March 25, 2013

Bantamweights & Below - Boxing's Other Five Weight Divisions Vol. 3

Zou Shiming
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett ~ Why is the boxing world getting all excited about the April 6 debut of Zou Shiming? Who cares? For me, the real positive isn't whether or not the Freddie Roach trained fighter debuts with great success, it's the fact that the boxing world is getting excited for a fighter of diminutive stature from China. Shiming is by far the most accomplished amateur boxer from the People's Republic of China, but his credentials also stack up with any other amateur great after winning three world amateur titles in 2005, 2007, and 2011. Shiming also owns two Olympic gold medals from 2008 and 2012. He won Olympic bronze in 2004. The flyweight will make his debut underneath Brian Viloria's next title defense.

At 31, it remains to be seen just how successful Shiming will be in the professional ranks, but anyone who can draw attention to the boxing world at Bantamweights & Below is just fine with me. However, do not be surprised, given the attention being paid to his debut, if Shiming receives a world title shot well before his tenth professional bout. So far, only Xiong Zhao Zhong has been able to win a professional world boxing title for China.

World Class Boxing at Bantamweights & Below:

On Wednesday, February 27, at Todoroki Arena, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan, Juan Carlos Reveco won a unanimous decision over Masayuki Kuroda in a twelve round WBA flyweight title bout. The three scorecards read 117-111 twice and 116-112. Reveco made the first defense of the full title, being promoted from interim champion. His dossier improved to 30-1 (16). Kuroda dipped to 21-4-2 (13) and is without a win since 2011. Reveco retained his number ten ranking among my top flyweights.

On Friday, March 8, at Surat Thani, Thailand, Tepparith Kokietgym won a wide decision over Daiboy Sajiro in a twelve round super flyweight bout. The scorecards favored the former world champion by margins of 120-108, 120-109, and 119-109. Singwancha won for the first time since losing his title in December. He raised his record to 22-3 (13). Sajiro fell to 3-6-1 (0). Singwancha held onto his number five ranking among my topflight super flyweights.

Sosa stops Solis in two rounds
On Saturday, March 9, at Complejo Panamericano, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Edgar Sosa gained a large measure of revenge over Ulises Solis in a twelve round flyweight bout. It was the third meeting in this series which saw Solis winning twice by split scores. This time, Sosa scored a KO of the Year candidate stopping Solis in two rounds with a sweeping left hook. The bout was waved off at the 2:12 mark. Sosa improved his dossier to 48-7 (29). Solis fell to 35-3-3 (22). Sosa jumped from seventh to fifth in my rankings with the win. Toshiyuki Igarashi fell from fifth to sixth at flyweight. Sonny Boy Jaro fell from sixth to seventh. Solis remains unranked at 112 or 108.

On Saturday, March 16, at Megapolis Convention Center, Panama City, Panama, Jhonreil Casimero defeated Luis Alberto Rios by unanimous decision in a twelve round IBF light flyweight title bout. Casimero prevailed by margins of 119-109 twice and 118-108. Casimero raised his record to 18-2 (10). Rios fell to 18-2-1 (13). Casimero held onto his number five ranking among my top junior flyweights. Rios fell out of the rankings for the time being. Pedro Guevara reclaimed the number ten spot at 108 pounds.

Also on this night, at Coliseo Miguel Grau, Callao, Peru, Alberto Rossel won a decision over Walter Tello in a twelve round interim WBA light flyweight title bout. The judges favored the interim champion by scores of 118-113.5, 118-114.5, and 117-111. Rossel move his record to 30-8 (13). Tello fell to 18-7 (7). Rossel retained his number nine junior flyweight ranking in my standings.

On Friday, March 22, at Accra Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana, Joseph Agbeko made his return to the ring in well over a year with a unanimous decision over Luis Melendez. King Kong prevailed by scores of 119-111, 117-111, and 117-113. He raised his ledger to 29-4 (22). Melendez fell to 34-9-1 (25). Agbeko, previously unranked due to inactivity, returned at number five among my top bantamweights.

Bantamweight & Below Featured Rankings: Junior Flyweight (108 lbs)

1. Roman Gonzalez ~ Nicaragua ~ 34-0-0 (29) ~ WBA
2. Adrian Hernandez ~ Mexico ~ 26-2-1 (16) ~ WBC
3. Kazuto Ioka ~ Japan ~ 11-0-0 (7)
4. Donnie Nietes ~ Philippines ~ 30-1-4 (17) ~ WBO
5. Casimero Johnriel ~ Philippines ~ 18-2-0 (10) ~ IBF
6. Raul Garcia Hirales ~ Mexico ~ 33-2-1 (21)
7. Juan Palacios ~ Nicaragua ~ 29-3-1 (22)
8. Ramon Garcia Hirales ~ Mexico ~ 16-4-1 (9)
9. Alberto Rossel ~ Peru 30-8-0 (13)
10. Pedro Guevara ~ Mexico 18-1-1 (13)

Milan Melindo
Bantamweights & Below: Give That Man a Title Shot! 

Milan Melindo is arguably one of boxing's most overdue for a title shot. Melindo, a flyweight contender, owns a record of 28-0 (11). At twenty-five, he is nearing his prime and should be able to win a world championship even in his talent laded division.

Since 2009, Melindo has added victories over Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Francisco Rosas, Juan Esquer, and Jesus Geles. Presently, he is ranked number one by the WBO and he may be finally fitting into Brian Viloria's immediate plans.

Melindo returns to the ring on April 6 against Tommy Seran in China underneath Viloria's next title defense. The card is receiving a high profile with Zou Shiming debuting that night and the commentary reunion of Larry Merchant and George Foreman.

Bantamweights & Below: On the Horizon

On March 30, at Arena California, La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, Raul Garcia versus Pedro Guevara in a twelve round light flyweight bout. Also on March 30, at Estadio de Beisbol, Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico, Mario Rodriguez versus Katsunari Takayama in a twelve round IBF minimumweight title bout.

On April 6, at Venetian Casino & Resort, Macao, Macao, S.A.R., China, Brian Viloria versus Juan Francisco Estrada in a twelve round WBA/WBO flyweight title bout; Milan Melindo versus Tommy Seran in a ten round flyweight bout; Zou Shiming (Pro Debut) versus Eleazar Valenzuela in a four round light flyweight bout.

Koki Kameda back in action on April 7th
On April 7, at Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka Japan, Koki Kameda versus Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym in a twelve round WBA bantamweight title bout; Sonny Boy Jaro versus Hiroyuki Hisataka in a ten round flyweight bout; Denver Cuello versus Takashi Kunishige in a ten round light flyweight bout.

On April 8, in Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan, Shinsuke Yamanaka versus Malcolm Tunacao in a twelve round WBC bantamweight title bout; Toshiyuki Igarashi versus Akira Yaegashi in a twelve round WBC flyweight title bout. 

On April 13, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Xiong Zhao Zhong versus Carlos Ortega in a twelve round WBC minimumweight title bout. Also on April 13, in Chinandega, Nicaragua, Carlos Buitrago versus Alcides Martinez in a ten round minimumweight bout.

