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Imagining Famous People as Prizefighters: Check Out Our Latest TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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In our latest quarterly survey, we asked our respondents this question: “What famous person — living or dead — could have been a successful boxer AND WHY?” The person picked could be a statesman, gangster, movie or TV star, business tycoon, or whatever, just so long as he or she was famous. More than 30 boxing notables weighed in with a selection. As is our custom, we have listed the respondents in alphabetical order.

JAMES AMATO-collector, author, writer, historian: For me it is Charles Bronson. You could see from his build he was dedicated to training. He also seemed to have that essential “killer instinct.” I think he would have been a rough customer. Honorable mentions to Robert DeNiro and Ryan O’Neal.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI-TSS writer: LeBron James. He is arguably the greatest athlete of our generation and could have succeeded at any sport he desired. If he had solely focused on boxing, who knows, there may never have been a Klitschko era in the heavyweight division.

DAVID AVILA-TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: I’d go with Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace. He seemed to relish the boxing game and recently trained and managed a fighter. As a player he was quick on the trigger and just a pretty good athlete.

BOB BENOIT-referee, judge, former fighter, founder of MA State Trooper Boxing Team: Robert DeNiro. I base my opinion on his hard work in training for the movie that showcased the life of Jake LaMotta. He worked his balls off to fill the part.

TRACY CALLIS-eminent boxing historian: I don’t know how well Sean Hannity, radio and TV talk show host, would do as a boxer, but he sure talks a lot about his MMA training and what he would do in certain circumstances (i.e., he would do such and such, wouldn’t take this, wouldn’t take that, etc.). It would be interesting to see what he really could do.

ANTHONY M. CARDINALE Esq.-famous defense attorney, boxing manager, advisor: I can think of only one guy, John Gotti. I was told by Tommy Gallagher, one of boxing’s good guys and a colorful character, that he would have been a great boxer but for that accident when he was a teenager that caused an injury to the toes on one foot that forced him to stop. He and Gotti grew up together in the same hardscrabble neighborhood in New York.

GUY CASALE-former fighter, retired detective: I believe Paul Newman would have been a successful boxer! His portrayal of Rocky Graziano in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” captured Rocky’s exact style. Moreover, Newman also demonstrated his athletic ability in other movies like “Slap Shot” where he portrayed a hockey player.

JILL DIAMOND-International Secretary, WBC: James Brown: Godfather of Soul. Hungry, agile, charismatic. Papa’s got a brand new bag!

BERNARD FERNANDEZTSS mainstay, lifetime Member of the BWAA, 2020 IBHOF inductee: I’ve always thought that tennis great Jimmy Connors played his sport like an Arturo Gatti-type fighter. He was pugnacious and played each point as if his life depended on it. I liked the way he hit the ball hard and flat, going for winners instead of playing a patient long game, waiting for his opponent to make an error. I could also go with tough-guy actor Stacey Keach who portrayed a worn-out fighter in “Fat City.” It helps that I thought he threw punches with correct form.

JERRY FITCH-writer, author, historian: Size and strength does not often translate to boxing skills. Few of those big tough guys could take a punch or had the coordination to succeed as a boxer. But one athlete that stood an excellent chance was former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown. Brown was a freak with a rare mixture of strength, speed, balance and toughness. The fact he never missed a game is testament to his toughness. During his career the opponents game plan always focused on Jim. He was gang tackled, punched, kicked, called names, had his eyes gouged and yet nobody ever really stopped him. Although most of his stats have long been surpassed (he only played nine years), his 5.2 average per carry and 104.3 yards per game numbers still rule. At Syracuse he earned ten varsity letters in football, lacrosse, track and field, and basketball. He is often called the greatest lacrosse player ever. Many call him the greatest athlete ever. He may very well have been –with the proper training — a very good boxer. I wouldn’t have bet against him.

