January 7, 2016

The Fifth Annual KO Digest Year End Boxing Awards & 2015 Year-in-Review

The Next Big Thing
By Jeffrey Freeman — For the Sweet Science, the calendar year 2015 was one of finality and transition. Last May, Floyd Mayweather Jr. finally faced Manny Pacquiao (and Andre Berto) before transitioning into retirement with a perfect record of 49-0. The #MayPac money grab was like the Super Bowl without the thrills, one big commercial for the future commercialization of boxing. Mayweather might well have been saying "goodbye" but the sport he left behind is now saying "hello" to a new generation of fighters and fans. As a combat sport in recovery from self-inflicted wounds, boxing spent 2015 getting back to its mainstream roots. Beginning last March and continuing through the past year and into the foreseeable future, boxing is back in the hands of the masses. NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, ESPN, SpikeTV, and even the "BOUNCE" channel all got in on the action. In 2015, boxing was everywhere you looked.

Al Haymon's revolutionary Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) platform took the sport's old guard by storm and the results have been encouraging for the restoration of boxing as something that Regular Joe sports fans still care about. Then in November, Wladimir Klitschko lost the unified World Heavyweight Championship to a verbose British Traveller named Tyson Fury. Their title bout in Düsseldorf was awfully boring but the decade long Klitschko stranglehold on the heavyweight division is finally over.

King Klitschko was ultimately checkmated by little feints and long jabs. Long live the furious new Gypsy King. 

Let the young get onto the old... 

The KO Digest rings a final 10-count for those lost in 2015. May they rest in peace. Promoter Cedric Kushner. Hall of Famers Harold Johnson, Gene Fullmer, and Bob Foster. Referee Frank Cappuccino. Welterweight Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis. Heavyweight Carmine Vingo. 1976 Gold Medalist Howard Davis Jr. Undisputed cruiserweight champ O'Neil Bell. BWAA member Matthew Hurley.

Congratulations to La Familia de Camacho for the Boxing Hall of Fame election of their late, great Hector "Macho" Camacho.  

With fallen greatness in mind, let's now turn our attention to the best & biggest things in boxing last year.

KO Digest 2015 Upset of the Year: Tyson Fury UD12 Wladimir Klitschko

Who's upset now Wlad?
The truth is that most people in boxing thought of challenger Tyson Fury as a clown and champion Wladimir Klitschko as a boring but consistent winner. The "unbeatable" Klitschko represented professionalism and dignity. Fury represented recklessness and outspokenness. "I'm going to lick this Klit," promised Fury in a Batman cape & cowl left over from a bad Halloween party. The unexpected result of their November 28 mashup in Germany turned all that stinkin' thinking on its ear and provided our world with the heavyweight champion it needs, though not necessarily the one it wants. Fury is a talker, and a singer too as it turns out. For too long now, the heavyweight champion of the world has been a quiet, misunderstood (and under appreciated) figure from the Ukraine. Today, the world heavyweight champion is an undefeated 6'9 Brit named after Mike Tyson. No other upset in 2015 comes close to the kind of impact that Fury's upset victory had, not just on Klitschko, but on boxing itself. For the record, the former champion has exercised his immediate rematch clause and "Dr. Steelhammer" promises that defeat is "not an option" in the inevitable 2016 sequel with Fury.

Best of the Rest: Danny Jacobs TKO1 Peter Quillin, Badou Jack SD12 George Groves

Hey man, some miracles are happening in American boxing, so good it's a bad union Jack.
2014 Winner: Rogelio Medina KO3 J'Leon Love
2013 Winner: Jhonny Gonzalez TKO1 Abner Mares
2012 Winner: Josesito Lopez TKO9 Victor Ortiz 
2011 Winner: Orlando Salido TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez 

2015 Knockout of the Year: Gabe "Tito" Bracero KO1 Danny O'Connor

Blackout Boulevard in Lowell Mass
On October 10, in Lowell, Mass on NBC network TV, in front of Bobby Orr, Sugar Ray Leonard, Irish Micky Ward (and the world) "hometown favorite" Danny O'Connor (Framingham) got put to sleep from the first good punch of the main event by "light-hitting" New Yorker Gabriel Bracero. A rematch of a 2011 distance encounter won by Bracero, this thing was over in less than a minute. When a counter right hand from Bracero impacted his head like a bullet, O'Connor's body hit the mat with a sickening thud. There was pure shock in the small Mill City auditorium as Bracero calmly celebrated like a man in the midst of his own redemption. While Danny lay stricken on his back with arms outstretched, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. waved a halt and called for help. O'Connor was sent to nearby Lowell General Hospital. What ultimately happened was the least likely result expected from this PBC pairing of Bracero and O'Connor. 

