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Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled? (Part 1)

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Triller, Holyfield, and Trump: Did Evander Get Hustled? (Part One of a Two-Part Story)

On September 11, Evander Holyfield was knocked out by Vitor Belfort in the first round of a boxing event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. There was widespread criticism of the event before it took place and more criticism when it was over. Holyfield is 58 years old and shouldn’t be getting punched in the head by men trained in the art of hurting.

Worse, interviews with multiple people involved with the promotion suggest that Holyfield was hustled. That he went into the ring thinking he was about to participate in an exhibition in which neither man would use best efforts to hurt the other only to find himself double-crossed in a scenario akin to an old-time boxing movie.

How did boxing get into this mess? Read on.

In 2015, two musicians in search of an inexpensive way to edit their work launched a video app called Triller that enabled them and other users to avoid the cost of renting studio space. A year later, Triller was transitioning to becoming a social video app but had still not entered the mainstream consciousness. Enter Ryan Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh is a 46-year-old businessman, a big concept guy who’s adept at raising money. Over the years, he has been meshed in a wave of litigation touching upon his professional and personal life.

In 2004, Kavanaugh founded an entertainment company called Relativity Media that purported to use sophisticated algorithms to eliminate the risk from film financing. Variety named him “Showman of the Year” and he made his way onto the Forbes list of billionaires. Then Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy. Twice. Kavanaugh told the Wall Street Journal that he took Relativity into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 “to fend off vulture investors who were trying to steal the company” and that he wasn’t involved in the second bankruptcy. In 2018, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Relativity Media sold substantially all of its remaining assets to a holding company called UltraV.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Kavanaugh founded a company called Proxima Media. In 2019, Proxima Media acquired a majority stake in Triller. Kavanaugh sought to position Triller as an American version of TikTok (the Chinese-owned, social networking service that was under attack by then-president Donald Trump). To date, Triller has fallen far short of TikTok’s success.

In describing Triller, a company press release states, “The Triller Network is a consolidation of companies, apps and technologies. Triller Network pairs the culture of music with sports, fashion, entertainment and influencers through a 360-degree tech and content-based vertical.”

Triller became a significant player in boxing when it put together a November 28, 2020, exhibition between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones that engendered an estimated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys. DAZN and Matchroom had jumpstarted the move of “trash boxing” into the mainstream of the sport when they partnered to stream Logan Paul vs. KSI on November 9, 2019. Tyson-Jones brought this phenomenon to a new level.

Triller got what it wanted most out of Tyson-Jones – massive publicity and clicks. And the event fit perfectly into what Kavanaugh (pictured below with Oscar De La Hoya) calls Triller Fight Club’s “four-quadrant model” consisting of “influencers, legends, music artists, and contemporary fighters.”

Then Triller shook up the boxing world. At a February 25, 2021, purse bid, it offered $6,018,000 for rights to the four-belt title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos. That was $2.5 million more than the next highest bid (submitted by Matchroom) and $3.7 million more than the number submitted by Top Rank (Lopez’s promoter). Lopez-Kambosos is currently scheduled to be contested at Madison Square Garden on October 4. Triller’s bid was a statement that – temporarily at least – it’s a significant player in legitimate boxing.

More Triller events followed. Most notably, on April 17, 2021, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round. One month later, it was announced that Paul was leaving Triller pursuant to a multi-bout deal with Showtime. The April 17 card also saw a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. The event and others that followed seemed to be mired in red ink. But they were aimed at building Triller’s base and were showpieces for potential investors.

Meanwhile, on April 14, 2021, Triller announced that it had acquired FITE – a small but successful technology company that has become a leader in the distribution of pay-per-view combat sports events. After numerous snags in ironing out the contracts, the acquisition was finalized in late-July.

As all of this was unfolding, Triller was looking for its next big legendary fighter. Mike Tyson was unhappy with the money he’d received in the aftermath of his encounter with Roy Jones and, on March 21, had issued a statement that read, “Just to be clear, there is no Tyson with Triller fight. I don’t know any Triller executives personally. I don’t have a deal with Triller or any head executive representing them for the next event. I will never do another event or any business with Triller, so anyone misrepresenting that they own the rights to my name or my next event isn’t true. I am not with or ever will be with Triller’s Fight Club.”

With Tyson unavailable, Triller turned to Oscar De La Hoya.

oscar

For more than a decade, De La Hoya was one of boxing’s brightest stars. But he’s now 48 years old and last fought in 2008 when he was brutalized by Manny Pacquiao.