JEFFREY FREEMAN-TSS writer: Boston Bruins Captain Zdeno Charo would’ve been a great fighter because he is a great fighter. The nearly seven-foot-tall defenseman is a feared enforcer ready to drop the gloves and battle on a moment’s notice. And “Z” deals out all that fear and intimidation while balancing on a sheet of ice. I can recall hearing that some of the Detroit Red Wings used to train boxing at KRONK gym. If Zdeno Chara had some formal training he’d surely beat Deontay Wilder.

CLARENCE GEORGE-boxing writer, historian: Matinée idol Errol Flynn athletically leaps to mind. He was a natural, as is made clear by the way he moves about the ring in his portrayal of Gentleman Jim Corbett in “Gentleman Jim” (1942). Mushy Callahan helped prepare him for the role, true, but Flynn had been a gifted boxer going back to at least his young manhood.

LEE GROVES-writer, author and man behind CompuBox: The first name that came to mind was Michael Jordan. At 6-feet-6 inches, he would have fit in nicely with today’s super-sized heavyweights and he boasted that enviable blend of elite athletic talent, a ferocious pursuit of perfection, a matchless mean streak and the ability to rise to the most pressurized situations. He would not have tolerated anything but the very best, either from himself or from those around him.

HENRY HASCUP-historian; President of the NJ Boxing Hall of Fame: Pele. He had everything a boxer needed. His endurance was outstanding, his footwork was second to none, his head movement was out of this world and I would bet his hands were as well!

DR. STUART KIRSCHENBAUMformer head of the Michigan Boxing Commission: Hockey is the only professional sport other than boxing in which fighting is allowed. In the 1980’s and 90’s Detroit Red Wings player Bob Probert was legendary for his fights. In fact, VHS tapes of collections of his best fights were best sellers. In boxing fighters take caution to tape their hands and must wear gloves…more so to protect their hands rather than the opponent’s face. In hockey when they fight they drop their gloves and hit anything they can including the hard helmet. I guess not much different than Hearns did hitting Hagler’s hard head. Probert being the most feared enforcer in hockey sought the help of legendary boxing trainer Emanuel Steward at the world famous Kronk Gym in Detroit…just a stone’s throw from the Joe Louis Arena. Emanuel had the reputation of training others other than boxers…such as actor Wesley Snipes and rapper Marshall Mathers better known as Eminem. Probert was a constant fixture at Kronk and learned the finer points of boxing from the great Emanuel Steward. Probert truly could have made the transition in Steward’s opinion and who to better know than Emanuel.

JIM LAMPLEY-linchpin of the HBO Boxing announcing team; 2015 IBHOF inductee: Mikhail Baryshnikov, universally hailed in his world as one of history’s greatest dancers, probably could have been a successful boxer. He had the self-assurance and the awareness to become a star in multiple cultures. He had athletic grace and fiercely practiced hand and foot skills. And most likely he had hardship early and the insatiable drive that often proceeds from that. Even if he had no power at all, Baryshnikov would win fights simply by being Baryshnikov.

ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: Fiorello LaGuardia, the three-term mayor of New York City (1934-1945) was a feisty little SOB. He certainly had the temperament to be a prizefighter. As the son of an Italian immigrant father and a Jewish mother, he would have undoubtedly been a big draw and he would have fed off the audience, ramping up his game. Plus, he had a name that rolled off the tongue and a cool nickname, and me – being an erstwhile club show ring announcer – would have loved to go back in time and get to introduce him: Fighting out of the blue corner, Fee-or-Ellll-O the Little Flowerrrrrr (pause) La Guardia.

RON LIPTON-NY and NJ Boxing Halls of Fame, writer, former fighter, retired police officer, pro referee: It would have to be Charles Bronson who maintained his physique and athleticism as displayed at age 54 in “Hard Times.” Jimmy Cagney also excelled in boxing and judo and would have made a decent fighter. Honorable mention would be Burt Lancaster who once punched former pro fighter Jack Palance so hard in the stomach he threw up. This happened on the set of “The Professionals” after Palance punched Lancaster in the arm. The gangster John “Sonny” Franzese, the TV actor powerful Leo Gordon as a 200lb cruiserweight, and politician Teddy Roosevelt come to mind as well.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE-author, UK barrister, contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Boxing: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Putin, a practitioner of the sport of judo, has a combination of ruggedness and the calculating mind of a chess player, the raw attributes required for an involvement in any form of combat sports including boxing.

