May 9, 2016

TSS Ringside: Alexis Santos Gets Revenge KO, Del Valle Destroys Crespo

Photo by Pattee Mak
SALEM — While undersized Lawrence, Massachusetts heavyweight Alexis Santos (16-1, 14 KOs) was quietly getting prepared for a rematch against 6'7" Daniel "The Mountain" Martz in the locker room of New Hampshire's Rockingham Plaza race track, Anthony Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs) was across the pond in London, England taking advantage of a suddenly wide open heavyweight division. Joshua knocked out American heavyweight champion Charles Martin (a month ago, on April 9) in the second round to claim the IBF crown. It's a newcomer success story that the 26-year-old Santos would like to duplicate. The soft-spoken but palpably violent Santos took an important step in that direction on Saturday night in the Live Free or Die State, registering a seventh round knockout of Martz to pick up the vacant IBO International heavyweight title before a raucous crowd of Santos fanatics.

There was a lot of holding (and trash talking) in the early going while Martz tried to use his size and Santos tried to close the gap to do damage on the inside. They both enjoyed some success but excessive holding marred the action. Martz ignored vulgar taunts from the pro-Santos crowd and he patiently pecked away with the jab and follow-up right hands. Santos kept himself, and his crowd, in the fight with a determined body attack that paid key dividends. In the sixth, Santos hurt Martz with an overhand right and pursued him like a man possessed. A wicked left to the body in the sixth had Martz holding on and backing up. In the seventh, Martz could no longer keep Santos off of him. The end came at 2:02 when Steve Smoger counted to ten with Martz down from exhaustion and body pain. The 6'0 Santos, who tipped the scales at 218.5, improved to 16-1 while Martz, from Clarksburg, West Virginia, weighing 242.8, fell to 14-4-1 (11 KOs).

Martz earned his money
After the fight, Santos said he'll fight anybody and fears nobody. That's the right attitude. Martz was coming off a first round knockout loss to Kiwi heavyweight prospect Joseph Parker, 18-0, last December. He defeated Santos by TKO in 2014 at the House of Blues in Boston. Santos was down in the first round and he injured his right knee in the third, causing that bout to be stopped.

In the co-main event, featherweight Luis Del Valle, 21-2 (16), from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, impressively knocked out Josh Crespo, New Haven, Connecticut, 6-3-3, (2) in the second round of a scheduled eight. Del Valle was walking Crespo down early in the first, landing long right hands with ease. In the second, Crespo ran into a perfectly timed right cross that buckled his knees. Another hard cross sent him crashing face-first to the canvas. Crespo tried to rise but he pitched forward before crashing again. With Del Valle looking on anxiously in a neutral corner, Crespo beat the count but he was hurt and defenseless. Crespo's trainer Brian Clark got up on the ring apron and signaled for the referee to stop the fight, which he did at 2:17.

In a super middleweight contest, Russell "The Haitian Sensation" Lamour, 13-2 (6), from Portland, Maine, got back in the win column after a second decision loss to New England rival Thomas Falowo last November, beating Borngod Washington, Queens, New York, 3-18 (1), by knockout. Lamour got tagged more than expected in the first round but that only served to wake him up. Lamour was back in total command in the second round, scoring a knockdown that Washington got up looking rather lame from. In the third, Lamour trapped his hurt opponent in the corner and wailed away until he collapsed. Referee Steve Smoger called an immediate halt at 1:38.

Joseph Perez, East Hartford, Connecticut, 12-3-2 (3) had an easy night at the office against hapless Paul DeSouza, 0-10, Sommerville, Massachusetts, chasing him around the ring while doing enough damage to bring about a merciful stoppage at :46 of the second round. DeSouza is a cage fighter who needs to stay out of the boxing ring. ~ Casey Kramlich, Portland, Maine, 3-0-1 (1), scored a second round TKO over Jason Kelly, Dorchester, Massachusetts, 5-1 (3). Kelly showed the effects of a bad beating to the body and he was looking for a way out late in the second round. Kelly's corner then stopped the fight, a wise decision considering the defeated body language of their brave boxer. ~ In the lid-lifter, Jaba Khositashvili, 1-0 (1), Georgia, made an impressive pro debut against Greg Thomas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (1-8), scoring three knockdowns in the first round before referee Dave Greenwood stopped the mismatch at 1:37.

