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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 3: George “Elbows” McFadden

Matt McGrain

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This was the seventh meeting of the rival lightweights.  In all previous ones McFadden held his own, making a brave stand against the colored wonder. Since then, Joe Gans has been on the upgrade. – San Francisco Call, June 28, 1902.

Joe Gans celebrated winning the lightweight championship of the world by fighting. It was how he made money. As a rule, the bigger the fighter got and the whiter the fighter got, the more he might find himself making easy money in theatre and foregoing the ring. The likes of John Sullivan spent literally years milking the title in theatre productions that caused for little more in physical exertions than a pulled punch thrown at an over-awed actor. For an African-American champion in a lighter weight class, such opportunities were less common.

To see Joe Gans in the ring, though, the public would always pay.

Gans took four fights in two days back in Baltimore, all slated for four rounds, all victories inside the distance. One might sneer at the soft opposition but in fairness, they all managed to do more minutes than Frank Erne.

Real work was to begin though, and it came in a familiar form.

George “Elbows” McFadden, “a champion in any other era” according to Nat Fleischer, was a white lightweight who charged himself with a near impossible task in 1899: he set out to outfight not just Joe Gans, but Frank Erne and Kid Lavigne, too. He went 9-2-2 that year, and 2-2-1 against the trinity of Erne, Lavigne and Gans. He met Gans three times.

No lightweight has ever engaged a higher level of competition in a single year and although the likes of Harry Greb and Henry Armstrong probably had harder years overall, even in that company, McFadden’s 1899 is welcome.

Most extraordinary was his relative inexperience, remarked upon in the days before his first match with Gans. Boxrec sees him at 20-3-12; by contrast Gans had already amassed a record of at least 68-4-8. Most of all, McFadden was stepping up not by a single class, but by three, by five, out of the pack and into a ring that would birth a legitimate title contender.

“McFadden gave the most remarkable display of blocking ever seen in a local ring,” reported the Saint Paul Globe the morning following the fight. “Gans tried in every way to get in on the New-Yorker but was invariably stopped. If McFadden blocked with his left he sent his right to the body and sent the left to the face.”

McFadden, a defensive specialist, earned his nickname not for throwing his elbows, as might be expected, but rather as one who used them to pick off punches, a mobile guard that he used to protect his body, like a pioneering Winky Wright, but also his head, perhaps in an early incarnation of the cross-arm guard. “My elbows ensured their fists stayed away from my chin” was how McFadden himself put it. As an in-fighter and a counterpuncher, a fluid cross-arm guard deployed out of a crouch at close quarters makes sense, as ably demonstrated by Archie Moore some decades later. Whatever the specifics, McFadden relied heavily upon his defence in beating Joe Gans in their first meeting, on April 4th 1899.

McFadden was a slow starter. He never troubled Gans, really, in their six-round contests. Every time they contended over a longer distance though, McFadden made Gans miserable and never more so than in the first of their three New York contests. Once he achieved for himself a lead in the contest, he rarely let it slip. McFadden’s strategy was essentially to keep Gans physically close to him, buying his way in with his elite blocking and parrying, then being economical with his leads, minimising opportunities for Gans to punish him. It is an intimidating strategy and it worked for McFadden, forcing Gans to move continually. By the close of the 18th round of their first fight, Gans appeared tired to ringsiders. In the twenty-third, McFadden opened with two rights to the body and a left to face which visibly distressed Gans; McFadden then leapt upon him and delivered a right to the jaw followed by a hooked left to the chin and Gans was out.

McFadden, in his first fight at boxing’s highest level, had done what no man had done before and arguably what no man would ever legitimately do again until the very twilight of Joe’s career: he had knocked Joe Gans out.

Retrospectively, the enormity of this achievement cannot be overstated. Arguably, this is the best result under Marquis of Queensberry rules from the nineteenth century.

