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For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2022 Boxing Obituaries PART TWO (July-Dec.)

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This is the concluding segment of our story in which we pay homage to boxing notables who left us in the past year.

July

July 12 – JERRY PELLEGRINI. A welterweight who was a barber by trade, hence his nickname, “The Fighting Barber,” his rather pedestrian record (28-12-1) obscured the fact that during his prime in the 1960s he acquired a big following in his native New Orleans. At age 78 at his home in Chalmette, Louisiana, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

July 27 – MAURENZO SMITH. A journeyman heavyweight who was still active at the time of his death, Smith, a widower, was shot dead by the estranged husband of the woman he was dating at a Houston-area restaurant. He won his last eight fights by stoppage, seven in Colombia, advancing his record to 29-13-4 before he drew his last breath at age 44.

August

Aug. 4 – JOHNNY FAMECHON. The Aussie version of Willie Pep, the silky-smooth Famechon was one of Australia’s most admired sportsmen. He won the WBC world featherweight title in 1969 with a 15-round decision over Jose Legra in London and won two of his three title defenses before quitting the sport at age 24 with a record of 55-5-6. In Melbourne at age 77 after a long illness.

Aug. 9 – LARRY BUCK. Born on a ranch in Washington’s Yakima Valley, Buck, a light heavyweight based in Seattle, turned pro in 1966 at age 29 after serving in the Army and compiled a 25-5-4 record. He was stopped only once, that coming on cuts. At age 86 in Shelton, Washington.

Aug. 15 – RODOLFO MARTINEZ. One of many outstanding boxers spawned in the Mexico City barrio of Tepito, he won the WBC world bantamweight title in 1974 with a fourth-round stoppage of three-time rival Rafael Herrera and made four successful defenses before losing the belt to the great Carlos Zarate. He finished 44-7-1 (35). At age 75 in Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico where he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Aug. 20 – GODFREY STEVENS. One of the few Chileans to fight for a world title, Stevens was recognized as the South American featherweight champion when he challenged WBA belt-holder Shozo Saijo in Tokyo in 1970, losing a 15-round decision. He finished 68-10-3 while answering the bell for 717 rounds. In a nursing home in Canberra, Australia, at age 84.

Aug. 22 – JIMMY FARRELL. Fighting exclusively in New England, the Bay State featherweight compiled a 17-4-3 record in a five-year career that began in 1975. When his fighting days were over, he ran a series of boxing gyms in and around Quincy, Massachusetts that produced 40 regional amateur champions and dozens of pros. At age 69 after a long battle with cancer.

Aug. 27 – MOGENS PALLE. Elected to the IBHOF in 2008, Palle was the face of boxing in Denmark for more than 60 years. The second-generation promoter manufactured a slew of European champions, beginning with Tom Bogs, and several world title-holders, notably super middleweight Mikkel Kessler. At age 88 in Copenhagen where he was battling cancer,

Aug. 28 – EVERETT “BIG FOOT” MARTIN. The quintessential gatekeeper, Martin fought 15 former or future heavyweight title-holders. He went the distance with George Foreman, Michael Moorer, Tony Tucker, Larry Holmes and Wladimir Klitschko in their first encounter and outpointed Tim Witherspoon, finishing 20-39-1 in a 17-year career that began in 1984. At age 58 in his hometown of Tyler, Texas. Details are sketchy.

Aug. 29 – RIGOBERTO RIASCO. After failing to take the world featherweight title from Alexis Arguello (L TKO 2), he dropped down in weight and became the first modern super bantamweight champion. He retired in 1976 after losing the belt to Royal Kobayashi, returned for an encore in 1981, and finished 26-9-4. At age 69 in his native Panama City from an undisclosed illness.

Aug. 31 – TED SARES. A prized member of the TSS family where he was our most active contributor to the Forum, Sares fell in love with boxing as a boy in Chicago, authored dozens of stories for online boxing magazines, and was always ready to lend a helping hand to an ex-boxer in need. A world-class professional powerlifter into his 80’s, the New Hampshire resident was 85 when he passed away within days of learning he had pancreatic cancer.

