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Mickey Bey Didn’t Lose Faith as his match with Tevin Farmer kept Falling Apart

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“I have no illusions that I can fight forever,” says Mickey Bey who turns 40 in six months, “but I have one more run left in me. My goal is to become the oldest fighter to win the world lightweight title,” he says, noting that the record-holder in this regard is Raymundo Beltran who was 36 when he captured the vacant WBO diadem in 2018.

If successful, Bey would become a two-time world lightweight champion as he briefly held the IBF version of the belt. His road to what he hopes will culminate in another title reign begins on Feb. 25 in Atlanta where he meets former super featherweight title-holder Tevin Farmer in a BLK Prime promotion that will serve as the co-feature to a match between Adrien Broner and Ivan Redkach.

“If you look at my pro record,” continues Bey who is 23-3-1 (11 KOs), “you’ll see that I haven’t taken much punishment. In fact, I’ve never had a clear-cut loss.” Indeed, two of those three setbacks – versus Rances Barthelemy and George Kambosos Jr – were by split decision and the other came in a fight that Bey was winning handily until he lost focus in the final round.

John Molina exploited Mickey’s slip-up when they met in a 10-rounder in 2016 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Through the nine completed rounds, Bey was up by a country mile; he had won every round on one of the scorecards. In the 10th, Molina pulled the fight out of the fire, forcing the stoppage with a barrage of unanswered punches after discombobulating Bey with a short left hook.

“It isn’t like me to showboat,” says Bey, “but I did that night and I paid the price. I was with Floyd Mayweather at the time. Floyd was sitting ringside and I was actually talking at him when Molina cracked me. It was probably a blessing in disguise. It was like God was telling me to stay in my lane.”

In Bey’s mind, he hasn’t suffered a clear-cut loss since his amateur days and he was an outstanding amateur, winner of 170 of 178 fights according to one newspaper report. In 2004, he defeated future lightweight champion Brandon Rios in the 125-pound class in the Olympic Box-Offs. However, there was one more hurdle to pass to earn a ticket to the Summer Games, a new wrinkle in Olympic qualifying, and he failed to accompany the squad to Athens when he lost to an Argentine opponent at the last stand tournament in Brazil. Heading into that competition, Bey was shaking off the effects of pneumonia.

Mickey and his younger brother Cortez Bey, also an outstanding amateur, turned pro as a tandem on a card in their hometown of Cleveland on April 29, 2005. The de facto promoter was their sponsor, Roy Jones Jr.

Bey was five years into his pro career and undefeated at 16-0 when he signed with Top Rank. His first fight under the Top Rank banner was a 6-rounder at the MGM Grand against Eric Cruz underneath a world featherweight title scrap between Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez. Mickey won a unanimous decision but broke his hand in the process.

This was Bey’s first fight in Las Vegas, but he was no stranger to the city, having befriended the Mayweathers. Jeff Mayweather and Floyd Sr. trained him for his early fights in Las Vegas and he would later be persuaded to bolt Top Rank and join Floyd Mayweather Jr’s “Money Team” stable.

In hindsight, Bey wishes that he had stayed with Bob Arum’s organization. “I never had a bad experience with Arum. Bob was always a man of his word. I know that I would have gotten a title fight sooner if I had stayed there. Being a promoter would eventually become basically just a hobby for Floyd. That was becoming obvious even before he let Tank get away,” says Bey, referencing Gervonta “Tank” Davis who has a big fight on Saturday in Washington, DC, against Hector Luis Garcia.

Bey’s first title fight came against Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez who was making his seventh title defense. The match, co-promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Oscar De La Hoya, was the chief supporting bout to Floyd’s rematch with Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand.

Bey won a split decision but his elation at winning the title was tempered by the fact that he knew it wasn’t a fan-friendly fight. It wasn’t simply a matter of mis-matched styles. Bey had hurt his hand again in training, but this was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Flash forward to Dec. 14, 2019 at Madison Square Garden. Bey is matched against George Kambosos Jr, an undefeated (17-0) Australian but a fighter without a signature win and best known as Manny Pacquiao’s longtime sparring partner.

For Bey, this is his first fight in 15 months and only his second fight in three-and-a-half years, but he acquits himself well while losing a split decision. And you know the rest of the story. Kambosos goes on to upset Teofimo Lopez, begetting a monster payday in his first of two fights with Devin Haney.

Bey concedes that he had no burning desire to fight again after fighting Kambosos, but that he reconsidered after the Australian became an overnight sensation. But getting his career back on track has proved to be daunting.

Bey and Tevin Farmer were first scheduled to fight on May 21 in Accra, Ghana. The fight was then shifted to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but could not go on as scheduled when UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan passed away on May 13 as custom dictated a period of mourning that sacked all local sporting events.

Farmer vs. Bey was rescheduled for Aug. 12 in Prescott, Arizona, but evaporated when promoter EJ Matthews, who operated under the name Bigger Than Life Entertainment, failed to meet his obligations. To say that the fight fell out at the eleventh hour doesn’t capture the gist of it. Four undercard bouts in what was to be a six-bout card were completed when the lights were turned off. Bey vs. Farmer “just vanished like lost luggage,” wrote Arizona’s ace boxing scribe Norm Frauenheim.

BLK Prime, which rescued the orphaned fight, raised eyebrows when it jumped into the fight game with fistfuls of money, seemingly overpaying — and grossly overpaying – to acquire the services of Terence “Bud” Crawford, a brilliant fisticuffer whose ring artistry hadn’t translated into strong pay-per-view buys, and the under-achieving problem child Adrien Broner.

Mickey Bey was ringside for BLK Prime’s maiden venture, Crawford’s successful title defense against David Avanesyan last month in Omaha, Bud Crawford’s hometown. While the ppv numbers are proprietary – a company spokesman said they exceeded expectations, whatever that means – the event at Creighton University’s basketball arena was a smash hit at the gate with 14,360 tickets sold. It was Bey’s first trip to Omaha and he came away very impressed. His qualms that BLK’s Atlanta promotion could turn into another boondoggle were assuaged.

“The atmosphere was one of the best of any fight that I have been to,” says Bey. “Everything the promoter did was first-class, very professional.”

Although Bey wasn’t included on Team Devin Haney’s two excursions to Melbourne, he has been deeply involved in the career of the undisputed lightweight champion. “Of all the young fighters out there, he has the best chance of surpassing Floyd’s 50-0,” he says.

“In some regards, Devin reminds me of my old amateur teammate Andre Ward. I knew Andre had the best chance of winning a gold medal in Athens. It was his determination and his discipline. He probably could have made our Olympic team as a long-distance runner if he had been so inclined.”

Bey’s trainer Kevin Henry has also been heavily involved in the career of Haney, having first worked with the precocious boxer when Haney was nine years old and sticking around for all but his last three fights. “Kevin Henry and Floyd [Mayweather] Sr. were most responsible for crafting Devin into the fighter that he has become,” notes Bey.

Ring rust could be an issue when Mickey Bey and Tevin Farmer step into the ring on Feb. 25. Both will have been out of action for 25 months. However, Bey doesn’t consider this a problem. “Had the fight come off when it was originally scheduled,” he says, “I would have had a much shorter camp and I wouldn’t be in the shape that I am now.”

Bey studies the odds on fights and is respected among his peers for his sharp opinion. When he says, “I will defeat Farmer, of that I have no doubt,” one is tempted to saunter over to the sportsbook without waiting for the inevitable rebuttal from his opponent.

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Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” rolled off the press in September. Published by McFarland, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clash-of-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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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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