There are times when undefeated junior welterweight contender Demetrius “The Gladiator” Hopkins must feel as if he, too, is both sides of a Midas golden coin. Because of the Hall of Fame-worthy career crafted by his uncle, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, everyone is aware of Demetrius’ genealogy and fighting heritage. But being the nephew of one of boxing’s more illustrious practicioners has a downside. Everyone is apt to compare him to his more famous relative, and probably unfavorably at this point. Then there is that little matter of the younger Hopkins constantly trying to establish his own identity, one that isn’t engulfed by the long shadow cast by his iconic uncle.
“I have to walk in my own shoes, build my own legacy, like he did,” Demetrius, 28, said when asked for what must have seemed like the zillionth time about being eclipsed by B-Hop. “It’s good for him to be my uncle, but I always wanted to do my own thing.”
Demetrius paused, for dramatic effect, proving that if nothing else what he has learned from his uncle is the value of a high-quality sound bite.
“When I become the world champion, I’ll finally walk in my own shoes,” he stressed.
Due to weight problems brought on by illness – talk about the horrors of temporary water-weight buildup – Saturday night’s Showtime-televised rubber match between WBO junior welterweight champion Kendall Holt (24-2, 13 KOs) and former titlist Ricardo Torres (32-2, 28 KOs) in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall had to be revised. According to Top Rank founder Bob Arum, who promotes both Holt and Hopkins, Torres put on more weight than he could take off in time to make the 140-pound division limit because the high intake of fluids he received after taking ill forced him to suspend his training regimen.
With only a week remaining before fight night, Arum needed a replacement for Torres, and pronto. Fortunately, Hopkins (28-0, 11 KOs) was training for a bout with Germaine Sanders (27-6, 17 KOs) on the Holt-Sanders undercard, so he was available for pinch-hit duty. And so what if his fight with Sanders, his first ring appearance in 13 months, was contracted for a limit of 144 pounds? Title shots, even unplanned ones, do not come around all that often. When one does happen by, you grab it.
“I got a call early Sunday morning and was told Torres was having a problem with his weight and did I think Demetrius could fill in for him,” said Hopkins’ manager, Cameron Dunkin. “I said, `I don’t know why not. I’ll call him.’
“I couldn’t reach Demetrius, but I got in touch with Bozy (Derek “Bozy” Ennis, Hopkins’ trainer) and he contacted Demetrius, who jumped at the chance. Demetrius said, `Yeah. Absolutely. Let’s do it.’ There was never a moment’s hesitation on his part.”
The switch in opponents might have been disappointing to Holt, who had split two previous meetings with Torres and was eager to settle the matter of who was better once and for all. But for Arum and Team Hopkins, the Colombian’s illness was a blessing in disguise.
Asked for the present whereabouts of Torres, Arum said, “He’s in Colombia. As far as I’m concerned, if he stays there, I’m not going to miss him.”
Arum also said he believed “we caught a lucky break” in winding up with Holt-Hopkins, which he said should an upgrade over Holt-Torres III. “I think we have a better fight,” Arum predicted.
The 27-year-old Holt – a onetime stablemate of Hopkins with Duva Boxing who lost to him in the quarterfinals of the 1999 National Golden Gloves tournament – isn’t necessarily disputing Arum’s assessment of the circumstances that have brought him together with his onetime amateur rival. It’s just that, well, he remembers multifight series like Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield and Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward. Some of boxing’s finest rivalries have been forged over the course of three-act plays.
“I was looking forward to having a trilogy,” said Holt, who hails from Paterson, N.J. “There’s not a lot of trilogies anymore. Most of the legends of boxing that came before me had trilogies.
“Oh, well, champions adapt and overcome. (Hopkins) wasn’t preparing for me, I wasn’t preparing for him, but we’re both good to go. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.”
So is Hopkins, who is ranked No. 9 at 140 pounds by the WBO and No. 12 by the IBF despite his recent inactivity. He firmly believes December 13 will be his personal Independence Day, when he can cinch a world title belt around his waist and announce himself as something more than a fighter with a recognizable name and superior bloodline.
“This is a shot of a lifetime,” Hopkins said. “I’m going to show Kendall something that he ain’t never seen. I feel good, man. I feel strong. I’m well-conditioned. I should have no problem making 140. I’m excited.
“I know he’s got tricks up his sleeve, but I got tricks up mine, too.”
Were Saturday’s bout just for the WBO junior welterweight title, it would be significant to both combatants. But Arum is dangling a carrot on a stick to the winner, which in turn could lead to an even larger carrot on a stick.
The scenario imagined by Arum calls for the Holt-Hopkins winner to move on to a unification bout with WBC super lightweight champ Timothy Bradley (23-0, 11 KOs), with the winner of that one advancing to a high-visibility, megabucks showdown with the man widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today, Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs), who is coming off his Dec. 6 eighth-round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya. Pacquiao, who jumped up from lightweight to welterweight to take on De La Hoya, has indicated his preference for campaigning as a junior welter.
Not that he can even dare to look that far ahead, but Demetrius Hopkins has to be at least peripherally aware that three straight victories at this stage of his career would not only have the effect of allowing him to escape from his uncle’s prodigious shadow, but maybe even stamping him as the family’s foremost fighter. Wouldn’t that be something?
“My uncle and I have had our differences,” said the younger Hopkins, recalling a rift earlier this year that led him to leave B-Hop’s promotional company, Golden Boy, for Top Rank. “He wanted me to do things his way and I wanted to do things my way.
“But we’re all right. We’re always going to be family. I have no bad thoughts about Bernard, Richard Schaefer or Golden Boy. They’re good people. We couldn’t see eye-to-eye on certain things, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The interaction between Bernard and Demetrius is such that it might make for an interesting psychological case study of family dynamics, particularly when that family is so deeply into boxing and the determination of the designation as alpha male.