Boxing writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts during the marvelous career of middleweight champion Marvin Hagler. Freeman then lived in Lowell, Massachusetts during the best years of Micky Ward's illustrious career. A member of the RingTV expert writer prediction panel for 4 years, Freeman is also editor-in-chief of KO Digest, a social media outlet for the sweet science. Known affectionately as "KO" by friends and readers, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

Venue: Rockingham Park
Promoter: Big Six Entertainment
Matchmaker: J. Russell Peltz
Ring Announcer: John Vena
Attendance: 1,000 (approximate)

Originally Published April 9 on The Sweet Science 

April 7, 2016

Life Imitates Hart: Dashon Johnson Wages a Philly War for Redemption

Hollywood Ending in Philadelphia
By Terry Strawson — To tell any story correctly, you have to start at the beginning. As an adviser to Dashon "Flyboy" Johnson, I almost feel as if I should begin further back, but when matchmaker, friend, and former contender Andy Nance forwarded us an offer to fight Jesse Hart for his NABO and USBA titles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the story of the fight itself began to take shape.

Initially, fighting the WBO's number three rated super middleweight, two or three weight classes above our preferred weight (in his hometown of Philadelphia no less) wasn't exactly provoking too much excitement in me. "Hard Work" Hart puts his punches together better than most fighters in the division, barring maybe Andre Dirrell, and the height and weight advantages he possessed were almost alarming. In the murky waters of professional boxing however, we are forced to consider almost every offer between welterweight and light heavyweight.

We have to look at accepting fights similar to the way Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics viewed acquiring players in Moneyball:  

"We've got to think differently," says Brad Pitt's analytical character. "We are the last dog to the bowl."

A look at Johnson's (19-19-3, 6 KOs) record does not offer a glaring example of shrewd business and matchmaking. He has shared the ring with countless prospects, contenders, and former world champions; often on a couple days or a couple weeks notice. Sporadic yet impressive upsets have blended with disappointing losses more often than not. However, over the last year or so, Johnson has reevaluated and refocused himself to his craft. The results have been positive. His last two victories in particular offered confidence, and enough evidence to warrant proceeding with negotiations for the Hart fight. He had captured the WBA NABA super middleweight title with a dramatic knockout in a rematch with once-beaten Mike Gavronski, following that up with a victory over hard-hitting Izaak Cardona.

Fly Boys Simpkins, Porche, Johnson, Strawson
Still, it was not a decision taken lightly. We watched endless fight footage, training clips and interviews of Hart. We even followed him and his team on Instagram and Facebook. It was evident, to us at least, that there was little chance of Hart actually training for us the way we were training for him. How could a man next in line for the WBO world championship possibly be taking a man with 18 losses as seriously as we knew he should have been? How in the world could he possibly be?

We refused to offer any material for promotional purposes, turned down interviews from the likes of Steve Kim and focused solely on a three-a-day training regimen (that Dashon does alone most days) geared towards dragging Hart into deep waters and drowning him. My friend, and Philly fighter Malik Scott, warned me that, "Hart is a real young lion." I told Scott: "Lions don't swim too well."

They're actually not bad, but you get the point.

By the time we headed to Philadelphia, hometown of Rocky Balboa and countless real life boxing greats, we were brimming with confidence. And, as in the Rocky spinoff CREED, another young Johnson (Dashon) was traveling from California with a point to prove in the City of Brotherly Love. It felt right. We were treated very well by Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz and by his team too. We ran up the Rocky Steps, took pictures at the Rocky and Joe Frazier statues, and took a ride through the mean streets of Philly.

It was gritty and it was real. I loved it. We weren't there for that though.

All Hart until the end, then more heart
The bout was to take place at the 2300 Arena on Swanson Street in South Philadelphia. From the outside, and as my memory serves me, it looked a little grimy. On the inside, it was actually a beautiful building, perfect in my opinion for hosting prizefights. There was an old-school feel to it, a blend of brickwork and bright lights. The violent atmosphere was growing throughout fight night as knockouts seemed to be the favored method of victory. Most in attendance were anticipating another stoppage in the main event and the environment seemed to grow more hostile as we drew closer to fight time.

The referee Ernie Sharif had come into our dressing room to give his pre-fight instructions. You know the spiel, the same shit every referee says before every fight. No punching after the bell, your shorts look a little high so this will be considered good and so on. It's worth mentioning at this point however that Sharif said: "If you are to be knocked down, and you're not up by a count of nine, you will be counted out." It will become seemingly apparent that he never said such a thing to Jesse Hart. We will get to that later...

The fight itself was very intense. After the official introductions, with the likes of Bernard Hopkins seated at ringside, the action began quickly. To be honest, it was all Hart in the early going. We knew that though. Hart was snapping his jab and using every inch of the ring as he did so. As I eluded to earlier, Hart combines speed and power really, really well and he was pinging his shots at my fighter frequently without much of a response in the first couple of rounds. At times though, the output of Hart forced a wry smile from me. If he kept this up, he would not be able to keep this up, I thought.