McFadden dropped a razor-thin decision to Frank Erne a month later and then met Gans in a rematch; this fight was close and not decisive. Gans worked left-handed, jabbing and hooking, McFadden pressured him and threw bodypunches. As the rounds progressed, Gans began the painful process of uncovering McFadden’s great weakness – an excessive reliance upon specific punches on offence. When he jabbed, it tended to be to the body; left-handed headshots seemed his shot of choice in clinches. Right-handed bodyshots, too, were expressly favoured, at least against Gans. The list of punches that required neutralisation was short. Having perhaps been unlucky not to be awarded a draw against Erne, in his second fight with Gans McFadden seems lucky to have received one, although he did pull out all the stops in an astonishing last round, fighting a stunned Gans “to a standstill” after being dropped himself in the twenty-fourth.

Gans finished the job he started in that second fight almost exactly three months later in the pair’s third meeting of the year, finally out-pointing McFadden over the twenty-five-round distance, but only after a difficult, bruising tussle. McFadden fought one of his most aggressive fights but despite great success to the body he was firmly outboxed by Gans who repeatedly tagged McFadden flush. “Elbows” confirmed his defensive prowess and punch resistance in seeing out the distance, but Gans had finally solved the McFadden problem. McFadden would manage another draw with Gans, over ten rounds in 1900, but he would never again defeat him.

McFadden’s 1899 performance, though, was astonishing. As well as defeating Gans and dropping the narrowest of decisions to Erne, he beat former champion Kid Lavigne, by knockout. Since, he had lost two six-round fights to Gans and one to Gus Gardner. He almost immediately rematched Gardner over a longer distance and won by disqualification. That his 1902 title shot against Gans was to be his only fight for a title is a testimony to the strength of the era. His continued absence from the Hall of Fame is an absurdity.

Although it would seem to make sense that the contender who most troubled Gans pre-title should be his first defence, the fight came about almost accidentally.

McFadden had a fight scheduled for San Francisco, but prospective opponent Jimmy Britt injured his hand; McFadden’s manager, Billy Roche, received a telegram inviting his charge instead to fight the newly crowned Joe Gans.

Although there are some stories that he was unhappy with the notion of yet another fight with Gans, McFadden accepted. He would fight anyone, and in the days of the colour-line appeared never once to have thought about it. Whatever the race or size of the prospective opponent, McFadden’s reply only ever concerned remuneration, although it should be admitted that McFadden may have preferred Britt. For his own part, Gans had “established a precedent for American pugilists to ponder” in meeting McFadden, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “one of the hardest propositions of his weight now in the game. Gans is not an actor, nor does not care to shine in any place but the ring.”

Both men were primarily motivated by money, but their willingness should not be overlooked.  Gans-McGovern VII was on.

McFadden arrived in San Francisco on the 9th of June 1902; Gans was just a few days behind him.  Gans was remarkably confident for a man who had previously been knocked out by his opponent, although as was almost always the case pre-fight, much of his talking was done by manager Al Herford.

If talk was cheap then the public were buying; Gans was made a significant favourite in the betting, which would nevertheless remain light. Herford was disgusted at the odds. “I think Gans will win sure,” he told pressmen, “but I have been at the ringside every one of the six times they have come together before and I know it is not a 2 to 1 bet that my man will win.”

As far as I can tell, the two-thousand dollars he wished to wager remained in his pocket.

“The fight will take place at Woodward’s Pavilion,” reported the San Francisco Examiner. “Both men are reported to be in splendid shape and should the contest be honestly fought those who attend will doubtless be treated to a boxing exhibition of the highest order.”

As we saw in Part Two, however, Chicago cast a long shadow.

“Unfortunately,” continued the Examiner, “…the remembrance of shady transactions in the career of Joe Gans have incurred a feeling of doubt in the minds of ring patrons that is difficult to remove. Of his several notorious fakes, the one with Terry McGovern in Chicago, on December 13, 1900, stands out from all the rest, and is still fresh in the memory of those familiar with his record.”

McFadden declared himself in the finest of condition; the Examiner agreed “his general appearance denotes the truth of his words.”

His general appearance, perhaps, was deceptive; then again, perhaps Gans really had improved beyond measure between 1899, when these two were marked as equals, and 1902 when Gans made himself forever McFadden’s superior. The fight was neither close nor difficult, but it nevertheless divided onlookers: was it real, or had Gans once again been involved in a fixed fight?

