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Why Tapales vs Akhmadaliev Promises Fireworks This Saturday

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When Marlon Tapales (36-3) out of The Philippines, and Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0) out of Uzbekistan meet atop a deep card in the Boeing Center at Tech Port at San Antonio this Saturday, boxing will be treated to the kind of fight that has been delivering consistent excellence in the first part of 2023.

In Luis Nery versus Azat Hovhannisyan, Brandon Figueroa versus Mark Magsayo and Artem Dalakian versus David Jiminez, we got solid, exciting, competitive and often vicious fights where the fistic public didn’t have to be plugged into social media to follow fight negotiations because the negotiations were carried out in private, as is right and proper. Boxing fans did not have to dig through a series of profane-laden videos straight to camera to try to decipher clues as to the state of negotiations between the two millionaire alpha male superstars and their huge teams of accountants, lawyers and agents but could, instead, trust that the two men would turn up and fight it out at the time stated in the TV guide.

January through March, just under or just over the radar depending upon the weight class, boxing has been delivering good to great fights at a high rate across the continents for one of the best beginnings to the year in my time as a fan. Tapales-Akhmadaliev is the latest of these.

Most importantly in trying to pick these jewels out ahead of time is the relative rankings of the two fighters in question. All the examples in paragraph two were fights contested between fighters who were closely ranked in any decent appraisal of their given division. The importance of this cannot be overstated, and the phrase “decent appraisal” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. You can’t trust the ABCs, for example. The WBA are usually the worst offenders in this regard, and as an example their heavyweight rankings would promise a scintillating contest between their number four, a man named Lenier Peno and their number eight, Jonathan Guidry – honest professionals, I’m sure, but minor players to put it politely.

Tapales and Akhmadaliev can be found ranked near the top of the pack in both print and digital media and in specialist independent ratings organisations such as TBRB who rank Akhmadaliev as the number two 122lb contender in the world, and Tapales, the number six (for the record I have them at 3 and 5 respectively). This is not a guarantee of competitiveness – ranked fighters stumble past their primes and achieve underserved spots based upon careful matchmaking all the time, that’s boxing – but it is close.

Akhmadaliev’s rise to 122lb eminence has been swift and violent. After a five-year amateur career which included some impressive moments, he turned professional strapped to a rocket more commonly associated with Olympic gold medal winners. He was first scheduled to fight over ten in just his fourth fight although nobody was able to carry him that far as he strung together knockouts to carry him into the 2020s and his first fight over the twelve-round distance.

His opponent was to be Daniel Roman, highly ranked, big, fast, and much more experienced. It is this fight that confirmed Akhmadaliev as special. His bulldog frame belied his grace and quickness in getting his punches into range – his sizzling inverted one-two was more impressive than Roman’s jab/uppercut combination. He outfought Roman in the first half and even more impressively out-lasted and out-monstered him down the stretch, sweeping eight through eleven on my card to pick up an inexplicably close decision on the official scorecards.

This was a big moment for Akhmadaliev who had never boxed more than nine rounds in his career but was clearly ready to do a difficult twelve and throw enough punches to win late rounds. Engine checked and in possession of two belts, he blasted out an overmatched Ryosuke Iwasa in his ninth fight – an important match we shall return to – before all but shutting out Jose Velasquez in twelve rounds in his tenth.

His most recent fight was a twelve-round knockout of Ronny Rios and there was a feeling watching this fight unfold that Rios was summitting. Azat Hovhannisyan got Rios out of there more quickly, but the systemic breakdown Akhmadaliev put forth was in many ways more impressive. His southpaw jab triggered three and four punch combinations, his footwork brought Rios on before taking Akhmadaliev out of harm’s way; he threw an uppercut through the middle and he hurt Rios to the body as early as the fourth, also the round in which he took near complete control over the fight, losing only one more round on my card. Mixing counterpunches with leads, if a fighter can do it competently, makes the fighting environment as hostile for the opponent as any boxing execution other than perhaps a barracked pressure-stalk.  Akhmadaliev showed both and that he understood the detail of both against Rios.

He also proved he carries power late. The single power punches he elected to deploy when he had Rios hurt in the twelfth and final round were chilling, the crippling body shot to the solar plexus he used to break Rios a thing of horror.  Akhmadaliev loaded up only at the very end when things were essentially already decided, though it might be noted that he started missing when he did.

