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Paul vs. Silva: A Circus on Steroids or a Bonafide Athletic Competition?

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Paul vs. Silva: A Circus on Steroids or a Bonafide Athletic Competition?

In 1958, RCA Records came out with a record album depicting then-23-year-old Elvis Presley, in a preposterous gold lame suit, entitled 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t be Wrong. OK, so the kid from Tupelo, Miss., could sing, but his rocket-to-the-moon rise in popularity as the king of rock ’n’ roll was particularly amazing considering that just a few years earlier he was a low-paid truck driver who counted himself fortunate to land an occasional gig shaking his hips at a Deep South county fair.

No one would yet dare to describe 25-year-old Jake “The Problem Child” Paul as a pugilistic equivalent of Presley, but there are certain numbers that suggest the YouTube icon from Cleveland already is encroaching on the fringes of late 1950s Elvis territory and pressing for more. By the spring of 2014, the younger of the two boxing Paul brothers – Logan is 27 — had amassed 5.3 million internet followers and two billion views on the discontinued Vine app. When he signed a multi-fight contract with Showtime in May 2021, Paul could boast of a whopping 20.4 million YouTube followers. There are future mortal-lock inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame who would just about sell their souls for that humongous a fan base, or even its smaller but continually expanding boxing subset, which is why everyone interested in the sport will be watching to see how Paul (officially 5-0 with four knockouts) fares in his Showtime pay-per-view bout ($59.95) with aging martial arts legend Anderson “Spider” Silva (3-1, 2 KOs) Saturday night at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Ariz. The eight-round cruiserweight main event will be staged under boxing rules.

As always, Paul, whose unapologetic and unrestrained demeanor outside the ring constitutes a significant part of his notoriety, pulled no punches with his remarks at a press conference to announce what figures to be his most difficult challenge in his bid to eventually be recognized as a legitimately skilled fighter and not just a sideshow curiosity.

“My previous opponents were all dickheads,” Paul said with the lack of subtlety that has marked his incursion into an arena in which flung expletives are commonplace. “Anderson Silva is the nicest guy in the world and we love him. If my opponent is a dickhead, I’m gonna treat him as a dickhead and beat his f—— ass. I think people have seen that side of me, but I respect this man. I’m still gonna knock him out, but respectfully knock him out.”

Paul’s low estimation of the boxing capabilities of his previous victims is entirely justified. Ali Eson Gib, former NBA player Nate Robinson, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley all were making their pro debuts when they lost to the Problem Child, with Woodley coming back for a rematch in which he was knocked out in the sixth round.  A murderers’ row it wasn’t. Silva, however, has sterling credentials; the Brazilian-born southpaw at one time was widely regarded as the best MMA fighter in the world, and his most obvious attribute during his heyday was his striking ability. If he nailed the other guy with a punch that landed flush, he likely was going down and out. But Silva is 47 now, and Paul is not the only foe he will be confronting when the opening bell rings. Age is the silent thief that comes in the night, siphoning bits and pieces from even a great champion’s compendium of positive attributes. Former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins can attest to that; he was just weeks shy of his 52nd birthday when he suffered the only loss inside the distance of his 28-year pro career, against 27-year-old Joe Smith Jr. on Dec. 17, 2016. B-Hop is absolutely certain that even a moderately younger and less-depleted version of himself would have defeated Smith, but no matter the outcome Saturday night he can’t compare his final ring appearance to a matchup he considers fraudulent.

“This is a total attempt to hoodwink the public,” sneered Hopkins who, like Paul, is temperamentally disinclined to tone down the chatter when his ire is up. “I do believe the boxing community is too smart to legitimize something like this. This fight is a circus on steroids.

“Showtime should be ashamed to promote this as a real event based on Jake Paul’s opponent. It’s the lowest of the low. Me and Joe Smith was a legitimate fight. Paul’s is not. This nonsense, this buffoonery, has got to stop.”

All right, that is one opinion. It is not the only one. Taking his turn at the figurative podium is Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports, whose company has long been involved in high-level boxing and, as of 2021 when it signed him to a multi-fight contract, the perhaps grand experiment that is Jake Paul. Maybe Paul throwing hands with the Anderson Silva of the here and now is not quite the acid test it might have been years ago, but it nonetheless stands as a major hurdle that must be cleared on Paul’s way to bigger and better things.

“The commitment that he made to us when we started into business with him is that he would progressively increase the risk with each fight. There’s no question he’s done that,” Espinoza said. “But to be completely candid, there were more than a few members of Jake’s team that were opposed to the Silva fight. This man is a legendary combat sports athlete with great striking ability who has already demonstrated a good amount of boxing skill.

