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The Hauser Report: Dmitry Bivol, Canelo Alvarez, and DAZN

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On May 7, Rich Strike, an 80-to-1 longshot, turned thoroughbred horse racing upside down by winning the Kentucky Derby. That night, Dmitry Bivol scored an upset of even greater consequence when he outboxed Canelo Alvarez at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to earn a unanimous decision over boxing’s reigning pound-for-pound king.

Alvarez (now 57-2-2, 39 KOs) is 31 years old. In recent years, he has been boxing’s premier fighter, a magnet for high-rollers, and a massive pay-per-view draw. As Paul Magno recently wrote, “He has become the best in the world in a very old school way – by developing his game in the gym and adding respectable names to his resume.”

At the start of this year, Canelo was also a promotional and network free agent. He’d fought six consecutive fights on DAZN with Golden Boy or Matchroom as his promoter and then jumped ship to fight Caleb Plant on Showtime-PPV under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. His victory over Plant was followed by spirited bidding for his services. PBC hoped to match Canelo against Jermall Charlo. Matchroom Boxing CEO Eddie Hearn was pushing Bivol as the opponent.

In late-January, Eddy Reynoso (Canelo’s trainer) opined, “I think a Charlo fight is more media-friendly. Charlo is a fighter that sells more, a fighter that more people follow. And because of that, it’s a more attractive fight.”

And also a less dangerous fight.

But DAZN was anxious to get back in the Canelo business. And Len Blavatnik (the Ukrainian-born, multi-billionaire whose exceedingly deep pockets finance DAZN) took an interest in Canelo. The two had lunch together in Miami last year the day after Canelo beat Avni Yildirim.

Also, on February 11, Charlo was arrested on a charge of felony assault (later dismissed) in Texas. That added an element of uncertainty to any Canelo-Charlo venture.

On February 26, it was announced that Canelo had signed a two-fight deal with Matchroom and DAZN. The first fight would be in Las Vegas for Bivol’s WBA 175-pound belt in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo weekend. The second was provisionally scheduled for September 17 in conjunction with Mexican Independence Day weekend against Gennady Golovkin at a site to be determined. Canelo’s minimum purse for fighting Bivol was reported as $40 million with a $60 million payday should he fight Golovkin in September. The contract was said to include an option in Matchroom’s favor for a third fight against an unspecified opponent and an option for a rematch in Canelo’s favor should he (ha ha; no way it will happen) lose to Bivol.

Bivol (now 20-0, 11 KOs) is five months younger than Canelo. He won the WBA 175-pound title in 2017 by knocking out the undistinguished Trent Broadhurst and had defended his belt seven times against largely pedestrian opposition. His previous six opponents had gone the distance against him.

After Canelo’s choice of opponent was announced, there was some sniping that, in fourteen fights dating back to 2015, he’d faced only one Black opponent (Danny Jacobs). Charlo and Spence would have run counter to that trend.

Canelo-Bivol was Canelo’s fifteenth fight in Las Vegas, where he has taken part in three of the five highest-grossing gates in state history. Alvarez was a 9-to-2 betting favorite. Those odds seemed long. Sergey Kovalev’s reach and jab had given Canelo trouble when they fought in 2019. Bivol has a better jab than Kovalev and his footwork is far superior to Sergey’s. Most likely, Dmitry would have been favored over all of Canelo’s previous opponents with the possible exception of Golovkin.

“He has good power,” Bivol said of Canelo. “He has good skills. First of all, he’s a good fighter. But he’s a man and he had a loss and draw. If you believe in your skills, if you’re a good boxer, you could make him one more loss. I have enough to win this fight.”

“I chose Bivol because he’s a great fighter,” Canelo said in response. “He’s a fighter who fights at distance, good distance. He moves; he’s fast for the division; he’s strong. He’s, for me, the best fighter at 175. I saw him many times. He knows what to do in the ring. He’s a champion for a long time. I know what kind of fighter he is but I don’t care. I’m in my prime and I have a lot of skills. I want to make history in my career and I’m gonna continue doing it with this guy.”