Tapales will also have noted though that Akhmadaliev was there throughout for an uppercut to the body and might perhaps offer a thought on Ronny’s reluctance to throw the punch he had success with, such was his fear of Akhmadaliev’s counter left. Tapales had a more circumspect rise to the top, turning professional as a teenager and suffering excusable setbacks as he moved through the distances and into new classes. These “setbacks” must have seemed easy to him compared to life’s alternative; Tapales, one of eight children, worked on a pig-farm even before he was a fifteen-year-old professional.

Either way, post 2014, Tapales seemed to have found the formula to cohabiting learning and winning. He went 12-0 between then and his 2019 contest with Ryosuke Iwasa. We ran into Iwasa above when he succumbed to Akhmadaliev in five. Iwasa, for whatever reason, just did not have the hands to keep Akhmadaliev honest or off him. Akhmadaliev cruised into him in the second and dispatched him in the fifth, uppercuts doing the damage before many straight punches in tandem prompted a slightly premature intervention by the referee.

Tapales meanwhile, lost to Iwasa, his last loss, posted right at the end of the last decade, but there were circumstances. Tapales, who won the first two rounds clearly, incorrectly had a headbutt ruled as a knockdown in the third – worse, his right eye suffered serious damage in the clash and left him hampered. He won perhaps as few as two rounds in the remainder of the fight before succumbing in the eleventh, mainly to the Iwasa left, which he may have struggled to see coming.

Interpreting this fight may be key to understanding how Saturday night will unfold, but I don’t think so. Tapales may have learned his final lesson that night, and since then he has been ruthless in deploying his offence and controlling the fight rhythms. Indeed, he has actually become a victim of his own success, a new problem being inactivity – Tapales staged his comeback fight against the limited Eden Sonsona who he blasted out in two; he then moved back to the sharper end of the division against Hiroaki Teshigawara, who he also knocked out in two; another soft touch in Jose Estrella resulted in another KO2 and Tapales had managed to post just six rounds for the decade.

But he has clearly found the third punch in his combinations and has never looked a better, more complete fighter. Whatever the detail of his contest against Iwasa, Tapales is better now. Nevertheless, Akhmadaliev will start as the favourite as the higher ranked man, the beltholder, based upon the Iwasa result and finally that propensity for targeted body punching. It does all add up to Akhmadaliev being the right pick in a possible thriller that I’ll look to see finished by body punching perhaps late in the fight. Tapales will look to take control early while Akhmadaliev is appraising him, but the jab coming the other way plus the shots Akhmadaliev builds off it will prove to be just a little too much. The stakes are high. The winner is positioned to joust with Luis Nery in determining the next opponent for the victor of the Naoya Inoue-Stephen Fulton fight later this year.

Sharing top billing on this card, Jesse Rodriguez seeks to pick up a 112lb strap against the overmatched Cristian Gonzalez Hernandez. This will probably feel like something of a procession but with Hernandez on a short streak of quick knockouts, we may be treated to early fireworks.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 287: Boxing Wars on Tap in Philadelphia and Las Vegas

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Those boxing wars continue.

Rival promoters battle it out in America as Matchroom Boxing shows off its newest prize Jaron Ennis while Top Rank presents a world title fight in the middleweight division.

Take your pick. Both are scintillating.

Philadelphia’s Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) makes his promotional debut for the British boxing promotion company and faces David Avanesyan (30-4, 18 KOs) for the IBF welterweight world title on Saturday June 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s been a year since Ennis last fought and meanwhile he was bestowed the IBF title without throwing a punch. He earns it on Saturday.

“Having this time off isn’t going to affect me at all. I just want to get back in the ring,” said Ennis whose last fight was a knockout win over Roiman Villa back on July 8, 2023.

A promotional war ensued for the right to sign Ennis. Matchroom Boxing was the winner and they’re itching to showcase one of the most talked-about welterweights to come along since Sugar Ray Leonard.

Avanesyan was selected to replace original opponent Cody Crowley who was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. The Armenian fighter has upset a few in his career including Sugar Shane Mosley and England’s Josh Kelly a few years back.

He’s not shy.

“I think that this is a 50-50 fight. He’s younger, He’s strong, it’s a very good fight,” said Avanesyan who lives in the United Kingdom.

Ennis had no qualms about facing a veteran like Avanesyan.

“It’s a better fight than Cody Crowley but I’ll beat him up, break him down and get the knockout,” Ennis said.

For the past several years boxing experts have been crowing about the Philadelphia prizefighter’s immense talent. On Saturday in front of a hometown crowd he continues the journey toward stardom.