There’s kindness in Oscar. But he has been wounded many times, physically and psychologically. The psychological wounds seemed to have caused more suffering than the physical. He has acknowledged having problems with alcohol and cocaine and has been in rehab multiple times. The ravages of his lifestyle and years as a fighter have taken a toll.

Three days before Tyson-Jones, De La Hoya said that he was considering a comeback fight against Gennady Golovkin. “You know how easy GGG would be for me?” Oscar asked rhetorically. “I always took a good shot and I always took apart fighters like him.”

Of course, in 2019, Oscar was talking about running for president of the United States.

Appearing at a March 26, 2021, press conference in Las Vegas to promote the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren Triller card, De La Hoya took the microphone, announced “July 3, I’m making my comeback,” dropped the microphone, and walked off the stage.

Paul-Askren, when it came to pass, featured performances by Justin Bieber, The Black Keys, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Diplo, Major Lazer, and what was advertised as “the exclusive world premiere of the hip hop supergroup Mt. Westmore (Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $hort and E-40).” There were pole dancers with big butts and lots of cleavage. Taylor Hill, Charli D’Amelio, and other social media personalities made appearances.

There was also a lot of weed (much of which was openly smoked on camera) and alcohol. The commentating team of Ray Flores, Mario Lopez, and Al Bernstein was joined from time to time by Snoop Dogg, Pete Davidson, and De La Hoya.

Oscar looked bloated, sounded as though he’d participated liberally in hospitality room offerings, and said that he wanted to fight Mike Tyson. Ray Flores observed on air, “Oscar is definitely high.”

One might ask why the people around De La Hoya who care about him allowed that scenario to unfold. Four days later, Oscar appeared on “The DAZN Boxing Show” and was asked about his commentating that night.

“I’ve been in beast mode for about six weeks,” De La Hoya answered. “And I got a little into it; you know. I started having a couple drinks. And then they told me, ‘Why don’t you go and commentate?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man! Okay. Okay.’ I got a little over carried away. And I apologize. But it’s all good. I’m back in beast mode.”

Thereafter, Ryan Kavanaugh told The Sun, “It was a fun event. You had two people up on stage smoking joints, so Oscar had a couple of drinks. He wasn’t falling over. He wasn’t so awful that he did something terrible. People love to talk sh**. I don’t think Oscar was that bad. He was just having fun with it. We told him to have fun with it. We said go and enjoy it. Anybody that has enough time to go onto the internet and start commenting negatively in big ways and making a point of it, they obviously have other issues.”

Then, on June 17, 2021, it was announced that De La Hoya would box against former MMA fighter Vitor Belfort in a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view event to be held in Las Vegas on September 11. Belfort, age 44, had retired in 2018 after compiling a 26-14 career record and losing four of his last six fights. He’d boxed only once as a pro and that was fifteen years earlier.

“This isn’t that WWE theatrics we’ve been seeing in boxing lately,” De La Hoya declared. “This is the real deal, a real fight with real knockouts for a real win. I’m in better shape than I was fifteen years ago. I want to make the biggest comeback in boxing history.”

On July 21, Triller announced that De La Hoya vs. Belfort was moving to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The contract weight was 180 pounds and the bout would be contested over eight two-minute rounds. That brought the California State Athletic Commission into the act.

“We were told that Tyson and Jones would be an exhibition and we regulated it as such,” CSAS executive director Andy Foster said. “An exhibition in the State of California is when you don’t use your best efforts to win. Here, the fighters want to use their best efforts, so by definition it can’t be an exhibition. They want a fight and we’ll regulate it as such. They’re gonna box and we’re gonna score it.”

Asked about drug testing, Foster told this writer, “Both fighters will have to pass their medicals. We’re still working out the details on drug testing. Most likely, it will be conducted by California, not VADA. I think we’ll be focusing on PEDs, not recreational drugs.”

As for possible drug use by the TV commentators, Foster pledged, “The commission will control the environment in the technical zone at ringside.”

The formal kick-off press conference for De La Hoya vs. Belfort took place on July 27.

