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Avila Perspective, Chap. 177 pt. 2: Tagoe, Chocolatito, Fresno and More

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 177 pt. 2: Tagoe, Chocolatito, Fresno and More

The sport of boxing has hit another gear.

This is the second week that all major promoters are staging fight cards with the return of Jose Carlos Ramirez, Chocolatito Gonzalez and press conferences for Ryan Garcia, Emmanuel Tagoe, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Errol Spence Jr.

It’s not going to slow down.

On Tuesday, Emmanuel Tagoe walked into the Golden Boy building in downtown Los Angeles with his trainer and a fellow fighter from the DiBella Entertainment crew. They were greeted warmly by media members recognizing them.

Later, Tagoe would meet the boss of Golden Boy Promotions and their charge Ryan Garcia who Tagoe will meet on April 9, in San Antonio, Texas. Friendly exchanges took place and it seemed to surprise Tagoe who seemed ready for heated verbal exchanges.

Welcome to the west coast.

Oscar De La Hoya, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, lauded the exploits of Tagoe whose promoter Lou DiBella was unable to make the trip from New York City to L.A. The six-division world champion and Boxing Hall of Fame inductee explained the difficulty of Tagoe’s accomplishments.

After losing his pro debut in Ghana, the African lightweight has fought and won 32 consecutive prize fights including 15 via knockout. Only two of those victories took place outside of Ghana.

But if you know anything about DiBella its that he has a knack for picking up obscure fighters from other countries who can fight. He signed Sergio Martinez a decade ago and he upset many fighters along the way. He also currently has Australia’s George Kambosos who holds most of the lightweight world titles.

Do you see where this is going?

If Ryan Garcia wins, then he constructs an immediate route to Kambosos in a super fight. If Tagoe wins, then he has options too with both fighters under the DiBella banner and with a victory over Garcia comes instant recognition. Either way it’s a big win.

“I see this fight as an opportunity. You don’t know me now but after (the fight) everybody will know me,” said Tagoe. “Nobody would fight me. Ryan Garcia is the one who accepted me when nobody else would.”

Garcia was unable or unwilling to predict an outcome.

“I really don’t care if it’s a hard fight. I don’t take anyone lightly,” said Garcia. “He gots to go.”

Chocolatito in San Diego

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KOs) returns to his adopted home of Southern California and will clash with flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez (18-1, 14 KOs) in a match set at super flyweight for 12 rounds at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego on Saturday March 5. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

Martinez stepped in for Juan Francisco Estrada who caught Covid-19 and willingly moves up in weight to try his skills against the legendary Nicaraguan fighter. It’s a juicy fight that will quickly reveal how much left remains in Gonzalez and how good Martinez ranks among the best of the best.

“This is one of the most exciting, dangerous pound-for-pound fighters in the sport against one of the absolute all-time legends of the sport,” said Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing. “In a sport that is so difficult to make big fights, I want to say thank you to both men for accepting the challenge and giving us what I believe a fight we will never forget on Saturday night.”

Only two men in the world can claim victories over Chocolatito with Estrada able to accomplish the feat a year ago in Dallas, Texas. The other man is Thailand’s Wisaksil Wangek, aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, whatever name you know him by. He stopped Gonzalez twice.

Fans love Chocolatito and its one of the obstacles that Martinez faces. Though plenty of Mexican fans will be in attendance, Chocolatito has earned a place with all fans including Mexicans.

“I have an opponent that comes forward but I’m going to come forward, it’s going to be a tremendous fight and I think the fans are going to be really happy with the fight,” said Chocolatito.

Martinez is part of the Canelo camp in San Diego and is also trained by Eddy Reynoso. He began his pro career with a loss and has not tasted defeat since his debut in October 2015. Incidentally, that was the same time that Chocolatito defeated Brian Viloria at Madison Square Garden in New York City to retain the WBC flyweight title that Martinez now possesses.

“It’s a big challenge, I’m very excited and motivated to be fighting a big legend like Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. I want to thank him for choosing us in this big fight, like I say with everything but fear, anywhere and against anyone,” said Martinez.

With Chocolatito now at 34 years old and Martinez a mere 27, the age difference could balance out the experience factor that favors the Nicaraguan. We shall see.

“I love all the Mexican people; I’ve had the opportunity to fight against many Mexican people. I know Nicaraguan people are going to come out here and support (me), but the most important thing is we have God on our side,” said Chocolatito.

Mexico versus Puerto Rico Tonight in Fresno

Former unified super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) returns to the wars and finds dangerous Jose Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) ready to test his mettle tonight in a regional title fight in Fresno, California. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

It’s Mexico versus Puerto Rico and that’s serious business.

It’s been nearly a year since Ramirez was defeated by now undisputed super lightweight world champion Josh Taylor. It’s also been that long since he actually fought in the prize ring.

“My goal is to stay at the highest level of competition. My goal is to become a world champion again. You have to fight the best to be ready for those fights. I don’t want any easy fights. I don’t want to be fighting fights that are going to be tune-up fights,” explained Ramirez in accepting a fight with a former world champion as hungry as himself.

Puerto Rico’s Pedraza too is eager to prove himself and to honor his Puerto Rican nationality.

“It would mean a lot becoming champion for a third time. It would put my name along with the legends of Puerto Rico, and it would mean lot for the island, too.”

Whenever a Mexican faces a Puerto Rican you can expect serious fireworks.

Several other top contenders and prospects are also performing including Joet Gonzalez, Hector Tanajara Jr. and Olympian Richard Torrez making his pro debut.

Fights to Watch

Fri. ESPN+ 4:15 p.m. Jose Carlos Ramirez (26-1) vs Jose Pedraza (29-3)

Sat. DAZN 5:30 p.m. Roman Gonzalez (50-3) vs Julio Cesar Martinez (18-1).

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Alexis Rocha KOs Brave but Overmatched George Ashie on DAZN.

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Golden Boy Promotions’ potted their first offering of 2023 at the recently opened YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat venue situated inside the stadium built to house LA’s two NFL franchises. The main event was a scheduled 12-round welterweight match between Alexis Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana and George Ashie, a 38-year-old Ghanaian making his U.S. debut. Ashie was a late substitute for Anthony Young who reportedly suffered a nose injury in training. The match and supporting bouts were live-streamed on DAZN.

Ashie, who was fighting above his normal weight class and carried a career-high 146 pounds, was brave but out-gunned. Rocha knocked him down in the third frame with a right hook and hurt him several more times as the fight progressed although Ashie never stopped trying. In round six, an accidental clash of heads left Rocha with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. He fought with more urgency after this incident and knocked Ashie out cold in the next round. The official time was 2:08 of round seven.

It was the fifth straight win for Rocha who improved his ledger to 22-1 (14 KOs). After the bout, he expressed an interest in fighting Terence Crawford. Ashie fell to 33-6-1 (25).

Other Bouts of Note

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a precocious 20-year-old lightweight, had Albert Mercado on the canvas in the second round but was unable to put him away despite hurting him multiple times and went 10 rounds for the first time in his young career.

Schofield, the 2022 TSS Prospect of the Year, improved to 13-0 (11), winning 100-89 on all three cards. Mercado, a 35-year-old Connecticut-born Puerto Rican, declined to 17-5-1 but retained his distinction of having never stopped.

Super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan who lives and trains in Indio, California, overpowered San Diego’s Ulises Sierra who was on the deck twice from body punches before the fight was waived off at the 2:59 mark of round three. It was the fourth straight victory for Melikuziev (11-1, 9 KOs) after suffering a stunning one-punch knockout at the hands of seemingly shopworn Gabriel Rosado with whom he is pursuing a rematch. Sierra was 17-2-2 heading in with eight of his wins coming in Mexico.

In a match framed as a WBO minimumweight title eliminator, Oscar Collazo (6-0, 4 KOs) scored an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Yudel Reyes. Collazo knocked Reyes down twice in the fifth round, the second with a vicious right hand that put Reyes down so hard that the referee didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:59 of round five.

In theory, Collazo’s next fight will come against the Filipino Melvin Jerusalem who won the title earlier this month with a second-round stoppage of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka. Reyes, a 26-year-old Mexican making his U.S. debut, declined to 15-2.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Artur Beterbiev TKOs Anthony Yarde in a London Firefight

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The presumption, echoed by ESPN boxing commentator Bernardo Osuna, was that tonight’s bout at Wembley Arena in London between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde would be explosive and entertaining for as long as it lasted. That proved to be true and when the smoke cleared, Beterbiev, the rugged Montreal-based Russian had retained his three light heavyweight title belts and had added another knockout to his ledger, his nineteenth as a pro in as many opportunities.

Both men landed hard shots during the fight and both were marked up at the finish. Yarde had a cut under his right eye and Beterbiev had a cut on his left eyelid.

A chopping right hand from Beterbiev late in the first minute of the eighth round marked the beginning of the end for Yarde, the muscular 31-year-old Londoner who entered the contest sporting a record of 23-2 with 22 knockouts. The punch sent him reeling backward toward his corner where he landed on his knees. He beat the count, but turned toward his corner rather than referee Steve Gray.

Gray let the bout continue, but Beterbiev pressed his advantage and after a few more unanswered punches Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi stepped up on the ring apron and summoned Gray to stop it. The official time was 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev hasn’t lost since losing a decision to amateur nemesis Oleksandr Usyk in the quarter finals of the 2012 London Olympics. At age 38, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In his post-fight interview, the self-effacing Russian said, “I hope some day I will be a good boxer,” and acknowledged that he would welcome a unification fight with fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the WBA title-holder.

WBA Title Fight

In a bout that was in theory the co-feature but went off during the earlier portion of the ESPN+ livestream, Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15 KOs) retained his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous and somewhat controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (12-1). The judges had it 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

An Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian, Dalakian was making the sixth defense of the title he won in 2018 with a 12-round decision over Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in his lone previous appearance at a venue in the English-speaking world. His five title defenses were in Kiev. Jimenez was coming off a 12-round majority decision over Ricardo Sandoval in what ranked as one of the bigger upsets of 2021.

A Split for the Itauma Brothers

Promoter Frank Warren’s newest signee, 18-year-old heavyweight Moses Itauma, made a big splash in his pro debut, blasting out Czechoslovakia’s Marcel Bode (2-2) in 23 seconds. Moses and his older brother Karol Itauma are sons of a British citizen of Nigerian ancestry and a Slovakian mother.

In a shocking upset, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, a 36-year-old Argentine who had lost six of his previous eight fights, forged a fifth-round stoppage of well-touted Karol Itauma who was 9-0 (7 KOs) as a pro coming in. Itauma ate numerous straight right hands before a straight right hand knocked him down for the count. The official time was 1:04 of round five. Maderna improved to 29-10 (11).

Also

The Frankham cousins, super welterweight Joshua and super featherweight Charles, improved their ledgers to 7-0 with 6-round shutouts over their respective opponents. The cousins are grandsons of John “Gypsy Johnny” Frankham, a former British light heavyweight champion.

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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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