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For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2021 Boxing Obituaries PART TWO (July-Dec.)

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Here is the second and final installment of our annual year-end report in which we pay homage to those for whom the final bell tolled.

July

2 – Lehlo Ledwaba – He won the IBF 122-pound title in 1999 and made five successful defenses before losing the belt on a sixth-round stoppage to Manny Pacquiao in what was Pacquiao’s U.S. debut. He trained and managed several fighters after leaving the sport with a record of 36-6-1. At age 49 of Covid complications at a medical clinic in his home province of Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.

12 – Conroy Nelson – According to various sources, Nelson spent the last 20 years of his life living in a bamboo hut with no electricity on a family farm in his homeland of Jamaica. Fighting out of Canada, he compiled a 21-24-2 record during a 20-year career during which he was fodder for the likes of Mike Tyson, Herbie Hyde, and Riddick Bowe. He was battling pancreatic cancer when he died of a heart attack at age 62.

22 – Andre Thysse – From the Gauteng province of South Africa, Thysse answered the bell for 221 rounds during a 10-year career that began in 1999. He finished 20-8, but was stopped only twice and reportedly never knocked down. In retirement, he owned several businesses and promoted a few fights in Johannesburg. At age 52 of Covid-19.

August

10 – Stanley “Kitten” Hayward – He was right in the thick of things when Philadelphia was a hornets nest of rugged welterweights and middleweights and had one crack at the 154-pound world title, losing a 15-round decision to underrated Freddie Little in Little’s adopted hometown of Las Vegas. After leaving the sport with a 32-12-4 record, he spent 33 years as a Court Crier in Philadelphia where he died from complications of a stroke.

21 – Jarvis Astaire – A Hall of Fame boxing promoter with a wide range of business interests, he was the man most responsible for bringing U.K. boxing into the closed circuit and pay-per-view age. The Astaire Alliance, which included matchmaker Mickey Duff, ruled British boxing with an iron thumb for decades beginning in the late 1960s. At age 97 in London.

23 – Giovanni Pretorius – A former OIympian, the heavy-handed Johannesburg bomber challenged Robin Reid for the WBC super middleweight title in 1997, succumbing in seven rounds. He finished 28-2-1 (24). At age 49 in a hospital in Alberton, S.A., a victim of Covid.

September

1 – Jeanette Zacarias – Only the second known female ring fatality following South Africa’s Phindile Muelas (2014), Zacarias collapsed after the fourth round of an Aug. 28 bout in Montreal and died four days later without regaining consciousness. It was her sixth pro fight. A native of Aguascalientes, Mexico, she was only 18 years old.

2 – Doyle Baird – A brawler from Akron, Ohio who turned pro at age 28, Baird turned heads in 1968 when he held middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti to a draw in a non-title fight. Benvenuti stopped him in 10 rounds in the rematch. He went on to challenge Vincente Rondon for the light heavyweight title (L TKO 6) and retired with a record of 34-7-1. At age 83 in Akron.

10 – Manuel Calvo – Fighting almost exclusively in Spain, Calvo compiled a 54-18-6 record in a 12-year career that began in 1963. Both he and his son of the same name won European featherweight titles. At age 79 in Madrid where he was battling a heart condition.

October

9 – Keitaro Hoshino – Active from 1988 to 2003, Hoshino engaged in six world title fights in the smallest (105 pound) weight class and was a two-time world title-holder. He finished 23-10, somewhat misleading as he was on the wrong end of several razor-thin decisions. At age 52 in his native Yokohama after a long but unspecified illness.

11 – Tony DeMarco – Born Leonardo Liotta, DeMarco won the world welterweight title in 1955 with a 14th-round stoppage of Johnny Saxton, but lost it 10 weeks later in the first of his two sizzling matches with Carmen Basilio. Ushered into the IBHOF in 2019, he finished 58-12-1. An impressive bronze statue of him sits near his boyhood home in Boston where he died at age 89.

31 – Tommy Thomas – Born and raised in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Thomas compiled a 34-8 record during a 10-year career that began in 1977. He tangled with the likes of Michael Dokes, Leon Spinks, and Pierre Coetzer. In retirement, he worked as a police officer in Clarksburg and ran a boxing gym. At age 67 after a long battle with Parkinson’s and dementia.