“I’m doing it for myself,” Oscar told a group of reporters before the formalities began. “I’ve had a f***ing crazy life, you know. I’ve had a crazy life. And sorry if I get all emotional and s***. I’ve done this for thirty-five years. I’ve always done it for my family and fans all over the world. I’ve gone into the ring and just let it all out because I love what I do. I love what I represent for people. But I’m finally fighting for myself. I can’t f***ing wait. It’s going to be hell, but I’ve been through hell and back. There’s nothing that can faze me. There is nothing that can break me down, all the s***, all the bulls***, whatever. I’m strong as a rock. I’m at peace. I finally got here. I’m getting f***ing crazy emotional. It’s been a f***ing struggle. People can talk all the s*** they want to but I will never give up. I feel that age is just a number, and I have to literally thank yoga. It’s not a f***ing joke. Yoga, like really, literally almost saved my life.”

That was followed by pronouncements like, “This is not a game. I said, ‘Look, if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it for real. Let’s not do this song and dance. Let’s not do these exhibitions, you know, that we’re tired of.’ This is the real thing. And the fact that we both agree that it’s gonna be a real fight, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. We’re gonna kick the s*** out of each other. That’s one thing for sure. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Asked about the possibility of fighting Canelo Alvarez, De La Hoya responded, “Why not? It’s only power. That’s all it is. Power, I can withstand. Speed, like Pacquiao, is a whole different story. I have a good chin, you know.”

At times, promoting the Belfort fight seemed like a therapy session for Oscar.

“I was raped at thirteen, from a woman, an older woman,” he told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “Thirteen, lost my virginity over being, you know, being raped, basically. I was in Hawaii, I think, at some tournament. She was over thirty-five. You suppress everything. You’re living this life, the Golden Boy. But, oh s***, wait, that’s still there. Like I never, like, thought about it. I never processed it. I never really thought how my feelings are until one day it just comes out and you don’t know how to deal with it.”

More troubling, perhaps, was the ugly reality that De La Hoya was on track to be hit in the head multiple times by a man who could punch.

Over the years, Oscar traded blows with fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Ike Quartey, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Later, he offered a stark assessment of the risks inherent in the trade he’d chosen. “I hate getting hit,” De La Hoya said. “Getting hit hurts. It damages you. When a fighter trains his body and mind to fight, there’s no room for fear. But I’m realistic enough to understand that there’s no way to know what the effect of getting hit will be ten or fifteen years from now.”

However, at an August 25, 2021, media workout, Oscar declared, “Call me crazy but I just miss it. I missed getting hit and doing the hitting. I wasn’t ready to retire after I lost to Manny Pacquiao. I never felt like I was in wars. In boxing you’re just as old as how you feel. I went through hell and back treating my body wrong, but these last six months I feel amazing. I refocused myself and rededicated myself and I’m actually doing this for me. I can’t wait. I’m going to give the fans a war. I’ve been studying Marvin Hagler versus Thomas Hearns for a reason. I want a fight, a war. I have a good chin and I can take the punch. My inspiration for this fight is Arturo Gatti. I want one of those types of fights.”

No one asked about a September 27, 2010, interview with Broadcasting & Cable. In that interview, De La Hoya had acknowledged, “I did have tests done after every single fight. My last fight, they found something that they couldn’t really understand in my head. It didn’t help me to make my decision to retire, but it was obviously a concern. I had second and third opinions. It was something in my head that they thought could maybe have an effect thirty years down the road, but they just weren’t sure. Maybe they were being extra-careful.”

Then, on September 3, De La Hoya vs. Belfort ground to a halt. Oscar announced that he had tested positive for COVID and that the fight was off. One day later, 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was substituted as Belfort’s opponent.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Holyfield-Belfort photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Triller Fight Club

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Artem Dalakian, Sunny Edwards, and the Most Storied Title in Boxing

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When the mighty Roman Gonzalez departed the 112lb division in 2016 he vacated the title and broke the longest remaining lineage in the sport. In a moment of quiet heartbreak for the boxing aficionado, the final direct link with boxing’s glorious past was cut forever.

That lineage had begun back in 1975 with perhaps the greatest flyweight champion, Miguel Canto.  Canto cleaned house that year, shading the wonderful Betulio Gonzalez and the evergreen Shoji Oguma, part of a calendar year that saw him go 6-0 and establish his absolute pre-eminence in the deepest of flyweight divisions. In 1979, old in the face, Canto was out-worked and even in some ramshackle way out-jabbed by a swarming, aggressive Korean named Chan Hee Park. Park was a good fighter, Shoji Oguma lay in wait to send him tumbling with counter-rights, taking his turn in an impressive second tour. In 1981, the new generation asserted itself in the form of Antonio Avelar.  Avelar seemed, briefly, to be the real deal but he was unseated by a murderous punching Colombian, Prudencio Cardona, who inflicted upon Avelar the most violent knockout in flyweight history.

