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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part Two)

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Initially, Triller scheduled the lightweight title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos for June 5, 2021. But on April 27, it was announced that Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul would be contested on June 6. Wary of the competition for pay-per-view buys, Kavanaugh changed the date for Lopez-Kambosos to June 19. Performances by Meek Mill, Myke Towers, and Lunay were to be included in the show. A reliable source says that Triller’s projected budget for the event was $18 million.

Then, on June 15, 2021, it was announced that Lopez had tested positive for COVID-19 and the event would be rescheduled for August 14. On June 23, the fight was postponed yet again; this time to September 11.

There were more changes to come. On July 9, it was reported that Triller planned to move Lopez-Kambosos to a fifth date (October 17) and that the fight would be held in Australia. In response, David McWater (Teofimo’s manager) stated that Lopez didn’t want to fight in Australia (Kambosos’s homeland) for logistical reasons relating to the need for him to quarantine for fourteen days once he arrived there and that he also objected to the new date.

“If they want to move it that far back,” McWater said, “the IBF will rule. If we have to, we’ll give up the title and [Kambosos] can fight Isaac Cruz somewhere [for the vacant title] for $70,000.”

An August 9 IBF ruling split the baby. Lopez-Kambosos, the sanctioning body decreed, could be held as late as October 17. But Lopez could not be required to travel abroad to a location that subjected him to a 14-day quarantine period.

The projected date changed again – and again – thereafter.

On August 23, Triller announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on October 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. It then shifted the date to October 4. Lopez and Kambosos signed contracts for October 4. But on September 20, Kavanaugh told journalist Ariel Helwani that he planned to switch the fight to October 16 at Barclays Center because he didn’t want to compete for viewers against the October 4 Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. Team Lopez objected, citing their already-signed contract and the fact that changing the date a mere two weeks before the fight could wreak havoc with Teofimo’s plans for making weight, sparring, and the like. Kambosos also demurred. Then, on September 23, Teofimo Lopez Sr. said that his son had agreed in writing to allow Triller to move the date to October 16, bypassing manager David McWater and attorney Pat English in the process.

On September 27, Triller reached a six-figure settlement with Madison Square Garden, and the issuing of refunds to fans who had purchased tickets for October 4 at MSG began. But Kambosos still hadn’t agreed to the October 16 date and was demanding that Triller place his share of the purse in escrow before he flew to the United States for the fight.

There was a school of thought that Kambosos didn’t want to come to New York because of the birth of his child and death of his grandfather (both of which occurred on September 24). More likely, he was worried about getting paid the full amount that he would be owed for the fight.

On September 28, Greg Smith (an attorney representing Kambosos) sent a letter to the IBF asking that Triller be declared in default of its purse bid and “barred from future purse bids for its egregious behavior.” More specifically, Smith alleged that Triller had violated IBF Rule 10.F.2 (“Failure of Promoter to Comply with Obligation”).

Triller suggested in its response that the problems it had endured with regard to Lopez-Kambosos were the result of a cabal among the powers that be in boxing to crush a new entity that was threatening the status quo.

On October 6, the IBF ruled that Triller was in default of its purse-bid obligations and that Matchrom Boxing was entitled to promotional rights to Lopez-Kambosos by virtue of its (second place) $3,506,000 purse bid. It further ruled that Triller, by its conduct, had forfeited its $1,203,600 deposit (20% of the winning purse bid), and that this amount would be added onto the purses that the fighters received from Matchroom.

On October 20, 2021, Matchroom announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on November 27 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and be streamed on DAZN.

During the buuld-up to the fight, Kambosos said the things that one often hears from a prohibitive underdog:

*         “No one has ever turned round to Teofimo and said, ‘I’m coming straight at ya. I don’t care what you’ve done.’ They’ve all been scared of him. I don’t know why. He’s a young little kid. I’m not scared of any man. I’m bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive and more violent.”

*         “I know this kid’s got a suspect chin. If I can crack him with one shot, the speed and power that I possess and the explosive shots that I pop off, don’t be surprised if he goes down in three.”

*         “I’ve got a big motor. Every round, I keep getting better and better and keep throwing more punches. My speed and the way I move and explosive power and shots that I land and throw and the punches in bunches and the combination punches that I have in my artillery and my stamina and my fitness is just too much for this kid.”

Lopez predicted a first-round knockout and got into the holiday spirit of things with the declaration, “I feel like, if I break his f****** eye socket, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. I feel like, if I snap his vertebrae, I’m not sorry. I really want to show everybody what my power is capable of and what my mind is capable of. If I really want to hurt someone to that extreme, I will.”