On April 20, at Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Rodrigo Guerrero versus McJoe Arroyo in a twelve round super flyweight bout. Also on April 20, at Arena Roberto Duran, Panama City, Panama, Luis Concepcion versus Anuar Salas in a ten round flyweight bout. 

Written by Derek "DBO" Bonnett exclusively for KO Digest

March 17, 2013

CFC Fight Night Results From Lowell - McCreedy and Adama win

Dicky Eklund in the McCreedy corner
LOWELL, MA - For the second time in less than a year, Chicago Fight Club Promotions (CFC) put on what could best be described as a ragtag professional boxing card in the same fighting city that spawned the likes of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. CFC ended a seven year boxing drought in the Mill City last May with a five bout card at the historic Lowell Memorial Auditorium headlined by the Eklund trained Joey McCreedy and nephew Sean Eklund.

Unfortunately for local fans, only one of their homeboys came away with a win that night as McCreedy was thoroughly beaten by Shujaa El Amin while Eklund got a comfortable win over journeyman James Ventry in the co-feature.   

Fast forward ten months, and boxing was back again. Last night in Lowell, the venue was the Tsongas Center, and like last year, McCreedy (now a light heavyweight) was featured in the main event, this time against a Canadian opponent, Michael Walchuck, who reportedly did next to no training and was only approved by the Massachusetts Boxing Commission within a week of the fight. In other words -  he just got off the couch. Dicky's nephew Sean Eklund was originally scheduled to appear on this card as well but a right shoulder and bicep injury knocked him off the bill and sidelined him indefinitely.

Adama fails to make weight in Lowell
So what did CFC do? They brought in some well known veterans, a few young guns, and they pieced together a seven bout boxing card before a small but enthusiastic crowd of approximately a thousand fans. At the weigh-in the night before the fights, the single best fighter on the card, Osumanu Adama, failed to make the middleweight weight limit for his WBC/IBO/UBF intercontinental title fight against Contender Season II winner Grady Brewer. The world rated middleweight contender blamed a bad scale at his hotel room and appeared visibly disappointed at the weigh-in after at least three attempts to make the 160 lb limit. Because he came in a half pound overweight, Adama became ineligible to win the three vacant titles up for grabs against Brewer.   

What a long strange night in Lowell it turned out to be. There was confusion and chaos everywhere you turned. Reports coming from the locker room confirmed chaotic scenes behind the scenes. As a metaphor for how unprepared the promoters were, consider that when it was discovered there was only one corner stool, two milk crates were hastily taped together to be used as a stool. Fortunately, a second stool was found but the delays continued when the ropes were found to be too loose. By the time the ring was ready for action, it was already past 9PM. For the Irish McCreedy, the delay suited him just fine as he'd have a chance to actually fight and win in Lowell on St. Patrick's Day 2013.

In the main event, which didn't begin until after midnight, Lowell's Joey McCreedy (14-6-2, 6KOs) beat Canadian Michael Walchuck (9-9, 2KOs) by majority decision over eight rounds to lay claim to the vacant UBF US Northeast light heavyweight championship. The wild swinging McCreedy was making his first start as a light heavyweight after having outgrown the super middleweight division in the loss to El Amin last May. Brought in on short notice, Walchuck offered a nice jab and follow-up right hand but it wasn't enough to beat McCreedy or keep him under control.

Winner and new champion Joey McCreedy
With trainer Dick Eklund in his corner, McCreedy charged hard every round and managed to land more than he missed, and that's saying something because he missed a lot. In the end, McCreedy's advantages in size and power outweighed his defensive liabilities and carried the fight.

He won by scores of 78-74, 77-75, and 76-76.

Said the joyous winner afterwards, "It feels good to have Lowell back on my side and it feels good to have a title on my waist. I want to thank my trainer Dicky Eklund, he gave me great advice in the corner and I listened. I love him and if it wasn't for him in the corner, I probably would have lost tonight."

In the co-main event, world rated middleweight contender Osumanu Adama (21-3, 15 KOs from Ghana) defeated Grady Brewer (30-15, 16 KOs from Lawton, OK) by split decision over ten rounds. The fight was originally scheduled to be for three vacant intercontinental middleweight titles but because Adama failed to make the middleweight weight limit, the belts were only at stake for Brewer if he won. In the ring, it was a slow and sloppy fight with Brewer appearing to have outworked Adama over ten rounds. The action heated up a bit late in the fight but it wasn't enough to get the attention of a partisan Lowell fight crowd only there to see their hero McCreedy. To most everyone in pressrow, Brewer appeared to have done enough to get the win. Split decision scores in favor of Adama were 97-93, 96-94, and 94-96.

Said the dejected Brewer afterwards, "I thought it was a bad decision. I think I got screwed. I hit him with better, cleaner punches, I had him hurt a couple times. I thought I did enough to win the fight. I'm down about it, I'm pretty upset about it. If I had known this was going to happen, I'd have used everything I had in my body to get him out of there."

On the undercard:

In a middleweight fight, Russell Lamour (3-0, 1 KO from Portland, ME) went to war with Eddie Caminero (7-7, 7 KOs from Lawrence, MA) and came away with a hard fought six round decision to stay unbeaten. A slow opening round gave way to better action in the second as these two traded for most of the round. Caminero appeared notably smaller than Lamour in the ring but he enjoyed greater crowd support and fought with more urgency until the last round. In the third, Caminero wailed away to the head and body and Lamour looked uncomfortable trying to keep his opponent at bay. Caminero's relentlessness continued to pay dividends in the fourth and he scored a knockdown from a grazing right hand off the side of Lamour's head. In the fifth, Caminero continued to tee off with right hands while Lamour backed away and held when he had to. Lamour finally got something going late in the fifth with good body shots and he kept it going in the sixth by scoring a knockdown of his own off a right hand to the head. Lamour won an unpopular unanimous decision by scores of 57-56, 57-55, and 57-55.

Traietti bombs Seever
In the cruiserweight division, Iraq War Veteran Chris Traietti (11-3, 7 KOs from Quincy, MA) brought superior firepower and more endurance to the table against Tyler Seever (13-13-1, 11KOs from St. Joseph, MO) who he officially outweighed by 9 pounds. Traietti was busier and more accurate upstairs. His jab bloodied Seever's nose and his body shots were much more effective than Seever's. In the fifth, Traietti scored two knockdowns, the first coming off a wicked left to the body. The second from clubbing right hands. Two more knockdowns in the sixth from lefts to the body finally brought an overdue stoppage from referee Paul Casey. Time 1:50 of the sixth and final round.

In a welterweight cure for insomnia, Shakha Moore (11-19-3, 2KOs from Norwalk, CT) and and former WBA welterweight champ "Vicious" Vivian Harris (30-9-2, 19KOs from Sanford, FL by way of Guyana) boxed around, jabbed a lot, and only occasionally opened up with real punches. The problem was that when they did, they really didn't land very much and it was sloppy action at best. The crowd chanted "BORING" for most of the fight and it was hard to blame them. Ultimately, Harris used his reach advantage and his boxing skills to win a unanimous decision by scores of 78-74, 80-72, and 77-75, his first win since 2008.

