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The Hauser Report: Is the Clock Winding Down for Vasiliy Lomachenko?

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Vasiliy Lomachenko continued his sojourn through boxing with a unanimous-decision victory over Jamaine Ortiz at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Saturday night. But there were signs that his magic wand might be less magical than before.

Lomachenko, now 34 years old, has piercing blue eyes and a well-groomed beard. Regardless of what his body might say, his age shows in his face. Throughout his career, he has combined captivating ring skills with a willingness to go in tough. But as Vasiliy went up to 135 pounds in search of greater challenges and more lucrative paydays, he lost some of the competitive edge that he enjoyed over smaller fighters. Two years ago, Teofimo Lopez brought him down to earth with a 119-109, 117-111, 116-112 performance.

Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) was considered a safe opponent. Jamaine had decisioned Jamel Herring in his last fight. But nothing on his resume suggested that he’d pose any problems that Lomachenko couldn’t solve. Vasiliy was a 20-to-1 betting favorite.

“I’m not his promoter,” Lomachenko said when asked about the apparent disparity in skills between the two fighters. “I’m not his trainer. I’m not thinking about if this step up is too much for him or not.”

Lomachenko, who is a Ukrainian national and member of his country’s territorial defense battalion, was also reluctant to comment on a range of issues relating to the war in Ukraine. “I am a bad judge of politics,” he noted. When asked specifically about the propriety of Russian athletes such as Dmitry Bivol and Alex Ovechkin being allowed to compete in the United States, he answered, “I’d have to know more about their personal circumstances to comment on those situations.”

The October 29 fight card was constructed around Lomachenko, with Top Rank using his presence to fulfill contractual obligations to seven other fighters who are at various stages of development in their respective ring careers and to build them for the future. All seven emerged victorious. None of their opponents came to lie down.  But when two men fight and one is better than the other, the better fighter usually wins. And when one fighter is much better than the other, “usually” changes to “almost always.”

Junior-welterweight Abdullah Mason (now 5-0, 4 KOs) looked good in knocking out Angel Barrera in four rounds. Olympic silver medalist Duke Ragan (8-0, 1 KO) disappointed. Ragin won a 79-73, 78-74, 77-75 decision over Luis Lebron that elicited cries of “Bull****! Bull****!” from the crowd. Heavyweight Richard Torrez stopped Ahmed Hefny in an inartful beatdown that was more evocative of “the culture of bruising” than “the sweet science.” In other bouts, Robeisy Ramirez, Delante Johnson, Troy Isley, and Haven Brady prevailed.

Nico Ali Walsh (Muhammad Ali’s grandson) was also on the card.

When Nico (now 7-0, 5 KOs) turned pro in August 2021, Top Rank was told that he wasn’t focused on belts nor did he expect to become a great fighter. Rather, he was boxing because he wanted to challenge himself and experience the core of what his grandfather experienced in the ring.

In line with that thinking, the original plan was for Nico to have a handful of fights leading to a big payday somewhere in the Middle East and then get out of boxing. Now, Bob Walsh (Nico’s father) acknowledges, “Nico has the bug.” And Nico says, “When I was little, I said I wanted to be a world champion like my grandfather. But it was like saying I wanted to be a comic book superhero. Now it’s attainable. It’s real.”

Nico entered the ring at the Hulu Theater wearing a vampire cape in honor of Halloween and evoking memories of Leon Spinks (who Muhammad Ali nicknamed “Dracula” because Spinks was missing numerous front teeth – a condition that gave Leon the appearance of having fangs). Billy Wagner (Nico’s carefully chosen opponent from Montana) had toughman skills.

Nico staggered Wagner with a jab in round one that, judging by the blood, broke Billy’s nose. Thereafter, he controlled the fight with his jab en route to a unanimous-decision triumph.

But Nico got hit with punches that he shouldn’t have been hit with. And I’ll repeat what I’ve written before.