Before his first fight with Jermain Taylor on July 16, 2005, Bernard Hopkins was training in Miami Beach and, is his wont, was storytelling for an audience that included a reporter. The morning’s topics included how Demetrius, the son of B-Hop’s older sister Bernadette, came to become involved in boxing.
“I gave Demetrius his first pair of gloves,” Bernard recalled. “Demetrius would cry all the time. I’d tell Bernadette that he’d always be in trouble if he didn’t stand up to the tough guys who were giving him a hard time. So I took him around the corner to Mr. (Jazz) Jarrett, right in the basement, and put gloves on him.
“Within a month, nobody was picking on Demetrius anymore. Within a year, he was putting combinations together and winning these little trophies, and he was hooked. It was an accident it happened that way, but, you know, he at least had to learn how to defend himself.”
As an amateur boxer and even as a fledgling pro, Demetrius routinely acquiesced to Bernard’s wishes. Over time, though, he chafed at being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. He complied when Bernard directed him to drop Ennis as his trainer and work with Bouie Fisher, who at the time was Bernard’s chief second. When Demetrius decided to go back to Ennis, it wasn’t exactly an act of rebellion, but it sent a signal that he no longer was that sniveling kid who required his uncle’s tough love to help him make his way through life’s myriad crises.
As the conflicts between uncle and nephew escalated in frequency and severity, Demetrius made a decision that led him to the crossroads at which he now stands.
“Demetrius was very confused and unhappy,” Dunkin said of the fighter’s occasionally rocky relationship with his uncle and Golden Boy earlier this year. “He read on the Internet about a (USBA junior welterweight) title fight Golden Boy was going to make for him. Look, Demetrius just wanted to know what was going on. He felt like he didn’t have any control over his own career.”
Ennis spoke to Dunkin, who agreed to manage Hopkins once his contractual situation was resolved.
“I spoke with Golden Boy, Top Rank and Lou DiBella,” Dunkin said. “Top Rank came up with the most money and the best deal.
“Golden Boy could have held him for up to a year, but, to their credit, they didn’t want to harm the kid at all.”
Arum confirmed that his acquisition of D-Hop was relatively wrangle- and lawyer-free. “We liked Demetrius,” Arum said. “We thought he was a good fighter. But we made it clear to him that we wouldn’t enter into any discussions or talk to him about signing a promotional agreement until he had terminated his relationship with Golden Boy. We didn’t poach him. We have a very good relationship with Golden Boy so fights can happen that people want to see. We don’t go after each other’s fighters.”
Nonetheless, Demetrius stood idle until he was free and clear, contractually. He now believes “Top Rank can take me to the top of the world,” and Saturday’s showdown with Holt will be the first long stride upward.
For his part, Hopkins doesn’t think his 1999 Golden Gloves victory over Holt means much. “We’re not boys now. We’re men,” he said. But he convinced that, boy or man, what he brings to the table is more than Holt will be able to deal with.
“I can adapt to any style,” Hopkins said is dismissing any potential problems that might arise from switching opponents on short notice. “Come Saturday, I will be the WBO junior welterweight champion of the world.”
Holt, while acknowledging that Hopkins “is a good fighter,” isn’t ready to concede anything. He appears to regard Demetrius as Hopkins Lite, a poser and wannabe who can never be as good as his uncle, no matter how hard he tries.
“I give him credit. He was the better man that night (in their Golden Gloves matchup),” Holt said. “But that was a long time ago. I’m entering the ring with the belt and I’m going to leave with the belt.”
Now you sign to fight one of the true warriors of the sport, Sugar Shane Mosley (45-5, 38 KOs) on Saturday Jan. 24, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The WBA welterweight title will be on the line and that means a lot is at stake.
Margarito was hoping and praying for a fight with Oscar De La Hoya, though rumor had it that the East L.A. fighter would never fight another Mexican before he retired. There was always hope.
“We knew there was a slim chance but not after Saturday,” said Sergio Diaz, who co-manages Margarito. “Now we have Shane Mosley and it's not an easy fight by no means.”
Though Mosley gives up several inches in height, seven years in age, and probably 3-1 odds by sports book handicappers, he doesn’t give up an inch when it comes to heart and experience.
You might call Mosley the heart and soul of prizefighting.
Mosley finally returns to the site of his greatest victory. It was in 2000, when the Staples Center had barely opened that he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in front of a star-studded crowd that included Salma Hayek, Halle Berry, and Sylvester Stallone among many others.
Of course there are going to be many skeptics that say Mosley has no chance against Margarito.
But just like last week, when De La Hoya was beaten by a much smaller man, anything can happen in prizefighting. You never know until the fight happens in the ring.
Mosley, 37, truthfully should be thinking about retirement. He’s had some tough battles and received punishment that would crunch a normal man. But the speedster from Pomona has never been beaten down and he doesn’t think Margarito will be the guy to do it first.
“He likes to go forward and that’s perfect for me,” said Mosley on Tuesday dressed in a sharp blue pin-stripe suit. “I’m used to fighting Mexicans. That’s where I developed my style in the gyms, against tough Mexicans.”
Mosley speaks the truth.
Before the victory over De La Hoya, who at the time only had a much disputed loss against Felix Trinidad, nobody outside of Los Angeles knew much about Sugar Shane Mosley. But that night he pulled out all the stops and rallied to win the latter half of the fight and the honor of being named the best fighter Pound for Pound in the world, in some circles.
It’s been eight years since that night. Sure Mosley has lost some of the speed, and sure he’s lost some fights, but when he’s in the ring you can be sure he’s going at 90 miles an hour.
“He’s a veteran with a lot of experience,” said Margarito (37-5, 27 KOs), who though recognized as one of the toughest prizefighters on the planet, realizes who he is facing. “It’s not going to be an easy fight.”
Game recognizes game.
Margarito has been fighting since he was 15 years old and has never had an easy time in the ring with set ups. Heck, his first losses were to undefeated slickster Larry Dixon, good southpaw punchers Rodney Jones and Daniel Santos. But he plowed on and now, after his devastating victory over Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto, he’s making his move to become the darling of Mexican fans.