The wire report was both succinct and in essence tells the reader all they needed to know about the action as it occurred:

“The fight was an unsatisfactory one.  In the first two rounds McFadden was slow and did nothing but block. In the third, Gans landed a stiff left on the jaw, following it with a right in the same place, putting McFadden out.”

The devil though, as always, is in the detail. First and foremost, it must be noted that McFadden often started slowly and with an emphasis on defence and this was not uncommon when he met Gans. McFadden appeared to feel his way into fights in order to achieve his best results, which is why he had given Gans such terrible trouble over the longer distance. McFadden waiting and blocking was not unusual but drew ire in the light of the early stoppage.

 The Chronicle saw a legitimate fight, but a deeply unsatisfying one.

“Gans was declared the winner of the whatever the bout may be called,” ran the story on page four the day after the match, “certainly not a fight, for it takes two men to fight; perhaps assault would fit the case better.”

The Call, too, called it above board but below par:

“There is not the slightest possibility of the fight being a “fake” in the sense of being prearranged. It was simply an unfortunate match, which looked well on paper, only to prove a fizzle when the men faced one another in the ring.”

But the Examiner saw a different fight.

Under the headline “Sporting Public Swindled by Another Fake Fight” it printed that “The farce was kept up for three rounds…[t]here was not at any stage of the game enough pretence of fighting to delude the spectators. Before the first round was half over they began crying, “Fake! Fake!” These cries increased as the exhibition progressed, McFadden never letting go a blow that was intended to hurt and Gans declining to punch his opponent’s waiting jaw when it was held up to him.”

In the following days, the Examiner worked hard to source proof of a fake but to no end.  They pushed referee Phil Wand right to the edge of agreement; he claimed calling the fight a farce would be “charitable” but saw no evidence of collusion. The Examiner is a minority report and although it cannot be dismissed, it should be noted that Gans had his enemies in San Francisco, not necessarily without reason but perhaps neither without bias.

Herford, concerned with the accusations against his charge, astonished the Examiner into begrudging retreat when he appeared at the newspaper’s offices with a thousand dollars in cash, the equivalent of thirty thousand today, offering it as a forfeit should anyone produce evidence of a fake. “It is not likely that anyone will accept Herford’s offer” concluded the Examiner.

Nevertheless, the stink was such that Hayes Valley Athletic Club announced that it would be withholding the fighter’s purses “until it was clearly shown that the fight was not a fake.”

Little more than a week later, George Siler, writing in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, reported an end to the matter:

“After a thorough investigation, in which every known angle was gone over carefully, the managers of the Hayes Valley athletic club, under whose auspices Joe Gans and George McFadden recently battled, concluded the above-named fight was strictly on the level. The cry of “fake” which went floating over the country immediately after the fight was caused by two reasons: One because McFadden was supposed to give Gans a terrific battle, and the other because the colored champion had been engaged in shady ring transactions.”

This, it seems to me, is exactly what happened. McFadden always gave Gans a fight and his shocking capitulation in combination with the controversy connected to the McGovern fight led to a response in fight fans that will not be unfamiliar to modern followers of the game. The simple truth was that the champion had improved since 1899, had gone from a fighter losing in a disorganised headclash in twelve to Frank Erne, to one who had destroyed the reigning champion in just seconds.  McFadden was being crushed as a part of the same ghost-wave that had drowned Erne.

“Gans,” stated the Call, “with his marvellous ability as a boxer, was all over McFadden from the first moment.”

“It seemed the fight would not last one round when Gans sent a right and left to the head, followed by another right that seemed capable of felling an ox,” the report continued. “He kept this rapid fire up for nearly a minute and it was a miracle McFadden did not succumb to it. At times it seemed Gans did not take advantage of all his chances.”

The Call was on hand, and we, unfortunately, were not, to see what reads like a seminal performance from one of the ten greatest fighters ever to draw breath. Therefore, we must take seriously the diagnosis of a failure in Gans to take advantage of all his opportunities. Nevertheless, it must be remembered what McFadden was, however one-sided the fight: a defensive specialist with years of experience, including nearly one-hundred rounds against Gans himself.

