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AIBA Confirms Corruption at 2016 Rio Olympics; in Other News, Water is Wet

Bernard Fernandez

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It has been said that it’s difficult, almost impossible even, to refute something you see with your own eyes. But the validity of the eye test carried little to no weight during the scandal-soiled boxing competition at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where what everyone saw was not always what everyone got. Two prime examples of the proof that corruption in Olympic boxing rings was again rampant were the gold medal that was awarded to Russian heavyweight Evengy Tischenko over far more deserving Vassiliy Levit of Kazakhstan and a hotly disputed early-round decision that went to another Russian, Vladimir Tikitin, over top-seeded bantamweight Michael Conlan of Ireland. Tikitin eventually came away with a bronze medal, but an enraged Conlan’s Olympic journey ended in bitterness.

“They’re cheating bastards,” Conlan, who reacted to his announced defeat by flashing one-finger salutes to offending ringside officials assigned by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the much-maligned governing body for Olympic boxing. “They’re paying everybody. They’ve always been cheats. It’s a shambles, to be honest. Today just showed how corrupt this organization is.”

In indignant reaction to the complaints of Levit, Conlan and others who seemingly had had their bouts judged by officials who either were incompetent or complicit in skullduggery, the AIBA issued a statement that read: With regard to corruption, we would like to strongly restate that unless tangible proof is put forward, not rumors, we will continue to use any means, including legal or disciplinary actions, to protect our sport and its R&J (Referees and Judges) community, whose integrity is constantly put into question. The organization will not be deterred by subjective judgments made by discontented parties.

Five years later, some measure of delayed justice for wronged parties in Rio, who had ample reason to be discontented, was delivered in what was termed an independent report authored by Western Ontario University law professor Richard McLaren. The prof’s company had been hired by AIBA to ascertain, as best it could, whether what appeared to be an overflowing toilet of malfeasance needed to be spiffed up with a Tidy Bowl tablet and a bit of air freshener. Not that any forthcoming adjustments will alter the results of Rio 2016 for Levit, Conlan and other victims in the Legion of the Screwed. Those outcomes are in the books and forever confirmed for posterity’s sake, all eye tests to the contrary notwithstanding.

Owning up to one Olympiad’s worth of rotten officiating, the AIBA issued another statement, this one conceding that the McLaren group’s findings were being viewed “with concern” and that “extensive reforms have been implemented to ensure sporting integrity at current AIBA competitions.” It went on to state that McLaren will probe “not only the 2016 Rio boxing tournament but also all key events until now to reach full transparency.”

It is commendable that AIBA is finally shining an unfavorable light upon itself, but it is akin to opening the barn door after a raging fire has burned down the remainder of the structure. The International Olympic Committee, which has a few skeletons in its own closet, removed AIBA’s governance of the boxing tournament at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (actually staged this year because of COVID-19 concerns) amid all the bad vibes that seemed to be intensifying. It can be argued that AIBA, its absolute control of Olympic boxing slip-sliding away, has been dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing on the premise that some of whatever validity it once had might be salvageable going forward.

But it might be a case of too little and too late, and that is even if there is some degree of certainty that the current top administrators of AIBA – Russia’s Umar Kremlev has been its president since 2020 – can pump out the flooded areas of a ship that, in some astute observers’ estimation, has been incrementally sinking at least since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. There is a school of thought that the IOC might simply excise a problem sport that has been a part of the Olympic movement since the 2004 St. Louis Olympics prior to the 2024 Paris Games.

Legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, who was 68 when he died on Oct. 25, 2012, spent only one dissatisfying year as USA Boxing’s director of coaching before he stepped down in the early 2000s from what he perceived to be a mostly ornamental position.

“Are we prepared to just walk away? I don’t know,” Steward said of the possibility that the United States might become so disillusioned with the Olympics, or at least Olympic boxing, that the country might simply step away from the quadrennial event. “I do know that Olympic boxing is not what it used to be, and nobody in America is in agreement on what they want to do.

“To me, it’s been steadily declining since 1988. I don’t even have my amateur kids today pointing toward the Olympics. When I started coaching in 1961, that was everyone’s dream. It was my dream to make the Olympic team in 1964. Your first thought was trying to go to the Olympics, then you worried about turning professional.”

Steward’s mention of 1988 as the possible genesis of what has become a downward spiral is telling. It was at the Seoul Olympics that year that America’s 156-pound representative, Roy Jones Jr. – you might have heard of him – was on the short end of what arguably has been the most egregiously unjust result in the history of Olympic boxing. Jones battered his South Korean opponent, Park Si-Hun, from pillar to post from the opening bell to the end of the scheduled three-rounder, only to be stunned when the judges voted 3-2 that the gold medal should go to the home-nation fighter. That result continues to stand, although a consolation prize, the Val Barker Trophy as the Seoul Olympics’ “most outstanding boxer,” went to Jones.