At bantamweight, Josh Crespo (1-1-1, 1 KO from New Haven, CT) stopped Michael Martin (0-1 from Lowell, MA) after two rounds when Martin was not allowed by trainer Dicky Eklund to answer the bell for the third round after getting knocked down in the second round. Martin was speedy but the Luis Rosa trained Crespo brought more solid fundamentals to the fight. KO Digest caught up with Eklund after the fight to ask him why he stopped it. "Mike's legs were gone. I was protecting my fighter," pleaded Eklund.

Said the victorious Crespo after the fight, "Mike Martin is a good little fighter. He's too small for that weight class. He wasn't trying to get hit or get into a fight and when he felt the power it was all jabs to keep me away. I attacked to the body while pressing and capitalizing with the left hook."

Cage fighters in a boxing ring
In the evening opener which did not hear the first bell until 9:14 PM, converted heavyweight cage fighters Boban Simic (2-0, 2KOs from Chicago, IL) and Tyler King (0-1 from Boston, MA) displayed absolutely no boxing skills whatsoever for almost two full rounds before the dreadlocked Simic clubbed the massive King to the canvas twice and battered his dazed opponent around the ring to the point where referee Eddie Claudio mercifully ended matters at 2:51 of round two.

Images & Words by Jeffrey Freeman

March 15, 2013

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers - Willie Nelson

By Terry Strawson - Junior middleweight prospect Willie "The Great" Nelson is 25 years old and stands an imposing 6 feet 3 inches tall. He is ranked No. 5 by the WBC and is now exactly two weeks removed from an impressive first round stoppage of Michael Medina (26-4-2) on ESPN Friday Night Fights.

Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) is a fighter. His style is no-nonsense and his pressure is continuous if not relentless. He often neglects his jab but he throws punches in bunches. At his best, he is worthy of comparisons to former world champion Paul "The Punisher" Williams.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 20, 1987, Nelson began boxing at the age of 10 when a chance encounter with his mailman delivered an unlikely introduction to the sweet science. "My mailman was a boxing coach and when he came to deliver the mail, my sister told him she had a little brother that wanted to box. One day he decided to pick me up and ever since then I've been in the gym."

Nelson, trained by mailman Renard Safo, enjoyed a successful, though not hugely decorated, time in the amateurs and went on to comprise a record of - give or take a few - 230 wins and 22 losses. Not bad at all. He entered the professional ranks as a 19 year old and began his career with a knockout victory over unheralded Diego Villalba (1-5-1) back in May of 2006. By the end of 2008 Nelson had turned in a further nine victories, taking him to an impressive 10-0-1. The single blemish on the resume was a draw with, at the time, fellow unbeaten Antonio Johnson (7-0).

Nelson down against hard hitting Vincent Arroyo
In 2011, after having his hand raised on another six occasions, Nelson and his cavalier style of fighting ran into Vincent Arroyo. Literally. He was floored three times by the hard-hitting Arroyo on his way to his first career loss. "Going in with Arroyo, I was picked to win because everybody thought I would outbox him, which I did, but the three knockdowns helped him win the fight."

"The two right hands, the first knockdown, and the second knockdown were more like flash knockdowns and I wasn't really hurt. I just went down, got up and couldn't really believe it because I had never been down before."

It was a firefight. Nelson, as customary for him, forced the issue and for the most part was outworking his counterpart. Despite dictating the majority of the action, Nelson had no answer for the power of Arroyo. "He's a big puncher plus I was a bit drained from cutting weight," said Nelson to KO Digest.  "But I wouldn't take anything away from his power because the hook he hit me with, I think would of put anybody down."

The fight, which ended in a majority decision for Arroyo, marked the end of the relationship between Nelson and Safo. As he looked to correct the mistakes he was making Nelson turned to fellow Ohio native Jack Loew, the man who guided Kelly Pavlik to the undisputed middleweight crown not too long ago.

Their alliance so far, in just a year and a half, has spawned a 4-0 record including upsets over the highly touted Yudel Jhonson and John Jackson. Jhonson was a Cuban silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens while Jackson is the son of power-punching former world champion Julian "The Hawk" Jackson. Both where undefeated.  "I took the Jhonson fight on eleven days notice but I was training prior to that for a fight a week after that and it just so happened that they called with the Jhonson fight and he was one the guys I've wanted to fight since I was 22 years old. I just always thought I could beat him."

Nelson hammers Jhonson with a great right hand
Nelson, again in a fight that saw him on the canvas, dropped Jhonson with a well-timed counter right-hand in the second round and went on to score a unanimous decision, and the upset victory, without much controversy.

Up next was Jackson; the hard-hitting son of a harder hitting three-time world champion. The younger Jackson had racked up a 13-0 record with 12 knockouts. A chip off the old Hawk block it appeared. "I remember everybody saying what a big puncher he is and how they don't see it going past the fourth. They had a lot of negative things to say just because he was a big puncher. If you look at the fight, I clearly walked him down and controlled the ring," Nelson recalled.

Nelson began slowly against Jackson. Despite stalking his opponent incessantly, he at times hand-cuffed himself and missed opportunities as Jackson was simply quicker to pull the trigger. Trainer Jack Loew was fuming. In between rounds, and early enough in the fight to affect the outcome, Loew berated his charge. The response was almost immediate and Nelson opened up. Using almost every punch in his arsenal, Nelson had taken another scalp and collected the NABF junior middleweight title.

His most recent venture into the ring brought about a chance for vindication. The NABF junior middleweight title had been vacated previously by Michael Medina due to inactivity and the Eric Brown trained product of the Wildcard Gym was looking to get it back. "My game-plan going into the Medina fight was to pop my jab more. Try to be faster than I've been in past fights and just let Medina make mistakes, because he makes a lot of mistakes."

From the outset it was clear that Nelson was bigger, stronger and better equipped for the occasion. Medina, a solid fighter with a very respectable record, attempted to get himself inside and certainly was not afraid but found himself overwhelmed early. The fight was over shortly after it had began and Medina was counted out by Arthur Mercante Jr., after two knockdowns had rendered him unable to continue. The second knockdown caused an ankle injury to Medina that threatened to take some of the gloss off what was a solid night of work for Nelson.

"I don't know why they never give me my credit. When I fought Yudel Jhonson he had never been tested. When I beat John Jackson he was too green. Now I beat Michael Medina the fight was stopped due to his ankle. Well, his ankle got busted because I punched him. It never just miraculously broke, it was because I punched him and he fell back on it," vented Nelson.

Trainer Jack Loew, Nelson, and promoter Lou DiBella
One man who certainly does give Nelson credit is his promoter Lou DiBella. After the Medina fight at MGM Grand Foxwoods, addressing a collection of media including KO Digest impresario Jeffrey Freeman, the always entertaining DiBella got a lot off his chest.

"There's not a one hundred and fifty four pounder in the world that he is not likely to knock out," said DiBella of Nelson. "He's a real junior middleweight, so bring up anybody, Canelo Alvarez, never happen but Canelo Alvarez would go out on his ass, and Keith Thurman would go out on his ass. Austin Trout would go out on his ass!"

