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Remembering the late Craig ‘Gator’ Bodzianowski, Boxing’s One-Legged Wonder

Bernard Fernandez

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Remembering the late Craig ‘Gator’ Bodzianowski, Boxing’s One-Legged Wonder

It is a really old joke, so much so that you’d have to figure that Henny Youngman and Jack Benny were telling it when they were young comedians on the burlesque circuit nearly a century ago. But there is always an exception to every rule or punchline, the foremost for the purposes of boxing history being its sole contrarian to the oft-repeated proposition that an inept person is “as useless as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”

The late cruiserweight contender, Craig “Gator” Bodzianowski, who was a one-legged man, didn’t mind poking a bit of self-deprecating humor at his disability as the occasion warranted. When Bodzianowski was asked why he did not seek financial damages through legal means from the driver of the automobile that slammed into his motorcycle, resulting in the amputation of his mangled lower right leg, the impish former Chicago Golden Gloves champion would wink and say, “I can’t go to court. I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Bada-bing.

Monday, July 19, marks the 21st anniversary of Bodzianowski’s unsuccessful yet indisputably heroic bid to make the seemingly impossible possible. Perhaps he wouldn’t have defeated WBA cruiserweight titlist Robert Daniels had he the benefit of two fully functional legs, but his longshot quest in Seattle’s Kingdome was made more difficult when a Daniels powershot re-fractured a previously broken rib in the second round, hampering Bodzianowski until the final bell. Although it became increasingly evident that Bodzianowski had no chance to win on the scorecards (Daniels was a wide winner on points, by margins of 119-110 and 118-109 (twice), the battered challenger, his left eye completely swollen shut, refused to yield and finished on his feet.

Bodzianowski – his nickname owed in part to his family’s limited finances during his adolescence and in part to his apparent failure to distinguish between large reptiles of similar appearance — was not disposed to crack wise about what he still was able to accomplish in the ring, before, during and after he made what was arguably his sport’s most remarkable comeback while fitted with a prosthesis where a significant portion of the extremity he had been born with had been surgically removed.

The Bodzianowski family, its suburban Chicago-area home notwithstanding, had a backyard that housed a menagerie of baboons, pigeons, chickens, snakes and even an alligator. Craig soon took to calling himself “Gator” not because of that particular reptilian pet, but because of the Lacoste polo shirts so in favor at the time, with the little alligator (actually a crocodile) embroidered on the left side of the chest. Those shirts were too pricey for parents Pat and Gloria Bodzianowski to purchase in multiple colors for their four sons, so Pat, a tattoo artist, inked the iconic symbol on Craig’s chest and Gloria cut out little rectangles of cheaper Ban-Lon shirts, exposing the tat.

That homemade tattoo served as Craig’s most singular mark of identification, at least until he was fitted with his prosthesis.

“I never, ever say, `Darn, if I had my real (leg), I could have been on top a long time ago,” Bodzianowski said of any might-have-beens that less-determined individuals would have considered had they found themselves in his situation. “I may have. But I don’t look back on that, ever. Not one time. Because I kick ass the way I am now.”

Given his steadfast refusal to give up on life or his dream of becoming a world champion, the most shocking part of Craig Bodzianowski’s inspirational journey is that the body part that ultimately failed him was the organ that kept him going when nearly everyone had told him he would never box again, or should not even make the attempt. He was just 52 when, the night of July 28, 2013, he suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep.

Hollywood loves tales of underdogs who beat the odds, but the fight flick that could have been made about Bodzianowski’s one-of-a-kind comeback never gained traction in La-La Land, if indeed such a pitch ever was made. Perhaps some studio bigwig would have green-lighted a script had the scrappy amputee furnished the requisite exclamation-point finish against Daniels, but he didn’t, and so what if Bodzianowski rebounded from that disappointment to win his last seven bouts to retire with a commendable 31-4-1 record with 23 wins inside the distance?

It says much about the impermanence of fringe-level celebrity that ESPN boxing writer/commentator Mark Kriegel, in his blurb review for my 2020 anthology, Championship Rounds, mentions Bodzianowski in passing as a fighter most readers have never heard of, although they would do well to try to find out about him.

Bodzianowski was building a reputation in the Chicago area as a fighter worth following, winning his first 13 professional bouts, 11 by knockout, when, on May 29, 1984, while driving his Kawasaki 440 at a mere 15 mph, the driver of a parked car suddenly pulled ahead of him, attempted a U-turn and smashed into his bike.

In an instant, the 23-year-old of Polish extraction discovered the hard way why bikers are 25 times more likely to suffer death or serious injury than those involved in car crashes. The list of fighters whose lives or careers were ended by motorcycle mishaps is long, both predating and postdating Bodzianowsk: 1996 IBHOF inductee Young Stribling was 28 when he died from injuries he incurred on Oct. 3, 1933; middleweight contender James Shuler, 26, he perished on March 20, 1986, after is cycle collided with a tractor-trailer; former IBF super featherweight and WBC lightweight champ Diego Corrales, 29, took the eternal 10-count when  his bike, traveling at an estimated 100 mph, crashed on May 7, 2009, and two-division world champ Paul “The Punisher” Williams, 26, was paralyzed from the waist down when his bike crashed on May 27, 2012.

“If I could change time, I would,” Williams told Joseph Santoliquito for a 2015 story. “But I can’t, so I have to deal with it. If I wasn’t able to deal with it, I probably would have committed suicide by now or would be angry and depressed all the time. I do feel there are two sides of me: who I was and who I am.”

Somewhat amazingly, Bodzianowski was determined never to look back in regret or self-pity. What happened, happened, and there was no changing it. He would live in the present and look to the future, whatever that might hold. And he was determined it was a future that still included boxing, all predictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Told that his choices were to have his right leg amputated several inches above his ankle or undergo the possibility of as many as 12 operations over two years, after which he likely would forever walk with a cane and have no more than 70 percent use of the leg, Bodzianowski immediately informed the doctors attending him, “Adios, cut it off.”

That could have and probably should have been the end of Craig Bodzianowski the boxer. But, after a nine-hour surgery and with the benefit of an advancement in prosthesis technology known as the “Seattle Foot,” Bodzianowski showed that his physical limitations were not necessarily as limiting as was widely believed.

“Look, I could have been hurt a lot worse,” Bodzianowski said in 1985. “I could have lost an arm, both legs. I consider myself very, very lucky.”

He slowly began to build upon that semi-good fortune by beginning with a regimen of standing on his artificial leg for hours each day. Once he felt comfortable with that, he’d jog a few steps. Over time, he bumped the distance up to three miles every other day, with a mile run in between.

The next hurdle to be cleared was convincing different groups of physicians that he was, indeed, fit enough to resume his boxing career. There were skeptics, to be sure; Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Muhammad Ali’s longtime personal physician who later served as a boxing analyst for NBC and Univision, said that, while he admired the “courage and determination of this young man to continue in a dangerous sport, I question and I’m amazed by the lack of judgment and common sense of the boxing commissions and licensors. If this young man should be seriously injured in this sport, where would the commission go hide to avoid the rain of censure falling on its head. The hue and cry, `Ban boxing,’ would be heard throughout the land and I might be the guy to lead it.”

By and by, however, Bodzianowski demonstrated to various state commission-appointed doctors that he was indeed fit enough and mobile enough to be afforded the opportunity to succeed or fail inside the ropes, where it mattered. In his first comeback fight, he knocked out Francis Sargent in two rounds on Dec. 14, 1985. That would be the same opponent he faced in his last pre-accident bout, which he won via 10-round unanimous decision. It was admittedly a tiny sample size, but at first glance it appeared as if the Gator had not only come back, but possibly even a bit better.

“Hey, I was never that graceful when I had two good legs,” Bodzianowski reasoned. “I sort of shuffled side to side.”

In addition to Daniels, Bodzianowski’s other losses came against former WBC cruiserweight champion Alfonzo Ratliff (twice, both by majority decision) and future IBF cruiser ruler James Warring. Given his handicap, the fact that his only four defeats, all on points, came against current, former and future world titlists makes his saga all the more compelling.

“Only in America can a one-legged man fight for the world title!,” mega-promoter Don King harrumphed before Bodzianowski challenged Daniels, the chief undercard bout of a show headlined by two-time former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon’s 10-round majority decision over Jose Ribalta.

Ratliff, winner of both of his matchups with Bodzianowski, also came away impressed. “I’ll say one thing about knocking Craig down, he always gets back up,” Ratliff said. “I think the guy’s crazy! He’s such a sneaky fighter that it looks like he’s not throwing hard punches, but the punches are short and they got all his weight in them. He can hurt you. All his punches hurt you. I’ll tell you, that’s the hardest work I’ve had in my life. Craig Bodzianowski, all he knows is to keep coming forward.”

After stepping away as an active fighter, Bodzianowski trained fighters for a while and worked in construction. Always handy in the kitchen, he went on to graduate from Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in 2012.

Enduring fame, however, can be fleeting. The novelty of the one-legged fighter who rose near the top of his profession but didn’t quite reach the pinnacle faded. Guest spots with David Letterman, NBC Sports and Inside Edition, as well as an 18-minute documentary of his life and career, Against the Ropes, came and went. More recent fighters with fresh stories emerged. The news cycle always replenishes, unless you are a Muhammad Ali (who attended the Daniels-Bodzianowski fight), Mike Tyson or someone of that stripe.

But Craig Bodzianowski deserves to be remembered, if simply for the bottomless depth of his resolve if not his skill-set, and for the magical, mystery quality of the human spirit he so exemplified.

A New Orleans native, Bernard Fernandez retired in 2012 after a 43-year career as a newspaper sports writer, the last 28 years with the Philadelphia Daily News. A former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Fernandez won the BWAA’s Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 1998 and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service in 2015. In December of 2019, Fernandez was accorded the highest honor for a boxing writer when he was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020. Last year, Fernandez’s anthology, “Championship Rounds,” was released by RKMA Publishing.

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USA Olympic Boxing Team Sputters After a Strong Start

Arne K. Lang

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USA Olympic Boxing Team Sputters After a Strong Start

Boxers from the United States were collectively 6-1 during the first four days of competition at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. The only boxer that failed to advance was women’s featherweight Yarisel Ramirez. A late addition to the U.S. squad and the youngest member of the 10-person team, the 21-year-old Ramirez, born in Cuba and raised in Las Vegas, lost a unanimous decision to Croatia’s Nikolina Cacic.

Middleweight Troy Isley (Alexandria, Virginia) turned away the well-seasoned Belarussian Vitali Bandarenka in his first bout, but came up short in his second, losing a split decision to Russia’s Gleb Bakshi, the #2 seed. Likewise, Ginny Fuchs (Houston, TX) won her first bout, but couldn’t get past the second hurdle. The 33-year-old LSU grad was defeated by veteran Bulgarian campaigner Stoyka Krasteva.

Middleweight Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, NC) saw her first action on Wednesday and was eliminated by Russia’s Zemfira Magomedaliev who prevailed on a split decision. Cincinnati featherweight Duke Ragan, who overcame France’s Samuel Kristohurry in his first bout, was more fortunate. Ragan got over the second hump with a unanimous decision over Kazakhstan’s Serik Temirzhanov. That sets up a date on Sunday with Northern Ireland’s well-regarded Kurt Walker. The winner is assured of at least a bronze medal.

Toledo welterweight Oshae Jones scored a split decision over Mexico’s Brienda Cruz and now faces Maria Moronta of the Dominican Republic. The match goes tomorrow (Friday, July 30) with a scheduled start time of 5:03 am EST. Lynn, Massachusetts lightweight Rashida Ellis, who like Jones is a member of a prominent boxing family, makes her Olympic debut tomorrow and she’s matched tough. Her opponent, Caroline Dubois, who sports a 36-2 record, is the sister of the fearsome British heavyweight Daniel Dubois.

With two wins under his belt, 22-year-old Cleveland welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson is the most advanced member of the U.S. team, but one suspects that he is living on borrowed time. He vaulted into the quarterfinals with wins over Argentina’s Brian Arregui and Kazakhstan’s Ablaikhan Zhussupov, winning both by split decision. Up next for Johnson is Cuba’s 303-fight veteran Roniel Iglesias, a two-time Olympian who won gold at the 2012 Games in London.

Norfolk, Virginia lightweight Keyshawn Davis, the most ballyhooed member of the U.S. team, won his opening round bout against Enrico La Cruz of the Netherlands and is now set to renew acquaintances with Sofiane Oumiha of France who he defeated in a 2019 tournament in Russia. Oumiha defeated Teofimo Lopez and former IBF world flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng en route to a berth in the finals at the 2016 Olympiad in Rio.

Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr (Tulare, CA) was the only male boxer in the U.S. contingent to be seeded. The team’s captain, Torrez was given the #3 seed in a division with a clear-cut favorite in Uzbekistan’s Bakhodir Jalolov.

Torrez rolled into the quarterfinals with a one-sided decision over Algeria’s Chaouib Bouloudinats. He now faces Dainier Pero, a 21-year-old Cuban who was awarded a split decision over Torrez at a 2019 tournament in Lima, Peru. The last U.S. super heavyweight to medal was Riddick Bowe who settled for silver after being stopped by Lennox Lewis at Seoul in 1988.

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The Agony of Defeat

Ted Sares

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The Agony of Defeat

Bad decisions are as much a part of boxing as enswell, but reactions from the losers vary widely.

The look on Roberto Duran’s face wasn’t agony, but it was something pretty close when the judges ruled against him in his 1996 bout with Hector Camacho. The crowd booed when the scores were announced: 115-113, 116-113, and an unbelievable 117-111, all for the “Macho” man. In the eyes of many, the well-conditioned Duran had controlled the fight since round five.

When George Foreman was robbed in his 1997 fight with Shannon Briggs, he simply left the ring and retired while the crowd screamed Bull****! Bull****! Bull****!

The same happened when Dave Tiberi was robbed in his infamous 1992 fight with James Toney at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Tiberi simply walked away in disgust and never boxed again. Widely considered one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, this one prompted a federal investigation. Donald Trump’s disgust was such that he reportedly banned boxing in all of his casinos for six months.

                                          **************

“To be able to fight the number one person in the world [Toney], during his heyday, and in my heart of hearts, knowing that I did everything I had to do to be able to win the world championship, I’m at peace.” — Dave Tiberi

**************

Toney himself got a taste of it in the first of his two fights with Samuel Peter. Visibly and pleasantly surprised by the result. Peter literally ran to his dressing room to celebrate, while Toney stood in his corner seemingly in shock with his hands on the ropes and his face looking down in disbelief at the SD loss. He would never be quite the same.

Paul Williams “win” over Erislandy Lara was such a rank decision that all three judges were suspended. Similar to Dave Tiberi, Lara did not make a big fuss though his boxing stock went up.

This writer scored the 2007 fight between Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Joel Casamayor 119-109 in favor of Santa Cruz and many sitting at ringside had it the same way. When the bell rang ending the fight, Casamayor was lifted up as the anticipated winner. “I thought ‘Oh Oh,’ said Jim Lampley, “the crowd seems a little nonplussed that someone would lift Casamayor as if he won.”

In fact, the crowd booed loudly in disbelief when the decision by the relatively inexperienced judges went in favor of Casamayor. Frank Lombardi and Ron McNair scored it 114-113 for the Cuban while Tony Paolillo scored it 114-113 for Santa Cruz. Again, cries of Bull**** Bull**** Bull**** rained down.

“Just when you think you have seen everything– every bizarre decision — something like this happens,” said Lampley. Harold Lederman chimed in: “That’s a tough decision to explain. It was dreadful. I wish I had a stronger word.” Max Kellerman added, “That’s just not a bad decision; that’s an outright robbery.”

However, they all witnessed it again when Tim Bradley “beat “Manny Pacquiao in 2012. That one should be expunged.

Tapia vs Ayala

 In 1999, in his 49th professional fight, Johnny Tapia suffered his first loss, losing a decision and the WBA title to Paulie Ayala in The Ring magazine’s “Fight of the Year.” Later that year, the tightly wound Tapia attempted suicide and required hospitalization.

 The following year, Ayala defeated Tapia again in another wild and hellacious fight. Early on, Tapia wobbled Ayala after which the two traded bombs. Johnny appeared to be in control but he was taking his share of Ayala ‘s incoming and sharp blows. After twelve rounds, Tapia was lifted up by his cornermen and had no doubt (in his mind) that he had won. But when Ayala was once again declared the winner by unanimous decision, Tapia became enraged and a look of pure agony appeared on his face. That look said it all; it was indelible. And it might well have been the precursor to more demonic issues down the line.

“We all have our demons…But Johnny had them to an extent that’s almost impossible to believe. He was fighting addiction. He was fighting mental illness. He spent years in jail…”  Lou DiBella

For the losers, this was all about the pain of knowing—correctly or not— that you won but realizing you hadn’t.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Top 12 New England Boxing Ratings as of July 2021

Jeffrey Freeman

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For the sake of these regionalized rankings, the New England region officially consists of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. And I know I don’t have to remind TSS readers that the glory days of Willie Pep and world title fights at the old Boston Garden are over.

It’s now 2021.

New England boxing boasts only one current world champion to crow about and no top contenders to get too excited about. The championship run of New Haven’s Chad Dawson and the championship aspirations of Worcester’s Edwin Rodriquez are presently a thing of the past.

What we have here now are mostly youngish prospects and a few potential contenders with a mix of would-be Micky Ward types scattered throughout. What follows are the twelve best and most accomplished New England boxers in all weight classes from the above mentioned states.

Top 12 New England Ratings:

1. Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, Providence, Rhode Island: The current WBO middleweight champion was recently made to look like a fool after crashing a Canelo Alvarez post-fight presser to declare his fandom and be accused of fighting “no body man” by a smirking Alvarez.

The 33-year-old Andrade is 30-0 (18) and desperate for a payday! Since winning the vacant WBO 160- pound strap in 2018 at the Boston Garden with a boring decision over Walter Kautondokwa, Andrade has beaten four B-level boxers, stopping only one of them with some help from the referee. Eddie Hearn is a good promoter but even he can’t make us like Boo-Boo.

2. Rashidi Ellis, Lynn Massachusetts: The speedy younger brother of Akeem, “Speedy” Rashidi is 23-0 (14) at welterweight and is rated #23 at 147 by BoxRec. Ellis, 28, went pro in Boston in 2013 and fought there three more times before taking his act on the road, fighting frequently in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Ellis has not fought since a 12-round unanimous decision over undefeated Alexis Rocha in 2020. The win earned Speedy Rashidi a minor title.

Promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy, Ellis’ win over Rocha came as a surprise as Rocha was an undefeated GBP prospect beaten by Ellis in his own California backyard.

3. Mark DeLuca, Whitman, Massachusetts: At 33, the “Bazooka” is the most battle-hardened fighter on this list at 27-2 with 15 knockouts. DeLuca avenged the first loss of his career, decisioning Walter Wright at the Boston Garden in 2018. In 2020, he travelled to Sheffield, U.K. for a Matchroom match-up with Kell Brook. DeLuca was knocked out in 7 one-sided rounds.

Despite the setback, DeLuca stayed active in 2020 with two wins late in the year. DeLuca went to Tijuana last February to pick up a win and he’s scheduled to face Charles Conwell in Cleveland next month. Conwell, 15-0 with 11 knockouts, fatally defeated Patrick Day in 2019.

4. Ronald Ellis, Lynn, Massachusetts: AKA Akeem, this 31-year-old super middleweight has been a professional since 2011. In that ten year period, Ellis battled his way up to big fight opportunities, winning some, losing some—and drawing in others. Ellis dropped a Showtime televised decision to DeAndre Ware in 2019 before rebounding that same year to decision Immanuwel Aleem in Brooklyn, NY. Ellis will fight anywhere and he always comes to win.

In 2020, Ellis got a win over veteran Matt Korobov when the Russian broke his ankle and was unable to continue in the bout at Mohegan Sun Casino in CT. Ellis was then stopped last March in 11 rounds by David Benavidez at the same venue. Ellis is now 18-2-2 with 12 knockouts.

The Ellis brothers’ younger sister Rashida is boxing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for Team USA at 60 kg. With a 45-16 record in 61 bouts, the 26-year-old is determined to win a Gold medal.

5. “Marvelous” Mykquan Williams, Hartford, Connecticut: This 23-year-old welterweight is signed to DiBella Entertainment and is managed by Jackie Kallen. At 16-0-1 with 7 knockouts, Williams broke his pandemic-induced inactivity last January at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut with a 10-round unanimous decision over undefeated (15-0) Yeis Gabriel Solano on Showtime.

In his final bout of 2019, before missing all of 2020, Williams was held to an 8-round draw in Brooklyn by a southpaw spoiler named Tre’Sean Wiggins. A recent automobile accident resulted in a broken wrist, thus “Marvelous” Mykquan will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

6. Toka Kahn Clary, Providence, Rhode Island: Once a highly touted local prospect, the professional reality of Toka Khan, 29, is clear. At 28-3, this southpaw featherweight has been knocked out by a nobody and beaten by decision twice when he stepped up to world level.

In 2020, Khan was beaten by Shakur Stevenson in Las Vegas, losing every round on all cards. In 2018, he was outclassed at the Boston Garden by British world title challenger Kid Galahad.

7. Kendrick Ball Jr., Worcester, Massachusetts: The now 28-year-old super middleweight mostly flew under the radar while fighting for Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment and Sports (CES) on Mr. B’s Twin River, Rhode Island undercards. After a win here, a draw there, and a loss there later, the tall Ball (6’ 2”) won twice in 2020 (and in 2019) before decisioning veteran Bryan Vera last April in Derry, New Hampshire on a Granite Chin promoted show.

Ball, 16-1-2 (11) is scheduled to main event the CES card scheduled for August 7 in Springfield, Massachusetts at the recently reopened MGM casino venue in the western part of the state.

8. Greg Vendetti, Stoneham, Massachusetts: The Murphys Boxing promoted “Villain” Vendetti (now 31) is a come-forward fighter who earned his chops on the local scene before stepping up and into the international fray with mixed results. A 2018 win over Yoshihiro Kamegai in California was followed by a devastating second-round knockout loss to Michel Soro in France.

Vendetti regrouped with a pair of local decision wins in 2019 before going back to California for a 2020 shot at Erislandy Lara’s two junior middleweight titles. Vendetti, now 22-4-1 (12), dropped a wide 12-round unanimous decision to the very defensively oriented Cuban freedom fighter.

9. Cassius Chaney, New London, Connecticut: This 34-year-old super-sized heavyweight got a late start in boxing in 2015 after relocating from Baltimore to Connecticut and switching sports. At six foot six, Chaney played basketball in college. In boxing, Chaney is undefeated at 20-0 with 14 KOs and he is Greg Page huge! His afro is even bigger. According to his bio on the Main Events website, Chaney boasts an 85-inch reach and was named after Cassius Clay. With a degree in sports management, he’s a stinker and a thinker! Still, despite being named after the GOAT, this Cassius is still in 8-rounders and hasn’t fought anyone expected to challenge him.

