Watch: The Ring Report: Ring Rundown #WilderOrtiz2 #RuizJoshua2

In this all new Ring Report, host Beto Duran is joined by Omar Benson Miller of Ballers and veteran sports commentator Jonathan Coachman as they breakdown the heavyweight division, including what’s next for Tyson Fury and the two upcoming world title rematches: Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz and Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua.

The post Watch: The Ring Report: Ring Rundown #WilderOrtiz2 #RuizJoshua2 appeared first on The Ring.

The Travelin’ Man goes to Alberto Palmetta vs. Erik Vega: Part Two

Please click here to read Part One.

 

Friday, November 15 (continued): Entering the 10th and final round, the main event between once-beaten 2016 Argentine Olympian Alberto Palmetta and undefeated Mexican Erik Vega was a briskly-paced nip-and-tuck affair with multiple shifts of fortune. While the CompuBox numbers slightly favored the taller Vega (154-140 overall but only 123-120 power), the judges saw Palmetta ahead 87-84 (twice) and 86-85.

In virtually every fight that gets to a final round, whether it’s close or not, at least one chief second urges his charge to produce an all-out attack. Few do but the 29-year-old Palmetta was different; he sensed the moment and seized the opportunity in most emphatic fashion once he sensed he had hurt his 24-year-old opponent. Thanks to a furious and impressively accurate assault, referee Mark Nelson intervened and declared Palmetta the victor, raising his record to 13-1 (with 9 knockouts) while eroding Vega’s to 16-1 (with 9 KOs).

“I knew we were up on the scorecards,” Palmetta reportedly said after the fight. “We didn’t need the knockout but we wanted it. I had hurt him a couple of times in the fight but I didn’t follow up. In the 10th, I had him out on his feet. It was a good stoppage. He was done.”

The numbers illustrated the ferocity and the effectiveness of Palmetta’s final assault. In the 63 seconds that the 10th round officially lasted, Palmetta fired 59 punches to Vega’s 20, launched 56 power punches to Vega’s 15, led 51%-15% overall and 50%-7% power and prevailed 30-2 in total connects and 28-1 in landed power punches. That surge vaulted Palmetta to final leads of 170-157 overall and 148-124 power to offset Vega’s 33-22 edge in landed jabs. But while Palmetta was the more accurate hitter (25%-23% overall, 32%-27% power), Vega was more active as he averaged 74.7 punches per round to Palmetta’s 71.4 – both well above the 56.8 welterweight average. The CompuBox round-by-round breakdown of total connects – relevant because clean punching is a key judging factor – had Vega ahead 5-4 entering the final round, mostly because he threw more punches in seven of the nine rounds, including gaps of 114-88 and 100-84 in rounds eight and nine.

Alberto Palmetta (pictured) stopped Erik Vega in 10 (Photo by Dave Mandel/Showtime)

Alberto Palmetta (pictured) stopped Erik Vega in 10 (Photo by Dave Mandel/Showtime)

To his credit, Vega accepted the final result and even agreed with Nelson’s action.

“We don’t make excuses,” he reportedly said. “I believe the referee was right in stopping the fight. I think I need to practice more and I needed to throw more combinations. This was a great learning experience. We’ll go back to the drawing board and come back stronger.”

Vega is said to have modeled his style – and apparently his classy post-fight behavior – after Hall-of-Famer Ricardo Lopez (who, by the way, never lost a fight; his record was 51-0-1 with 38 knockouts). Inside the ring, there were elements of Lopez’s game in the Mexican’s approach – upright stance, high guard, tucked-in elbows, long and straight punches, subtle upper body movement – but he had nowhere near the single-shot power Lopez wielded. Palmetta’s southpaw stance and defensive skill limited Vega’s jab to 14% accuracy and while Vega landed frequently to the body (body shots made up 62 of Vega’s 157 total connects), his shots lacked the heft to seriously empty Palmetta’s gas tank the way Lopez’s body punches once had. Meanwhile most of Palmetta’s damage was done to the head (139 of his 170 total connects were targeted there) and despite not having fought more than six rounds in any of his previous fights, he proved that the power that had crafted a six-fight KO streak coming in was more than sufficient to add a seventh in the 10th round of a demanding fight against one of his best opponents to date. Palmetta also showed once more that his game travels well, for he lifted his record in the U.S. to 5-0, all by KO.

 

*

 

Perhaps Palmetta’s final-round surge was a reaction to what happened to countryman Marcos Escudero in the co-feature. Most observers – especially the Showtime broadcast team of Barry Tompkins, Steve Farhood and Raul Marquez – viewed Escudero as an easy winner over Joe George, but while judge Gloria Martinez saw Escudero ahead 96-94, she was overruled by Bob LaFratte and Carlos Sucre, who scored the bout 97-93 and 97-94 respectively for George.

The basis for the outrage was the vast difference in output favoring Escudero – 91.1 punches per round to George’s 54.5 – and his more sustained aggression. That aggression was at its peak in the first three rounds as he threw 135, 112 and 92 punches to George’s 58, 60 and 59, resulting in connect leads of 69-50 overall and 61-42 power. Incidentally the 135 punches Escudero unleashed in round one tied for the seventh most ever recorded by CompuBox in a light heavyweight fight with Nathan Cleverly’s fifth round effort against Karo Murat in September 2010.

Joe George (center). Photo credit: Dave Mandel/Showtime

Joe George (center). Photo credit: Dave Mandel/Showtime

While I agree that Escudero performed well enough to win – he led 6-4 in the CompuBox round-by-round breakdown of total connects – and while I disagree with the margins favoring George by LaFratte and Sucre, I can see how George could have been seen as a close winner in this fight (but not by margins of 97-93 or 97-94). First, George’s punches connected more cleanly and with more force than Escudero’s, an important factor in the pro game, and he managed to stun Escudero in round nine. Second, after Escudero’s quick start, George chipped away in rounds four through nine as he out-landed the Argentine in four of those six rounds and in three of the final four rounds leading up to round 10. Finally George not only was the harder hitter, he was the more accurate one as well as he prevailed 30%-19% overall, 25%-9% jabs and 32%-25% power. It was clear that LaFratte and Sucre preferred George’s precision and impact over Escudero’s sheer volume and if they saw enough of an edge through that prism to swing enough close rounds his way, then that could explain their math.

The 10th round was the clincher for me, for Escudero out-threw George by nearly two-to-one in total punches (106 to 58) and in power shots (82 to 48) while also out-landing him 26-20 overall, 4-2 jabs and 22-18 power. That surge enabled Escudero to extend his final leads to 177-161 overall and 146-119 power – not exactly a margin that would characterize a Sloan robbery of the scale of the first Zhora Hamazaryan-Thomas Mattice fight in July 2018. By the way, LaFratte judged that fight and he was the only jurist who had it right by seeing Hamazaryan a 77-74 victor.

To sum up – and with apologies to the late Texas senator and 1988 Vice Presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen – I was at Hamazaryan-Mattice I. I knew the first Hamazaryan-Mattice fight well. And, in terms of “robberies,” Escudero-George was no Hamazaryan-Mattice I.

 

*

 

While chatting with promoter/manager Samson Lewkowicz at ringside a few hours before the telecast, he spoke extremely highly of middleweight Amilcar Vidal, who, like Lewkowicz, is a native of Uruguay. He told me of the considerable time and effort he invested in the prospect and about the miraculous recovery Vidal made after being struck by a car while doing roadwork four years earlier. The accident shattered Vidal’s pelvis, left a long scar down his left arm and required two months of hospitalization as well as a year of rehabilitation. At first, the doctors treating him said he would never walk again, much less box, so his competing inside a ring in Sloan, Iowa, represented a major victory. Lewkowicz said that if any one fighter was going to steal the show, it was going to be Vidal, who sported a glossy 9-0 (with 8 KOs) record.

As usual, Sampson was right.

Following a period of gauging distance and leverage against the 9-0 (with 6 KOs) Zach Prieto, Vidal cashed in big in the late stages of round one. A swooping left hook/uppercut to the point of the chin scored the fight’s only knockdown, then, after Prieto was authorized to continue, Vidal prompted referee Mark Nelson to intervene with a power volley capped by a hook to the side of the head. It didn’t matter much that only one second remained in the round, for Nelson believed enough damage had been inflicted to warrant his move.