It was not until the third round that Dashon fired back with something significant of his own. We, his trainer Jermaine Simpkins, cutman Billy Porche and myself, were imploring him to do more, and let his hands go. At the same time, we were weary of the dynamic and sizable threat in front of him. Hart looked fucking huge! Obviously, we were aware of the height and weight discrepancies long before our arrival in Philadelphia, but when they got in the ring and started exchanging, you would have thought we didn't care about him. Hart was putting rounds in the bag, and looking fairly impressive doing it. There were uppercuts, left hooks, straight rights and everything in-between it seemed. My wry smile turned to concern at times and at this point, I was screaming. We knew we would forfeit the first two or three rounds but as we entered the fourth and fifth, we needed to get a move on, and to his credit, Johnson did exactly that.  

I don't know if it was enough to steal those rounds but Dashon's aggression was certainly becoming more effective.

Johnson uppercutted by Hart
The end of the sixth round is where things began to get really interesting. After a more encouraging chapter, Dashon landed a massive shot at the bell and as Hart was barreling to the canvas, referee Ernie Sharif quickly ruled that the blow had come after the bell. To me, it was pure bullshit. However, I was buoyed by our ability to hurt the bigger man rather than deflated by the apparent skullduggery of the local referee. I wasn't even mad at the old school behavior in Hart's corner that allowed for an extra ten or fifteen seconds for their charge to clear his head. Hart was on Queer Street and I would have done the same thing. This is not merely an opinion. You can buy the fight at GFL.TV and see for yourself.

The next couple of rounds were a blur to me and the atmosphere was insane.

It's difficult to explain. How can just 1,500 people be so loud, I thought? The sweat was dripping from all over me, even my forearms were drenched and I constantly attempted to dry myself with my shirt or the towel. I knew, no matter how hard I tried to yell, Dashon was not going to hear me. It felt like a bad dream where you try with all of your might to cry out, and you just cannot make a sound. I felt like we were running out of time. And we were. I turned to the lads in the corner and said, "He's too tired, I don't think it's happening."

When Dashon came back to the corner before the last round, he looked spent.

He's usually the most aware and relaxed fighter in between rounds but our boy seemed finished to me. Still, we rallied that man from every angle and charged him with every drop of passion and emotion we could muster. We gave him a bit of water too of course. He went straight to work. I might have made it seem like Hart was faded by this point but he was still going strong. I would not be surprised if the tenth and final scene in this drama earned Round of the Year recognition, as it was something else. Hart was hoping to make a statement, and Dashon needed to make one. They were both throwing, and landing, heavy leather at this stage. At one point, as Jesse unloaded with everything in his arsenal, I worried. Momentarily. The clock was ticking down, and I kept looking at the big screen as it dwindled. "Two minutes," I yelled, "One minute!" Time seemed a more daunting opponent than Hart now. With less than a minute on the clock, Jesse tagged Dashon with a combination of big punches and my heart was in my mouth, but Johnson was not done yet.

As fast as he ate a big shot, he fired one back and had Hart dazed on the ropes. I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I felt one more shot would have ended the fight, but the noise inside the 2300 Arena was deafening. As Hart looked to hold on and recuperate a little, Dashon kept chopping away. As he chased Hart around the perimeter of the ring, he landed one more massive, clubbing right hand that sent Hart sprawling. It was unbelievable. It almost seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately for us, it was too good to be true.

Long-count from a home-town referee?
The conduct of the referee was once again brought into question as Hart rose to his feet fairly late. To me, it was ten seconds he spent on the canvas. I mean, even Larry Merchant would've had that count at at least nine, and according to his pre-fight instructions, that should have been enough to see Dashon register a knockout victory. It was painful to watch Hart climb to his feet the way "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (from my hometown of Liverpool) did in the CREED climax.

The only consolation, one that really has not yet fully resonated with Dashon, is that just like Adonis Creed did against Conlan, and Rocky did against Apollo, he had won the hearts and respect of the people. Hart won a close decision.

Dashon had shocked everybody. Well, just about everybody.

I asked promoter Russell Peltz for his two cents.

Gonna Fly Now Boy
"The fact that Johnson signed his contract right away, got his medicals right away, and refused to get caught up in the pre-fight hype told me he was in seclusion and taking the fight seriously," Peltz told me. "I expected it to be Hart's toughest fight but no one could have predicted a fight like that. I thought Johnson would make his presence felt earlier, and in a way he did because he forced Hart to move a lot early and expend considerable energy. I had it 95-94 (Hart) because I have to credit Johnson for the knockdown in the sixth round because I thought Hart was hurt from the first shot, not necessarily the second one which dropped him."