*

I didn’t watch Canelo-Bivol live on Saturday night. That might sound odd for a writer who would be writing about the fight. But it was a matter of principle.

I admire Canelo Alvarez as a fighter and a person. I’ve been in his dressing room in the hours before and after five of his biggest fights and hope to be there again in the future. But Bivol (who was born in Kyrgyzstan) is a Russian citizen and has lived in Russia since age eleven. I agree with Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko who voiced the view that, given Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine, Bivol shouldn’t have been chosen to fight Canelo. That, to me, would have been an appropriate extension of the economic sanctions currently in place against Russia.

DAZN and Matchroom took a contrary view. So did the world sanctioning organizations. On March 28, the WBA announced that it would sanction Canelo-Bivol for its 175-pound title (and the lucrative sanctioning fee that accompanied its sanction).

Two days later, after a trip to the Middle East that saw him wholeheartedly endorse Daniel Kinahan’s involvement in boxing, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman declared, “I’m glad that this fight is taking place and when they are in that ring, they can show that boxing is far above politics. It is a sensitive issue because of what is happening, but we have also said that the boxers are not to blame for anything. I am happy that this fight is taking place. It has nothing to do with the conflict.”

But sports are not “above politics.” For the past century, sports have been very much a part of politics. Adolph Hitler weaponized the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda weapon for Nazi Germany. Sports boycotts were an important tool in the struggle to overcome apartheid in South Africa. The Saudi Arabian government is currently engaged in “sports washing” at the highest level. As things now stand, Russian players will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Cinco de Mayo weekend celebrates Mexico’s victory over the French Empire (another invading force) at the Battle of Pueblo in 1862. The choice of Bivol as Canelo’s opponent on May 7 was ill-matched to that remembrance. I decided long ago that, as a personal protest, I wouldn’t buy the fight on pay-per-view. After it was over, I watched it on YouTube.

Each fighter had weighed in on Friday within a shade of 175 pounds. Bivol likely weighed significantly more on fight night. At six-feet tall, Dmitry enjoyed a four-inch advantage in height over Canelo with a commensurate edge in reach.

The Mexican and United States national anthems were sung in the ring prior to the fight but not the Russian anthem.

Before the fight, Bivol had said, “This is my chance to show all people my skills. And if I want to show my skills, I have to take the risks. This is a fight against the best fighter in the world, and you use everything. You have to risk every time when you see it. Not sometimes, every time.”

That said; Bivol fought a cautious fight. There were few if any highlight-reel moments. Dmitry used deft footwork to maximize his advantage in size and reach and, with his jab, dictate the distance between the fighters for most of the night. Canelo was rarely able to land cleanly. When he did, Dmitry took the punches well. And because Canelo was unable to launch a sustained body attack, he was unable to wear Bivol down and come on strong in the late rounds as he often does.

Jack Blackburn (Joe Louis’s trainer) was once asked to explain the key to boxing and answered, “If you get hit, hit the other fellow before he can hit you again.”

Against Bivol, Canelo couldn’t do that. According to CompuBox, he landed only 84 punches over twelve rounds and was out-landed in every stanza. The fight was reminiscent of his 2013 outing against Floyd Mayweather except, with Bivol, size was a more important factor than experience. Canelo could only do his best. And his best on Saturday night wasn’t good enough against a highly-skilled, bigger, equally determined opponent.

The judges (Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti, and Steve Weisfeld) scored the fight identically. Each one gave rounds one through four and round nine to Canelo for a 115-113 tally in Bivol’s favor. Many observers felt that the judges were kind to Canelo with regard to rounds one through four.

As for what comes next; prior to Canelo-Bivol, the road map for Canelo seemed clear. There were plans for him to fight Gennady Golovkin on September 17. And Canelo had expressed the desire to unify the four major 175-pound belts as he’d done with the titles at 168 pounds. “I like the idea to be undisputed in two weight classes,” he said. “For me, it’s a really good thing for my legacy.” There was even talk of Canelo moving up further on the scales to fight Oleksandr Usyk at contract weight of 201 pounds. “I like it,” Canelo said. “Why not?”