There was a stupid cursing and shoving confrontation between Teofimo Lopez Sr and George Kambosos Sr during a fight-week media workout, the verbal highlights of which were:

Lopez Sr: “Kambosos, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. First round, baby. F*****’ chicken. F*** you, mother******.”

Kambosos Sr: “F*** off, mother****** Come on, you big mouth. Come over here. You wanna walk across this f*****’ line? I’m gonna f*** you up first.”

The final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday featured more inane trashtalking with the fighters taking the lead.

“After this fight, I don’t want to have no handshake, none of that,” Teofimo Jr told George Jr. “We’re gonna put your ass on a f****** stretcher.”

Beyond that, Lopez spoke for many when he said, “I’m ready to get this over with. It’s been nine months. Get this over with and focus on the bigger fights coming up.”

The promotion didn’t generate much interest beyond hardcore boxing fans. College football is entering crunch time. The NFL season is approaching its stretch run. DAZN has limited penetration of commercial markets in the United States. And the fight itself was perceived as being of limited merit.

A dreary six-bout undercard augured ill for the main event. But Lopez-Kambosos turned out to be a scintillating fight.

Lopez came out hard, almost contemptuously, at the opening bell, gunning for a quick knockout. Kambosos made him miss but wasn’t making him pay. Then Teofimo got careless and George dumped him on the seat of his pants with a sharp right hand as Lopez was loading up for an overhand right of his own. Teofimo was sufficiently dominant for the rest of the stanza that two of the three judges (and this writer) scored round one 10-9 for Kambosos instead of the traditional 10-8 that normally accompanies a knockdown.

Thereafter, Lopez was more controlled in his aggression. He kept pressing the action, stalking, throwing punches with bad intentions. But Kambosos is slick and quick with a good chin and sneaky right hand. He set traps again and again and wasn’t afraid to trade with Teofimo when the situation called for it. Also, too often, Lopez stood directly in front of Kambosos without moving his head and paid a price when George got off first.

By round eight, the area around both of Lopez’s eyes was bruised and swelling. Kambosos was cut above his own left eye and appeared to be tiring. In round nine, Teofimo landed his best punches to that point in the fight. In round ten, he dropped Kambosos with a chopping right hand behind the ear.

Now Kambosos was fighting to survive. And he did.

In round eleven, with Lopez bleeding badly from a gash on his own left eyelid, referee Harvey Dock called a temporary halt to the action while a ringside physician examined the cut. The fighting resumed. Lopez couldn’t close the show. It was high drama.

This writer scored the bout 114-113 for Kambosos. The judges favored the challenger by a 115-111, 115-112, 113-114 margin.

Lopez went into denial mode after the decision was announced, complaining in an in-the-ring interview, “I won tonight. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t believe it was a close fight at all. At the end of it all, I scored it 10-2.”

The heavily pro-Lopez crowd (which knew what it had just seen) booed Teofimo for that proclamation.

Lopez lost because he was certain that there was no way he could lose. And from the day the fight was signed, he conducted himself accordingly.

So . . . Where does the odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller fit into the overall business of boxing? Let’s start with some basics.

Once upon a time, the money that flowed into boxing was generated directly by individual fights. In days of old, the primarily source of income was the live gate. Then revenue from television based on advertising sales and pay-per-view buys became the dominant factor. Smaller revenue streams such as income from sponsorships were also involved. But as of late, television networks and other entities have been putting up money that isn’t being recouped from income generated directly by fights.

HBO invested heavily in boxing to build its subscriber base and got good value in return. Boxing fans saw the fights they wanted to see. During the glory years of HBO Sports, being an A-side fighter on HBO didn’t just pay well. It gave a fighter credibility. Boxing fans trusted HBO to deliver good fighters in entertaining fights with honest well-informed commentary. The network flourished, in part because of its boxing program.

PBC was built in large measure on a financial model that relied on a huge influx of cash from investors (who were hoping for a profit but appear to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars).

Then a group of businessmen from the United Kingdom backed by a Ukrainian-born billionaire announced their intention to take over and revitalize boxing in the United States as part of a plan to generate subscription buys for a streaming network called DAZN. To date, DAZN has further marginalized boxing in America and lightened Len Blavatnik’s wallet.

In sum, money alone doesn’t lead to success. The people charged with spending that money have to spend it wisely.