“I respect all fighters and especially Shane Mosley,” said Margarito, wearing a beige Polo shirt and jeans. “I wanted to fight the best fighter out there.”
Mosley said you can’t base the outcome of their fight on Cotto’s inability to crack Margarito’s toughness.
“We’re not the same kind of fighter,” said Mosley, who lost by close decision to Cotto in New York. “In fact, you could say Margarito beat Cotto because I took a lot out of Cotto. I softened him up.”
Don’t expect this fight to be a soft touch for either fighter.
Tickets go on sale on Friday and are priced between $50 and $300.
Foreman was born to Jewish parents in the then-Soviet state of Belarus, before moving with his family to Haifa, Israel. But the Foreman clan felt uncomfortable in their new home as the natives frowned upon their Russian roots.
The Russian settlers were forced to stay within their own community and with little else to do, Foreman began practising the basics of boxing with an old ex-Soviet fighter, Mike Kozlovski. But without any suitable equipment and no backing from the local government, Foreman’s education in pugilism stymied.
Ultimately, Foreman came to the conclusion that barriers would be no obstacle to his pursuit of contentment. His dedication to the sport ultimately saw him venture into a gym located on Arab territory.
At first, Foreman felt threatened in the new environment, but he soon realized that underneath the religious differences, all boxers are bonded by a desire to succeed.
“After a while, the wall that was between us melted,” he recalled. “We all wanted the same thing. I traveled with them as teammates. It helped that I won almost all the time. And finally, we became friends.”
But the facilities were still meagre, with the fighters using worn-out gloves with weakened padding. Foreman eventually got to train with proper equipment when Kozlovski went on a hunger strike campaign and convinced the government to support the local boxing club.
Foreman enjoyed success in the amateurs, claiming three national championships, but before long he was on the move again, forced to flee Israel to avoid the prospect of subscription to the army. “That would have ended the dream of boxing for me,” he said.
In 1999 his journey brought him to America, and like so many other immigrants he initially felt overwhelmed in the bustling urban jungle of New York.
With little English and no family, Foreman was isolated in the intimidating city.
“Living by myself here the first couple of years, I needed some support,” he admitted. “I didn't have many friends, not much people I could trust.”
But when he entered Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, Foreman felt at home again. He turned professional in 2002 and has since built up a record of 26-0 (8 KOs).
Three years after Foreman entered the paid ranks another young man with lofty boxing ambitions ventured to Gleason’s, willing to forego the relative comforts of his homeland to try his luck in new surroundings.
James Moore was born into a boxing family in Wicklow, Ireland. The noble art was the only art in his house as a youngster, and he went on to compete in over 300 amateur bouts, winning a bronze medal at the 2001 world championships.
But Moore grew disillusioned with boxing and hoped the pro game in New York would look more favorably upon his aggressive fighting style.
“I was getting very frustrated as an amateur,” said Moore, 16-1 (10 KOs), earlier this year. “The judging system was and still is all wrong. I might have turned professional after I won the bronze medal in the world championships in 2001 but the pro game in Ireland was dead at the time, unlike today when it’s thriving.
“Also, I got a hand injury which took the guts of a year to heal. But I saw what Wayne McCullough and Steve Collins had achieved by coming to the US and turning pro so I decided that was the road for me, and I’ve no regrets.”
Moore’s compatriot John Duddy has recently enjoyed extraordinary success in the Big Apple, but Bruce Silverglade, the proprietor of Gleason’s Gym, believes Moore can match the Derry native’s accomplishments.
“I’m actually more impressed with James than I am with John,” Silverglade told Robert Mladinich. “James is a much more solid fighter. John has a more outgoing personality and his boxing style quickly made him a fan favorite. But once James gets out of John’s shadow, he’s going to be just as big of a star.”
On Saturday, the 30-year-old Moore will attempt to take a significant step toward world title contention when he squares off against Foreman in a 154-pound showdown in Atlantic City, which will be screened on Showtime as part of the Kendall Holt–Demetrius Hopkins card.
While both fighters have some similarities outside the ring, when the bell sounds their styles could hardly be more divergent.
Foreman has proven to be a slick-punching defensive stylist, deftly avoiding punches while routinely landing textbook jabs and sleek right crosses. But in terms of excitement his rating is less than perfect.
The 28-year-old, who is studying to be an Orthodox rabbi, has said that his intention in boxing is to outscore opponents, not hurt them. That mantra has proved true thus far, as his punches carry little power, and when unable to land his speedy jab he has resorted to holding in an effort to avoid exchanging fire.
His most noteworthy bout, against Anthony Thompson last year, was an ugly encounter, characterized by repeated holding and a reluctance by both fighters to engage. Yet Foreman has remained unbeaten as his skills have proven vastly superior to his competition to-date.
Conversely, Moore always aims to force opponents onto the back foot, attacking with a barrage of body punches and heavy left hooks. Yet his fine boxing skills have been underutilized in his pro career and he was surprisingly outworked by the unheralded Gabriel Rosado in a tight eight round points loss last June.
For Saturday’s fight Moore has relocated to Los Angeles to train at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym and has been sparring with former world titlist Roman Karmazin and undefeated prospect Craig McEwan.
Moore’s preparation will need to have been extensive if he is to enjoy success against Foreman.
“I certainly give Moore a chance,” says New York-based writer George Kimball. “Foreman is facile, but doesn’t have the punch to hurt him, and if James is willing to take some risks, pressure him, and go to the body, I can see those left hooks doing enough damage to stop him, but of course if Foreman just runs, which he probably will, James may not get near enough to hurt him at all.
“Put it this way: I don't see a lot of opportunity for James to counter-punch in this one.”
Regardless of how they ultimately mesh, the clash of styles and cultures has all the hallmarks of a classic old-fashioned prizefight: two hardnosed immigrant pugs battling for success in the land of opportunity.
