December 1, 2015

Reign of Superman — Oscar's Ring Magazine "strips" the real world champion

Say goodbye to that RING belt Adonis
By Jeffrey Freeman — The recent Ring Magazine decision to strip Adonis Stevenson of their RING Light Heavyweight Championship title belt was an outrage, the obvious consequence of a compromised publication now owned by Oscar De La Hoya, the founder and big boss of Golden Boy Promotions, a boxing promotional outfit that once feuded long and hard with Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions. This bad blood was a longtime disaster for the sport (and for its fans) and can easily be traced back to Oscar's alcoholism and former drug abuse. Sobriety has evidently not bettered The Golden Boy's judgement either.

In the past, when Oscar was an active boxer and a talented, popular world champion with legions of female fans, the grizzled old Ring staff (and the other boxing magazines of the day) were very critical of De La Hoya but they were always very fair and accurate. Fight fans loved it because they love the truth. Do they still? Oscar hated it for the opposite reason. He still does. This media scrutiny played on De La Hoya's myriad insecurities when professional journalists would routinely bypass his publicist's bullshit and more  accurately report on Oscar's inflated world title claims and other hyperbolic exaggerations.

After he retired and became a promoter, Oscar took his revenge, buying the Bible of Boxing for a song and ultimately firing all the best writers, replacing them with an easily manipulated cadre of dupes just happy to be there, all too glad to "do it for the mortgage" as they say. Efforts were taken by said dupes to alienate their core readership, spearheaded by the aforementioned firings (most notably of Hall of Famer Nigel Collins) and most recently by putting a hyped up little UFC cage fighter girl on their cover, a disgrace to boxing and an insult to the manly art of self-defense. It was pure irony when a pure media creation named Ronda Rousey was easily knocked out by Holly Holm, a former #1 Pound For Pound female boxer who proved the superiority of her core sport in a most dramatic way.

Holm's victory was also boxing's victory and The Ring had egg all over its new face.

Champ now knows green belt is better
All of this leads us back to Adonis "Superman" Stevenson, the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world, a man whose claim to the linear throne is as iron clad as was Iron Mike's at heavyweight in 1988 after he knocked out Michael "The Man Who Beat The Man" Spinks in one round. You see, Stevenson too won his title with a smashing first round knockout, stopping champion Chad Dawson with one punch to begin his lineal, legitimate reign. Dawson you will remember was the first true conqueror of Bernard Hopkins, the one legendary fighter on whose back Sergey Kovalev has built his entire reputation as parallel "light heavyweight champion" of De La Hoya and Duva's bizarro world. Though not promoted by De La Hoya, Kovalev enjoys a familial relationship with Oscar, Golden Boy Promotions, and Ring Magazine because Oscar and The Ring are friendly with Kathy Duva and Main Events promotions, Kovalev's promoter.

How convenient...for all involved.

Fans all want Stevenson and Kovalev to "unify" and someday it might happen. There are well documented promotional issues currently standing in the way, put there by people who understand that the fight will be bigger for everybody -- later rather than sooner. As the reigning and defending world light heavyweight champion of the one and only known world, how has Stevenson performed in his duties? Is he a disgrace to the RING championship and worthy of being "stripped" by a "man" who once wore fishnet stockings and then lied for years about it? I'm sorry. I digress. It was an ironic bitch move by a little golden boy who was once so upset with the way The Ring treated him that he bought them out and shut them up himself. In addiction clinics, they say that people oftentimes victimize others in the same way they themselves were victimized in the past. That's just something for you and Oscar to think about.

Adonis successfully defends vs. Fonfara
Back in the real world, Stevenson has defended his championship six (6) times since winning it in 2013 (where titles are won and lost) in the ring. That's what you call a busy world champion. Who did Adonis fight while he and we all wait for ‪#‎SupermanKrusher‬ to materialize? One bum (Dmitry Sukhotsky), two former world champions (Tavoris Cloud and Sakio Bika), and three solid contenders (Tony Bellew, Tommy Karpency, & Andrzej Fonfara). The Polish tough-guy Fonfara is now arguably the best light heavyweight boxer in the world without a title belt. Superman fought that man and got off the canvas to beat him fair and square. Kovalev beat who exactly? Hopkins and Jean Pascal. Two light heavyweight champions who preceded the current one, Superman.

Oscar, Hopkins, Krusher, and Duva
Whatever justification The Ring used to "strip" Stevenson is a joke and an inside one at that. Kovalev is certainly a great young fighter, one of the best in the world, and he'd be an odds-on favorite to defeat Stevenson if and when the fight gets made. But only a fool would underestimate Superman Stevenson and only an even bigger fool would would use an editorially irresponsibly bully pulpit to deny that he's the real world champion in the first place. How about taking a look at Canelo's catchweight claim Oscar. Oh right, that's not gonna happen. He's your Golden Boy and can do no wrong according to the magazine you've now knocked out better than any opponent you ever beat in the ring.

Written by Jeffrey Freeman—for The KO Digest

October 19, 2015

Big Drama Show — KO goes to Madison Square Garden for The Sweet Science‏

KOD at MSG covering GGG in NYC for TSS
By Jeffrey Freeman

Saturday morning, 6am.

When the alarm bells went off bright and early in Boston to awaken me for my big day in the Big Apple, I'd already been yanked from my slumber just a few hours prior by a 2am "Amber Alert" that sent my iPhone into a buzzing frenzy. For some reason, I thought it was going off like that because I had some new Twitter followers. After a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast (protein shake fruit smoothie) I logged onto my computer only to find that my popular KO Digest "friend page" on Facebook was being converted by the powers-that-be into a Facebook "like page", a virtual disaster for my ability to communicate with my loyal online audience. 

As easy as it would have been to let this social media mishap spoil my pilgrimage to the Mecca of Boxing, I did my very best to not let it bother me too much; downloading a copy of the old KO FB page to my hard-drive and allowing the long process of conversion to begin. During this extended period while that was slowly taking place in cyber space, it was as if the KO Digest page on Facebook was in a strange state of pugilistic purgatory, technically knocked out before the fight even started. Are you serious?

When I arrived at the Amtrak station in Westwood, Mass after a short drive from Boston, I parked my 1997 Ford Taurus SHO (that stands for Super High Output) in the MBTA parking lot and took the short walk to the terminal. As I rounded a corner to have a seat in the lobby, who did I see but fellow Sweet Science boxing writer extraordinaire Springs Toledo. I told Springs about my Facebook situation (Toledo once referred to KO Digest as the "pied piper" of boxing) and he told me about the new boxing book he's writing, In The Cheap Seats. That's certainly a very appropriate name for his work in progress considering that Springs was traveling to the same fight card I was traveling to, but with a paid ticket in his pocket for the cheap seats and no press pass to speak of. As my Acela Express train rolled into the station at 8:25am, we said our goodbyes and I took a quick selfie with the well dressed, award-winner from the Boxing Writers Association of America. As it turned out, Springs was taking the next train (8:55am) bound for Penn Station.

Yes, his seat was indeed a little bit cheaper. Holy Toledo, he even rode coach.

Good boys and girls
On the fly-by four hour train ride to midtown Manhattan, I sat with a young college student from Boston University named Jennifer. She was traveling to New York City for a student conference in the Capital District where she was planning to meet up with her new boyfriend Blake. I asked her if she knew anything about the Gennady Golovkin fight at MSG or if she'd even heard of the popular puncher known in boxing circles as Triple G. "Is he in the UFC?" she asked with a puzzled look on her face. Not surprisingly, Jennifer had no idea who or what I was talking about. Golovkin might very well be on the verge of becoming a crossover star in the larger sporting world, but he's still an unknown commodity among college freshmen and pretty girls with crushes on pretty boys.

