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A Split for the Pulev Brothers and a Big Upset on the Undercard of ‘TrillerVerz5’

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RINGSIDE REPORT by TSS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT TARRAH ZEAL – It was an eventful Saturday night for TrillerVerz 5 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA. The show, titled ‘Lineage of Greatness,’ featured a well-known family blood line of boxers including Pulev, Vargas and Holyfield.

The Pulev brothers headlined as the co-main and main event, but only one was successful.

Main Event

Former light heavyweight titlist Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (35-4-1, 29 KOs) starred in a new weight class and defeated the younger unbeaten Pulev brother, Tervel Pulev (16-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round cruiserweight battle.

Russia’s Kovalev schooled his Bulgarian opponent with the jab to capture a unanimous decision. The scorecards read as 97-93 and 98-92 twice for Kovalev. This was Kovalev’s first appearance in the ring since his knockout loss against Canelo Alvarez back in November 2019.

“I was worried about how I was going to be in this fight”, said Kovalev. “After a long rest, it was a little harder than usual.” Kovalev’s performance in the ring was rather cautious and calculated. His opponent wanted to put his skills to the test against the former light heavyweight fighter, but every time Pulev came up short.

Pulev started the opening round with a tone of aggression but was unsuccessful in landing any notable punches against Kovalev. In the final round, one lead punch landed upon Kovalev pushing him back. This gave Pulev an ounce of hope, but Kovalev responded quickly and answered Pulev with several clean, hard punches, keeping him at a distance. Kovalev repeatedly won the rounds with an effective jab and by landing the bigger and heavier punches. “The plan was to use the jab and long distance,” Kovalev said after his successful win in a new division.

Co- Main

The co-main event, matching Kubrat Pulev against Jerry Forrest, caused a bit of delay and controversy in regard to a glove situation. Because Forrest’s gloves did not fit the fighter, finding a new pair of gloves that not only fit but satisfied Pulev’s team needed to happen before the fight could begin. Pulev (23-2, 15 KOs) loaned Forrest (26-5-2, 20 KOs) a pair of his own back-up boxing gloves. Replays of earlier fights from the night were not entertaining during the delay and the crowd grew frustrated as they waited for the fight to begin.

In his first fight since losing to Anthony Joshua in 2020, Pulev the 41- year-old Bulgarian, dominated the strong and resilient American heavyweight fighter. In the beginning rounds, both boxers danced around the ring with quick touch-and-go combinations. Pulev mainly kept Forrest up against the ropes swinging hard hooks to the head but slightly missing. In round three, a straight right hand stunned Pulev backwards. Pulev responded quickly and the two fighters got into a bit of mix-up in the center of the ring. Kubrat kept Forrest on the ropes throwing hard hooks. The crowd cheered with excitement as the round ended with a flurry of uppercuts upon the chin of Forrest.

A cut over the right eye of Kubrat ended the fifth round. A repeating trend between the two heavyweights carried into the next couple of rounds: landing punches, movement around the ring, a mix-up and continuous holding causing the ref to break up the two. By round seven, it was clear that Pulev was dominating the fight. His hard jabs and swinging hooks almost emptied Forrest’s energy tank. The ring doctor examined Forrest before allowing him to continue on to the eighth round although it was clear how exhausted Forrest was.

In the tenth and final round, Forrest squeezed all that he had left in him as he kept moving clumsily forward towards hard-hitting Pulev. Before the final bell, a straight hard jab staggered Pulev back reminding the Bulgarian fighter that the fight was not over. But Pulev laughed it off and closed in on his opponent. The judges scored the bout 98-92 and 99-91 twice for Pulev for the unanimous decision win.

 VARGAS

Former middleweight champion Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas Sr. started a legacy of his own with his sons following closely in his footsteps. All three of Vargas’ sons continued the family dynasty and their father’s legacy with superior wins Saturday night.

Making his debut into the professional boxing world, seven-time amateur champion Emiliano ‘El General’ Vargas (1-0, 1 KO) destroyed his opponent Mark Salgado (1-2, 1 KO) only 2:09 in the opening round. Vargas gave his opponent no room to respond as he packed on the punches with hard-hitting combinations pushing him to the corner. With a look of fury upon the face of the hungry 18-year-old, Vargas connected repeated left hooks upon Salgado and knocked him down to the canvas. After being knocked down once and noticeably unable to keep his head steady after a flurry of punches was followed up, referee Jose Cobian stopped the bout. The crowd roared in agreement.