"I wanted to make the rematch," Peltz continued. "I think it's a mistake for Hart to not accept it, simply to prove he's better than he showed that night and to show us a marked improvement by doing better the second time around. However, I understand the mentality of modern-day boxing where it's all about getting the W and moving on, even if it makes no sense to me. A lot of fighters today succeed that way because when they get to the title fight, nine times out of ten the guy in the other corner came up the same way, simply by getting the W's and getting the hype."

Ain't gonna be no rematch? Who knows. Hart (now 20-0) has expressed no interest in it. Neither has Top Rank. I don't blame either. And I applaud Jesse Hart for showing his heart and rising from the canvas. I just applaud Dashon Johnson more for putting him there.

I'll leave you with a quote fitting for both men.

"It ain't about how hard you hit. 
It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. 
How much you can take and keep moving forward."

Rocky Balboa   

April 4, 2016

The Evolution of a Trilogy: Why Pacquiao-Bradley III Matters‏

"Pac Man" Bible Belts "Desert Storm"
It would be all too easy for boxing fans to dive into the depths of cynicism and dismiss the third meeting between Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) and Timothy Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs), scheduled for April 9 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as unimportant or irrelevant. Many fans are doing exactly that. The officially non-title, 12-round bout is in danger of falling like a tree in the proverbial woods. It can be persuasively argued that the now long-dead issue of who's superior has been already twice decided. After two WBO championship fights, 24 relatively tepid rounds, one outrageous 2012 robbery, and then a clear UD points victory for Pacquiao in 2014; I'd say Bradley can't beat Pacquiao.

But not so fast. This is boxing.

Things evolve. They even marinate.

Believe it or not, Pacquiao-Bradley III is being promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank Boxing as their Filipino cash cow's swan song, the final fight in a legendary career that began more than twenty years and 20 pounds ago. Would Nebraska's Terence Crawford have been a more intriguing opponent for Manny's North American finale?  Sure, but that's just how the primaries of pugilism work. Not enough people in the grassroots of boxing know who "Bud" Crawford is yet or believe that he would have pulled enough votes in the "general election" of a pay-per-view prizefight against Pacquiao. It's still all about the money and Bradley makes more dollars and sense, or so Arum claims about this particular cash-out. Looking to the future, the two-term Filipino Congressman now has a seat in the Philippine Senate to run for in 2016. After speaking out against homosexuals last month, even Pacquiao's own promoter was forced to rebuke his homophobic, politically pandering comments. Perhaps feeling a bit disenfranchised on Super Tuesday III, Arum then came out publicly against American Presidential candidate Donald Trump. In a Super Tuesday press release to promote the ‪Pacquiao-Bradley III‬ undercard, Top Rank included a curious "No Trump" campaign slogan to publicize the international flavor of its undercard participants. According to Arum's publicist Fred Sternburg, "Unlike Trump, we believe in the American Dream and in America being a melting pot for immigrants."

"The undercard," Sternburg told me, "is a symbol of that."

In fact, fighters from no less than seven nations are represented on it, including "King" Arthur Abraham versus Gilberto Ramirez for the WBO super middleweight championship and Oscar Valdez versus Evgeny Gradovich at featherweight. Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, France, Lithuania, Germany, and Armenia are all sending their best to America to compete on the world stage of a global sport. 

Interesting. But what does the main event symbolize? That's very much open to interpretation.

The first fight was an awful robbery
To purists, the fight represents an encounter between the de facto #1 and #2 rated welterweights in the world. Accordingly, it is being seen by some as a box-off for the lineal world welterweight championship left vacant by Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year when Mayweather retired undefeated after decisioning Pacquiao. The Transnational Boxing Ratings Board will presumably recognize the winner as new world welterweight champion. The TBRB rates Pacquiao #1 and Bradley #2 at 147. That's easy to understand. Ring Magazine ratings are a bit more difficult to fathom with Kell Brook #1 and Pacquiao #2. The Ring rates Amir Khan #3 and Bradley #4. The real problem here is that if Manny wins as expected, he might also retire as expected and then leave the beltless welterweight title "vacant" again. It's confusing, I know. But maybe you're one of those fans who thinks the notion of a linear title is outdated and antiquated. In any case, "the" welterweight title, such that it still exists, is a key reason why Pacquiao-Bradley III matters.

To others, it represents the first official meeting between trainers Freddie Roach and Teddy Atlas. In boxing, competition among trainers is as fierce as anything you'll find in the ring and both chief seconds surely want to achieve victory against the other for personal reasons. Atlas refers to himself and his new pupil as "firemen" putting out fires. If they can extinguish the final embers of Pacquiao's Hall of Fame career and emerge as the last men standing from this apparently redundant trilogy, all will not have been in vain. Roach, longtime trainer of Pacquiao, has already taken verbal shots at Atlas for his unabashed love of the spotlight. It's a charge Atlas doesn't deny.