Amilcar Vidal (left) vs. Zach Prieto (Photo by Dave Mandel-Showtime)

Amilcar Vidal (right) vs. Zach Prieto (Photo by Dave Mandel-Showtime)

Up until the final moments, the fight had been relatively even in terms of statistics. However Vidal dropped the hammer in the last 60 seconds by out-landing Prieto 13-1 overall and 10-1 power to establish final leads of 22-14 overall, 6-5 jabs and 16-9 power as well as 39%-26% overall, 38%-29% jabs and 39%-24% power. The output was nearly even – Vidal led 57-55 in total punches thrown and 41-38 in attempted power punches – but Vidal did much more with his than Prieto and the result was the second consecutive “ShoBox” opener that ended in round one.

A recent trend with ShoBox telecasts has been to reward outstanding performers in co-featured bouts by inserting them into the main event the next time out. After Ruben Villa produced a sparkling eight-round decision victory over Ruben Cervera on the January 2019 ShoBox episode topped by Devin Haney’s 10-round victory over Xolisani Ndongeni, he was elevated to the top spot in his next appearance four months later and responded with another excellent victory over Luis Alberto Lopez. In April 2019, Xavier Martinez shined in blowing out John Moralde in three rounds on the Angelo Leo-Neil John Tabanao broadcast and followed with a 21-second crushing of Jessie Cris Rosales just two weeks ago. However lightweight Michael Dutchover, who crushed Rosekie Cristobal in just 106 seconds on the Villa-Lopez undercard, headed a show in his hometown of Midland, Texas, and was stopped in eight by Thomas Mattice. Will Vidal be granted a similar opportunity a few months down the road? And will he follow the path set by Villa and Martinez or will he suffer the fate of Dutchover? We might see these answers sometime in 2020.

 

*

 

After grabbing a sub sandwich and a small bag of Cheetos from the production office, Andy Kasprzak, stage manager Mike Shea and I hustled out to Andy’s rental car and returned to the crew hotel. As is always the case, my night’s work wasn’t quite over as I needed to input the night’s numbers into the master database, then send the files to the Draft Kings people as part of their year-long picks contest. Because I took my time consuming my bounty – and because it usually takes me a while to wind down from working a show – I didn’t turn out the lights until 2:45 a.m.

 

Saturday, November 16: I awakened after five somewhat uneasy hours of rest and slumber but the morning routines helped restore my energy level enough to crank out plenty of words on the laptop. For me, there is something about the writing process that condenses my sense of time and just before I reached what I felt was a good stopping point, I realized that I was mere minutes away from the agreed-upon 10:30 a.m. meeting time for our carpool to the airport. Andy, Mike and I were to be on the same 12:37 p.m. flight to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and, as expected, all of us arrived in the lobby on time. But while we three were appropriately punctual, it became evident that Sioux City’s airport wasn’t quite ready to receive us – or anyone else. The proof: Even at this relatively late hour of the morning, the security screening area was unstaffed and gated shut.

Stimulating conversation has a way of melting the time away, and most of it was spent with Andy and Mike as well as with technical wizard Paul Tarter (the man who makes sure our CompuBox laptops are electronically melded with the production truck, among other duties). However once the security area opened and we were summoned to form a line, I learned that many of the usual TSA Pre-Check privileges I need were not in play.

For the uninitiated, passengers with TSA Pre-Check have the benefit of expedited screening procedures; we can leave our shoes and light jackets on, our laptops inside our bags, our liquids inside our luggage and we walk underneath simple metal detectors instead of submitting to the full-body scanning machines. But here, I had to unpack everything and, as a result, I had to use five trays to accommodate this protocol (one tray each for my two laptops, one for my liquids, one for my windbreaker jacket and one tray for my shoes. The total would have been seven but the TSA allowed me to place my laptop bag and my clothes bag directly on the conveyor belt and I was allowed to keep my cell phone, change and other metallic items inside my laptop bag. Needless to say, it took me quite a while to disassemble and reassemble my belongings and I was intensely aware of how my lengthy process was affecting those behind me in line. Thankfully none of them said a word.

Although my situation was bad enough, Paul’s was even worse, thanks to the numerous devices inside his various bags. Between me and Paul, we were endangering the availability of trays for the other passengers but we somehow passed through without further upsetting the apple cart.

Although my ears continued to pop during the Sioux City-to-Chicago leg, I experienced none of the pressure inside my head that I felt two days earlier. While Andy had to dash away to his connecting flight to Boston, Mike and I had several hours to kill before our respective flights to LaGuardia and Pittsburgh, so we decided to indulge in a leisurely lunch.

Every so often, I have witnessed and experienced episodes in life that can only be explained by something beyond. Longtime readers of this column know that these circumstances happen often with me on these trips and I choose to believe that a newly-coined word, “Godwink,” adequately captures my sentiment. According to one online dictionary, a Godwink is “an event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it is seen as a sign of divine intervention, especially when perceived as the answer to a prayer.”

Unlike the others, however, this episode wasn’t mine – it was Mike’s. In retrospect, the first seed was planted a few hours earlier at the Sioux City airport’s waiting area when Mike, Andy and I were discussing Super Bowl champions of the past. Mike said that when he was growing up, the horrific performance of his home team (the New York Giants) in the 1970s prompted the need for he and his brothers to choose other teams to support. Mike chose the Pittsburgh Steelers while one of his siblings chose the Oakland Raiders and a third, a half-brother, was a strong supporter of the Minnesota Vikings – all of whom played in the Super Bowl during the decade. For some reason my mind retained this conversational nugget.

After deplaning in Chicago, I looked at a nearby electronic board to assess possible places to have lunch. Since our gates were in Terminal H, the one that caught my eye was the Chicago Cubs Bar and Grill located at the Rotunda and I suggested we go there if nothing else caught our eyes. Nothing did, so when we arrived, Mike asked, “Why don’t we eat here?”

We found a table but, after a few minutes, we decided to move to another one so we would be seen more easily by the servers. While I took a seat with my back to the rest of the restaurant, Mike was facing in the opposite direction.

A few minutes after repositioning ourselves, Mike looked down at his phone and read a text that caused his face to crinkle in confusion.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I think I just got a text from my brother,” he replied.

“What does it say?” I said.

“It says, ‘Are you at O’Hare?’ How does he know I’m at O’Hare?”

We soon found out why: His half-sibling, John Paoletti – the brother who had chosen to follow the Minnesota Vikings as a youth – was seated just three tables directly in front of ours. They had not seen one another in more than four years and neither had any idea the other was traveling through Chicago on this day. Needless to say, it was a most happy and unexpected reunion.

For this to happen, many circumstantial gears had to lock into place. Consider:

* JT Townsend is the stage manager for most of the ShoBox cards but Mike was summoned to work the Sloan show because JT was committed to work a New Jersey Devils telecast.

* O’Hare has 137 places where one can eat, including 21 in Terminal H and 10 in the Rotunda. We could have chosen any of the other 20 in the terminal and any of the other nine in the Rotunda but, because I was in the mood to have hot dogs once I scanned the electronic board, I suggested to Mike that we go to this one restaurant that was in close proximity to both of our gates. Mike could have rejected my suggestion and, because I tend to be accommodating, I probably would have gone along with whatever other option he chose. But here, he happened to stay with mine.

* The area inside the restaurant is rather large and there were plenty of empty tables from which to choose. After picking our first table, we changed our minds and moved to another about five feet over – a table that was better positioned in relation to where John was sitting.

* It was fortuitous that Mike was looking toward the front of the restaurant bar when we changed tables instead of me, for had the positions had been reversed, John would not have been able to see – or recognize – Mike’s face.

* The time window was very tight; John flew into O’Hare from Greensboro, North Carolina, at 1:10 p.m. and was preparing to catch a flight to his adopted home in Anchorage, Alaska, that was supposed to depart at 2:55. John had just finished his own meal when he spotted Mike and they had enough time not just to re-connect but to catch up.

What a wonderful story. And I thank the both of them for giving me permission not only to tell it but also to snap this picture:

Mike Shea (left) and John Paoletti. Photo credit: Lee Groves

Mike Shea (left) and John Paoletti. Photo credit: Lee Groves

Mike and John texted their seven other siblings in their blended family and every one of them expressed surprise and astonishment.

When God winks, He does so in a most powerful way.