It was the 2015 KO Digest Knockout of the Year, and I covered all 41 seconds of it live from press row for The Sweet Science. 

Best of the Rest: Canelo Alvarez KO3 James Kirkland, Krzysztof Glowacki KO11 Marco Huck

Predictable but still a very Hagler-Hearns-esque KO, late round TV heroics for the Pole on PBC.  

2014 Winner: Andy Lee KO5 John Jackson
2013 Winner: Deontay Wilder KO1 Sergei Liakhovich
2012 Winner: Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao
2011 Winner: Floyd Mayweather KO4 Victor Ortiz   

The Round of the Year: Edwin Rodriguez vs. Michael Seals (Round 1)

Wild opening Round of the Year in Mississippi
Since his disappointing 2013 decision loss to world super middleweight champion Andre Ward, Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriquez has been in comeback mode in the larger light heavyweight division. Rodriguez hopes to land a title shot against champion Adonis "Superman" Stevenson. Both power punchers are connected to Al Haymon's PBC so the match-up seems like a natural for all involved. On November 13 in Biloxi, Mississippi, the unheralded Michael Seals (19-1, 14 KOs) nearly upset the best laid plans of mice and men. When the opening bell rang on SpikeTV, "La Bomba" came out bombing. Rodriquez's wide punches were finding their mark but they were also leaving the "Pride of Worcester" wide open for the improvised explosive devices that Seals was more than happy to detonate on Edwin's (thought to be solid) chin. Rodriguez scored the first knockdown early in the first round with a looping right hand. Seals went down on his face and it looked like Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) would roll on to yet another knockout victory.

This is when things got very interesting.

Seals got up and with Rodriguez getting careless in an effort to finish the fight, the 33 year-old underdog from Atlanta became the first fighter to conclusively knock Rodriguez down, courtesy of a left hook. Rodriguez got up and kept right on trying to finish off Seals with right hand bombs. Trapped in a corner late in the round, Seals bounced a right off the head of Rodriguez and "La Bomba" was down again, and in serious trouble. Again, Rodriguez beat the count (more slowly than before) but what in the hell was happening here? Fortunately for Rodriguez, the round ended before Seals could do any more damage. A great opening round gave way to a hell of a good fight and Rodriguez scored two more knockdowns (in the second and third rounds) before the fight was stopped in his favor.

For three dramatic minutes on free TV, Rodriguez and Seals gave boxing the best single round of 2015. 

Best of the Rest: James DeGale UD12 Lucian Bute (Round 12) 

Outstanding title fight in Canada capped off by a frenzied final round of pure punching action.

2014 Winner: Juan Manuel Lopez vs Daniel Ponce De Leon II Round 2
2013 Winner: Mickey Bey vs John Molina Round 10
2012 Winner: Sergio Martinez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr Round 12 
2011 Winner: James Kirkland vs Alfredo Angulo Round 1

The KO Digest 2015 Fighter of the Year: Gennady "GGG" Golovkin

Golovkin made a real mess of Lemieux's face
The "Triple G" knockout streak continued in 2015. It's up to 21 in a row now and that includes 15 successful defenses of the WBA middleweight title. Boxing sensation Gennady Golovkin went 3-0 with 3 KOs in the past twelve months, solidifying himself as the best middleweight in the world and as one of the elite pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. Golovkin also made his pay-per-view debut at a sold out Madison Square Garden in October when he beat up David Lemieux to add the IBF 160 pound title belt to his growing collection of middleweight hardware. Ever the busy champion, Golovkin started the "year that was" in Monaco against Martin Murray. In 2013, Murray gave then-champion Sergio Martinez a good run for his money in Argentina, losing a controversial (hometown) decision in the rain. The brave Brit was no match for Golovkin however, falling in eleven one-sided rounds. Then in May, in Inglewood, California at the famed Forum, Golovkin took on 29 year-old Willie Monroe Jr., daring the young gun to hit him with his best shots before finishing off the great nephew of Willie Monroe (1976 conqueror of Marvin Hagler) in the sixth.