Roach vs. Atlas: Part One
Teddy might very well be the most entertaining aspect of the show on April 9.

It's easy to imagine the trainer getting emotional in the corner while willing Bradley to victory. It's also just as easy to see Atlas growing frustrated with Bradley's limitations and resorting to the kinds of tomfoolery and ballyhoo in the corner that made him so famous in the first place.

One other reason the match-up matters is the possibility of an unexpectedly great fight. Few envisioned Pacquiao's fateful fourth meeting with rival Juan Manuel Marquez to be anything other than what the first three fights were; tactical affairs won, lost, or drawn by inches. When it was least expected, a Hagler-Hearns-esque war emerged from the apathetic response of the boxing community to the announcement and promotion of a fourth fight. What if after two fights and 24 rounds, Pacquiao and Bradley are done warming up and are both ready to throw down and go for the knockout? It's a strategy that Bradley attempted without success in the second fight.

Following that humbling loss, I asked Bradley about where he went wrong. "I went in with the mindset that I had to knock him out to win," he told me. "The plan was to outbox Pacquiao and everybody knew it, even Pacquiao. I didn't do that. I went straight at him. I attacked him. I had some success on attack but I could've been a lot better in the late rounds if I'd taken my time."

Will Bradley be lured into another brawl?
Fans know one thing about "Desert Storm" Bradley. He likes to battle even when he promises to box. It's in his nature to fight back hard and find himself in the trenches like he did with Ruslan Provodnikov and Diego Chaves. Or Bradley can box like he did when he outpointed the great Marquez in 2013. If Pacquiao wants to go out in a blaze of glory, Bradley will almost certainly be willing to oblige him, particularly with the bombastic Atlas in his corner. If Manny's shoulder is not fully healed from rotator-cuff surgery, that could also provide Bradley with the opening he needs to avenge his only defeat and entertain fans in the process.

A legitimate Bradley victory would help solidify his position as a top American pound for pound star at a time when boxing's international stars are taking over the mythical P4P list that's now headed by a Nicaraguan named Roman Gonzalez and a Kazakh named Gennady Golovkin. A Pacquiao win would allow for Manny to ride off into the sunset on a high note after the embarrassing 2015 defeat to Mayweather and the 2012 knockout loss to Marquez.

Or it might open the door to more fights and more money

Either way, there is more at stake here than meets the eye.   

To be clear, Pacquiao-Bradley III matters.

And now you know why.

Written by Jeffrey Freeman, originally published on The Sweet Science

March 4, 2016

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes XIII — Boxing Politics Now Trump Punches

Bore-a-Phobia Pugilistica
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

Stop. Listen. Observe. Well? Do you feel that? Can you hear the silence? Boxing has ground to a gradual halt. No good fights are really happening in 2016. None have actually happened yet and it's already March. The one good show boxing had scheduled, ‪#‎ThurmanPorter‬ was just postponed when ‪#‎OneTime‬ got rear-ended. Nobody cares two shits about ‪#‎PacquiaoBradley‬ III and Canelo Alvarez is shamelessly ducking Gennady Golovkin like Superman Stevenson flying away from Krusher Kovalev. ‪#‎FramptonQuigg‬ was damn near ‪#‎KlitschkoFury‬ II, another dud fight going absolutely nowhere fast. Is the ‪#‎PBC‬ still around to oversaturate fans and media with filler bouts? Dude, where's my sport? Where have the fight fans gone? 

It was fun while it lasted but it now seems to me that the exceptional run boxing was on from 2011 to 2015 is officially over.

No Show Time
Some Other Time — The Keith Thurman versus Shawn "Showtime" Porter bout, originally scheduled for March 12 in Uncasville, Connecticut, has, as we all know by now, been cancelled due to ‪#‎OneTime‬ being involved in a terribly unfortunate car crash. According to reports, Thurman was knocked out of commission by the air bag deployment. The whole DiBella card is now scrapped. When and where it will be rescheduled is unknown at this time. Because I was planning to live cover the WBA welterweight title fight for KO Digest, I wrote a prediction for RingTV Fight Picks. Obviously, it's not getting published now and I'm not so sure I'll feel the same way about the match-up when it does get rescheduled. So, without further ado (what's ado and why can't we have more of it?) here is my original prediction for ‪#‎ThurmanPorter‬ had it gone off as expected:

There's good reason why this welterweight match-up is already viewed as a possible Fight of the Year candidate with hopeful comparisons being made to Gatti-Ward I. Thurman and Porter will be swapping leather at the same Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut where Arturo and Micky first went to war in 2002. Something tells me "One Time" and "Showtime" are both well aware of all this.
Stylistically, Thurman-Porter is everything we want in a potentially great boxing match with trilogy potential. Thurman, the well spoken knockout artist (with underrated boxing skills) against Porter, a fireplug fighter who comes forward all night long like Smokin' Joe Frazier. We know that both 147 pounders can be hurt and that Porter can be outboxed. Look for Thurman to pick his man off with the jab, survive the rough spots inside, land a well timed "critical blow" that drops Porter late, and win a competitive unanimous decision.