Valuev-Holyfield is promoted by Wilfried Sauerland’s Sauerland Event and its Managing Director, Christian Meyer, in association with Don King Productions. The broadcast is being distributed in the United States by Integrated Sports for live viewing at 3 PM/ET – 12 PM/PT on cable pay-per-view via iN Demand and TVN for a suggested retail price of only $24.95. Award-winning announcers Nick Charles and Al Bernstein will call all of the action.
“We excited to be distributing this historic heavyweight battle between the seven-foot Russian Giant, Nicolay Valuev, and a true living legend, Evander Holyfield,” Integrated Sports president Doug Jacobs said. “The Valuev-Holyfield card will be broadcast during the afternoon, so it won’t interfere with holiday plans. Strong supporting bouts, including two title fights, will also be shown on this pay-per-view card.”
The 12-round main event pits the WBA heavyweight champion -- 7’ 0”, 320-pound Valuev (49-1, 34 KOs) – versus former 4-time WBA title-holder Holyfield, who stands 6’ 2 ½” and weights approximately 215 pounds.
Valuev, who captured the WBA title with a 12-round decision against John Ruiz this past August, has lost only once, last year to Ruslan Chagaev, who is the WBA heavyweight “Champion in Recess” due to an injury.
The WBA No. 12 rated Holyfield, fighting out of Atlanta (GA), is also a 4-time former heavyweight champion, having defeated Buster Douglas, Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson and John Ruiz for his titles. Holyfield was also an Olympic medallist and a past unified world cruiserweight title-holder. He is trying to surpass the legendary George Foreman as the oldest boxer in history to win a version of the heavyweight championship.
Also on PPV is an 8-round super middleweight bout between Danish southpaw Mads “Golden Boy” Larsen (50-2, 37 KOs), former IBO title-holder, and 5-time world kickboxing and Thai boxing champion, Roberto Cocco (9-2, 5 KOs), from Italy.
Highlights from some other fights on the card, time permitting, may be shown including a 12-round co-feature matching two undefeated heavyweights, German-based, Italian-born southpaw Francesco Pianeta (17-0, 11 KOs) defending his European heavyweight title against French challenger Johann Duhaupas (17-0, 10 KOs); former New York Knicks dancer Eileen “The Hawaiian Mongoose” Olszewski (5-2-1, 0 KOs) defending her WIBA flyweight title against undefeated German favorite Nadia Raoul (9-0, 3 KOs); heavyweight Oleg Platov (26-1, 22 KOs) versus Jason Gavern (15-4-3, 8 KOs), cruiserweights Jimmy Kapanov (8-0, 5 KOs) and Paolo Ferrara (25-13-1, 7 KOs); heavyweight Timor Ibragimov (24-2-1, 13 KOs) vs. TBA.
Adamek sent Cunningham, whose ripped physique doesn’t translate into an abundance of punching power but does serve as an attractive vehicle for his massive heart and cajones, three times, but still the champ made a contest of it. He went down, but didn’t stay down, and did enough to leave viewers uncertain as we waited for the judges to lay down a decision after 12 Fight of the Year-level rounds. Cunningham won the stat war (205-690 to 186-480) but those knockdowns did him in. The scorecards read 114-112 (Cunningham), 116-110 (Adamek) and 115-112 (Adamek), and we saw a new titlist anointed.
Don King headed up the promotion, with an assist from Main Events.
The Philadelphian “USS” Cunningham (21-1, 11 KOs entering; age 32), the IBF cruiser champ who hadn’t fought in the States for almost three years, weighed 197 while the Jerseyite Pole Adamek (35-1, 24 KOs coming in ; age 32; a former light heavyweight titlist) was 198.
Earl Morton oversaw the scrap.
In the first, USS showed his gameplan: move, move, move. He jabbed to the body, while the Pole jabbed up top. The arena was hot, by the way, filled up with Adamek fans. USS’s hands looked faster, and Adamek was still warming up. In the second, Adamek revved up, but USS answered back. He traded some but then got back to moving. Adamek scored a knockdown with a short right/clubbing left at the bell. That sent USS to the mat, face-first. In the third, the longer-armed USS, with a seven inch reach edge, jabbed more often early. His movement took the round, as Adamek couldn’t cut off the ring on him. In the fourth, USS had the Pole hurt with a flurry. His legs were soft, and he didn’t clutch to buy time. Harsh rights landed, but Adamek weathered it, and dropped USS with a right with 28 seconds to go. How do you score this round, TSS Universe? It was shaping up 10-8 for Cunningham but then he was dropped…In the fifth, Cunningham grabbed on, and backed up without throwing. But then he woke up, and worked Adamek on the ropes. In the sixth, USS jabbed to the body again. Adamek pressed forward, slowly but surely. In round seven, USS’s jab and feet took the first half of the round. He landed a hellacious one-two right, which would’ve felled Adamek if only USS had some heavier hands. In the eighth, Adamek got more aggressive in cutting off the ring. He sent Cunningham to the mat for the third time, off a left hook/right followup. He got up, but looked weary, and angry at himself. Could he finish the round with 43 seconds left? He actually landed four clean, hard shots down the stretch, and that brought us to the ninth. USS had some energy and fire left, believe it or not. Tight round, another crowd pleaser. In the 10th, Adamek was put off by the Cunningham jab and movement and odd flurries. He wasn’t busy enough to take it. One would think his knockdowns would have him ahead by plenty, but who knows? In the 11th, USS blasted away and scored with a neat right. The Pole looked beat, until the 1:25 mark, when he landed a long lead right. He got clipped with a right coming in, but finished strong, doing enough to win on the TSS card. In the 12th, USS smacked the Pole with a right to start the round. I want it! he told the judges, even if I’ve been down three times. He came forward, and backed the Pole up, and whacked him with an egregious right. He scored with a left uppercut, an occasional scorer for him in Newark. USS won the round, could he win the whole deal after hitting the deck three times.
