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Avila Perspective, Chap. 190: Beterbiev vs. Smith, the Honda Center and More

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Madison Square Garden hosts yet another boxing showdown as Russia’s Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) meets America’s Joe Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) in a light heavyweight championship unification match on Saturday, June 18. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

Seems you have to be Russian to have a light heavyweight world title with Dmitry Bivol holding the WBA version.

European fighters dominate the super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions. They also don’t do too bad in the heavyweights.

Beterbiev, 37, now fights out of Canada and has yet to hear the final bell in any of his professional fights. Everyone he has ever laid his mitts on was unconscious before the last bell sounded. He also has double Olympic credentials. Nobody calls out Beterbiev.

Smith, 32, never fought in the Olympics but knows a thing or two about two-by-fours and construction. He’s Long Island blue collar all over and wearing a hard hat and using his hands are as natural as lacing up his construction boots. Nothing comes easy for Smith and that’s OK by him.

So far, Smith continues to surprise experts with a survival instinct that can’t be taught. The New York fighter scraped by with two close wins over Russia’s Max Vlasov by majority decision and a split decision over Jesse Hart. Can he survive Beterbiev?

Top Rank’s Bob Arum predicts a fight of the year candidate.

“Joe Smith is a tremendous fighter. He has a big heart. He has a lot of skills and a lot of punching power. And what can I say about Artur Beterbiev? He really epitomizes the ferocity that light heavyweights have been known for,” said Arum.

Honda Center

Anaheim was target zero for middleweights last weekend as Mexico’s Jaime Munguia and England’s Jimmy Kelly battled and it’s come to my realization that the Honda Center has become one of the best secrets in prizefighting.

Over the past three decades some historic events took place at the venue located on Katella Avenue that was formerly the Arrowhead Pond.

One boxing card in 1995 featured Marco Antonio Barrera, Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez, Jorge “Maromero” Paez, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez and Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez. Three of those bouts were world title fights.

It was October 1996 at the Honda Center that I saw a bloody contest between Julio Cesar Chavez and Joey Gamache. It was the Mexican great’s first fight after losing to Oscar De La Hoya by technical stoppage due to a large gash opened in the first round. Gamache helped re-open that same cut with a butt and chaos ensued. It was quickly quelled.

Chavez won by knockout that night to appease his legion of fans who were still upset that he lost to De La Hoya.

Let’s not forget the women or MMA.

Ronda Rousey made her UFC splash at the Honda Center and the crowd was intense. Though MMA fights usually had a certain feel, when the blonde titan showed up it was more rock concert than fight as she delivered the win. Sitting on the floor were female boxers like Lucia Rijker and Mia St. John while Dodger pitcher Brad Penny sat front row.

Certain venues have a tint of magic to them and the Honda Center ranks among them. They also have the friendliest staff in Southern California. Last week’s fight card featuring Mexico’s Jaime Munguia versus England’s Jimmy Kelly had that home entertainment feel that ended with a knockout climax.

After the fight everyone headed to one of the local eateries. Fighters mingled with fans and CSAC officials waved welcome back to reporters and everyone shared beers and good food. Three hours passed quickly. Anaheim just had a good feel to it. Too bad the baseball team can’t say the same.

Boxing in Anaheim just fits.

Friday Fights in SoCal

Bantamweight contender Saul “the Beast” Sanchez faces Eros Correa in the main event on Friday in Southern California.

Sanchez (18-1, 11 KOs) meets Correa (11-1, 8 KOs) at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario on Friday June 17. The Thompson Boxing Promotions card will be streamed live on their web site www.Thompsonboxing.com

“I’ve seen Correa fight a few times and he’s a good fighter, but I’ve been in the ring with much better competition, and I see myself dominating this fight,” said Sanchez who is ranked number 2 in the USA and top 20 internationally. “I know he’s coming to fight, so I’ll be fully ready to counter anything he brings to the ring. I just believe I’m better than him in all areas, especially my power. I don’t think this fight goes the distance.”

Correa says this is a do or die fight.

“This will be my first main event and I’m going to leave everything in the ring because I know a fight like this doesn’t come around often,” said Correa. “Thompson Boxing is giving me this golden opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it. I have plans to upset Sanchez in front of all his hometown fans and move to the next level of my career.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information call (714) 935-0900.

Saturday Fights in SoCal

Three separate boxing cards load up the SoCal schedule on Saturday, June 18.

At noon, the WBC hosts their 6th annual amateur tournament. The finals take place on Saturday, June 18, at the Grinder,1060 Eastern Avenue in Los Angeles. Numerous amateur fights will take place. The event is free to the public.