“Look, I can be as much of a purist as anyone else in the sport, and I’ll confess I was initially a skeptic of the concept. But what converted me was, (a), watching his fights. It was apparent even in his early fights that Jake has a level of skill and enthusiasm that made me think that he could pull this off. Secondly, he has respect for the sport and the ambitions he has for the protection of fighters and expansion of the sport, even tutoring other fighters on how to use social media to their benefit.

“Clearly, he’s been interacting with his audience, learning from what they like. You don’t generate a fan base like his by accident. It’s calculated and part of a very intelligent plan. His fans are not people who picked up on a website six months ago and suddenly discovered him. He’s been gathering his supporters for more than a decade.”

Perhaps Espinoza is a visionary, part of a rare breed of soothsayers who recognize what the public wants before the masses want it, and caters to that need in its incubation stages. He recognizes past failures of similar ploys, such as when promoter Gary Shaw hitched his wagon to a menacing YouTube brawler named Kimbo Slice in an impossible quest to turn him into a heavyweight champion. But, hey, if something doesn’t work once or even twice, try, try again. The main requirement for a breakthrough is identifying just the right banner-carrier.

“I think Jake is a bit of a unicorn,” Espinoza continued. “He has the physical skill and talent, and the mental determination, to seriously undertake boxing and not as a fad or an attention-grabbing stunt. The usual procedure is to take a really talented, skilled boxer and make him popular, to make people care about him. This experiment is a little bit of the reverse. You take someone who already has a huge fan base, and also has certain physical abilities and athleticism, and make him into a serious boxer right in front of your eyes. I think it’s fascinating to watch.”

To his credit, Paul has been outspoken in his support of better pay and more recognition for boxers, especially previously underserved women boxers, and he has undeniably raised the profile of Amanda Serrano by having her appear on his cards. In doing so, there is mounting evidence he is drawing a younger demographic into the well of traditional boxing fans, a group that has been skewing older for some time.

“One of the questions at the start of this endeavor with Jake was, `Are these people just Jake Paul boxing fans, or can they become truly committed boxing fans? We’ve seen that question answered. These people coming in are becoming fans of the sport. I’ve seen it in Cleveland, a bunch of young kids clamoring for an autograph of a Puerto Rican female boxer (Serrano) who, as skilled as she is, largely toiled in obscurity for most of her career until Jake got more people interested in boxing.”

Espinoza also stresses that the investment in Jake Paul does not detract from the resources Showtime is putting and always has into the sport.

“Jake is not taking opportunities from anyone else,” Espinoza said. “Pay per view is all about eating what you kill. It’s not like we’re depleting our boxing budget and can’t put on three other championship fights. We’re able to do both, side by side, without compromising the long history of supporting championship-level fights that Showtime has been known for. That is not an either/or situation.”

So, what does the long view of Jake Paul look like? Maybe a quickie flameout, but maybe something far more intriguing. Maybe even as intriguing as it would have been had Elvis Presley, who played a boxer in 1962’s Kid Galahad, ditched his music career, took up the sweet science full-time and against all odds became a world champion. Elvis, who for years had dabbled in martial arts, did throw reasonably convincing overhand rights in that one, as Paul does now.

“Jake has the attributes to fight not just credible professional boxers, but contender-level and maybe even championship-level ones,” Espinoza said of the possible winning lottery ticket he hopes he has purchased. “Nothing would make him happier than in three years, five years, to look back and say, `No one thought I could do this. I’ve removed all questions about my boxing credibility.’ I think that’s the goal.”

Bernard Fernandez, named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Observer category with the Class of 2020, was the recipient of numerous awards for writing excellence during his 28-year career as a sports writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. Fernandez’s first book, “Championship Rounds,” a compendium of previously published material, was released in May of last year. The sequel, “Championship Rounds, Round 2,” with a foreword by Jim Lampley, is currently out. The anthology can be ordered through Amazon.com and other book-selling websites and outlets.

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Tyson Fury Returns on Saturday with a Familiar Foe in the Opposite Corner

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“Tyson Fury made a name for himself last night, one that already has a ready-made ring about it and will be destined to become familiar in boxing.” Alan Hubbard, a ringside correspondent for The (London) Examiner wrote those words after Fury wrested the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles from Derek Chisora with a comprehensive 12-round decision on July 23, 2011.

Those words were prescient. Tyson Fury did go on to become a familiar name in the sport. Indeed, one could argue that at this moment in history no active boxer is more famous.

More than 11 full years have elapsed since Fury toppled Chisora. In the ensuing years, the Gypsy King outpointed Wladimir Klitschko in Germany to win the world heavyweight title, battled personal demons that sidelined him for two-and-half years, returned to the ring with a flourish, ultimately regaining the world heavyweight title, or at least a version of it, in the second chapter of his memorable trilogy with Deontay Wilder, and rising so high in the opinion of boxing enthusiasts that he would be favored over any other boxer on the planet.