The Chronicle was near despairing in describing round two:

“Gans hit his man at will and without return. Twice the white man hit the floor. Neither time did he take the count. In fact, he seemed as though in a trance, and, when he arose, made no effort to protect himself.”

To a modern eye it wills seem clear that McFadden had been concussed by the vicious attack in the first. Even after the fight, McFadden remained alarmingly non-responsive.

“McFadden could hardly speak,” ran one report of his condition in his dressing room. “He had to be shaken roughly to get a word out of him.”

It may not be an exaggeration to say that his life was in danger as prime Joe Gans, as terrifying a pound-for-pound incarnation as had been seen in the ring, stalked him throughout the third, showing little in the way of mercy.

“Gans punished McFadden terribly,” wrote the Call of the third and final round. “He knocked him clean off his feet with a right to the jaw. McFadden was no sooner up than he was knocked down again. He was up again and staggered to the center of the ring. He tried to hang on, but the elusive Gans seemed never where he expected to find him. McFadden was knocked down twice before the end of the round.”

As the final seconds of the third round approached, McFadden second George Tuthill perched himself ringside and prepared to throw the sponge. As McFadden was battered around the ring. he tossed it, signalling the end of the massacre and of McFadden’s time as a contender to the title. In his future, still, there were impressive performances against the likes of Mike Sullivan and Patsy Sweeney, but never again would he reach the heights he displayed in achieving the result of KO23 Joe Gans.

Some years later, after his forty-two-round battle with Battling Nelson in Goldfield, someone asked Joe Gans if this had been his toughest fight. “No sir,” he replied. “Bat is tough, but I met a tougher fellow than him. That fellow was George McFadden.”

As an epitaph, it is far from displeasing.

The noise surrounding the purported fix was such that what Gans had achieved was obscured. Six weeks apart, he had smashed Frank Erne, champion, out of title honours in a round and then destroyed a chief contender and his chief rival from his pre-title days in three. Neither man had lain a meaningful glove upon him. My position is that Joe Gans boxed the greatest championship reign in all of boxing built primarily of dominance and over exceptional opposition, opposition better than that of other, numerically comparable reigns.

I will prove that to you over the coming weeks.

This series was written with the support of boxing historian Sergei Yurchenko.  His work can be found here.

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

Bernard Fernandez

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Shakur Stevenson’s Star Turn Gets No Media Coverage in Atlanta

For that part of the sports world that takes notice of boxing, Shakur Stevenson announced himself as a superstar-in-the-making – well, maybe – in totally dominating and ultimately dethroning WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring Saturday night in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Shakur, the 24-year-old southpaw and 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, N.J., seemingly hit Herring, 35, a combat-toughened but outgunned Marine Corps veteran, with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink en route to a 10th-round stoppage that wowed, among others, former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist and ESPN commentator Timothy Bradley Jr., who had chided Stevenson, a sometimes risk-adverse defensive wizard, as a “boring” fighter in his most recent bout on the Worldwide Leader, a 12-round scorecard shutout of Namibia’s Jeremia Nakathila on June 12 in Las Vegas.

After referee Mark Nelson stepped in to save the bleeding and battered Herring 1 minute, 30 seconds into round 10, Stevenson surprised Bradley by thanking him for providing the motivation he needed to ramp up his offensive output.

“Shakur tonight showed a ton of maturity,” Bradley said of the new-look, presumably more fan-friendly version of Stevenson that was on display. “The fact that he thanked me and said that I motivated him is a beautiful thing. That showed even more maturity, because that’s all that I want from these young fighters. I want them to grow.

“This is what I wanted to see from Shakur Stevenson. But I knew he had it in him, and he showed it tonight.”

Not that Bradley has completely bought into the notion of all that Stevenson could be, citing the lack of the only weapon – one-punch power – in his otherwise well-stuffed trick bag. Maybe that will come should Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) continue to enhance his man-strength, and maybe what you see now is all that fight fans can ever expect to get. In baseball terminology, Shakur Stevenson was more or less categorized by Bradley as a high-average singles hitter with enough gap power to accumulate a fair share of doubles that can get opponents out of there on accumulated damage. Who could complain if Stevenson, whose avowed goal is to become a superstar and fixture at or near the top of everyone’s pound-for-pound lists, continues to show flashes of such stylistic predecessors as Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

On this night and in the fight’s host city, however, Stevenson took a worse media-coverage battering from Eddie Rosario than he had administered to Herring (23-3, 11 KOs) with his fists. Rosario, a trade-deadline acquisition of the Atlanta Braves, slugged a three-run homer to lift his new team to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at nearby Truist Park, sending the Braves into their first World Series since 1999. For now, Rosario, who went 14-for-25 with three homers in winning the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award, is the toast of the town and the focus of reams of space in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports section. But it wasn’t only Rosario who siphoned attention in the local paper away from Stevenson; the fight might have gotten a few lines in the print editions, but online it was completely ignored by the AJC, Rosario’s hot bat followed in the pecking order by stories about the NBA’s Hawks losing at Cleveland, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dropping a high-scoring contest at Virginia and a five-star high school defensive end prospect named Mykel Williams verbally committing to the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

While it had to be frustrating to Stevenson and Atlanta’s fight fans for the event to be ignored by AJC, there were other deserving participants on the card who were similarly overlooked by the press in Georgia’s largest city. Not that anyone in the Internet age still pastes newspaper clippings into scrapbooks, but 19-year-old middleweight prospect Xander Zayas might be at a similar embryonic stage of development once occupied by Stevenson a couple of years ago. He deserved at least some recognition in the paper for his fourth-round stoppage of Dan Karpency, as did two other undercard fighters with celebrity familial ties: middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the great Muhammad Ali, who scored a third-round TKO of James Westley II, and junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, son of four-time heavyweight champion and Atlanta-area resident Evander Holyfield – can it be nearly 30 years since “The Real Deal” shook off an early knockdown to stop Bert Cooper in seven rounds on Nov. 23, 1991, in Atlanta’s since-demolished Omni Coliseum? — who bombed out Charles Stanfield in two rounds.

But Atlanta is not the only metropolis that devotes fewer newspaper column inches, if any, to the sport that once made Evander Holyfield as important a local sports figure as any Falcon, Brave or Hawk. It will be up to Stevenson to break through, if he can, to a level where his every ring appearance becomes a must-see because boxing’s viability is and has always been largely tied to the popularity of its larger-than-life figures.

“I wanted a fun fight – show my skills, my boxing, my power,” Stevenson said of the modifications he and trainer/grandfather Wali Moses made from the relative dreariness of the wide points nod over Nakathila to the pulse-quickening pummeling of Herring, who apologized to the Marine Corps in general for his defeat, not that any such admission was necessary. Herring seemed to be contemplating retirement, but there has never been any occasion when he failed to conduct himself honorably inside the ropes.

The question now is, will Stevenson continue to hew to demonstrate the aggressiveness he exhibited against Herring? His comments following the Nakathila bout suggest that it might not always be so. His style is evolving, but what works better on one night might not be advisable on another.

“To be honest, I didn’t really like my performance,” Stevenson said after his paint-by-numbers dismissal of Nakathila. “I felt I could’ve performed a lot better. I was being real careful because he has power. He was real scary. I got the best defense in boxing. But I’ll be better in my next fight.”

Former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, a 2021 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who also did commentary for Herring-Stevenson, said Shakur shouldn’t feel pressured to become something he is not in order to meet anyone else’s expectations.

“I think we got to kill some of these misnomers that have been around the sport for far too long, that fighters that go about their craft a certain kind of way, hit and don’t get hit, (means) there’s something not tough about them,” Ward said. “I heard that my whole career. Floyd Mayweather heard that his whole career. Just because a skillful fighter who can think and plays chess when everybody else is playing checkers doesn’t mean he can’t get down and dirty. It only means we’re going to get down and dirty when we have to.

“Fighters who have (high) IQs and skill, keep doing what you’re doing. Some people are going to like it and others won’t. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If a good fighter has a bad night, he can still win every round. If a guy who takes two to (land) one had a bad night, it’s a pretty ugly night. He’s probably going to get knocked out or take a lot of punishment.

“I wasn’t who they wanted me to be. I just beat all those guys, all the guys they said were going to get me. I just kept winning. And winning covers a lot of problems and issues.”

A lot, for sure, not all. In addition to Whitaker, Mayweather and maybe Ward, there are elements of Stevenson’s makeup that call to mind the technical proficiency of two-time Cuban gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, a former Top Rank fighter. Stevenson has been groomed by Top Rank for a prolonged and successful run at the elite level, but what so far has been a mutually beneficial working relationship could hinge in part to the fighter’s willingness to more regularly perform as he did against Herring than he did against Nakathila and a few other opponents that led to the perception that he was supremely talented, yes, but also a touch boring.

Prior to Rigondeaux’s release by Top Rank, company founder Bob Arum complained that his style leaned more to Masterpiece Theater than Rocky, which made Rigo a poor box-office and television attraction. Arum even said that when he brought the Cuban’s name up to HBO executives, “they throw up.”

There are many ways to win a prizefight, and now Shakur Stevenson has shown that he can win with chamber music or semi-heavy metal playing in the background. How far he advances in his march toward the truly elite status he is convinced is his destiny may be determined by the method he chooses to employ should a much-discussed showdown with Mexican blaster Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) take place in 2022. The hard truth is that a lot of fight fans not only like, but require splashes of blood-and-guts mixed in with their favorite sport’s artistic side.

Editor’s Note: Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Vol. 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, arrives this fall. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com, in hard or soft cover, and other book-selling websites and outlets.

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Fast Results from Atlanta Where Shakur Stevenson Turned in a Masterful Performance

Arne K. Lang

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Former world featherweight title-holder Shakur Stevenson turned in his career-best performance tonight at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta while wresting the WBO 130-pound world title from the shoulders of Jamel Herring via a 10th-round TKO. At age 24, Stevenson was the younger man by 11 years and it was a case of youth being served.

As a pro, Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) has lost precious few rounds. The rap against him was that he is content to outclass an opponent, providing few fireworks. In this vein, the assumption was that tonight’s bout would be a tactical (i.e., tame) affair. But while there were no knockdowns and Shakur fought a measured fight, there was more snap in his punches than had been the norm and he finished the bout on a high note.

Early into the fight, Herring’s left eye began to swell. In round nine, Stevenson opened a nasty cut over Herring’s other eye. In round ten, with the cut bleeding profusely, Stevenson revved up his attack, forcing referee Mark Nelson to waive it off. The official time was 1:30.

After the fight, Stevenson called out his WBC counterpart Oscar Valdez. Herring, an ex-Marine and former U.S. Olympic team captain, falls to 23-3.

Other Bouts

Fast-rising 19-year-old middleweight Xander Zayas shellacked intrepid Dan Karpency whose father and chief cornerman pulled him out after four rounds. A future star, born in Puerto Rico, Zayas is now 11-0 (8). One of the three fighting brothers, Karpency (9-4-1) will return to his day job as a registered nurse at a maximum-security prison in Western Pennsylvania. He hadn’t previously been stopped

In the first bout airing on ESPN’s flagship station, middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, the 21-year-old grandson of Muhammad Ali, scored a third-round stoppage of scrappy but out-gunned James Westley II, a 36-year-old from Toledo, Ohio. Walsh (2-0, 2 KOs) knocked Westley down with a straight right hand in the waning seconds of round two and knocked him to his knees with another short right hand early in the next stanza. Westley wasn’t badly hurt, but his corner saw fit to throw in the towel.

Junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, one of 11 children fathered by the great Evander Holyfield, knocked Charles Stanford flat on his back with a harsh left-right combination in round two, advancing his record to 8-0 (6). The official time was 0:30. Stanford, a 35-year-old Cincinnati man with an MMA background, was 6-3 heading in.

Middleweight Troy Isley, a 23-year-old U.S. Olympian from Alexandria, VA, improved to 3-0 (2) with a first-round stoppage of 37-year-old Nicholi Navarro (2-2), a former Army Ranger from Denver. Isley rocked his overmatched opponent several times before putting him on the canvas with a combination, forcing the ref to intervene. The official time was 2:48.

In an upset, Erik Palmer saddled Atlanta’s Roddricus Livsey with his first defeat, winning a split decision. Palmer, from the Karpency family stable, was 12-14-5 heading in, versus 8-0-1 for Livsey. The scores were 58-56 twice and a curious 59-55 for the hometown fighter.

Haven Brady Jr, a 19-year-old featherweight from Albany, Georgia, improved to 4-0 (3) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Corpus Christi’s Roberto Negrete (3-1).  The scores favoring Brady were 40-36 across the board, but Negrete was no slouch.

Chicago welterweight Antoine Cobb made an impressive pro debut with a brutal one-punch knockout of Jerrion Campbell (2-2). It was all over in 58 seconds. Cobb, 25, is a protégé of former light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin.

In the opening bout on the card, 21-year-old Brooklyn lightweight Harley Maderos, a 2021 USA national champion, improved to 2-0 (1) with a 4-round unanimous decision over Deljerro Revello (0-2). Maderos scored a knockdown in the opening frame and won all four rounds on all four cards but wasn’t particularly impressive.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty images.

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Results from Tampa: Harold Calderon Survives Bite to Remain Undefeated

David A. Avila

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Undefeated welterweight Harold Calderon remained unbeaten despite strange tactics by late replacement Luis Florez that forced a premature end of the fight due to a disqualification on Saturday.

Calderon (26-0, 17 KOs) endured a change of opponents, and then outrageous tactics by Colombia’s Florez (25-22) including biting that ended the fight at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

“That m..f…just bit me,” said Calderon, a southpaw from Miami. “I’m sweet. I’m like sugar.”

For the first three rounds Florez seemed eager to trade blows with Calderon and chided the Florida fighter to attack. But once the lefty welterweight attacked the body, the Colombian fighter suddenly seemed not as eager.

Calderon took the fight inside and battered Florez on the inside. During one attack Florez motioned he was hit behind the head. That’s when the dirty tactics began including a bite on Calderon. After Calderon retaliated with a body shot, Florez took a knee and complained. The referee stopped the fight. It was later revealed that the referee disqualified Florez for biting.

Calderon said he’s anxious to fight any of the top 15 contenders if given an opportunity.

“I need somebody in the top 15,” he said.

Uzbekistan’s Otabek Kholmatov (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Colombia’s Juan Medina (12-9, 11 KOs) in the second round of their super bantamweight clash. Kholmatov, a southpaw, scored two knock downs in the first round. The tall Uzbeki fighter blew out Medina with more body blows to end the fight at 1:51 of the second round.

“I’ll be the champ,” Kholmatov said.

A super lightweight match saw Clarence Booth (21-4, 12 KOs) take time to figure out the awkward style of Alejandro Munera (6-4-4) and win by knockout at the seventh round.

Bantamweight contender Rosalinda Rodriguez (13-0, 3 KOs) fought last-minute replacement Elizabeth Tuani (1-4) and won by stoppage at 1:16 of the second round in a fight fought above 126 pounds. There was confusion because Tuani did not look hurt nor in danger of going down when the fight was stopped. Even Rodriguez looked perplexed.

“I was confused,” said Rodriguez. “She was putting up a fight.”

Other Bouts

Jean Guerra Vargas (6-0) survived a knockdown against Rueben Morales (0-2) to win a split decision. It seemed Vargas got lucky with the scoring. Morales was the dominant fighter for the first two rounds and lost gas. He was a last-day replacement.

Poland’s Adrian “Pretty Boy” Pinheiro (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Milton Nunez with a focused body attack in the first two rounds and scored two knockdowns with body shots. A couple of body sapping shots floored Nunez at 1:05 of the second round for the knockout in the heavyweight fight.

Bryan Lopez (3-0) knocked down wild swinging William Fauth (0-7) twice before scoring a knockout win at 1:56 of the second round of a super lightweight fight.

Hungarian heavyweight Istvan Bernath (8-0, 6 KOs) knocked out Mexico’s Guillermo Del Rio (3-4-1) with an overhand right at 2:30 of the first round.

A welterweight fight saw Bobby Henry start slowly and then floor Bryant Costello in the second round to turn things around and win by decision after four rounds.

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