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Avila Perspective, Chap 218: Looking for Mr. Good Year

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Avila Perspective, Chap 218: Looking for Mr. Good Year

WBA super flyweight titlist Joshua Franco travels to Japan and meets WBO titlist Kazuto Ioka on Saturday Dec. 31, at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.

It’s a unification clash.

Franco, 27, the older brother of Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, has patiently waited to defend the WBA title he won more than two years ago during the height of the pandemic lockdown in defeating Andrew Moloney.

Ioka, 33, last lost four years ago on Dec. 31, the same date he fights Franco. Is it an omen or fate?

Neither champions are big punchers but rely on strategic pressure. Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs) trains in Riverside, California under Robert Garcia. Ioka (29-2, 15 KOs) trains in Tokyo and in Las Vegas where his longtime trainer Ismael Salas is headquartered and has defended the WBO title five times since defeating Filipino fighter Aston Palicte by knockout in 2019.

It’s been almost 17 months since Franco last entered the prize ring.

“It’s just another day in the lab,” said “The Professor” Franco on social media.

The New Year opens with a bang in Japan.

Hiccups in 2023

We have yet to enter 2023 and two major fights have been scrapped or are on the verge of the scrapyard.

Three years have passed since the coronavirus pandemic enveloped the world and changed life. Boxing survived but teeters from lack of marquee fights at the higher level. Boxing at the club level was nearly dead for two years and only now recovered.

Next month an intriguing match between undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo and Australia’s Tim Tszyu was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas. Then, last week, it was announced the champ suffered an injury and the match was postponed.

Several days ago, Gervonta “Tank” Davis was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery. The always exciting lightweight pugilist was set to face Dominican fighter Hector Luis Garcia on Saturday Jan. 7, at Capital One Arena in D.C. That match is questionable now.

Enter Jaron “Boots” Ennis.

Philadelphia’s young welterweight Ennis has quietly dismantled nearly every opponent he’s faced. Part of the problem has been that he blasts them out almost effortlessly with single blows that don’t seem powerful, but when they connect, the victims don’t get back up.

If Tank Davis cannot solve his current legal problem in time, Ennis can easily slide into the main event and show his overwhelming arsenal. He’s a complete fighter.

“It’s boxing, anything can happen,” said Ennis, 25. “You can fight the best fighter in the world and you can knock him out in two seconds. The big names are coming, I just have to be patient.”

Can Ennis save the month of January?

He won’t be alone. Also on the Showtime pay-per-view card will be Demetrius Andrade now fighting at super middleweight.

Andrade, 34, a slick southpaw with speed, skills and long arms, has grabbed world titles in the super welterweight and middleweight divisions. But he’s had a miserable time enticing the better-known fighters to face him in the prize ring. Both Charlo brothers, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin have all declined to fight Andrade.

It’s simply a case of too much risk without much reward.

Because Andrade lacks big name recognition or the boxing style that attracts fans, he’s unable to bring big money to the table to offer the Charlos, Canelos and Triple Gs. All these fighters can make the same money fighting easier opponents. No promoter has been willing to put up the big money for Andrade to fight any of the superstars.

Andrade will be fighting Demond Nicholson, a veteran super middleweight out of Maryland who went the distance with Puerto Rico’s Edgar Berlanga to snap his 16-fight knockout streak. All had been stopped in the first round. Nicholson lasted eight rounds but lost by decision.

If Tank Davis is unable to participate, the remaining bouts are quality fights.

Memories of Past January’s

Here are some of the best fights that took place in January during the past 20 years:

Jan. 29, 1994. Felix Trinidad beats Hector Camacho in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. Tito was fairly unknown and “Macho” Camacho had only two losses in his extensive career and was never stopped. Many expected Trinidad to be the first, but he was unable to accomplish the feat. Instead, he was satisfied with a unanimous decision win in the battle between Boricuas. Camacho was never knocked out in his long career.

Jan. 20, 2001. Floyd Mayweather’s knockout win over Diego Corrales on Jan. 20, 2001 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After five knockdowns Corrales corner stopped the fight. Many expected the taller and more powerful punching Corrales to knock out Mayweather. That night Mayweather dropped Corrales repeatedly and gave a masterclass on timing.