During the second half of the trip, in between checking emails and working on this travel log, I continued to deal with my now suddenly defunct social media outlet in an effort to get the page up and running again for the busy day ahead. By 11am, there was still no KO Digest on Facebook and I was starting to get concerned messages from friends and readers in the boxing community wondering just what the hell was going on with their trusty KO Digest. I tried to explain as best I could but having to do so just reminded me of how frustrated I was with the whole situation. The timing could not have been worse for me but boxing is nothing if not a struggle for all involved. 

After a pleasant ride that went by like no time at all, my train rolled into Penn Station right on time at 11:45am. When that first blast of New York City air hit me in the face during the escalator ride up and out of the underground station, I was immediately struck by how cold and windy it was outside. I was expecting brisk weather but not quite early winter conditions. I put on a light jacket and made a loop around the historic venue to have a look around. It was still a little early in the day for the big boxing crowds to start filling in around Penn Station but I did hear a few folks already talking about the middleweight title fight on tap in the big room.

Freedom is not free
I have to say, no trip to New York City is complete for me without first going down to Ground Zero for a show of respect to all the lives lost and forever destroyed on September 11, 2001. As a Disabled American Gulf War Era Veteran, I'll never forget 9/11. On that fateful morning fourteen years ago, I was proudly wearing the uniform of my country as a United States Army soldier.

Seeing the site now turned into a squeaky clean memorial is meaningful but to also see how it's become commercialized and capitalized, well, that makes me feel dirty on the inside and even colder on the outside. I'm reminded of Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad in the wake of unimaginable tragedy. Fortunately, by 1:30pm, the sun was starting to warm up the day and my spirits along with it.

If the heart and soul of boxing is the art of talking about boxing, that's just what I managed to do for a few hours during the afternoon with a fellow named Art from Long Island. Art was enjoying his coffee and doing a little people watching when we struck up a conversation at the 7th Avenue Starbucks location. Before you knew it, others around us had jumped into the fray and we talked about everybody from Muhammad Ali to Hector Camacho to Rocky Marciano ("Rocky is Rocky!") to Floyd "Money" Mayweather. As the banter heated up, I heard a wiseguy wisely say, "If Mayweather is one of the guys in the ring tonight, you're not gonna see a fight." I assured them there would be no shortage of action in the Garden tonight before heading over to TGIF's for a last minute bite before the fights. Not surprisingly, more great conversations went down around me at the bar while I scarfed back a Pepsi and some overpriced tuna wontons. The bartender overheard our debate about Mike Tyson and piped in that he lives next-door to a guy in Brooklyn who was Big George Foreman's first professional opponent, Don Waldheim. In boxing, it's a small world.

Everybody knows somebody. Waldheim was knocked out by Foreman in the third round in 1969. The rest is history.

KO JO is the original road warrior
From there, it was over to 31st & 8th to pick up my media credential at 5pm sharp. The line wasn't very long and it moved pretty quickly. As I was waiting outside to pass the security checkpoint, former heavyweight championship challenger Gerry Cooney emerged from the entrance and I couldn't help but shout out, "Gentleman Gerry, we loved ya!" Cooney counter-punched quick with, "I love you," before he asked me how I got so big. Cooney is 6'6. I'm 6'11. I told Gerry that I, like he, ate my spinach. Of course, that didn't help the big fella when he was poleaxed by "Big George" in 1990. With my press pass in hand, I headed over to the media room where I was accompanied by Derek Bonnett and Jason Pribila from the website Seconds Out. Derek could hardly contain his excitement over getting to cover his "favorite fighter" Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez. I was very happy to see "KO JO" Jack Obermayer in the house wearing a Panamanian paper hat and a plaid shirt. I asked Jack how he's feeling these days. Jack described himself as "weak" but for doing what he's still doing with what he's got (cancer) I'd say he's pretty damn strong.  Keep punching Jack.

After a quick pow-wow with my esteemed editor-in-chief, Michael "Call Me Woodsy" Woods, popular referee Steve Willis made an unexpected pass through the media room and I told Willis how glad boxing fans were that he was assigned to cover the main event, Golovkin vs. David Lemieux. Willis is an intense (bug-eyed) third man in the ring. In any fight he works, the action is always written all over his wonderfully expressive face. I could only envy the unique perspective he'd have of the fisticuffs in just a few short hours.

Credentialed Coverage
Unfortunately, my dream of sitting ringside in press row proper at Madison Square Garden for a big time prizefight was dashed when I took a closer look at my red media credential. Section 327, Row #2, Seat 6. That's "up there" but really not a bad view at all in a dedicated media section stationed above the ring in the newly renovated MSG. That would be my point of view for the night ahead but by no means am I complaining. It's a privilege and an honor to cover professional boxing on its biggest stages and to do so for one of the most well written and well read boxing websites in the entire world, The Sweet Science. With nothing but gratitude, I made my way up to my seat at 7:30 by taking an escalator all the way up to the ninth floor. The arena was not yet half-filled as undefeated Lamont Roach, 9-0, battled Jose "Flash" Bustos, a 7-6 junior lightweight from one of the most dangerous places on Earth, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Bustos lost a wide unanimous decision and nearly got knocked out in the final round but he held up like proud Mexican fighters tend to do.   

At 9:30, the legendary Roberto Duran appeared on the jumbotron and the now near-capacity Garden gave the Panamanian icon a loud reception while the smiling "Hands of Stone" blew kisses to his adoring fans from ringside. Duran famously defeated New Yorker Davey Moore at this venue in 1983, destroying the young WBA junior middleweight champion with a cruel precision still talked about reverentially to this very day. In town during fight week, "Cholo" was asked about Golovkin and something apparently got lost in translation. Duran thought the reporter was asking him about Andrew Golota, the "Foul Pole" of boxing and scapegoat of the infamous 1996 riot that took place right here in the aftermath of Golota's foul-filled bout against New Yorker Riddick Bowe. When the jumbotron showed American Presidential candidate Donald Trump in the locker room pressing the flesh with Pound-for-Pound candidate Gennady Golovkin, the reaction was mixed to say the least.

GGG and Trump
By 10:00, the heavyweights were in the ring. While undefeated Cuban Luis Ortiz and Argentine punching bag Matias Ariel Vidondo plodded around the ring like Tony "TNT" Tubbs and Francesco Damiani, I decided to take a quick walk around the upper levels of the building. I'm glad I did. It was there I ran into Chip Mitchell, a Facebook friend (and KO Digest reader) who crossed into my real world tonight with some kind words and an unexpected gift. Without warning, Mitchell gave me a silver necklace with a silver boxing glove on it. "Keep doing what you're doing sir," he told me as if he knew I needed to hear it. I thanked him and went back to my work station to watch Ortiz stop Vidondo with a straight left hand in the third round of a clumsy mismatch. To my immediate right, Stefan Oliva, a young deadline writer from an Argentine newspaper (its name escapes me) scrambled around as he tried to file the disappointing story of his countryman's face first defeat. 

In the co-main event, World Flyweight Champion Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Brian "Hawaiian Punch" Viloria didn't exactly light the joint on fire but they did put on a very high quality title fight with a definitive result. Viloria was knocked down early in the bout and was getting batted around at will by the smooth punching Nicaraguan. There's a good reason why Gonzalez, who draws comparisons to his idol Alexis Arguello, is seen as the number one pound for pound boxer in the world today following the recent retirement of Floyd Mayweather. Nobody out there today is as technically perfect in the ring as Gonzalez. To his credit, Viloria did his best to avoid a bad beating but he was catching one whenever Gonzalez let his hands go. In the ninth round, Gonzalez let them go and didn't stop until referee Benjy Esteves stepped in at 2:53 with Viloria on the ropes taking punches from all angles.