I was looking forward to the Chicago-to-Pittsburgh leg because one day earlier, I learned that I had been upgraded to First-Class. The only drawback was that I was seated in row one, which meant that I had to store both bags in the overhead bin. No matter, I dug out my book and prepared to settle in for the hour-long journey toward “The Steel City.”

However I didn’t have a chance to read more than a page thanks to my seatmate, a vice president of sales at IBM with a passion for college football (especially Notre Dame football since he’s an alum) and for the English Premier League (especially Liverpool). Our mutual love of sports in general instantly broke the ice and created a nice bond over the course of the next hour.

Saturday evening traffic was light, so I returned home just two hours and 15 minutes after I began. As I write this, I have only one more trip scheduled for 2019 – a “Showtime Championship Boxing” card that will feature Gervonta Davis versus Yuriorkis Gamboa at lightweight and Jean Pascal versus Badou Jack for Pascal’s “interim” WBA light heavyweight title. Happily the host city – Atlanta – will be far away from the snow belt.

Until then, happy trails!

 

*

 

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 16 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves about a personalized autographed copy, use the email l.groves@frontier.com or send him a message via Facebook.

 

 

 

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On this day: Roy Jones Jr. comes of age with dominating decision triumph over James Toney

On November 18, 1994 Roy Jones Jr. challenged IBF super middleweight titleholder James Toney at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Billed as “The Uncivil War”, the bout was a pay-per-view attraction that was expected to rival its superfight predecessors. What fans were treated to, however, was a dazzling and virtuoso display by Jones, who dominated the action from beginning to end. In this battle of unbeatens, the Pensacola star was credited for a knockdown in Round 3 and he would ultimately prevail via wide 12-round unanimous decision. Scores were 119-108, 118-109 and 117-110.

Jones scored with sharp single shots from the outside. Photo from The Ring archive

And held his own on the inside. Photo from The Ring archive

And the NEW. Photo from The Ring archive

 

 

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Callum Smith to target Canelo, GGG and rival titleholders if he passes mandatory test against John Ryder

He’s at the peak of his powers and owns plenty of hardware, but there’s the overwhelming feeling that Callum Smith has so much more left to accomplish.

The Liverpool-born super middleweight is The Ring Magazine champion, the WBA titleholder and an Ali trophy winner. He came of age with a seventh-round body shot knockout of countryman George Groves in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last September in the WBSS final. It was a historic triumph that rubber-stamped him as the finest 168-pounder in the world.

 

Over the last year, however, Smith has clocked in for work just once. Big fights against the likes of Canelo Alvarez were mentioned but failed to transpire, and the 29-year-old boxer-puncher was forced to stay busy with a shuddering third-round stoppage of veteran Hassan N’Dam on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz undercard in June.

“It wasn’t the fight I wanted, but I said beforehand that it was all about the performance because the win was expected,” said Smith in a recent interview with The Ring. “The performance is what makes people stand up and speak about me and it went exactly to plan. I scored three knockdowns and the last one was something we worked on in camp, which is always good.

“You never know how you’re gonna feel when you get in there after a long layoff, but it was a good camp and I had a lot of good sparring. I felt sharp going in there, it was my first time fighting as a world champion and I’m confident in my own ability. I know how good I am, but I need to impress because everyone is looking at the performances. There was some added pressure, but I thrive on pressure.”

Callum Smith bombs Hassan Ndam with a fight-ending right cross. Photo by Matthew Heasley

Next up for Smith (26-0, 19 knockouts) is a WBA mandatory assignment against John Ryder at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Saturday. The 31-year-old lefty from London is a solid operator, but he’s a natural middleweight who moved up in 2017. At 6-foot-3, Smith is enormous for a 168-pounder, and he’ll enjoy a six-inch height advantage and a six-inch reach advantage. Ryder (28-4, 16 knockouts) has his work cut out for him and that’s putting it mildly.

“He’s a good fighter, he’s a hungry fighter and he’s on a good run of form,” said Smith in earnest. “He’s coming off a few good wins, and he seems to be a better fighter at super middleweight. He’s earned his shot, it’s a mandatory defense and he’s worked hard to get here. I’ve got to expect the best possible version of him, or even better than what we’ve seen previously. But my mentality is to focus on myself, and if the best version of me turns up, I believe I’m good enough to beat anyone. I’m expecting a big performance from John, but a big performance from myself beats any version of him.

“This should be a special night for me. I love fighting at home and I haven’t done it for a few years now. When I turned professional, the goal was always to bring a world title back to the city and I’m living the dream now, so to speak. The Liverpool fans have been supporting me from day one. Some of them were there for my debut, but they never got a chance to see me win my world title. Now they’ll have a chance to see me up-close in a title defense and it’s my way of thanking them for all the support over the years.”

(From left to right) Smith, promoter Eddie Hearn and John Ryder. Photo by Matthew Pover

With Smith residing in the super middleweight division, he remains a tantalizing superfight opponent for Canelo and Gennady Golovkin. Both of those fighters have prevailed in recent weeks: Canelo in a historic WBO light heavyweight title triumph over Sergey Kovalev earlier this month, and Golovkin in a fight of the year candidate against Sergiy Derevyanchenko, which saw him pick up the vacant IBF middleweight belt in October.

“I thought (Golovkin-Derevyanchenko) would be competitive stylistically, but I didn’t think it would be as close as what it was,” acknowledged Smith. “I thought it would be similar to Derevyanchenko-Jacobs; a good competitive fight where Jacobs was always a step ahead. I thought Golovkin would be the same. Derevyanchenko is a tough fight for anyone with his physique and his style; he’s always on you, but I didn’t expect it to be that close. Whether that’s credit to (Derevyanchenko) or Golovkin’s age, we’ll have to wait and see with Golovkin’s next performance.

“(Canelo-Kovalev) didn’t live up to what people were expecting. It wasn’t the best of fights, but it was two top fighters in against each other and that’s always good for boxing fans. The finish was what a lot of people were waiting for, it was a spectacular finish and you’ve got to give Canelo credit, whether Kovalev is over the hill or not. Canelo’s just gone up to 175 pounds and beat a genuine world champion at that weight, so you’ve got to take your hat off to him.”

Boxing history is replete with examples of established world champions never securing the ultimate showdown, that multi-million-dollar superfight that makes the world stop. But with Smith, one has the feeling that it’s just a matter of time. He’s the No. 1 super middleweight on the planet, he’s in his prime, he’s unbeaten and he’s Ring Magazine champion. You can’t be much bigger in your division, so someone’s sure to flip open the checkbook and start filling in the zeros sooner or later. The main thing is to keep winning.

Smith’s biggest night so far was his seventh-round destruction of George Groves. Photo by AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images

“I want the big fights, the big names, the exciting fights that motivate me,” reiterated Smith. “I’ve always said that people will see the best of me when I’m in against the best in my weight category, whether it’s one of the other champions or your Canelos or Golovkins. I’ve ticked the box of becoming a world champion, so now it’s about being involved in massive fights. I’ve got a good team around me and the best people to make these fights happen. I’m not looking past John Ryder, but a win opens up some massive doors for 2020. Not only will people get to see how good I am, but I get to prove to myself how good I am. I’ve achieved what I have so far, but I don’t feel that I’ve shown my full ability just yet.

“I’d love to unify and see how many of the belts I could get. As a little boy, they’re what I wanted. The three champions: (Billy Joe) Saunders, (David) Benavidez and (Caleb) Plant, they’re all good fighters and very tough fights, but they’re fighters that I believe I have the beating of. Canelo and Golovkin don’t hold belts in my weight division, but the man on the street knows them, they’re bigger names and they’re bigger hyped, high-profile fights. If one of those five fights can be made, then I’ll be happy. I’m not at a weight where all fights lead to one fight. There are a lot of fights there for me and it should be easier to make just one of them, so that’s the plan for 2020.”

Smith vs. Ryder plus undercard action will be broadcast live on DAZN in the U.S. and on Sky Sports in the U.K.

 

Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

 

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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (boxers you love to hate, Inoue vs. Nery, Crawford & Taylor’s P4P rankings)

FAVORITE HEELS

Hi Doug,

Was up late watching classic fights and, randomly, I ended up watching Naz vs Kelley, Trinidad vs Mayorga, and Cotto vs Margarito II (I was there for both of these live) in that order. Midway through the last fight I realized I was watching some of the greatest boxing heels of my generation. So…. Who are your favorite boxers that as a fan you love to hate?