Emiliano is being proclaimed the “special one” of the trio by his two older brothers. “Watch out for me. I’m still a kid, wait until I get my man strength. The Vargas dynasty is here to stay,” says the youngest.

The eldest of the three, Fernando Vargas Jr. (6-0, 6 KOs) dominated his opponent Terrance Jarmon (3-1) in a scheduled six round super welterweight battle. Southpaw Vargas Jr. threw a quick right cross upon the chin of Jarmon, testing his opponent in the early seconds of the first round. It wasn’t long before a three-punch combo sent Jarmon to the canvas. The referee allowed Jarmon to continue, only to see him knocked down twice more. The fight ended after the third knock down. Vargas Jr. remained undefeated with a knockout win in round one.

Twenty-one-year-old Amado “El Malvado” Vargas (4-0, 2 KOs) opened the show as he faced Anel Dudo (1-4, 1 KO) of Aurora, Colorado. Vargas, who turned pro last year, continued his undefeated record as he won the judges favor in a junior lightweight battle. The bout heard the final bell but not before Vargas schooled his opponent all four rounds with his powerful punches. All three judges scored the bout: 39-36 for Vargas. “I wanted to knock him out, he’s never been knocked out. I just listened to my dad. He told me to keep boxing”, says Amado. Vargas Sr. recapped his son’s fight shortly after stating, “It’s a learning fight. All fights are learning fights.”

HOLYFIELD

Son of legend Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Evan ‘Yung Holy’ Holyfield (9-1, 6 KOs) suffered the first loss of his career by a crushing knockout at the hands of Jurmain “The Fighting Electrician” McDonald (7-5, 3 KOs) who fights out of Jefferson City, Missouri.

In the scheduled six-round welterweight battle, Holyfield remained calm and steady as he fought at the center of the ring looking for the perfect opportunity to catch his opponent off guard, but McDonald beat him to the punch. McDonald stayed busier throwing shots and moving around the ring, and he eventually caught Holyfield with a variety of shots. In round two, McDonald shut down any doubts of him with a big right hook to the head of Holyfield, knocking him to the canvas. In an extreme upset and complete shock heard through the stadium, Referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the fight at the 8-count ending the second round at 1:56.

“Boxing is starting to become more protected. Evan was not in the conscious state he needed to be in,” says Shawn Porter who was standing ringside reporting on all the fights.

Vargas Sr. was asked what advice he would give Holyfield if that was his son who had lost in the way he did and in a fatherly and inspiring response, said, “I told him. Champ keep your head up. It happens, sometimes we get caught. You’re still Holy.”

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Andy Ruiz and Filip Hrgovic on the Road to Oleksandr Usyk

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Mexican-American Andy Ruiz and Croatian Filip Hrgovic were instructed by the IBF to begin negotiations for their fight for the Interim heavyweight title, which consequently provides the winner with the opportunity to face the champion Oleksandr Usyk who also holds the WBO and WBA super champion belts.

Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) and Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) have 30 days, expiring on February 19, to reach an agreement. Otherwise, the IBF will hold a public auction to see who will promote the bout.

The IBF decision took into account the fact that Hrgovic is the top-ranked contender, while Ruiz is ranked third. The second slot is vacant.

About a year ago, the IBF had confirmed the fight between Ruiz and Hrgovic, with the intention of defining a mandatory challenger for southpaw Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), but the American withdrew from negotiations due the fact that he was recovering from an alleged injury.

Thirty-three-year-old Ruiz from Imperial, California was victorious in his last two bouts, the most recent on September 4th in Los Angeles by unanimous decision against Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortíz (33-3, 28 KOs).

After the victory over Ortíz, Ruiz stated that his immediate goal is to face former world champion Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) as a victory over Wilder would provide him with the opportunity to face Brit Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs), the current WBC champion.

A few weeks later, Ruiz received a boost from the WBC, which confirmed at their 60th annual convention in November that the winner of the fight between Ruiz vs Wilder would face the winner of Fury vs Derek Chisora  ​​(33-13, 23 KOs).