November

4 – Jerry Martin – Born and raised in Antigua, Martin, nicknamed “The Bull,” turned pro in Philadelphia in 1976 without the benefit of any amateur experience and compiled a record of 25-7. He went inside Rahway prison walls to upend inmate James Scott in a big upset on NBC, but failed in three cracks at the world light heavyweight title, losing to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Matthew Saad Muhammad, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi. At age 67 in Philadelphia of an undisclosed illness.

6 – Steve Lott — A protégé of the noted boxing historian and memorabilia collector Jim Jacobs, Lott was swept into the world of boxing when Jacobs and his business partner Bill Cayton took to managing prizefighters. Closely allied with the young Mike Tyson, he handled the daily affairs of several other world champions and went on to curate a vast library of boxing ephemera at the popular website Boxing Hall of Fame Las Vegas. At age 71 in a Las Vegas hospital after suffering a head injury in a fall at his home.

9 – Loucif Hamani – Hamani turned pro in Paris after representing Algeria in the 1972 Munich Olympics and compiled a record of 24-3. He out-pointed a faded Emile Griffith, but was no match for Marvin Hagler who wacked him out in the second round in his lone U.S. engagement. At age 71 in Paris after a long illness.

13 – Jeff Wald – A powerful Hollywood talent agent whose clients included Sylvester Stallone, Wald was the co-creator and co-executive producer of “The Contender” series and had a financial stake in George Foreman’s last two fights. At age 77 in Los Angeles.

17 – Johnny Gant – A welterweight contender in the 1970s who finished 45-15-3, Gant battled such notables as Esteban De Jesus, Hedgemon Lewis, Hector Thompson and Sugar Ray Leonard and went 15 rounds with Angel Espada in Puerto Rico in a failed bid for Espada’s world title. In retirement, the Washington DC native founded a boxing academy in Atlanta for at-risk youth. At age 70 of an undisclosed illness.

17 – Johnny Sarduy – The Cuban featherweight, who finished 33-7-4, closed out his career with two fights in Miami Beach, the second of which included Cassius Clay on the undercard. Sarduy left boxing to join the anti-Castro, CIA-sponsored “Bay of Pigs” invasion and in retirement became a wealthy drywall contractor. At age 85 in Miami.

23 – Paul Cardoza – A two-time New England Golden Gloves champion who served in the Navy and the Marines, Cardoza, a light heavyweight, was 23-9 as a pro in a seven-year career that began in 1969. He split two fights with two-time world title challenger Richie Kates and hung up his gloves after getting stopped by future belt-holder Marvin Johnson. At age 78 in New Bedford, MA, where he was a lifelong resident.

December

13 – Gaspar Ortega – A staple on the small screen during the golden age of TV boxing, the colorful, iron-chinned Ortega, part Zapotec Indian, had 176 documented fights, finishing 131-39-6, and remarkably was stopped only twice, the first coming in 1961 in a failed bid for Emile Griffith’s world welterweight title. The father of world class referee Mike Ortega, “El Indio,” a longtime Connecticut resident, passed away at age 86 at the home of his daughter in Naples, Florida.

14 – Tony Perez – He refereed dozens of world title fights beginning with Joe Frazier vs. Jimmy Ellis on Feb. 16, 1970, and including Muhammad Ali’s first post-exile fight against Jerry Quarry later that year. At age 90 in Barnegat Township, New Jersey. His survivors include his wife Barbara, a former boxing judge who likewise worked many championship fights.

24 – Danny Kelly Jr – A 30-year-old heavyweight with a 10-3-1 record, Kelly was fatally shot in an apparent road rage incident while driving with his girlfriend and three young children on a busy roadway in Saint George County, Maryland, late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. None of the other occupants of the vehicle were injured. His assailant remains at-large.

28 – Harry Reid – A five-term U.S. Senator from Nevada and the Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015, Reid was an amateur boxer who officiated at approximately 100 pro fights as a ringside judge. He introduced legislation to strengthen the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act and was named to the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. At age 82 in Henderson, NV, after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

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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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