The best move for Canelo now might be to say, “I’m at my best at 168-pounds; that’s where I want to stay,” and fight Golovkin in September. But that fight is currently on hold and, as a consequence of Canelo-Bivol, will be somewhat devalued if it happens. Alternatively, Canelo has a contractual right to an immediate rematch against Bivol and could exercise that right.

After Canelo-Bivol, Eddie Hearn declared, “The big rematch with Dmitry Bivol in September is now in play.” When asked if he wanted the rematch, Canelo responded, “Of course I do. It doesn’t end like this.”

That might not be a wise move for Canelo.

Meanwhile, apart from its merits as a fight, Canelo-Bivol was significant because of what it told boxing fans about DAZN.

On May 10, 2018, Eddie Hearn and Perform Group CEO Simon Denyer announced a joint venture at a press conference in New York. Speaking about what was touted as a one-billion-dollar, eight-year joint licensing agreement to provide content for DAZN, Hearn proclaimed, “We’re here to change the game and elevate boxing to a new level for fight fans in America. We have the dates, the money, and the platform. We were dangerous without this. But with this money and this platform, omigod! We have by far the biggest rights budget in the sport of boxing and we’re going to be ultra-competitive. We’re going to put on the greatest shows with the greatest talent. This is a brand new era for boxing in the U.S. We’re here and we mean business. We have money never seen before in the sport of boxing. If I fail here, I’m a disgrace.”

DAZN tried to position Matchroom as the UFC of boxing and Hearn as Dana White. It didn’t work. The network that assured boxing fans that “pay-per-view is dead” doesn’t looking so healthy itself these days.

It’s not enough to be a streaming network. A streaming network has to stream content that the public wants.

Last year, Hearn told IFL TV, “Our sport, our brand, needs to thrive. But you only do that by making the big fights and making the fights that people want to see. We cannot afford sh** fights where fighters get a fortune but don’t deliver for the broadcasters because they will kill the sport. I want to show how great boxing is. But we only do that by showing great fights.”

Unfortunately, DAZN has given the public very few great fights. Nor (with the exception of raising Katie Taylor’s profile in the United States) has it made any stars. If anything, it has taken already-made stars and made them smaller.

DAZN doesn’t release subscription numbers. But SportBusiness.com has reported that the network lost $1.4 billion in 2019 and $1.3 billion dollars in 2020. DAZN’s boxing operation might be the biggest money-loser in the history of boxing.

Part of the problem has been that, when DAZN signed its multi-year deal with Matchroom, it made the same mistake that too many other networks make. It gave away its biggest bargaining chip – dates.

HBO Boxing was as good as it was during the glory years, in part, because Time Warner Sports president Seth Abraham resisted the temptation to align the network with one promoter. One of the key factors in the subsequent decline of HBO Sports was the decision by Abraham’s successor to heavily align the network with Al Haymon.

DAZN would have been better served by launching as an open shop and forcing promoters to compete for its dollars. It might have taken a few years for the contracts that some promoters had with other networks to run out. But DAZN said it was in boxing for the long haul.

Now, four years after its launch, where is DAZN? Keith Idec answered that question when he referenced DAZN’s schedule for early-2022 as “heavy on fights in England and short on meaningful fights in its underserved U.S. market.”

Indeed, DAZN appears to have largely abandoned its plans to conquer America. Last year, DAZN Group chairman Kevin Mayer was interviewed by Alex Sherman on CNBC and asked, “Is there any avenue that you can foresee that would allow DAZN to be a bigger factor in the United States?”

“It’s conceivable,” Mayer answered, “in the future, theoretically, that DAZN could make inroads here. I just think that, for the time being and for the medium term, we really need to focus on Europe and Asia.”

