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Marvin Hagler’s Legendary Career Was Largely Forged in Crucible of Philadelphia

Bernard Fernandez

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It would be technically incorrect to state that it all began for Marvelous Marvin Hagler during his frequent working visits to Philadelphia in the mid- to late-1970s. Hagler, arguably the best middleweight champion of all time (his name absolutely belongs in that discussion) turned pro on May 18, 1973, with a second-round knockout of Terry Ryan in a high school gym in the future superstar’s adopted hometown of Brockton, Mass. The southpaw slugger reportedly was paid just $50 for that bout, an insulting pittance for someone who had gone 55-1 as an amateur and had won the ’73 U.S. national championship.

Why didn’t Hagler, who was 66 when he unexpectedly passed away Saturday at his home in New Hampshire, delay his professional debut until after the 1976 Olympics, where he conceivably could have won a gold medal and, possibly, the immediate high visibility and generous early paydays that went to future nemesis Sugar Ray Leonard, the brightest American ring light at those Montreal Games? Hey, hanging around three years before he could cash checks for his boxing prowess was deemed too long a wait for someone who had grown up poor in the ghettos of Newark, N.J., the oldest child in a fatherless family of seven. Hagler figured it would take some time to work his way up the ladder and the kind of recognition his talent had always hinted at, but the process proved to be more laborious than he and co-managers Goody and Pat Petronelli could have imagined.

To say Hagler — who relocated in his late teens to Brockton, the hometown of legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano — was avoided in the formative stages of his pro career is an understatement. He not only was really good, but a lefty to boot, so getting the kind of fights he needed to draw more attention to himself, in addition to honing his overall skill-set, proved to be an ongoing challenge.

The Petronellis found just such a crucible for Hagler’s refinement at the Spectrum in Philly, where their guy would fight five times, going just 3-2 with points losses to Willie “The Worm” Monroe and Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts.

“We knew if Marvin was going to develop into a champion, he had to go outside New England to fight,” Goody Petronelli told me in August 1991. “We went to Seattle and he got a draw with Sugar Ray Seales (a gold medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics), but other than that he was 25-0 going into 1976 when we went down to Philadelphia to fight Bobby `Boogaloo’ Watts.

“When we got there, I remember the Spectrum promoter, Russell Peltz, telling me, `Guys from Boston can’t fight.’ But I looked Russell in the eye and I said, `This one can.’”

Goody, who was 88 when he died on Jan. 29, 2012 (he was preceded in death by Pat, who was 89 when he passed away on Sept. 10, 2011), said Philadelphia’s deep roster of tough, world-rated middleweights – Hagler swapped punches with Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and Bennie Briscoe, in addition to Monroe and Watts – was instrumental in helping their guy step up to the next level, at which he would remain for the remainder of his pro career, retiring with a 62-3-2 record following a controversial, split-decision defeat to Sugar Ray Leonard on April 6, 1987.

“All those Philadelphia fighters were tough,” Goody said. “We fought `The Iron’ down there. I called them `The Iron’ because they were as tough as iron. Whenever we fought one of ’em down there, I’d use the others as sparring partners.”

Goody Petronelli returned to the renamed First Union Spectrum on June 20, 2003, when another of his fighters, Ian Gardner, fought Dhafir Smith, from the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby. It was sort of like old times, except for the fact that Gardner, a middleweight, southpaw and with a shaved skull, only resembled Hagler before the opening bell rang, even though he did come away with an eight-round, unanimous-decision victory.

“You know what, it brought back memories, being here again,” Goody said, waxing nostalgic. “We had some wars down here with Marvin.”

Unlike certain fighters, who need someone to blame when they lose, discarding trainers, managers and promoters as if they were yesterday’s newspaper, Hagler remained fiercely loyal to the brothers Petronelli, who stood by him when it was still a bit questionable that he would fulfill the glorious destiny that eventually came to be his.

In a 1980 story that appeared in the Boston Globe, Hagler explained why he never considered leaving Goody and Pat for higher-profile or better-connected handlers.

“I didn’t trust anybody,” he said in recalling his financially desperate introduction to the pro ranks. “I had a dollar in my pocket and I kept it to myself. Goody and Pat amazed me. We’d go out to lunch and they’d say, `Keep your dollar. This is on us.’

“I’d think they were going to take it out of my paycheck and the end of the week (Hagler made ends meet in the interim by working as a swimming pool installer and roofer). But they didn’t. They said, `Marvin, when you make it big you can pay us back.’”