Fury, thirty-four years old, had no difficulty in defeating Chisora by way of chloroform in the tenth round on December 3rd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

However, now after the IBF mandate, Ruíz’s long-awaited confrontation with Wilder remains in limbo. Recently, Malik Scott, Wilder’s coach, expressed that although Ruíz is a strong adversary, he is not on the same level as Wilder.

Scott stated, “Andy Ruiz is a serious test. Not just for Deontay but for anybody. But for a disciplined Deontay, in my opinion, Andy Ruiz doesn’t even come close to being in the same league as him. Because what beats Andy Ruiz? Discipline! An old [Chris] Arreola gave him trouble just with discipline. Andy’s problem is he can’t beat disciplined fighters. I had Arreola winning by two rounds. Against Deontay, Andy is going to reach, he has to, we’re taller, and when he reaches, he’s going to pay like he’s never paid before.”

Prior to Ruiz’s recent two victories, he lost by unanimous decision to Brit Anthony Joshua on December 7, 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Only six months had passed since Ruiz knocked out Joshua in the seventh round and seized the IBF, WBA and WBO belts from him on June 1 at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.

Hrgovic, three years younger than Ruiz and born in Zagreb, Croatia, comes off a difficult win against Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) at the Superdome in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Although the three officials handed in scorecards of 115-112 (2x) and 114-113 in favor of Hrgovic, Zhang had sent the European to the canvas in the opening round.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Artem Dalakian, Sunny Edwards, and the Most Storied Title in Boxing

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When the mighty Roman Gonzalez departed the 112lb division in 2016 he vacated the title and broke the longest remaining lineage in the sport. In a moment of quiet heartbreak for the boxing aficionado, the final direct link with boxing’s glorious past was cut forever.

That lineage had begun back in 1975 with perhaps the greatest flyweight champion, Miguel Canto.  Canto cleaned house that year, shading the wonderful Betulio Gonzalez and the evergreen Shoji Oguma, part of a calendar year that saw him go 6-0 and establish his absolute pre-eminence in the deepest of flyweight divisions. In 1979, old in the face, Canto was out-worked and even in some ramshackle way out-jabbed by a swarming, aggressive Korean named Chan Hee Park. Park was a good fighter, Shoji Oguma lay in wait to send him tumbling with counter-rights, taking his turn in an impressive second tour. In 1981, the new generation asserted itself in the form of Antonio Avelar.  Avelar seemed, briefly, to be the real deal but he was unseated by a murderous punching Colombian, Prudencio Cardona, who inflicted upon Avelar the most violent knockout in flyweight history.

This heralded the advent of a series of caretaker champions, good fighters, all, but no great ones as the early eighties evaporated while the hot-potato flyweight championship passed from Fredy Castillo to Eleoncio Mercedes to Charlie Magri and others, none of them holding it for more than a matter of months. When the mighty Sot Chitalada wrestled it from the last caretaker champion in 1984, Canto finally had a descendent who could be named a peer. In two spells, Chitalada held the title into the 1990s whereupon it was ripped from him by the Thai Maungchai Kittikasem who then dropped it to an early emergent of the Soviet and former Soviet schools in Yuri Arbachakov.  Arbachakov was the first flyweight whose legacy was to suffer at the hands of the ABC title-belt madness, his record-breaking spell as champion marred by matches with WBC-nominated journeymen. Despite his lengthy title reign, Yuri managed to fight men who were held to belong in the top ten just twice as champion.

Less than a year after the lineal title and Arbakachov were parted, it would be wrapped around the waist of a youngster named Manny Pacquiao, who had crushed Chatchai Sasakul in eight who had in turn outpointed Arbachakov. From the madness of the alphabet soup to the emergence of one of the greatest fighters of our time, the story of the flyweight lineal championship is the story of modern boxing untrampled by titular uncertainty. The history of the championship, of the divisional king, can be traced back to a time when Muhammad Ali ruled the world and so a fistic tendril connects Ali, a hero to his people, to Pacquiao, a hero to his. Pacquiao nearly ruined it all though.  Manny missed weight for his 1999 match with Boonsai Sangsurat and had he won that fight, the title would have been vacated as he departed the weight forever, but fortunately, a weight-drained mess, he was crushed in three rounds.