Ted Sares

Ted Sares

September

Sept. 1 – EARNIE SHAVERS. Recognized as one of the hardest punchers in the history of boxing, Shavers KOed 69 of his 90 opponents, finishing 75-14-1, but came up short in two stabs at the world heavyweight title, losing to Muhammad Ali (L 15) and Larry Holmes (L TKO 11). In retirement he became a Christian minister and motivational speaker and turned up frequently at autograph shows. At age 78 after a lingering illness at the home of a daughter in Roanoke, Virginia.

Sept. 7 – BORGE KROGH. A two-time Olympian, Krogh was 43-8-5 (9 KOs) as a pro during an 8-year career that began in 1964. Although prone to cuts and lacking a big punch, he rose to #2 in the WBA ratings and was briefly the European lightweight champion. In retirement he became a respected trainer and then a high school math teacher. At age 80 in his native Aalborg, Denmark.

Sept. 13 – HORACIO ACCAVALLO. The most underrated flyweight of all time in the estimation of the noted boxing historian Matt McGrain, the Argentine southpaw was in his second reign as a world champion when he left the sport in 1968. He was 49-1-1 over his last 51 fights, finishing 75-2-6. In retirement, he built a successful chain of sporting goods stores. At age 87 in a Buenos Aires nursing home after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s.

Sept. 19 – ISIAH JONES. A 2016 national amateur welterweight champion (he defeated future Olympian Troy Isley in the finals), Jones pro career never took flight; he finished 9-7. A 28-year-old father of three, he was shot dead by his brother during a family dispute at a home in his native Detroit.

Sept. 29 – LUIS QUINONES. A junior welterweight from Barrancabermejo, Colombia, Quinones was 10-0 heading into his 10-round match with his friend Jose Munoz at Barranquila. Knocked down in the eighth round, he fell into a coma and died five days later without regaining consciousness. He was 25 years old.

October

Oct. 2 – EDER JOFRE. Widely considered the greatest bantamweight of all time, Jofre held the world bantamweight title from 1960 to 1964 and went on to win the WBC featherweight title after returning to the sport after a three-year retirement. Victorious in his last 24 fights, he finished 72-2-4. At age 86 in his native Sao Paulo, Brazil, after a lengthy hospital stay for pneumonia.

November

Nov. 2 – JOE LOUIS MURPHY. A 1950s-era welterweight whose parents named him for Joe Louis, Murphy was no great shakes as a pro boxer, going 13-11-2 in documented fights, but for decades he was the glue of boxing in Albuquerque, serving the sport in every capacity. At age 86 in Albuquerque from complications of COVID-19.

Nov. 4 – J.J. JOHNSTON. An actor who performed opposite Al Pacino in the 1983 Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo,” Johnston was best known within the fistic fraternity as a historian and memorabilia collector. He co-authored a book about Jimmy McLarnin and two richly illustrated monographs on the history of boxing in Chicago. At age 89 in his beloved Chicago.

Nov. 19 – MARK POTTER. A burly heavyweight who customarily carried about 235 pounds on his 6’1” frame, Potter was 14-2 when he challenged Danny Williams for the British title in 2000, losing on a TKO 7. He finished 21-5. At age 47 in London from stomach cancer.

Nov. 20 – BUSTER DRAYTON. A former Marine sergeant, he was 32 years old when he won the IBF 154-pound world title in 1986, wresting the belt from Carlos Santos on a 15-round decision. He made two successful defenses in France before losing the belt to Matthew Hilton in Montreal. He was 40-15-1 when he left the sport for a career in law enforcement. At age 70 in his native Philadelphia of unspecified causes.

Nov. 24 – MOISES FUENTES. The lanky Fuentes won the WBO 105-pound title in 2011 and made four successful defenses including a stoppage of legendary, albeit faded, Ivan Calderon. He retired with a 25-6-1 mark but returned to the ring after a three-year absence in October of last year at Cancun and was stopped in six frames by Mexican countryman David Cuellar. He left the ring on a stretcher with a brain bleed from which he never fully recovered, dying at age 37.

