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The Hauser Report: A Promoter’s Pro Debut

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The phrase “pro debut” is often heard in conjunction with fighters. But promoters make pro debuts too. On October 13 at Sony Hall in the heart of Times Square in New York, Larry Goldberg made his pro debut.

Goldberg, age 45, grew up in and around Atlantic City where he fell in love with boxing. He has an internet-marketing background and, in 1997, founded BoxingInsider.com. In the past, he’d promoted amateur fight cards. Now he was going pro.

If Goldberg’s pro debut had been in Montana or Kansas, it might have been similar to his amateur experiences. But it was in New York. Promoting a professional fight card under the best of circumstances is like herding twenty cats across a football field while a game is in progress. When promoting in New York, think fifty cats.

The New York State Athletic Commission has more rigorous protocols for promoters than any other state. For example, the fighter medical insurance required in New York costs $1,645 per bout. That’s $9,870 for a six-bout card. Line item costs such as hotel rooms for fighters and their teams are also higher in New York than in other jurisdictions.

Virtually everyone wants something for free when dealing with a promoter. Promoting a fight card can be analogous to planning a six-figure wedding on a five-figure budget.

“It’s my first show,” Goldberg acknowledged during fight week. “There’s so much to do. I’m learning and I’m making some mistakes. I’ll lose some money; I hope not too much. But it’s a start.”

Sony Hall is a difficult venue for a boxing promotion. Finding space for changing rooms, medical examinations, and other requisite areas is a task unto itself. Because of the building’s configuration, it costs three times more than the norm to bring the ring in and out.

Goldberg was promoting the October 13 event in association with DiBella Entertainment.

“Larry knows that he can’t make money in Sony Hall,” Lou DiBella (who was in Australia for Devin Haney vs. George Kambosos) noted. “But he’s learning the ropes. It’s like a graduate course in promoting. And it costs money to get an education.”

One might be forgiven for likening Goldberg’s “education” to a diploma from Trump University. The tuition is high, often without much hope of a meaningful return. Ultimately, boxing maven Eric Bottjer was brought in to help the promotion with compliance issues and other matters.

“Eric was a life-saver,” Larry said afterward. “I don’t want to think about what might have happened without him.”

Goldberg hired his own production team and arranged for the fights to be streamed live on BXNG TV with Randy Gordon and Gerry Cooney handling the commentary. He hired a roundcard girl on the morning of the fights. Matt Competello (who Larry has worked with in the amateurs) was brought in as the ring announcer.

The New York State Athletic Commission had limited the number of fights that would be allowed on the card to six because of the cramped quarters in the back of the house. Ticket prices ranged from $102 to $325.

One fight fell out when a fighter who, Goldberg says, agreed to a $3,000 purse refused to get on a plane and come to New York unless his purse was increased to $5,000. That left Larry with only five fights. And he had to pay the $1,645 insurance fee for the cancelled fight because it had already been bonded.

Heather Hardy was Goldberg’s headline attraction and had gone beyond the role of being a fighter to help enormously in putting together the pieces of the promotion. Several opponents for Heather fell out. And for good measure, it rained on fight night which threatened to put a damper on last-minute ticket sales.

Dave McWater (the 2020 BWAA “manager of the year”) manages Ivan Golub who was in the second bout of the evening. Sitting in Sony Hall before the fights began, McWater reminisced about his own experience as a promoter.

“Years ago,” McWater recalled, “I backed Don Elbaum on a show in Connecticut. Don assured me that we’d sell 5,000 tickets. About an hour before the first fight, I went to the box office and we’d sold 259. After that, I decided I’d be better off managing than promoting.”

Then the gods smiled on Goldberg. Surprisingly, walk-up sales were good. Sony Hall nearly sold out. The venue was jammed. The seating was chaotic with close quarters everywhere from ringside to the standing room area by the bar. But all of the sightlines were good.

The ring canvas was gray, not powder blue, and the ring ropes were black. The overhead lights were dimmer than the norm. All of that when combined with the unusually close quarters, gave the evening an old-time fight-club vibe.

The fights moved smoothly from one to the next without the long delays occasioned by the demands of bigtime television.

Fight #1 saw Petros Ananyan (16-3-2, 7 KOs) face off against Paulo Cesar Galdino (12-6, 8 KOs) in a super-lightweight contest. Neither man had much defense and both men got hit a lot. But Ananyan hit harder and Cesar got hit more often leading to a sixth-round stoppage. The fight was notable because Freddie Roach was in Ananyan’s corner and the venue was set up in a way that waiters with plates full of chicken tenders and fried calamari kept walking in front of Roach while rounds were going on. “I did wonder what the f*** was going on,” Freddie said afterward.

