April 29, 2014

Bantamweights & Below - Boxing's Other Five Weight Divisions Vol. 15

The Inoue Brothers celebrate Naoya's WBC title win
By Derek "DBO" Bonnett -- The annals of boxing history are rich with fighting siblings on the world class and championship caliber level. Presently, the boxing scene includes the Alvarez posse, the Chavez duo, the Kameda clan, the Brothers Klitschko, and the Marquez dynasty, just to name a few. One family name which I expect to be garnering a lot of attention at Bantamweight and Below in the coming years is far less known to the boxing masses, but that, it seems, is about to change. Japan, home of the fighting Kamedas, boxing's only trio of simultaneous world champions, now boasts the Inoue brothers: Naoya and Takuma. At twenty, Naoya became WBC light flyweight champion this month with an emphatic sixth round stoppage of two-time champion Adrian Hernandez. Inoue accomplished this feat with just about eighteen months of pro experience and a 6-0 (5) record.

Already, Naoya Inoue appears to be the man to beat at 108 pounds. If his road to the WBC championship wasn't brief enough, take a look at his younger brother Takuma. Takuma, just eighteen years old, has a professional record of 2-0 (0). In roughly five months as a professional fighter, this Inoue has already soundly defeated a top five contender at junior flyweight. The win has catapulted the title-less sibling into the top ten of the organizational rankings and likely in position to attempt to reach his brother's level of success even sooner. Say what we might about developing young talent properly, but when you've got it, you got it, and the Inoue Brothers seem to have boxing talent in surplus.

World Class Boxing Results at Bantamweight and Below:

On Wednesday, March 26, at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan, Denkaosan Kaovichit was stopped by Kohei Kono in eight rounds for the vacant WBA super flyweight title. The end came at the :50 mark. Kaovichit was dropped in the fourth and eighth rounds. Kono elevated his record to 30-8 (13) in reclaiming the title. Kaovichit fell to 62-4-1- (26). Kono affirmed his number three ranking among my top 115-pounders. Kaovichit fell from ninth out of the top ten. Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. returned to the ten spot. Kono placed himself in a good position for an even bigger fight with one of his high-ranking peers. Given his lack of unification history, long reigning WBO titlist Omar Andres Narvaez is an unlikely future opponent, but the winner of the Srisaket Rungvisai-Carlos Cuadras clash certainly becomes a viable choice.

On Friday, March 28, at Chokchai 4 Market, Bangkok, Thailand, Oleydong Sithsamerchai stopped Kompetch Twins Gym (0-3) in two rounds. Sithsamerchai won for the second time this year in preparation for an April 28 bout. He raised his record to 53-1-1 (19). Sithsamerchai remained my number four ranked 115-pounder. Sithsamerchai's activity continues to impress, but his quality of opposition needs to improve if he is going to command world title shot attention. It does seem as though the former world champion is waiting for attrition to do some of the heavy lifting. 

Hall and Ward fight to a disappointing draw
On Saturday, March 29, at Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom, Stuart Hall fought Martin Ward to a second round technical draw in an IBF bantamweight title bout. Before the action could even get started, Ward suffered a cut over his right eye from an accidental clash of heads. Since four rounds were not complete, the contest was ruled a technical draw. Hall retained the title as his record changed to 16-2-2 (7). Ward's resume moved to 18-2-1 (4). Hall kept his number eight ranking among my top bantamweights in the world. At the time of this publication, Hall had already signed to meet Paul Butler on June 6 also in Newcastle in defense of his IBF bantamweight title.

Also on this date, at Texas Station Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Brian Viloria defeated Juan Herrera by unanimous decision in a ten round flyweight bout. Viloria received scores of 98-92 twice and 97-93 in his first appearance since losing his titles to Juan Francisco Estrada last April. Viloria enhanced his record to 33-4 (19). Herrera fell to 9-8 (4). Viloria, previously removed from my flyweight rankings to pursue a super flyweight title, may be sticking around after all. Viloria has been re-instated as my number four fighter at flyweight. The previously ranked four through nine contenders each dropped one ranking. Luis Concepcion dipped out of the top ten for the time being.

Segura finishes off Salguerno in the 10th
At Hipodrome Caliente, Arena Tecate, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Giovani Segura stopped Felipe Salguero in the tenth and final round of their flyweight bout. The bout ended at the 1:55 mark with a battered Salguera falling to the canvas. Salguero was also down in round four. Segura improved to 32-3-1 (28). Salguero crashed to 19-6-1 (14). Segura climbed from seventh to sixth in my flyweight rankings. Kazuto Ioka fell from sixth to seventh.