When Canelo Alvarez beat Miguel Cotto in November for the now catchweight compromised "linear" title, Golovkin's 2016 mandate became clear. Golovkin vs. Canelo is the biggest fight in boxing and it looks like we'll see it in the fall.

The 2015 Fighter of the Year is now 34-0, with 31 KOs.

Is there anyone on this planet to even challenge him? Maybe Saúl.

Best of the Rest: Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather, Tyson Fury  

Alvarez beat Kirkland and Cotto, Floyd Jr. finally beat Manny Pacquiao, and Tyson Fury upset Klitschko.  

The 2015 Fight of the Year: Lucas Matthysse MD12 Ruslan Provodnikov

Matthysse wins the Fight of the Year in Verona, NY
Instead of boring you with a long winded recap of this incredible prizefight which you've obviously seen several times already on HBO, I'm going to leave you with my KO Digest prediction for the fight which ran on RingTV Fight Picks:

How do you pick a winner when Godzilla fights Mechagodzilla? Expectations are understandably high for this creature feature and it’s not hard to see why. Both fighters pack power and seem to enjoy wreaking havoc. My gut tells me that Lucas Matthysse is a little bit better technically but that Ruslan Provodnikov can take more abuse before folding or falling. “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” this will be from the opening bell. If both guys have to get up from knockdowns, don’t be too surprised. When the dust settles, boxing will have its first proper “Fight of the Year” candidate for 2015 and Matthysse will have a close split decision win after staggering to the finish line under assault from a late Provodnikov rally.

Now don't get me wrong, I know there were no knockdowns and that the decision in favor of Mattysse was of the majority variety rather than the split type, but that pre-fight prediction is more or less exactly how the 2015 Fight of the Year went down, including the crowd electrifying late rally from Provodnikov. From my seat in press row, I was privileged to witness the best pure fistfight of the year, an absolute slobberknocker won by Matthysse. At the post-fight press conference, the evidence of such a brutal display was visible on the grotesquely mangled face of the brawler known as "Siberian Rocky." Six months later, in October, Matthysse paid the price for his physically taxing victory when he was surprisingly stopped in eleven rounds by relative unknown Viktor "Iceman" Postol.       

The upset loss to Postol cooled off Mattysse's 2015 buzz but the "Machine" won its unforgettable Fight of the Year.  

Best of the Rest: Canelo KO3 James Kirkland, Francisco Vargas TKO9 Takashi Miura, Krzysztof Glowacki KO11 Marco Huck

Houston we had a great fight, featherweights Vargas and Miura went to war, Glowacki ended Huck's long cruiserweight reign.

2014 Winner: Terence Crawford TKO9 Yuriorkis Gamboa
2013 Winner: Tim Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov
2012 WinnerJuan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao IV
2011 Winner: 
Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto

The KO Digest 2015 Comeback of the Year: The Sport of Boxing Itself

The Money Fight of the Century
Ordinarily this award would go to an individual fighter who enjoyed comeback success after a long layoff or one who overcame personal adversity to achieve his goals in the ring. This year is a little different. OK, it's a lot different. This was the year of boxing's comeback as a mainstream sport, a position it once held for years along with baseball and others. Inappropriately labelled by critics as a "dead" or "dying" sport for the past decade or even longer, boxing made its long overdue return to free network television in 2015. Under the careful guidance of Al Haymon and his revolutionary Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) concept, boxing was all over the airwaves for the first time in a very long time. When was the last time you read about boxing in a newspaper? In 2015, it wasn't hard to do. The growing momentum that our sport was building up began in 2011 and blossomed like a flower in 2015 with PBC, MayPac, a resurgent heavyweight division, and the continued emergence of Gennady Golovkin as the "next big thing" in combat sports. Stay tuned fight fans, 2016 promises to be even better.  