DAVID MARTINEZboxing historian / dmboxing.com: Here are three candidates: Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, and Ryan O’Neal. But the question requires one, so it’s Ryan O’Neal. He was an outstanding amateur and competed in two Los Angeles Golden Gloves tournaments.  He had his own pro fighter, top welterweight Hedgemon Lewis. He was outstanding in the movie “The Main Event” with Barbra Streisand. With 100 percent focus and proper training, he would rise in boxing. I have seen short fight footage of him, a southpaw with promise and ring generalship.

ROBERT MLADINICH-former fighter, writer, author, actor, producer, retired detective, private investigator: Don’t laugh but my answer is Woody Allen. Check him out on You Tube boxing a kangaroo on an old variety show. He’s quick on his feet, has fast hands, and can throw a good punch. I see him as an effective but dull distance fighter. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis. He can do anything well if he puts his mind to it. He was sensational in “The Boxer.”

ERNEST MORALES (aka GINO FEBUS)-former fighter, writer, historian: There’s something about Harvey Keitel that suggests he could have been a Mickey Ward type. His gutsy demeaner and stone-cold piercing looks in movies such as “Cop Land” and “The Irishman”, for example, and his interviews.

 JOE PASQUALE-elite boxing judge: Ryan O’Neal in shape. Great power in either hand, great chin and quick reflexes

CLIFF ROLD-managing editor of Boxing Scene, writer, historian: Allen Iverson has the sort of athleticism, footwork, physical grit and explosiveness that probably would have translated well into boxing. He was generally good at every sport he tried.

FRED ROMANO-author, historian, and former ESPN researcher: Billy Martin, former player and manager of the New York Yankees. He was scrappy, as they used to say. Also had a big chip on his shoulder. I think he would come to fight, not dance. Might have made an entertaining lightweight or welterweight if he could cultivate discipline to match his intensity.

DANA ROSENBLATT-former world middleweight champion, commentator: If Dolph Lundgren counts as a famous person, then my vote goes to him. Not only did he have the physicality to potentially become a professional boxer, his intelligence is off the charts. Last time I checked, smarts means a lot as far as who wins in the ring. Read up on this guy. Lundgren may not be the most famous actor at the moment, however nobody can say “Ivan Drago who?” that was born before 1975. Great athlete and even greater mind.

TED SARES-TSS writer, historian: Charles Buchinsky, aka Bronson, grew up in a hardscrabble coal mining region of Pennsylvania amidst extreme poverty, was the 11th of 15 children, and later was a decorated combat veteran of World War Two. Film critic Stephen Hunter said that “Bronson ‘oozed male life-force, stoic toughness, capability, strength.’ and “always projected the charisma of ambiguity…” this background and an extraordinary and well-honed physique would have given him a solid platform for boxing. Serena Williams would be my next choice.

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY-manager, trainer, commentator, writer, historian, former light heavyweight world title challenger: I’ve never been one to believe that anyone could be a great boxer just because they were great in some other endeavor. Someone will see a great football player with speed and athleticism and take that to mean that they could also have been a great boxer. But there are too many intangibles. You could take the greatest athlete on Earth who is fearless on a football field or a basketball court but he gets in a boxing ring, gets his nose broken sparring, and never comes back. This is not for everybody. And you will never know until you actually get in there under extreme conditions if you can succeed. In many, many cases the most successful boxers are not the ones that those around him thought would be before they got in there.

ALAN SWYER- film producer, historian, director of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame: The music world’s gain was the boxing community’s loss when James Brown’s amateur ring career was cut short because of a leg injury. But given his moves on-stage, his explosiveness, and his remarkable stamina, I can’t see how anyone in his weight class could have stood up to him.