Ivan Golub (20-1, 15 KOs) vs. Wesley Tucker (15-3, 9 KOs, 1 KO by) was the second bout. Golub was arguably the most accomplished fighter on the card. But the big ticket sellers were Heather Hardy, Nadim Salloum and Andy Dominguez Velasquez, so the last three slots were reserved for them.

Tucker is a club fighter. During the preceding five-and-a-half years. he’d lost three times to other club fighters and won once. In round two, he scored a knockdown when he tagged Golub and Ivan’s gloves touched the canvas. But then Wesley tired and morphed into a human punching bag. His corner stopped the carnage after four rounds.

In fight #3, Andy Dominguez Velasquez (7-0-0, 6 KOs), a good flyweight prospect, knocked down Ricardo Caraballo (7-1, 2 KOs) two minutes into the first stanza. Ricardo rose on wobbly legs, and virtually everyone in the arena except Sparkle Lee could see that he was in no condition to continue. Unfortunately, Lee was refereeing the fight. So, Caraballo took more unnecessary concussive blows to the head before he was knocked down again and the fight ended.

Fight #4 featured Nadim Salloum (8-1, 3 KOs) vs. Jorge Leandro Capozucco (4-0, 3 KOs). Salloum, age 28, was born in Lebanon and now lives in Brooklyn. He’s a ticket-seller, having developed a significant following in the Lebanese-American community. His ring skills aren’t as good as his marketing. That said, Leandro only had one punch – an arcing overhand right that landed more often than it should have because Salloum has a porous defense. But Salloum also had a more varied arsenal and more power than Leandro. Referee Steve Willis stopped the fight in round six.

Then it was time for the main event – Heather Hardy (22-2, 4 KOs) vs Calista Silgado (20-15-3, 15 KOs, 3 KOs by). Hardy (who moved from 126 to 135 pounds last year) had lost her last two outings by decision against Amanda Serrano and Jessica Camara and hadn’t won a boxing match since 2018. Silgado was competing at 118 pounds as recently as May of this year and had lost four of her most recent five fights. Her one victory during that stretch came against a woman who has had two fights in her entire ring career and been knocked out in both of them.

Silgado had flown to New York from Miami and arrived at 11:30 on Tuesday night. She weighed in on Wednesday, fought on Thursday, and flew back to Miami on a 5:00 AM Friday flight. Such is the life of a B-side fighter.

Hardy-Silgado was scheduled for six two-minute rounds. Once the fight began, it was clear that Heather’s reflexes have slowed noticeably since her prime years. Calista looked old and tired and had powder-puff fists. It wasn’t a hard fight to score. Two judges appropriately ruled 58-56 in Hardy’s favor. One judge gave Heather all six rounds and shouldn’t be assigned to judge again absent extensive retraining.

Hardy is forty years old. Her defense has always been suspect. She’s tough and has a fighting spirit. But that alone doesn’t cut it in boxing, particularly at age forty. The punches add up for women fighters as inexorably as they do for men. Now would be a good time for Heather to stop fighting.

At evening’s end, Goldberg’s father (who was at the show) told him, “Congratulations! This was your second bar mitzvah.”

So . . . Where does Larry go from here?

He came out of the promotion with his honor and reputation intact. He lost some money but not as much as he feared he might.

“I’ll be able to sleep well tonight for the first time in two months,” Goldberg said when the show was over. “I can’t believe this worked out as well as it did because it could have gone really bad. I was petrified that things out of my control would go wrong. I’ve got a lot to digest. But now that I know how the sausage is made, it should be easier for me next time. Next time, I’ll know how to save money on hotel rooms and airfare and all the other things that add up. I’d like to promote at Sony Hall again. I think I can make the numbers work and turn a profit there. I’d like to promote a fight card in Atlantic City. That’s one of my goals. Maybe I’ll turn Boxing Insider into a streaming platform. There’s so much to think about.”

Meanwhile, give Goldberg credit for loving boxing and putting his money where his heart is.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – In the Inner Sanctum: Behind the Scenes at Big Fights – was just 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, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The champion refused to fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benavidez-Gvozdyk

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

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

Puello-Russell

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

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

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

Adames-Gausha

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

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

Other Bouts of Note

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

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

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

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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