Oh, and lest we forget, since defeating Chisora in 2011, Fury whipped Chisora again, stopping him after 10 one-sided frames in 2014. Fury’s eight-inch height advantage enabled him to control the distance vs. “Dell Boy” who was never knocked down but who absorbed a great deal of punishment before his chief second said, “no mas.”

A third meeting between Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) and the soon-to-be-39-year-old Chisora (33-12) would seem to be superfluous. Del Boy, coming off a narrow win over Kubrat Pulev, has lost three of his last four. But on Saturday, Dec. 3, they will go at it again. The venue is London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, capacity 62,850, and by all indications, despite a chill in the air (the temperature is expected to hover around 40 degrees), there won’t be too many empty seats.

For promoter Frank Warren, Fury vs Chisora is Plan B – he was hoping to match Fury against Anthony Joshua – but he believes that Fury has become so popular that he can make a tidy profit no matter who is in the opposite corner. The Gypsy King, once referenced as the enfant terrible of British boxing, has toned down his rhetoric (one might say that he proactively distanced himself from Kanye West) and become almost cuddly, a source of inspiration for many Brits, the first member of the black sheep Traveler community about whom this could ever be said.

Fury, needless to say, is a heavy favorite. The odds are in the 25/1 range. The co-feature is likewise looked upon as a mismatch. Daniel Dubois, who shares the diluted WBA heavyweight title with Oleksandr Usyk, is a consensus 16/1 favorite over Kevin Lerena (28-1, 19 KOs) who rides in on a 17-fight winning streak. The six-foot-one Lerena carried a career-high 234 pounds for his last assignment against ancient Mariusz Wach, but the South African southpaw has fought most of his career as a cruiserweight.

The undercard includes featherweight Isaac Lowe, Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy, and Hosea Burton, Fury’s cousin, both of whom appear to be matched soft in scheduled six-rounders, plus 18-year-old phenom Royston Barney Smith in a 4-rounder against a transplanted Nicaraguan.

This is a pay-per-view event in the UK, but U.S. fight fans who subscribe to ESPN+ can see it for free. The ring walks for the main event are expected to go about 4 pm ET.

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What Path will Yokasta Valle Choose Next?

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After the recent controversial ruling that made her a world champion in three different divisions, the fans of the Costa Rican Yokasta Valle are wondering: What path will the successful boxer choose next?

On Saturday, November 26th, in a fight of continuous exchanges with the then undefeated Argentine Evelyn Bermúdez (17-1-1, 6 KOs), “Yoka” Valle (27-2, 9 KOs) came out with her arm raised at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, where she won the IBF and WBO belts, which Bermúdez was defending for the seventh and second time, respectively.

Although the Costa Rican fighter (pictured on the right) went on the attack for practically the entire 10 rounds, the exchanges were even, give and take, with good moments for both fighters, which made it difficult to evaluate each round. Hence the discomfort of many fans, especially in the Bermúdez camp, with the card of judge Adalaide Byrd (99-91), which apparently had Bermúdez prevailing in only one round. Neither did Judge Daniel Sandoval’s card (97-93) represent what transpired in the ring, while Zachary Young’s score of 95-95 was more accurate, distributing five rounds for each combatant.

In the case of Byrd, she also received innumerable criticism in the first fight between Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, which was held in September 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and which ended with a favorable scorecard for each boxer and another of 114-114.

At that time, Byrd had judged more than 400 fights over a 20-year span, and her discordant scorecard of 118-110 reflected Canelo winning 10 rounds and GGG only two (the fourth and the seventh). Dave Moretti leaned towards Golovkin (115-113), while Don Trella (114-114) saw it even.

CHAMPION IN THREE CATEGORIES

Born in Matagalpa, Nicaragua on August 28, 1992 and living in Costa Rica since her childhood, Valle made her boxing debut at the age of 22 in the light flyweight category. In that first experience at the pro level, she defeated Mexican María Guadalupe Gómez by unanimous decision in four rounds, on July 26, 2014, in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Two years later, in her twelfth fight, she conquered the IBF title at 102 pounds by split decision against Ana Victoria Polo in San José, Costa Rica. In December 2017, Valle suffered her first professional failure against the local Naoko Fujioka, who won by unanimous decision at Korakuén Hall in Tokyo where they fought for the vacant WBO light flyweight belt.

Six months later, on June 16, 2018, Valle lost again by unanimous decision against German Christina Rupprecht (11-0-1, 3 KOs) in Munich, a duel that was for the WBO strawweight interim belt. Rupprecht maintains that belt and is again in Valle’s sights.