2015 Event of the Year: The Mayweather versus Pacquiao Superfight 

Left us wanting less
Much has been written and much has been said about the "biggest fight in the history of boxing." That it certainly was. From an economic perspective, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas broke all the records. It was the highest grossing PPV in boxing history and the multi-million dollar purses realized by both boxers may never be duplicated again. For one night anyway, the eyes of the world were back on boxing. A shame it didn't live up to the hype. From a pugilistic perspective, #MayPac was the Farce of the Century. There is no nicer way of saying it. Mayweather took no chances, he hugged a lot, and "Money" won a very boring decision. The always quiet Pacquiao came into the ring with a secret. His shoulder was injured, requiring no less than rotator cuff surgery. Instead of postponing the fight and risking a loss of the payday, Pacquiao answered the opening bell with a compromised shoulder. Did Floyd know about it and carry Manny for the rematch? Was it all just an excuse by Pacquiao for the embarrassing loss? We might never know. Let's just be grateful it's over and that Mayweather's threats of a rematch have been silenced (for now) by his recent retirement from boxing.   

The 2015 Prospect of the Year: Anthony Joshua

Joshua is a look back into the future
Hailing out of Watford, Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, 2012 Olympic Gold Medal winner Anthony Joshua is the future of the heavyweight division. Just 26 years-old and now 15-0 with 15 knockouts, Joshua is already a huge star in the British boxing scene despite being a novice pro barely out of 8 round bouts. The undefeated prospect-contender fought five times in 2015, each against gradually increasing competition. Becoming British heavyweight champion in 2015, Joshua defeated punching bag Jason Gavern, the experienced Raphael Zumbano Love, American trialhorse Kevin Johnson, and undefeated countrymen Gary Cornish & Dillian Whyte. Against Whyte, Joshua answered some very important questions about his chin and about his resiliency. 

Reminiscent of a young Lennox Lewis before LL left the domestic level for the world stage, Joshua possesses the kind of classical boxing skills that fans hope to see again someday soon in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. With fellow Brit Tyson Fury reigning as new world heavyweight champion, the future looks bright not just for British boxing but for Joshua as well.

2014 Winner: Sadam Ali
2013 Winner: Vasyl Lomachenko
2012 Winner: Keith Thurman 
2011 Winner: Gary Russell Jr 

The Robbery of the Year: Danny Garcia MD12 Lamont Peterson

Look, Danny Garcia didn't beat Lamont Peterson last April in Brooklyn on PBC. It was an awful decision in favor of a rapidly declining "Swift" Garcia. For twelve rounds, Peterson put into play a patient plan to defeat Garcia and by all reasonable accounts, he succeeded. Then the judges got involved and got it all wrong. Let's take a look back, round by round at the 2015 Robbery of the Year: 

Peterson was two points behind before the fight started
Round 1: Peterson starts off jabbing and moving while Garcia is prone to missing with his initial swings. Both fighters landed a single decent right hand to the head in an opening round that was controlled by the tempo being set by Peterson's boxing. A trickle of blood from the nose of Garcia is evident. (10-9 Peterson) -- Round 2: Peterson is on his boxing bicycle, jabbing and making Garcia miss, sometimes embarrassingly. Garcia could barely lay a glove on Peterson this round and Peterson wins the stanza by jabbing and again controlling the pace by carefully boxing his man in circles. (10-9 Peterson) -- Round 3: Peterson continued his jabbing strategy, mixing it to the head and body while Garcia continued to fail in his efforts to cut off the the ring. Defensively, Peterson was avoiding the incoming while doling out just enough punch output to win the round. Sugar Ray Leonard called it "good boxing" and "ring generalship" which quite naturally, it was. (10-9 Peterson)