God Bless America
By 11:30, Golovkin and Lemieux were in the ring and the Garden was rocking with spontaneous chants of "Triple G ... Triple G" ringing out to start the fight. Golovkin was patient in the first round, using his stiff left jab to spear Lemieux, keeping the Canadian honest and his vaunted left hook home. People talk all day about Golovkin's offense but his defense was good enough to easily avoid the wild power of Lemieux in the second round by just leaning back away from it. In the third, Golovkin landed a hard left hook to the liver, left hook to the head combo and he finished it up with another flush jab to the face of Lemieux. The pace picked up in the fourth round and it looked like Golovkin might lower the boom but Lemieux stood in there like a champion and took the abuse while returning fire. Back on his heels in the fifth from more Golovkin jabs, Lemieux wasn't landing much and when he did, Golovkin walked through it. After a knockdown of Lemieux by Golovkin in the fifth from a body punch, the round ended with Lemieux on unsteady legs. Lemieux showed his grit in the sixth as the blood began to pour from his nose and mouth.

In the seventh, referee Steve Willis brought the bloody Lemieux to see the ringside physician and the fight resumed after a cursory look by the doctor. In fact, it was referee Willis that was taking the closest looks at Lemieux and as the IBF middleweight champion was getting smashed about the head by Golovkin, the horrified look on Willis' face told the story of the fight. In the eighth, Willis had seen enough carnage for the night and he jumped in to stop the one-sided fight at 1:32 of the frame. With the win, Golovkin improved his record to 34-0 with 31 KOs. Golovkin now has 15 successful defenses of his WBA middleweight title, 21 consecutive stoppages in the ring, and of course, sole possession of the IBF 160 pound title that he won tonight from David Lemieux.

Look at GGG with his four belts
At the post-fight press conference, middleweight Tureano Johnson (decision winner over Eamonn O'Kane on the undercard) said he's the one to beat Golovkin in the future. "He can hit me with all he's got. I can knock him out too," the Bahamas bred boxer claimed. "I have a cast iron chin," he told the press. When the black and blue Lemieux hit the stage, he gave credit to Golovkin but the ex-champ did say he thought the stoppage was a little premature. Golovkin, smiling with four belts spread out before him, wrapped up his experience in the ring against Lemieux: "It was not an easy night but it was a good night."

At 2:05am on Sunday morning, I filed this write-up with The Sweet Science and made my way back down to Penn Station for the long train ride back to Boston.

In the end, Golovkin was right of course, it wasn't an easy night but it was a damn good night.

Written by Jeffrey Freeman, originally published on The Sweet Science

October 13, 2015

Lights Out in Lowell — The PBC on NBC TV is a Smash Hit in the Mill City

Danny O'Connor is knocked out cold in 41 seconds
LOWELL MASS — This is a boxing town. Fights happen all the time here. Several broke out last Saturday night at the venerable Lowell Memorial Auditorium during a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) fight card promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Boston's Murphy Boxing. This is a very good thing.

Televised on NBC Sports Network, PBC's revolutionary ringleader Al Haymon continued his strategic takeover of boxing here, producing prizefights in a city best known for Irish Micky Ward of Gatti Trilogy fame and Dickie Eklund of Crack Street infamy. When recent attempts by Chicago Fight Club Promotions to promote boxing in the Mill City fell flat at this venue and at the nearby Tsongas Arena in 2012 and 2013 respectively, it was obvious that change was needed in Lowell's professional boxing scene.

That was then. This is now. Give Lowell boxing fans good fights (with body punches in bunches) featuring local fighters they can cheer for, and that's just what they did while Dropkick Murphys tunes blared through the sound system. A fun brawler named "Spike" from Cork, Ireland on the undercard doesn't exactly hurt either. With Sugar Ray Leonard calling the punches from ringside in the same building where he once competed as a young Golden Glove amateur boxer, the stage was set for fight night.

"Tito" Bracero was a classy winner in Lowell
In the main event, welterweight Danny O'Connor, Framingham, MA, 26-3, 10 KOs, 146, was knocked out cold in just 41 seconds of the first round by a counter right hand from Gabriel Bracero, Brooklyn, NY, 24-2, 5 KOs, 146.8, a punch that sent O'Connor down and out for what could've easily been the 2015 Knockout of the Year. O'Connor, fighting for redemption from a 2011 decision loss to Bracero, never got untracked and his swift defeat was rightly seen as a huge surprise by everybody in attendance. Nobody was expecting a knockout in this fight, least of all one like that from Bracero. O'Connor made it to his feet after the brutal loss, but where he goes from here is anyone's guess.  Said Bracero, "I was depressed after my last loss. This is a dream come true."

Bracero's trainer Tommy Gallagher, amazed by the power display, spoke of an Adrien "The Problem" Broner fight on the horizon for his charge.

In the co-main event, super bantamweight knockout artist Jonathan Guzman, Lawrence, MA, 20-0, 20 KOs, 121.6, beat up Danny Aquino, Meriden, CT, 17-3, 10 KOs, 121.6, scoring a ninth round stoppage to keep his twenty fight KO streak alive. Coming off the biggest win of his career against Ryan Kielczweski last April on ESPN Friday Night Fights, Aquino was down from a sweeping left hook in the second round and down again in the same frame from a cuffing right to the chops inside. Aquino battled back into the fight in the third round but the writing was already on the wall for the native Mexican. Too much speed and too much power from Guzman. Aquino was walking himself straight into his own defeat and Guzman was glad to oblige him with skillful precision. In the ninth, Aquino was again dumped to the canvas from a hurtful barrage of punches and referee Jackie Morrell put a stop to it at 1:19.

Aquino didn't like the decision to end the fight but going the distance was the best he could've hoped for.

Ryan K wins the fight of the night
Ryan "The Polish Prince" Kielczweski, Quincy, MA, 24-1, 7 KOs, 125.8, got a roaring reception before (and after) his televised bout against Rafael Vazquez, Brooklyn, NY, 16-2, 13 KOs, 126. The popular local featherweight is a crafty boxer with a tight defense and he put those skills on display from the outside early against Vazquez, a durable if not particularly creative fighter. Using his young fresh legs in a 22 foot ring, Kielczweski gave the New Yorker a lot of different looks as he gradually dialed in the left hook to the head and body. When Vazquez would lean to avoid punches , Kielczweski chopped away with right hands to the side of the head. In an excellent sixth round, Kielczweski stood in the middle of the ring and punished his tiring opponent before taking his best in return.

In the eighth, the "Polish Prince" poured it on when Vazquez suddenly appeared to gas out. At the end of the round, a cut appeared around the left eye of Kielczweski and the ringside doctor took a close look at the slice in the corner before the ninth round. Just like that, Vazquez had new life in the ring and he went for Kielczweski's injured eye with every punch he threw. The pair wailed away in the tenth after giving an appreciative crowd a competitive fight worth standing up to cheer for. Kielczweski was rewarded for his exciting effort with a unanimous decision. Official scores were 97-93, 97-93, and 96-94.  Said the winner, "I knew Vazquez could punch and I avoided it for the most part but then he rocked me in the tenth round. I didn't know where my feet were, it was great."

Non-Televised Undercard Results:

In the evening opener, lightweight Fernando Saucedo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 57-6-3, 10 KOs, stopped Carlos Fulgencio, Santa Domingo, RD, 19-17-1, 12 KOs, in the second round of a scheduled eight rounder at 1:23. Dropped along the ropes and draped on them for support, referee Arthur Mercante counted out Fulgencio and then gave him a pat on the head for a good effort.

Super featherweight Titus Williams, Elmont, NY, 3-0, 2 KOs, 131.2, abused a defenseless Arthur Parker, Pennsylvania, 1-14-2, 1 KO, 134.6, with a variety of outside shots to the head and body of his game but undertrained opponent. In the second round, Parker went down in a corner under assault to the midsection and it was there that he took a full count from referee Jackie Morrell at 1:04.