In addition to its reliance on Matchroom, DAZN has also done business with Golden Boy Promotions. It was Golden Boy that originally brought Canelo (as well as Ryan Garcia, Vergil Ortiz, and Jaime Munguia) to DAZN. But Matchroom will be DAZN’s primary content provider for the foreseeable future. In June 2021, DAZN and Matchroom announced a five-year deal that calls for at least sixteen Matchroom fight cards in the United Kingdom to be available exclusively to DAZN subscribers in the UK and Ireland each year. These fights and other Matchroom offerings will also be shown on DAZN in the United States and other designated markets around the world.

More significantly, perhaps, DAZN has abandoned its previous pledge that boxing fans will see the best fights on DAZN for one low monthly subscription price.

As noted above, DAZN streamed six of Canelo Alvarez’s previous outings as part of its subscription package. Canelo-Bivol was a pay-per-view event that cost current DAZN subscribers $59.99 and was sold to others for $79.99. Oleksandr Usyk’s upcoming title defense against Anthony Joshua is also expected to be on DAZN-PPV.

Pay-per-view is dead?

“I’m not personally shirking away from comments we made about pay-per-view four years ago,” DAZN executive vice president Joe Markowski said recently. “I’m not gonna try and pretend that was just a marketing campaign or I was just poking the bear. We’re humble enough and honest enough to admit that we maybe, in hindsight, got that wrong. I’d be insincere if I said, ‘You know, we were only joking about that.’ We believed it at the time.”

But there are questions as to whether DAZN’s hybrid subscription-pay-per-view model will be any more successful than its previous business plan. Canelo’s most recent fight (against Caleb Plant) generated an estimated 800,000 pay-per-view buys, showing that his economic appeal remains strong. But Canelo-Plant had the enormous CBS-Showtime platform to sell pay-per-view buys. DAZN only has DAZN.

Canelo Alvarez was DAZN’s standard bearer and the best hope to lead DAZN out of the wilderness. Let’s face it. The outcome of Canelo-Bivol was not good for DAZN. Anthony Joshua (even though he wasn’t locked into a long-term contract with the network) was a standard bearer of sorts for DAZN in the United States. Then Joshua suffered a shocking loss to Andy Ruiz. But Joshua-Ruiz was an exciting fight that boxing fans wanted to see again. Raise your hands. How many people reading this column want to pay $79.99 to watch Canelo-Bivol II?

Thus, the following colloquy that’s making the rounds:

Genie: I will grant you one wish.

Aladdin: I want to live forever.

Genie: I can’t grant wishes like that.

Aladdin: Okay; I want to live until DAZN turns a profit.

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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Harvey Araton Reflects on the Odd Coupling of Ali-Liston II and Lewiston, Maine

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Harvey Araton Reflects on the Odd Coupling of Ali-Liston II and Lewiston, Maine

It’s rarely the case, but in a few instances a heavyweight championship fight has been staged in a small town like Shelby, Montana, or Lewiston, Maine.

The latter was the case 57 years ago this week — May 25 to be exact — when Muhammad Ali faced Sonny Liston for the second time in 15 months.

In the initial meeting, Ali, then Cassius Clay, stunned the world by stopping and taking away the Big Bear’s title with a sixth-round technical knockout in Miami Beach.

In the rematch, Ali’s short right hand proved to be the knockout punch, but many called it the “Phantom Punch,” because few in the throng of 2,434 inside Lewiston’s St. Dominic’s Arena actually saw the blow land.

Looking back, just how did a town of around 40,000 inhabitants and 142 miles north of Boston, actually host the second meeting?

Longtime New York City sportswriter Harvey Araton penned a feature that ran on May, 19, 2015 in the New York Times on just how that unlikely hamlet of Lewiston, at least for one night, became the boxing capital of the world.