Mythical Matchups:

Erik Morales v Tank Davis at 130

Tommy Hearns vs Sergio Martinez at 154/60

Keep up the good work. – Alan

Thank you, Alan.

Interesting mythical matchups. I’ll go with El Terrible by competitive but clear UD (after experiencing wobbly moments early in the fight) and The Hitman by mid-round KO (at 154) and competitive but clear UD (at 160).

Interesting question about boxing “heels” (you’ve got an interesting boxing mind, dude). I recognized the “heel” genius of both Naseem Hamed and Ricardo Mayorga – two natural showmen that could have earned respect as pro wrestlers if they were 70 pounds heavier – and witnessed with morbid fascination Antonio Margarito’s transformation from hardnosed grinder to “evil incarnate” thanks to the hardcore boxing community’s and sports media’s faux outrage and condemnation following “Wrapgate,” however I liked each man on a person-to-person level, and enjoyed watching them fight. So, I can’t say that any of those three were “boxers that I loved to hate.”

Hector Camacho finally lived up to his “Macho” nickname by lasting 12 rounds with a punishing Julio Cesar Chavez on September 12, 1992 in Las Vegas. Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Hector Camacho Sr. is a boxer I admired while in his prime but grew tired of once his “Macho Man” persona outshined his ring accomplishments by the late 1980s/early ‘90s. He started to irk me when, by the end of the ‘80s, he was making a big deal out of

his unbeaten record (36-0 at the close of the decade) and disparaging potential rivals (Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor) in interviews that I read in my favorite boxing magazines. I was kind of glad when Greg Haugen upset him in 1991, but I can’t say that I ever “hated” him. There was always something about his cheeky personality that amused me, even though his fights were becoming increasingly uneventful as the ‘90s progressed. (I didn’t even bother watching his PPV showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez, I knew that was going to be an ugly, extended beatdown.) But I admired his ability to last the distance with in-their-prime elite badasses like Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya in the middle-to-late parts of the decade.

Camacho made good money getting beat up by De La Hoya in a PPV main event (1997), and I think Floyd Mayweather Jr. took a page from his book by developing the “Money” persona for his showdown with the now-past prime Golden Boy ten years later, but the savvy Michigan native took it to the next level by being far more dedicated to the sport. Still, as much as Money and his clueless fans got on my nerves, I can’t say that he was a boxer “I loved to hate,” because I didn’t love watching him fight by the time he entered the welterweight division. (I was an avid fan of his during his years as a junior lightweight and lightweight.) I became disillusioned with Floyd during his 140-pound pitstop and couldn’t stand him during his 147-pound run.

Mike Tyson had a strong “bad boy” image during the 1990s, and he certainly had his “haters” and detractors among the mainstream media and fandom throughout that decade, but while I was often critical of the troubled Brooklynite (which brought on the ugly wrath of his nutty fans) I never hated him. He was clearly in a lot of emotional pain, so I mostly felt sorry for him.

Maybe the closest boxer I can say that I “loved to hate” was British enigma Chris Eubank Sr. I was fascinated with his cocky and dramatic personality/persona, entertained by his elaborate ring entrances and quirky interviews, and I occasionally enjoyed watching him fight (when he was in tough vs. Nigel Benn, Graciano Rocchigiani, and a few others). However, I was often bored with his many super middleweight title defenses (which the Showtime network would broadcast on tape delay in the U.S., and I thought he was lucky to retain that WBO 168-pound belt against some rather ordinary challengers, such as Ray Close).

He had a uniquely unorthodox boxing style to say the least; he could exhibit raw athleticism and explosive skill or just stink out round after round with backpedaling and bizarre posing. But his talent was undeniable, and he had a tremendous heart and chin. I was drawn to him but often repelled at the same time, so I guess you could say I “loved to hate” Eubank Sr., who claimed to be “Simply the Best” (and always confidently strutted to the ring to that song by Tina Turner). But, still, “hate” seems too strong a word.

 

INOUE VS. NERY

Hi, Dougie. First time writing to the mailbag from Brazil. Congrats for the good work.

I’m still amazed by the Inoue-Donaire showdown. Just think Nonito secured once and for all his place in Canastota, while Inoue showed to have incredible heart, desire, and the tools to overcome a very difficult situation.

But, despite his monstrous punching power and his good set of skills, I have a feeling he wouldn’t win if he faces Luis Nery. The Mexican guy has a hard chin, good fundamentals, more experience. Sometimes, he looks like a beast. I saw you and other (almost everyone) saying Inoue would beat Nery via late stoppage, and I just want to ask you why.

MM:

Prime Rigo vs Loma at featherweight

Arguello vs Mayweather at super light

Monzón vs GGG

Thanks. – Andre

I’ll go with Loma by competitive but clear UD, Mayweather by close, maybe majority/split decision, and Monzon by close but clear UD (especially if fought over 15 rounds). Thanks for finally sharing your thoughts with the mailbag community, Andre.

Luis Nery attacks the rib cage of Arthur Villanueva. Photo by German Villasenor

Regarding a potential Inoue-Nery showdown, it would be an epic fight. Inoue is The Ring Magazine/IBF-WBA unified champion, but Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) is a former Ring/WBC titleholder who is currently The Ring’s No. 1-rated bantamweight. The Tijuana native is a powerhouse at 118 pounds. He’s a relentless, two-fisted southpaw boxer-puncher. There’s no doubt that he’d test Inoue, perhaps as much as Donaire did, but the hunch here is that the Japanese star’s clear edge in punching technique would enable him to clip the forward-charging Nery on his way inside.

As punishing as Nery is, he tends to swing wide with most of his punches, sometimes over-committing to his offense, which I (and many others) believe would leave him open for Inoue’s sharp-shooting. Straight punches generally beat arcing shots when the boxers have equal speed/athleticism (and Inoue looks to be a little bit quicker than Pantera).

 

CRAWFORD’S P4P PLACEMENT

Dougie,

You have to help me understand Terence Crawford. Let me preface this by saying, I am not a hater. Not at all. I think he’s one of the best boxers in the game today. But, I cannot understand why he’s still ranked at the top of the P4P list. I’m not a person that gets riled up by these types of lists, but as someone who jumped onto the Crawford bandwagon after the Gamboa fight I have to say I just don’t get it. Again, there’s no denying his skillset, but who has he fought? I understand these things are not always under a fighter’s control and all you can do is beat the guy in front of you, but does he have a signature win? It’s been 5 years and I’ve been begging the boxing gods to give this guy a challenge. I want to see it, not because I think he’ll be “exposed” but because I want him to take his place boxing elite.

Canelo may have escaped with a controversial victory against GGG and yeah maybe Krusher was a little over the hill but I can’t say Bud has fought anyone comparable. Maybe he’s content letting Arum make whatever fights are available but at a certain point doesn’t he need to push for a real challenge? – BR in Oxnard

Of course, Crawford needs a challenge in order to keep hold of his lofty status at the top of most pound-for-pound rankings. He hasn’t had one since moving to the welterweight division last June. That’s why he’s recently been surpassed by both Canelo Alvarez and Naoya Inoue in the mythical ratings. Crawford’s last two bouts have come against unrated welterweight title challengers – Jose Benavidez Jr. and Amir Khan. Alvarez’s last two bouts have been a middleweight title unification showdown vs. Danny Jacobs (The Ring’s No. 2-rated 160 pounder at the time) and light heavyweight title challenge to Kovalev (The Ring’s No. 2-rated 175 pounder at the time). Inoue’s last two bouts were bantamweight title unification bouts against Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire (both The Ring’s No. 3-rated 118 pounders at the time), which earned him The Ring Magazine championship and the WBSS Muhammad Ali trophy.

Crawford captured the vacant Ring lightweight championship with a 12-round decision over Raymundo Beltran in November 2014.

However, just because Crawford is currently at the mercy of boxing’s divisive business practices doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his “elite boxer” status. He’s won world titles in three divisions en route to a 35-0 record. He’s the first boxer to win all four major sanctioning organization titles (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) at 140 pounds. And he’s a complete boxer-puncher who has dominated all of his opposition. That’s why fans and media rate him so highly.

Again, there’s no denying his skillset, but who has he fought? Come on, man. Are you really going to pretend that Yuriorkis Gamboa is the only name on his resume worth mentioning? He earned The Ring’s championship belts at 135 and 140 pounds because he climbed to the top of both rankings and took on the best or second best fighters (Ray Beltran and Viktor Postol) in those respective divisions.