Chaney won four times in 2019, twice in 2020 and he is scheduled to fight on the Rivera Promotions show (New England’s Future VII) on August 14 at the Worcester Palladium.

worcester

10. Richard “Popeye” Rivera, Hartford, Connecticut: The most charismatic fighter on this list, Rivera is a free-swinging cruiserweight who gladly plays the part of Popeye The Sailor Man, bringing a pipe to the ring and singing the trademarked “Toot Toot” jingle. After blasting out “Vermont Bully” Kevin Cobbs in 2018, Rivera has been extremely active, winning four more times that year, seven more times in 2019 and twice in 2020. Rivera won another stay-busy fight last February in Orlando, Florida, a first-round knockout of some Mexican punching bag.

At 19-0 with 14 knockouts, Rivera is back in action on next month’s (August 14) RPE promoted show in Worcester, Massachusetts at the Palladium where he made his pro debut back in 2017.

11. Jamaine Ortiz, Worcester, Massachusetts: This Jimmy Burchfield promoted lightweight is 14-0-1 (8). Last April, he showed great promise on a Top Rank promoted show in Florida, drawing in 8 with undefeated (14-0-2) TR prospect Joseph Adorno. Many ringsiders felt that Ortiz, 25, deserved to get the win and that Adorno was fortunate to keep his unbeaten record.

12. Irvin Gonzalez, Worcester, Massachusetts: Now 14-3 with 11 knockouts, the losses are starting to pile up for this once highly regarded featherweight prospect. Before losing his “0” by knockout in 2019 to journeyman Elijah Pierce at Foxwoods Casino, there was talk of Gonzalez being signed by Evander Holyfield’s upstart promotional company. Three months later, Gonzalez lost again at Foxwoods, this time a wide 10-round decision loss to Toka Khan.

Gonzalez also lost his most recent fight, an 8-round split decision loss to Texas tough-guy Edward Vazquez in Los Angeles on a Jimmy Burchfield promoted show in November of 2020.

Irvin is still only 25, he can build back better.

KO’s Honorable Mentions: Chris Traietti (cruiserweight, Quincy, MA), Ryan Kielczweski (lightweight, Quincy, MA) and Brandon “The Cannon” Berry (welterweight, West Forks, Maine).

The 35-year-old Traietti is more promoter than active fighter these days but he still laces up the gloves on his own Granite Chin Promotions shows and he sports a 30-4 (24) record. He was beaten by Lowell’s Joey McCreedy, Worcester’s Edwin Rodriguez and by Mike Lee in Chicago.

Known as the “Polish Prince” in the ring, Kielczweski turned pro in 2008 and racked up a 22-0 record before his first decision loss in 2015 to Danny Aquino. Momentum killing decision losses to Miquel Flores, Frank De Alba, Tommy Coyle, and Gabriel Flores have stalled his career at 35.

All of which brings us to Maine’s Brandon Berry. A short little welterweight with no reach and little in the way of technique, Berry gets by on pure heart. The 33-year-old is now 22-5-2 (15) and has both fought and promoted himself to 9 straight victories since a pair of losses in 2018.

Berry now fights for the memory of best friend Joel Bishop, a fellow boxer who died on Berry’s wedding night in 2017. Berry has overcome personal tragedy, humiliating losses in the ring and a shoulder injury requiring surgery to carve out a respectable professional boxing career.

*** As noted above there are a few New England shows scheduled that local live fans should know about. Next Saturday night on July 31, Vertex Promotions has a club show scheduled in Dedham, MA featuring several novice local pros in action. Then on August 7 in Springfield, MA, CES is putting on a show at the MGM Springfield with Kendrick Ball Jr. in the main event.

Promoter Jose Antonio Rivera (the former WBA junior middleweight champion) is then back at the Palladium in Worcester, MA on August 14 with “New England’s Future VII” featuring the return of the popular “Popeye” Rivera. And on August 28 in Derry, NH, Chris Traietti’s Granite Chin promotions returns for what Chris calls an “invitational elite class boxing tournament.”

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A former member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Story Under 1500 Words. Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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