It is almost inconceivable given today’s accelerated path to the top for a few select fighters who get world title shots with a dozen or fewer bouts, but Marvelous Marvin – he legally added “Marvelous,” which previously had been only a nickname, in 1982 – had to wait until his 50th pro outing before he got such an opportunity against reigning WBC/WBA middleweight titlist Vito Antuofermo at the Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion. The split draw that enabled Antuofermo to retain his championship was widely derided, and left Hagler with a deep-seated suspicion of Las Vegas judges that was never more apparent than in the outrage he expressed in the aftermath of his setback to Leonard.

Hagler got another crack at the big prize on Sept. 27, 1980, when, in his 54th pro bout, he traveled to London to challenge the man who had dethroned Antuofermo, Alan Minter of England, in Wembley Stadium. There would be no pilferage by pencil this time as Hagler stopped Minter in three rounds, but the occasion was marred when unruly Minter fans began hurling objects into the ring.

Once anointed as the king of the 160-pounders, Hagler settled in for a long and productive stay upon the throne, logging 12 successful defenses. He went through most of the division like a scythe in tall grass, scoring wins inside the distance against Fulgencio Obelmejias, Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho, Caveman Lee, Tony Sibson and Wilford Scypion. But not every fight with his belt on the line was a walk through the park; his three-round war with Thomas Hearns has been called “the greatest seven minutes in boxing history,” and he also was extended in matches with Roberto Duran, Juan Domingo Roldan, John “The Beast” Mugabi and Hamsho (rematch).

The last time around for Hagler, although no one could have known it then, was the much-anticipated showdown with Leonard, who was on the plus end of the official scorecards submitted by JoJo Guerra (an almost-incomprehensible 118-110) and Dave Moretti (115-113) while Lou Filippo had Hagler up by 115-113.

At the postfight press conference, a bitterly disappointed Hagler complained that Leonard had fought like “a sissy” and “a girl,” while depicting himself as the aggressor, constantly stalking a fleeing opponent who couldn’t and didn’t hurt him, and whose only goal was survival.

“I put pressure on him, I took his best shots,” Hagler said. “If it wasn’t for me putting pressure on him, he wouldn’t have fought. He would have laid back. The man was dead on his feet, he was tired. I had to pressure him.

“I’ve never seen, for a championship fight, a split decision where the other guy (challenger) wins the fight. That’s not right. If it’s a split decision, it should go to the champion. I think he would have to beat me more decisively – knock me down, beat me real bad, in order to take the title away. And he didn’t do that.

“I still feel as though I’m the champion. I fought my heart out to keep my belt. It’s just not right. I think I’ve done a lot for boxing. I’ve been a true champion to the sport. It just puts a bitter taste in my mouth, the way they went and did this.”

Although a rematch seemed to be in order, it never came to be and Hagler opted to retire, seemingly with a fair amount of tread on his tires at the age of 32. He never yielded to the temptation to return, if indeed he ever felt such an urge, and thus joined the likes of Marciano, Michael Spinks and Lennox Lewis as elite fighters who stepped away from the ring and never came back.

Hagler found a degree of satisfaction in the next phase of his life upon moving to Milan, Italy, and becoming an actor, before moving back to the United States. He was the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Year in 1983 and ’85, and also was named Fighter of the Decade in the 1980s by Boxing Illustrated. A 1993 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993, he drew crowds of adoring fans for public appearances where he was always gracious and accommodating.

He even was able to mend some bridges with Leonard, whom he blamed for resisting all overtures for the do-over that never happened.

“Hagler didn’t want to be around me for a while, which I understand,” Sugar Ray told me on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their fight, in 2007. “But when we see each other now, we’re cordial. I was in Vegas for Oscar (De La Hoya) and Felix (Trinidad). Marvin was there. He asked to see me. We shook hands and spoke.

“After the fight, which Oscar lost, I saw Marvin the next morning before I went to the airport. I said, `Can you believe that decision? No way Oscar lost.’ He said, `Yeah, I believe it. It happened to me.’”

And now Marvin is gone, too soon, but at least he took his leave from this mortal coil on the night that two gallant smaller fighters, Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, engaged in what no doubt will be remembered as one of the best bouts of 2021. You have to figure the Marvelous One would find that to be an appropriate way to cross over to a celestial destination where great champions such as he presumably shall forever reign.

Here on earth, Hagler’s passing figures to again spark old and familiar debates regarding his place among the middleweights’ all-time greats, an exclusive club whose members include Harry Greb, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, Bernard Hopkins and maybe a couple of others who merit consideration.