Middleweight Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan, Cork, Ireland, 22-1, 15 KOs, 172.6, wore "WAR" on his boxing trunks and war is what he waged on David Toribio, Miami, FL, 21-16, 14 KOs, 174.2, from the opening bell, dropping his overmatched opponent twice in the first, once with a jab. O'Sullivan quickly attacked a still hurting Toribio in the second round, dropping him in a corner with more punches downstairs. Time of the knockout was :28 of the second round. I spoke to Spike afterwards and the plan according to him is to fight Chris Eubank Jr. next and then hopefully Gennady Golovkin in the near future. Dream big Spike, dream big.

Credentialed Coverage
Junior lightweight Steve Ormond, Dublin, Ireland, 19-2, 10 KOs, 139, wore out Michael Clark, Columbus, OH, 44-14-1, 18 KOs, 140.6, to the body at 1:49 of the very first round, scoring two knockdowns before busy Lowell referee Jackie Morrell counted to ten.

In a televised "swing bout," heavyweight Adam Kownacki, Brooklyn, NY, 12-0, 10 KOs, 261.2, pounded out an eight round decision over Rodney Hernandez, Modesto, CA, 8-3-1, 1 KO, 240, in a slow motion slugfest. All three judges had it 78-74 for Kownacki, who goes by "Baby Face."

Lightweight Patrick Hyland, Dublin, Ireland, 31-1, 15 KOs, 128.4 defeated a game David Martinez, Albuquerque, NM, 18-8-1, 3 KOs, 128, by technical knockout at :17 of the eighth round.

Images & Words by Jeffrey Freeman, originally published on The Sweet Science 

October 8, 2015

The Future Ain't What It Used To Be — Life After King Klitschko

Dr. Steelhammer is addicted to the shindig
By Jeffrey Freeman When World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko retires from boxing in the not too distant future, one thing is certain. Nothing will ever be the same. Maybe that's a good thing but it's probably not. At 39, the seemingly unbeatable champion has done more than fully harvest a once ripe heavyweight division. In fact, Klitschko has hammered it into submission so severely that its future as a viable enterprise in the modern boxing landscape appears as uncertain as it's ever looked at the end of any comparably great championship reign. Klitschko's dominance into his late 30's is on par with 38 year-old, recently retired 49-0 superstar Floyd "Money" Mayweather.

Boxing eras are ending fast friends.

Will new ones begin in their place?   

Wilder is 35-0 with 34 KOs
Reigning and defending for nearly a decade with double digit title defenses, Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs) holds four individual "major" title belts (WBA, IBF, WBO & IBO) and ALL of them will become vacant when and if "Dr. Steelhammer" leaves boxing as its universally recognized heavyweight champion. That means four "new" champions to go along with an already "regular" WBA belt holder in Ruslan Chagaev and a dubious WBC titlist named Deontay Wilder, the current American King of the nowhere gang.

You do the fuzzy math fight fans, that's four (or five) illegitimate claims to an otherwise endangered species. That's right, the heavyweight championship of the world as we've know it to be, a real thing, is at risk of becoming extinct. If a new consensus world heavyweight champion somehow emerges from the alphabet soup group's scrambling and the boxing media's posturing, this would surely be an accident, albeit a welcomed one. Unfortunately, no official mechanism in boxing currently exists to produce a legitimate lineal successor to Klitschko when he inevitably vacates after a couple more successful title defenses.

In the "good old days" of our sport, the number one contender would fight the number two contender and the winner was the new champ. When Rocky Marciano retired as undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in 1956, it was decided that Floyd Patterson would face Archie Moore for the vacant title. Today, nobody can even say who the two top heavyweight "contenders" actually are, let alone make them face off for the universally recognized heavyweight championship. Today, more than ever, the governing bodies of boxing, whose worthless belts will be up for grabs, exist to be independent money making organizations. Unifying and consolidating their various titles for the benefit of posterity is not in their economic interests and they will not do it voluntarily—if at all.

"Boxing is not like other sports," is to put it mildly.

Truthfully, it's the traveling circus of gypsies, tramps, and thieves.

The same muddled scenario was true when Lennox Lewis retired as heavyweight champion in 2004. The one and only heavyweight championship of the one and only known world was left vacant for an unusually long time. This was detrimental to the reputation of a title once held by ring legends Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield. American audiences more or less tuned out the past ten years while heavyweight championship boxing turned into an endless AC/DC—Red Hot Chili Peppers concert series in Europe. "Nobody's putting up a fight," is right. "Knock out, but boy you better come to," rings true. It's been a long time since anyone not named Klitschko has been heavyweight champion of the world.

Klitschko pummels Pulev in Germany
Critics who deride Wladimir as bad chinned and boring should at least appreciate him and his brother Vitali for respecting the world heavyweight championship enough to piece it all back together after Lewis left it shattered. For that, boxing ought to be grateful to the Klitschko brothers, not resentful. Despite their refusal to ever fight each other for the heavyweight championship of each other, they were good stewards of a singular title once thought to be the most prestigious in all of sports. Like Mayweather Jr., the Klitschkos will only be fully appreciated when they're long gone and never coming back.

When the aforementioned Lewis retired as champion after a controversial TKO win in 2003 against the now retired Vitali Klitschko, we at least knew the heavyweight division had a future in the two young Klitschko brothers. They were rightly viewed as the heavyweight heir apparents. Today, the heavyweight division is an old, tired weight class, beaten down over time by the dull wielding of an aging champion's trusty steel hammer. With the exception of 26 year-old British Olympic hopeful Anthony Joshua, (14-0, 14 KOs) there are no equivalent up and comers out there today.

Tyson's fury conquered boxing
The name of the next world heavyweight champion is anyone's guess. In an April 2014 interview with KO Digest, Klitschko's hammer might have hit the nail square on the head when he said, "It's always been in the history of boxing that suddenly some guy, like a Mike Tyson, just pops up and conquers. Suddenly he was right there in the picture."

"Maybe there is somebody [out there] we didn’t even talk about," added Klitschko to the conversation. "If you look at the scale of the markets, it goes up and down. In boxing, it's the same. You have some times that are exciting, and you have some times that are less exciting. It’s always been like that," the calculating champion concluded.  

The U.K.'s 6'9 Tyson Fury could've "popped up and conquered" on October 24 when the giant gypsy was to challenge King Klitschko for the championship in Düsseldorf, Germany on HBO. Fury, 27 and unbeaten at 24-0, with 18 KOs, talks a good game, something that's been sorely lacking in heavyweight boxing under Klitschko's über dignified rule. To wit: Fury has promised to "lick this Klit," insisting Klitschko has never fought a "Gypsy King" like him. According to Klitschko, Fury is "young and wet behind his ears."

That fight, as we know, has been postponed because Wlad got injured. Regardless, it looks increasingly likely that the herculean Ukrainian will soon retire as world heavyweight champion.

That leaves a motley crew of disjointed fighters to pick up the pieces and fill in the blanks.

Alexander Povetkin, Bryant Jennings, Czar Glazkov, Bermane Stiverne, and Andy Ruiz Jr. are the best of a sad lot. 

The future of boxing's former glamour division doesn't look quite so bright does it? As the late great Yogi Berra once famously said, "The future ain't what it used to be." In fact, life after King Klitschko looks downright depressing.   

Can Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua be the next Mike Tyson?

Only time will tell if boxing's heavyweight market can recover from its long recession.

Written by Jeffrey Freeman, originally published on The Sweet Science

September 16, 2015

Ringside Report: Quillin brutalizes Zerafa on TV, Charlo dogs out K9 in 3

Kid Chocolate was on full blast at Foxwoods
Mashantucket Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin is sick of answering the same question. You know the one. Was it really a good move to give up your WBO middleweight title and a million dollar plus payday against Matt Korobov to follow boxing's Pied Piper, Al Haymon, into an unknown fistic future? According to Quillin, it definitely was. "When somebody can revive boxing the way he's done, you have to respect that," Quillin told me in regards to the controversial figure. In his second fight under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner, Quillin, Brooklyn, NY, 160, 32-0-1, 23 KOs, now beltless and coming off a disputed draw against current WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee, took on an unknown Australian named Michael Zerafa, Melbourne, Australia, 162, 17-2, 9 KOs, at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut last Saturday afternoon at the Grand Theater, formerly known as the MGM Grand. 