It's hard to argue with a man who has overseen the rise of Jermain Taylor and Sergio Martinez in recent years and despite the question marks surrounding the chin of Nelson, you are hard pressed to find a fighter in the weight bracket that would not find Nelson more than a handful. DiBella continued that heavy handed Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland would meet a similar fate and went on to say that, "Nelson is one of the most dangerous guys in the world at his weight. Period!"

There are plenty of fights out there for Nelson but with his penchant for stopping prospects and a towering frame that, with the help of Jack Loew, he is now taking full advantage of, it may be harder for DiBella to get them in the ring than it will be for Nelson to get them out of it.

Strengths: Size, Power, and Aggression 
Weaknesses: Chin and Limited Experience
Overall Rating: B-

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest 

Action shots by Bob Barton ~ Press conference picture by Jeffrey Freeman

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month!

March 12, 2013

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly

By Mark A. Jones - Women's professional boxing enjoys a niche following of dedicated enthusiasts, all too often being overlooked by mainstream boxing fans. This new monthly column on KO Digest will not be an all-encompassing dissection of the sport of women’s boxing, the focus will instead be on the important happenings in bouts involving world titles and high profile competitors. Additionally, a single match-up involving a rising prospect will be spotlighted; giving readers an inside look at a potential future star in women’s boxing. Also included will be featured divisional ratings, a pound-for-pound top twelve ranking called the “Dynamite Dozen,” and a listing of the best female boxers in each weight class. A report on the prestigious title fights of the preceding month and a look ahead to next month completes this very well-rounded look into women's boxing - The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science.

A look back at February 2013 in women’s boxing:

Women’s boxing was in superb form in February. The talented prospect, Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence took a loss but gained valuable experience. Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano gained renown as a two-division champion by capturing a featherweight title via knockout over a formidable opponent.

Teresa Perozzi, the WBC middleweight champion, sustained an early knockdown only to rally to retain her title versus a serious challenge from a particularly aggressive opponent. Former longtime flyweight champion, Susi Kentikian won the interim WBA flyweight title by defeating a relative unknown but willing opponent.

After two straight losses to American flyweights, this match-up was arranged to be an event where Susi got her groove back; the result was not Kentikian recapturing an ever-escaping prime condition, but getting bloodied and bruised against a fighter acquired by peering down the ratings rather than up them. Susi Kentikian, Hamburg, Germany, (30-2, 16 KOs) captured the interim WBA female flyweight title by mauling her way to an unanimous decision victory over an inexperienced, but game, Sanae Jah, Belgium, (7-1, 2 KOs). Kentikian lost the WBA female flyweight title to Carina Moreno in December by spilt decision.

Susi Kentikian back on the throne?
Jah, matched against a fighter with a winning record for the first time, boxed from long-range well evading many of the wild misses launched by Kentikian. Jah, in spots, countered well, but her lack of significant firepower enabled Kentikian to deliver effectively enough to persuade the judges to favor her. Kentikian scored a flash knockdown in round seven when a right-cross struck home punctuating an unanswered five punch combination. In the end, the bout was more closely contested than the scoring, (99-90 ½/ 98-93/ 97 ½-92) might otherwise suggest. Kentikian's first reign as the WBA flyweight champion lasted nearly six years. Only time and a higher level of competition will determine if Susi is back.

Note: Carina Moreno injured her knee when she won the WBA female flyweight title from Kentikian last December. Kentikian must meet Moreno to legitimize her claim to the WBA title.

As a nor’easter pummeled portions of New England on February 8, just south of the storm in Wilmington, Delaware, two talented super featherweight prospects battled. Melissa “Little Miss Tyson” St. Vil, 136, Brooklyn, NY, (4-1-2, 0 KOs) rained down power punches early and often on Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence, 130, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, (6-1-1, 5 KOs). Spence, a fast and powerful lead puncher, steamrolled five of her fist seven professional opponents with only Vanessa Bradford and the defensively gifted Lucia Larcinese having lasted the distance, discovered herself in an unfamiliar position of fighting from behind as St Vil, giving no backwards step, landed power punches at a higher rate than she received.

The Canadian rallied in the later rounds as St. Vil tired, but it was too little too late to sway the judges from awarding St. Vil the majority decision, (79-73/78-74/76-76). With the win, St. Vil adds Spence to a list of notable victories that include Evette Collazo and Jennifer Han.

St. Vil goes after Spence while Jack O watches closely
Despite the loss, Natasha Spence is scheduled to face Ronica Jeffery for the vacant interim WIBA super featherweight title. Jeffery won the WBC Silver female super featherweight title defeating “Lethal” Lindsay Garbatt by the unanimous decision in August 2012.

Note: Melissa St. Vil received some notoriety by starring alongside Melissa Hernandez, Dominga Olivo, and Geneve Brossard in the 2007 documentary, “Golden Gloves” directed by amateur boxer Leyla Leidecker. The documentary was later renamed, “The Life of Million Dollar Babies.”

There are exciting fights that fly under the radar experienced by only the most serious enthusiasts of the sweet science. On the second day of February in Pembroke, Bermuda, Teresa Perozzi, Warrick, Bermuda, (9-4-3, 1 KO) and Tori Nelson, Ashburn, Virginia, (6-0-3, 0 KOs) engaged in one of these must-sees. This match-up was the second meeting of the two elite middleweights. They met in October of 2012 in a memorable world title fight that ended in a draw.

The fascination of this match-up was the difference in styles featuring swarming infighting skills on Nelson versus the adaptability of Perozzi. In a 2010 world title bout versus the rangy Christina Hammer, Perozzi employed an infighting strategy to compensate for Hammer’s 5’11 frame, and superior reach. In this battle, she chose to execute a long-range, counter-punching strategy to exploit a perceived weakness in Nelson’s aggressive straight-line style.

Perozzi started quickly wining the first two stanzas keeping Nelson at bay with a deft jab and effective movement. The third round, the most compelling round of the fight, and a possible round-of-the-year candidate witnessed both fighters scoring knockdowns. Perozzi was the first to hit the deck, placed there by a two-punch combination executed by Nelson from close-range. She recovered quickly enough to return the favor approximately twenty seconds later landing a counter left hook that felled Nelson.

Nelson’s constant pressure asserted itself in the fourth round giving her the best of the action through the sixth frame. Perozzi rallied beginning in round seven sweeping the remaining rounds and apparently doing enough to persuade the judges to call the fight in her favor. In the end, as in their last meeting, the judges could not come to a consensus declaring the fight a spilt-draw; (96-95 Perozzi/ 97-94 Nelson/ and 95-95). With the draw, Perozzi, who also holds the WBA female middleweight title, retains her WBC version. Nelson is scheduled to defend her WIBA middleweight title against Maria Lindberg on March 30.

One of the most dangerous punchers in the sport of women’s boxing, Amanda Serrano, 126, Brooklyn, NY, (17-1-1, 12 KOs) took aim at the WIBA and UBF featherweight titles on February 16 in the Dominican Republic. Her opponent, Wanda Pena Ozuna, 126, the Dominican Republic (8-5, 2 KOs) was experienced having faced both Cecilia Braekhus and Hanna Gabriel during her career.