In the TV opener, Ghanian IBF bantamweight champ Joseph Agbeko (25-1 entering; 118 pounds ) met 117 pound Nicaraguan William Gonzalez (21-2 coming in; No. 1 contender). Gonzalez, the lefty, didn’t show much of a jab. He did some good body work, while Agbeko tried to land a lead right. He ate a low shot, and took a 30 second breather in the first. In the second, they both banged. Gonzo landed smartly, and then ate some just as nasty. A cut from a butt, on the bridge of the nose, showed on Gonzo but that didn’t deter his effort. In the third, the power shot fest continued. Neither man chose to raise their guard in the fourth. Another butt caused another slice on Gonzo, over the left eye. In round five, neither man paused, or needed a second wind. Agbeko forced his will on Gonzo in the sixth, and backed up the challenger. After the bell, Gonzo hit him with a low blow, with a left hand. In the seventh, Agbeko’s legs had more bounce in them. By now, there were three cuts on Gonzo that needed to be quieted. In the eighth, Gonzo’s legs had more life in them. In the ninth, he really picked it up. A right hook, then another, clanged hard off Agbeko’s head. The Ghanian’s hands looked slow in the first part of the round, but then he acted recharged. Gonzo did better at pumping the jab, and that helped his cause. In the 10th, Agbeko’s hands were at his knees, and he was leaning in, offering his head on a platter. In the 11th, the round was hard to score, same as every one before. In the 12th, the African was busier to start. His lead right snapped Gonzo’s head a couple times. He was the more active man in the last round. Maybe that would prove to be the difference? The judges spoke: they saw it 114-114, 116-112, 116-112 for the African, Agbeko. Gonzo accepted the decision. The stats didn’t support the call: Gonzo went 299-915, Agbeko 287-815. But the slices on Gonzo spoke loudly; he got the worst of the power shots.
Numerous e-mails sent to me by the various representatives of the two promotion companies spoke of a special TV showing. It was the final broadcast of HBO’s 24/7 series leading up to the big fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.
The drive up was pretty uneventful in spite of the dozens of highway patrol officers parked along the way. Speed traps were everywhere so I kept my speed slower than usual on the drive through hundreds of miles of pure desert.
The helicopter flying overhead was overkill. Nobody was driving fast.
A quick stop in Baker took only 13 minutes to grab a tasteless Del Taco burrito and lemonade before proceeding up the pass that was made famous a decade ago by a news article that called the 15 mile slope “the most dangerous stretch of road in America.” According to the story more road deaths occur up and down that stretch than any other place in the United States.
As I drove up the pass a few cars were pulled over by the California Highway Patrol.
About 30 minutes later I crossed the Nevada-California border at Primm. Years ago it was called Searchlight because of a red beacon that could be seen coming down the mountain pass. Now it’s the wonderful world of Primm.
Once you cross the border there are usually even more Nevada Highway Patrol waiting for the speedy drivers. But not this time. I never saw one of those familiar metallic blue vehicles waiting in the nooks and crannies behind a barricade.
It was nearly 6 p.m. when I exited the I-15 on Tropicana Avenue. I hustled into the MGM Grand parking lot, and headed quickly to the media room where the documentary was being shown.
At the door I was stopped by the security people who would not let me in because I didn’t have the proper media credentials. I told them to look for the main guy, Mr. Brenner, but they didn’t know who he was. Luckily, a half dozen HBO executives that know me were just walking in and told them to let me in.
Voila. I was inside the belly of the monster covering the fight.
Immediately inside the huge media room I was greeted by the various journalists that I’ve met over the years like Tris Dixon from Great Britain, Tim Smith of New York, Chuck Johnson formerly of USA Today, and Norm Fraunheim of the Phoenix newspaper. Others, like former world champion Gato Gonzalez walked up to chat and share predictions... and then like clockwork the HBO special began.
It was interesting to watch it with other journalists. You have your usual cynics on one side and your uncaring media types on the other. And of course the one or two people talking loudly on cell phones.
After it was over I was getting ready to head out when one of the Golden Boy Promotions reps stopped me to ask me to have dinner with him, Richard Schaefer and other reporters at Diego’s Mexican restaurant, a high priced establishment inside the MGM Grand.
“Sure,” I said. I’d been in the place once before with Joel De La Hoya who had bought me a margarita and some tequila shots a few years ago. He even offered to buy me one of the place’s $100 margaritas. I declined. Instead I took their low end $28 margaritas that night.
Inside Diego’s in the far back room were about 24 reporters, mostly from Mexico. Also inside were Bert Sugar and Angelo Dundee sitting alongside Schaefer. Once everybody was seated a beautiful Mexican woman began giving a lecture on tequila. She represents Cazadores tequila, one of those premium liquors that you see but don’t drink because of the price.
Most of the Mexican reporters were entranced by her and ignored Dundee who was giving his pearls of wisdom.
One of the waiters asked me if I wanted a margarita I replied kiddingly that “one of those $100 margaritas sounds good.” He said 'right away' and came back with a tray full of the expensive margaritas. MMMmm. Very tasty. I had two.
Soon the talk began about boxing. As various Mexican food dishes were passed, guys like Sugar and Dundee and myself began talking about the finer points of boxing. When you have people like Sugar and Dundee sitting with you it’s like opening up a rare bottle of wine. You savor the moment as the two boxing gurus speak about their experiences.
After two hours we all headed out. It was a good night.
How many times do you get to drink $200 worth of margaritas?
Woke up at a decent time to meet with my sister who lives in Las Vegas. Around 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. I met with super female fighter Melinda Cooper and her trainer James Pena.
Cooper is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. She’s also one of the few smaller weight prizefighters who can actually deliver a knockout. That’s kind of like a female basketball player being able to dunk. It’s very rare.
The last time the petite Cooper got in the ring it was a one-sided win over a woman who usually fights at lightweight. Cooper is a former flyweight world champion and now wants to add a junior bantamweight, bantamweight and junior featherweight world titles regardless of the order.
