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Avila Perspective, Chap.150: Old Soldiers and More

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“Old soldiers never die-they just fade away,” said General Douglas MacArthur in his final goodbye to Congress back in 1951.

A couple of old soldiers in the world of prizefighting could be taking that same road.

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, the conqueror of eight weight divisions, lost last weekend. Another old soldier in Oscar De La Hoya the “Golden Boy” and conqueror of six weight divisions returns to the prize ring in a couple of weeks.

Everyone has a time limit. Even legends.

Pacquiao’s defeat at the hands of Yordenis Ugas was not a surprise considering it was a very last-minute change after Errol Spence Jr. was forced to pull out due to an eye injury. He was not prepared for that style.

During his lengthy career the speedy southpaw overcame his size with eye-popping power and shiftiness that befuddled opponents. He was “the Matrix” come to real life and willing to test the best the boxing world could offer. It was a courageous mentality that made him beloved by the little guys all over the world.

From Marco Antonio Barrera and the Mexican three that included Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, the Filipino blitzed through like a crazed zephyr to conquer the featherweights, then moved up and destroyed the lightweights and super lightweights with even more devastating results in knockout wins over David Diaz and Ricky Hatton.

As a welterweight Pacquiao stretched his abilities in defeating Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. And ironically, he retired De La Hoya with a one-sided beating in 2008. Now, 13 years later, the East Los Angeles boxer who formed his own successful boxing promotion company has returned.

Another old soldier returning to the fight.

Oscar

Los Angeles has long been a bastion for prizefighting. Many of the greats from a century ago like Jack Johnson, Henry Armstrong and Manuel Ortiz fought in places like the Vernon Arena, Olympic Auditorium and long extinct venues like Hazard’s Pavilion.

De La Hoya was the first home-grown fighter to reach superstar status and the first Chicano fighter from East L.A. to conquer multiple weight divisions. He was a beloved son to all grandmothers, mothers and their children who were deemed second class by those ruling the city and southwestern regions of the USA.

De La Hoya was a shining example of how a simple kid from the nearby barrios, who attended schools like David Wark Griffith Jr. High and Garfield High could become a gold medalist in the Olympics, win a world title within two years of becoming a professional and become one of the boxing world’s biggest gate attractions.

By engaging in many of the most riveting fights against stars like Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Tito Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas, Hector Camacho, and Ike Quartey the Golden Boy earned his nickname. He drew near a billion dollars in pay-per-view fights including his two biggest against Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao.

Without De La Hoya those two fighters never make it to mega pay-per-view status. He launched them to the upper tier.

“I wasn’t ready to retire after I lost to Manny Pacquiao. I never felt like I was in wars so in boxing you’re just as old as how you feel,” said De La Hoya.

After 13 years De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) returns to face former MMA champion Vitor Belfort (1-0) a muscular Brazilian with former boxing ties on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Staples Center in L.A. The Triller Fight Club card will be streamed on pay-per-view by FITE.tv.

On Tuesday afternoon De La Hoya met with the media then performed a workout in front of the public at LA Live. Hundreds of curious onlookers got a glimpse of the now fit promoter who shadow boxed for a few rounds.

“I miss getting hit,” said De La Hoya.

The East L.A. promoter added that he wants to engage in a Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler type of slugfest or something similar to his first clash with Sugar Shane Mosley that took place at the Staples Center in June 2000. It was the first time any prizefight took place at that venue and the only time De La Hoya fought there.

Age catches up to everyone, but most old soldiers seem to ignore the signs that wrinkles, slower reflexes and diminished stamina seldom show up until the battle actually begins. We saw it last Saturday when Pacman’s legs failed him.

Still fresh in my memory was a physically fit looking Sugar Ray Leonard with ripped muscles facing Hector Camacho. Fans were impressed with Leonard’s physique until the bell rang and Camacho battered the former great.

Ironically, De La Hoya fought Camacho six months later and destroyed the Puerto Rican great.

Will De La Hoya be the next Leonard and learn the hard way?

Sunday Boxing Extravaganza

Jake Paul tangles with former MMA champion Tyron Woodley on Sunday Aug. 29, at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Showtime pay-per-view will show the fight card that also features Amanda Serrano versus Yamileth Mercado in a Puerto Rico-Mexico war.

I’ve seen Paul a couple of times and regardless of the former opponents, this is one big dude. And he can fight some.

Yes, he is barely learning but the physical tools are there. He seems to be a tad better than his brother Logan Paul who exchanged blows with Floyd Mayweather a few months ago.

Jake Paul has that meanness needed when facing someone who can hurt you too.

Enter Woodley a former UFC champion who may not be a boxer but knows how to give a hit as well as take a hit.

Neither Paul nor Woodley will be giving boxing seminars on the sweet science but this will be a fight, plain and simple. Millions of Paul’s followers will be watching and that means new boxing fans.

Let’s talk about the women’s fight.

When mentioning the sweet science in women’s boxing you have to include Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano. She’s won seven weight division world titles. Only Pacquiao has more.

Serrano (40-1-1, 30 KOs) currently has the WBC and WBO featherweight world titles and meets WBC super bantamweight titlist Yamileth Mercado (18-2, 5 KOs) of Mexico in a clash of champions on the Paul-Woodley fight card.

Few fighters, man or woman, can dominate a fight like Serrano. She’s a pure fighting machine with heavy hands and quick fists. Mercado has never fought anyone like Serrano, but you can’t discount any fight between a Puerto Rican and Mexican. They’re like gasoline and fire.

The last time Serrano fought a Mexican she experienced that firsthand against Yazmin Rivas in 2017. She admits that was her toughest fight.

Still, Mercado has a lot to overcome and will have to trade blows close up to defeat Serrano. That means war.

It’s a pretty good card and includes one of my favorite young fighters in super welterweight Charles Conwell (15-0) facing Juan Carlos Rubio (18-0). Enjoy.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Edison Garcia (13-0) vs Armando Frausto (9-1-1).

Sat. FITE.tv 5 p.m. Kim Clavel (13-0) vs Maria Soledad Vargas (15-3-1).

Sun. Showtime pay-per-view 5 p.m. Jake Paul (3-0) vs Tyron Woodley (0-0); Amanda Serrano (40-1-1) vs Yamileth Mercado (18-2).

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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