This heralded the advent of a series of caretaker champions, good fighters, all, but no great ones as the early eighties evaporated while the hot-potato flyweight championship passed from Fredy Castillo to Eleoncio Mercedes to Charlie Magri and others, none of them holding it for more than a matter of months. When the mighty Sot Chitalada wrestled it from the last caretaker champion in 1984, Canto finally had a descendent who could be named a peer. In two spells, Chitalada held the title into the 1990s whereupon it was ripped from him by the Thai Maungchai Kittikasem who then dropped it to an early emergent of the Soviet and former Soviet schools in Yuri Arbachakov.  Arbachakov was the first flyweight whose legacy was to suffer at the hands of the ABC title-belt madness, his record-breaking spell as champion marred by matches with WBC-nominated journeymen. Despite his lengthy title reign, Yuri managed to fight men who were held to belong in the top ten just twice as champion.

Less than a year after the lineal title and Arbakachov were parted, it would be wrapped around the waist of a youngster named Manny Pacquiao, who had crushed Chatchai Sasakul in eight who had in turn outpointed Arbachakov. From the madness of the alphabet soup to the emergence of one of the greatest fighters of our time, the story of the flyweight lineal championship is the story of modern boxing untrampled by titular uncertainty. The history of the championship, of the divisional king, can be traced back to a time when Muhammad Ali ruled the world and so a fistic tendril connects Ali, a hero to his people, to Pacquiao, a hero to his. Pacquiao nearly ruined it all though.  Manny missed weight for his 1999 match with Boonsai Sangsurat and had he won that fight, the title would have been vacated as he departed the weight forever, but fortunately, a weight-drained mess, he was crushed in three rounds.

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam then, when he lifted the title in 2001, became the latest great to trace his lineage back to Canto. Wonjongkam’s reign was as modern as can be imagined, dictated thoroughly by ABCs, fought almost exclusively in his backyard, and despite amassing an astonishing twenty title defences in two spells as king, his win resume underwhelms. A list of the worst ever lineal title challengers would draw heavily from Wonjongkam’s opposition.

Wonjongkam made way for Sonny Boy Jaro of The Philippines who made way for Toshiyuki Igarashi and Akira Yaegashi, both of Japan, underlining what has always been the most international of championships. And finally, at the end of the longest road in modern boxing, the title was lain at the feet of a great fighter from Nicaragua, the wonderful Roman Gonzalez.

Roman Gonzalez was my favourite fighters for years, I watched his boxing obsessively. More than a decade ago, I wrote an article predicting his eventual enshrinement as a pound-for-pound number one and his likely vanquishment by a southpaw, even going so far as to predict this would occur up at 115lbs, all of which came true. But it cut me when he stepped aside in 2016, the lineage that had begun with Canto destroyed, a lineage that had run through four different abdications and coronations at 160lbs, that ran all the way back to the last golden age of the flyweight division.

From the ashes, finally, a phoenix menaces. Far from stipulated, certainly not sure, but stirring. On Saturday night, Ukrainian Artem Dalakian (pictured) came to London to meet David Jimenez on the undercard of the Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde fight. Dalakian-Jimenez is one of those rare and wonderful fights British and American fans are sometimes treated to, elite combat athletes who struggle to secure rewarding purses fighting low on a card which a just sport might see them headline. Jimenez, the challenger for Dalakian’s strap, refutes befuddlement with aggression, boxable but brutal, left floundering early in the biggest fight of his career against Ricardo Sandoval only to button up and fire forwards, hard-scrabbling enough rounds to conquer his more cultured foe. This would be his approach, too, against Dalakian. Dalakian is a fighter of no small culture whose activity suffered during those COVID months but with a legacy that stretches back to the last generation of top flyweights and a victory over Brian Viloria. Having boxed just twenty rounds in three years he was now bringing an unfortunate mix of rust and, at thirty-five years old, age.

Nevertheless, for me he dominated Jimenez. The younger man was reasonably quick-handed and tried to remain ambitious in his rushes, but Dalakian was never less than the cleaner puncher and rested on a steeper bank of experience that saw him nullify his more aggressive foe inside while consistently out-scoring him outside. It was a thoroughly impressive performance that confirmed Dalakian’s remaining superiority over most of the rest of the division. Jimenez, in just his thirteenth fight, had established himself firmly in the divisional top five and likely has a future at 112lbs if he wants it. This was a crossroads fight only in the sense that it tested the last generation with the new, and the new was found wanting.