Also, on the same card female WBC featherweight titlist Skye Nicolson (10-0) defends against Dominican stalwart Dyana Vargas (19-1). The Aussie southpaw makes her first real world title defense.

Las Vegas

IBF and WBO middleweight titlist Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0, 10 KOs) defends against Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday July 13, at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank boxing card.

Its Kazakhstan versus Russia as Alimkhanuly continues the middleweight tradition established by his countryman Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Can he continue to dominate?

Alimkhanuly, 31, is a southpaw slugger and still learning how to corral a moving target. But he has power and shouldn’t have a problem finding Mikhailovich who packs power too.

Mikhailovich, 26, fights out of New Zealand but has never had a professional fight outside of the island nation. Will he be able to ignore the glitter of Las Vegas?

Also, Southern California’s Ray Muratalla (20-0, 16 KOs) faces former super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer (33-5-1, 8 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for 10 rounds.

It’s another step-up fight for Muratalla who had a four-fight knockout streak snapped in his last fight against South Africa’s Xolisani Ndongeni this past March. It won’t get any easier against speedy Farmer.

Golden Boy and 360 Promotions

Tickets are available for the super welterweight showdown between Vergil Ortiz and Serhii Bohachuk that takes place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

A press conference was held today at the Golden Boy headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Both fighters were present to kick off the promotion that will feature the two fighters with almost 100 percent knockout rate.

Ortiz has won every fight by knockout. Bohachuk’s last fight ended in a win and was the first time he didn’t obtain a victory by knockout. But the Ukrainian fighter did pick up the interim WBC title with the win over Brian Mendoza who previously had knocked out current champion Sebastian Fundora.

Both Bohachuk and Ortiz train in Southern California.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. ESPN+ 11 a.m. Nelson Hysa (17-0) vs Thorsten Fuchs (13-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Jaron Ennis (31-0) vs David Avanesyan (30-4-1); Skye Nicolson (10-0) vs Dyana Vargas (19-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 8 p.m. Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (15-0) vs Andrei Mikhailovich (21-0); Ray Muratalla (20-0) vs Tevin Farmer (33-5-1).

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

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Trevor McCumby Fell Off the Map and Now He’s Back with a Big Fight on the Horizon

There’s a church in Arizona that has its own motto: “A church that cares where you’re going and not where you’ve been.” It’s the catchline of The Rock, a non-denominational Christian church in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria.

That phrase undoubtedly resonates with Trevor McCumby, a member of the congregation. “I’ve been to some dark places,” says McCumby who was working at a 7-11-style convenience store a few years ago and now finds himself on the cusp of some big paydays in the sweet science.

If McCumby’s name rings a bell, it likely relates to something that had its genesis on Nov. 26, 2016, when he knocked out Donovan George in the opening round on a card in Las Vegas.

The result was changed to “no contest” when traces of two banned substances were discovered in McCumby’s pre-fight urine specimen. Also, McCumby acknowledged receiving an intravenous infusion to rehydrate after the weigh-in which was against the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

It wasn’t until July of the following year when McCumby learned his fate. The boxing commission suspended him for 18 months, retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and fined him $3,750.

He maintains that he never knowingly took a PED. He pointed the blame at a multi-vitamin supplement allegedly contaminated with anabolic agents. (Trevor’s advice to his fellow boxers: If using a supplement, save the receipt and keep the empty container; it may come in useful someday.)

McCumby quit boxing at this juncture but returned in 2018 and recorded two more wins, pushing his record to 25-0 with 17 knockouts. Eleven of those kayos came in the opening round and that doesn’t include his demolition of Donovan George which effectively never happened.

And then, Trevor McCumby fell off the map. Four-and-a-half years would elapse before he returned to the ring, his comeback stalled by a knee injury suffered in sparring.

A light heavyweight during his run to 25-0, he returned as a super middleweight. Two wins in Phoenix prefaced his ProBox debut on Jan. 31 of this year when he won a lopsided 10-round decision over 17-3-1 Christopher Pearson. Up next is former IBF world super middleweight champion Caleb Plant who has been in with the top dogs in the division. It’s not official yet, but it’s an open secret that McCumby and Plant have agreed to touch gloves on August 17, likely in Florida.

Trevor McCumby, now 31 years old, was introduced to boxing by his father, a police officer in Niles, Illinois, and former Marine who once served as a presidential honor guard. The minimum age for an amateur boxer in Illinois was eight, but the elder McCumby lied about his son’s age and Trevor started competing with oversized gloves at the age of seven. (Trevor McCumby and his dad are pictured in a story about amateur boxing in the Windy City that ran in the Chicago Tribune in April of 1999. At the time, little Trevor would have been six years old.)