I understand these things are not always under a fighter’s control and all you can do is beat the guy in front of you, but does he have a signature win? Take your pick: Gamboa, Postal, Beltran, Ricky Burns, Julius Indongo, Jeff Horn. If those names aren’t good enough, you’ll just have to wait until Al Haymon and the PBC are willing to allow one of their top welterweights to cross the street, or for the top junior welterweights (Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis) to step up in weight.

It’s been 5 years and I’ve been begging the boxing gods to give this guy a challenge. Gamboa, Postol and Indongo were all supposed to be challenges for Crawford.

I want to see it, not because I think he’ll be “exposed” but because I want him to take his place boxing elite. Most of us think he’s already there.

 

TWO QUESTIONS

Evening Dougie (evening where I live),

Two questions would love to make the mail bag.

  1. Saw in recent Ring Rankings article that Josh Taylor was denied a top ten P4P ranking – I really enjoy the articles showing discussions about Ring Rankings and I’d love to know why he’s not ranked (understand that this is mythical but I find it hard to be objective – personally have him ranked 8th)
  2. Julian Williams has said he will not fight anyone without 3 months VADA testing. I admire this but is he at risk of being stripped if his mandatory refuses this? We’ve seen sanctioning bodies be quick to strip (IBF in particular – see Canelo, GGG etc., etc.) for very little reason. I’d hate to see a great champion with such admiral morals lose what he’s worked for.

Thanks for taking the time to read, the mail bag has given me a greater appreciation for the sweet science…it makes Monday and Friday much more enjoyable. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

Thanks for sharing your questions with us, Euan.

Regarding Williams’ understandable PED-testing demands, I don’t believe it will be a problem because I don’t see anybody in the 154-pound division with enough star power and clout to blow it off. You know what I’m sayin’? Who’s going to pull rank on the newly crowned dual beltholder? (The PPV-level Divas who once occupied the division, Mayweather, Cotto and Canelo, are long gone.)

The IBF’s highest ranked contender is Carlos Adames and there’s no way the 25-year-old Dominican would deny himself a shot at two world titles by refusing a three-month testing window. And if a more prominent junior middleweight, such as former titleholders Jarret Hurd and Jermell Charlo, or fellow beltholders (Tony Harrison and Jaime Munguia) refused an extra month of testing they would INSTANTLY find themselves under the harshest of scrutiny from both fans and media. They don’t want that. And if they do, most fans will just consider that a “duck,” an embarrassing way of avoiding a fight with J-Rock.

Saw in recent Ring Rankings article that Josh Taylor was denied a top ten P4P ranking – I really enjoy the articles showing discussions about Ring Rankings and I’d love to know why he’s not ranked (understand that this is mythical but I find it hard to be objective – personally have him ranked 8th). Yeah, Taylor makes my personal mythical ratings (either No. 9 or 10) and he certainly had my vote to crack The Ring’s official pound-for-pound rankings, along with fellow editors Tom Gray and Brian Harty, but the majority of the Ratings Panel denied him for a variety of reasons (none of which I agreed with).

I didn’t have time to post a Ring Ratings Update article between the Taylor-Prograis and Canelo-Kovalev fights because I was too busy putting the January 2020 edition of the magazine to bed and dealing with all the Las Vegas fight-week events and such, but since we’re coming off a light boxing weekend and thus have relatively short Monday mailbag, I’ll post some of the Editorial Board/Ratings Panel’s pound-for-pound debate following the Tartan Tornado’s terrific WBSS 140-pound final winning performance starting with his fellow Scotsman, Tom Gray, who covered the event:

Josh Taylor prevailed against Regis Prograis in a modern classic. Photo by Damon Gonzalez / LatinBox

“In 16 fights, Josh Taylor has won a world title, unified world titles, picked up the vacant Ring championship at 140 pounds and took the Muhammad Ali trophy,” said the proud Scotsman who would have pushed equally hard for Prograis’ pound-for-pound inclusion had the American won.

“As I said in a Tweet midweek, his last four opponents had a combined record of 94-1 (the only loss was Viktor Postol’s to Terence Crawford) coming in.

“Taylor has been rated by The Ring at junior welterweight since July 2017 when he outclassed Ohara Davies. He has gone from strength to strength and just defeated a world champion, who was probably in the 11-15 range pound-for-pound. While the bout was extremely competitive, I didn’t encounter a single fan or media member that thought Prograis won, so the best way to describe that victory is close but clear.

“Taylor is the first Scotsman to win a Ring championship in 49 years, he’s the first Scotsman to unify world titles in 48 years and, in my opinion, he should be the first Scotsman to enter the pound-for-pound top 10 since the list was created in 1989. But I’m not waxing lyrical because Taylor is my countryman. I fought hard for Beterbiev and the closest I’ve been to Russia is Rocky IV. Geography doesn’t mean a thing here. Taylor’s quality is what’s paramount and that is undeniable.

“I can see Taylor as high as No. 7, but he MUST enter the ratings the way I see it. Apologies, I love the guy, but Pacquiao has had his kicks. It’s time for the new blood.”

Panelist Tris Dixon, who pushed for Beterbiev’s pound-for-pound rankings, respectfully disagreed.

“Nice argument, Tom, but it’s a no from me for P4P,” Dixon said. “Beterbiev is in a similar position but the Gvozdyk win is better and Pacquiao over Thurman is also better.

“I see what you’re saying on the whole, but Taylor is just outside for me, probably along with the likes of Wilder and Fury. Terrific fight and certainly not offended if he goes in but I wouldn’t put him top 10 based on Prograis and Postol, Barnchyk and Martin.

“Now, get your Braveheart make up on, pick up your sword and unleash hell in my direction!”

Gray did just that.

“Around the top level, it’s always going to be a matter of inches on this debate. The talk at the post-fight presser by some members of the media was Taylor’s inclusion was a no-brainer.

“While I agree that Beterbiev’s win was of a similar ilk to Taylor’s, I view the Scot as having the better resume at this point and his ability is obvious. I accept your opinion on Taylor’s past four wins, but what are Beterbiev’s top four? Are they better?

“Pacquiao, as I said at the time, pulled off a remarkable victory for a 40-year-old, but Thurman was looking below par. He’d been injured and was pretty inactive. I picked him to beat an older Pac but did so with trepidation for those reasons. Prograis entered the Taylor fight as an unbeaten bad ass, in his prime, with the world at his feet and he was pre-fight favorite. I’d suggest with confidence that he was viewed by the majority of fans and media as a better fighter than Gvozdyk and Thurman BEFORE he lost last night.

“PS I wouldn’t put Deontay Wilder in the same sentence as Josh Taylor in a pound-for-pound debate. FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Panelist Adam Abramowitz chose the legendary Filipino fighter over the emerging Scottish star.

“I would keep Pacquiao at 10,” Abramowitz said. “Great performance from Taylor. He’s on the cusp.”

Panelist Anson Wainwright agreed with Dixon and Abramowitz.

“I wouldn’t have Taylor in (the pound-for-pound ratings) just yet, either,” he said. “(Taylor-Prograis was an) excellent fight and Taylor’s done so well. However, for me I still want him to fight (Jose) Ramirez; that fight will decide the undisputed champ. Taylor may well be our next guy in but think he still needs to do a bit more. The guy to drop out would be Pacquiao and I view Pacquiao’s win over Thurman as better than anything Taylor has done coupled with his outstanding career.”

Gray didn’t accept Wainwright’s reasoning and took a few swings at the mercurial nature of the pound-for-pound criteria.

“I’m down a few rounds here, but I’m being forced to channel my inner Benny Lynch determination:

“I don’t think being undisputed champion should suddenly be a prerequisite for pound-for-pound inclusion. If it is then we need to tear our current list to pieces.

“Taylor beat THE RING’s No. 1 at 140, the guy WE thought was the best – not a faded ex-champ or champ, but a fellow world titleholder in his prime, who was there on merit. That’s everything boxing should be. Taylor will open as a big favorite to beat Ramirez. He just defeated the guy everyone viewed as his strongest rival, Ramirez included.

“My issue with pound-for-pound sometimes is consistency. Some guys need a really good win and some flare and they walk in (Spence when he won a world title). Other guys need to resurrect all-time greats for opponents before they get a sniff of the list (Sor Rungvisai had to whack out Gonzalez twice and Estrada before he made it in).

