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Deontay Wilder Returns with a Bang; Pulverizes Helenius in the First Round

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Deontay Wilder added yet another highlight reel knockout to his portfolio tonight in Brooklyn, knocking former sparring partner Robert Helenius out cold in the opening round. Wilder had his back against a corner post when he landed a short right hand that knocked Helenius flat on his back. It didn’t appear as if Deantay got a lot of leverage behind the punch, burnishing his reputation as arguably the hardest-punching heavyweight of all time.

Wilder weighed in at a svelte 214 ½ pounds, 24 pounds less than what he weighed for his third encounter with Tyson Fury. Take away those three fights with Fury and Wilder’s record now stands at 43-0 with 42 KOs!. Helenius, 38, falls to 31-4. The official time was 2:57.

Wilder has expressed an interest in fighting Oleksandr Usyk. A more likely scenario is that his next fight will come against Andy Ruiz.

Co-Feature

The co-feature, a 168-pound WBC eliminator between Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell, was a rather messy and uninteresting fight until Plant unexpectantly did his Deontay Wilder impression and produced a spectacular one-punch knockout. The end for Dirrell came courtesy of a counter left hook in round nine. Dirrell was unconscious before he hit the mat and referee Harvey Dock waived it off without a count. The official time was 2:57 of round nine.

Plant, an Ashland City, Tennessee native who fights out of Las Vegas, elevated his record to 22-1 (13) in his first start since getting stopped in 11 rounds by Canelo Alvarez. Michigan’s Dirrell, a former WBC super middleweight champion who turned 38 yesterday, declined to 34-3-2.

Other Bouts

In a heavyweight match, Cuban import Frank Sanchez, age 30 or thereabouts, advanced to 21-0 (14 KOs) with a ninth-round stoppage of Carlos Negron (25-4). In a fight that appeared headed to the cards with little doubt as to the outcome, Sanchez brought the brought the bout to a premature conclusion, knocking Negron to his knees with a right hand and then following that up with a barrage of punches that forced referee Ricky Gonzalez to waive it off. The official time was 1:36 of round nine.

Negron, a 2008 Beijing Olympian for Puerto Rico, had won five straight heading in after getting stopped in the opening round by Brian Howard. All four of his losses have come inside the distance.

In the opener of the pay-per-view portion of the telecast, Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez, a former IBF world bantamweight champion, produced a mild upset with a lopsided 10-round technical decision over previously undefeated Gary Antonio Russell. This was a rematch of a fight staged in August of last year that lasted all of 16 seconds when Rodriguez was ruled unfit to continue after suffering a bad cut from an accidental clash of heads.

There was a clash of heads in this fight too and again Rodriguez took the worst of it, dropping to his knees with a bad gash over his right eye, but it happened near the end of round nine and to that point Rodriguez was dominant. He had rocked Russell in the first and fourth frames and had put him on the deck harshly in round eight.

There was some confusion as to whether the fight should be stopped and it was actually called off two seconds into round 10. It went to the cards where the judges had it 100-90, 99-91, and 99-93 in favor of the Puerto Rican. Rodriguez improved to 21-2 (14). It was the first pro loss for Russell (19-1), a former National Golden Gloves champion from a distinguished DC-area boxing family.

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In a rather monotonous 8-rounder, Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr, a 20-year-old super welterweight from Roseland, NJ, out-classed Limberth Ponce, winning by scores of 98-92 and 99-01 twice. It was the fifth straight win for Milenicki (13-1, 8 KOs). Ponce, who declined to 19-6, has done most of his fighting in Davenport, Iowa, across the river from his home in Rock Island, Illinois.

In an 8-round contest, Michel Rivera, a lightweight from the Dominican Republic, improved to 24-0 (14) with a lopsided decision over hard-trying but overmatched Jerry Perez (14-2. The judges had it 80-71 and 79-72 twice.

Rivera, who in appearance resembles a smaller version of the young Muhammad Ali, his idol, is a fighter who bears watching. Perez, from Oak Hill, CA, is a protégé of Leo Santa Cruz.

In a bout slated for eight rounds in the “overstuffed” division, Gurgen Hovhannisyan, a 24-year-old LA-based Armenian, improved to 4-0 (4 KOs) at the expense of 36-year-old flash-in-the-pan Michael Coffie (13-3). The big six-foot-seven Armenian likely won every round before the fight was stopped at the end of the sixth frame on the recommendation of the ringside physician.

Super bantamweight Michael Angeletti, a hot prospect from Spring, TX, improved to 7-0 (6 KOs) at the expense of Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Adorno (7-1). A former USA national amateur flyweight champion, Angeletti had Adorno on the deck twice in round two and then after a relatively even round, upped the tempo in rounds four and five, leading Adorno’s cornerman to pull him out before the start of the sixth.

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Alexis Rocha KOs Brave but Overmatched George Ashie on DAZN.