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam then, when he lifted the title in 2001, became the latest great to trace his lineage back to Canto. Wonjongkam’s reign was as modern as can be imagined, dictated thoroughly by ABCs, fought almost exclusively in his backyard, and despite amassing an astonishing twenty title defences in two spells as king, his win resume underwhelms. A list of the worst ever lineal title challengers would draw heavily from Wonjongkam’s opposition.

Wonjongkam made way for Sonny Boy Jaro of The Philippines who made way for Toshiyuki Igarashi and Akira Yaegashi, both of Japan, underlining what has always been the most international of championships. And finally, at the end of the longest road in modern boxing, the title was lain at the feet of a great fighter from Nicaragua, the wonderful Roman Gonzalez.

Roman Gonzalez was my favourite fighters for years, I watched his boxing obsessively. More than a decade ago, I wrote an article predicting his eventual enshrinement as a pound-for-pound number one and his likely vanquishment by a southpaw, even going so far as to predict this would occur up at 115lbs, all of which came true. But it cut me when he stepped aside in 2016, the lineage that had begun with Canto destroyed, a lineage that had run through four different abdications and coronations at 160lbs, that ran all the way back to the last golden age of the flyweight division.

From the ashes, finally, a phoenix menaces. Far from stipulated, certainly not sure, but stirring. On Saturday night, Ukrainian Artem Dalakian (pictured) came to London to meet David Jimenez on the undercard of the Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde fight. Dalakian-Jimenez is one of those rare and wonderful fights British and American fans are sometimes treated to, elite combat athletes who struggle to secure rewarding purses fighting low on a card which a just sport might see them headline. Jimenez, the challenger for Dalakian’s strap, refutes befuddlement with aggression, boxable but brutal, left floundering early in the biggest fight of his career against Ricardo Sandoval only to button up and fire forwards, hard-scrabbling enough rounds to conquer his more cultured foe. This would be his approach, too, against Dalakian. Dalakian is a fighter of no small culture whose activity suffered during those COVID months but with a legacy that stretches back to the last generation of top flyweights and a victory over Brian Viloria. Having boxed just twenty rounds in three years he was now bringing an unfortunate mix of rust and, at thirty-five years old, age.

Nevertheless, for me he dominated Jimenez. The younger man was reasonably quick-handed and tried to remain ambitious in his rushes, but Dalakian was never less than the cleaner puncher and rested on a steeper bank of experience that saw him nullify his more aggressive foe inside while consistently out-scoring him outside. It was a thoroughly impressive performance that confirmed Dalakian’s remaining superiority over most of the rest of the division. Jimenez, in just his thirteenth fight, had established himself firmly in the divisional top five and likely has a future at 112lbs if he wants it. This was a crossroads fight only in the sense that it tested the last generation with the new, and the new was found wanting.

This victory, a unanimous decision over twelve, was a significant one for Dalakian, however. For me, it establishes him as the number one flyweight in the world but at worst he is the number two. The man with whom he shares the top table is one Sunny Edwards, a London boy and very much the division’s coming man. Edwards has boxed nearly as many contests in the upper echelons of the division as Dalakian, and Dalakian’s victory over Viloria aside, Edwards probably has the most meaningful victory of the two having defeated the ageing Moruti Mthalane in early 2021. The recency of his important victories is the source of the tension concerning the number one divisional flyweight currently.

Sunny

Sunny Edwards

The hope is the two will settle this in the ring.

While it is not unusual for a fighter to arrive from foreign shores and never be seen in a British ring again, it is more often the case that they arrive with targeted opposition when they are boxing at title level, and from Dick Tiger to Zolani Tete, Britain welcomes foreign winners with open arms. It is likely that Dalakian has been brought to Britain to tease a fight with the only man in the division that might be seen as his better and in the only fight either man could hope to box and be similarly enriched. Some promotional tensions exist, but what would be unusual money for a flyweight contest might tip the scales.

And if they settle it in the ring, as the number one and number two flyweight contenders, they will start a new lineage, a new passage of the flyweight title. More than that, the fight would be a fascinating and evenly matched contest between Dalakian, a technician who will likely be forced to box with pressure as a result of his physical limitations and Edwards, a quick-footed slickster who will nevertheless have to commit to outworking maybe the only fighter in the division with superior straight punches. That is not to say that Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez will be excluded – clearly the division’s number three, he may yet have a say.