One year has passed since Triller’s November 28, 2020, Tyson-Jones offering. As of this writing, Ryan Kavanaugh hasn’t come close to duplicating the success that he enjoyed with his initial foray into the sweet science. In early-2021, everyone’s eyes were focused on Triller. What would Triller do next? Now Triller is almost an afterthought in conversations about the business of boxing.

On April 17, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round on Triller. That event also featured live music and a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. Like other Triller spectacles, it was a showpiece for potential investors and aimed at building Triller’s user base. But like its successors, it appears to have been mired in red ink. And Paul left Triller soon afterward in favor of a multi-bout deal with Showtime.

An August 3 Triller fight card combined with a hip-hop “rap battle” sold out the Hulu Theater and was labeled the first of “twelve monthly shows” that Triller would present at Madison Square Garden. The second show has yet to occur. An August 4 Triller press release stated, “At its peak, the venue had just shy of 8,000 people inside with an additional 4,000 congregating outside.” Asked about these numbers, Madison Square Garden director of public relations Larry Torres responded, “It was a sold out show with a capacity of 4,961 and I’d say another 200 credentials. Not sure where the 8K number is from or the 4K outside number.”

The September 11 Triller event headlined by Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort was an ugly farce. On October 16, in lieu of Lopez-Kambosos, Triller (through DiBella Entertainment) promoted a club-fight card with four bouts on it at Barclays Center. Most recently, on November 27 (the same night as Lopez-Kambosos) Triller unveiled what it labeled a “revolutionary new combat team sport” called Triad Boxing. Next up, on December 2, DiBella Entertainment will promote an all-heavyweight club-fight card on Triller’s behalf at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

Most people in boxing no longer consider Triller to be a serious long-term player in the sport. It’s good when people put money into boxing. But their business plan has to be sustainable.

This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published 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.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

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Fighters from Tijuana are on a Roll; Can Alexandro Santiago Keep Up the Momentum?

Last Thursday, a Golden Boy Promotions card in California produced an early entrant for Upset of the Year. In the main event, unsung Jesus “Ricky” Perez out-pointed former U.S. Olympian and former two-division title-holder Joseph “Jojo” Diaz.

Perez hails from Tijuana. Heading in, he had lost five of his last nine and had never won a match slated for more than eight rounds. He started fast and held on to win a split nod (ancient ringside judge Lou Moret awarded Perez nine of the 10 rounds).

The fast-growing, hardscrabble city of Tijuana, which sits at the northwest tip of the Baja peninsula, has produced a steady stream of good boxers over the years (Erik Morales, a Hall of Famer, and Antonio Margarito, a two-time world welterweight champion, come quickly to mind), but is currently enjoying arguably the best run in the city’s boxing history. And the distaff side is sharing in the prosperity. Flyweight Kenia Enriquez (28-1, 11 KOs) and her younger sister Tania Rodriguez (21-1, 10 KOs), a light flyweight, are knocking on the door of world title fights (Kenia holds an interim belt).

Last December, when pundits at the leading U.S. boxing websites brainstormed to come up with the 2023 Fight of the Year, two bouts stood out above all others: the Feb. 18 match between super bantamweights Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan and the June 10 super middleweight contest between Jaime Munguia and Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

The Nery-Hovhannisyan match was a riveting, see-saw rumble that ended with Nery winning by TKO in the 11th round. Munguia scored a knockdown in the 12th to overcome Derevyanchenko, eking out a razor-thin but unanimous decision. Both victors have since added another “W” to their respective ledgers. Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) KOed Filipino veteran Froilan Saludar. Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dominated and stopped England’s John Ryder.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Luis Nery and Jaime Munguia were both born and raised in Tijuana. And we will be hearing a lot more about them. Although unofficial, Nery has an agreement in place to fight superstar Naoya Inoue in Tokyo in May and, according to various reports, Munguia is now the frontrunner to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

The month after Munguia-Derevyanchenko, Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (pictured) scored his signature win and won the vacant WBC world bantamweight title with an upset of the great Filipino fighter Nonito Donaire. Santiago won a clear-cut decision on the card topped by the mega-fight between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) has a formidable challenge for his first title defense which comes on Saturday in Tokyo. In the opposite corner will be undefeated Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) who is moving up in weight after winning world titles at 112 and 115. Nakatani can really crack as he showed with his brutal, one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

There are two other title fights on the card which will air in the U.S. on ESPN+. Needless to say, one will have to get out of bed early to catch all the action. The first bell is slated for 4 am ET, 1 pm PT.

