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For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2021 Boxing Obituaries PART ONE (Jan.-June)

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In our annual year-end necrology, we say goodbye to those that left their mark on the noble but too-often unforgiving sport of boxing. Many of the decedents left a great legacy, none more so than Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

January

4 – William Lathan – A Philadelphia product, “Doc” Lathan served as a ringside physician for more than 500 pro fights and made many contributions to boxing medicine as a member of various advisory committees. His wife Melvina Lathan was a boxing judge who went on to helm the New York State Athletic commission. At age 84 in Ardsley, New York.

9 – Mike Acri – A promoter and matchmaker, Acri was adept at reviving the careers of faded luminaries such as Roberto Duran and Hector Camacho. He originated the annual series of boxing shows at the Turning Stone Casino Resort that are run in conjunction with the Hall of Fame Weekend activities in nearby Canastota.  At age 63 in his hometown of Erie, PA, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

15 – Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley – A cagey southpaw known for his ambidexterity, Cawley was 22-2 in a nine-year career that began in 1980 and included a failed stab at Livingstone Bramble’s world lightweight title. He quit boxing for a career in law enforcement and was the Director of the North Philadelphia Police Athletic League at the time of his death at age 62, likely from Covid.

22 – Harry Perry – He never turned pro, but was a legend in Irish amateur boxing, representing his country in two Olympiads. At age 86 in his native Dublin after a long illness.

22 – Hughroy Currie – Currie had an undistinguished pro career, finishing 17-11-1, but he was good enough to win the British heavyweight title, albeit he didn’t keep it very long. His best wins came against previously undefeated Proud Kilimanjaro (W PTS 10) and future IBF world cruiserweight champion Glenn McCrory (KO 2). At age 61 in London of Covid-19.

February

2 – Reggie Ford – Born Reginald Forde in Guyana, Ford was 10-15-1 as a pro and was stopped eight times – a career not worth remembering save that he fought six former or future world title-holders including Marvin Hagler, then the top-rated middleweight contender in what was Forde’s second pro bout. In his signature win, he knocked Davey “Boy” Green (37-3) into retirement with a 5th-round stoppage in London. At age 67 in a New York nursing home.

5 – Leon Spinks – A gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Games, Spinks had only eight pro fights under his belt when he won a 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in one of the most celebrated upsets in boxing history. He lost the rematch and it was all downhill from there. Neon Leon was 19-17-2 in his last 38 starts and was stopped nine times. At age 67 in Las Vegas after a long illness.

7 – Jean Josselin – A 1960 Olympian, Josselin, a welterweight, won 66 of his 89 pro fights and was a two-time world title challenger. He was a big star in France during his professional heyday; they named a champagne after him. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s when he died at age 81 at a hospital in Gray, France, not far from his birthplace at Sesancon.

7 – Stan Hoffman – One of boxing’s foremost wheeler-dealers, the pony-tailed Hoffman, born into a mob family in Brooklyn, left the music business to follow his muse and managed, advised or promoted 38 world champions during his five decades in boxing. He guided upset-makers Hasim Rahman and Iran Barkley to world titles and had a long association with James Toney. At age 89 in Bordentown, New Jersey.

8 – Davey Armstrong – A two-time Olympian who spent his best days as a boxer chasing Olympic gold, Armstrong turned pro under Emanuel Steward after the U.S. pulled out of the Moscow Games and finished 24-3. The third member of the national powerhouse Tacoma Boys Club boxing team to pass away in the last three years following the deaths of Rocky Lockridge and Johnny Bumphus, Armstrong was suffering from dementia when he drew his last breath in Puyallup, Washington at age 64.

9 – Roy King Jr – King was 42 years old when he succumbed to injuries suffered in a fight 13 months earlier in Nashville on a show he co-promoted. Knocked down in the waning seconds of the eighth round, he fell into a coma and never regained consciousness. The Brooklyn native, a popular figure in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he owned a fitness studio, finished his career with a record of 12-5-1.

13 – Mzimasi Mnguni – A former postal worker, Mnguni turned out a steady stream of world class fighters from his spartan gym in East London, South Africa. He developed title-holders Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, and Mbulelo Botile, among others.  Incapacitated by a 2014 stroke, he lived to age 79.