Amanda Serrano
Serrano secured the titles with a first round technical knockout over Ozuna; Serrano’s sixth first round stoppage of her career and third in a row since dropping a decision to WBC female super featherweight champion, Frida Wallberg in April of 2012. The victory gives Serrano a world title in her second weight class having won the IBF super featherweight title in 2011. At the age of only 24, she is amassing an impressive string of knockouts.

Jessica “Kika” Chavez, 107, Mexico City, Mexico, (17-3-2, 4 KOs) won the vacant WBC Silver female light flyweight title by beating WBF female flyweight champion, Irma “La Guerita” Sanchez, 107, Guadalajara, Mexico, (25-6-1, 7 KOs) over ten rounds by the scores (99-91/98-92/98-92). Both fighters have won several minor and major world titles between them. This was a rematch of a 2011 IBF female light flyweight title bout that Chavez won by split decision. Jessica Chavez, at the age of 24, is legitimately one of the top twenty pound-for-pound female fighters in the world.

A look ahead to March 2013 in women’s boxing:

On March 9, dangerous welterweight contender, Jessica Balogun is scheduled to battle the ever-tough TBA in Germany. Balogun (22-2, 10 KOs) lost a decision to Cecilia Braekhus in June 2012 performing better than expected against the elite welterweight.

Erica Anabella Farias, the WBC female lightweight champion and one of the most dangerous punchers in women’s boxing defends her title against the limited Liliana Palmera (21-9-3, 15 KOs) of Columbia. Farias will defend in her home country of Argentina where she owns an inherited advantage due to extreme crowd support. Farias has knocked down eight of last eleven opponents stopping seven within the distance including a sixth round retirement of Palmera in February, 2012. Farias (15-0, 8 KOs) holds wins over Melissa Hernandez, Ann Saccurato, and Irma Balijagic Adler.

On March 12, Naoko Fujioka (9-0, 5 KOs) Japan, is scheduled to stay active in a non-title affair versus Maribel Ramirez (8-4-2, 3 KOs) Mexico, in an eight round bout in Tokyo, Japan. Fujioka, a fearsome puncher at minimumweight has successfully defended her WBC title twice since lifting it from Anabel Ortiz on an eighth round retirement in May 2011.

On March 16, Yesica Yolanda “Tuti” Bopp (23-0, 10 KOs) defends her WBA and WBO light flyweight titles against a yet to be named opponent in her home country of Argentina. Bopp has successfully defended various recognized world titles fifteen times since winning the interim WBA female light flyweight title in August 2008. In her last start on January 26, she won a technical decision over Marisa Johanna Portillo.

On March 22, Ivana Habazin (10-0, 5 KOs) Croatia, faces trail-horse Eva Halasi (10-6, 9 KOs) Serbia, for the vacant IBF female welterweight title. Habazin has been moved quickly facing decidedly pedestrian competition over her first two years as a professional. Halasi should provide little resistance; of her six losses, five have come by the stoppage route. Habazin owns an American style of fighting does possess some serious firepower in her right cross.

On Mach 30, in Stockholm, Sweden, Jennifer Retzke (12-1, 9 KOs) Berlin, Germany, the defending IBF light middleweight champion, defends her title against Mikaela Lauren (18-2, 6 KOs) Stockholm, Sweden. Both fighters hold stoppage victories over Eva Halasi. Lauren holds wins over Cindy Serrano, Jill Emery, Rachel Clark, and two wins over the above-mentioned Halasi. If Retzke fails to stop Lauren inside the distance, it will be difficult for her to win on the cards in Lauren’s home town.

Pound for Pound Queen Holly Holm
Monthly Featured Divisional Ratings - Welterweights:

1- Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) Albuquerque, NM IBA, WBF
2- Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) Bergen, Norway WBA, WBC, WBO
3- Anne Sophie Mathis (26-3, 22 KOs) France
4- Jessica Balogun (22-2, 10 KOs) Aachen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
5- Mia St. John (47-12-2, 18 KOs) Oxnard, CA
6- Aleksandra Lopes (9-1, 1 KO) Quincy, MA
7- Ivana Habazin (10-0, 5 KOs) Zagreb, Croatia
8- Holly Lawson (5-2, 1 KO) Los Angeles, CA
9- Sarah Kuhn (5-3-1, 1 KO) Albany, NY
10- Adelita Irizarry (8-7, 2 KOs) Hartford, CT

Encompassed in the welterweight division are perhaps three of the top ten pound-for-pound female boxers currently campaigning in the sport. This talented group also contains some excellent contenders of varying styles, and a few talented newbies that may someday test the best of the division.   

A Closer Look - Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs)
Titles: IBA, WBF welterweight and Junior Welterweight
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Age: 31
Experience: 11 years
Style: Ambush Fighter
Strength: Conditioning, movement, long-range defense
Best Wins: Mary Jo Sanders, Anne Sophie Mathis, Mia St. John, Christy Martin, and Ann Saccurato
Losses: (2) Anne Sophie Mathis and Rita Turrisi
Last Bout: Win UD-10 Diana Prazak

The Goods: The current IBA, WBF welterweight and light welterweight champion is the divisions most decorated boxer holding various welterweight titles since her title winning victory over Angelica Martinez in 2006. Holm has not only dominated welterweights; she defeated world class fighters Tricia Turton and Mary Jo Sanders to win junior middleweight titles. Holly Holm is the quintessential ambush fighter using almost constant movement as her defense. Most high-level boxers have a smooth simultaneous transition from offense to defense. Holly’s style is similar to basketball; she is either on offense or defense. She is as aerobically fit as any fighter in the game, and the ambush style of boxing fits her skill set well. Holly is arguably the greatest female boxer of her time and one of the greatest in the history of women’s boxing. She routinely headlines boxing cards at the Route 66 Casino in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sweet Side Quick Quotes:

Welterweight #9 contender Sarah Kuhn - "I am honored to be a part of such a diverse division. Boxing is so much of a weight game that being right in the middle of the weight classes brings such a broad type of fighter. You can never be sure what you're going to be facing based on weight in this division.” 

Welterweight #8 contender Holly Lawson - “In my opinion, Cecelia Braekhus is currently atop the weight class. Both she and Holly Holm are very close based on the opposition they have faced and the fact that they both win decisions in their respective hometowns. We have a fairly decent sized division, the thing that bothers me is the fact that both of those women choose to fight over the hill, should be retired, women (aka Mia St John). I am hoping to fight for a title shot sometime this year; I am working on a tune-up fight within the next month. My goal is to be the unified champion; I am working on building myself as a brand so I can encourage large American promoters to feature me here in the states, so I don't have to take a fight overseas with the cards already stacked against me.”