“For the old timers in Lewiston, that fight is the equivalent of hosting an Olympics, an event that for decades has defined its identity, even more so after the city fell into disrepair following the decline of its textile industry and the closing of its mills,” said Araton, who worked at the Staten Island Advance, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News preceding a 25-year stint at the New York Times including a decade and a half writing the “Sports of the Times” column.

“The filmmaker I met who talked about what Ali yelled at Liston as he lay on his back – “Get up and fight!” – and how it enhanced the fight’s legacy in Lewiston as it struggled to revive itself was just perfect for my story. I’d like to think it has also come to reflect the rise of the Somali immigrant community, what it has had to go through in order to find a home and to overcome the standard fear and loathing of immigrants to share its restorative efforts in the city.”

When Araton visited Lewiston on the fight’s 50th anniversary, the townsfolk were proud.

“There certainly was a nostalgic quality to the city of Lewiston with the retention of its old, industrial feel, but especially in the arena where the fight took place. Beyond the facelift it was given several years ago, more to its facade than anything else, it still resembles what I described in the story as a cross between an old barn and an airplane hangar,” he said. “And while I wouldn’t say time is frozen inside, you didn’t have to stretch your imagination too far to feel what fight night must have been like, all of it enhanced by the folks I found who actually attended. And who, 50 years after the fact, were surprisingly vivid in their recall.”

While Ali was famous before this matchup, he became even more recognizable after it.

“To a degree, yes, this fight, more than the first one with Liston, arguably made the new champ more of a household name, for several reasons (though I would go easy on the global aspect of it, given the technological disconnectedness of the time). First and foremost, the chaotic and controversial nature of the fight was unavoidable,” said Araton, the author, co-author or editor of nine books including “When The Garden Was Eden: Clyde, The Captain, Dollar Bill And the Glory Days Of The New York Knicks” and “Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry And Baseball’s Greatest Gift.”

“Two, with the name “Muhammad Ali” stitched onto his white robe, that was unquestionably more of an attention-grabber than Clay (even if much of the media refused to call him Ali). Finally, for those (including my dad Gilbert) who were turned off by Ali’s brashness and preferred to think of the Miami bout as a fluke or even a setup to have Liston put him to sleep in the rematch, the quick work Ali made of Liston essentially suggested to fans everywhere (of what was then a far more popular sport than today) that they might want to get used to this mouthy showman. He was going to be around for a while.”

Araton, who received the prestigious Curt Gowdy Award in 2017 (given annually to print/digital and broadcasting members of the media), said he had to talk his editors into letting him write the piece.

“This one was self-generated all the way. I even had to do a bit of a sales pitch for my editors, who weren’t in love with retrospective pieces. By 2015, I knew I wasn’t going to be a full-time sports journalist for much longer. I had tired of the traveling, the late-nights at live events, the calls for a deadline column that uprooted a dinner plan or a day with my family,” he said. “There
wasn’t for me a great sense of unfinished business, events I hadn’t had the good fortune of covering. But I had always wondered about that fight – how the hell did it wind up in Lewiston, of all places? I mean, there were obvious details about the Boston situation, but I wanted to know the full story. More than that, I was dying to find out if I could interview anyone who actually attended the fight. I really thought I’d be lucky to locate one or two. But lo and behold, there were several – including the former Bates students – who were either at the fight or connected to it, one way or another. And, of course, the story ultimately evolved to being about Lewiston as much as it was about the fight. That’s what I always loved about journalism: the idea is what merely gets you moving in the pursuit of a story.”

Like so many at that time, Araton listened to the fight on the radio. “I mentioned my father earlier – he wasn’t much of a sports fan but he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, had a cousin who was a boxer and loved a good boxing match. And as I also mentioned, he didn’t care much for Ali, while I, like so many other kids, found him compelling, especially compared to the dour, menacing Liston,” he noted. “So that night, he set up the radio on the kitchen table in our Staten Island housing projects apartment, as he typically did for a big fight that wasn’t on TV. I had just turned 13, apparently old enough to be teased: “Liston’s gonna give it to him good.