On Sunday, April 6, At Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan, Akira Yaegashi scored a ninth round KO of Odilon Zaleta in a WBC flyweight bout. The end came at the 2:14 mark. Yaegashi made the third defense of his title and raised his resume to 20-3 (10). Zaleta plummeted to 15-4 (8). Yaegashi remained my third ranked flyweight in one of boxing's deepest divisions.

Also on the card, Adrian Hernandez lost his title to Naoya Inoue in a WBC light flyweight title bout. Inoue scored a sixth round TKO of Hernandez after the champion failed to make weight on the first attempt. Inoue won his first world title and improved his record to 6-0 (5). Hernandez fell to 29-3-1 (18). Inoue jumped from number nine to first in my light flyweight rankings. Hernandez fell from second to sixth. Johnreil Casimero fell from first to second.

Gonzalez stays undefeated at 39-0
Also on the card, Roman Gonzalez scored a third round TKO of Juan Purisima in a flyweight bout. Gonzalez' body attack ended matters at the 1:20 mark. Gonzalez raised his dossier to 39-0 (33). Purisima fell to 11-5-1 (4).Gonzalez remained my top-rated flyweight in a division with ever-growing talent. It looks as though Yaegashi and Gonzalez are on a collision course with one another in what would truly be a Flyweight Super Fight for the ages.

At Oasis Hotel Complex, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Jesus Silvestre was upset by Eduardo Martinez in an eight round minimumweight bout. Martinez earned the victory by split scores of  77-75 twice and 75-77. Martinez improved to 10-2-1 (2) with the career best win. Silvestre tumbled to 28-5 (20). Martinez crashed my minimumweight rankings at number nine. Silvestre fell out of the rankings from number six. Silvestre is just one of many 105-pound elites to suffer a major upset to relatively unheralded opponents in the last few months.

On Wednesday, April 23, at Castle Hall, Osaka, Osaka, Japan, Shinsuke Yamanaka stopped Stephane Jamoye in the ninth round of a WBC bantamweight title bout. The TKO stoppage came at the :11 mark of the round. Jamoye hit the canvas in the second, twice in the eighth, and again in the ninth. Yamanaka earned his sixth title defense and raised his record to 21-0-2 (16). Jamoye fell to 25-5 (15). Yamanaka maintained his number one ranking among my top ten bantamweights in the world today. Hopefully, with the top two bantamweights active within a one month span, real talk can begin regarding a unification bout between Yamanaka and Anselmo Moreno.

Another win for Menayothin in the waiting game
On Friday, April 25, at Central Stadium, Phitsanulok, Thailand, Wanheng Menayothin scored a fourth round TKO of Domi Nenokeba in a minimumweight bout. Menayothin raised his numbers to 34-0 (11). Nenokeba fell to 11-17-1 (8). Menayothin held on to his number three ranking among my 105-pounders. However, having fought just a matter of weeks before, Menayothin's immediate plans appear to keep him in the waiting game for a title fight without assuming much risk in the interim.

On Saturday, April 26, At Centro Convenciones, Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, Juan Francisco Estrada forced Richie Mepranum into ninth round retirement in WBO/WBA flyweight title bout. Mepranum failed to come out for the tenth round. Estrada marked the second defense of his titles and raised his record to 26-2 (19). Mepranum fell to 27-4-1 (6). Estrada remained my number two man at flyweight. Also on the card, Hernan Marquez defeated John Mark Apolinario by unanimous decision in a ten round super flyweight bout. The judges' cards read 100-90, 98-92, and 97-93.

Marquez improved his record to 37-4 (26). Apolinario fell to 17-4-3 (4).

Bantamweight and Below Featured Rankings - 
All-Time Best Retired Super Flyweights (115):

Sung-Kil Moon is #1 all time at 115
1.) Sung-Kil Moon (118, 115) 20-2-0 (15) ~ Former WBA Bantamweight and WBC Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: RTD8 Gilbert Roman, TKO4 Nana Konadu, MD12 Greg Richardson

2.) Masamori Takayama (115) 32-3-1 (8) ~ Former Two-Time WBC Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: KO5 In-Joo Choo II,
W12 In-Joo Choo I, W12 Katsushige Kawashima III

3.) Johnny Tapia (115, 118, 126) 59-5-2 (30) ~ Former WBO/IBF Super Flyweight, WBA and WBO Bantamweight, and IBF Featherweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: W12 Danny Romero, W12 Henry Martinez,
RTD9 Willy Salazar

4.) Gilberto Roman (115) 54-6-1 (35) ~ Former Two-Time WBC Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: W12 Jiro Watanabe, W12 Baby Sugar Rojas II, W12 Santos Benigno Laciar