KO Digest's Dynamite Dozen P4P Women's Ratings: 

1- Holly Holm (32-2-3, 9 KOs) USA
2- Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) Norway
3- Erica Anabella Farias (15-0, 8 KOs) Argentina
4- Ava Knight (11-1-3, 5 KOs) USA
5- Christina Hammer (13-0, 7 KOs) Germany
6- Melissa Hernandez (18-3-3, 6 KOs) USA/Puerto Rico
7- Layla McCarter (35-13-5, 8 KOs) USA
8- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (23-0, 10 KOs) Argentina
9- Frida Wallberg (11-0, 2 KOs) Sweden
10- Anne Sophie Mathis (26-3, 22 KOs) France
11- Esmeralda Moreno (25-6, 9 KOs) Mexico
12- Marina Juarez (36-6-3, 16 KOs) Mexico

Best By Weight Class Rankings:

Heavyweight- Sonya Lamonakis (USA/Greece)
Super Middleweight- Zita Zatyko (Hungary)
Middleweight- Christina Hammer (Germany/Kazakhstan)
Light Middleweight- Layla McCarter (USA)
Welterweight- Holly Holm (USA)
Light Welterweight- Holly Holm (USA)
Lightweight- Erica Anabella Farias (Argentina)
Super Featherweight- Frida Wallberg (Sweden)
Featherweight- Melissa Hernandez (USA/Puerto Rico)
Super Bantamweight- Yesica Patricia Marcos (Argentina)
Bantamweight- Irma Garcia (Mexico)
Super Flyweight- Carolina Raquel Duer (Argentina)
Flyweight- Ava Knight (USA)
Light Flyweight- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (Argentina)
Minimumweight- Naoko Fujioka (Japan)

Written and Compiled by women's boxing expert Mark A. Jones - exclusively for KO Digest  
You can find more of Mark's work on his women's boxing blog at: Boxing Jones

March 8, 2013

Friday Night Fight Flashback — Buster Douglas upsets Iron Mike Tyson

Tyson upset in Tokyo

World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson made it look too easy. When Carl "The Truth" Williams made the mistake of firing a lazy jab early in the opening round, the champion immediately dipped to his left, before firing the fight ending left hook. Tyson's feet left the canvas as he threw the punch. BANG! And just like that, it was over. The fight took all of 93 seconds. Some of the late arrivals never made it to their seats. After the stoppage, Tyson quickly went to embrace the defeated challenger. "Don promised a hundred grand for a knockout," said the champion. King laughed.

"At the post fight press conference, Mike," he said. "In cash!"

When Larry Merchant brought up the name James "Buster" Douglas, a fighter who won on the undercard that night as a possible opponent, Tyson didn't hesitate to respond. "I take all comers, I don't duck no man! I'm the best fighter on the planet!" said the confident champion. During the post fight interview, "The Truth" insisted he wasn't "disbobulated" and that he could have continued.

Iron Mike appeared to be invincible as he defended his title for the ninth time. There was no reason to believe number ten would be any different. Just three years prior, Tyson had become the youngest fighter in boxing history to become heavyweight champion when he destroyed Trevor Berbick in two rounds in November of 1986. Douglas, who earned a 10-round decision over Oliver McCall that night, showed flashes of potential.

His father, William "Dynamite" Douglas, was a tough fighter in the 1960's, and trained his son in his youth.

Coming into the McCall fight, the 29 year old fighter from Columbus, Ohio was mentioned as a possible challenger for Tyson, but after his average performance, there wasn't any reason to believe he would have a chance. Douglas was considered an underachiever. Back in 1987, while ahead on points, Douglas was stopped by Tony Tucker in the later rounds while fighting for the vacant IBF heavyweight title. The word was he had the talent, but lacked the heart of an elite fighter.

Real money for the Real Deal
Besides, Don King's real focus was on a showdown with undefeated former cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield in the near future. That was the real money fight. As far as anyone was concerned, Douglas was nothing more than a decent fighter. A stay busy fight, period. What no one factored into this upcoming fight was the contract battles between Don King and Bill Cayton or the marital problems between Tyson and actress-wife Robin Givens. In hindsight, there were plenty of factors in both camps that suggested this would not be just another Mike Tyson blowout as the fight neared. With Kevin Rooney no longer in the Tyson camp, the intensity level was no longer the same. Aaron Snowell may have been the new head trainer, but it was Tyson who called the shots. He decided when to train, and when to do his roadwork.

Just weeks before the fight, former heavyweight champion Greg Page, who was brought along as a chief sparring partner for Tyson, dropped the champion in training camp. For Buster Douglas, the situation was much, much worse. Just twenty three days before the fight, his mom, Lula Pearl, died of a sudden stroke. "My baby is going to beat Mike Tyson," is what she had told her friends earlier. Remembering his mother's words, the fighter used it as his inspiration, and instead of pulling out of the fight, he intensified his training.

The fight for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World took place on February 11, 1990 in the Korakuen Stadium (Tokyo Dome) in Tokyo, Japan. The fight was fittingly called "Tyson's Back" because of Tyson's previous victorious visit against Tony Tubbs in 1988. To accommodate the U.S. audience, the fight took place about 9am CST in Tokyo. Douglas entered the ring first, and he received nothing more than a polite round of applause. The champion was next, and as Tyson 37-0 (33KO's) sprinted down the aisle, the response was surprisingly the same. "You could hear a rat piss on cotton," Snowell would later claim. As the fighters loosened up during the instructions, Douglas purposely avoided eye contact with the scowling champion. If Tyson interpreted that as a sign of weakness, he was in for a rude surprise.

Douglas got Tyson's respect early
At the bell, it was clear this was not the Douglas anyone expected. The challenger got off to a fast start, as he fired combinations behind a quick jab. Tyson tried to come forward, but he barely moved his head as he worked his way inside. Douglas 29-4 (19KO's) met him with a straight right hand to the head. Tyson struggled to find his rhythm, and an occasional lunging left hook was his only offense. The champion didn't let his hands go, and Douglas made him pay with right uppercuts and left hooks. Douglas didn't seem the least bit intimidated by the so called "baddest man on the planet." The straight right hand also landed whenever Tyson tried to bull his way inside. In between rounds, Snowell frantically tried to get his fighter on track. Still, Tyson had no answer for the 42-1 underdog in front of him.

Douglas repeatedly landed the jab and sometimes doubled it before firing the right hand. The tassels swayed back and forth on his shoes, as he fought on his toes and let his hands go. By the end of the fourth round, Tyson's left eye began to swell. Incredibly, the corner failed to have an enswell, a standard flat steel press to reduce the swelling, and had to resort to using a water ballooned latex glove to decrease the swelling. Meanwhile, the crowd remained eerily quite. "It was like they went to a movie, and Godzilla was coming to eat up the town, and Godzilla never showed up," Boston Globe reporter, Ron Borges was to comment later on. Needless to say, Don King did not look happy at ringside. Things got worse for Tyson, as he was wobbled in the fifth for the first time in the fight by a right hand. After seven surreal rounds, Tyson was clearly behind on points.

Douglas down for 9 in the 8th round
Suddenly, in the eighth, as Douglas stopped punching to admire his work, Tyson fired a right uppercut and Douglas crashed to the canvas! Luckily for Douglas, the punch didn't land flush, and instead, the fighter appeared more disgusted with himself than hurt, as he pounded the canvas with his glove. He picked up the referee's count before getting up at the count of nine. Before the champion could inflict any more damage, the bell rang to end the round. In the ninth, both men had their moments. Tyson jumped on his man early to see if he'd recovered from the knockdown, and landed a nice overhand right, but Douglas' ability to come back from the Tyson knockdown appeared to have a psychological affect on him.