“Just as the start of the fight approached, I had to hit the bathroom, and after taking care of business in there, I emerged to see him pulling the plug from the socket and returning the radio to the shelf where he kept it. “Go to bed, it’s over,” he said. I was confused – “whaddaya mean, it’s over?” He huffed, “Clay knocked him out.” I went off to my room happily.”

The fight lasted one round and some thought it was fixed. Jimmy Cannon, the legendary sportswriter sitting ringside said of the knockout punch: “It couldn’t have squashed a grape.”

“I asked that question to all I interviewed who’d attended the fight. Most told me they managed to miss the moment of the punch – looked away, or sipped a beer, or whatever,” said Araton, “But one guy, a former IRS agent named Bob Pacios, insisted he’d had a clear and elevated line of vision from behind Ali and saw Liston step into the blow to the side of his face. He even diagrammed what he saw on a napkin. So, I’ll go with what he testified, while also factoring in that Liston did get up and the fight sort of continued as the ref, Jersey Joe Walcott, went over to consult the timekeeper. Which, I suppose, could obfuscate the hardcore belief that he took a dive. Also, while Ali was no knockout artist, he certainly was a very large man with lightning-fast hands. In other words, the one-punch takeout was plausible.”

Araton never covered any of Ali’s fights, but he did see him up close on one occasion.

“I met him once at the baggage claim at one of the New York-area airports, can’t remember which one, or the year, but it was well after he’d been afflicted by Parkinson’s,” he said. “I was waiting for my bag, minding my business, when I noticed him standing with his wife, Lonnie, at the carousel right next door – of course with people gawking all around him. I just had to go over and say something, anything. I introduced myself as a New York Times sports columnist, and a fan, and mentioned one of my mentors in the newspaper business – Vic Ziegel, who’d covered prime Ali for the New York Post. He smiled, made a fist and said something to the extent of, ‘You tell him I’m looking for him!’”

Araton said he did see the three-time heavyweight champion from a distance.

“Having covered the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, I was also in the stadium when he appeared with the torch, in what had to be the greatest ceremonial sports moment of our times,” he said. “It takes no special insight to call Ali a great historical figure, incredibly courageous, transcendent of his sport, all sports and pretty much everything else. But also a man with some troubling contradictions – tough to stomach, for instance, how he demeaned Joe Frazier, even when rationalized for the purpose of selling the fights. And shame on the press for laughing along, or even portraying Frazier as a tool of the white establishment.”

Araton went on: “When Ali died, I was wrapping up my 25 years at the Times (as I’d anticipated before doing the Lewiston piece the previous year) and was covering the NBA finals in the California Bay Area. My older son, Alex, was quite upset by the news. He was, after all, the son of a sports columnist who happened to be fascinated with the Ali legend. He kept texting me, encouraging me to write something, while I reminded him that the Times tributes had all been prepared well in advance of Ali’s death, as almost all are for the truly great ones. But when he insisted, I finally relented, and stayed up into the wee hours to finish a piece that I posted on a blog site I had created but seldom used.

“Strangely enough, once posted to the blog site, it appeared on my Twitter feed and a media critic for Sports Illustrated included it on a list of Ali tributes he liked. That provided it with far more readers than I’d imagined it would get. Which gets back to my earlier point of how Ali as a phenomenon was much easier to propagate globally by 2016 than he was in 1965.”

Harvey Araton’s blog piece bore the title “Ali, Connector of Generations.” Here’s a link to it.
http://www.harveyaraton.com/the-araton-blog/ali-connector-of-generations

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R.I.P. Les Bonano (1943-2022), Linchpin of Boxing in New Orleans

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Les Bonano, a fixture on the New Orleans area boxing scene for 50 years, passed away on Saturday night, May 21, at his home in Slidell, Louisiana, surrounded by his wife of 60 years, Mary, his four children and his eight grandchildren. Bonano, who had been in and out of the hospital in recent months with kidney problems, was 79 years old.