Round 4: Garcia shows his first sign of frustration, waving his arms at the fleet footed Peterson and inviting him inside for his kind of fight. Peterson responds by landing a clean right hand to the jaw. Garcia wins his first round by forcing himself close enough to land a few good punches to the body as Peterson begins to showboat a little, winding up his right hand bolo style. (10-9 Garcia) -- Round 5: Garcia's efforts to track Peterson down results in a couple good right hands to the head but Peterson's defensive tendencies take most of the sting off the punches. Peterson answers with a nice left-right combo to the head of Garcia, whose nicked up face is beginning to show the effects of being peppered repeatedly. Garcia steals the round with an eye-catching right hand to the head with less than 30 seconds left in the fifth. (10-9 Garcia)  -- Round 6: Peterson begins to stand his ground more than move and this is to Garcia's advantage. When Peterson stands in front of Garcia, he gets hit more than he lands his own punches. Despite getting hit in close, Peterson is now testing the waters and pushing Garcia back by coming straight ahead towards him. (10-9 Garcia) -- Round 7: More of a fight starts to break out but the skirmishes are still very limited and too close to call one way or another. Peterson edges a tight round by power punching with Garcia on even terms and keeping him on the end of a pesky jab when outboxing him. (10-9 Peterson) 

Peterson deserved better from the judges
Round 8: Peterson starts off aggressively and backs Garcia into a corner with a hard shot to the body. Peterson is still making Garcia miss but now he's doing it right in front of him by moving his body, not his feet. This allows Garcia to land his own body punches with the left hand. When there is clinching, it's initiated by Garcia in response to Peterson's body attack. Late in the round, Peterson backs Garcia up with power punches to the head, including his own left hook. (10-9 Peterson) -- Round 9: Blood is flowing from the right eye of Garcia to start the ninth. Peterson is again controlling the pace with a jab that sets up his follow-up shots in close. Growing confident, Peterson showboats with a bolo punch but then starts to pay for it by getting hit with right hands. Garcia's accuracy in the second half of the round wins it for him. (10-9 Garcia)

Round 10: Peterson is doing an Ali-shuffle. Garcia is again being outboxed from the outside and responds not with an attack but with an Ali-shuffle of his own. Another close round but the busier and more effective boxer won it. (10-9 Peterson) -- Round 11: The state of Garcia's marked up face is proof that if Peterson is "running" he's running right over it. Good inside exchanges and it's Garcia who backs away from them in more visible distress. Garcia shows his frustration, flagrantly pushing Peterson down. Another close round so you have to watch how the boxers react to being hit and it's Garcia who backs up and accepts the clinches when they happen. Peterson is gaining ground. Garcia is giving it up. (10-9 Peterson) -- Round 12: Peterson lands a flush right to the head off the jab, a left hook, and some body punches that Garcia can't clinch his way out of. It's almost all shoe-shine shots from a very tired Garcia in the final round. They finally went toe-to-toe in the last 60 seconds and Peterson clearly got the better of it to close the show. (10-9 Peterson) 

KO Digest Score: 116-112 for Lamont Peterson. 

Official Scores: 114-114, 115-113, 115-113. Danny Garcia "wins" the Robbery of the Year.

Worst of the Rest: Czar Glazkov UD12 Steve Cunningham, Robert Guerrero SD10 Aaron Martinez 

USS Cunningham gets screwed again against a foreign heavyweight, "Ghost" lucky to win after getting dropped early.  

Worst Victim of 2014: Mauricio Herrera 
(robbed vs. Jessie Benavidez & Danny Garcia) 
Worst of 2013: Ricky Burns D12 Ray Beltran
Worst of 2012: Brandon Rios W12 Richard Abril
Worst of 2011: Paul Williams W12 Erislandy Lara   

The Top 10 KO Digest Boxing Media Highlights For 2015:

#11: Got a selfie with Lennox Lewis in the MSG media room
1. Hired & Published by The Sweet Science.
2. Third year on RingTV as an insider/expert.
3. Live covered the "Fight of the Year" in NY.
4. Live covered the "KO of the Year" in Lowell.
5. Live covered ‪GGG at Madison Square Garden.
6. Live covered the PBC in Boston, Mass for TSS.
7. Written about by name by Lee Groves on RingTV.
8. Won #MayPac bet and Scoop Malinowski's money.
9. Grilled George Foreman on a media conference call.
10. In-depth KO interview with "Boom Boom" Mancini. 

Written by Jeffrey Freeman — for the KO Digest © 

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 irresponsible 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