Nico is an exceptionally gifted young man. He’s not an exceptionally gifted fighter. I’d rather that he not get hit with more blows to the head in sparring and in fights. And I’d rather that he not inflict punishment like that on other young men either

As for the main event . . .

Lomachenko has never been a fighter who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents by blasting them out with overwhelming power. He relies on speed, reflexes, conditioning, and a keen boxing mind to outbox them.

Fighters who rely on preternatural reflexes and speed get old at a younger age than their brethren. Vasiliy’s age is now showing.

The 26-year-old Ortiz fought aggressively in the early going and, at times, appeared to be the quicker of the two fighters. After six rounds, he was even on two of the judges’ scorecards and leading 58-56 on the third. Then Lomachenko’s craftsmanship and conditioning turned the tide.

It was a good, spirited, action fight. Referee Charlie Fitch did an excellent job, letting the fighters fight out of clinches and only inserting himself in the proceedings when necessary. The 117-111, 116-112, 115-113 decision in Lomachenko’s favor was a good one.

One might also note that Lomachenko is no longer the amateur standout who had trouble dealing with roughhouse tactics in his ambitious early days as a pro. He now knows, and is willing to employ, some of those tactics himself.

The victory brought Lomachenko’s record to 17-2, with 11 KOs. As for what comes next; Devin Haney holds the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO 135-pound belts by virtue of two victories over George Kambosos. Haney is the opponent that Lomachenko and Top Rank say they want next. But Devin has only one fight left on his contract with Top Rank which might complicate matters.

“Hopefully, we can get it on,” Haney said after Lomachenko-Ortiz. “We’ll see when we go to negotiate.”

Those negotiations might be further complicated by unrealistic financial demands fueled by the infusion of “crazy money” in boxing (e.g. see BLK Prime’s apparent willingness to pay $10 million to Terence Crawford to fight David Avanesyan in December).

Also, while Lomachenko is a small 135-pound fighter, Haney is now a big one. Haney-Lomachenko presupposes that Devin (who has been struggling a bit to make weight) doesn’t move up to 140 pounds.

Meanwhile, Lomachenko is no longer “The Man” at 135 pounds. He’s part of a group that includes Haney, Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, and (soon to be added) Shakur Stevenson. How Vasiliy would fare against these fighters today is an open issue. In his mind, he knows what he has to do to beat them. But his body might no longer be able to do it.

*         *         *

Last week, I posted an article on The Sweet Science about the decision by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to allow slap fighting to move forward as a sanctioned “sport.” [https://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-boxing-articles-boxing-news-videos-rankings-and-results/74363-the-hauser-report-slap-fighting-a-bad-idea-whose-time-shouldnt-come].

There has been a lot of commentary about slap fighting since then with some people not grasping what’s at stake. Coincidentally, neuro-scientist Christopher Nowinski (a former college football player who wrestled under the WWE banner and is now CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation) spoke out recently about the National Football League’s concussion protocol. Here’s what Nowinski said:

“I hate that I have to remind you of this. But these are human beings with futures, that will someday be husbands and fathers. And we need to protect their brains the best we can while they’re out there helping you make money. How are we so stupid in 2022?”

Pay attention, Nevada.

*         *         *

The November/December issue of “The Ring (which was mailed to subscribers in October) came with the advisory that, after one hundred years, “The Ring” will no longer publish a print edition.

The inaugural issue of “The Ring” appeared in February 1922. To put that date in perspective, Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States. John F. Kennedy was four years old. For the first time in his illustrious career, Babe Ruth no longer took the mound as a pitcher. Rocky Marciano had yet to be born. There were no fights on radio or television because there was little radio and no television.

In the century that followed, “The Ring” chronicled boxing history, sometimes better than anyone else. But without an inspirational change in vision, the print edition was no longer economically viable.

“The Ring” says that it will maintain an online presence. But there’s a special feel to paper. It’s sad that “The Ring” as boxing fans knew it for a century is no more.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – In the Inner Sanctum: Behind the Scenes at Big Fights – was 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.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

 

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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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