Bonano joined the New Orleans Police Department in 1965 and patrolled the French Quarter, one of America’s most harrowing beats. In 1974, while working for the New Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department, he was charged with starting an intramural sports program to relieve tensions at the parish prison. He began with basketball and then added boxing. Somewhat later, he opened a gym and took to training, managing, and promoting fighters. He retired from law enforcement in 1981 to give boxing his full attention.

Bonano was poised to seize the moment when neighboring Mississippi legalized gambling in 1990. He carved out arrangements with Gulf Coast casino resorts in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis to keep his fighters’ busy. Many of the shows that he facilitated were mid-week shows that aired on the old USA cable network.

Bonano never had the satisfaction of managing a world champion, but he came awful close with Melvin Paul who lost a controversial decision to Charlie “Cho Choo” Brown in the inaugural IBF lightweight title fight. Others in Bonano’s stable who went on to compete for world titles include Jerry Celestine, Anthony Stephens, and John Duplessis. Celestine, a light heavyweight who fought Michael Spinks, was an alumnus of Bonano’s prison program.

More recently, Bonano promoted Jonathan Guidry, the Dulac, LA heavyweight who made a surprisingly strong showing against WBA (secondary) title-holder Trevor Bryan on a Don King promotion in Warren, Ohio.

In July of last year, Les Bonano was formally inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame with the class of 2021. “He is perhaps the final ruler of what remains of a fraying and depleted boxing kingdom in the formerly great fight city of New Orleans,” wrote Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a New Orleans native, in a tribute that ran on these pages.

We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to the Bonano family. May he rest in peace.

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What’s Next for David Benavidez?

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What’s Next for David Benavidez?

POST-FIGHT REPORT BY TSS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT NORM FRAUENHEIM —

GLENDALE, AZ – Forget Canelo Alvarez.

That, at least, was the message from David Benavidez and his promoter late Saturday after he demolished David Lemieux in front of a roaring crowd at Gila River Arena in a Showtime-televised rout.

Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) has been talking about a super-middleweight showdown with Canelo for the last couple of years. His victory, a third-round stoppage of Lemieux, put him first in line for a shot at the World Boxing Council’s version of the 168-pound title, still held by Canelo

But that talk stopped. Canelo who?

It sounded as if Benavidez, the WBC’s interim champion, was ready to shut that door and move on, possibly to Caleb Plant or Jermall Charlo or David Morrell. He never mentioned Canelo during a post-fight news conference a couple of hours after bulldozing Lemieux, a former middleweight champion who was overmatched in every way.

“Plant, Charlo, Morrell, maybe we can put together a fight against one of those guys later in the year,’’ said Benavidez, who drew an estimated crowd of nearly 10,000 for the second straight time in an Arizona arena near his old neighborhood in Phoenix.

The question is whether Plant, or Charlo, or Morrell would be willing to face Benavidez. Lemieux was smaller and older. Still, it was scary to witness the beatdown delivered by Benavidez, who grew up about seven miles from Gila River, a National Hockey League Arena.

Benavidez, 25 and still a couple years from his prime, seemingly did it all. He started with body punches. At the end of the first round, he landed a lethal upper-cut, the first in what would prove to be an overwhelming storm. In the second, he knocked Lemieux through the ropes, leaving the Canadian bloodied, dazed and defenseless. At 1:31 of the third it was over. Lemieux (43-5. 36 KOs) did not attend the post-fight news conference. He was taken to a nearby hospital in Glendale.

“He’s a good fighter, a courageous fighter,’’ Benavidez said. “He did what those others wouldn’t do. He fought me.’’

Unlike Benavidez, his promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz mentioned Canelo, who is coming off a stunning loss to light-heavyweight Dimitry Bivol.

“Please, you guys need to quit asking about Canelo,’’ Lewkowicz told a room full of reporters. “We’re looking at three guys. We think we can put together a fight with Charlo, or Plant, or Morrell. But Canelo won’t fight David.

“He’ll never fight the world’s best super-middleweight.’’

Photo credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME

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