RICK TORSNEY-boxing official, former fighter:  Charles Bronson. Born in a PA coal mining town, the eleventh of fifteen siblings. His father died when Charles was ten and he went to work in the mines where he earned one dollar per ton of coal mined. His family was so poor that they sometimes had no food and he had to wear his sisters’ clothes. He worked in the mines until WWII when he joined the Army Air Force, where he served as a aerial gunner on a B29 Superfortress. He flew 25 mission over Japanese occupied Islands and he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Throughout the history of the sport, hungry fighters have been the best fighters. Bronson looked the part of a boxer and literally fought for his life during the war.

BOB TREIGER-writer, historian: Herschel Walker. This may be cheating because he did some MMA fighting. Walker had that rare combination of speed and power to go with his incredible athleticism and explosiveness. I don’t think he was ever less than 100-percent in great shape. Walker had to be disciplined as well. All that adds up to a successful boxer. If he’s not eligible because he did some MMA fighting, I’ll go with actor Charles Bronson because he was a tough SOB.

PETER WOOD- writer, author, former fighter:

Every mornin’ at the mine you could see him arrive
He stood six-foot-six and weighed two-forty-five
Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip
And everybody knew ya didn’t give no lip to big John
(Big John, big John)
Big bad John (big John)

Nobody seemed to know where John called home
He just drifted into town and stayed all alone
He didn’t say much, kinda quiet and shy
And if you spoke at all, you just said hi to Big John

{Big Bad John died prematurely.)

Now, they never reopened that worthless pit
They just placed a marble stand in front of it
These few words are written on that stand
At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man
Big John

A bit like Sonny Liston

OBSERVATIONS: Charles Bronson (pictured in a still from the movie “Hard Times”) led the pack with SIX mentions. Ryan O’Neal came in second with multiple mentions.

If I had to pick one that stands out, it would be Henry Hascup’s selection of Pele, though Jim Lampley’s choice of Mikhail Baryshnikov is intriguing as is Adeyinka Makinde’s selection of Vladimir Putin.

Iceman John Scully took a contrary perspective and makes a solid case.

Thanks to all.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Book Review

“Sparring with Smokin’ Joe” is a Great Look into a Great, Complicated Man

Phil Woolever

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BOOK REVIEW – Some rare moments arrive, as either a blessing or a curse, to cast definitive impressions of how someone might be remembered. As anyone reading this should well know, such a moment occurred 50 years ago today (March 8, 1971) at Madison Square Garden for Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

For Frazier, a punishing 15-round victory became the foundation to his legacy. That leads us to Sparring with Smokin’ Joe by Glenn Lewis, the latest biographical volume to focus on Frazier, with a timely release date close to the “Fight of the Century” anniversary that should provide plenty of solid promotional material for the book.

As a piece of literature the book, published by Rowman & Littlefield, stands up quite well on its own, and as a piece of boxing literature it stands out, through previously unpublished situational information on Frazier.

I found it to be a must-read for Frazier fans and a solid plus for most boxing libraries.

Author Lewis is a graduate school professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) and director of journalism at the affiliated York College with decades of expertise on his resume. This project is expertly constructed and reads very smoothly throughout. Beside the many insightful instances regarding Frazier himself, a very thoughtful portrait of his son Marvis Frazier runs through the narrative, which also conjures a vivid depiction of Frazier’s Broad Street Gym in North Philadelphia.

The book’s unique highlight is the ongoing tale of traveling with Frazier and his all-white band (with multiple Berklee school members) during a tour of southern states.

The first 140 pages or so (out of a listed 256), make up a fascinating memoir of getting to know Frazier and his circle during 1980, around four years after his second crushing defeat to George Foreman. At that point in his life, Frazier was trying to settle into retirement, guide Marvis’s culminating amateur career, and transition from boxing superstar to fledgling vocal attraction.