Santiago will be a heavy underdog against his Japanese opponent who will have a 5-inch height advantage. However, if recent history is any guide, one should not be too quick to dismiss his chances.

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Who Murdered Peter Bufala? A ‘Whodunit’ with a Boxing Backdrop

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On Friday, Oct. 8, 1976, Peter Bufala returned home from work just as a new day was dawning. The Las Vegas baccarat dealer pulled his Cadillac into his circular driveway, exited his car, walked toward his front door, and was felled by two bullets from a 9 mm handgun, one entering his chest and the other his brain. A neighbor fetching his morning newspaper found him lying in a pool of blood on his front lawn. He was dead when the police arrived. He was 33 years old and left behind a wife and two young daughters.

A 12-year resident of the fast-growing southern Nevada gambling mecca, Bufala grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a blue collar suburb of Philadelphia. He had come here to rekindle his boxing career.

A Middle Atlantic amateur featherweight champion, he had begun his pro career on a high note, winning a 4-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at New York’s St. Nicholas Arena that included Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who would go on to fight for the world middleweight title but would be best remembered for the many years he spent behind prison walls for his alleged involvement in a triple homicide.

Following his New York engagement, Bufala fought in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. As a pro, he never fought in his home state and there was a reason for it. In 1961, while undergoing a routine medical examination at an amateur show, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Pennsylvania Boxing Commission rescinded his license. He subsequently underwent a series of tests at Temple University Medical Hospital and was given a clean bill of health, but the Pennsylvania authorities were unyielding and, bit by bit, in a day when news traveled slowly, other jurisdictions fell into line.

Nevada was the Wild West. The regulators there had looser standards and Bufala resumed his career on Sept. 2, 1964 at the Castaways, out-pointing his opponent in a 5-round match to improve his ledger to 7-3. The publicity man misspelled his name, adding an extra “f”, and he would remain Pete Buffala whenever his name appeared in the sports section of the local papers.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, approximately 165,000 people resided in all of sprawling Clark County, home to Las Vegas. The thought that Vegas would someday host a Formula 1 Grand Prix or a Super Bowl, two of the grandest sports spectacles in the world, was preposterous. The only local sport that ever made the national news wire was boxing.

The fulcrum was Bill Miller, a hot-headed boxing junkie from Elmira, New York, who owned a saloon on the Las Vegas Strip that he out-fitted with a boxing gym in the basement. Miller’s “Strip Fight of the Week,” which bounced from one little casino to another during a run that lasted well over a decade, bucked the national trend. Small fight clubs, with very few exceptions, had fallen by the wayside, a development triggered by the mass production of televisions.

Miller was hardly immune to all the little hassles that plague a grass-roots boxing promoter. Matches were constantly falling out. But he had several things working in his favor. As opportunities dried up elsewhere, journeymen boxers were drawn here by the promise of steady work. And although Miller couldn’t afford to pay enough to make boxing a full-time profession, good-paying jobs were plentiful in the construction and hospitality industries.

To be certain, there were also push factors. Chester, Pennsylvania, a shipbuilding hub during World War II, had fallen on hard times, plagued by unemployment and racial strife. Lowell, Massachusetts, a city known for its vibrant amateur boxing culture, was likewise hurting with row after row of textile factories sitting vacant. Lowell produced Eddie Andrews, a hard-hitting middleweight who would be the first fighter to make promoter Miller any significant money without having to take him on the road to a larger precinct or overseas.

Andrews supplemented his ring earnings dealing blackjack at Caesars Palace. For a time, Ralph Dupas was a co-worker. A former world title-holder at 154 pounds, Dupas settled in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s as his career was winding down and remained here until his encroaching dementia passed the tipping point and family members brought him home to his native New Orleans to live out his final days.

Returning to Peter Bufala, he worked his way up the ladder on Miller’s promotions, eventually topping the marquee for a fight with Johnny Brooks. They fought at the Hacienda, a grind joint at the south end of the Strip (where Mandalay Bay now sits) on April 13, 1965. Brooks was nothing special, but he was better than his 17-6-3 record. He would go on to last the distance in 10-round fights with future Hall of Famers Emile Griffith and Carlos Monzon.

Bufala was bloodied in the third round and knocked down in the fourth, but mounted a furious rally and at the end of the 10 rounds the judges could not pick a winner and the match went into the books as a draw. Working on the “5-point-must” system, the scores were 46-44 Bufala, 46-45 Brooks, and 46-46. (Trivia time: The 46-46 tally was turned in by ringside judge Harry Reid who would go on to become the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate. Nowadays, visitors flying in to Las Vegas arrive at Harry Reid International Airport.)