The McCumbys then lived in Yorkville, Illinois, a town roughly 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Trevor recalls traveling almost every day after school to the gritty south side of Chicago for training. Sweating side-by-side with inner city kids couldn’t help but speed up his development. He had a fine amateur record (127-11 by his count) and, at age 17, with the Olympics yet two years away, was ready to say “yes” when he got a surprise call from Cameron Dunkin who wanted to manage him. Renowned for his keen eye as a talent scout, the late Mr. Dunkin had one of the foremost stables in boxing.

McCumby was then living in Phoenix. He would finish high school in Las Vegas before making his pro debut in Los Angeles at age 18.

Looking back, Trevor says, “I didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have. After each win, it was time to go out and party.” His hiatus from boxing was sobering on many levels. Working in a convenience store was humbling and his priorities changed when he met Kenzie (short for McKenzie), a member of the worship committee at The Rock and his future wife. Trevor is now the father of a 3-year-old son, a 1 ½-year-old daughter and there’s another girl on the way, due in November. As for the knee injury, a torn ACL, Trevor says, “it took about a whole year of rehab but feels better now than it ever did.”

McCumby opened his camp for the Plant fight during the week of July 4 at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas. His training is being coordinated by Brandon Woods, a protégé of Hall of Fame trainer Kenny Adams.

He and Caleb Plant have a common opponent in a manner of speaking. Plant went 12 rounds with David Benavidez in his last outing, losing a unanimous but relatively close decision. The “strength of schedule factor” in Plant’s favor will weigh heavily in setting the odds for McCumby vs. Plant. But McCumby has also shared the ring with Phoenix-native Benavidez, and on many occasions. “We gave each other great work,” he says. “You could have sold tickets to those sparring sessions.”

There was a time when it seemed that Trevor McCumby would be remembered mostly for putting his hand in the cookie jar and failing to maximize his talent. But hold the phone. His boxing journey is far from finished and this is a story that may ultimately prove uplifting.

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Fernando Martinez Ratches Up the Heat in the Hot Super Flyweight Division

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On Sunday in Tokyo, Fernando Martinez picked up a second piece of the world super flyweight title with a mild upset of Kazuto Ioka. Martinez owned the IBF belt and added Ioka’s WBA scalp to his bedpost. That gives the Argentinian globetrotter one more belt than Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez if you are keeping score.

Of course, there isn’t a little man on this planet who would be favored over “Bam” at the moment, excepting Naoya Inoue who competes two divisions up at 122. The San Antonio southpaw was so impressive in dismantling Juan Francisco Estrada on July 29 that he stifled all talk of whether he belongs on the pound-for-pound list. The debate now is about his placement; how high should it be? But despite Bam’s towering presence in the 115-pound division, there are some good fights out there for him beginning with Martinez.

Kazuto Ioka brought quite a resume. The first fighter from Japan to win world titles in four weight divisions, he was 31-2-1 heading in with both losses by split decision and was appearing in his twenty-fifth world title fight. But Martinez showed no fear of him. He took the fight to Ioka and closed strong, winning by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and 116-112. (The 120-108 tally by California judge Edward Hernandez Sr was assailed as ludicrous; the fight was much closer than that…but there was no disputing the verdict, the right guy won.)

A fight with Bam Rodriguez, who was in attendance, would be the most lucrative for Fernando Martinez, but he has other options. WBO belt-holder Kosei Tanaka is out there as is former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Both are in action this month. Chocolatito (51-4, 41 KOs) fights this coming Friday on his home turf in Managua against Colombian journeyman Rober Barrera (27-5). Tanaka (20-1, 11 KOs) defends his belt on July 20 in Tokyo against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (25-2-1). Tanaka has won four straight since getting dominated and stopped by Ioka in 2020.

The outcome of the Ioka-Martinez bout was no surprise to Matt McGrain who previewed the contest in these pages. And, as McGain noted, Martinez doesn’t have much time left to build up his fan base outside South America and the Orient. His current record (17-0, 9 KOs) betrays the fact he turns 33 next week.

The smaller weight divisions have never attracted a large following in the United States, but that has something to do with a historical dearth of American-born fighters at the pinnacles. Bam Rodriguez is making even casual fans stand up and take notice and his ascent comes at a time when his division is percolating.

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