17 – Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado – A fan favorite at LA’s Olympic Auditorium as he was climbing the ladder, Albarado made one successful defense of the WBC 154-pound title he won in 1974 with a come-from-behind 15th-round stoppage of Koichi Wajima in Tokyo. An ill-advised comeback after a nearly six-year retirement reduced his final record to 57-13-1. At age 72 at a nursing home in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas, from complications of dementia.

28 – Danny Valdez – A fixture at the Olympic Auditorium where he fought 24 times, Valdez was only 20 years old when he challenged Davey Moore for the world featherweight title in 1961. That didn’t go well – he was stopped in the opening round – but Valdez was a solid pro who spent months ranked in the top 10 by The Ring magazine. He finished 31-12. At age 81 in Los Angeles.

March

8 – Danny McAlinden – The first native of Northern Ireland to win British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, McAlinden (a cruiserweight by today’s standards) finished 31-12-2 in a 13-year career that began in 1969. He had one fight on U.S. soil, winning a 6-round decision over Muhammad Ali’s brother Rahman Ali on the undercard of Ali-Frazier I and died on the 50th anniversary of that iconic event. At age 73 in Coventry, England, after a long battle with cancer.

13 – Marvelous Marvin Hagler – One of the all-time greats, Marvelous Marvin won the world middleweight title in 1980 and made 12 successful defenses before losing the title on a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in what proved to be his final fight. Turning pro in Brockton, MA, where he spent his teen years, Hagler finished 62-3-2 with 52 KOs and was never knocked off his feet. His sudden death at age 66 in New Hampshire was attributed to natural causes.

21 – Jimmy Abbott – Nicknamed Jumbo, the rotund South African heavyweight was 19-5-2 in a five-year career that began in 1978. His signature win was a first-round blast-out of countryman Kallie Knoetze. In retirement he became an evangelist. At age 61 of heart failure eight years after suffering a stroke.

21 – Lee Noble – The British super middleweight finished 20-24-3, but was better than his record. He fought a slew of opponents with unblemished records, but was stopped only twice. He left the sport at age 26 after being diagnosed with leukemia and was only 33 when he passed away from terminal brain cancer at his home in Sheffield.

28 – Jemal Hinton – One of the few boxers to retire undefeated, Hinton, who reached the finals of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, was 22-0 in the paid ranks. A second- generation prizefighter, he quit the sport because he simply grew tired of it. A Tai Chi instructor in retirement, Hinton passed away at age 51 at a DC hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident.

April

5 – Vladimir Gendlin – Considered the patriarch of professional boxing in Russia, Gendlin, a former amateur boxer, was a fight facilitator, TV commentator, and producer of documentaries about Russian boxers. At age 84 in Moscow from complications of Covid-19.

May

6 – Felix “Tutu” Zabala Sr. – Born in Cuba, Zabala founded All Star Boxing, the leading promotional firm in South Florida, and was instrumental in launching the long-running series Boxeo Telemundo. He promoted seven champions, notably Colombian bantamweight Miguel “Happy” Lora who developed a big following in Miami. At age 83 from respiratory failure.

29 – Keith Mullings – Judged strictly by his record, 16-8-1, Mullings was mediocre, but to the contrary the Jamaica-born Brooklynite was a solid pro who scored one of the biggest upsets of the 1990s when he unseated super middleweight champion Terry Norris during a string of five consecutive title fights. A Desert Storm veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD, no cause of death was given when he passed away at age 53.

June

9 – Kirkland Laing – Born in Jamaica and raised in Nottingham, England, Laing was more talented than his 43-12-1 record suggests. His signature win was a 10-round decision over Roberto Duran, The Ring magazine Upset of the Year for 1982. Known for his eccentricities and his improvident ways, Laing squandered his ring earnings and was suffering from dementia when he died in a Yorkshire nursing home at age 66.

11 – Bernardo Mercado – Arguably the hardest puncher to come out of Colombia, Mercado was at his best in 1979/80 when he knocked out Trevor Berbick in the opening round on Berbick’s turf in Halifax and then clawed out of a deep hole to stop Earnie Shavers in seven. He finished 33-5 with 28 KOs. At age 69 in Cartagena of an apparent heart attack.