Had Bufala won the bout, his next fight would have been a 12-rounder against Reno’s Dave Patterson, the Nevada Lightweight Champion. But when he returned to the ring the following month, it was in a 6-rounder against an unsung fighter from Los Angeles named Davey White and, in a shocker, White blasted him out in the second round.

Bufala announced his retirement after this fight. It warranted scarcely a mention in the Las Vegas papers, but the folks back in Chester hadn’t forgotten him. “Pete Bufala Quits Boxing for Health,” read the bold headline on the sports page of the June 9, 1965 issue of the Delaware County Daily Times. The accompanying story said that Buffala, “Chester’s most promising professional fighter,” had emerged from his most recent bout with a blot clot in his neck and was troubled by chronic back problems. (Buffala would have one more fight before quitting the sport for good. He won his final fight, a 6-rounder, bringing his final record, per boxrec, to 16-5-2.)

Bufala never returned to Chester. He married a local girl and, in short order, was a father of three, two girls and a boy who tragically died at 16 months when he crawled into a plastic laundry bag and suffocated as his mother was distracted writing checks.

In December of 1973, the MGM Grand opened on the southeast corner of the busiest intersection on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the city’s original MGM Grand that would take the name Bally’s and was recently re-branded the Horseshoe. With 2,100 rooms, a 1,200-seat showroom and a jai alai fronton, the MGM Grand made its competitors look puny by comparison. Peter Bufala was there on opening night, dealing baccarat.

In terms of the money put at risk, baccarat is the crème-de-crème of card games. It attracts the whales, the high-rollers that leave the biggest tips. On a good night at a high-end establishment like the MGM Grand, it wasn’t uncommon for a dealer to rake in $500 in gratuities. Bufala worked the graveyard shift (likely 9 pm to 5 am; it varied by hotel), the most coveted shift for a dealer in a day when visitors to Las Vegas were more nocturnal than they are today.

One didn’t get to be a baccarat dealer in a ritzy joint by working his way up from the bottom. One had to know the right people. In the vernacular, one got juiced into the job. And the juicer might expect a kick-back.

One of the most influential people in Las Vegas was an outsider who tried to keep a low profile, Gaspare “Jasper” Speciale. A transplanted New York bookmaker, Speciale co-owned and managed the Tower of Pizza restaurant which sat a stone’s throw from the MGM Grand on the opposite side of the street. Speciale opened doors for dozens of people seeking employment in the hospitality industry. If one was new in town and needed work in a hurry, Jasper was the man to see.

Until the arrival in Las Vegas of the notorious Tony Spilotro, Speciale was the city’s premier private money lender. He would eventually serve four years in a federal prison for loan-sharking.

Whenever there was a murder in Las Vegas that had the earmarks of a mob hit, speculation always centered on Gaspare Speciale. It mattered not that he was active in his church and donated lavishly to local charities. Moreover, he had a warm spot in his heart for prizefighters. In the spacious backyard of his home, chockablock with mementos of his boyhood in New York City, there was a replica of Stillman’s Gym complete with a punching bag and rubbing tables.

Another theory, although one that acquired less currency, pointed the finger at Bufala’s father-in-law who was the beneficiary of Peter’s life insurance policy. The two were partners in a small sporting goods store where it was rumored that one could purchase an unregistered firearm.

On the day that Peter Bufala was assassinated, the story about it in the Las Vegas Sun, an afternoon paper, said that the former boxer had no bad habits – he didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or chase women — and that he was well-liked by everyone that knew him. But, said a police detective, “Someone wanted him dead and eventually we’re going to find out who that someone is and why.”

Forty-seven years after the fact, the who and the why remain as baffling as ever. If Peter Bufala were alive today, he would be 80 years old. This is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

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Looking Back at Willie Pep Through the Keyhole of a Stormy Night in the Orange Bowl

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Erik Bazinyan Improves to 32-0 on a Flaccid Night of Boxing in Montreal

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Results from Las Vegas where Teofimo Lopez Retained his Title in a Dull Fight

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 271: Tim Tszyu in L.A. and More

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Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Looking Back at Willie Pep Through the Keyhole of a Stormy Night in the Orange Bowl

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Jaime Munguia Scores a Definitive KO Over John Ryder

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Jaime Munguia Hopes for Another Fight of the Year Performance

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Erik Bazinyan Improves to 32-0 on a Flaccid Night of Boxing in Montreal

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