"Pretty Boy" got hit by flying chocolate
It was a showcase fight for Quillin and he shined brightly as the powerful puncher that he still is. Scrappy but not terribly skilled, Zerafa managed to avoid a patient Quillin's power early in the fight, even landing a hard right hand and an uppercut in the third round that got Quillin's attention and won the underdog the round on my card from press row. As the pace picked up in the fourth, Quillin began to pick his opponent off with the jab and sneaky left hooks. In the fifth, an entertaining fist fight finally broke out and Quillin took his chance to pounce, pulverizing Zerafa with a clubbing right hand on the ropes that sent the Aussie down and out, flat on his back, where he was taken from the ring on a yellow stretcher that matched his bright ring attire. 

Zerafa was taken out on a stretcher
The official time of the scary knockout was 1:06 of the fifth. The winner then jaw-jacked back and forth with "regular" WBA middleweight champion Danny "Miracle Man" Jacobs, seated ringside as an announcer for PBC, and the pair are reportedly scheduled to tussle December 5 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, this according to promoter Lou DiBella. During the post-fight presser, Quillin was handed a cell phone by DiBella and on the other end was his battered opponent, Michael Zerafa, calling from the local hospital to say that he was fine. The fighters exchanged pleasantries before an emotional Quillin reminded the media in attendance that boxing is a sport and that the last thing he wants to do is hurt somebody permanently. 

What the future looks like
The card, aired on NBC television and promoted by DiBella Entertainment, also featured an IBF super welterweight championship title fight between the aging champion Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (Detroit, MI, 153, 34-6, 19 KOs) and undefeated upstart challenger Jermall Charlo (Houston, TX, 153, 22-0, 17 KOs). Twin brother of Jermell Charlo, boxing fans can be excused if they can't tell the pair apart. The brothers look incredibly similar and both have recently seen world title opportunities slip through their fingers. Not to be outdone, Charlo did his best to distinguish himself from his own kin as early as the first round with a chopping right hand that sent Bundrage crashing to the canvas with a stunned look of shock on his face. Charlo pressed his overwhelming speed advantage in the second round, scoring another knockdown against the defending champion, this time off a short left hook. The in-ring disaster for Bundrage continued unabated into the third round which saw Charlo nearly blow "K9" out of the ring with two more knockdowns, the second of which caused referee John Callas to call a halt at 2:33.

With the dominating knockout victory, Charlo is now the IBF junior middleweight champion and he put the entire 154 pound division on notice that he is a true force to be reckoned with. "I am the future of boxing," proclaimed the proud new champion in the ring with his brother Jermell by his side. After an impressive performance like that on network television, he might just be right. 

Said the defeated but upbeat 42 year-old ex-champion, "You win some and you lose some." 

In the third televised fight of the day, Hugo Centeno (Oxnard, CA, 161, 23-0, 12 KOs) defeated Lukasz Maciec (Poland, 159, 22-3-1, 5 KOs) by unanimous decision in an eight rounder.  Neat and tidy, Centeno resembles polished junior welterweight Jose Benavidez in the ring and he used his advantages in size and skill to outpoint his plodding Polish opponent by score of 79-73, 79-73, and 78-74. 

Undercard Results: Super featherweight Gary Stark Jr. (Staten Island, NY, 25-3, 8 KOs) defeated Anthony Napunyi (Kenya, 15-16, 8 KOs) by six round unanimous decision (59-55, 58-56, 58-56) in the opening bout of the afternoon. Bantamweight prospect Antonio "Another" Russell (Washington, DC, 4-0, 3 KOs) overwhelmed Manuel Rubalcava (Mexico, 2-15) to score a second round knockout at 1:26. Super featherweight Titus Williams (Elmont, NY, 2-0, 1 KO) crushed Benjamin Burgos (New York, NY, 2-13-1) with an overhand right for the knockout in the first round of a scheduled four. Light heavyweight Marcus Browne (Staten Island, NY, 16-0, 12 KOs) blasted out a faded Gabriel Campillo (Madrid, Spain, 25-8-1, 12 KOs) in the first round with an impressive display of power, scoring two knockdowns to bring about a compassionate stoppage from Arthur Mercante Jr. at :55 of the first.

Credentialed coverage
Campillo, who came in overweight by two pounds, hasn't been the same since he was crushed by Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev in 2013 at nearby Mohegan Sun. Female super bantamweight sensation Shelito Vincent (Providence, RI, 15-0, 1 KO) outworked and outclassed Brittany Cruz (Thornton, CO, 10-7-2-2) over the eight round distance, winning by unanimous decision. Cruz came to the ring with a smirk on her face but Vincent managed to wipe it off with a methodical attack on the inside of her taller, leaner opponent. Super featherweight Bryant Cruz (Port Chester, NY, 16-0, 8 KOs) defeated Jonathan Perez (Columbia, 33-13) by a wide eight round unanimous decision in an entertaining scrap that went off in the ring after the NBC broadcast ended. Fans who stuck around saw a nice little fight to end the night. Perez thought he won the bout and so did a few folks seated at ringside.    

Images & Words by Jeffrey Freeman 

Originally published on The Sweet Science

September 10, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes X — Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions reign

Down Goes Huck on SpikeTV for PBC
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

August is my least favorite month. Not because of the beautiful late summer weather in New England, but because of the boxing drought that we all experience year after year. For whatever reason, rare is the big or important bout held in the eighth month of the year.

Sometimes I think of it like this: If a year represented a 12 round title fight, August would be the round both fighters take off in order to save a little something extra for the championship rounds still to come. As the weather cools, boxing heats up in the fall and into the winter. Last month was not without its exception to the rule of course and by that I mean the incredible Marco Huck-Krzysztof Glowacki brawl aired on SpikeTV by Premier Boxing Champions. 

The defending cruiserweight champ was cruising to a record setting 14th successful title defense when he was brutally stopped late in the fight by Glowacki of Walcz, Poland. Like it or not, 2015 has been, and will continue to be, the year of Premier Boxing Champions. Al Haymon's revolutionary production concept is now in full swing. Boxing is suddenly everywhere you look. Fighters (and fans) are actively benefiting from all the exposure and all the action. Yet only the fighters seem to know this and appreciate it. 

Perpetually impossible to please boxing fans seem unappreciative of Haymon's efforts to preserve and restore their favorite sport through clever use of nostalgia and all-you-can-eat knuckle sandwiches on "free" TV. After some of their early bouts fell flat, PBC now has a legitimate "Fight of the Year" candidate in Glowacki's "made for television" knockout of Huck to win the cruiserweight title with a stunning, come from behind, get up off the floor, and knock the long reigning, defending world champion through the ropes KO. It is exactly these kinds of improbably exciting results that will create new boxing fans and bring old ones back to the fold. Thank you Mr. Haymon, thank you PBC, and thank you to the fighters who put it all on the line for our televised entertainment. 

Lowell Golden Gloves
PBC in Lowell, Massachusetts is right up my alley.

Not only has KO Digest live covered the last two significant boxing cards held in the Mill City (2012 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and 2013 at the Tsongas Arena, both Chicago Fight Club Promotions shows headlined by Irish Joey McCreedy) but I also lived in Lowell during the best years of Micky Ward's memorable career, from 1998 to 2003. I know the city. I know the people. I know the history of fisticuffs on the streets and in the ring there. I even covered the entire 2012 Lowell Golden Gloves tournament from start to finish and let me tell you, that's a lot of amateur bouts to have kept track of. 