“Pacquiao beating Thurman was a glorious moment, but I still think nostalgia is the reason he made it back on to the pound-for-pound ladder. His great triumphs from the past are almost impossible to ignore and I get that, but my issue remains the same as before: Do I believe a 40-year-old Pacquiao is one of the 10 best fighters in the world regardless of weight class? No! Taylor, right now, has a stronger claim than the 2019 version of Pacquiao. Disconcerting? Maybe, but that can’t be helped.

“I know you can fight, but it’s our wits that make us men!”

 

 

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

 

The post Dougie’s Monday mailbag (boxers you love to hate, Inoue vs. Nery, Crawford & Taylor’s P4P rankings) appeared first on The Ring.

The Travelin’ Man goes to Alberto Palmetta vs. Erik Vega: Part One

The WinnaVegas Casino & Resort in Sloan, Iowa

Thursday, November 14: It has been 12 days since I returned home from Las Vegas and, for most of those days, I had been battling the ravages of what I believed to be the common cold. My nose ran like Hector Camacho after tasting Edwin Rosario’s fifth-round hook…

 

…the liquid from my tear ducts flowed like Sugar Ray Robinson’s combinations…

…and my ribs hurt from coughing as if I had just been in the ring with Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum…

I did my best to fight it with the tools of modern medicine – throat lozenges, cough syrup, decongestants, multi-symptom pills – as well as with more natural methods such as increased rest but the illness hung on for days longer than I expected. Usually the symptoms were worst in the morning and gradually lessened with each passing hour. On most days, I felt best at bedtime but the cycle began anew once I awakened.

As I knew it would, its grip on me lessened with the advancing days and, as I woke up today, it was all but gone. The only remnants were slight stuffiness in my ears – especially the right one – probably due to blowing my nose so often for so many days, and an occasional dry cough due to a ticklish feeling in my throat.

My improved health couldn’t have been better-timed, for today marked the start of my 21st Travelin’ Man journey of 2019. If all went well – and I trusted it would – my final destination would be South Sioux City, Nebraska, approximately 23 miles northwest of the WinnaVegas Casino and Resort in Sloan, Iowa. There, the long-running “ShoBox: The New Generation” series will chronicle a tripleheader topped by a slate of six first timers – middleweights Amilcar Vidal and Zach Prieto in the scheduled eight-round opener, light heavyweights Marcos Escudero and Joseph George in the 10-round co-feature and welterweights Erik Vega and Alberto Palmetta in the 10-round main event.

None of the fighters have a link to Iowa, as their respective birthplaces are Uruguay, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Argentina, Houston, Mexico and Argentina but their cumulative record of 65-1 (47) is pure ShoBox. Then again, Iowa has never had a deep roster of world-class fighters. Davenport claims two in Michael Nunn (the state’s only world champion) and three-time title challenger Antwun Echols while others such as Marcos Ramirez (Des Moines) and Jeremy Williams (Fort Dodge) made waves at featherweight and heavyweight respectively. If one wants to go way back – and, as a historian, I tend to do that – Iowa lays geographical claim to Decorah’s Al “Bigfoot” Palzer (who lost by 18th round TKO to “White Heavyweight Champion” Luther McCarty on New Year’s Day 1913), Des Moines’ Floyd Johnson (who defeated Willie Meehan, Bill Brennan and Fred Fulton but lost to Jess Willard, Jack Sharkey and Harry Wills) and Iowa City’s Johnny Miler (a 1932 U.S. Olympian who held an amateur win over Joe Louis and was the great-uncle of UFC Hall-of-Famer Pat Miletich).

In mapping out this trip, I had two options in terms of destination airports: Omaha and Sioux City (which is on the Iowa side of the border). Although Omaha had more options for those of us flying out of Pittsburgh, I chose Sioux City because of the short drive between the airport and the crew hotel (around 10 minutes as opposed to nearly two hours from Omaha), an especially important factor given the potential for hazardous weather. But in order to get the short drive, I had to make a big concession – connecting through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

I have nothing against Chicago itself – it was, after all, one of the great boxing cities in the early days – and I don’t have major complaints about O’Hare’s layout and facilities. My major beef is the frequency of delayed and canceled flights there and that’s because O’Hare is one of the world’s busiest airports. And with it being mid-November, the potential for hiccups is magnified exponentially due to the impending arrival of Old Man Winter. As a rule, I try to avoid all snow-belt airports between November and February but if I wanted to fly into Sioux City, O’Hare was the only viable way to go, especially on American Airlines, the airline for which I have the most frequent-flier juice (I am, at least until the end of 2019, a “gold” flier).

Shortly after arising at 6:33 a.m. and finishing the morning routines, I logged onto the Weather Channel’s website to check out the forecasts for Chicago and Sloan. To my relief, they were excellent – partly cloudy to sunny with highs in the 40s and 50s and lows in 30s. In fact, the outlooks in Chicago and Sloan were better than the overcast sky and 27-degree temperature I faced when I walked to the driveway at 7 a.m. to clear the ice from my windows and the dusting of snow covering the rest of my car.

Because I had the defroster running at full blast the entire time, I was ready to roll by 7:15. My progress, however, was impeded by another common source of navigational angst: School buses.

The necessity of having traffic stop in both directions while buses are picking up children is beyond argument. I grew up during an era when those laws weren’t in effect and, more times than not, we kids had to keep our heads on a swivel to make sure we weren’t hit by careless drivers, so I fully appreciate why improvements had to be made. But as an adult faced with having to get to a certain place by a certain time, having to stop every quarter-mile and having to wait for a minute each time does get old pretty quickly. It gets especially bothersome when the bus in front of me catches up to the backed-up traffic from the bus ahead of him, which was the case on this day.

Thankfully the clog loosened once I reached Sistersville four miles up the road and all bus holdups ended after clearing Paden City four more miles north on West Virginia Route 2. The rest of the drive to Pittsburgh International Airport was uneventful and I even managed to find a parking spot just 202 steps from the terminal entrance.

Since my first flight was an 11:42 a.m. bird to Chicago, it was fitting that my book for this trip was Kevin Cook’s “Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink.” On May 17, 1979, the Cubs and Phillies produced an offensive orgy for the ages – a four-hour, 10-inning thriller that saw the teams produce a combined 45 runs, 50 hits, 11 home runs (including three by Dave Kingman and two by Mike Schmidt) and 109 at-bats. (The Phillies, for the record, won 23-22). The rebroadcast of that game is in my video collection but it has been years since I watched it. It might be on my “to do” list once I return home.

The plane left Pittsburgh at precisely 11:42 a.m. and landed in “The Windy City” at 11:51, thanks to the time zone change. Because the aircraft touched down 45 minutes ahead of schedule, an open gate was not made available for quite a while but the very early arrival actually worked out very well for me because, once I deplaned, I learned my connecting gate in Terminal H was quite far from my arrival gate in Terminal K.

Another fortunate break for me was that both members of my carpool – audio aces Joe McSorley and Matt Zita – were going to be on the same flight to Sioux City as me. Usually Showtime’s travel team picks out carpools based on the party’s expected arrival times at the destination city but delays and cancellations end up complicating matters. Sometimes we wait for the final member of the pool to arrive while on other occasions, the office ends up reshuffling the deck to prevent hours-long waits for the other members of the pool. I’ve been on both ends of the equation and, for the most part, all ends up working out for the best. However with Joe, Matt and I flying into the destination city together, we got the best possible carpool scenario.

What we didn’t get was an on-time departure – not by a long shot. The aircraft was scheduled to depart O’Hare at 1:45 p.m. but after we boarded the extremely cramped jet, we remained parked at the gate until 2:27. The reason: An order from air traffic control to not move while they sorted out the hundreds of aircraft that were flying in and out at the time. But once we backed out of the gate, we remained near the runway area for another 20 minutes before the tower finally granted us a place in line.

For the most part, we passengers remained silent throughout the long wait but there were a few folks whom voiced their displeasure. One man pressed the button on his intercom to ask for an update and the pilot replied that we were set to move in about five to 10 minutes. It ended up being longer than that. A few minutes later, the flight attendant ordered a woman at the back of the plane who wanted to use the restroom to remain seated because of the supposedly imminent take-off. But while she remained put, so did the plane.

For the record, American Airlines Flight 4153 from Chicago to Sioux City departed at 2:52 p.m. CST – 67 minutes behind schedule.