But if a new and meaningful lineage is to begin it is Dalakian and Edwards, the two best flyweights on the planet, who must seed it.

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Emanuel Navarrete Aims to Become Champion in a Third Weight Class on Friday

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Champion in both the super bantamweight and featherweight categories, the strong Mexican puncher Emanuel Navarrete will try to be champion at 130 pounds on Friday, February 3, when he faces Australian Liam Wilson at the Desert Diamond Arena in the city of Glendale, Arizona. ESPN will be broadcasting the fight.

For Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs), who has a 31-fight winning streak since his one and only setback in July 2012, the duel with Wilson will be his debut into the super featherweight division.

Navarrete, 28 years old and born in San Juan Zitlaltepec, defeated his countryman Eduardo Báez with a sixth-round knockout last July in San Diego, California, where the winner made his third successful defense of the WBO featherweight title.

Subsequently, Navarrete decided to seek the WBO championship at 130 pounds which had been vacated after the talented American southpaw Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was unable to make weight on the scale before unanimously defeating Brazilian Robson Conceicao on September 23rd in New Jersey.

The WBO accepted Navarrete’s request to fight for the vacant title and opened the doors to fellow Aztec Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), ranked second by the WBO and third by the WBC.

But in December, Valdez’s camp announced that he was withdrawing from the fight after undergoing a medical evaluation. Australian Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs), ranked third by the WBO, was designated to take Valdez’s place.

A confident Navarrete stated: “This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown. Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”

Navarrete began his string of 31 wins after losing in four rounds against his compatriot Daniel Argueta on July 26, 2012, at the José Cuervo Hall in the finals of the XVIII Gold Belt Tournament. Despite the setback, Navarrete was the one declared champion of the contest, as Argueta failed to show up for the mandatory weigh-in.

Although he is on the verge of conquering his third championship in a third weight division, Navarrete has not defined what his immediate steps will be.

“Let’s see how things evolve,” Navarrete said. “We will see how I feel (at 130 pounds), and then make the right decision. It all depends on how I perform in February and analyze the result. How my body assimilates to the new weight class and things like that.”

Likewise, Navarrete confirmed that he was having difficulty making 126 pounds and that during his career in both the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions he had tried to unify the titles with the other champions without success.

“You know that I have been seeking unification fights in other weight classes,” stated Navarrete. “That is what I want, and what I’m looking for. I hope I can unify in this weight class (130 pounds). But first I hope to win against Wilson, and then we will decide.”

When analyzing his possibilities in the super featherweight division, Navarrete said that he has a tall stature which can benefit him. In the same sense, he considered that now at 130 pounds he will not have to wear himself out to make weight so he will be strong.

Wilson, 26 years old, won the vacant WBO International belt against Argentine Adrián Rueda (37-2, 32 KOs) on June 29th of last year in Brisbane, Australia. Wilson’s lone loss came from Filipino southpaw Joe Noynai (20-3-2, 8 KOs), who knocked him down once in the 1st round, twice in the 4th round, and again in the fifth round on July 7, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia, before referee Phil Austin stopped the lopsided match.

Wilson, however, got even eight months later in a rematch where he chloroformed Rueda in the second round and regained the WBO Asia-Pacific title.

For his upcoming fight, Wilson has set up a seven-week training camp in Washington DC at Headbangers Boxing Gym where Isaac Dogboe trains. Dogboe has fought Navarrete twice and can hopefully provide some valuable insight. “I’m only going off YouTube footage, so to get the advice off Isaac and his trainer over here, they’ve been in the corner against him, they’ve seen him in person, up close, so I have to take their advice onboard,” Wilson added.

Wilson is confident going into this fight, even though he has less professional experience. “He’s been in these fights so many times before. This is my first 12-rounder,” Wilson said. “In a sense, he has every reason to overlook me – I’ve only been in 10 rounders, he’s been 12 rounds multiple times, he’s a two-division world champion and for him it’s just another fight, for me it’s what I’ve dreamed of. I think I’ll be the bigger, stronger fighter. I believe I’ll be the biggest puncher he’s fought.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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