In this photo I took from ringside during the 2012 Lowell GG's, that's Matt Doherty (born and raised in nearby Salem, MA where they once famously burned "witches" to death) in the corner with Lowell's Cowboy cutman Bill Murphy and trainer Michael Strazzere. Doherty, now 3-1 as a professional lightweight, and known as "The Mantis" will be competing when big time professional boxing returns to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Saturday October 10. That's just 6 days after Micky Ward ("The Pride of Lowell") celebrates his 50th birthday in style on October 4. Additional details on the card are "sketchy" at this time (that just means I can't say anything yet) but what I can tell you is that this is a Murphy's Boxing card under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. Local New England talent will be in action and the rich history of boxing in Lowell, Massachusetts will be featured prominently. Look for KO in press row again for this one.  

Santa Cruz batters a Schaefer-jinxed Mares on PBC on ESPN
Just days before his crushing KO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez and approximately two years before last month's thrilling majority decision loss to Leo Santa Cruz in Los Angeles, Abner Mares was badly jinxed by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer who said on international media conference call for all to hear loud and clear — "Abner Mares is a pound for pound star. I believe Mares belongs in the number two spot. We have Andre Ward, a fighter I respect, who's had tremendous accomplishments. He won the Super Six. Mares won the bantamweight tournament. Both fought the best in their division. Look what Mares has done since. Look at what Ward has done since. No question Abner belongs in the number two spot. You look at Juan Manuel Marquez, who I believe is in the number three spot. He got dominated every second of every round, by Floyd Mayweather, who is the number one pound for pound star."

Catch me if you can Manny
In Praise of TBE — Look, I know everybody is frustrated with boring mismatches and overblown Pay-Per-View costs. I know everybody would rather see Floyd "Money" Mayweather take on just about anybody but Andre Berto for victory #49. I get it. Trust me, I do. But the man is a living legend and if what he says is true, this is his Sweet Science swan song. Does that not warrant some attention and respect? I think it does even if I like to have some fun with Floyd's antics from time to time. Say what you like, but Mayweather has fought all comers and only a handful of them could even compete with him. That's not an accident. Mayweather is one of the greatest defensive fighters in the history of boxing and his timing, instincts, and ring intelligence are off the charts. Rare is the glove that's been solidly laid on him. Most great champions at his age, 38, are in sharp decline and showing signs of it. Not Mayweather. He's still P4P #1 and as strange as it may sound, he'll surely leave us wanting more. 

Hunter gives the boxing media a cerebral tongue lashing
Andre Berto's trainer Virgil Hunter on boxing writers & media members backlashing over ‪#‎MayBerto — "Some people don't have any grasp of what it takes to be a fighter. When I see the attitudes that come along with such an event, it usually comes from somebody who doesn't know what fighters go through. We acknowledge everybody whether you come up to us with a set in one of these rooms, or whether you come up to us with your camera phone. A lot of you can't even get us past YouTube but we still acknowledge you because we understand the sport and we appreciate that you're participating in our sport. So we love you just the same. It's time you give back to the sport. Anybody who has any negativity about it, who's fighting who, we can sit up here and go through history and contradict everything that coming from the negative side."

Only the Ghost of Rocky Marciano can stop 49-0
KO's ‪#‎MayBerto‬ Prediction — Ordinarily, for a fight of this magnitude, you would read my prediction published on RingTV but this one is such a forgone conclusion, they're not even doing a "Fight Picks" article. That should tell you something. Now let me tell you something else. Floyd Mayweather will "punish" disinterested boxing fans for their wholesale rebuke of this fight by making it fun and semi-competitive, not unlike what he did with Marcos Maidana the first time. And also not unlike what he did with Manny Pacquiao, but in the opposite way. In that farce of the century, Floyd "punished" fans and media alike for forcing him to fight Pacquiao by making the fight a grossly overpriced and boring shit show. Against Andre Berto, Mayweather will rumble more than usual, win eight of twelve rounds, and say: "See, I told you Berto was a tough competitor, he gave me a better fight than Manny did." This serves to humiliate Pacquiao further, something Mayweather won't be able to resist.

The greatest upset in sports history, for Mom
Busted Upset — The quick and easy comparisons to Douglas-Tyson as they relate to Saturday's ‪#‎MayBerto‬ farce don't really fit beyond the similarly long odds against the motivated underdogs. For one thing, Mayweather is a training machine who never slacks off or shows up to fight in poor condition. By contrast, Tyson trained for Buster on a diet of drugs, alcohol, and cheap Japanese geishas.

As a challenger to the best fighter on the planet, Douglas, unlike Berto, was known for a questionable heart and for quitting under fire in a title fight. Berto, immeasurably less talented than Douglas but no less written off, suffers from no such ticker issues as evidenced by his many entertaining wars in the ring. If Berto somehow beats Mayweather, it will be because he outfought him not because he caught him unprepared or undertrained.

Divine Intervention — What do Evander Holyfield and Manny Pacquiao have in common? Both now claim to have been miraculously healed of physical afflictions by the power of the Lord our God. Long time fight fans will recall that when "The Real Deal" was diagnosed with a pin sized hole in his enormous heart back in the 1990's, Holyfield actually claimed it was God and God alone who healed his ticker and ultimately made him fit for epic battle against Iron Mike Tyson. Pacquiao, he of the torn rotator cuff and ensuing "fraud of the century" against Floyd Mayweather last April, now claims that his injured shoulder was healed by God and swimming in salt water, this according to boxing writer Mike Coppinger in his new piece about Pacquiao on Boxing Junkie for USA Today Sports. But the questions remain, was either condition ever legitimate to begin with and does God really heal prizefighters? 

Times have changed in boxing
The Bottom Line — Have you ever wondered why boxing insists on maintaining the controversial status quo of 24-hour weigh-ins (the day before the fight) as opposed to the more traditional "same day" weigh-ins used in the past? Do you realize that the political will to stick with the current method has more to do now with publicity (and of course money) than safety? Back then, nobody much cared about weigh-ins as an important event to be observed personally and only the very biggest fights drew fan attention to the scales. As the domain of newspaper writers and other industry insiders, the weigh-in was more of a formality than a function of the fight. 

 Then in the 1980's, when "same day" weigh-ins went the way of 15-round title fights and mob control of the Sweet Science, the rationale behind the change was easily attributable to health concerns and fighter safety. A boxer who has to dehydrate his body to make a strict divisional weight limit will be weakened to the point of peril, or so the claim went. Give that fighter a full day to rehydrate with fluids they argued. That makes sense, fans said, and so it went on and on that way for over 30 years now.

Today, weigh-ins are big business and a big part of the "fight week" experience. Fans and media attend in droves, even paying for the right to be there, as was the case last April for ‪#‎MayPac‬ when a ticket cost $10 to something that was traditionally free. Mayweather's greed aside, in a down economy, a niche sport like boxing must do everything within its own power to squeeze every last drop of publicity possible and the structure of today's boxing weigh-in allows for that. So again we can see clearly that the powers that be don't really care about the safety of the fighters as much as they care about selling a few more tickets or a few more pay-per-views. That's why the 24-hour weigh-in is here to stay no matter how much weight today's boxers put on between the scale and the ring.

Don't forget the girls Bob
Promoter Bob Arum talks to KO Digest about changes in the boxing broadcast business — "When I first started in the sport back in the mid 60's, there were no satellites, no international satellites, no domestic satellites so the communication was, you would look at it as like being in the dark ages. When we did a closed circuit fight we had to use telephone company long lines. It was a whole different business model because of how limited in retrospect, we were in communications. Now we have all the satellites, we have pay per view, we have stuff that nobody even contemplated 45 years ago. In the next 10 or 15 years people will be buying a PPV fight on their iPad. And not only buying it on their iPad but electing which corner to watch between rounds, which camera angle to watch a fight from. Everything changes and yet everything stays the same. Ultimately it's still two guys in the ring facing off against each other."