December

Dec. 1 – LUCKETT DAVIS. A longtime biology professor at Winthrop University, Davis spent countless hours scrolling through old newspapers in search of missing and misidentified fights and came to be recognized as one of the sport’s foremost boxing historians. A charter member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) he was 90 when he passed away at his home in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Dec. 6 – MILLS LANE. The former Marine was an NCAA boxing champion and 10-1 as a pro before entering the legal profession where he advanced to the post of a district court judge. He went on to become a TV and MTV personality, building on his fame as the third man in the ring for some of boxing’s most bizarre fights, including the infamous “Bite Fight.” He was elected to the IBHOF in 2013, eleven years after suffering a debilitating stroke. At age 86 in Reno.

Dec. 11 – BOBBY CASSIDY. Active from 1963 to 1980, the Long Island southpaw fought mostly as a middleweight. He headlined several shows at Madison Square Garden while finishing 59-16-3, a record that would have been better if he wasn’t prone to cuts. His son of the same name became a boxing writer for Newsday. At age 78 in Levittown, Long Island, where he was suffering from dementia.

Dec. 19 – STEVE SMOGER. The Hall of Fame referee was the third man in the ring for more than a thousand fights during a 34-year career that lasted until 2018. A law school graduate and 30-year member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, he also served as a municipal court judge in Atlantic City. At age 79 in Ventnor, NJ, after a long illness.

Dec. 23 – JERRY ROTH. A Las Vegas commercial real estate broker, the Scranton, PA native worked 235 world title fights during a 34-year career as a boxing judge. In 2017, two years after he judged his final fight, he was elected to the IBHOF. At age 81 in Las Vegas of an undisclosed illness.

For Part One CLICK HERE

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 280: Matchroom Snatches ‘Boots’ Ennis and More

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 280: Matchroom Snatches ‘Boots’ Ennis and More

It was bound to happen in professional boxing.

A British promotion company lured one of America’s top, if not the top, welterweight prizefighter in the world in Jaron “Boots” Ennis it was announced this week by Matchroom Boxing. It’s a multi-fight deal.

Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) holds the IBF welterweight title after knocking out Venezuela’s Roiman Villa last July in Atlantic City. The Philadelphia-based fighter has long been considered one of the most talented and complete boxers in the world. And now he’s signed with Matchroom Boxing based in London.

“I’m excited for this partnership with Eddie Hearn, Matchroom and DAZN,” said Ennis. “I can’t wait to continue making my mark and becoming undisputed world champion.

It was just a matter of time before British promoters latched on to America’s best talent. Instead of pitting British fighters against American fighters, why not sign American fighters too.

Most fans in America fail to realize that boxing in the United Kingdom is a bigger more popular sport in that nation. Boxing ranks high in England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. It also ranks high in British Commonwealth countries like Australia.

Now Matchroom Boxing which streams boxing cards through DAZN will have another American star on its platform. The company previously had boxing’s biggest star, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, until his contract ran out. Signing Ennis could be the answer in finding the next big thing in boxing.

“I’ve watched this young man for many years, and I always believed he would become a pound-for-pound great, and I have no doubt he is already the greatest fighter in the division,” said promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing. “To win the race to sign Jaron is a massive coup for Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.”

Matchroom already has Conor Benn and the addition of Ennis gives the British promotion company two of the best welterweights in the division.

The signing of an American star like Ennis in some ways represents the international competition for sports talent whether its soccer, boxing or baseball as what we saw in the signing of Japan’s two biggest baseball stars by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Streaming has replaced television and the ability to watch fights live from any spot in the world has changed how we watch boxing and other sports.

A massive struggle by streaming giants has commenced and DAZN along with ESPN and Prime Video have joined the battle.

Manchester Card on Saturday

Two female world title fights lead the charge this weekend for Matchroom Boxing along with a men’s super featherweight clash between two former EBU titlists Jordan Gill and Zelfa Barrett.

IBF super bantamweight titlist Ellie Scotney (8-0) meets France’s Segolene Lefebvre (18-0) the WBO super bantamweight titlist in a unification match on Saturday April 13, at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

Also, Rhiannon Dixon (9-0) meets Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-1) for the vacant WBO lightweight title.

R.I.P.

Promoter Gary Shaw passed away this week according to several sources including WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman.

I first met Shaw when he was COO of Main Events in the late 1990s after Dan Duva passed away. At the time Ferocious Fernando Vargas was a rising star and the promotion company was a major player in the boxing scene. They also had Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, and Arturo Gatti on their roster.

Later, he moved on to form his own company and with fighters such as Rafael Marquez, Diego Corrales and others he staged many fights on Showtime. If I recall correctly, Shaw was connected with the Diego Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo battles and the Israel Vazquez vs Rafael Marquez wars.

The fights between those warriors are considered the best for that period in the early 2000s.

Another sports figure, OJ Simpson passed away too.

I mention OJ because I often came across the USC Trojan football running back who lit up the gridiron during the 1960s and 70s.

As a college student I lived a few blocks from Simpson in the Brentwood area and often saw him with his family. Once while in New York City visiting a friend I ran into him again at La Guardia Airport.

Simpson was accused and acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend in 1994.

Fights to Watch

Sat. DAZN 9 a.m. Ellie Scotney (8-0) vs Segolene Lefebvre (18-0)).

Sat. ESPN 7 p.m. Jared Anderson (16-0) vs Ryad Merhy (32-2); Efe Ajagba (19-1) vs Guido Vianello (12-1-1).

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Resurgent Angelo Leo Turns Away Eduardo Baez on a Wednesday Night in Florida

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Resurgent Angelo Leo Turns Away Eduardo Baez on a Wednesday Night in Florida

The latest in the series of bi-monthly Wednesday Night Fights played out tonight at the ProBox TV Events Center (formerly Whitesands) in the Tampa Bay area community of Plant City, Florida.

In the main event, featherweight Angelo Leo improved to 24-1 (11) with a unanimous 10-round decision over stubborn but outclassed Eduardo Baez (23-6-2). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Leo, from Las Vegas by way of Albuquerque, was formerly a key member of Floyd Mayweather Jr’s “Money Team.” He briefly held a version of the world super bantamweight title, a diadem he lost to Stephen Fulton in his first title defense. Baez, a former world title challenger, never stopped trying, but Leo was stronger and sharper while scoring his third straight win at this venue following stoppages of Nicolas Polanco and Mike Plania.

Leo has his sights set on IBF world featherweight title-holder Luis “Venado” Lopez.

Co-Main

In a well-matched, 8-round super featherweight contest, Puerto Rican southpaw Jaycob Bradley Gomez (10-0-1) kept his unbeaten record intact with a hard-fought majority decision over scrappy Jose Arellano (11-2). The scores were 76-76 and 77-75 twice.

Gomez, whose father was a former cornerman for Miguel Cotto, was making his sixth appearance at this venue. Arellano, a Mexico-born Coloradoan, fought most of the fight with a deep cut over his right eye. Without that impediment, he just might have sprung the upset.

Other Bouts

In another super featherweight match, also slated for “8,” Puerto Rico-born Dominic Valle, a local product, improved to 9-0 (7 KOs) with a second-round stoppage of Mexico’s Angel Vazquez Lupercio (12-2). Valle hurt Lupercio with a body punch and then backed him into the ropes and unleashed a barrage of punches, leading referee Alica Collins to waive it off. The official time was 2:27 of round two.

A third-generation prizefighter who has a side gig as a model, the 23-year-old Valle is managed by the influential David McWater who also handles Valle’s brother Marques, a junior middleweight who fights here in two weeks.

Yoel Angeloni, a 20-year-old welterweight, stamped himself a fighter to watch with a 74-second blowout of obscure 42-year-old Michael Williams. The son of an Italian father and a Cuban mother, raised in Italy, Angeloni was purportedly 140-2 as an amateur (9-2 per boxrec).

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