I devoured the opening sections of the book with reader’s glee, far more than enough to highly recommend Lewis’ book, but toward the end it seemed maybe he should have quit while and where he was ahead.

The last third gets substantially less engaging. The author grew distanced from his subject’s proximity and it shows, as the tale becomes far more familiar in relating already well-documented fight data.

There is still some fine perspective from Lewis like Joe’s hugely destructive obsession with rushing Marvis into disaster versus Larry Holmes, but for many of the closing segments you could cut and paste the same period of Frazier’s career out of Mark Kram Jr’s recent book Smokin’ Joe (2019) and gain a bit more personal touch.

That’s not at all to imply that the boxing writing is weak. Lewis makes an excellent case that Frazier won the rematch with Ali, not only the first fight; which leads to justified speculation on what could have occurred had Frazier gotten the second nod. Back then I shared Lewis’ opinion on the scoring, and his detailed analysis inspires taking another look at the replay.

Some minor gym characters or business associates become animated as if they’re standing in front of you, but I was disappointed in how a charming, complicated guy like Jimmy Young was overlooked and how larger-than-life characters like Gil Clancy and especially George Benton (a living example of where playwright August Wilson drew inspiration) came across rather subdued compared to the boisterous conversationalists I spoke with many times not long after the year Lewis’s story begins.

There are also a couple of minor omissions that, though based on very brief listings, still stick out when considering Lewis’s scholarly, journalistic credentials.

James Shuler is mentioned, but there’s nothing about his tragic death in a motorcycle accident a week after losing to Tommy Hearns in a minor title fight, nor the touching story about Hearns at the funeral, offering to put the belt in Shuler’s coffin. Frazier’s restaurant, Smokin’ Joe’s Corner, is also listed a couple times but there is no mention of the horrible murders that took place there during an inside job robbery and how that tragedy probably put the final nail into Frazier’s aspirations in the food industry.

I also hoped for some tidbits from Frazier’s thoughtful and wise older brother Tommy who provided me with some rare insights (and had an offbeat sense of humor about his name), a stoic trickster who seemed to lovingly enjoy putting his famous sibling on the spot.

Still, the overall impression I got was fantastic. A memoir should share time, location, emotion, and reflection. Lewis achieves all those things many times over.

Which leads to my primary, personal takeaway of this very worthwhile book. Based on a few of the lengthy encounters I was lucky enough to share with Joe Frazier (boxing and non-boxing related), it’s difficult for me to imagine that a canny observer like Lewis didn’t emerge from the amazing and enviable access he got with more wild tales, especially from nights on the road.

So, I’d have to guess, and bet, that Lewis let some of the more sensational situations or quotes remain aloft in the mist of the past, which to me is admirable, even more so in these social media dominated days.

Here’s a non-controversial quote that is included, which provides a sample of the many fine nuggets to be found:

“I don’t think you’re less of a man for crying,” said Joe, taking me by surprise. “It’s healthy for you. I cry if something goes wrong- I’ll cry right out. But if I cry out of anger, look out! Somebody’s in trouble. Crying shows a man has heart and helps him out of his pressures. Just don’t cry for nothing.”

I could almost hear Frazier’s voice when I read that, and descriptions of places I’ve been like Frazier’s gym read true enough to give the entire book an aura of accuracy.

A dozen excellent photographs serve as a first-class coda.

Fifty years after his biggest triumph, Joe Frazier remains a compelling topic in the discourse of sociological significance. This well written tribute does him plenty of justice.

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The Fight of the Century: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

Arne K. Lang

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In professional boxing, fights can be rank-ordered as generic fights, big fights, bigger fights, mega-fights, and spectacles. The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier wasn’t merely a spectacle, but the grandest spectacle of them all. This coming Monday, March 8, is the 50th anniversary of that iconic event.