Jan. 21, 2006. Manny Pacquiao beats Erik Morales in a rematch in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Center by 10th round knockout. A year earlier Morales had defeated Pacquiao but in the rematch, it was all Pacman who proved too powerful and too fast for even the Tijuana warrior.

Jan. 24, 2009: Shane Mosley defeats Antonio Margarito by knockout in the 9th round to win the WBA super welterweight title at the Staples Center in L.A. Few expected the smaller Mosley to defeat Tijuana’s Margarito. But moments before the two entered the ring another battle was going on as Mosley’s trainer spotted an infraction of the rules. Margarito was found using old hand wraps and was forced to use new hand wraps. Later, Margarito would be found guilty of the hand wrap infraction. Many incorrectly said he loaded his wraps with cement. This was not the case; it was merely old wraps used in fights before. Loading his gloves was inappropriate terminology. But he was suspended for illegally using old hand wraps. When they finally met in the ring Mosley proved too fast and too skilled for Margarito and the fight was stopped after two knockdowns.

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Garcia Promotions’ Event in San Bernardino was a Showcase for Saul Rodriguez

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SAN BERNARDINO-Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, out of action for nearly three years, returned to the prize ring on Saturday in San Bernardino at the Club Event Center in a Garcia Promotions event. San Bernardino is in the Inland Empire which is two counties just east of Los Angeles.

Riverside’s Rodriguez (24-1-1) weighed much more than the designated weight and his match with Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo was demoted to an exhibition because of the weight disparity. Despite wearing head gear, the popular Riverside fighter was able to stop Angulo (6-1) in his first fight since February 28, 2020.

Though Rodriguez looked slightly over-weight as a super lightweight, it didn’t dampen his sharp punching skills. He immediately caught Meza with a well-timed overhand right. Luckily, Rodriguez didn’t put muscle on it. The fight proceeded.

Because of inactivity, Rodriguez seemed to relish getting back to work. He moved around and tried different combinations. Everything seemed to be working in his favor. But Meza countered a left by Rodriguez with a strong right. It proved the popular Riverside fighter needs work on bringing back his left quickly.

After Meza connected things got serious.

Rodriguez immediately opened the third round at a quicker tempo and seemed intent on changing from a wait-and-see attitude to one of bad intentions. Meza didn’t notice the change and looked to catch Rodriguez with a combo and instead was caught with a monster counter-right. Down went Meza with a thud. The fight was stopped.

Fans, many of them wearing Team Neno t-shirts, were deliriously happy to see Rodriguez back in action.

In the co-main event, San Bernardino’s Leo Ruiz clashed with granite-chinned Cameron Krael.

Ruiz (11-0, 7 KOs) unloaded horrific bombs on Krael (19-25-3) who calmly kept his gloves covering his head and although some managed to connect flush, nothing fazed the Las Vegas fighter.

Round after round Ruiz unloaded on Krael only to quickly realize that attempting a knockout was futile. The reputation of Krael’s chin was correct and no need to break a knuckle trying to score a knockout. Instead, Ruiz went six rounds and won every one to take a win by unanimous decision by scores of 60-54 on all three cards.

Other Bouts

Gabe Muratalla (9-0) knocked out Michael Nielsen (6-3) with a four-punch combination in the third round of a bantamweight fight. Body shots dropped Nielsen in the second round.

Ventura’s Jose Delgado (10-1-4), a southpaw, overcome a sluggish start with body shots to defeat San Bernardino’s Jesus Beltran (6-3-1) by majority decision after four rounds in a lightweight fight.

Riverside’s Victor Pelayo (2-0) defeated Milwaukee’s D’Angelo Hopgood (2-1) by decision after four rounds in a very close super bantamweight match. Both fighters showed solid fundamentals in a fight that could have easily been scored a draw. Pelayo won by decision 39-37 on all cards.

Riverside’s Jose Rodriguez (2-0) stopped Henry Mendez (0-9-2) in the fourth round of a super welterweight bout. Mendez was deducted a point in the second round for incessant holding after numerous warnings.

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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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