5.) Khaosai Galaxy (115) 47-1-0 (41) ~ Former WBA Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: KO5 Israel Contreras, TKO5 David Griman, KO6 Yong-Kang Kim

6.) Hiroshi Kawashima (115) 20-3-1 (14) ~ Former WBC Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: W12 Jose Luis Bueno II, W12 Jose Luis Bueno I, W12 Carlos Gabriel Salazar

RIP Honorary Mention for the Texan Pikin
7.) Jiro Watanabe (115) 41-5-1 (32) ~ Former WBA and WBC Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: TKO9 Gustavo Ballas, UD 15 Rafael Pedroza, TKO12 Shoji Oguma

8.) Julio Cesar Borboa (115) 24-6-0 (2) ~ Former IBF Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: TKO 12 Robert Quiroga, TKO5 Rolando Pascua, W12 Joel Luna Zarate

9.) Satoshi Iida (112) 25-2-1 (11) ~ Former WBA Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: W12 Yokthai Sithoar, MD12 Hiroki Ioka,
W12 Julio Gamboa

10.) Martin Castillo (115) 35-4-0 (18) ~ Former WBA Super Flyweight Champion ~ Best Wins at Super Flyweight: W12 Eric Morel, W12 Alexander Munoz I, SD12 Alexander Munoz II

Honorable Mentions: Active: Cristian Mijares, Jorge Arce, and Nobou Nashiro. Retired: Robert Quiroga, In-Joo Choo, and Nana Konadu

Bantamweight and Below: Give That Man a Title Shot!

Give that man Inoue a title shot at just 2-0?
Why wait? Vasyl Lomachenko is receiving his second world title shot in as many fights with a 1-1 record. Well, Takuma Inoue, younger brother of recently crowned WBC light flyweight champion, Naoya Inoue, is already 2-0. Like Lomachenko, this Inoue has already defeated a top ten contender. In fact, the eighteen year old Japanese fighter recently decisioned Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr., ranked number four by the WBA and five by the WBC, WBO, and IBF. Sakkreerin was coming off a career best win over Ryo Miyazaki, who was crushed in three rounds. Inoue, now ranked tenth by the WBA and The Ring looks on the fast track like his older brother, who at just twenty years old is 6-0 (5) and a world champion. Presently, the WBA world title is vacant with Alberto Rossel holding the interim belt with four defenses.

Even with his greater experience, the thirty-six year old almost titlist from Peru would be an underdog to defeat the rising prospect from Japan. Although hasty title shots are not my cup of tea, Inoue has beaten a valid top five contender and got by on boxing skills not big power, which can often be deceptive. It's time to give that man a title shot!

Bantamweight and Below—On the Horizon:

Casimero looks to defend his title
On Saturday, May 3, at Waterfront Hotel and Casino, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines, John Riel Casimero versus Mauricio Fuentes in a twelve round IBF light flyweight title bout. The Filipino world champion seeks his fourth world title defense against a protected Mexican challenger.

On Wednesday, May 7, at Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan, Amnat Ruenroeng versus Kazuto Ioka in a twelve round IBF flyweight title bout. The Japanese challenger seeks his third world title in as many divisions in just his fifteenth professional bout. Also on the card, Katsunari Takayama versus Shin Ono in a twelve round IBF minimumweight title bout. Takayama seeks to avoid the minimumweight curse and retain his world championship.

On Saturday, May 10, at SM Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Donnie Nietes versus Moises Fuentes II in a twelve round WBO light flyweight title bout. Fuentes seeks to gain revenge for the unjust draw in their first meeting. Also on the card, Milan Melindo versus Martin Tecuapetla in a twelve round flyweight bout. The former world title challenger seeks his second win since suffering his first defeat.

On Friday, May 16, at Gimnasio Alexis Arguello, Managua, Nicaragua, Carlos Buitrago versus Alcides Martinez in a ten round light flyweight bout. Buitrago returns for the first time since his disputed draw last November in the Philippines against Merlito Sabillo for the WBO minimumweight title.

Expect another victory for Narvaez in Argentina
On Saturday, May 17, in Argentina, Omar Andres Narvaez versus TBA in a twelve round WBO super flyweight title bout. Narvaez prepares for his twenty-ninth world title bout victory.

On Saturday, May 31, at Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London, United Kingdom, Jamie McDonnell versus Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat in a twelve round vacant WBA bantamweight title bout. The rightful IBF champion seeks his second world title against a little know Thai boxer with an inflated resume.

On Saturday, May 31, in Distrito Federal, Mexico City, Mexico, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai versus Carlos Cuadras in a twelve round WBC super flyweight title bout. Two of the world's hardest punchers square off with bad intentions.