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Influencer Fight League’s IFL 3, called “Worlds Collide,” takes place at Fearless LA, 1611 S. Hope Street in downtown L.A. Numerous influencers will be participating. One fight of interest pits pro fighters Sylvia Figueroa versus Mykalina Medina.

At 6 p.m., Elite Boxing Promotions and Red Boxing Promotions stage a lengthy boxing card at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, Calif. Several interesting fights include Brandon Cruz (8-2) vs Oscar Guerrero (5-0); Aida Satybaldinova (5-2-1) vs Jaica Pavilus (3-5-1); Jesus Arce (18-4) vs Leonardo Torres (10-15-1).

Fights to Watch

Fri. ESPN+ 6 p.m. Yulihan Luna (23-3-1) vs Jessica Gonzalez (8-5-2).

Sat. ESPN 7 p.m. Artur Beterbiev (17-0) vs Joe Smith (28-3).

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Mercito Gesta Victorious Over Jojo Diaz at the Long Beach Pyramid

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LONG BEACH, CA.-Those in the know knew Mercito Gesta and Jojo Diaz would be a fight to watch and they delivered.

Gesta emerged the winner in a super lightweight clash between southpaws that saw the judges favor his busier style over Diaz’s body attack and bigger shots and win by split decision on Saturday.

Despite losing the main event because the star was overweight, Gesta (34-3-3, 17 KOs) used an outside method of tactic to edge past former world champion Diaz (32-4-1, 15 KOs) in front of more than 5,000 fans at the Pyramid.

The speedy Gesta opened up the fight with combination punching up and down against the peek-a-boo style of Diaz. For the first two rounds the San Diego fighter overwhelmed Diaz though none of the blows were impactful.

In the third round Diaz finally began unloading his own combinations and displaying the fast hands that helped him win world titles in two divisions. Gesta seemed stunned by the blows, but his chin held up. The counter right hook was Diaz’s best weapon and snapped Gesta’s head back several times.

Gesta regained control in the fifth round after absorbing big blows from Diaz. He seemed to get angry that he was hurt and opened up with even more blows to send Diaz backpedaling.

Diaz targeted his attack to Gesta’s body and that seemed to slow down Gesta. But only for a round.

From the seventh until the 10th each fighter tried to impose their style with Gesta opening up with fast flurries and Diaz using right hooks to connect with solid shots. They continued their method of attack until the final bell. All that mattered was what the judges preferred.

After 10 rounds one judge saw Diaz the winner 97-93 but two others saw Gesta the winner 99-91, 98-92. It was a close and interesting fight.

“I was expecting nothing. I was the victor in this fight and we gave a good fight,” said Gesta. “It’s not an easy fight and Jojo gave his best.”

Diaz was surprised by the outcome but accepted the verdict.

Everything was going good. I thought I was landing good body shots,” said Diaz. “I was pretty comfortable.”

Other Bouts

Mexico’s Oscar Duarte (25-1-1, 20 KOs) knocked out Chicago’s Alex Martin (18-5, 6 KOs) with a counter right hand after dropping him earlier in the fourth round. The super lightweight fight was stopped at 1:14 of the round.

A battle between undefeated super welterweights saw Florida’s Eric Tudor (8-0, 6 KOs) emerge the winner by unanimous decision after eight rounds versus Oakland’s Damoni Cato-Cain.

The taller Tudor showed polished skill and was not bothered by a large cut on his forehead caused by an accidental clash of heads. He used his jab and lead rights to defuse the attacks of the quick-fisted southpaw Cato-Cain. The judges scored the fight 80-72 and 78-74 twice for Tudor.

San Diego’s Jorge Chavez (5-0, 4 KOs) needed less than one round to figure out Nicaragua’s Bryan Perez (12-17-1, 11 KOs) and send him into dreamland with a three-punch combination. No need to count as referee Ray Corona waved the fight over. Perez shot a vicious right followed by another right and then a see-you-later left hook at 3.00 of the first round of the super featherweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Jojo Diaz’s Slump Continues; Mercito Gesta Prevails on a Split Decision

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At age 30, Jojo Diaz’s career is on the skids. The 2012 U.S. Olympian, a former world title holder at 126 and 130 pounds and an interim title holder at 135, Diaz suffered his third straight loss tonight, upset by Mercito Gesta who won a split decision at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, CA.. The scoring was strange with Gesta winning nine of the 10 rounds on one of the cards and only three rounds on another. The tie-breaker, as it were, was a 98-92 tally for Gesta and even that didn’t capture the flavor of what was a closely-contested fight.

Originally listed as a 12-rounder, the match was reduced to 10 and that, it turned out, did Diaz no favors. However, it’s hard to feel sorry for the former Olympian as he came in overweight once again, having lost his 130-pound title on the scales in February of 2021.

Diaz also has issues outside the ropes. Best elucidated by prominent boxing writer Jake Donovan, they include a cluster of legal problems stemming from an arrest for drunk driving on Feb. 27 in the LA suburb of Claremont.

With the defeat, Diaz’s ledger declined to 32-4-1. His prior losses came at the hands of Gary Russell Jr, Devin Haney, and William Zepeda, boxers who are collectively 83-2. Mercito Gesta, a 35-year-old San Diego-based Filipino, improved to 34-3-3.

Co-Feature

Chihuahua, Mexico super lightweight Oscar Duarte has now won nine straight inside the distance after stopping 33-year-old Chicago southpaw Alex Martin in the eighth frame. Duarte, the busier fighter, had Martin on the deck twice in round eight before the fight was waived off.

Duarte improved to 25-1-1 (20). Martin, who reportedly won six national titles as an amateur and was once looked upon as a promising prospect, declined to 18-5.

Other Bouts of Note

New Golden Boy signee Eric Tudor, a 21-year-old super welterweight from Fort Lauderdale, overcame a bad laceration over his right eye, the result of an accidental clash of heads in round four, to stay unbeaten, advancing to 8-0 (6) with a hard-fought unanimous 8-round decision over Oakland’s Damoni Cato-Cain. The judges had it 80-72 and 78-74 twice. It was the first pro loss for Cato-Cain (7-1-1) who had his first five fights in Tijuana.

In the DAZN opener, lanky Hawaian lightweight Dalis Kaleiopu went the distance for the first time in his young career, improving to 4-0 (3) with a unanimous decision over 36-year-old Colombian trial horse Jonathan Perez (40-35). The scores were 60-52 across the board. There were no knockdowns, but Perez, who gave up almost six inches in height, had a point deducted for a rabbit punch and another point for deducted for holding.

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‘Big Baby’ Wins the Battle of Behemoths; TKOs ‘Big Daddy’ in 6

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Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne weighed in at a career-high 277 pounds for today’s battle in Dubai with Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, but he was the lighter man by 56 pounds. It figured that one or both would gas out if the bout lasted more than a few stanzas.

It was a war of attrition with both men looking exhausted at times, and when the end came it was Miller, at age 34 the younger man by nine years, who had his hand raised.

Browne was the busier man, but Miller, whose physique invites comparison with a rhinoceros, hardly blinked as he was tattooed with an assortment of punches. He hurt ‘Bid Daddy’ in round four, but the Aussie held his own in the next frame, perhaps even forging ahead on the cards, but only postponing the inevitable.

In round six, a succession of right hands knocked Browne on the seat of his pants. He beat the count, but another barrage from Miller impelled the referee to intervene. The official time was 2:33. It was the 21st straight win for Miller (26-0-1, 22 KOs). Browne declined to 31-4 and, for his own sake, ought not fight again. All four of his losses have come inside the distance, some brutally.

The consensus of those that caught the livestream was that Floyd Mayweather Jr’s commentary was an annoying distraction that marred what was otherwise an entertaining show.

As for what’s next for “Big Baby” Miller, that’s hard to decipher as he has burned his bridges with the sport’s most powerful promoters. One possibility is Mahmoud Charr who, like Miller, has a big gap in his boxing timeline. Now 38 years old, Charr – who has a tenuous claim on a WBA world title (don’t we all?) —  has reportedly taken up residence in Dubai.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 10-round cruiserweight affair, Suslan Asbarov, a 30-year-old Russian, advanced to 4-0 (1) with a hard-fought majority decision over Brandon Glanton. The judges had it 98-92, 97-93, and a more reasonable 95-95.

Asbarov was 12-9 in documented amateur fights and 1-0 in a sanctioned bare-knuckle fight, all in Moscow, entering this match. He bears watching, however, as Glanton (18-2) would be a tough out for almost anyone in his weight class. In his previous fight, at Plant City, Florida, Glanton lost a controversial decision to David Light, an undefeated Australian who challenges WBO world title-holder Lawrence Okolie at Manchester, England next week.

A 10-round super featherweight match between former world title challengers Jono Carroll and Miguel Marriaga preceded the semi-windup. Carroll, a 30-year-old Dublin southpaw, overcame a cut over his left eye suffered in the second round to win a wide unanimous decision in a fairly entertaining fight.

It was the sixth straight win for Carroll (24-2-1, 7 KOs) who elevated his game after serving as a sparring partner for Devin Haney. Marriaga, a 36-year-old Colombian, lost for the fourth time in his last five outings, declining to 30-7.

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