Hagler’s second wife, Kay, confirmed her husband’s death on social media. Marvin Hagler was a father of five children with his first wife, Bertha, and was also the half-brother of former middleweight contender Robbie Sims.

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Gerald Sinclair Watches Over the Mayweather Boxing Club, a Las Vegas Landmark

Arne K. Lang

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It isn’t a stretch to say that the Mayweather Boxing Club is a Las Vegas landmark. Regardless of one’s feelings toward Floyd — and he certainly has his detractors – the man transcended his sport like no other boxer of recent vintage. According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, Floyd Mayweather Jr is one of only three athletes to surpass one billion dollars in career earnings, putting him on the same lofty pedestal as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – this despite the fact that Floyd competed in what has been characterized as a dying sport while attracting comparatively little money in commercial endorsements.

The word landmark conveys the thought of an edifice that is architecturally impressive. The Mayweather Boxing Club certainly isn’t that. It sits in a one-story complex of small businesses that take up a full block in an older section of Chinatown which in Las Vegas isn’t a residential neighborhood but an ever-sprawling stretch of Spring Mountain Road that runs west of the Strip for roughly a mile, a string of Asian-owned businesses, predominantly restaurants and massage parlors. The Mayweather gym sits in the back of the complex facing away from the street.

It’s easy to miss it if one is heading there for the first time (it’s helpful to have a car equipped with a GPS locator) but yet tourists often find their way there and that is another defining feature of a landmark.

When entering the gym, it’s likely the first person that one will see is Gerald Sinclair. He co-manages the gym along with his brother John and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, the former world super featherweight champion who engaged in some of the most exciting fights of the 1980s.

sinclair

Gerald Sinclair

The Mayweather Boxing Club opened in 2007. Sinclair, 56, was there from the beginning when the facility was roughly half its current size. He grew up in Hudson, New York, a city named for the river that borders the town on the east. Before moving to Las Vegas, he worked as a fork lift driver in a warehouse.

Sinclair was induced to come to Las Vegas by his sister. She is Floyd Mayweather’s mother. Floyd is Gerald’s nephew. It’s all about family at the Mayweather Gym. Floyd’s father of the same name and his uncle Jeff are fixtures there, as was their brother, the late Roger Mayweather, the best of the three fighting Mayweather brothers.

This reporter has never been in a boxing gym that didn’t have colorful posters of old fights tacked to the wall. The Mayweather gym is no exception but all of the oversized posters, all 15 of them, are of Mayweather’s fights. (Needless to say, he won them all.) His face appears on other insignia, including a large banner above a row of folding chairs. There are two regulation-size boxing rings, 11 punching bags of various descriptions clustered in a nook and some of the standard exercise equipment, all indicative of the fact that this is a place to work up a sweat, but the Mayweather Boxing Club is also a little museum of sorts, a paean to the splurgy proprietor who once sported the nickname “Pretty Boy.”

Some boxing gyms – Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear comes quickly to mind – are off-limits to outsiders. The Mayweather Boxing Club is welcoming (which isn’t to say that a busload of fans would be welcome; it wouldn’t).

“When we opened the place,” says Gerald Sinclair, “Floyd came to us and said if fans want to come in and look around, go ahead and let them.”

While we were there the other day, an older man with a Spanish accent appeared in the doorway and sheepishly inquired if he and the people in his party could come inside and give it a quick look-see. “Be my guest,” said Sinclair, whereupon the visitor left and returned with his wife and another couple that he had left waiting in the car.

Sinclair says if the man hadn’t happened to mention that there were other people in his party, that he would have likely brought it up. “We have had guys who came by and left their wife and kids outside in the car and I told them to please invite them in. I know this place is a slice of history. We don’t exclude anyone.”

A tourist giving the gym a gander invariably takes a few selfies and then comes the million-dollar question: “Is he here?” A selfie with Floyd would be a prized souvenir.

No, he’s never there, or almost never there. On the rare occasions when he does pop in during normal business hours, he arrives unannounced, usually with a bodyguard. Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is known to hop in one of his private jets and fly halfway around the world on a whim, lives in a different universe than the denizens of the gym that bears his family name.

Although also rare, a visitor has a better shot of bumping into a celebrity. Eddie Murphy, Christine Aguilera, Maria Carey and P Daddy have walked in the door, as have many prominent athletes including Mike Tyson.

When Tyson appears, it’s old home week for Gerald Sinclair and his brother. During his amateur days and in his early days as a pro, Iron Mike resided in Catskill, living with his trainer Cus D’Amato in the large Victorian home that D’Amato shared with the sister of a sister-in-law. Catskill and Hudson are separated by only 12 miles. Sinclair remembers young Tyson turning up at some of his softball games. Mike made a big hit with the folks running the snack bar, covering the tab of kids hovering around him at the refreshment stand.

A number of boxers from overseas have worked out at the gym while visiting Las Vegas. For some novice boxers, a trip to the Mayweather Boxing Club is a rite of passage. (A stranger in town for a convention or trade show can also use the facility if it isn’t too crowded. There is a day rate for these situations, and the visitor must sign a waiver absolving the club of any liability should he get hurt.)

The Mayweather Boxing Club is now back at full steam after being closed to the general public for several months because of Covid-19. For a time, it was effectively the private gym of Gervonta “Tank” Davis and his team. Everyone who was there while Tank was preparing for his Oct. 31, 2020 date with Leo Santa Cruz, was required to get tested twice a week. There were no hiccups.

“As a boss, Floyd has been very generous to me,” says Sinclair. Thanks to Floyd, he got to see a part of the world that he never would have gotten to see. Floyd invited him along when he flew to Tokyo for his exhibition with Tenshin Nasukawa. Prior to this, Sinclair’s lone trip outside the United States was a trip to Tijuana.

Sinclair has picked up a new skill since leaving New York. He’s frequently the go-to guy when a boxer at the gym needs his hands wrapped. It’s not as simple as it looks, there’s an art to it, and Gerald learned at the feet of the master, Rafael Garcia Sr, who encouraged his interest. Garcia passed away in November of 2017 at age 88, leaving a hole in the hearts of the extended Mayweather family that burned wider when his fellow traveler Roger Mayweather joined him in the afterlife.

The United States has housed several iconic boxing gyms over the years. A short list would include Stillman’s Gym in mid-Manhattan, the Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles, the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, and the Kronk Gym in Detroit. The Mayweather Boxing Club is destined to eventually join that hallowed roster.

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

Do not confuse skill with athleticism.

Fans and many journalists often erroneously label a fighter with lightning speed, power, and a good jab as a skilled fighter when they are really, simply physically gifted athletes.

A truly skilled fighter can fight nose to nose with another and you can’t touch him, but he can clobber you. That is skill. They don’t need to run around the boxing ring at full flight mode. They can fight you straight-up.

One fighter Demetrius Andrade seems to finally be proving his skill-level after years of relying on mere athletic prowess.

Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs) defends the WBO middleweight title against Great Britain’s Liam Williams (23-2-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday April 17, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

The undefeated southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island makes his fourth defense of the title he won in 2018. He formerly held the WBO super welterweight title too.

“You’re going to see the same you always see from me – a solid game plan, dominance, landing big shots, an all-around great performance and giving people what they have been missing, the sweet science,” said Andrade whose nickname is “Boo Boo.”

Because of his past reliance on athleticism, many possible foes simply avoided confrontations with Andrade in the prize ring. Who wants to step into a boxing ring and watch another fighter touch you with a jab and zip around the boxing ring? Fans don’t want to see it either. They want to see a fight, not a dance.

In his last defense Andrade was seen exhibiting inside fighting skills when he dispatched Luke Keeler by technical knockout in the ninth round in Miami. It was a display of straight-up fighting not often seen when the Rhode Island boxer performs.

Is this the new Andrade at age 33?

Williams, who hails from Wales, is nicknamed “the Machine” but lost twice to Liam Smith in two very close bouts. Those are his only defeats.

“I’m super confident and I don’t think there’s any way that he beats me. I think I can knock him out,” said Williams.

Andrade laughs at Williams’ comments.

“They call him ‘The Machine’, but when I am done with him, he’ll be ‘The Rust Bucket,” claims Andrade.

Williams feels its time to expose Andrade.

“I don’t think he has the same intensity as me,’ said Williams. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can punch harder than him. I have a better engine than him. I’m going to bring it all on the night and I don’t think he has the answers.”

Andrade expects the same results.

“Liam is not going to stop my train,” said Andrade. “I expect him to bring the fight because this is his opportunity, but at the end of the day he’ll be able to say, ‘I lost to Demetrius Andrade’.”

Gongora

IBO super middleweight titlist Carlos Gongora (19-0, 14 KOs) makes his first defense of his fringe world title against American Christopher Pearson (17-2, 12 KOs) in a battle between southpaws in the semi-main event at Seminole Hard Rock.

Ecuador’s Gongora was a last-minute replacement and upset Kazakhstan’s heavily favored Ali Akhmedov by knockout in the last round of their title fight last December. He also became his country’s first world title-holder.

Pearson enters the boxing ring after a similar feat. He was a late replacement when he met the favored Yamaguchi Falcao two years ago at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. He out-fought the Brazilian with a gutsy performance that convinced Golden Boy Promotions to sign him.

Gongora and Pearson both have much to prove.

Sunday

Thompson Boxing Promotions returns with one of its star prospects Ruben Torres (14-0, 10 KOs) who faces Diego Contreras (11-3, 5 KOs) in a super lightweight main event at Omega Products International in Corona, California. The fight card will be streamed on www.ThompsonBoxing.com and on its Facebook and YouTube.com pages.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. ESPN+ Miguel Vazquez (42-10) vs Isai Hernandez (10-1-1).

Sat. 11 a.m. ESPN+ Danny Dignum (13-0) vs Andrey Sirotkin (19-1).

Sat. 12 p.m. DAZN Demetrius Andrade (29-0) vs Liam Williams (23-2-1).

Sat. 5 p.m. FOX Tony Harrison (28-3) vs Bryant Perrella (17-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. TrillerFightClub.com (ppv) Regis Prograis (25-1) vs Ivan Redkach (23-5-1).

Sun. 2 p.m. ThompsonBoxing.com (free) Ruben Torres (14-0) vs Diego Contreras (11-3).

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions today unveiled a loaded five-month boxing schedule of nine high-stakes world championship events beginning Saturday, May 15, live on SHOWTIME. The schedule delivers two events per month through August. Thirteen matchups have been announced thus far with no less than seven world title fights, and 12 fighters defending undefeated records. The lineup features many of boxing’s best young fighters taking on career-defining challenges in their primes. All fights on the schedule will take place before a live audience, keeping with applicable local COVID-19 safety protocols.

The sizzling summer run features the dynamic Charlo twins as undefeated electrifying champion Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight world title against Juan Macias Montiel in a special Juneteenth homecoming in Houston on Saturday, June 19, live on SHOWTIME.

The following Saturday, June 26, unbeaten Mayweather Promotions star Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up two weight classes for a chance to become a three-division world champion when he takes on fellow undefeated champion Mario Barrios for his super lightweight world title in what will be Davis’ second pay-per-view showdown.

The next month, WBC, WBA and IBF 154-pound charismatic world champion Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he takes on WBO junior middleweight world champion Brian Castaño in a mega-fight to crown the first four-belt 154-pound world champion.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule features eight editions of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and one premier SHOWTIME PPV event, all presented by Premier Boxing Champions:

  • MAY 15 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Luis Nery vs. Brandon Figueroa, WBC Super Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Danny Roman vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco, Super Bantamweight Fight
    • Xavier Martinez vs. Abraham Montoya, WBA Super Featherweight Fight
    • MAY 29 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
      • Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire, WBC Bantamweight World Title Fight
      • Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev, IBF Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
  • JUNE 19 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel, WBC Middleweight World Title Fight
  • JUNE 26 – SHOWTIME PPV
    • Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios, WBA Super Lightweight World Title Fight
    • Erickson Lubin vs. Jeison Rosario, WBC Junior Middleweight Title Eliminator
    • JULY 3 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Chris Colbert vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title Fight
  • JULY 17 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castaño, Undisputed IBF, WBA, WBC & WBO Junior Middleweight World Title Unification Fight
  • AUGUST 14 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

                  Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. John Riel Casimero, WBO Bantamweight World Title Fight

         AUGUST 28 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

    • David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui, WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • SEPTEMBER 11 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
  • Stephen Fulton, Jr. vs. winner of Nery-Figueroa, Super Bantamweight World Title Unification Fight

“High-impact, meaningful fights amongst many of the biggest names and brightest stars in combat sports. That is what SHOWTIME promises and that is what we are delivering,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, SHOWTIME Sports. “With an opportunity to crown an undisputed world champion at 154 pounds, a highly anticipated super bantamweight title unification, a stacked pay-per-view showdown and more than a dozen fights between 118-168 pounds, SHOWTIME is presenting boxing’s best young fighters, all daring to be great by putting their world titles and undefeated records on the line.

Editor’s Note: This press release has been edited for brevity.

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