Ali-Frazier I was staged at three-year-old Madison Square Garden, the fourth arena in New York to take that name. It drew a capacity crowd: 20,455 (19,500 paid). An estimated 60 percent of all the tickets sold fell into the hands of scalpers.

The fight was closed-circuited to more than 350 locations in the United States and Canada. At some of the larger venues, it established a new record for gate receipts, and this for an attraction that wasn’t produced in-house. In Los Angeles, 15,333 saw the fight at the Forum and 11,575 at the nearby Sports Arena.

Bill Ballenger, the sports editor of the Charlotte (NC) News, saw the fight at the Charlotte Coliseum. He reported that the audio – Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow with Burt Lancaster and Archie Moore serving as color commentators – was loud enough to be heard outside the arena and that many folks, either unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket, loitered outside and followed the action in 30 degrees weather.

An estimated three hundred million people saw the fight worldwide. In England, by some estimates, half the population tuned in, watching either at home on BBC1 or at a theater where one could watch the fight unfold on a movie screen. Now keep in mind that in England the fight didn’t commence until 6:40 in the morning on a Tuesday!

Inside Madison Square Garden, the large flock of celebrities included many folks one wouldn’t expect to find at a prizefight. Marcello Mastroianni, Italy’s most famous movie star, made a special trip from Rome. Salvador Dali was there and Barbra Streisand and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, seated next to her escort, crooner Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was there working as a photographer for Life magazine. Lore has it that Sinatra wangled the assignment after failing to boat one of the coveted ringside seats.

The scene was made brighter by human “peacocks,” the label applied to Harlemites with an outrageous sense of fashion, and the electricity was palpable. When Ali appeared at the back of the arena, making his way from his dressing room to the ring, everyone had goosebumps.

The late, great New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding a big heavyweight title fight and that was never more true than on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.

Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) were both undefeated. Both had a claim to the heavyweight title, Ali because the belt had been controversially stripped away from him for his political beliefs. Opinions as to who would win were pretty evenly divided. In Las Vegas, Joe Frazier was the favorite at odds of 6 to 5. Across the pond in England, bookies were quoting odds of 11 to 8 on Ali.

Those that favored Ali were of the opinion that ‘Smokin’ Joe was too one-dimensional. That much was true. Joe was as subtle as a steam locomotive on a downhill grade. He ate Ali’s hardest punches, said Boston Globe reporter Bud Collins, as if they were movie house popcorn and he eventually wore Ali down. There was little doubt as to how the judges would see it after Joe knocked Ali down in the 15th round with a frightful left hook. When Ali arose, it appeared that he had been afflicted with a sudden case of the mumps. The decision was unanimous: 11-4, 9-6, 8-6-1.

This wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was a fight that more than lived up to the hype. And, as several people have noted, the event took on a life of its own without the benefit of modern technology to push it along. The buzz was fueled in a large part by newspapers, the “antiquated” sort of newspapers that a fellow fished from his driveway or purchased at a newsstand on the way to or from work. If twitter and facebook had been around during Muhammad Ali’s prime, Ali would have blown the doors off the internet.

A cultural touchstone is an event that remains sealed in our memory. As we slide into old age, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we may not remember what we had for breakfast in the morning, but some long-ago events are as vivid as if they had happened just yesterday.

Boxing historian Frank Lotierzo has written poignantly about how overjoyed he was when he was surprised with the news that his father would be taking him to the fight. “To this day it remains the biggest thrill of my life!” wrote Lotierzo, who was then in the seventh grade. “And it’s not even close!”

I didn’t see the fight, but I can recall the faces of people that I overheard talking about it, people whose interest in the fight struck me as odd as I knew they had little interest in the world of sports. So, when the fight is replayed in its entirety on Sunday – it airs on ABC at 2 p.m ET and again at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN – I will be watching it for the first time. And it will be bittersweet as I will be reminded that I am in the twilight of my life and my thoughts will inevitably drift to my friends and loved ones that have left this mortal world in the years since that grand night in 1971 when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked horns in the Fight of the Century.

I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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