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Golden Boy Promotions’ potted their first offering of 2023 at the recently opened YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat venue situated inside the stadium built to house LA’s two NFL franchises. The main event was a scheduled 12-round welterweight match between Alexis Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana and George Ashie, a 38-year-old Ghanaian making his U.S. debut. Ashie was a late substitute for Anthony Young who reportedly suffered a nose injury in training. The match and supporting bouts were live-streamed on DAZN.

Ashie, who was fighting above his normal weight class and carried a career-high 146 pounds, was brave but out-gunned. Rocha knocked him down in the third frame with a right hook and hurt him several more times as the fight progressed although Ashie never stopped trying. In round six, an accidental clash of heads left Rocha with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. He fought with more urgency after this incident and knocked Ashie out cold in the next round. The official time was 2:08 of round seven.

It was the fifth straight win for Rocha who improved his ledger to 22-1 (14 KOs). After the bout, he expressed an interest in fighting Terence Crawford. Ashie fell to 33-6-1 (25).

Other Bouts of Note

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a precocious 20-year-old lightweight, had Albert Mercado on the canvas in the second round but was unable to put him away despite hurting him multiple times and went 10 rounds for the first time in his young career.

Schofield, the 2022 TSS Prospect of the Year, improved to 13-0 (11), winning 100-89 on all three cards. Mercado, a 35-year-old Connecticut-born Puerto Rican, declined to 17-5-1 but retained his distinction of having never stopped.

Super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan who lives and trains in Indio, California, overpowered San Diego’s Ulises Sierra who was on the deck twice from body punches before the fight was waived off at the 2:59 mark of round three. It was the fourth straight victory for Melikuziev (11-1, 9 KOs) after suffering a stunning one-punch knockout at the hands of seemingly shopworn Gabriel Rosado with whom he is pursuing a rematch. Sierra was 17-2-2 heading in with eight of his wins coming in Mexico.

In a match framed as a WBO minimumweight title eliminator, Oscar Collazo (6-0, 4 KOs) scored an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Yudel Reyes. Collazo knocked Reyes down twice in the fifth round, the second with a vicious right hand that put Reyes down so hard that the referee didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:59 of round five.

In theory, Collazo’s next fight will come against the Filipino Melvin Jerusalem who won the title earlier this month with a second-round stoppage of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka. Reyes, a 26-year-old Mexican making his U.S. debut, declined to 15-2.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Artur Beterbiev TKOs Anthony Yarde in a London Firefight

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The presumption, echoed by ESPN boxing commentator Bernardo Osuna, was that tonight’s bout at Wembley Arena in London between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde would be explosive and entertaining for as long as it lasted. That proved to be true and when the smoke cleared, Beterbiev, the rugged Montreal-based Russian had retained his three light heavyweight title belts and had added another knockout to his ledger, his nineteenth as a pro in as many opportunities.

Both men landed hard shots during the fight and both were marked up at the finish. Yarde had a cut under his right eye and Beterbiev had a cut on his left eyelid.

A chopping right hand from Beterbiev late in the first minute of the eighth round marked the beginning of the end for Yarde, the muscular 31-year-old Londoner who entered the contest sporting a record of 23-2 with 22 knockouts. The punch sent him reeling backward toward his corner where he landed on his knees. He beat the count, but turned toward his corner rather than referee Steve Gray.

Gray let the bout continue, but Beterbiev pressed his advantage and after a few more unanswered punches Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi stepped up on the ring apron and summoned Gray to stop it. The official time was 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev hasn’t lost since losing a decision to amateur nemesis Oleksandr Usyk in the quarter finals of the 2012 London Olympics. At age 38, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In his post-fight interview, the self-effacing Russian said, “I hope some day I will be a good boxer,” and acknowledged that he would welcome a unification fight with fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the WBA title-holder.

WBA Title Fight

In a bout that was in theory the co-feature but went off during the earlier portion of the ESPN+ livestream, Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15 KOs) retained his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous and somewhat controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (12-1). The judges had it 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

An Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian, Dalakian was making the sixth defense of the title he won in 2018 with a 12-round decision over Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in his lone previous appearance at a venue in the English-speaking world. His five title defenses were in Kiev. Jimenez was coming off a 12-round majority decision over Ricardo Sandoval in what ranked as one of the bigger upsets of 2021.

A Split for the Itauma Brothers

Promoter Frank Warren’s newest signee, 18-year-old heavyweight Moses Itauma, made a big splash in his pro debut, blasting out Czechoslovakia’s Marcel Bode (2-2) in 23 seconds. Moses and his older brother Karol Itauma are sons of a British citizen of Nigerian ancestry and a Slovakian mother.

In a shocking upset, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, a 36-year-old Argentine who had lost six of his previous eight fights, forged a fifth-round stoppage of well-touted Karol Itauma who was 9-0 (7 KOs) as a pro coming in. Itauma ate numerous straight right hands before a straight right hand knocked him down for the count. The official time was 1:04 of round five. Maderna improved to 29-10 (11).

Also

The Frankham cousins, super welterweight Joshua and super featherweight Charles, improved their ledgers to 7-0 with 6-round shutouts over their respective opponents. The cousins are grandsons of John “Gypsy Johnny” Frankham, a former British light heavyweight champion.

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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