Although the flight lasted 65 minutes, it felt longer than that for me because of how it affected my cold-clogged ears. While the Eustachian tube in my left ear popped like kernels inside a microwave during ascent and descent, the tube in my right ear remained resistant to all outside stimuli. At points I felt the pressure build inside my head and nothing I tried to relieve it worked. Only the initial descent provided some relief and by the time I landed, it was mostly resolved.

The drive to the hotel included crossing the border into Nebraska – my sixth state of the day when you consider I had been in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania on the way to the airport and Illinois following my first flight. A few hours after purchasing a salad from the Starbucks in the lobby, I ordered dinner from Kahill’s Chophouse and watched, among other programs, the Steelers’ 21-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns that will be best known for the end-of-game brawl that saw Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett strike Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph with Rudolph’s own helmet. Even former players now serving as network analysts – who tend to stick up for their own – considered Garrett’s act to be an abomination worthy of a season-ending suspension, if not more. (NOTE: The NFL suspended Garrett for at least the rest of the 2019-2020 season the next day).

Me being me, I tried to come up with similar incidents in boxing history when foreign objects were used in an attack connected to a match. Two came to mind and only one occurred during live action; the first was in July 1996 when a member of Riddick Bowe’s entourage hit Andrew Golota’s head with a walkie-talkie moments after “The Foul Pole” was disqualified for excessive low blows in their first meeting:

The second was a much closer equivalent and while the incident was quite serious at the time, it now has a more humorous legacy. In September 1982, Minna Wilson – the 62-year-old mother of boxer Tony Wilson, who, moments earlier, had suffered a knockdown – charged the ring and struck Steve McCarthy with her stiletto shoe, opening a wound that required treatment at a hospital. After order was restored, referee Adrian Morgan called for the action to resume instead of rewarding a disqualification win to McCarthy due to the actions of Wilson’s mom. When McCarthy refused, Morgan declared Wilson the TKO winner:

After watching the myriad post-game news conferences, I turned out the light and closed the curtain on another travel day.

 

Friday, November 15: I arose after five-and-a-half hours of occasionally fitful sleep and spent the first few hours going rounds on the laptop. When I reached a good stopping point, I headed downstairs to purchase a diet soda at the Starbucks but instead spent the next hour or so swapping stories with Executive Producer Gordon Hall, broadcasters Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins, audio man Kevin White and stage manager Mike Shea inside the lobby’s Starbucks outlet. Together we have close to three centuries’ worth of sports-watching experience and all that cache came into play in a most fun roundtable.

Mike and I returned to the lobby to meet Andy Kasprzak, who was to drive us to the WinnaVegas to meet our collective 2:30 p.m. call time. Along the way, a road construction project forced us to take a detour while another forced us to stop for several minutes. During that hiatus, we couldn’t help but notice that the car immediately in front of us had no back windshield.

Once at ringside, Andy and I set up shop, got our wristband credentials from production supervisor Nikki Ferry, confirmed information with Joe Jacovino in the truck and, following the crew meal at the casino’s Flowers Island Buffet, secured all the electronic connections necessary to have a successful show.

As is usually the case – and happily so – Andy and I had were ready to go hours before airtime and, remaining true to my nature, I spent the time conversing with ringsiders such as referee Adam Pollack (who also served as timekeeper for some of the undercard fights), promoter Samson Lewkowicz (who is appearing on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot for the first time) and referee Mark Nelson (one of the very best at what he does). During our brief chat, Nelson informed me that St. Paul, Minnesota heavyweight James J. Beattie, who assembled a 40-10 (32) record during a career spanning from 1962-1979, had died at age 77. At 6-feet-9 ½ inches, Beattie is among the tallest ever to compete in a pro boxing ring and, in his time, he faced notables such as James J. Woody (split L 8, KO by 7), Alonzo Johnson (KO 9), Dick Wipperman (W 10, W 10), Levi Forte (KO 7), Buster Mathis Sr. (KO by 7), Fred Askew (W 10), Scott LeDoux (KO by 3) and, in his final fight, Leroy Jones (KO by 4).

According to a story posted by Minnesota Star Tribune’s Patrick Reusse, Beattie served as the leading man in a story line weaved by publicist Gene Schoor. Beattie was chosen from among six finalists in a national talent search for “the next heavyweight champion,” one that began with a national newspaper ad promising $10,000 per year and all training expenses paid while learning the rudiments of the game. He trained at Gleason’s Gym and thoroughly enjoyed the attention he received from the carnival-like venture. His first fight justified the hype – a 24-second vaporization of Duke Johnson on May 28, 1963 that raised his record to 3-0 (3) – but the bloom quickly fell off the rose as the 2-3 Johnny Barazza stopped Beattie in five on August 10.

The New York State Athletic Commission issued an “involuntary retirement edict” following the KO loss to Woody in December 1965 but Beattie fought on – both inside the ring and on film. Beattie portrayed the Jess Willard-like character in the 1970 film “The Great White Hope” opposite James Earl Jones’ Jack Johnson-eque Jack Jefferson:

Although I had seen the movie a few times over the years, I did not know that it was Beattie who took part in the film’s culminating scene.

The undercard began with a scheduled four-round heavyweight fight between Aaron Quintana of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Lawrence Subelka of Topeka, Kansas. A volley of power shots dropped Subelka in round two, after which a flurry capped by a right to the ear prompted the stoppage at the 2:48 mark. The victory raised Quintana’s mark to 8-1-1 (5) while Subelka’s declined to 1-2 (1).

Next up was a scheduled three-round amateur/Toughman heavyweight match between Shalyn Joseph of Macy, Nebraska, and Dustin Dayhoff of Le Mars, Iowa. The pair had split four previous meetings 2-2 and this bout – which featured one-minute rounds – was supposed to resolve the logjam. The southpaw Dayhoff won the first round in my view on sheer aggression but Joseph, a member of the Omaha tribe who wore a ceremonial headdress into the ring, captured the second and third rounds thanks to a pair of overhand lefts to the temple that wobbled Dayhoff’s legs. All three jurists arrived at 29-28 scores, with two of them voting for Joseph. That, in my eyes, was a correctly rendered final result.

The crudity of fight two was replaced by more schooled battlers in lightweights Rayshaun Thomas of Anaheim, California, a lean right-hander, and Lincoln, Nebraska.’s Ginno Montoya, a stocky southpaw. Both men were making their professional debuts but thanks to a pair of knockdowns scored in the final minute of round one, Thomas emerged with a lopsided decision victory (40-33, 40-34, 39-35).

Andy and I counted the next bout between middleweight prospect Jonathan Esquivel of Anaheim and Rio Rancho, New Mexico, product Bryant McClain, who came into the ring to bagpipe music and wore a green tartan kilt instead of boxing trunks. Their scheduled six-rounder lasted just 134 seconds as a combination highlighted by a southpaw right hook to the side of the head produced the 10-count KO. The result lifted Esquivel to 13-0 (12) and while sending McClain’s ledger tumbling to 5-2-3 (1). For the record, Esquivel threw 57 punches to McClain’s 20, out-landed him 17-5 overall and 16-3 power and connected on 48% of his power shots to McClain’s 25%.

The final fight of the non-TV undercard was even more brief as super middleweight Tony Woods of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, used a pair of clean one-twos to the chin to polish off fellow pro debutant Kassius Holdorf of Omaha just 64 seconds after the opening bell.

The brevity of Woods-Holdorf ended the bout 71 minutes before airtime, so co-promoter Patrick Ortiz stepped inside the ring to announce a 30-minute intermission as well as an inducement to return to the arena afterward: The two ring girls would throw dozens of hats and t-shirts – some of which had $20 bills and one of which had five $20 bills. Near the end of that event, Ortiz dug into his wallet, pulled out several more $20 bills, stuffed them inside selected t-shirts and emptied the supply of gear.

With the time gap adequately filled, it was time for the televised portion of the card to begin. I had no earthly clue as to how these fights would turn out because of the lack of recent footage for everyone except for Palmetta (who has been regularly featured on Argentina’s TyC channel on DirecTV), so I had no expectations as to the results. Given the records and the style mixtures that more knowledgeable people imparted to me, however, I was convinced we were in for a most entertaining and revealing evening of pugilism.

 

*

 

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 16 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves about a personalized autographed copy, use the email l.groves@frontier.com or send him a message via Facebook.

