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Avila Perspective, Chap. 120: Boxing’s Best Pound for Pound

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 120: Boxing’s Best Pound for Pound

When Saul “Canelo” Alvarez first stepped into a prize ring in the USA in 2008 it never occurred to me or others that the redheaded Mexican would be a world champion in any division, let alone four.

It’s been quite a journey.

Canelo is the same height as Terence Crawford and shorter than Errol Spence Jr. He’s once inch taller than Vasyl Lomachenko. Yet, he’s willingly fighting much bigger adversaries than anyone else and winning.

Can you imagine Crawford or Spence fighting Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin or Daniel Jacobs?

That’s a primary reason Alvarez heads my list of Pound-for-Pound best in 2021. Without a doubt he deserves to be at the top of the list by accepting more risks than any other fighter. Of course, someone like Crawford just needs a willing partner to prove his mettle.

Top 12 Pound for Pound 

1. Saul Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs) Mexico 30 years old – After decisively beating Callum Smith for another super middleweight world title will he finally receive applause? He has won world titles in the super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. The guy is only 5-8 in height. He is shorter than Errol Spence Jr. and the same height as Terence Crawford. Could either of those fighters beat a super middleweight or a light heavyweight? I rest my case.

2.  Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) USA 33 years old – This switch-hitting Nebraskan needs a marquee fight in the worst way. Will one of the many welterweight stars step up? Talks were underway for a match against Manny Pacquiao, but I just don’t see PacMan accepting a fight that dangerous for a final fight. Crawford is too dangerous for a goodbye fight and apparently too good for other welterweights. He’s got a killer instinct.

3. Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) United Kingdom 32 years old – A year ago this giant heavyweight was clubbed to the floor by one of the biggest blows I ever witnessed and got up. It was immediately apparent to me he could win a rematch with Deontay Wilder if they fought again and he did. He has all the tools including an impressive chin. A match against fellow Brit Anthony Joshua would sell in America or Great Britain.

4. Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21 KOs) USA 30 years old – Surviving a near fatal car accident and returning to the ring was a near miracle for the welterweight champion. Now the only question remaining is will he fight Terence Crawford. Words have been exchanged but no contracts have been signed. Will they finally meet in 2021? Spence should demand the fight before it’s too late. Be like Mikey Garcia and take a chance.

5. Gennady Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs) Kazakhstan 38 years old – “Triple G” only has one loss and a draw yet most of the boxing world seems to think he’s over and done. Fans can be fickle but other fighters know the real deal. Golovkin remains one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet. Now that he has a media platform in DAZN will he meet other avoided fighters like Demetrious Andrade? Or maybe even move up in weight and fight some of his fellow Europeans? He’s not done yet.

6. Teofimo Lopez (16-0,12 KOs) USA 23 years old – The fast-twitch action by Lopez along with his boxing smarts allowed the Brooklyn fighter to defeat the near legendary Vasyl Lomachenko. Lopez looked very big for a lightweight and will probably be moving up a weight division soon. Too bad. The lightweights are booming right now and a match against the young guns Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney or Ryan Garcia could bring mega bucks. We shall see.

7. Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17 KOs) Japan 27 years old – The talented bantamweight engaged in one of the best fights of 2019 but was also taught a few lessons by Nonito Donaire. It will serve him well as he continues his journey toward super stardom in America. It’s rare when a smaller weight fighter can attain stardom, but “Monster” Inoue has that special blend of skill and personality needed. Let’s see how far he can go.

8. Vasyl Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) Ukraine 32 years old – as an amateur he was a superstar, but that may have detracted him from truly adapting to the pro game. He is still young enough to become a more aggressive fighter. He has an abundance of talent and needs to concentrate on going for broke. Strategy only takes you so far. After all, it is called fighting. He has the ability to become a good fighter, not just a good boxer. Some people will not understand this.

9. Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) United Kingdom 31 years old – though he avenged his knockout loss to Andy Ruiz, his method in winning was comical. This huge heavyweight with gargantuan muscles ran around the ring jabbing and avoiding exchanges with the smaller chubby guy. It was ridiculous. However, his last win by knockout over Kubrat Pulev took some of the shame away. A match against Tyson Fury is the answer to redemption for Joshua.

10. Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs) USA 33 years old – Few have the talent and ring smarts as this California fighter who began as a featherweight. Yes, he lost to Errol Spence Jr. back in 2019 but it seemed worth the risk. One thing it did teach was that welterweights are just a little too big for him. Who knows? Can he be another Roberto Duran and move up several divisions to seek big money fights or should he drop to super lightweight and compete there? Garcia still has that high fight IQ.

11. Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) Philippines 42 years old – The Filipino superstar last fought in July of 2019. We’re in 2021 and PacMan has to get going if he wants to continue in the merciless world of prizefighting. Though he no longer has the power to knock out any of the elite fighters, he seemed to retain most of his speed and that incredible ring knowledge accrued over 26 years as a professional. Does he have one more megafight remaining?

12. Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) Ukraine 33 years old – As a cruiserweight he was dominating. As a heavyweight he is a skinny southpaw with not enough pop to beat the big boys who roam the division like massive dinosaurs. Usyk may need to drop down in weight or simply go for the big fight and take a beating for the money. He is too small to compete as a heavyweight. But as a cruiserweight he could dominate for a few years and make a little money.

Honorable mention: Jermall Charlo, Demetrious Andrade, Roman Gonzalez, Miguel Berchelt, Jermell Charlo, Juan Francisco Estrada, Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz

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Emanuel Navarrete Retains WBO Featherweight Title in a San Diego Firefight

David A. Avila

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welterweights

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

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

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

Other Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank for Getty Images

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Book Review

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

Thomas Hauser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That brings us to Peltz the writer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An important part.

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

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

David A. Avila

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World championship prizefighting returns to San Diego.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doors open at 5 p.m.

Mikey Garcia Returns

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

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

Heavyweight Examination

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

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

Wilder and Fury put on another classic.

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

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

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

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

Boxing is the ultimate sport.

Fights to Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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