Would Emile have killed Manny too?
Pack It In Man — It's a God Damned shame Orlando Cruz can't fight Manny Pacquiao instead of Timothy Bradley April 9th on PPV in Sin City, USA.

Pac and Brad have no beef to speak of. Boxing's only openly gay pugilist would be an ideal "grudge match" opponent for the homophobic "Pac Man" to bellend his career against if Orlando wasn't so much smaller than Manny. As the PC world turns against Pacquiao to bash him for his Biblically big mouth, one has to wonder how much more interesting this would all be if the Filipino Congressman were facing off against a homosexual rival determined to tear him a new asshole. 

Think about it. 

The last time an angry gay boxer took out his frustrations on a hateful homophobe, Emile Griffith killed Benny "Kid" Paret for calling him a "maricón" i.e. a faggot.  

KO Digest Quick Quotes:

Problem child Adrien Broner talks about recently retired Floyd "Money" Mayweather "Big bro Floyd is gone. Everyone else is too boring so I'm taking over the sport. I'm very fortunate to have someone like Floyd to look up to but I don't want to be like Floyd. I admire him and respect him, but I'm creating my own legacy. At the end of the day, Floyd and Ashley Theophane aren't on my side. I'm against them. They're coming to dethrone me. They're my enemies now and I'm going to beat Ashley down. There is nothing Floyd can teach him."

Hammered Hank Lundy on the Terence Crawford stoppage by referee Steve Willis — "I don't think it should have been stopped." 

The memory remains for Micky in Lowell Mass
Comebacking former world welterweight champ Zab Judah talks to KO Digest about fighting "Pride of Lowell" Micky Ward in 1998 — "Micky was probably one of the toughest fights I had in my career. It came at a time when I was only 15-0 as a pro and this guy was like a legend. Everybody told me don't fight him. I went in there, fought him and defeated him [by unanimous decision on ESPN Friday Night Fights] but it was no easy task. I'll tell you that. Big shoutout to Micky Ward."

Judah faces Josh Torres (15-4-2) in Vegas March 12. 

"Knockout Night at the D" on CBS Sports Network.

With professional boxing decidedly lacking of late, the KO Digest recently covered some amateur bouts close to home. Last month at the 70th Annual Golden Gloves in Lowell, Mass, the New England Championship finals produced some good action in the thirteen matches put on at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on East Merrimack Street. Irish Micky was in the house to support all the young pugilists competing under the same roof where the "Pride of Lowell" once battled as an amateur boxer and as a professional prizefighter. Memorial trophy winners Gabriel "Tito" Morales (novice class, 123 lbs. Portland, Maine) and Jamaine Ortiz Rodriguez (open class, 141 lbs. Worcester, Mass) were named outstanding boxers of the tournament after their big wins in the ring.

Rocky Marciano trophy
The Rocky Marciano Trophy was awarded to New England open class heavyweight champion Demek Edmonds of Worcester, Mass. Edmonds defeated Jesus Flores in one of the most action filled matches of the night to come away with the gold. When I told Edmonds who else won that very same trophy (twice) a few years ago (Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev) he was shocked. The only thing missing from the night's bout sheet would have been a couple more boxers from the world famous Lowell West End Gym in the finals for local Lowell fans to cheer for. The only "West Ender" in action was 18 year-old Nathan Rosa (6-0) who won the novice class 141 lb. finals. There were no Lowell based boxers in the open class finals, a disappointment.

And finally, the William "Bill" Hoar Memorial Award for "Most Outstanding Open Class Team" went to Team Western New England. Congratulations to all. Winners now look ahead to Nationals in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

For the record, the KO Digest endorses Rocky De La Fuente (D) for President of the United States.  

February 21, 2016

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes XII — What Will The "Fury Era" Look Like?

Hughie, Lewis, and the New
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

What kind of world heavyweight champion will Tyson Fury be? Will he be like Leon Spinks, remembered most for upsetting an all-time great heavyweight champion and then losing the title right back to him in an immediate rematch? Or will he be like Michael Spinks by winning the Wladimir Klitschko rematch (by boring decision) and then getting blasted out by American Deontay Wilder? Will Fury be like his namesake, Mike Tyson, a devastating champion (for a while) but one who gets knocked out in a huge upset for the title? 