On this night, Douglas would not be denied, and a big left hook wobbled Tyson badly. His legs barely held him up as he fell into the ropes. A combination to the head almost had the fighter out. Douglas wisely threw a double hook to the body, sucking the life out of his opponent. He even gave Tyson a forearm across the neck as he was trapped on the ropes, one of Tyson's favorite bullying tactics. Only the bell saved Tyson from further punishment. In the corner, Snowell tried frantically to revive the champion, but they had to know Mike's championship reign was about to come to an end. At the bell, Tyson was the first fighter off of his stool, and the one eyed fighter held his gloves up as he prepared for the onslaught that was sure to come. Douglas sensed the moment had arrived, and his dream was about to come true.

Tyson managed a good right hand early in the round, but it was his last hurrah.

Buster Douglas makes history in the 10th
With a stationary target now in front of him, Douglas peppered Tyson with a few solid jabs, before he pivoted and fired a right uppercut that nearly ripped the champion's head off. A right cross left hook combo had Tyson falling backwards, and another right cross left hook caught Tyson as he crashed to the canvas. Douglas stepped over the downed champion as he followed through with the last two punches. "Down goes Tyson," shouted Lampley. The champion was in a haze as he groped for his mouthpiece, before struggling up on unsteady legs. Referee Octavio Meyran took one look at the stricken fighter, and waived it over. "It's over! Mike Tyson has been knocked out!" declared Lampley. "Lets go ahead and call it the biggest upset in the history of heavyweight championship fights!" 

Time of the stoppage was 1:22 of the tenth round. In the ring, Larry Merchant interviewed the new heavyweight champion. "Why did it happen James? Why did you win this fight no one gave you a chance to win?" asked Lampley. "Cause I wanted it. For my mother, God bless her heart," sobbed the new champion, as he was overcome with emotion. "Dad, this is for you, I love you." It was truly an emotional moment for the Douglas camp. The mood was almost ruined later on by King, who wanted to have a hearing, claiming "Buster" received a long count. "The first knockout totally obliterates the second knockout!" was the reasoning of the animated promoter. It was something straight out of the WWF. Thankfully, the referee in the ring was the ultimate authority.

King eventually backed off, after the negative feedback he received.
Unfortunately, Douglas' shining moment didn't last long, as he was knocked out in three rounds by Evander Holyfield in his very first title defense. The now former champion was paid twenty four million dollars for his night's work, and retired to Florida. No longer active, Douglas' weight ballooned to almost 400 pounds before he almost lost his life in a diabetic coma. Thankfully, the fighter recovered. Grateful for a second chance, Douglas lost the weight and  made a comeback, winning eight of his next nine fights.

Buster Douglas retired for good with a record of 38-6-1-1 (25 KOs) in 1999.

As for Tyson, things went down hill after the bout. Just four fights later, he was sent to prison for rape of a beauty queen. When he returned three years later, most of the Tyson fans were excited when he recaptured the WBC title against Frank Bruno, but his aura of invincibility was gone forever after his crushing defeats to Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Still, he remains one of the sports biggest and most famous box office draws. Tyson now has his own one man show on Broadway called "Undisputed Truth." He has also made cameo appearances in movies and television shows. Tyson was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2011.

His final record is 50-6-2 (44 KOs).   

David McLeod of KO Digest

The Friday Night Fight Flashback you just enjoyed was written by David McLeod, exclusively for KO Digest. Each week David will flash back to a different fight in boxing history. Read more of David's work at WWW.KODigest.TV including credentialed Ringside Reports from Madison Square Garden and other boxing hotbeds in the NYC area.

March 1, 2013

KO Digest Interview - Edwin Rodriguez: "My eyes are on the prize"

"I am ready to fight Andre Ward"
The road to the top is typically long, twisted, and challenging.

For undefeated 27-year old Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez, the journey has been much longer than it has been difficult, at least to the naked eye. Since debuting in December of 2008, it was clear that Rodriguez possessed talent and potential far superior to most young fighters. Although boxing is a battle of will and skill that tests each combatant to the maximum, the Dominican fighting out of Worcester, Massachusetts, has compiled 15 knockouts in 22 career professional fights and has impressed ringside observers with convincing victories in the vast majority of his fights.

What lies ahead is not as clearly defined, but Rodriguez has his eyes on the ultimate prize - World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward - and the next twelve months will crystallize most of the murky future ahead in his career. On the precipice of glory - and a world title shot - Rodriguez travels to Monte Carlo in the first stage of an international tournament at 168 pounds, scheduled to duel toe to toe with Argentina's Ezekiel Maderna (19-0-0, 13 KOs) on March 30.

Rodriguez confidently believes he is ready for the best in the weight class, the likes of which include American Andre Ward, Danish Mikkel Kessler, and Britain's Carl Froch, but before he can be crowed the best super middleweight in the world, he must first earn the honor of Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4 tournament titlist.

KO Digest: You were born in the Dominican Republic and currently fight out of Worcester, Massachusetts. Tell us about the road to America, the effect of the transition on your life, and life before boxing.

Edwin Rodriguez: I came to the United States, to Worcester, in 1998. My father was living here and brought me, my four brothers, and my mother to the states. I found boxing through my brother's friend in the Boys and Girls Club and trained with Carlos Garcia, who has helped a lot of kids out of Worcester get their life in check and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to train full time until I was 16, but by then I kept coming to the gym every day.

KOD: Most people in any profession have somebody that they respect and look up to. When you first began boxing, did you ever patent yourself after a particular fighter's style or attitude?

ER: Definitely. I'm a throwback fighter, so I looked back to Sugar Ray Robinson but I like to imitate Roberto Duran when I'm fighting. His fighting style was very entertaining. He would sit in the pocket, and his defense was great, always making the opponent miss while always being in position to punch and he was a tremendous body puncher. He's someone I want to be like in the pros.

KOD: Is athleticism, particularly boxing talent, something that runs in the Rodriguez family?

ER: No. Being born in the Dominican Republic, I didn't know much about boxing except for Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield fighting back in the day. Just like every other Dominican, me and my brothers always looked up to baseball players and tried to pursue the American Dream through baseball. I found it through boxing.

Team Rodriguez - Shields, Edwin, Army, and DiBella
KOD: After a successful amateur boxing career, you turned pro in 2008 and eventually signed with promoter Lou DiBella. How did you and Lou become connected, and how important has his guidance been on your career?

ER: He's been very important. After I had nine pro fights, me and my manager, Larry Army, got together with Lou DiBella and working with DiBella brought attention to my career. He and my manager have done a great job getting me where I am today, being ranked in the top ten in multiple organizations.

KOD: In the past year and a half, you weighed in anywhere from 165 lbs. to 174 lbs., and you tacked on plenty of weight following the weigh-in for your most recent fight against Jason Escalera on HBO. What is your natural weight, and what weight class are you currently focused on?