Holly Holm is next up for Rousey in the UFC
The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science — Holly Holm, once considered to be the #1 pound for pound rated female fighter in the world, shocked the sport she ruled in April of 2013 when she announced her departure from boxing to pursue her goals in mixed martial arts. The decision to switch sports closed the door once and for all on an all-girl superfight against "First Lady of Boxing" Cecilia Braekhus, the new #1 P4P female fighter. More than two years later, Holm's dream has come true in the form of a fight against UFC superstar Ronda Rousey on January 2 in Vegas. Said "The Preacher's Daughter" at the time of her difficult decision: "When we were deciding which way to go with my future, my trainer, Mike Winkeljohn, said it best, ‘You want to climb a new mountain.’ This has created a new spark in me, and I’m following my heart. I just want to fight where my passion is."

Will the winner risk it all against GGG?
Reversal of Fortune — 34 year old middleweight champion of the world Miguel Cotto is reportedly set to make 30 million dollars for his HBO PPV defense of the WBC title against Mexican heartthrob Canelo Alvarez, who himself is set to make 10 million dollars. What's evident here is that Cotto has played his economic cards correctly even if boxing fans know in their heart of hearts that Gennady Golovkin is more deserving of a middleweight title fight with Cotto, a Puerto Rican warrior who's Mama didn't raise no fool. If you're going to lose, and perhaps get beat up badly in the process, it's better to make 30 million dollars than 3 times less. Though an underdog against his 25 year old challenger, Cotto is not in an unwinnable fight against Alvarez. As always, boxing is all about the money, that risk-reward ratio, and that's why it's Canelo and not GGG that Cotto will risk it all against in November.

Nunn has been locked up too long for drug charges
Second To Who — I've been thinking a lot lately about former World Middleweight Champion Michael Nunn. Currently incarcerated for buying two pounds of cocaine from an undercover police officer, Nunn was one hell of a good fighter. Back in 1988, when I was just 18, all I wanted in this life was to see him fight Sugar Ray Leonard. That's how highly I thought of Nunn. Hell, the whole boxing world was impressed with him and for damn good reason. His beatings of Frank Tate, Juan Roldan, and Sumbu Kalambay were all equally impressive in their own special way. The body punch that dropped Tate was tricky quick, the knockout of Roldan was of the ten count variety, retiring the Argentine for good. Kalambay? He fell in one round from one punch. The sky looked the limit for Nunn, who 26 years ago in 1989, decisioned Iran Barkley to retain the title. Nunn made two more defenses (against Marlon Starling and Donald Curry) before he ran into the unchecked fury of James "Light Out" Toney who lived up to his nickname, leveling Nunn in eleven.

Editor's Note  The KO Digest Boxing News has changed a lot through years since its inception in 2010. Writers have come and gone. Monthly columns have come and gone as well. Change, while never easy, is a sure sign of growth. All in all, the changes we've experienced have been for the better and I am as proud of KO Digest today as I was when it first started to take shape, and take off in the boxing community. Our brand is well known and well respected. Our ringside reporters are credentialed for many of the biggest and best fights in boxing today. Our content is read throughout the world by fight fans, eager for unbiased and informative reporting. Mission accomplished. Today, it is primarily myself and David McLeod who hold down the writing fort. John Scheinman, Chuck Marbry, and Steve Bridge remain as occasional (but valuable) contributors. I'm forever grateful to all who have contributed to KO Digest in the past and they include Edwin Ayala, Terry Strawson, Joel Sebastianelli, Mark A. Jones, and Derek Bonnett. 

Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Freeman

If you enjoy KO Digest and appreciate the quality writing, boxing news, and credentialed ringside coverage we provide for the global boxing community, please consider making a secure donation to the KO Digest through PayPal by using KO's PP email address: ~ No donation amount is too big. No amount is too small. All donations are appreciated and respected. The proceeds will go towards website upkeep and media management costs. Thank you for reading and thank you for the continued support. The KO Digest cannot and does not exist without its readership.

August 5, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes IX — #MayBerto, Klitschko, Fury & Krusher

Back to back Money grabs
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

Back in August of 2011, on an international media conference call held to promote Andre Berto's comeback bout in Biloxi, Mississippi against unknown Slovenian journeyman Jan Zaveck, I questioned the former WBC welterweight champion about his future in boxing and whether or not he had one after a decision loss to known quitter Victor Ortiz. I asked Berto if he believed he was at risk of becoming a "forgotten fighter" were he to lose to Zaveck.

Perturbed, Berto's response was two parts annoyance and one part incredulity. It was the first time a prizefighter had ever gotten publicly irritated with me for doing what I consider to be my job as a boxing journalist.

"Is that what it is?" Berto asked rhetorically instead of answering my question. "You lose one fight you’re forgotten about? Fighters have shown for years and years they lose one fight and then come back a whole lot bigger than they were before. Saying that kind of thing blows my mind about you reporters and just the sport in general sometimes." Berto then continued to let me have it.

"You’ve seen a guy like Shane Mosley resurrect his career three or four times. A guy like Bernard Hopkins and all these other guys, and they have four, five, six losses. I’m still young. I went through a tough defeat. I had a bad night. I don’t care about what people think or what they’re gonna write. At this point I’m just doing this for me, my family, and the real Berto fans out there and that's it!"

Four years later, Berto has two more losses. And a September 12 SHO PPV date in Vegas with Floyd Mayweather.

Fuck You
Middle Finger To The World — Light heavyweight champion Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev is very crass. Read some of the things he supposedly says in Russian and you might think he could be called KKK to Gennady Golovkin's GGG. While the always smiling "Triple G" embraces fans of all colors and nationalities, Kovalev seems stuck in a Cold War mentality. Perhaps this war footing suits Kovalev best and we should all just appreciate his honesty as well as his brutality.

Boxing, at the level Kovalev plies his dark art, is not courtesy class. Such candidness is hard to come by in today's politically correct era. The "Krusher" is anything but PC. Kovalev employs two primary methods of verbally dealing with opponents he dislikes and who he plans to crush. The first is to call them "pieces of shit" when asked by the media about them. Adonis Stevenson and Jean Pascal have been so excrementally labelled by Kovalev. Who'll be next? His second method is to threaten an ass kicking and then casually deliver one. When I met Kovalev in New York last year at his WBO ring ceremony, I caught a candid shot of him as he was being photographed. 

They say a picture is worthy of a thousand words. This one of KK is worth at least two.

Business as usual for Klitschko
Furious Styles — Tyson Fury wants his fight against Wladimir Klitschko to be personal between them. At a recent face-to-face press conference to promote their highly anticipated October 24 heavyweight championship title bout in Germany, Fury repeatedly told the defending champion that it's "personal" for him and "personal" for them. Klitschko was quick to interrupt Fury to remind him that it's never personal for him, that boxing is always business, that there is no animosity here or in the ring. Dr. Steelhammer, ever the chess grandmaster, does not want his opponents to dislike him or to arm themselves with a burning contempt for him as a person. It's another subtle way Wlad K protects himself at all times. More than anything, Klitschko wants everyone he fights to be in complete and total awe of him, the long reining world champion with hands and arms full of strapping title belts. Some are awed and some are not but most are beaten before they ever get in the ring because Klitschko disarms them with his pure class.

Last year, KO Digest interviewed Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs) by telephone. It was a great 45 minute Q&A with "Dr. Steelhammer" as he readied for the challenge of Alex Leapai. We asked the champion about some of his future potential challengers, including the UK's massive Tyson Fury (24-0, 18 KOs) who Klitschko faces on October 24 in Germany. Regarding the young Fury, Klitschko kept it short and sweet: "He's young and green behind his ears." 

George is still taking Cannon shots at Briggs
KO Digest Grills Big George Foreman On the current state of the heavyweight division and why American fans have lost interest in recent years: "It's like a vacuum cleaner from outer space. We're looking for heavyweights, we're searching everywhere, looking under beds and rocks, looking for a great heavyweight. There just aren't any around. If there were, we could take over. But for some reason, everybody has the glamor of all the other sports, basketball, football, and baseball has taken over. But boxing will be back. A heavyweight will come on the scene and you won't have to worry about who's heavyweight champ of the world. His name will ring loud but it will be an American."