Hopefully somebody steps in the ring with her before she gets too rusty. She’s only 23 but time is wasting.
Around 2 p.m. I headed back to the MGM Grand, where more media were converging and people were beginning to fill the streets of Las Vegas. For the past five months the Strip has been rather barren. Not tonight.
Inside the arena, the fighters are being weighed and the place is packed with about 4,000 people. Comedian George Lopez is hosting the event and he’s dropping everybody’s jaws with laughter. Bob Arum is a favorite target of Lopez who challenges the elderly promoter to a fight on numerous occasions. It was a laugh riot.
A number of the older Mexican greats were at the arena to view the weigh-in, including Pipino Cuevas, Chango Carmona, Gato Gonzalez and a few others. Golden Boy had paid for their trip, hotel and tickets to the event. It was a classy act for the L.A. based company and brought a sense of history to the event. That’s what boxing is all about, history.
When Pacquiao weighed 142 there were a few surprised fans, but when De La Hoya weighed 145 there was a mild shock going through the crowd. That’s very, very low and almost like the East L.A. fighter is trying to prove that weight doesn’t matter.
After the weigh-in the media guys hung around the various bars in the MGM. As I walked through the Rouge bar, someone tugged at my shirt, it was Joel De La Hoya who was sitting down with a group of people. We talked for about 30 minutes on the status of his brother's training, the odds, and how his new trainer Nacho Beristain worked out.
Later, I spoke to Anthony, one of De La Hoya’s main security guys and a real good person. Then there was Rolando Arrellano, who also chatted with me a short bit. If that names familiar it’s because he used to manage Fernando Vargas. It was Vargas who brought Arrellano into the boxing game. Now he manages Victor Ortiz, another Oxnard product.
Also inside the Rouge lounge were numerous sportswriters like Smith of the NY Daily News, George Willis of The New York Post, Lance Pugmire of LA Times and my good buddy Paul Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee. We hung out for a short while, then walked over to the other bar near the main concourse. Before walking out I spotted a big guy with a brown cowboy hat who looked familiar. I asked one of the Golden Boy people if that was heavyweight David “Haymaker” Haye who recently knocked out Monte Barrett in his first foray into the big boy division. He might be the savior for the promotion company. They told me indeed it was. He’s a big guy and doesn’t look capable of dropping down to cruiserweight. But he held three of the cruiserweight world titles before departing.
At the main bar I heard somebody call my name out. It was Michael Marley, the boxing wizard who heads Boxing Confidential.com. Marley is an interesting cat who was a former sportswriter and attorney and now dabbles in promoting and every thing that has to do with boxing. This guy knows just about everything. Earlier in the week I was watching some old footage of the Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield fight and there was Marley. Funny, he looks the same but just has whiter hair.
We talked about everything. We had talked the night before but there were other things he wanted to speak on. Also sitting with him was Eric Bottjer, a matchmaker and major expert on the heavyweight division after spending years with Cedric Kushner. I’ve known him for about eight years. Good guy.
It was getting late so we dusted off her shoes and headed to the parking lot. The people continued to arrive in the Las Vegas casino.
It was good to see.
A few people recognized me from the HBO specials and the Directv commercials pushing the fight. I signed some autographs and took photos with some of the fans and walked to the parking lot and finally drove home.
At the house, we watched a welterweight Roberto “La Amenaza” Garcia of Texas who was fighting in Costa Rica. He and his wife Nana were staying in Las Vegas for a brief while but moved back to California to train with Clemente Medina.
Garcia is a strong looking fighter who to me resembles Pipino Cuevas. He had trained briefly with Roger Mayweather and another Las Vegas trainer but he just didn’t feel right with their styles. So back to L.A. he went.
The Texas welterweight is fighting a Costa Rican fighter Roberto Aranda in Costa Rica. That usually means he will lose unless he batters the guy senseless. He battered the guy senseless alright. Garcia knocked down his opponent five times until the referee realized it might be ruled manslaughter if he let it continue. The fight was video streamed on the Internet.
An early morning press conference for Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley was postponed. So I was able to wake up later than usual. Where I am staying is a good friend’s house. He has some other guests there including a former fighter named Jose Arias who was called by many who witnessed him in the ring one of the best fighters the world never saw. He was a gym legend on the level of L.A. street basketball player Raymond Lewis, a shooter who was unstoppable but never played in the NBA. (Lewis was black balled.) Arias suffered an injury that kept the world from his talent. Now he’s training a tall slender kid from Rhode Island named Jesse. I talked to both about the upcoming fight between De La Hoya and Pacman. Both feel that De La Hoya should win easy just with the jab.
Fight time is early today around 3 p.m.
Will it be the greatest fight or will it be a wipe out?
“We're extremely excited about the Class of 2009 and very much looking forward to honoring the 20th class of inductees,” said Executive Director Edward Brophy. “All living inductees are anticipated to attend and participate in 2009 Hall of Fame Weekend festivities.”
The 20th Annual Hall of Fame Weekend is scheduled for June 11-14th in Canastota, NY. Over 20 events, including a golf tournament, banquet, parade and autograph card show, are planned. An impressive celebrity lineup of boxing greats of yesterday and today will attend this year's Induction Weekend. The highlight of the weekend will be the Official Enshrinement Ceremony on the Hall of Fame Museum Grounds in Canastota, New York on Sunday, June 14th to welcome the newest members.
When the battle scars heal and the euphoria surrounding his title-winning victory subsides, the Nottingham fighter will be called upon to repeat Saturday’s display of fortitude and guile if he wants to permanently retain plaudits in the unforgiving boxing world.
In overcoming Pascal by unanimous decision, Froch took the World Boxing Council’s 168-pound title, and the 31-year-old must now decide whether to defend the belt or seek out a more attractive showdown at a different weight.
Immediately after the fight, Froch said he wants to unify the super middleweight division – that would entail matchups with IBF beltholder Lucian Bute and Mikkel Kessler, who holds the WBA’s trinket.
But Froch’s promoter Mick Hennessy later said he would attempt to secure his fighter an encounter with former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. The WBC have designated Taylor as the mandatory challenger for their belt, so in theory the fighters must meet, but the American already turned down the opportunity to fight Froch for the then-vacant title earlier this year.
“Taylor will be a chicken if he swerves me,” Froch was quoted as saying. “A fight against him will improve my bank balance.”
Yet reports suggest Taylor is concentrating on a possible fight with Bute, who looked vulnerable in his most recent performance against Librado Andrade.
“Taylor is the next mandatory opponent for Carl, but he has to be a man and take the fight,” said Hennessy. “It looks like [Taylor is] already looking for the exit signs. He's already looking to fight IBF champion Lucien Bute in his next fight.”
But on Tuesday, Taylor’s promoter Lou DiBella rejected Hennessy’s claims and insisted that his fighter would welcome a meeting with Froch if the new titlist is willing to fight in North America.
Froch has previously stated he would relish a big fight in the US, but given that he sold out the 7,000 capacity Trent FM Arena on Saturday, and the heightened exposure the fight received from mainstream television in the UK and the global boxing media, the Brit’s handlers may be wise to build upon their new fanbase.
Hennessy stated that if negotiations with Taylor fail, he would try and coax Joe Calzaghe into an all-British showdown with Froch. Hennessy offered Calzaghe £5 million [nearly $10 million at the time] to fight his charge earlier in the year, but the Welshman turned down the proposal in favor of a marquee clash with Roy Jones Jr.
Hennessy said he would make an improved offer to Calzaghe, but the current 175-pound titlist appears to have little interest in competing for his old WBC strap. The fight has always been doubtful and retirement seems to be to the forefront of Calzaghe’s mind.
“Carl who?” was Calzaghe’s flippant response when asked on Tuesday if he would be interested in fighting Froch, 24-0 (19).
The most attractive opponent for Froch from a neutral observer’s standpoint is the one that has been least publicized.
A fight with Denmark’s Kessler represents a challenge Froch must overcome if he is to attain recognition as the world’s premier 168-pounder.
The other major names at super middleweight have all displayed glaring flaws in recent performances: Taylor was knocked out by Kelly Pavlik and faded in the latter stages of their rematch, while Bute was hurt badly by Andrade – a fighter who has a history of struggling against skilled boxers.
Froch, who typically shows little reticence when dismissing the ability of his peers, has always spoken with deference about Kessler, perhaps unable to spot any obvious weakness in the Copenhagen native’s game.
“[Kessler] has excellent strength, a good attitude and, being naturally left handed has a great orthodox jab,” Froch told the Nottingham Evening Post. “Even though Kessler has been beaten by Calzaghe, he can come again. I know he was injured going into that fight and probably should have pulled out, so he’s still a dangerous fighter.”
Moreover, Hennessy made little reference to the Dane in his post-fight comments on Saturday.
Kessler, 41-1 (31), has always looked strong and composed in the ring, even in his points loss to Calzaghe last year. He is more technically proficient than Froch, boxing behind the ramrod left jab before unleashing a slashing right cross from a textbook upright stance.
Conversely, Froch perpetually carries his left hand low and has a permeable defense. He would also be giving up his usual height and reach advantages against Kessler, something Froch is not accustomed to.
But one thing Froch has recently familiarized himself with is the pain of an intense battle. He has proven that he can call upon the depths of his resolve to withstand the punishing blows of a world-class fighter and roar back to unload his own ever-forceful combinations. His technique was largely forgotten during the heated moments of the Pascal war, but as recent events have proven, a superfight is never won on paper.
And if Froch wants to continue to electrify his new fans he knows who to call. He admitted it himself.
“I can’t think of anyone other than Mikkel Kessler who would provide me with a tasty tear-up.”
Bob Duffy put on a card at the Roseland in the theater district, and bless his soul, his matchmaking resulted in a bunch of upsets. I have nothing against Jorge Teron, the NYC kid on the cusp of a 135 title shot, or Nagy Aguilera, or that French kid who allegedly got a $25,000 signing bonus to go pro and got stopped in his first outing…but I love me some upsets.
Teron’s loss, to Aldo Valtierra, threw a king sized monkey wrench into his near-term plans. The 23-year old from the Bronx has been highly touted-—his websites throws out a comparison to Chico Corrales, because Teron is also tall, at 6-0—-and was ranked No. 5 by the WBO. But his crew accepted Altierra, an old guy who’d won just one of his last five bouts. But the old guy, at 38, showed stamina, heart, chin and veteran savvy as he beat Teron (22-1) up on the inside, and snagged a majority decision. I told Teron’s guys to tell their guy to go for the KO in the tenth and final round, as I suspected that the judges might well do their job, and reward the 25-10 Mexican for his performance. To their credit, the arbiters did. Good learning experience for the kid, who didn’t use his reach advantage, and let the old guy dictate the terms of engagement. But you know that look you get on your face when you are watching the lottery balls with the numbers on them on the TV, and they call out 19, and 31, and 42 and all you need is a 56, and a 59 pops up? That was the look on the face of Team Teron after…
A similar look was on the face of Team Aguilera after their boy Nagy Aguilera (10-1; age 22) got himself DQ’d in the second round of his heavyweight bout with ginormous Marcellus Brown, the 40-year-old 7 footer from Michigan. Was it a good idea to put Nagy, who’s listed at 6-3, but looks shorter and is probably better suited to go the Jenny Craig route and be a cruiser, in with the hoopster-sized Brown? Nope, not after the Puerto Rican/New Yorker got frustrated with the Jabbar-ish Brown, and headbutted him in the nose in the second…The Nagy boosters in the crowd--he’s managed by a rich Long Islander named John Silverman--squawked at the stop, but it was a no brainer for Mike Ortega. It was an egregious foul, and there was no way he couldn’t have busted Aguilera, and maintained order if the fight continued. The delightful Silverman Twins, John’s kids, even grudgingly agreed that the call was right. One of the twins wasn’t as keen on the call, but the other one nodded in comprehension when I said the ref had to do it. It will be a good learning experience for Nagy, who snapped when things didn’t go his way, and brought the L on himself. Lou Savarese, by the way, is friends with Silverman and an advisor…
French profanity broke through the din when 1-0 Romain Oliveri, out of Bourdeaux, France, had his tail handed to him by Eliud Torres, debuting. The welters flung leather furiously from the start and the Frenchman, who word was recently collected a $25,000 bonus to go pro, hit the deck three times. On the third trip, the ref said no mas. “Merde!” cried his cousin, who sat next to me, as his boy crashed and burned.