ER: Right now, I'm currently focused on 168 because that where the first fight of the tournament is. I'm rated highly at 168 and I want to fight the best guy there. But maybe down the road, I'm big enough and strong enough to hang with the guys at 175 as well.

KOD: In one of the first real tests of your career, you fought Will Rosinsky in October of 2011 in a fight that many fans perceived as being closer than the scorecards indicated. What was your reaction to the apparent controversy and are you surprised that boxing fans continue to debate the outcome of that fight?

ER: I'm not surprised because there are a handful of guys like that from New York. I've fought bigger and better fighters and I've kept improving. Down the road, if this guy accomplishes something in boxing other than saying that he gave me a close fight, maybe down the road I'll give him a rematch, knock him out and and put him to sleep.

Rodriguez in the middle of a firestorm
KOD: Is a second bout with Rosinsky something you would ever seriously consider?

ER: It would have taken him to beat Kelly Pavlik and accomplish something with his career more than beating Otis Griffin in a fight that I heard was controversial as well. If he's fighting a guy at that level and having a hard time with him, he hasn't done enough to get a rematch. A lot of people, especially from New York, get caught up in the fact he was coming forward, but I was hitting him with five shots before he even threw two. I hurt him and he never hurt me. He's feather-fisted. What is he complaining and whining about?

Will wanted to fight because he was craving for attention and he never got that in his career. I thought he was a friend, but after I beat him I found out he really wasn't. He can cry robbery, but he got an opportunity that he asked for over and over again and he didn't do anything with it. Now he tries to act like he won the fight, and that's not a man in my eyes. Maybe it wasn't 100-90, but I felt like I won the fight clearly—there was no doubt.

KOD: Many of your fights have been on your home turf, in the Northeastern United States. However, your next fight is against Ezequiel Maderna in Monte Carlo, Monaco. How do you anticipate the drastic change in scenery will affect you both in training and in the actual fight itself? 

ER: Not at all. On the amateur travel team, I got to fight in a lot of different countries, so I'm used to that. The man I'm fighting is a former Olympian and is undefeated, but I've beaten undefeated guys before. My punching power has increased and I'm putting my whole game together. He looks like a decent boxer-puncher, and I'm looking forward to going to Monaco, winning, and looking impressive.

KOD: Maderna is not a well known fighter stateside. You are aware of his career résumé, but how much do you know about your opponent stylistically heading into the clash on March 30?

ER: I know he can fight from the videos I've seen of him on YouTube. He's tall, likes to go to the body, and I think it's going to be a very good fight. Ronnie Shields has been putting together a team plan for this fight and I'm working hard to master it.

KOD: How important are the impending results of this tournament are to your career?

ER: It's very important. I believe that after I win this tournament, I'll be right at the door to fight one of the major world champions for a title.

KOD: You said “when you win,” not “if you win.” You're confident that you're the odds on favorite to win the Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4?

ER: I'm confident in my skills. I don't know how other people feel, but that's how I feel. There's three other really good fighters involved, two of whom are undefeated, but I'm the one who is going to win it. When I'm in a tough fight, I'll pull it out.

KOD: Have you acquired any expansive knowledge about the other fighters in the tournament, or are you solely focused on Marderna for the time being, taking things one fight at a time?

ER: I'm a student of the game so I know about these guys already. I've seen Denis Grachev, who gave Lucian Bute all he could handle. And he beat my friend, Vladine Biosse, on the East Coast. I've seen them all fight before, but I'm focused on Maderna.

Teacher and Student of the game
KOD: Beginning with your fight against Chris Traietti in Worcester,  just before the Shobox clash against Will Rosinsky, you made the switch to trainer Ronnie Shields. What sort of impact has he had on you and your career in the year since the transition?

ER: Ronnie has been able to calm me down a little bit. Before, I was more of a seek and destroy kind of guy. I'm still trying to accomplish that, but I'm doing it a different way and I've realized I have ten or twelve rounds to do that. At that point in my career, I was too wild, and he was able sharpen my skills that I had neglected. He helped me put everything together.

KOD: What’s your take on the current state of the super middleweight division? Where do you stand in relation to the best in the weight class right now, names like Andre Ward, Carl Froch, and Mikkel Kessler?

ER: I think I'm right there with those guys, I just need results in the right fights to prove it. I need a breakout fight against one of the top names. I believe in my skills and after the tournament, I believe I should be able to fight one of the top names in the division.

The ultimate 168 lb prize - Andre Ward
KOD: Although you're just 22 fights into your professional career, some boxing bystanders have expressed disappointment that you aren't fighting the fights they want to see against some of the top names in the division. How do you respond to this fan feedback?

ER: I want to fight the big names in boxing. I want a big fight against guys like Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler. I'm ready to fight Andre Ward. I'm ready for the big names, but I need to get my name more out there. They aren't willing to get in there with me because right now for them it's a high risk-low reward, but I want to fight for a world title and give the fans what they want.

KOD: Since the retirements of New England heroes like Micky Ward and others, boxing events have been on a bit of a decline in the Northeast. Boxing returned to the Boston Garden four weeks ago, headlined by local prospect Danny O’Connor. How important is boxing's return to the state capital for the sport's resurgence in the region?

ER: Depending on how well myself, Danny, Demetrius Andrade and a few other guys do, we can bring boxing back to this region. Andrade has a really good trainer and definitely has the talent to be a top pound for pound guy. Danny O’Connor works with me. He’s one of the hardest working guys in boxing. I was very excited to be helping out in Danny's corner because Ronnie had another fighter in Las Vegas. We're good enough to bring attention to boxing and we can pull it together. That can set up other guys who are coming up in the amateurs now.

The Rodriguez family - with another on the way
KOD: Outside of the ring, your family will be welcoming a third child into the world in April. How has maintaining a family affected your fighting career? Does it make it more difficult to travel across the country, or in this upcoming case, the world?

ER: It's motivation for me. This is such a great opportunity for me and my family, and I'm staying focused and blocking all of those feelings. I just need to do what I need to do. I flew back home for my wife's birthday, but I was back in camp after the weekend. My eyes are on the prize and I am working hard.

KOD: You and your family are featured in a ten page spread in the latest Ring Magazine. From afar, it seems that you are a quiet man who cherishes his privacy. As your popularity and career portfolio continues to increase, are you worried about losing that sense of personal privacy? Are you ready to become famous?

ER: I'm not ready at all. There are times I like keeping touch with fans and friends through the media and I appreciate the support, but there are other times that I want to be a private person. In this sport, you need to interact with fans, but I'm still not totally comfortable with it.

KOD: Does this family responsibility add any extra pressure to win fights, or instill any mixed emotions about fighting aggressively for fear of losing or getting hurt?

ER: It's a lot of added pressure knowing that every time you fight, you're going to be promoted or fired. A fighter never thinks about getting hurt. If you think about getting hurt, you're going to get hurt, so you need to block that out. Fighters have the mentality that they're Superman. It sounds stupid, but that's how you have to be able to be to keep that from getting to us because we're all human as well.

The Future of Boxing

KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli

Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio.
Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.  

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli