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The Hauser Report: Dmitry Bivol Should Not Be Allowed to Fight Canelo Alvarez

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The Hauser Report: Dmitry Bivol Should Not Be Allowed to Fight Canelo Alvarez

“The ambition is global domination. It is like a snowball that keeps on growing. We never stop trying to do more or be bigger or go to new territories.”

No, that wasn’t Vladimir Putin. It was Eddie Hearn (as reported by Ron Lewis on May 16, 2021). Hearn, of course, didn’t say it in the context of geopolitics. He was talking about Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.

Matchroom and DAZN are now planning to promote and stream a championship fight between Canelo Alvarez and Dmitry Bivol at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on May 7. Because Bivol is a Russian citizen who lives in Russia, there have been calls to replace him as Canelo’s opponent.

On March 8, Wladimir Klitschko (who has returned to Kyiv to help defend his Ukrainian homeland against Russian aggression) was interviewed by BBC 5 Live Radio and urged the broadest possible economic sanctions against Russia including a global boycott of Russian athletes. When asked if Canelo-Bivol should proceed, Klitschko answered, “Absolutely not. Every sanction – and it’s nothing against the personalities or athletes, it’s about the politics of Russia – every Russian representative in this case needs to be sanctioned because this way we show to Russia that the world is against his [Putin’s] senseless war and there is no good in this war.”

“To isolate Russia from all sporting competition is not an act of aggression,” Klitschko continued. “We do this to stop the war, in the name of peace. I have nothing personal against the athletes, but I have a lot against the aggression of Russian leader Putin. We believe sanctions on different levels, including sport, are crucially important. If you take away sporting competition, the athletes will ask their leader, ‘Why will nobody compete against us?’ I repeat, this is not against the athletes. It’s in the name of peace in Ukraine.”

Bivol was born in Kyrgyzstan but has lived in Russia for most of his life and is a Russian citizen. Those who support his right to fight Canelo on May 7 say there’s nothing to indicate that he favors Putin’s war of aggression and that sports should be kept separate from politics. But the arguments against allowing Canelo-Bivol to proceed are overwhelming.

At the March 2 kick-off press conference for Canelo-Bivol, Dmitry told reporters, “None of us are enjoying what is happening. I have a lot of friends in Ukraine. I have a lot of friends in Russia and my family is in Russia. I wish everyone peace and only the best.”

That’s an empty statement. I have no idea what Bivol’s political views are. He seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. One empathizes with the fact that his family in Russia would be at risk if he spoke out against the invasion of Ukraine. The war isn’t his fault. But I have more sympathy for the people who are being killed as a consequence of Russia’s brutal aggression.

Sports are important to geopolitics. Indeed, it’s widely believed that the Chinese government asked Putin to not invade Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing came to a close. Far from being a bastion of good will, sports are a money-making machine and, to borrow a phrase from Karl Marx, the opiate of the masses.

Despite calls for the United States to boycott the 1936 Olympics in Germany, the games went ahead with American participation. Some people look back fondly on those games because of the gold-medal performances by Jesse Owens. But Germany led the medal count at the 1936 Olympics by a wide margin. The games strengthened Adolph Hitler’s standing with the German people and were the subject of Leni Riefenstahl’s influential propaganda film, Olympia.

Vitali Klitschko’s own political career speaks to the power of sports as a platform for political action (he is now mayor of Kyiv), as do the lives of Muhammad Ali and Manny Pacquiao.

Canelo-Bivol isn’t just any fight. Because of Canelo’s stature, a victory for Bivol would make Dmitry a potent symbol of Russian might and be heralded as a great victory for Russia. Some people point to the 1938 rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling and ask, “If Schmeling fought then, why can’t Bivol fight now.” The answer is that (1) those were different times; (2) even then, there were calls to boycott Louis-Schmeling II; and (3) it was personally important to Louis that he fight Schmeling, whereas Bivol is a fungible opponent for Canelo. And think of the boost it would have given Hitler’s vile regime if Schmeling had won.

Is it fair to deprive Bivol of a large payday, thereby imposing a financial sanction on one man who is not responsible for the carnage in Ukraine?

That’s the way economic sanctions work. Is it fair to deprive oil workers in Russia or Russians who work at McDonald’s and Starbucks of their jobs? Financial sanctions are designed to impact upon an aggressor nation’s people. It’s better than killing them. If Bivol loses the opportunity to fight Canelo, I’ll have a degree of sympathy for him. But not as much sympathy as I feel for the people in Ukraine who are being brutalized by the Russian invasion.