If the shafting of Jones is the most obvious example of any funny business being done in ’88, succeeding Olympics offered evidence of the increasing brazenness of AIBA presidents Dr. Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan (now deceased) and Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu of Chinese Taipei. Chowdhry remained in the top spot for a quarter-century until being voted out and replaced by Wu, who promised sweeping reforms, in 2006. If there were such reforms made, however, they were not evident to Teddy Atlas, who was the analyst for NBC’s coverage of four Olympiads (2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012). The unapologetically blunt Atlas was not retained in that position in 2016, possibly because he tends to speak the truth as he sees it and is not disposed to gloss over controversies.

Prior to the London Olympics, there had been a British Broadcasting Corporation report the previous September that Azerbaijan, an oil- and mineral-rich satellite country of the old Soviet Union, was prepared to pay millions of dollars to “buy” two gold medals in boxing. The BBC report found documents showing that a $9 million bank transfer, funneled through Switzerland, where AIBA is headquartered, went to a boxing organization owned by AIBA. Atlas mentioned the existence of the report to the American TV audience, but did not state whether it had validity since no certifiably provable links to wrongdoing had been established.

But if anyone needed a large mound of circumstantial evidence to ascertain that something indeed was amiss, it was presented when Atlas and broadcasting partner Bob Papa were calling a match during which a Japanese boxer, Satoshi Shimisu, knocked down Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidev seven times, but amazingly, “the Azerbaijan guy’s point total kept going up!,” Atlas said for a 5,000-word story I did for this site that first appeared online on Aug. 25, 2016. “Bob and I were, like, `Can they really be this arrogant? This cold, this uncaring? Don’t these people have any sense of right and wrong, that they can do this before the entire world?’” It hardly seemed to matter much that Japan’s protest on Shimisu’s behalf was upheld in the face of vehement and widespread public outrage.

Fixing Olympic boxing, and maybe even the Olympics as a whole, may require more than a squeegee and a bucket of soapy water. The McLaren Report indicated its investigation focused primarily on Rio in 2016 (there also were signs the 2012 London Olympiad was affected) and any international tournaments since, but to appreciate the full scope of all that was subverted requires a longer, more thorough look at the multiple stains accumulated at least since 1988, and maybe even before then. There is a reason why Olympic boxing, the sport that first brought such luminaries as Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Oscar De La Hoya and others to prominence, no longer merits prime-time exposure on NBC, instead being shuttled off to alternative, little-viewed TV outlets. There is also a reason why more and more young fighters, not just Americans, are turning pro earlier instead of hanging around to pursue Olympic dreams that are no longer quite so enticing.

“Key personnel decided that the rules did not apply to them,” McLaren determined, adding that there was a “culture of fear, intimidation and obedience in the ranks of referees and judges.” He further noted that senior AIBA officials used their power to select referees and judges and turned the commission, which was supposed to ensure they were assigned fairly, into “a mere rubber stamp … to ensure the manipulation of outcomes.”

Perhaps the current AIBA president, Kremlev, will have the resources and will to cleanse all or most of his organization’s blight. Not that anyone’s nationality should be held against them, but being a Russian might not be construed as a positive now insofar as the Olympics and particularly AIBA are concerned. The 2014 Winter Olympics, President Vladimir Putin’s pet project, were staged in Sochi, Russia, and were the costliest ever with a price tag of $51 billion. It later was ascertained that nearly every Russian competitor in Sochi had benefited from the administering of state-sanctioned performance enhancing drugs. Make of that what you will, or that Putin and his “good friend,” IOC President Thomas Bach of Germany, were seated together at ringside for Tischenko’s gift decision over Levit in Rio, a miscarriage of justice almost on the level of Si-Hun over Jones in 1988. Neither man seemed surprised nor concerned about the dubious outcome.

“AIBA hired Professor McLaren because we have nothing to hide,” Kremlev indicated in a statement. “We will work to incorporate any helpful recommendations that are made. We will also take legal advice with regard to what action is possible against those found to have participated in any manipulation. There should be no place in the AIBA family for anyone who has fixed a fight.”

Encouraging words to be sure, but we have repeatedly heard more or less the same tune in the past. The question is, will Olympic boxing actually be able to dance to it instead of stumbling over its own feet?

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

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Book Review

Thomas Hauser is the Pierce Egan of Our Generation

Arne K. Lang

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Thomas Hauser is the Pierce Egan of our generation. Two centuries ago, Egan chronicled the goings-on in the world of prizefighting in a series of articles. When he had completed a bunch of these, he knotted them together in a compendium under the title Boxiana; or Sketches of Ancient Pugilism. The first volume was issued in 1813. Four more volumes would follow.

Pierce Egan was drawn to the sport of prizefighting during the so-called Regency Era in England when prizefighting, although an outlaw sport, enjoyed a great burst of popularity. Aristocrats and commoners alike, bluebloods and lowlifes, caravanned to the big fights which of necessity were held outside areas of dense population. But, as indicated by the sub-title of “Boxiana,” Egan was also interested in the history of prizefighting which pre-dated the Regency Era. He wasn’t the first historian of the Sweet Science (a term that he coined), but he was certainly the most influential. Nearly 200 years after his death, a fellow interested in learning about the roots of modern prizefighting is encouraged to start by dredging up a reprint of “Boxiana.” (Or, if one doesn’t wish to be that immersive, checking out one of several collections by the great New Yorker essayist A.J. Liebling who rucked Egan out of obscurity.)

