun battle, thanks largely to Usyk’s beautiful boxing and Chisora’s crafty pressure. Additionally, much had been made on social media before the fight about how much the two fighters love and respect each other.

That same thing continued after the fight when the two shared burgers that Chisora brought over to Usyk’s dressing room.

So, yeah, everything about Usyk vs. Chisora was awesome. Boxing could use as many heartwarming stories and brilliant sportsmen as possible.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

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

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

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

Fury carried the press conference while Wilder remained largely muted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arne K. Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arne K. Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seven boxers who were fenced out are:

Darius Fulgham (heavyweight, Houston, TX)

Rahim Gonzalez (light heavyweight, Las Vegas, NV)

Joseph Hicks (middleweight, Lansing, MI)

Charlie Sheehy (lightweight, Brisbane, CA)

Bruce Carrington (featherweight, Brooklyn, NY)

Anthony Herrera (flyweight, East Los Angeles, CA)

and

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

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

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