And by the way; paying higher prices for gas as a consequence of the economic sanctions being imposed on Russia is a small price for Americans to pay. It’s a far lesser sacrifice than being bombed or sending soldiers to die in battle.

Neutrality isn’t an acceptable option in the present crisis. In Dante’s Inferno, it’s written of those who refuse to take a stand on moral issues, “Let us not talk of them, but look and pass.” Later, those words were interpreted and quoted by John F. Kennedy as “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

As the Irish-born British statesman Edmund Burke wrote more than two centuries ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Randy Roberts is uniquely qualified to comment on the present situation. Roberts holds the title of Distinguished Professor of History at Purdue University where he teaches a course on World War II. He has also been a visiting professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he taught courses on military history and the history of sport. And he has been honored with the A.J. Liebling Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America for biographies of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey, and Jack Johnson.

Roberts says unequivocally, “Bivol should not be allowed to fight Canelo. The world community has to put as much pressure as possible on Russia. Sports are a national unifying factor. Sports are a way to measure international greatness. That’s why they count Olympic medals. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. To deny a world stage in sports to Russia is important. The Russian people aren’t responsible for what’s happening today in Ukraine. But it’s impossible to separate Russia from the Russian people. Denying Bivol the opportunity to fight would be an appropriate extension of economic sanctions.”

“This is a scary time,” Roberts continues. “Never in my life since the Cuban Missile Crisis have I thought there was a real possibility of nuclear war. I always felt that sane people were ultimately in charge. But Putin doesn’t fit that mold because, like Hitler, he shows a willingness to take unthinkable steps. I don’t think he has wide support for this war in the military or among the Russian people. There have to be generals in Russia who, right now, are thinking that what’s happening in Ukraine is wrong. But can they halt the use of nuclear weapons if Putin orders it?”

Where do we go from here?

First, let’s acknowledge the heroic role being played by Vitali Klitschko as mayor of Kyiv. Vitali (pictured) and Wladimir are inspirational figures. Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk have returned to their homeland and also joined the defense effort.

As of this writing, Matchroom and DAZN seem to be moving ahead with Canelo-Bivol. Let’s not forget; this is the same team that staged the 2019 rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia despite compelling evidence that the Saudi government was responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

DAZN founder Len Blavatnik is Ukrainian-born and a citizen of both the United States and United Kingdom. His personal fortune has been estimated by Bloomberg and other sources as being well in excess of $20 billion. A substantial portion of his wealth came from buying formerly-state-owned oil and aluminum assets in Russia as they were privatized by the Russian government.

Blavatnik could unilaterally pull the plug on Canelo-Bivol in an instant. And if he’s concerned about the financial impact that would have on Bivol, he could reach into his pocket to make Dmitry whole.

Or maybe, at the opposite end of the spectrum, someone will cynically decide that the controversy over whether Bivol should be in the ring on May 7 is good marketing for Canelo-Bivol and that it will engender more subscriptions and pay-per-view buys.

Meanwhile, if DAZN proceeds with its plans to stream Canelo-Bivol, DAZN subscribers can cancel their subscriptions in protest. At the very least, if the fight goes ahead, boxing fans should donate $79.99 to a Ukrainian relief fund rather than buy the fight. Don’t fall for someone saying, “Oh, we’ll donate a portion of the proceeds from the promotion to charity.” Take matters into your own hands, boycott the fight, and donate the full $79.99.

Which is more important: being entertained by two men in a fistfight or making an effort to halt a senseless slaughter?

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.

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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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Abraham Nova and his Mascot are Back in Action on Friday Night

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With his black beard dyed gold, junior lightweight Abraham Nova is one of boxing’s most recognizable practitioners. Sometimes there’s two of him which makes him stand out even more. His twin is an inflatable mascot painted to look just like him. On fight nights they are inseparable. The mascot shadows Nova on his ringwalk, bouncing up and down and dancing to animate the crowd.

Some gimmicks are just plain hokey. Some are annoying. But there’s something whimsical about Nova’s invention that brings a smile to boxing fans of all ages. “Abraham Nova having his own mascot is one of the coolest things in boxing,” says fight writer Ryan Songalia.

“I played all sports in high school, football, baseball, track, and got the idea of it from other sports,” says Nova of his twin who he unveiled in January of 2020 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona, New York, where he upped his record to 18-0 with a fourth-round stoppage of Mexican journeyman Pedro Navarrete.

He’s 5-2 since then, the smudges coming against future world featherweight champion Robeisy Ramirez (KO by 5) and defending super featherweight world champion O’Shaquie Foster where he came out on the short end of a split decision. This coming Friday, in his first assignment since failing to de-throne Foster, he opposes 21-0 Andres Cortes at the Fontainebleu in Las Vegas on a Top Rank card airing on ESPN+.

“I was the one who asked for this fight,” says Nova. “Top Rank offered me a match on their June 8th Puerto Rican Parade Weekend show at Madison Square Garden against an opponent who was 17-2, but I turned it down and asked for a better opponent and they accommodated me.” Las Vegas native Andres Cortes, who has been profiled in these pages, is ranked #2 at 130 pounds by the WBO.

In common with boxing’s historical pattern, Abraham Nova had a hardscrabble upbringing.

Born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic, the second-youngest of 10 children, he came to the U.S. at the age of 1 where the entire family was initially shoe-horned into a two-bedroom apartment in Albany, New York.

His father, Aquiles, had a friend here who was the pastor of a church and in need of an assistant pastor to help with his growing congregation. Aquiles eventually founded his own church in Albany, The Pentecostal Church of Unity & Prayer where services are held in both Spanish and English.

As a toddler, Nova lived briefly in Guatemala and Mexico where his parents were called to “spread the word” and to assist in redevelopment projects. The family traveled 5,500 miles in a rickety old school bus from Albany to Guatemala during the end days of the Guatemalan Civil War.

Each of Nova’s four brothers boxed, but he was the only one to turn pro. As an amateur, he won the 2015 Olympic Trials Qualifying Tournament in Memphis, defeating Frank Martin and Richardson Hitchins in back-to-back fights, but failed to make the U.S. team for the Rio Games when he lost a split decision to Gary Antuanne Russell at the Olympic Trials in Reno. Those bouts were contested at 141 pounds.

A 30-year-old bachelor, Nova had his final amateur fights in Lowell, Massachusetts, a pillar of amateur boxing in New England, and has remained in the Boston area without losing his Albany identity. He is trained by ex-U.S. Marine Mark DeLuca, a boxer of some renown who sports a 30-4 record and may not be done with fighting quite yet at age 36.

Nova’s opponent, Andres Cortes, has won five of his last seven inside the distance beginning with a smashing first-round knockout of 34-2 Genesis Servania. On paper, it’s a 50-50 match-up. (The pricemakers are flummoxed; as of this writing, they have yet to establish a betting line.)

Abraham Nova’s mascot may never become as well-known as some of the costumed human mascots in college sports (e.g., West Virginia’s Mountaineer or Michigan State’s Sparty), let alone as beloved as the University of Georgia’s flesh-and-blood bulldog mascot Uga, but give the boxer credit for originality and for bringing a little levity to a sport too often besotted with incivility.

Note: Abraham Nova vs. Andres Cortes is the co-feature. In the main go, new Top Rank signee Rafael Espinoza makes the first defense of his WBO world featherweight title against Mexican countryman Sergio Chirino. Espinoza forged the 2023 TSS Upset of the Year when he got off the deck to defeat Robeisy Ramirez on Dec. 9 in Pembroke Pines, Florida, winning legions of fans with his unrelenting buzzsaw attack. Action from the Fontaineblue begins at 4:00 pm PST on ESPN+.

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

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A True Tale from the Boxing Vault: When the Champion Refused to Fight

BY TSS Special Correspondent David Harazduk — A hundred years ago, ducking a worthy challenger wouldn’t simply stoke the ire of the fans, it came with the prospect of jail time.

On Thursday, November 3, 1927, 16,000 fans packed Wrigley Field in Los Angeles hoping to witness their local favorite challenge for the welterweight world championship. Nicknamed the “Nebraska Wildcat,” Ace Hudkins had relocated to the Pacific Coast where his devil-may-care style in the ring made him instantly popular among Angelino fight fans. He was set to battle Joe Dundee, the champion, an Italian immigrant who had settled in Baltimore at a young age. But there was one problem.

The champion refused to fight.

Members of the California boxing commission, along with promoter Dick Donald, raced to the Biltmore Hotel to plead with Dundee (pictured) and his manager Max Waxman to come to Wrigley Field and fight. Waxman steadfastly refused. Donald, a quick-witted cigar-chomping Irishman known as the “Boy Promoter,” had promised Max’s man the ungodly sum of $60,000, and Dundee wouldn’t enter the ring for a penny less.

Under the rules of the California commission, a fighter could only receive a guarantee of $500. The rest of the purse came from a percentage of the gate: 37.5% for the champion and 12.5% for the challenger. Waxman insisted that Donald had offered $60,000, but the commission couldn’t enforce this side deal.

Tickets in the bleachers were sold at $2.20 a pop while those closer to the ring went for $11. The most the gate could possibly produce would be $90,000. Add in Wrigley Field’s 15% usage fee and payments to the preliminary fighters, officials, and even to rent the chairs situated around the ring, and Dundee’s dreams of $60,000- $75,000 if he lost the title- never had a prayer of being realized. After all, 37.5% of $90,000, plus $500, is only $34,250.

Meanwhile, Eddie Mahoney, a preliminary fighter, entered the ring at 8:30pm. Mahoney was scheduled to fight Joe Dundee’s brother Vince, a future middleweight world champion. When Vince didn’t follow Mahoney into the ring, Mahoney soon left, much to the bewilderment of the crowd.

Donald scrambled to find a plan B. He searched for welterweight contender Sergeant Sammy Baker to replace Dundee and fight Hudkins. When Baker couldn’t be located, Donald asked a preliminary fighter, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Fields, to take on Hudkins instead. Hudkins and Fields had been sparring partners when the featherweight champion of the 1924 Games in Paris was a nascent pro back in 1925. Fields’s manager, Gig Rooney, felt Hudkins was too big for the Olympic champ at this stage of his career and preferred to remain on the undercard against San Francisco’s Joey Silver.

With no plan B, Donald and the commissioners went back to Waxman in a last desperate plea to coax Dundee to defend his title. One commissioner, Charles Traung, offered Waxman an additional $10,000 check for Dundee to fight. Waxman stubbornly held out for more.

At 9:20pm, back at Wrigley, Donald signaled Jackie Fields and Joey Silver to enter the ring. Though Fields was wobbled twice, he opened up a cut over Silver’s left eye and split the San Franciscan’s lip on route to a convincing points victory in a ten-rounder. A few minutes after 10pm, Mahoney and Vince Dundee finally entered the ring for their clash. Dundee starched Mahoney inside of two rounds. When Waxman, who also managed Vince, heard of the second-round stoppage, he said “Vince knocked that guy out, eh? I told him to carry him along.” Waxman had hoped to stall for time.

Soon after the end of the Dundee-Mahoney fight, Ace Hudkins waltzed to the ring. He spent fifteen minutes seated in his corner, covered in a bathrobe and towels to keep him warm. Dundee never showed.

At 11:25pm, ring announcer Frank Kerwin slid into the ring and bellowed, “Owing to the fact that Joe Dundee did not receive his guarantee, he refused to go on with his match against Ace Hudkins.” The crowd was advised to “hold their seat checks and watch the newspapers for other announcements.”

The fans didn’t take too kindly to the announcement and hurled those rented chairs in disgust. Fights broke out all over the stadium, spilling into the ring. All available police officers in the area rushed to Wrigley Field, wielding their nightsticks in a bid to subdue the violent mob. Dozens of fans were injured in the fracas. To add insult to injury, those who had paid $2.20 for their seats in the bleachers were out of luck; they had never received a ticket in the first place.

The next day, Waxman and Joe Dundee checked out of the Biltmore Hotel at noon and made their way to the train station. Later that night, they were pulled off an eastbound train at Pasadena and arrested for false advertising.  Waxman posted a $1,000 bond for each of them.

A warrant was issued for Donald on the same false advertising grounds. He phoned into the police station promising to turn himself in once his feelings of humiliation subsided. The police agreed to wait.

Ultimately, all accused would be acquitted. Waxman would return the $22,249.43 that had been placed in his account and an $11,000 check.

Fans didn’t receive refunds as it was deemed unfair to give them only to those who had bought $11 tickets since the gallery patrons had no ticket stub and thus, couldn’t get a refund anyhow. After the preliminary fighters, Wrigley Field, officials, ushers, and the chair rental company were compensated, the rest of the money was placed into a community fund.

Because he had entered the ring for his title challenge, Ace Hudkins declared himself the new champion, but no commission accepted his claim. Dick Donald’s promotional career, once so promising, abruptly ended. In 1935, he took one last gasp in boxing, serving as matchmaker at the famed Olympic Auditorium for a brief spell.

Joe Dundee would never fight in California again. His championship reign ended dishonorably a year and half later when several commissions agreed to strip him of the title for refusing to fight any top contenders. When Jackie Fields won the vacant title, he and Dundee were matched for the undisputed crown on July 25, 1929. With Dundee a two-to-one underdog, Waxman and Dundee bet $50,000 on Joe to win, with fouls canceling the bet. Fields shellacked Dundee, knocking him down twice. In the second round, after the second knockdown, Dundee knew he was licked. He got up and hit Fields low as hard as he could. Dundee was instantly disqualified, losing any claim to the title as disgracefully as his hold-out against Hudkins.

If only some of the alphabet champions of today had to post bail under the threat of jail for ducking contenders, maybe boxing would be in a better state.

EDITOR’S: Author David Harazduk has run The Jewish Boxing Blog since 2010. You can find him at  Twitter/X @JewishBoxing and Instagram @JewishBoxing

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Results from the MGM Grand where Gervonta Davis Returned with a Bang

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After an absence of 421 days, Gervonta “Tank” Davis returned to the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In the opposite corner was Detroit-born Frank “The Ghost” Martin who has been training in Dallas under Derrick James. In previous fights, Gervonta, who holds the WBA world lightweight title, has shown a tendency to start slow before closing the show with a highlight-reel knockout. Tonight was no exception.

Martin, 18-0 heading in, fought off his back foot from the get-go, but had good moments and was arguably ahead after five frames. But as the fight moved into the middle rounds, Martin became more stationary and one could sense that the ever-stalking Davis was wearing him down. In Round 8, Davis trapped Martin against a corner post, discombobulated him with a left uppercut and then turned out his lights with a chopping left hand. There was no chance that Martin could rise before referee Harvey Dock completed the “10” count.

Davis (30-0, 28 KOs) celebrated by standing on the top strand of rope and doing a black flip. He has many lucrative options going forward and will be favored to defeat whoever his next opponent will be.

The Davis-Martin fight was the capstone of a four-fight pay-per-view, the second collaboration between Premier Boxing Champions and Amazon Prime Video.

Benavidez-Gvozdyk

In his first fight as a light heavyweight, David Benavidez scored a 12-round unanimous decision over former lineal light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Benavidez, who improved to 20-0 (24), worked the body well and kept up the pressure in the early-going, building a substantial lead. His work output declined over the last third of the fight, but his punches still carried more steam than those of Gvozdyk, 37, who suffered his second loss in 22 pro fights, the other inflicted by the indomitable Artur Beterbiev, prompting the SoCal-based Ukrainian to take a long hiatus from the ring. The judges had it 119-109, 117-111, and 116-112.

Puello-Russell

In a major upset, Alberto Puello of the Dominican Republic saddled Gary Antuanne Russell with his first pro loss, winning a split decision. Puello appeared to have the edge in a furious final round, without which the bout would have ended in a draw. Puello, who improved to 23-0 (10), had to overcome a dubious call by referee Allan Huggins who took a point away from the Dominican in Round 7 for too much holding.

Russell, who was making his first start against a southpaw, is now trained by his brother Gary Russell Jr., the former featherweight champion, who replaced their late father. Russell Jr last fought in January of 2022.

Heading in, Gary Antuanne Russell had won all 17 of his pro fights by knockout. One of the judges thought he won handily. But his tally, 118-109 for Russell, was overruled by the115-112 and 114-113 scores awarded the underdog. Puello, who briefly held the WBA diadem at 140 but had it stripped from him when he tested positive for PEDs, won an interim belt in that weight class with his upset tonight.

Adames-Gausha

In the PPV opener, Alberto Puello’s countryman Carlos Adames successfully defended his WBC middleweight title in his first world title fight with a one-sided decision over former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha. Adames, whose late father reportedly sired 35 children, was the aggressor and landed many more punches. He advanced his record to 24-1 (19). It was the fourth loss in 29 pro starts for the 36-year-old Gausha. The judges had it 119-109 and 118-110 twice.

Adames’ triumph made it 2-0 for the Dominicans and their trainer Ismael Salas.

Other Bouts of Note

In a huge upset, Delaware’s Kyrone Davis overcame Arizona’s previously undefeated and highly-touted Elijah Garcia, winning a split decision. A 21-year-old father of two, Garcia, 16-0 heading in, was rated #1 by the WBA and seemingly one step removed from challenging Erislandy Lara for the WBA middleweight title. But Davis, trained by Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, had a solid game plan and although Elijah came on strong in the homestretch, it was too little, too late.

One of the judges favored Garcia 98-92, but his cohorts each gave seven rounds to Davis (19-3-1, 6 KOs) and the decision was fair.

Filipino junior lightweight Mark Magsayo, in his second fight back since losing back-to-back fights with featherweight belt-holders Rey Vargas and Brandon Figueroa, advanced to 26-2 (17) with a 10-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Eduardo Ramirez (28-4-3). Magsayo scored a knockdown in the third round with a straight right hand and won by scores of 99-90 and 97-92 twice.

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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