Which brings us to Thomas Hauser.

In common with Pierce Egan, Hauser gathers previously published articles about boxing into a book. A Hauser compendium has become an annual tradition at his publishing house, the University of Arkansas Press. Hauser’s latest offering, the 15th in the series, is fresh off the press. It bears the title Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing. TSS readers will recognize some of the nuggets as they first appeared at this web site.

Two hundred years from today, if mankind still exists, folks interested in the goings-on in the world of boxing during the first decades of the 21st century, will be directed to the writings of Thomas Hauser. And I have no doubt that a complete set of his annual anthologies, although released in paperback, will be a prized collectable.

Pierce Egan did round-by-round reports of major fights, but he was more interested in things that happened outside the ring. He saw the big picture; prizefighting as an ecosystem. Hauser likewise views the sport through a wide lens. The power brokers command his attention, as do those on the periphery. Hauser once wrote a story about ring card girls that was a fun read and would have also fit neatly as an insert in a textbook on the sociology of work.

“The boxing scene,” wrote Hauser, “is about so much more than the fights.”

In his role as an investigative reporter, for which he has won several awards, Hauser has written extensively about PED abuse in boxing and about the failings of the New York State Athletic Commission.

There’s less about PEDs in his newest book than in previous editions, inevitable perhaps considering that boxing activity in 2020 was stunted by the pandemic, but the NYSAC gets its usual comeuppance. The agency “has long been a favor bank for powerful economic interests and a source of employment at various levels for the politically well connected,” says Hauser, who informs us that for several higher-up employees, and one woman in particular, the job there is basically a sinecure and a good paying one at that.

Another recurrent theme in Hauser’s writings is boxing’s waning popularity among America’s youth and what can be done about it. In a story titled “Why Doesn’t Boxing Attract More Young Fans?” Hauser lists 11 reasons why it doesn’t, each of which can be reconfigured into a prong to be used in a campaign to stanch the erosion and reverse the trend.

None of Hauser’s compendiums would be complete without book reviews. Several years ago, Hauser wrote that “the written history of Muhammad Ali is an ongoing construction” and, in 2020, new construction continued at a brisk pace; there was a spate of new Ali books.

Hauser, needless to say, is well-versed in the subject matter. He interviewed more than 150 people for his 1991 book, “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times,” long considered the definitive Ali biography, and he takes a fine-tooth comb to any book that traverses the same territory. Factual inaccuracies gall him and he doesn’t hesitate to point them out in reviews of books concerning Ali by Todd Snyder, Stuart Cosgrove, and Rahaman Ali (Muhammad Ali’s brother) and in a book for young readers ostensibly co-authored by book-seller extraordinaire James Patterson.

“Broken Dreams” is divided into four sections, the last of which is titled “Boxing and the Coronavirus.” There are some stories in this section that I suspect wouldn’t make the cut if Hauser were assembling the book today. He writes that “the restoration of normalcy (in boxing) will be a long, slow process.” With the benefit of hindsight, the future wasn’t quite so gloomy.

Among my favorite stories in Hauser’s newest compilation, which clocks in at 308 pages, is a long piece about Gleason’s Gym which, like Madison Square Garden, is currently in its fourth location. There are 44 components in all, modules of various length, and it’s the sort of book that one can open to any page and find something interesting.

Notes

Thomas Hauser and Pierce Egan have other things in common aside from their association with prizefighting. Both wrote about other things. Egan, who died in 1849, achieved his greatest success with a work of fiction, Life in London, about the escapades of Corinthian Tom and his country cousin Jerry, excitement-seekers who flouted the norms of society as they caroused about the London metropolis. The book gave rise to a long-running play, to a popular 18th-century expression (“Tom and Jerrying” denoted a rowdy night on the town), to a once-popular Christmas cocktail, and to a cat and mouse team in a children’s animated cartoon series.

In his review of Hauser’s Ali biography, Dave Anderson of the New York Times noted that this was Hauser’s 14th book and that seven of his previous books were novels. Among the non-fiction books that Hauser authored prior to “Ali” was “The Execution of Charles Horman” about the murder of an American journalist who disappeared in Chile during a right-wing military coup. It was adapted into the Oscar-winning screenplay for the movie “Missing” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.

Lastly, a caveat: Although A.J. Liebling thought Pierce Egan was a real hoot, the average reader will likely find Boxiana hard to digest. The book is freighted with slang terms, some of Egan’s invention, that long ago disappeared from the lexicon.

Egan eventually turned away from boxing cold-turkey, purportedly disgusted by too many fixed fights. If Hauser follows his example, let’s hope that it doesn’t happen any time soon.

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

Bernard Fernandez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arne K. Lang

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

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

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

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

Other Bouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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