23 – Brian London – The son of a prominent British heavyweight, London, born Brian Sydney Harper, fought all of the top heavyweights of his era including defending champions Floyd Patterson (KO by 11 in 1959) and Muhammad Ali (KO by 3 in 1966). He opened a series of successful nightclubs in his hometown of Blackpool after leaving the sport with a 37-20-1 record and was thought to be in good health when his heart suddenly stopped ticking at age 87.

To be continued…..

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

Big money prizefighting returns to the Los Angeles area with back-to-back shows. First, Serhii Bohachuk heads a 360 Promotions card on Friday and then Alexis Rocha is featured on Saturday in a Golden Boy Promotions production. And on the same day Riverside’s Saul Rodriguez fights in his hometown.

Bohachuk, Rocha, and Rodriguez are aggressive big hitters.

Ukraine’s Bohachuk seeks to regain footing in the super welterweight division. He was rapidly climbing up the ratings ladder when first he was defeated by Brandon Adams two years ago. And then the invasion of his home country Ukraine stalled him even more.

On Friday Jan. 27, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Bohachuk (21-1, 21 KOs) meets Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Few fighters are as well-liked outside of the prize ring as Bohachuk. Always amiable, he’s one of the handful of fighters that always smiles. Inside the ring, he’s a killer. No one leaves without someone getting knocked out.

Gallimore, 34, is no slouch. He has a knockout win over former world titlist Jeison Rosario and has battled almost all of the top super welterweights. He is a veteran and very crafty.

The Quiet Cannon venue is not very large, but it does have a patio and good food and drink. Most of the crowd ventures from all over Southern California to attend the fights at that venue. It gets packed.

Golden Boy in Inglewood

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha headlines the Golden Boy Promotions card on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the brand new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the fight card.

Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs) faces George Ashie (33-5-1) in the main event set for 12 rounds. Finally, there is an opponent for the left-handed fighter from Santa Ana. It didn’t look like he was going to fight after opponent after opponent fell out for one reason or another.

“You have to be ready for anybody they put in front of you. If it’s you or George Ashie, I have to prepare for it. I have to focus on what I can do,” said Rocha.

Others on the card include super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev (10-1) vs Ulises Sierra (17-2-2) set for 10 rounds. Also, good looking lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Alberto Mercado (17-4-1).

Schofield fights out of Austin, Texas and looks like someone to watch.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

Neno Returns in San Bernardino        

Garcia Promotions stages a boxing card on Saturday Jan. 28, at the Club Event Center in San Bernardino. Garcia Promotions is associated with trainer Robert Garcia and family whose training compound is located in nearby Riverside.

A primarily local fight card featuring all fighters from Garcia’s gym will be performing.

Headlining is Saul “Neno” Rodriguez out of Riverside, California.

It’s been nearly three years since Rodriguez (24-1-1, 18 KOs) last fought and he faces Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo (6-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

At one time Rodriguez was a big fan favorite because of his fast work and knockout ability. Once he got to the top plateau he ran into another knockout puncher in Miguel Angel Gonzalez and lost by stoppage.

Prizefighting is a tricky road. One loss can mean difficulty in finding a big-time promoter or it can mean discovering what you need to do to re-establish your skills. A fighter can go the road of Kermit “The Killer” Cintron and find out other ways to win without a kill-or be-killed style. Or they can travel the road of Marco Antonio Barrera who was knocked out by Junior Jones but adapted a more boxer-puncher style that allowed him to defeat Erik Morales twice and Prince Naseem Hamed.

Rodriguez, 29, still has time to make a good run for a title bid. It all starts on Saturday.

Others on the Garcia Promotions card are fighters who are part of trainer Garcia’s stable including Gabriel Muratalla, Leonardo Ruiz, Jose Rodriguez and others.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with amateurs opening the boxing program.

Fights to Watch

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 11:30 a.m. Artur Beterbiev (18-0) vs Anthony Yarde (23-2).

Sat. DAZN  5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (21-1) vs George Ashie (33-5-1).

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

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

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Jessica Nery Plata vs Kim Clavel with Yokasta Valle possibly on the Horizon

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