What about old 43 year old Shannon Briggs George?

"I don't think he was very good even when he was good." 

Waiting for Chavez Jr. to get serious about boxing
Wasted Talent — Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is frustrating for boxing fans to abide with his myriad weight issues because we can see the obvious talent he possesses underneath all that baggage. A great fighter lies just beneath the surface and we have seen flashes of that potential, particularly in the championship rounds against Sergio Martinez. When Chavez Jr. punches, it's clear how big and strong he really is, what he's truly capable of in the ring, and the damage he can inflict. It's not too late for Junior to live up to his birthright but we're all growing tired of seeing it squandered. Will the real J.C. Jr. please stand up?  

Before Shawn Porter fought Kell Brook, I asked him:
If you beat the "Special One" will you fight Keith Thurman?
"Showtime" told me: "I'll fight 'One Time' two times!"
Now that he's beaten Broner, will he fight him one time?
"It's a fight I wouldn't turn down," Porter told KO Digest.

The Super 6 is History — The super middleweight division just ain't what it used to be. Andre Ward doesn't really fight at that weight class any longer. Carl Froch is officially retired. Arthur Abraham is a fossil who just refuses to go away. Robert Stieglitz was knocked out by him last month. James DeGale is a new world champion who I had the pleasure of covering up close and personal in Boston last May. Badou Jack is one of the worst fighters to ever hold a WBC title. George Groves may turn out to be a good fighter but Froch whooped him twice. The Dirrell brothers are overrated and fresh out of title belts in their fighting family. J'Leon Love turned out to be a TMT bust. And there is no superstar prospect in the 168 pound weight class for boxing fans to look ahead to.

If Gennady Golovkin moves up from 160, there isn't much there for him.

Super model with her super middle man
Shedding Skin — Carl Froch was wise to retire from boxing last month. At age 38, the writing was on the wall for the former WBC & IBF super middleweight champion. A youthful George Groves couldn't beat Froch in two fights but he did send a strong message and a hurtful warning that was too loud to be ignored. Far too many in boxing linger on past their primes or past their potency. It's refreshing to see that not all boxers are cut from this same cloth. There is an undeniable dignity in walking away on top or very close to it. Carl Froch was a throwback fighter whose record of consistently facing top quality opponents more than earned him the right to retire before having to face even more of them as his own skills waned. Gone now is the possibility of Froch vs. Gennady Golovkin. There will be no Wembley Stadium rematch with Andre Ward. Fellow Brit James "Chunky" DeGale can have Froch's old title belt but barring an unlikely "Cobra" comeback, he'll never get Froch in the ring. 

All of this fleeting allure only adds to Froch's legacy in the squared circle. History will now have to be the final judge of where Froch rates in comparison to Joe Calzaghe and all the other great super middleweight world champions. In the meantime, Froch can now finally afford to let that beautiful woman in his life (red hot model Rachael Cordingley) weaken his legs a little more often. 

Paulie and Froch have a similar future in retirement
Malignaggi's Media Magic Trick — He might not have looked it after Danny "Swift" Garcia was done beating him up last Saturday night in Brooklyn, but Malignaggi really is one of the lucky ones. The "Magic Man" doesn't have to say goodbye to boxing even though he'll probably retire from active competition at age 35 after back to back TKO losses. For many fighters, retirement from boxing is the hardest thing in the world to deal with because for most of these guys, there is no longer a role for them in the sport they love. Some boxers keep the love alive by becoming trainers but the vast majority have no boxing in their lives after boxing aside from what they see on TV. This is one of the best parts about being a fight writer. Boxers come and go though the years but the writer gets to stay and see this cycle play out. For Malignaggi, his role as a ringside commentator will serve not only his own need to stay involved but it also benefits all of us who get to bask in the glory of his wisdom.

Winner gets a shot at Hulk Hogan?
Crossing The Mason-Dixon Line

Hulkster & Antonio Tarver Talk Trash

With Sylvester Stallone's ROCKY spinoff CREED hitting theaters soon, it's interesting times for former protagonist ROCKY characters Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan) and Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio "Magic Man" Tarver). Hogan, a pro wrestling icon and an overly protective father (as well as a self-admitted racist) is now embroiled in an N-word controversy that's already resulted in his complete removal from WWE history books. The Romans, in their reign, called it damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory.

Apparently, Vince McMahon is still a stone cold promoter and one badass boss. 

Racial tirades are no longer tolerated in the year 2015 and nor should they be. Coincidentally, Tarver, 46, and still vying for a very unlikely shot at the heavyweight championship of the boxing world, got all fired up on an international media conference call the very next day with upcoming opponent "USS" Steve Cunningham, a "real American" who, as a "war tested Veteran of this damn country," fights for the rights of everyman. Things got verbally heated during the pro wrestling like exchanges and at one point, Tarver actually said to Cunningham, "Nigger, you out your rabbit ass mind if you think you're going to fucking beat me. You're distracted homie."

KO Digest Special Feature: Rating Boxing's Five Best Weight Classes

Bradley survives a late storm against Vargas
1. Welterweight — Packed with stars, up and comers, power punchers, and defensive wizards, this Original 8 division is championed by the best fighter in all of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr., while its top ten rating list reads like a who's who in boxing today with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Tim Bradley, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Kell Brook, and Keith Thurman.

Welterweight is also where the best junior welterweights show up when they're looking to move up for the big money. Danny Garcia stopped Paulie Malignaggi in 9 at 147 to begin his welterweight campaign. One can even envision former lightweight champion Terence Crawford packing on the needed pounds to someday soon compete with the big boys. And let's not forget Sadam Ali, one of the best prospect/contenders in all of boxing.

2. Light Heavyweight — It might look a little top heavy right now with Adonis Stevenson and Sergey "The Krusher" Kovalev as rulers of a division without too many credible threats left (beyond each other) but 175 will very soon be the place to be. Former super middleweight champion and elite P4P talent Andre Ward has his sights set on Kovalev's title belts. Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez will soon be lobbing bombs at "Superman" for the linear title. Polish puncher Andrzej Fonfara is better than anybody thought he was and we'd now like to see more of him after he made Chavez Jr. quit on his stool. Artur Beterbiev is just 9-0 but a serious force to soon be reckoned with. Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal represent the old guard and both might have a trick or two left up their sleeves. Sullivan Barrera (16-0) looks like a solid pro and you should keep your eyes on him.

Golovkin is a middleweight wrecking ball
3. Middleweight — The always popular glamour division that was once ruled so marvelously by Hagler and Hopkins is now ruled with bloody fists by Gennady Golovkin, winner of his last twenty prizefights by knockout. The WBA champion appears unbeatable, fights often, and routinely makes trophies of other men. The aging and undersized Miguel Cotto still holds the linear title for what that's worth and a Superfight against Canelo Alvarez promises to bring excitement to the championship before GGG's takeover of 160 is complete.

Fighters like Peter Quillin, David Lemieux, and Andy Lee should not be counted out and they will soon be tasked with the dirty job of dismantling Golovkin if they can. Lemieux gets a chance on October 17 at MSG in NYC.

4. Super Bantamweight — Small in stature but big in star power and potential marquee match-ups, the 122 lb. weight class boasts fighters such as world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl "The Jackal" Frampton,  Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, and Nonito Donaire. Santa Cruz and Mares are set to rumble this month on ESPN. Frampton and Quigg both just won impressively and the pressure is on to make them fight before Frampton moves up to featherweight. Donaire has now won twice since the brutal TKO loss to featherweight champ Nicholas "Axe Man" Walters last year and the "Filipino Flash" looks ready for a return to big fights against the best in his weight class. 

Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Freeman

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