Following those two setbacks, “Yoka” Valle compiled 14 victories, including the one she obtained in Marbella against Spaniard Joana Pastrana in August 2019, which she won by split decision securing the IBF 105-pound belt.

More recently, on September 8th in Costa Rica, Valle became a two-division champion at 105 pounds, by unanimously prevailing (the three judges scored the fight 100-90) over Vietnamese Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen, who ceded the WBO title. And then with her success against Bermúdez last weekend, Valle made history in Costa Rican boxing by adding her third crown in three different divisions (102, 105 and 108 pounds).

WHERE WILL YOKASTA VALLE GO NEXT?

Valle, who now owns two light flyweight titles (IBF and WBO) could next go in search of unification with Mexican Jéssica Nery (WBA super champion) or with Canadian Kim Clavel, who holds the WBC title. (Clavel and Nery collide on Thursday in Laval, Quebec.)

However, a more viable option would be to return to 105 pounds and seek a fight with American Seniesa Estrada (23-0, 9 KOs), who maintains the WBA belt, or with Rupprecht, who remains unbeaten. That seemed to be Valle’s immediate objective, as she affirmed it in the ring after defeating Nguyen. In an indirect reference to Seniesa Estrada and Tina Rupprecht, Valle said “I want the belts. I’ve been saying it from the beginning, I want the WBC and WBA next, whoever has ’em.”

At Friday’s weigh-in for her fight with Bermúdez, Valle stated “I want to fight the best. I want to be undisputed. When Tina (Rupprecht) and Seniesa (Estrada) were not available, my team and I made the decision to move up in weight and challenge Evelyn for her world title belts. I have to fight. [MarvNation CEO] Marvin Rodriguez presented this fight to me. This is the type of fight I want. It is champion versus champion. I want to give the fans these types of fights.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kim Clavel caught the flu and pulled out on Wednesday just prior to the weigh-in. Her match with Jessica Nery was rescheduled for Jan. 13.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish

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

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Regis Prograis Knocks Out José Zepeda and Clears the Way for José Ramírez

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American Regis Prograis had to wait three years and a month for the opportunity to hold a world crown once again. On Saturday, November 26, at the Dignity Health Sports Park, in Carson, California, Prograis faced José Zepeda for the vacant WBC junior welterweight belt. Prograis was victorious by applying chloroform to Zepeda in the eleventh round.

Previously, on October 26, 2019, Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) had lost the WBA junior welterweight belt by majority decision to Scotsman Josh Taylor at the 02 Arena in England.

Since then, the thirty-three-year-old Prograis who is based in Houston, Texas has obtained four wins (including vs Zepeda), all before the limit, as proof of the devilish power of his powerful fists, especially the left one.

Prior to the duel with Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs), most experts favored Prograis, who after winning the intense battle, recognized that it was the most demanding fight of his career. “That dude is tough, tough, tough. He came to fight, he probably gave me one of my hardest fights, I’m not even gonna lie,” said Prograis. “This dude is tough, bro. I’ve got so much respect for you. You prepared me to get this belt and hold this belt. I congratulate you. All the best to you, bro. Don’t stop, I feel like you can still be a world champion.”

Almost from the very beginning of the fight, Prograis showed greater speed with his hands and legs, and a general sense of technical superiority over Zepeda, who in the second round opened up a wound above his left eye with a legal blow.

From then on, Prograis’s strong impacts gradually undermined Zepeda’s resistance. Zepeda arrived totally exhausted in the eleventh round, where he received a straight left to the face, putting him in poor condition. A run with both fists from Prograis knocked him down and referee Ray Corona called the match with 59 seconds remaining in the round. This is the first setback that Zepeda has suffered by knockout in professional boxing.

On several occasions, Prograis has stated that he wants revenge against the undefeated Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs), but now, by order of the WBC, he must face American José Carlos Ramírez (27-1, 17 KOs).

Ramírez, 30 years old, is currently ranked second by the WBC. In February of 2019, in his second defense of his 140-pound belt, he defeated Zepeda by majority decision.

Twenty-five months later, Ramírez succumbed by unanimous decision to Taylor at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, enabling the Scotsman to become the undisputed king of the category by winning the four most prestigious belts (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF).

Recently, Ramírez expressed an interest in dueling with the main 140-pound contenders, including a second fight with Zepeda; although he did not rule out clashing with Prograis or Taylor. “Every fighter has the same amount of risk,” said Ramirez. “We’re a little under-promoted compared to other weight classes but I think that the best fights are at 140. You see guys fighting twice or three times, doing a trilogy. Honestly, I would love to face Regis, because I’ve never faced him. I would love to make the rematch with Zepeda, because he’s such a good fighter. Obviously I want Josh Taylor, man. I want Josh Taylor bad.”

Photo credit: Al Applerose

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

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

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