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How Much Credence Should We Give Tyson Fury’s Retirement? (Spoiler Alert: None)

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Tyson Fury announced that his fight with Dillian Whyte would be his last rodeo. Some people were inclined to believe him. “Fury retains heavyweight belt in final fight,” read the sub-headline of an Associated Press dispatch from London.

A great boxer, as a rule, retires multiple times before he finally leaves the sport for good. One can illustrate this point without looking beyond the cadre of former heavyweight champions.

In the fall of 1942, Joe Louis was in the Army stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. In October, he accompanied a Fort Riley drill team to Omaha to perform at a football game between Fort Riley and Creighton University. An Associated Press reporter caught up with him there.

Louis, then 28 years old, told the reporter that his fighting days were over. “By the time this war will be over, I’ll be in my 30’s and that’s too old for a fighter. I’m too old for it now.”

When the Army let him loose, Louis returned to his old trade. He would retire again after losing his belt to Ezzard Charles in his twenty-sixth world title defense and this time it was seemingly etched in stone. The announcement that he was quitting was accompanied by a formal letter of resignation sent to the National Boxing Commission. But the Brown Bomber wasn’t done quite yet. He came back and plodded on, having his last fight at age thirty-seven.

Muhammad Ali was a multiple world title-holder and a multiple retiree.

Ali was thirty-three years old (the same age that Tyson Fury is now) and days away from his second meeting with Joe Bugner when he uttered these words: “Horses get old, cars get old, the Pyramids of Egypt are crumbling. I want to retire while I’m still on top. As of now, this is the last time you will see Muhammad Ali in a fight.”

To the contrary, three months after out-pointing Bugner in Kuala Lumpur, Ali met up with Joe Frazier in Manila. And then, after that terrible war of attrition, he had 10 more fights, answering the bell for 120 rounds, before leaving the sport a crumbled version of the great fighter that he had been.

Larry Holmes, Ali’s conqueror (a stroll in the park for the Easton Assassin) said he would retire after fighting David Bey in March of 1985 and retired again the following year after losing his rematch with Michael Spinks

“This is my last fight,” said Holmes before the fight with Bey. “A lot of people don’t believe that. But it comes time when that’s enough. If I stay too long, something’s going to happen.” Sixteen years later, now 52 years old, Holmes finally had his final fight, winning a 10-round decision over Eric “Butterbean” Esch in Norfolk, Virginia.

Larry Holmes appears to be one of the lucky ones. By all indications, he still has all of his faculties. That in itself is more amazing than anything he accomplished inside the ring.

Why do the great ones keep coming back? A number of theories have been advanced.

A man who takes up prizefighting, like a boy who takes up smoking, believes himself to be bulletproof; the damage that he risks, if acknowledged at all, is something that will descend on the other guy. The roar of the crowd can be intoxicating; a drug that creates a yearning for more. And every great fighter believes that his generation was stronger than the generation coming up behind it.

Tyson Fury, a father of six with a seventh on the way, won’t be lacking for money any time soon and he won’t be stashing away any of it for his kids’ college education. Travelers tend to yank their kids out of school at the first sign of puberty. But a pile of money has a way of shrinking, especially if one is an independent contractor with a tax man looking over his shoulder. The great baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax quit baseball at age thirty and came to regret that he didn’t stay around a few more years. “When I left baseball,” he said, “I had enough money to last the rest of my life but then I discovered that was only true if I stopped spending.”

For some, the mantle of heavyweight champion was a millstone, more a burden than a rush, a manifestation of the admonition, “be careful what you wish for.” For some it was both.

During his first reign as heavyweight champion, before Don King entered his life, Mike Tyson relished his reputation as the baddest man on the planet. He could not have been happier. During his second reign, after a stint in an Indiana prison, he was miserable. The crown was a crown of thorns.

Tyson Fury inverted the Mike Tyson chronicle; he turned it upside-down. After de-throning Wladimir Klitschko, he fell into a rut, a rut so dark and so deep that he contemplated suicide. He was out of action for 30 months during which time the British Boxing Board of Control suspended his boxing license and the presumption was that we would never see him again.

In his second coming, Fury was a new man, a blithe spirit, ebullient.

To be certain, there have been a few champions who left the sport on top and never looked back: Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano, Lennox Lewis. But they were exceptions to the rule.

Fury has many options going forward. Primo Carnera transitioned from a boxer into a grunt-and-groan wrestler. He didn’t make the turnstiles hum – he was damaged goods after fighting Max Baer – but Fury, with his out-sized personality, would be a big attraction in this cheesy form of melodrama that is more popular today than in Carnera’s era.

After defeating Dillian Whyte, Fury was joined in the ring by UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. The freak fight between Floyd Mayweather and MMA star Conor McGregor was one of the richest one-day sporting events of all time, so a Fury-Ngannou match is something quite likely to happen. As it now stands, however, it would be classified as an exhibition.

As for Fury fighting the winner of the forthcoming rematch between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk or coming back after a long layoff to take on one of the young guns who has “usurped” his title – well, one or both of those happenstances is inevitable.

The great New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson was in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 for Ali-Bugner II. This was back in the day when many newspapers had the resources to send a writer halfway around the world to cover a sporting event.

Anderson dutifully reported what Ali said – that he planned to retire – but he wasn’t buying it. “Muhammad Ali is one of those people who needs people…,” said Anderson. “He needs an audience. And to have an audience, he needs a stage.”

In some ways, Tyson Fury is the reincarnation of Ali. He is an outstanding boxer, but foremost he is a great showman. A great showman doesn’t leave the stage when he can still fill the room.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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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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