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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 5: Kid McPartland

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The black champion walked to his corner at once and began preparations for departure while McPartland was still struggling against fate on the floor. – The New York Evening World, October 14, 1902.

The story of Joe Gans and Kid McPartland goes all the way back to November of 1898 and the time of their first fight, in New York. It was McPartland, then, who was labelled the fighter with perhaps the greatest left-hand in the sport and it was Gans, odd to read, who was a local attraction, a genius according to his Baltimore boosters but unproven to the wider world.

How times had changed.

But in 1898 it was McPartland who held the left, and it was McPartland who began as the favourite.  This was something of a graduation night for Gans and two things fascinate above all others. The first is how well Gans, or perhaps the wily Al Herford, had McPartland scouted, and the second is how beautifully Gans put that scouting to work. The first of these is no small matter; Gans had observed McPartland from ringside but he had not film to study, no long hours of analysis. Still, for the most part, Gans reduced the McPartland’s celebrated left to something of a liability.

Gans boxed McPartland carefully, in a way that a ringsider at the Rufe Turner fight would have recognised. His essential strategy for a fighter that he finds dangerous is to handle them like they are deadly while simultaneously dominating them with accuracy and timing, and the first McPartland fight was such a contest. Gans spent the early rounds “fiddling” in the lexicon of 1898, “feeling his man out” to you and me. By the third what was notable was the ease with which Gans was parrying and blocking the left while having joy with his own. McPartland was sending in grazing left-hands or bodyshots while Gans repeatedly rattled McPartland’s teeth, literally, decades before the advent of the gumshield.

The price for his isolation of the McPartland left was his sucking up the occasional right, but Gans knew enough to know he could hold those punches without issue. When McPartland tried to change the pattern by rushing Gans, Gans was prepared for this too and lifted his man with uppercuts. Once his dominance was established, which was clear some time around the thirteenth round, he began fighting two-handed and with more abandon. It was late in the contest before McPartland was able to score a meaningful left, but he did so in the nineteenth round and for a moment it seemed he might save himself, but it was the Kid, not Gans who visited the canvas, dropped by a left-hand, of course, in the twenty-fourth round. Gans “escaped with little punishment” according to The Brooklyn Eagle, an opinion shared by The New York Sun.

Mid-career Bernard Hopkins is the fighter who comes to mind when reading about 1800s Gans.  Brilliant at turning his opponent’s strength to a weakness and countering what is best in him, he seems first and foremost a general but lacking, perhaps, the vicious streak that would have allowed him to definitively conquer the better men he faced. Keep in mind the terrible battles Elbows McFadden forced upon Gans in the 1800s but that come the 1900s, Elbows could not live with his old foe. Now, McPartland returned to the fore, hoping, perhaps, his own experiences from the 1800s might help him.

That hope, such as it was, lay perhaps in his second fight with Gans, staged in 1899. A short-form fight over six, it reads suspiciously like the first six of their 1898 contest, much careful sparring early giving way to Gans offence at the end of the fifth, but no more was to be learned and the fight is generally reported a draw. A second fight over the shorter distance delivered the same result.  McPartland, then, had information to hand with which to build his own plan.

The earlier incarnation of Gans was fought on even terms and forced to quit against Erne; the championship version destroyed him in one. The earlier incarnation of Gans was stretched to the absolute limit by Elbows McFadden; the championship version destroyed him in three. The earlier incarnation of Gans out-thought McPartland but was forced to traverse the distance against a dangerous fighter. What would the championship version make of him?

The fight was slated for October 6 and McPartland, at the end of September, brimmed with confidence.

“I am leaving nothing to chance,” he told reporters after training. “I have met Gans before…and I always managed to keep him busy. I know the coon’s [sic] style pretty well and I really believe I can do more with him than any other lightweight.”

“McPartland appears extremely confident,” reported The Buffalo Courier. “If confidence, condition, shiftiness and a dangerous punch cut a figure (and they usually do), McPartland will give a good account of himself.”

Certainly, his training camp seemed fit for purpose. McPartland often boxed three men a day, including the big, rough lightweight prospect Warren Zurbrick. “The more the merrier,” McPartland offered. “I shall be ready for all comers.” McPartland’s camp was an open book for fighters, all of whom were welcome to spar with him.

The truth of McPartland’s history shows a spotty attitude to training, “in and out” as the parlance of the day would have it. At the end of September 1902 though, McPartland was in crisp shape. The reason for this was McPartland’s membership in Kid Carter’s camp. Kid Carter was a middleweight contender of the era who had failed two weeks prior in an attempt at Tommy Ryan’s championship.  The camp, described as a “siege” by one paper was a strict one and one that saw not just Carter but McPartland, too, trained to the absolute quill. McPartland rolled out of that camp and into preparation for his own crack at the world championship.

“Boxing with such big fellows as Kid Carter has done me a heap of good,” he said. “I feel stronger than ever and men of my own weight feel weak and light in front of me…I think I am better now than ever before.”

Five-thousand tickets went on sale on noon of the twenty-ninth of September; around this time rumour emerged of Kid McPartland developing a system specifically designed to offset the Gans left, much as Gans did to McPartland in 1898. Whether or not this story was a red herring is unknown, but it is a fascinating wrinkle. McPartland’s condition though seemed, for the moment, beyond reproach, The Buffalo Evening News making a fit McPartland “about the only man in the country today outside of Erne who has a possible chance to beat [Gans].”

It is interesting that the article excludes Jimmy Britt, who was in the picture to be matched with Gans at around this time but for hand-trouble. These injuries were the pugilist’s bane in a time of small gloves with minimal padding and was the reason so many six-round non-title fights were settled more peacefully, “exhibitions” only as was the accordance with law in many states. Fighters could not afford to put themselves forth to the full in every fight, especially not when they were fighting two, four, even more times in one month. Care had to be taken in sparring and fighting alike – training to the point of absolute peak only to break one’s hand in the first round after throwing an ill-advised left-hook was, I imagine, a special kind of misery.

Gans was not immune. On October fourth, the fight was postponed for one week. The announcement was odd. Herford, who was due to arrive with Gans in Buffalo the next day prior to travelling up to Fort Erie in time for the fight two days later, instead wired the International Club with news that Gans had “sprained his hand” and “would not take any chances until it was strong.” Sixty hours from weigh in, this was a blow, not least to McPartland who felt himself ready. The blow was perhaps softened by the $200 forfeit he was able to collect but according to the Buffalo Illustrated Times he “almost cried” when told the fight was off.

Now scheduled for the thirteenth, just one week later, the usual speculation began to circulate regarding Joe’s conduct; had he trained properly? Could he make weight? Was the injury real, or a fabrication? No answers were forthcoming from the Gans camp who were used to such accusations, but it was announced that the champion would now be arriving in Buffalo on the ninth. McPartland sulked, and crossed into Canada to be weighed, a necessity if he wished to collect his money. Sure enough, the challenger hit 134lbs. His face apparently “drawn and pinched,” The Buffalo Enquirer also reported that McPartland “never looked better in his life.” Tight at the weight but clearly ready to fight, he was not in the best of moods.

“Of course I claimed Herford’s forfeit,” he snapped. “I would not give him a penny if I could help it.  He has been telling the same tales of me being afraid of Gans that he did about Frank Erne.  [Training] was hard work and I will have to do the whole thing over again. Then it makes a man nervous. I am not afraid of the result of the battle. Gans knows that I have no fear of him. I never saw the negro I feared.”

Gans maintained his silence. Herford went to the trouble of telephoning The Courier to tell them that he planned to instruct Gans to give McPartland “an extra good beating” for these remarks.

Herford’s loyalty to Gans was mirrored in that of Gans to Herford, and this despite some allegedly shady dealings. Herford’s qualifications for handling a fighter as peerless as Gans were equally shady, his background that of a restaurant manager and gambler, not a boxing man. Showbusiness is showbusiness as the saying goes, however, and the two seemed to come to some sort of accord whereby Gans did all the work and Herford counted the money – and did all the talking.

“I had a hard time getting Gans where he is,” Herford once told assembled Baltimore reporters, overlooking, one might argue, Joe’s own role in his triumph. “I tell you boys it is a pretty tough job getting a colored boxer up to the top of the ladder these days. Of course some may say, look at Tom O’Rourke. Did he not make George Dixon the champion?”

It is unrecorded as to whether or not any of those assembled pointed out to Herford that Dixon, himself, was the man most responsible.

Gans and Herford arrived in Buffalo the day before the fight and seem to have set down in Buffalo for mere minutes before heading straight for Fort Erie and The American Hotel. “[Gans] looked to be in superb condition,” reported The Courier, which apparently caught a glimpse of the champion.  Speaking briefly, Gans reported that his hand was ready and that he was too. He covered a reported twelve miles along the Canadian shore, “finishing as if he had been out for a short walk.”

Charley White was the other big arrival, the perennial championship referee having travelled from New York. Nor was he alone; many New Yorkers had travelled with him having secured tickets for the fight.

McPartland, who had finished his training the day before and tipped the beam at just under 134lbs, took his rest and waited. He weighed in at 3pm on the day of the fight weighing just under 135lbs; Gans followed him to the scales and matched the number but it was noted that he looked the bigger man. This was a problem for McPartland, for his plan to nullify the Gans offence called for him to impose himself upon Gans physically.

“Stretching…the rules to their utmost,” reported the Buffalo Morning Express, “McPartland tried his best to get Gans into a mauling, waltzing match.”

Gans has seen this before however, and from McPartland himself no less. He remained patient and he remained distant where it was possible. He also began to look for the right-hand, a change from his first fight with McPartland where he seemed to favour the left. Meanwhile, when it came to McPartland’s ranged efforts, Gans’ defence was more devastating than ever.

“McPartland did not land over eight solid blows during the entire time of the bout,” wrote The Buffalo Evening Times. “Gans smothering most of his leads before they were fairly started.”

While he smothered McPartland’s shots, Gans waited and that cost him the occasional left to the body. Some combination of McPartland’s grappling and Joe’s maneuvering caused Gans to slip in the second. In the third, Gans changed up and returned McPartland’s pressure but continued to block what McPartland returned with consummate ease. The fight so far had been defined by the “pretty blocking and shifty footwork” described by The Enquirer but Gans now changed it up.

McPartland “put forward a very fair effort” as The Evening World saw it, “but the effort to make weight had evidently told heavily on his frame…Cool, collected, holding himself in reserve form the first gong [Gans] stealthily pursued [McPartland] from corner to corner, never venturing to dangerous depths and unerringly grasping the occasional opportunities left open for him.”

As he stalked, he lashed McPartland’s body and although McPartland was able to block many of these shots, he left himself wide open for Gans right hand to the jaw which dropped him for an eight count close to the end of the third. McPartland, at least, had not showed fear in the opener but by the third he was on the run, Gans in cautious, tempered, stalking pursuit.

McPartland clinched his way through the fourth and in the fifth was reduced to remaining at distance but trying to time his rushes to get inside the Gans artillery while avoiding or blocking punches. Such strategy is doomed to failure in a four round smoker but against a great champion in his prime it spells the end. Gans literally “went over to McPartland’s corner” at bell and began hitting him. Almost every report of the fight describes the economy of risk with which Gans boxed but you can tell he has smelled the blood in the fifth; his approach seems intemperate for the first time, and McPartland was not so far gone as to miss the chance and “put left on face” [sic] according to The Enquirer’s round-by-round; then Gans rushed.

The end, when it came, was sudden but layered. Gans had spent the fight hitting to the body to open up a pathway for the right hand to the head. Here, he feinted with a right hand to the jaw and “McPartland, falling into the trap, raised his guard to the blow.”

The Courier continues the tale:

“In precisely the same manner that Bob Fitzsimmons won his famous battle from Jim Corbett,” it reported, “Joe Gans, the lightweight champion, knocked out Kid McPartland. The final blow…was a terrific left-handed drive to the solar plexus.”

The final punch is reported in much detail and is worth quoting in full that the reader may clearly understand the technique.

“In delivering the blow Gans shifted his position so as to bring his right leg in front of him, sending home his blow with full force simultaneously with the shift.”

The shift, a pivot, or switch, depending upon the era, was a much-admired technique perfected by Fitzsimmons and then Stanley Ketchel, here executed by Joe Gans. McPartland was immediately floored and “writhed in agony” as Gans coolly returned to his corner and prepared to depart the ring. He did not even look towards the shape snatching wildly for breath in a crumpled heap on the canvas.

“My punch,” McPartland wept, no less, once recovered. “He got there first!”

“He’s improved,” he offered later. “He’s a hard man to reach. He got me with just the same smash I was trying to put on him.”

Gans seemed please. He spoke at length to the press, not something he went out of his way to do, often preferring to speak through Herford.

“McPartland found me a different proposition tonight to what I was when we last fought. He gave me a good go tonight until I finally got him properly gauged. He is a shifty fellow and has a good defense and a wicked blow with that left. I knew I would beat him and figured that he would go out when I landed the first square blow. I thought it would be a jaw punch but he was too foxy, and I had to try the solar plexus on him.”

Joe’s plans were a matter of much interest but here Gans did hand over to Herford, who announced that Gans would travel down to Lancaster in Pennsylvania to face no less a figure that Dave Holly.  Holly was inconsistent, but a serious proposition, especially the day after a title fight. Undefeated in twenty-nine fights he perhaps had plans on making Gans the thirtieth and therefore gaining himself a title shot. Those plans did not come to fruition; Gans dropped him four times as Holly became the latest elite pugilist to turn in a performance laced with fear.

This seems now beyond belief, but The Baltimore Sun was clear: “Holley [sic] made almost no effort to fight, confining his work to running around the ring out of the champion’s reach and clinching.”

“Gentlemen,” Gans addressed the crowd afterwards. “If the management will get a good man to meet me here, I will try and give you a better exhibition.”

“While disappointed in not scoring a knockout,” The Sun continued, “Gans took the fight almost in the nature of a joke.”

Holly would finish his career credited with victories over the like of Rufe Turner, Jack Blackburn and the all-time great Joe Walcott.

“That Gans is the superior of all the lightweights, there is no doubt,” concluded The Times. “He is the exponent of all that is clever, and though his gameness has been often questioned he must be given credit for being about the best the world has ever produced in the lightweight division.”

Before he was finished, Gans would prove himself as game as any pugilist who had ever stepped onto an ill-stretched canvas and scraped his carefully scarred leather soles in resin.

This series was written with the support of boxing historian and Joe Gans expert Sergei Yurchenko. His work can be found here: http://senya13.blogspot.com/

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Regis Prograis KOs Jose Zepeda at Dignity Sports Health Park

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Not all big bangers are the same.

Regis Prograis slugged it out with fellow knockout artist Jose “Chon” Zepeda and after 11 rounds of tactical battle ended the WBC super lightweight battle with a flourishing knockout on Saturday.

Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) becomes the first two-time super lightweight champion from New Orleans after his win over Zepeda (36-3, 27 KOs) at SoCal’s Dignity Health Sports Park. It had been more than three years since he last held a world title.

“This was the hardest fight of my career,” said Prograis after the strategic clash between the super lightweight division’s biggest punchers.

The heavily favored Prograis and Zepeda were cautious under the cold outdoor weather arena. Many a previous world title match ended quickly under similar circumstances and both were wary.

Zepeda was slightly busier and able to connect early with his deceptively fast left cross. Though the first two rounds were not very action-packed, it seemed Zepeda landed more effective blows.

Then Prograis went to work.

“At first, I wanted to come out and box him. Maybe in the third round I caught my rhythm,” said Prograis. “Then he caught on to that.”

Behind his awkward head movements and more agile movements Prograis used jabs and counters to force Zepeda into a more defensive stance. Though neither fighter dominated a round it was the New Orleans native who dictated the pace and action.

Round after round was going into the books favoring Prograis, not until the eighth round did Zepeda make a move into a more aggressive mode and finally out-punched Prograis. But the former world champion adapted again.

Prograis and Zepeda slugged it out in the ninth round. Zepeda connected with a left uppercut but Prograis withstood the blow and continued moving forward. Once again Prograis out-punched Zepeda in a very close round.

Both seemed ready to make the 10th round their own and Zepeda connected with a left cross that landed flush. Prograis barely was moved and then increased his output and the two super lightweights exchanged furiously with the New Orleans fighter seeming to out-punch Zepeda again. It was a telling round.

Prograis had withstood Zepeda’s biggest blows and was ready to unload some of his firepower. He had dominated most of the fight behind his jab and quick combinations. Now he was ready for the big shells.

Both super lightweights opened up in the 11th round with each connecting early. Suddenly an overhand left by Prograis sent Zepeda reeling backward and he did not let up. A furious 13-punch barrage was unloaded and down went Zepeda. Referee Ray Corona did not bother to count and ended the fight at 59 seconds of the 11th round.

“In the 11th round I felt like taking him to deep waters and drown him,” said Prograis.

Once again Prograis holds a super lightweight world title.

“I heard the small talk. I heard the rumors. I want to congratulate Zepeda, that guy was tough, tough, tough. He gave me my hardest fight,” said an ecstatic Prograis. “Listen, I got 29 fights, this was probably my hardest fight.”

Yokasta Valle beats Evelin Bermudez

Seeking big challenges Yokasta Valle (27-2, 9 KOs) rallied after a slow start and out-boxed Argentina’s Evelin Bermudez (17-1-1, 6 KOs) to win the WBO and IBF light flyweight world titles by majority decision after 10 rounds.

After absorbing big right hands from Bermudez during the first two rounds, Valle solved the problem and out-hustled the taller world champion behind quick combinations and making the champion shift her feet. It was a simple but effective plan and led to Valle storming down the stretch with more effective punching.

Bermudez had steamrolled most of her opponents behind a relentless attack that focused mainly on her big right cross. But against Valle that punch was mostly eliminated after the third round.

Valle slipped under Bermudez’s attacks and countered with her combination punching. Occasionally the Costa Rican fighter connected with a big shot that caught the eye of the judges.

After 10 rounds, one judge scored it 95-95, while two others saw Valle the winner by majority decision 99-91, 97-93.

Valle, an IBF and WBO minimumweight world titlist, moved up a division to win her second weight division world title.

Conwell Wins

In a savage battle Ohio’s Charles Conwell (18-0, 13 KOs) bludgeoned his way to victory over Juan Carlos Abreu (25-7-1, 23 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super welterweight contest. It was a skillful display of 1950s-style fighting that saw Conwell showcase his strength and canny punch selection in out-fighting veteran slugger Abreu.

Heavyweights

Former Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Bakhodir Jalolov (12-0, 12 KOs) knocked out Curtis Harper (14-9) in the fourth round with a barrage if blows. Twice he knocked down Harper who had been deducted a point for an intentional head butt.

Vargas Brothers

Both sons of boxing great Fernando Vargas emerged victorious in their bouts. Fernando Vargas Jr. (7-0, 7 KOs) knocked out Alejandro Martinez (3-3-1) in the second round of their super welterweight bout. Amado Vargas (5-0, 2 KOs) won by decision after four rounds versus Osmar Hernandez (1-2) in a featherweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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John Ryder and Fabio Wardley Triumph on Dueling Shows in London

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John Ryder and Fabio Wardley Triumph on Dueling Shows in London

If one were driving from Greenwich township in London to that city’s Wembley sector, or vice versa, one would travel about 18 miles. No doubt many hardcore British fight fans would have gladly made the trip if the starting times of today’s shows had been sufficiently staggered so that one could attend both events. But no, rival promoters Eddie Hearn (Matchroom) and Frank Warren (Queensberry) elected to go head-to-head.

Warren’s Greenwich show at the O2 Arena, which aired in the U.S. on ESPN+, had the main event with the highest stakes and the deepest undercard. Hearn’s show at Wembley, live-streamed on DAZN, had the allurement of heavyweights.

O2 Arena

The WBO interim 168-pound title was at stake plus pole position for a Cinco de Mayo showdown with Canelo Alvarez when Zach Parker squared off with countryman John Ryder. A second-generation boxer who came in undefeated (22-0, 16 KOs), Parker entered the ring an 11/5 favorite.

This was shaping up as a good fight, arguably tilting Ryder’s way, when Parker pulled out after four rounds with a broken right hand. It was a bitter defeat for the Derbyshire man who was making his first start of 2022 after matches with defending WBO title-holder Demetrius Andrade kept falling out.

Although Canelo Alvarez has no fear of Englishmen having defeated Matthew Hatton, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding, Callum Smith, and Billy Joe Saunders in world title fights. John Ryder, a 34-year-old southpaw, nicknamed “Gorilla,” may have the tools to make things interesting. Today’s win, albeit somewhat tainted, was his fourth straight after losing a controversial decision to Callum Smith in Smith’s hometown, elevating his record to 32-5 (18).

If Canelo chooses to spurn his mandatory and go in a different direction when he next laces on the gloves, the WBO will anoint John Ryder its full super middleweight champion.

Other O2 Bouts

Highly-touted middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz scored his 11th straight knockout and improved to 17-0 (13) with a fast beatdown of overmatched River Wilson-Bent (13-2-1) who was bruised and battered when the referee interceded in the waning seconds of round two. Sheeraz has been training in the U.S. at Joe Goossen’s Ten Goose Gym in California.

Southpaw Dennis McCann, a 21-year-old Irish Traveler, continued his climb up the super bantamweight ranks with an eighth round stoppage of Scotland’s Joe Ham. McCann (14-0, 8 KOs) was pummeling Ham (17-4) against the ropes when the bout was waived off. Ham hadn’t previously been stopped.

Knockout artist Sam Noakes, a lightweight, employed a vicious body attack to score his 10th stoppage in as many opportunities, halting Calvin McCord (12-1, 2 KOs) in the fourth frame. Noakes showed no after-effects of the broken thumb that had kept him out of the ring since March.

Junior welterweight Pierce O’Leary scored two knockdowns but wasn’t able to polish off Namibian import Emanuel Mungandjela who was still standing after 10 rounds. The judges had it 99-89, 99-90, and 96-92.

It was the first scheduled 10-rounder for O’Leary (11-0, 6 KOs), a Dubliner with a strong amateur pedigree. Mungandjela (16-4-1) was making his U.K. debut.

Wembley Arena

The main event pitted Dillian Whyte against Jermaine Franklin, but most of the pre-fight talk centered around the co-feature, a 12-round contest between Fabio Wardley and Nathan Gorman for the vacant British heavyweight title.

Wardley (14-0 heading in) had stopped his last 13 opponents while answering the bell for only 31 rounds, but the jury was still out on him. He had no amateur experience and was thought to be very much a work in progress. Nathan Gorman, Tyson Fury’s cousin, had come up short in his first crossroads fight, getting stopped by former amateur rival Daniel Dubois, but was considered something more than a gatekeeper.

Wardley rose to the occasion with the biggest win of his career, stopping Gorman (19-2) in the third frame in a fan-friendly fight. Gorman clearly won the first round and busted Wardley’s nose wide open in round two, but the Ipswich man, a protégé of Dillian Whyte, cranked up the juice at the sight of his own blood and scored two knockdowns before the second round was over. Another knockdown in the third prompted Gorman’s corner to toss in the towel.

Wardley

The main event was anticlimactic.

It was thought that Dillian Whyte, who has been matched tough throughout his career, would have little trouble with Saginaw, Michigan’s Jermaine Franklin who had misleading 21-0 record, lacked fight-altering power, had fought only once in the last three years, and came in at a too-heavy 257 pounds. But the “Body Snatcher,” in his first fight with trainer Buddy McGirt, delivered a lackluster performance while walking away with a majority decision (114-114, 116-112, 116-112).

Whyte, 35, improved his ledger to 29-3 (19) in what some are calling a hometown decision. To his credit, he came on strong in the final rounds after being rocked in the ninth. There is talk that he will be granted a rematch with Anthony Joshua who stopped him in the seventh round at this venue in December of 2015.

Other Wembley Bouts of Note

Welterweight Pat McCormack, a silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, was forced to go the distance for the first time in his young pro career, but swept all six rounds on the referee’s card, improving to 3-0 against Argentina’s clumsy, feather-fisted Christian Nicolas Andino (16-6-2). McCormack is trained by Ben Davison.

Derby super welterweight Sandy Ryan improved to 5-1 (2) with a wide decision over Argentine veteran Anahi Ester Sanchez (21-6). The scores were 98-92, 99-91, and 100-92. Ryan, who avenged her lone defeat at the pro level, spent 10 years in the amateurs racking up more than 50 wins.

Photo credits:

Ryder-Parker — Alex Morton / Getty

Wardley-Gorman — Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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Avila Perspective, Chap 213: Regis Prograis vs Jose Zepeda Harks to Pryor-Aguello

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Two of the most avoided super lightweights in the last 40 years, Jose “Chon” Zepeda and Regis Prograis cross paths. One a strong, intense athlete reared in the competitive American amateur boxing world and the other a learn-in-the-ring slugger with heavy fists.

Both are 33-year-old southpaws steeped in dangerous power.

Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs) meets Zepeda (36-2, 27 KOs) on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. for the vacant WBC super lightweight title. FITE.TV pay-per-view will show the loaded card staged by MarvNation Promotions and Legendz Entertainment.

Not since Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello roamed the super lightweights in the early 1980s have two more dynamic fighters with advanced boxing pedigrees met in the prize ring.

Fans still debate their two fights that saw Pryor win consecutive clashes loaded in controversy regarding a mysterious bottle containing an unknown substance imbibed during the final rounds of their first fight. Pryor would proceed to stop Arguello twice in battles that still create excitement when seen.

Can Prograis and Zepeda deliver with equal zeal?

When Hurricane Katrina flooded Progais’ neighborhood in New Orleans his family was forced to move to Houston. In high school he was an outstanding athlete in football and engaged in the amateur boxing program. Errol Spence Jr. blocked his entry into the US Olympic team.

As a professional Prograis proved too strong for most foes and bludgeoned his way to a world title with dominant wins over Joel Diaz Jr., Terry Flanagan and Kiryl Relikh and won the WBA title. In October 2019, he met IBF titlist Josh Taylor of Scotland and lost the unification bout by majority decision to the Scotsman.

Since that loss few are willing to face Prograis who knocked out three foes in three years.

“When I was the world champion everybody called my name but once I didn’t have the belt it all stopped and I know I’m a dangerous fighter and that’s part of the reason,” said Prograis.

Zepeda took a different path.

The American-born Mexican fighter began performing professionally at the late age of 20 in Mexico, in the border town of Mexicali. His heavy hands immediately ended all four of his first pro fights via knockout.

Slowly Zepeda was matched against different style of fighters in Southern California club shows like Ontario, Commerce, Montebello and Burbank. He was always a deliberate and careful pugilist and never the wild swinging type. But if an opponent got too frisky Zepeda could easily unload the left or right to end the fight quickly. That was never more evident than last year when the braggadocious Josue Vargas attempted to intimidate him with words and shoving in a press conference. The Puerto Rican was bludgeoned in the first round in front of his own fans at Madison Square Garden.

Never flashy but deliberate, Zepeda likes finishing the fight inside the distance.

“I have all the experience I need. Regis Prograis is going to be fighting the best version of Jose Zepeda. I really believe it’s now or never,” Zepeda said.

Prograis respects Zepeda and vice versa. But he remains confident.

“I have more experience and I’ve been at the top already. If you compare strength, power, chin, stamina, speed, defense, I feel like I win every time. Every category, it’s me,” said Prograis. “He’s been hurt, he’s been dropped a bunch of times. I’ve never been hurt and I destroy people.”

Zepeda shrugs at the comments.

“Prograis is going to be very surprised by my power and speed. We’re both going to fight the way we’ve been fighting. He hits hard, I hit hard and both of us are desperate to win which will make for a great fight,” Zepeda says.

Expect one of the best super lightweight fights in the last 40 years when they finally exchange blows.

Women co-main

Argentina’s Evelin Bermudez (17-0-1, 6 KOs) defends the WBO and IBF light flyweight world titles against Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle (26-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round match. It’s Bermudez’s pressure versus Valle’s speed and agility.

Bermudez, 26, is younger, taller and relentless in her attacks, especially with the right hand. She loves the right and has no left hook. But she does possess a strong left jab to set up the right cross. She has never fought in the USA.

Valle, 30, has plenty of speed and has been working on her power with American-based trainer Gloria Mosquera. This will be a tough test for the Costa Rican who recently signed promotion deals with MarvNation and Golden Boy Promotions. This is her second fight in the USA and toughest foe since losing to Naoko Fujioka in 2017.

It’s a very tough match to predict the winner.

Others on the card include undefeated Ruben Torres, the tall lightweight promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions. He was popular on social media for a recent knockout of a guy who tapped gloves with him and then was knocked out a single second later. Super welterweight Charles Conwell is another budding contender out of Cleveland. He’s extraordinarily strong for the weight class and opened eyes with his knockout of Kazakhstan’s Madiyar Ashkeyev who was undefeated when they met.

Also, two sons of the great Fernando Vargas are planned to fight too. Super welterweight prospect Fernando Vargas Jr. and featherweight Amado Vargas are scheduled to perform.

Doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at AXS.com.

Fights to Watch

Sat. DAZN 2:00 p.m. ET Dillian Whyte (28-3) vs Jermaine Franklin (21-0); Sandy Ryan (4-1) vs Anahi Sanchez (21-5).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:00 p.m. ET (main card) 5:00 p.m. ET (main event) Zach Parker (22-0) vs John Ryder (31-5).

Sat. FITE.TV ppv 9 p.m. ET (main card) 11:15 p.m. ET (main event) Regis Prograis (27-1) vs Jose Zepeda (36-2); Yokasta Valle (26-2) vs Evelin Bermudez (17-0-1); Ruben Torres (19-0) vs Eduardo Estela (13-1); Charles Conwell (17-0) vs Juan Carlos Abreu (25-6-1).

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos

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