Perhaps Fury will be like "Buster" Douglas, a one-hit, upset wonder, and then KO by 3 David Haye in his very next fight? Or will he be like Larry Holmes and go on to a lengthy reign with nearly 20 title defenses? Come to think of it, if that's Fury's destiny, he also then follows in the footsteps of the man he beat. Speaking of Klitschko, will Fury be like Wladimir, not even the best Fury in the family? Could Hughie be his Vitali? Or will Fury be like Muhammad Ali, a global (albeit controversial) boxing superstar with a mouth that people pay (and pay again) to see get shut? Or maybe Fury will be like Lennox Lewis, the last heavyweight champion from the United Kingdom, a damn good champ whose chin occasionally lets him down? 

Triple G
Knockout Artist — It's been almost 8 years since a professional prizefighter of any kind has gone the distance with World Middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin. The date was June 21, 2008. The place was Brøndby Hall in Denmark. The opponent was a Frenchman named Amar Amari. By some stroke of divine intervention, Amari was able to go the 8 round distance with a then 12-0 GGG despite the fact that in 27 pro bouts, Amari was stopped not once or twice but FIVE times. Amari fought only thrice more after his 15 minutes of fame, winning one of three (all 3X by decision) before disappearing from the sport only to become "famous" later for not getting knocked out by the hardest puncher he ever faced.

Deutschland Raub — If Felix Sturm won another ABC middleweight title at home in the deep dark woods of Germany but nobody was there to care about the bad decision, would his victory make a sound? That's what happened 2/20/16 when Sturm defeated Fedor Chudinov by dodgy decision for the WBA 168 lb. "super" title. The year 2004 was a long time ago but that's when Sturm had his most meaningful bout, a controversial decision loss to future Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya. Everybody knows Sturm beat the "Golden Boy" but that's boxing politics. Sturm's boxing record is now littered with so many ripoffs, it's hard to keep track of when he was the victim and/or when he was the beneficiary of a robbery.

And we wonder why people don't follow boxing like they used to. They can't.

About Bigmouths
No Problem Fool — The just announced ‪#‎BronerTheophane‬ ‪#‎PBC‬ fight on April Fools Day in Washington D.C. interests me for no other reason than to hear these two fighters talk some good old fashioned USA vs. UK trash. I can't speak to the fight itself. It's an odd pairing. I pity the fool who cares too much about it. But the promotion should be fun for me as a boxing writer. Both of these 140 pound egomaniacs posses the gift of gab. That's another way of saying they each have huge pieholes. How huge? The late great Morton Downey Jr. ain't got nothing on either of these bigmouths. Broner's yap is well known. I got an earful of Theophane during media activities for his 2013 loss to Pablo Cesar Cano on the ‪#‎MayweatherCanelo‬ undercard. I actually liked what I heard, wanted to hear more, and think you probably will too. KO's real question is, will AB and Ashley talk better than they fight? We'll all know the answer soon enough.

Do you see what I see Tommy?
Illegal U Turn — Recently re-retired Boston bad boy Danny "Dropkick" O'Connor and members of the New York Police Department now have something in common. Both have been beaten up by "light punching" Brooklyn Brawler Gabriel "Tito" Bracero. Last October in Lowell, Mass, Bracero did a beatdown job on Danny in 41 seconds flat that sent O'Connor straight to the hospital. 

It was reported by the New York Post that Bracero allegedly put the proverbial boots to some NY boys in blue after they pulled "Tito" over for driving while punch drunk on his way home from a marijuana dispensary. Bracero, whose criminal rap sheet is as long as Deontay Wilder's jab, has been overcharged with a litany of other minor offenses. Where Bracero goes from here is up in the air like smoke.  

Tappin' Out Like Father Like Daughter — When the hottest thing about "ultimate" cage fighting is that their over-hyped and totally exposed media creation Ronda Rousey supposedly thought about killing herself after a KO loss to a talented boxer named Holly Holm, well folks, that's a dying "sport" that can't kick the bucket fast enough as far as I'm concerned. Boxing wins. Human cockfighting loses. 

CANELO VS. GGG better be next
Middleweight Dominic Wade

Ten Facts About GGG's Next Opponent: 

1. "The Blade" is 18-0 with 12 knockouts.
2. He's 25 years old from Maryland, USA.
3. Was trained by the respected Barry Hunter.
4. He beat the underrated Dashon Johnson.
5. Decisioned Sam Soliman to earn his shot.
6. Is the I.B.F. #1 mandatory middleweight.
7. Pro debut in 2009, was inactive in 2012.
8. Beat Edwin Rodriguez in the amateurs.
9. Signed with PBC big boss Al Haymon.
10. 100-1 underdog against ‪#‎GGG‬ 4/23.