Oh yeah, 31-year-old Daniel Judah and Jaffa Ballagou met in a light heavyweight snoozer. There were some decent moments, but Jaffa, age 40, looked like there were invisible rubber bands attached to his arms. He was slooowww, and Judah got the UD nod after 12. A minor league IBF belt was up for the taking. Judah just doesn’t have enough pop to keep it interesting, sad to say. Iran Barkley was sitting next to me, and he was appalled at the Judah effort. If he thought it was an F, I’d say it was a C. There are times when he’s more effective than half-bro Zab.
Duffy's next show will be on Long Island, on Jan. 23 at the Huntington Hilton. Presumably, he will be refreshed by then, after his 13 bout marathon. "Haha, I wrote 75 checks that night," Duffy told TSS. The promoter explained that the card was so bulky because he put on four fights from a Cedric Kushner show that was scrapped, not because he wanted to set a record for most bouts on a NY club show. He made sure to accomodate the overflow, because he realizes that many of the fighters could use the pay to defray holiday costs. He was pleased, he said, to offer fans a lot of bouts, and glad that the matches were tight. And bonus--he probably broke even or made a couple of bucks. "Sometimes I make money, sometimes I lose, but hey, I got my rent paid, it's all good," said the former NYC detective and athletic commission exec.
SPEEDBAG Lou Dibella was on hand and I picked his brain after he watched his heavy prospect Tor Hamer (2-0), who was on the cover of The Village Voice two weeks ago, pick up the win over Royal Bryant. Dibella said down the line, not too far, he’d like to see Hamer have a crack at Deontay Wilder.
He also said Jermain Taylor would like a crack at the Froch-Psacal winner, which was Froch. First choice would be to lure Joe Calzaghe into a scrap. Dibella wants to see Taylor stay sharp, and fight by the end of March, at the latest. Lucian Bute is a possibility. “Joe’s earned the right to wait,” Dibella said. The promoter also said Paulie Malignaggi will fight again, most likely, but if he doesn’t, he’ll support that too. “That fight against Hatton, that wasn’t Paulie, but he picked the worst moment to have that happen,” he said.
---Also on the rumor mill, and now up on Boxrec. Sergio Martinez (44-1), the 33-year-old Argentine junior middle, will take on 22-year-old NY prospect Joe Greene (20-0) on Jan. 17, underneath Berto-Colazzo at the MSG theater.
---Ex Dibella fighter Sechew Powell (24-2) tries to get back back in the mix on Jan. 14 against TBD at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL. I like Powell personally, and wish him well at breaking through in 2009. He gets it that his time to make his mark is dwindling. “It’s now or never, I’m 29,” he told me at Roseland.
---Hand it to Duffy, he tried to give folks their money’s worth. He had 13 bouts on the slate.
---Not sure if the promoter had a hand in it or this was Roseland’s hand, but to charge $15 for a plate of beef stew…even in New York, that constitutes a rip-off. I didn’t indulge.
Sares has lived and breathed boxing his entire life. Therefore, it’s an impossible task to adequately review and do this collection the justice it deserves. Sares has a deep love for — and encyclopedic knowledge of — the fight game dating back some 60 years.
We are taken along on a historical journey though America starting with the author's humble beginnings as a young boy from the northwest side of Chicago. The reader is taken back to a time in the 1950s when boys and men bonded without knowing they were bonding. It was a time of innocence in America.
With a cult-like following on East Side Boxing, where he is respectfully known by the moniker of “Ted the Bull,” Sares, a private investor by trade and former parks district amateur boxer, describes in microscopic detail the countless fights he’s attended in person or first witnessed through the screen of a nine-inch black and white Admiral TV. With his straight-shooting, highly opinionated style of writing, the reader is taken along at full-tilt boogie through an incredible and sometimes bloody and brutal journey.
With graduate degrees in both economics and business administration, Sares still maintains his roots which are firmly planted in blue-collar America. The author revisits the Golden Age of Boxing Heavyweights that included Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Norton, Quarry, Chuvalo, Lyle, Shavers and Patterson. He continues on through the era of the late 1970s with the WBC and WBA recognizing multiple champions and mandatory challengers which produced a general corruption throughout the sport.
Along with Sares, the reader feels the effects of riding the pendulum from love to hate when revisiting the dark side of boxing with the tragic bout involving Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Duk Koo Kim. You'll relive the nightmarish bout from 1962 between Benny “Kid” Paret and Emile Griffith. The reader will feel first-hand the dreaded onset of dementia pugilistica.
The author revisits the careers of the successes in the sport, yet doesn't fail to mention the fighters that aren't exactly household names. Fighters like Reggie Strickland (66-276-17) and Donnie Penelton (13-164-5) ... noble and courageous fighters that have risked their lives to entertain the fans.
“Reelin’ In The Years: Boxing And More,” is a chronological sequence of countless fights set to the pulse of America during both turbulent and tranquil times throughout our countries history. What makes the book so special is the author’s sharp memory and his ability to translate these memories so eloquently to the reader. If you're a fight fan, it’s a tremendously satisfying journey you won't want to miss.