 

 

 

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Ring Ratings Update: Naoya Inoue’s stature grows (after some debate)

There’s two ways one could look at Naoya Inoue’s thrilling decision victory over Nonito Donaire on November 7:

“The Monster” either went life and death with a 36-year-old veteran who had lost two of his previous five bouts, in which case the Japanese star merely held onto his pound-for-pound placement, OR Inoue turned back the spirited challenge of a future first-ballot hall of famer in the epic final of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, which unified two major 118-pound world titles and merits his advancement in the mythical rankings.

Terence Crawford shows off his belt collection. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

The Ring Ratings Panel was split, for days (which is why it’s taken a while for the rankings to be updated and for this Ratings Update to drop), leaving Yours Truly to be the tiebreaker. I voted for an advancement of one spot, allowing the No. 4 rated Inoue to supplant No. 3-rated Terence Crawford. That may not sit well with some, which is understandable. Crawford’s a three-division titleholder, former undisputed 140-pound champ and one of the most dominant elite boxers in the sport. However, due to the divisive nature of the boxing business, Crawford’s career momentum has stagnated with his move to the welterweight division, where he’s fought beltholder Jeff Horn (who was The Ring’s No. 5-rated 147 pounder at the time), Jose Benavidez Jr. and Amir Khan (both of whom were unrated). He’s scheduled to face No. 8-rated Egidijus Kavaliauskas next month.

Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs), the reigning Ring bantamweight champ, is also a three-division titleholder who is on his way to unifying the major 118-pound belts. Since moving to bantamweight, Inoue has defeated the division’s No. 2- (Jamie McDonnell), No. 4- (Juan Carlos Payano) and No. 3-rated contenders (Emmanuel Rodriguez and Donaire), crushing all but the decorated four-division titleholder. The career momentum, in my humble opinion, is with Inoue.

Here’s what the Panel had to say on the subject:

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

“Naoya Inoue stays at No. 4,” suggested panelist Anson Wainwright. “Excellent effort from both him and Donaire. Think he’ll learn from this fight. He had to fight through some adversity for the first time. High standards at the upper echelons of the pound-for-pound tree. It’s a hair between the top four.”

Panelists Michael Montero agreed with Wainwright.

Associate Editor Tom Gray, who covered the showdown in Saitama, Japan for The Ring, suggested the move to No. 3.

“I’m not against Inoue remaining at No. 4, but Crawford’s lack of solid competition is starting to hurt him here,” said Gray. “As we all know, his being a Top Rank/ ESPN welterweight is what’s freezing him out, but that’s not our problem. I could see Inoue leaping over him to No. 3.”

Panelist Adam Abramowitz could see a much bigger leap.

“I will continue to vote for Inoue as No. 1 pound-for-pound,” he said.

Panelist Martin Mulcahey agreed.

“Naoya Inoue is my No. 1,” he said, “any lingering questions about how he would react when not in 100% control were answered. He battled through injuries and a tough challenger winning championship rounds in a fight of the year contender. When I see Inoue in action, I sense he is best. I don’t get that with Canelo who I also still view as PED tainted. Not much between Nos. 1 to 6 in the pound for pound. As I said, it is more of a sense than proof but that is what P4P is about I guess.”

Panelist Diego Morilla didn’t give a specific opinion on Inoue’s movement, but was against The Monster supplanting Alvarez in the No. 1 spot.

“Alvarez defeated a guy only SEVEN years older, a former P4P entrant, jumping TWO divisions and being a 5 to 1 favorite to win,” stated Morilla. “He stopped his man and walked away without a mark on his face.

Canelo Alvarez, clad with The Ring middleweight and P4P belts. Photo by Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos / Golden Boy Promotions

“Inoue defeated a guy TEN years older, a former P4P darling as well, in what appears to be his NATURAL division and being a 10 to 1 fave, only to win by decision after being cut, rocked and tested in ways no one imagined.

“I did say it last week: ‘If Inoue beats Nonito in 5 or less, the P4P roads will lead to straight to him.’ He did not achieve the type of career-defining highlight-reel win that we expected given the circumstances. Canelo is fine at No. 1, everyone else is at 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 for all I care, but in terms of achievements, longevity, proven record and eye test, His Freckled Majesty still deserves the throne.”

Additional panel debate, carried on throughout the week, revealed that Mulcahey was adamant about Inoue going to No. 1, while Tris Dixon and Coyote Duran added votes for No. 3, as did Abramowitz in hopes of guaranteeing an advance for the burgeoning superstar.

RING RATINGS UPDATE

Pound for pound – Naoya Inoue advances to No. 3.

Heavyweight – Kubrat Pulev remains at No. 10 after an uninspiring decision over unrated Rydell Booker.

Super middleweight – Billy Joe Saunders advances to No. 6 following an 11th-round stoppage of unrated Marcelo Coceres.

“Saunders retained his WBO title with the (KO),” Wainwright said. “Move him up to No. 6. It’s a big move off this win but he does hold a win over (Chris) Eubank (Jr.) so he should likely be above him and Eubank is dropping to middleweight next month.”

Mulcahey wasn’t sure of Saunders making that big of a jump.

Billy Joe Suanders catches Marcelo Coceres with a right elbow. Photo by German Villasenor

“He’s bit like Pulev,” he said. “I know Billy Joe Saunders has more to show but he’s not motivated to show more against an average foe who did not push him. I understand logic of needing to move him over Eubank, but that win did come at 160 pounds. Eubank has two very good wins at 168, while Saunders has not really beaten anyone at the weight. I can see him moving up one spot, above (Caleb) Truax, but no more.”

Gray and Morilla supported Wainwright’s suggestion.

“Having followed his career closely, I can certify that Coceres was a legit contender (he did build up his record at 160, but that gives him even more credit when you see how well he did at 168, even leading on one scorecard at the stoppage), so yes to Saunders at No. 6,” said Morilla.

Middleweight – David Lemieux drops out due to inactivity and announcement of moving to the super middleweight division. Esquiva Falcao (25-0) enters the rankings at No. 10.

Lightweight – Devin Haney remains at No. 2 following a unanimous decision over unrated Alfredo Santiago.

Mulcahey thought Haney looked good enough to merit advancing to the No. 1 spot.

“Devin Haney is the future and more and more looks like the now at 135 pounds,” he said. “My vote is to move him above (Richard) Commey (who I like and enjoy watching more) to No. 1 on strength of overall skill-set and dominance.

Devin Haney. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

“Yes, Haney has not beaten level of opposition Commey has, but he has also not faltered (I thought Commey beat Robert Easter but did lose to Denis Shafikov) yet. If Commey beats back challenge of Teofimo Lopez he moves back up, but for now I favor youth and potential of Haney over known flaws of Commey.”

Wainwright, Abramowitz, Morilla (and Yours Truly) were against moving the 20-year-old to the top spot.

“As much as I love Haney, I can definitely wait to see him move up,” stated Morilla. “Santiago presented barely one or two challenging issues (reach, bit of power) and Haney had to work hard to finally break through. Young guy with tons of potential. He’ll get there one day.”

Junior lightweight – Jamel Herring remains at No. 5 after turning back the challenge of unrated Lamont Roach Jr.

“Real good win for Jamel Herring over Lamont Roach to retain his WBO title,” said Mulcahey, “though not enough to displace (Andrew) Cancio just yet given his hot streak and wins over (Alberto) Machado who I rated higher than most. Herring to stay at No. 5 for me as well.”

Bantamweight – Inoue defends Ring championship. Donaire remains at No. 3. Nordine Oubaali remains at No. 4 after outpointing Takuma Inoue, who drops to No. 10.

“What a fight! Both deserve their plaudits,” stated Wainwright. “Inoue reaffirms his status as the best 118 pounder in the world, adding the WBA belt to his IBF strap. Personally, I’d still like to see him face (Luis) Nery to erase any possible doubt.

Donaire was dangerous veteran throughout. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

“Donaire showed why he is a future hall of famer with a brilliant performance. No losers, fans were the real winners from this Fight of the Year candidate. I’d like Donaire to stay where he is but could also see a drop of one place because Nordine Oubaali widely outpointed Takuma Inoue to retain his WBC title. Takuma to drop to No. 10.”

Gray was all for Donaire holding his ranking.

“Donaire stays put, it would be an insult to move him down after that. In a losing effort, he proved that he is STILL GREAT and tested one of the best fighters in the world to his very limits.”

 

 

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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