February 9, 2016

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes XI — The KOD Kayfabe Knockout Edition

Like a kick in the nuts
If pro wrestling was "real" I'd write more "spoof" stories like this one:

Vince McMahon Declares: ‘Bret Gave Bret Prostate Cancer!

By Freeman 'The Fabulous' Freebird

Stamford, Connecticut — The world reacted to the terrible news with compassion and sympathy. But as wrestling fans the world over know, WWE owner Vince McMahon is neither compassionate nor sympathetic.

When word of Bret Hart's cancer diagnosis reached McMahon via social media last week just hours after Hart's heartfelt posting was shared online by McMahon's son-in-law Paul "Triple H" Levesque following another grueling (but successful) WWE world title defense, the stone cold boss of World Wrestling Entertainment had this to say about the "Hitman" he so infamously screwjobbed in Montreal: "I have not, nor will I ever forgive Bret Hart for spitting that disgusting, non-gimmicked loogie in my face. Some of it even dripped into my mouth. Look, I'm sorry that Bret screwed up his own prostate by insisting on the Sharpshooter as his finishing maneuver. I tried to warn him many, many times that it would have long-term health consequences for his bread basket but he refused to listen to me or to the 'Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels."

RIP Rowdy Roddy
"I have no sympathy whatsoever for Bret," re-emphasized McMahon from his family compound.  

"Bret has always done whatever the hell Bret wanted to do and now it's time for him to pay the piper," bellowed a rowdy McMahon from the pit of his stomach. Asked by this reporter if he or the WWE bears any responsibility for Hart's present condition, McMahon grew angry and adamant while steroid filled veins bulged from his 80 year-old chicken neck: "As an excellent sports entertainment executor, I am the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. The truth is that Bret gave Bret prostate cancer by being such a world class championship dick!"

"Nobody ever kicked out of Mr. Perfect's Perfect-Plex but I did," Tweeted Bret from treatment. 

"I can pin cancer, stage one, two, three," #HashtagHart promised his loyal, sunglass wearing fans.

Mexican Style 
Hashtag Khanelo — The recent Golden Boy Promotion announcement of ‪#‎CaneloKhan‬ for May 7 seemed to come out of nowhere. I was as surprised as anybody to find out that "world middleweight champion" Saul Canelo Alvarez would be defending his newly won Ring Magazine and WBC 155 pound catchweight titles for the first time against a chinny welterweight with two knockout losses at the hands of super lightweights.

This must be what newly sober promoter Oscar De La Hoya calls "marination" for a fall (down) match-up with wrecking ball Gennady Golovkin. I'll believe it only when I see it in the ring. Don't expect that unification super-fight to come out of nowhere. Expect it to go nowhere. Fast. Like a few other boxing "dream fights" that fight fans won't be seeing anytime soon, ‪#‎GGGCanelo‬ doesn't make enough dollars or enough sense to the hombres who control Canelo and who make mucho dinero off their red-headed Mexican star.

Show Me State — The first time I got a live look at future IBF heavyweight champion of the world Charles "Missouri" Martin, it was on a ridiculously hot summer day in July of 2013 at Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. I was ringside to cover the ESPN Friday Night Fights card for KO Digest. Martin stopped somebody named Aaron Kinch in four rounds on the non-televised undercard. More than anything Martin did in the ring, I couldn't help but notice his trainer Henry Tillman of Mike Tyson fame. Notably older and heavier, I barely recognized Tillman but it was nice to see him in the "Live Free or Die" state. Hank Lundy beat Ajose Olusegun in the main event and "Polish Prince" Ryan Kielczewski scored a sensational knockout of Miguel Sosa. On this night, Marlon Hayes made more of an impression (in defeat against Alexis Santos) than Martin ever did in victory. Today, Martin's a "world champion" in the resurgent post-Klit heavyweight division.

The Son of God before resurrection
Super middleweight Darnell "Deezol" Boone talks to the KO Digest about the experience of fighting (and knocking down) a young Andre Ward in a six round decision loss in 2005 — "I said “I want to fight this guy. I can beat him.” No sooner did I say that, two or three months later it came about. I knew I could beat this dude. I believe I beat him, everybody that was there thought I beat him, and he knew I beat him. Ward was hurt with an uppercut, straight right hand. The referee gave him a delayed count, he got up, and he stayed away from me. First three rounds, he won slightly. Second three I win, then I won the fight with the knockdown but you know how boxing politics are." 

The late, great, cigar chompin' Boxing Hall of Fame writing hero Bert Randolph Sugar held cage fighting in contempt — "It's really just bad boxing combined with one guy sitting on top of another guy, punching him in the face. Where's the martial part? Where are the arts?"

They're in the professional wrestling ring Bert. 

By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

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 ©