This victory, a unanimous decision over twelve, was a significant one for Dalakian, however. For me, it establishes him as the number one flyweight in the world but at worst he is the number two. The man with whom he shares the top table is one Sunny Edwards, a London boy and very much the division’s coming man. Edwards has boxed nearly as many contests in the upper echelons of the division as Dalakian, and Dalakian’s victory over Viloria aside, Edwards probably has the most meaningful victory of the two having defeated the ageing Moruti Mthalane in early 2021. The recency of his important victories is the source of the tension concerning the number one divisional flyweight currently.

Sunny

Sunny Edwards

The hope is the two will settle this in the ring.

While it is not unusual for a fighter to arrive from foreign shores and never be seen in a British ring again, it is more often the case that they arrive with targeted opposition when they are boxing at title level, and from Dick Tiger to Zolani Tete, Britain welcomes foreign winners with open arms. It is likely that Dalakian has been brought to Britain to tease a fight with the only man in the division that might be seen as his better and in the only fight either man could hope to box and be similarly enriched. Some promotional tensions exist, but what would be unusual money for a flyweight contest might tip the scales.

And if they settle it in the ring, as the number one and number two flyweight contenders, they will start a new lineage, a new passage of the flyweight title. More than that, the fight would be a fascinating and evenly matched contest between Dalakian, a technician who will likely be forced to box with pressure as a result of his physical limitations and Edwards, a quick-footed slickster who will nevertheless have to commit to outworking maybe the only fighter in the division with superior straight punches. That is not to say that Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez will be excluded – clearly the division’s number three, he may yet have a say.

But if a new and meaningful lineage is to begin it is Dalakian and Edwards, the two best flyweights on the planet, who must seed it.

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Emanuel Navarrete Aims to Become Champion in a Third Weight Class on Friday

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Champion in both the super bantamweight and featherweight categories, the strong Mexican puncher Emanuel Navarrete will try to be champion at 130 pounds on Friday, February 3, when he faces Australian Liam Wilson at the Desert Diamond Arena in the city of Glendale, Arizona. ESPN will be broadcasting the fight.

For Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs), who has a 31-fight winning streak since his one and only setback in July 2012, the duel with Wilson will be his debut into the super featherweight division.

Navarrete, 28 years old and born in San Juan Zitlaltepec, defeated his countryman Eduardo Báez with a sixth-round knockout last July in San Diego, California, where the winner made his third successful defense of the WBO featherweight title.

Subsequently, Navarrete decided to seek the WBO championship at 130 pounds which had been vacated after the talented American southpaw Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was unable to make weight on the scale before unanimously defeating Brazilian Robson Conceicao on September 23rd in New Jersey.

The WBO accepted Navarrete’s request to fight for the vacant title and opened the doors to fellow Aztec Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), ranked second by the WBO and third by the WBC.

But in December, Valdez’s camp announced that he was withdrawing from the fight after undergoing a medical evaluation. Australian Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs), ranked third by the WBO, was designated to take Valdez’s place.

A confident Navarrete stated: “This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown. Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”

Navarrete began his string of 31 wins after losing in four rounds against his compatriot Daniel Argueta on July 26, 2012, at the José Cuervo Hall in the finals of the XVIII Gold Belt Tournament. Despite the setback, Navarrete was the one declared champion of the contest, as Argueta failed to show up for the mandatory weigh-in.

Although he is on the verge of conquering his third championship in a third weight division, Navarrete has not defined what his immediate steps will be.

“Let’s see how things evolve,” Navarrete said. “We will see how I feel (at 130 pounds), and then make the right decision. It all depends on how I perform in February and analyze the result. How my body assimilates to the new weight class and things like that.”

Likewise, Navarrete confirmed that he was having difficulty making 126 pounds and that during his career in both the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions he had tried to unify the titles with the other champions without success.

“You know that I have been seeking unification fights in other weight classes,” stated Navarrete. “That is what I want, and what I’m looking for. I hope I can unify in this weight class (130 pounds). But first I hope to win against Wilson, and then we will decide.”

When analyzing his possibilities in the super featherweight division, Navarrete said that he has a tall stature which can benefit him. In the same sense, he considered that now at 130 pounds he will not have to wear himself out to make weight so he will be strong.

Wilson, 26 years old, won the vacant WBO International belt against Argentine Adrián Rueda (37-2, 32 KOs) on June 29th of last year in Brisbane, Australia. Wilson’s lone loss came from Filipino southpaw Joe Noynai (20-3-2, 8 KOs), who knocked him down once in the 1st round, twice in the 4th round, and again in the fifth round on July 7, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia, before referee Phil Austin stopped the lopsided match.

Wilson, however, got even eight months later in a rematch where he chloroformed Rueda in the second round and regained the WBO Asia-Pacific title.

For his upcoming fight, Wilson has set up a seven-week training camp in Washington DC at Headbangers Boxing Gym where Isaac Dogboe trains. Dogboe has fought Navarrete twice and can hopefully provide some valuable insight. “I’m only going off YouTube footage, so to get the advice off Isaac and his trainer over here, they’ve been in the corner against him, they’ve seen him in person, up close, so I have to take their advice onboard,” Wilson added.

Wilson is confident going into this fight, even though he has less professional experience. “He’s been in these fights so many times before. This is my first 12-rounder,” Wilson said. “In a sense, he has every reason to overlook me – I’ve only been in 10 rounders, he’s been 12 rounds multiple times, he’s a two-division world champion and for him it’s just another fight, for me it’s what I’ve dreamed of. I think I’ll be the bigger, stronger fighter. I believe I’ll be the biggest puncher he’s fought.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Garcia Promotions’ Event in San Bernardino was a Showcase for Saul Rodriguez

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SAN BERNARDINO-Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, out of action for nearly three years, returned to the prize ring on Saturday in San Bernardino at the Club Event Center in a Garcia Promotions event. San Bernardino is in the Inland Empire which is two counties just east of Los Angeles.

Riverside’s Rodriguez (24-1-1) weighed much more than the designated weight and his match with Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo was demoted to an exhibition because of the weight disparity. Despite wearing head gear, the popular Riverside fighter was able to stop Angulo (6-1) in his first fight since February 28, 2020.

Though Rodriguez looked slightly over-weight as a super lightweight, it didn’t dampen his sharp punching skills. He immediately caught Meza with a well-timed overhand right. Luckily, Rodriguez didn’t put muscle on it. The fight proceeded.

Because of inactivity, Rodriguez seemed to relish getting back to work. He moved around and tried different combinations. Everything seemed to be working in his favor. But Meza countered a left by Rodriguez with a strong right. It proved the popular Riverside fighter needs work on bringing back his left quickly.

After Meza connected things got serious.

Rodriguez immediately opened the third round at a quicker tempo and seemed intent on changing from a wait-and-see attitude to one of bad intentions. Meza didn’t notice the change and looked to catch Rodriguez with a combo and instead was caught with a monster counter-right. Down went Meza with a thud. The fight was stopped.

Fans, many of them wearing Team Neno t-shirts, were deliriously happy to see Rodriguez back in action.

In the co-main event, San Bernardino’s Leo Ruiz clashed with granite-chinned Cameron Krael.

Ruiz (11-0, 7 KOs) unloaded horrific bombs on Krael (19-25-3) who calmly kept his gloves covering his head and although some managed to connect flush, nothing fazed the Las Vegas fighter.

Round after round Ruiz unloaded on Krael only to quickly realize that attempting a knockout was futile. The reputation of Krael’s chin was correct and no need to break a knuckle trying to score a knockout. Instead, Ruiz went six rounds and won every one to take a win by unanimous decision by scores of 60-54 on all three cards.

Other Bouts

Gabe Muratalla (9-0) knocked out Michael Nielsen (6-3) with a four-punch combination in the third round of a bantamweight fight. Body shots dropped Nielsen in the second round.

Ventura’s Jose Delgado (10-1-4), a southpaw, overcome a sluggish start with body shots to defeat San Bernardino’s Jesus Beltran (6-3-1) by majority decision after four rounds in a lightweight fight.

Riverside’s Victor Pelayo (2-0) defeated Milwaukee’s D’Angelo Hopgood (2-1) by decision after four rounds in a very close super bantamweight match. Both fighters showed solid fundamentals in a fight that could have easily been scored a draw. Pelayo won by decision 39-37 on all cards.

Riverside’s Jose Rodriguez (2-0) stopped Henry Mendez (0-9-2) in the fourth round of a super welterweight bout. Mendez was deducted a point in the second round for incessant holding after numerous warnings.

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