Written by Derek "DBO" Bonnett - exclusively for KO Digest

You can find more of Derek's writings & ratings at www.SecondsOut.com

You can also contact the author Derek Bonnett on Facebook

April 15, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Wladimir Klitschko - "My mission is not done"

Dr. Steelhammer speaks politics and pugilism
To boxing fans around the world, Wladimir Klitschko’s career needs no explanation or introduction. Boasting a heavyweight title reign that ranks behind only Joe Louis in calendar length and with a staggering streak of 15 consecutive defenses, the Ukrainian has held the division in check since April 2006, having firmly entrenched himself into history as one of the sport’s most dominant champions. Outside the ring, particularly to fans in the United States, Klitschko’s life and approach to the sweet science is largely misunderstood. To some, the champion is robotic and boring, but to the close-knit camp that has surrounded him for years, boxing resembles chess. Wladimir and his brother Vitali teamed up to clear the board of all potential challengers, complementing each other as King and Queen to protect their titles and each other from threats.

With Vitali now fighting a different battle, one for political reform in Ukraine, the younger Klitschko has been left to fend the board himself against Alex Leapai on April 26 and later against a budding crop of rising stars that include undefeated American Deontay Wilder. At 38, he is still going strong in defense of his legacy and his titles, but as new pieces sprout up on the opposition’s board, new opportunities have arisen on his side as well. Claiming that his biggest battle is still to come, one must wonder whether or not the defining fight in his career will come in his native country, fighting not for sport but for a brand new start in Ukraine—once again, alongside his brother.  

KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: This very special KO Digest interview is being conducted on April 10 the 10th anniversary of your lowest point in boxing, the KO loss to American Lamon Brewster. It looked like you were done in boxing, your brother Vitali advised you to retire, fans lost hope and all looked lost. What a difference a decade makes, 10 years later, you are undisputed world heavyweight champion having beat anyone and everyone and on the verge of another title defense, this time against Alex Leapai, an unknown opponent. What were the key elements of this decade long transition that saw you possibly being down and out to now being undefeated for a ten year span?  

Wlad lost the fight and he lost respect
Wladimir Klitschko: I never was paying attention to how many years I was undefeated or how many title defenses or anything like that because as an insider, you don’t really keep track of it. But as an outsider, you guys remind me of that—and you’re right, actually. When I think about it, on the tenth of April 2004, I was fighting for the WBO title to get back the WBO title against Lamon Brewster, and I lost that fight. As a matter of fact, that was also the first fight that I started to work with Emanuel Steward. Actually, I was watching that fight lately and I was watching through the years as motivation. It’s always something that I wanted to pay back because I really got a lot of criticism after that fight and I was written off the stage of boxing. I was just someone that was over and done and nobody would even think that I could come back and make my sporting career a big success. So, even this first fight with Emanuel, that also kind of gives a lot of respect to Emanuel because he stuck with me. I lost respect from a lot of people, my opponents included, and to gain that respect back, it takes some time. It takes some strength. I said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and that’s exactly what happened. I was almost killed in that fight, killed with the way of my desire for a win, my ambitions in sports, and my ego is the most important part. As an athlete, you have to have a big ego, and I do have a huge ego that helped in the past to get where I am today. Even at 38 years old, I haven’t achieved what I have in my mind. I’m not going to share it with you, but I’m not done with my mission yet because my payback for all the criticism I received from everyone is not over yet. I’m on my way to where I want to be, but I’m not there yet.

KOD: Alex Leapai isn’t viewed by much of the world as a real challenge to you. How do you feel about your opponent’s skillset and worthiness of fighting for the heavyweight title against one of the most dominant champions ever: you?

The pure violence of Alex Leapai
WLAD K: There’s always a consistency in failure or success. If you take a look at the three fights I lost in my career, I lost against the guys I shouldn’t lose to. The first was Ross Purity; nobody had heard anything about him except for the fight he won against me. Corrie Sanders gave a great fight for Vitali, but those days I remember, even TV didn't want to show that fight, he was a complete underdog, but you know, he made it. No disrespect to Corrie—I really respect the guy and liked him a lot, rest in peace Corrie. No disrespect to Lamon, but I shouldn’t lose that fight. Those three fights, I lost against guys nobody thought at the beginning I was going to lose to. If I fought some champion such as David Haye, Sultan Ibragimov, or Chris Byrd, people would understand that’s a great challenge. But to lose against guys nobody expected me to lose to? I definitely don’t want to have a reputation in this consistency of losing to guys I shouldn’t lose to. The less my opponent is known, the less people expect for him to give a challenge to the champion, the more the person is an underdog, the more I’m focused because I still have an aftertaste in my mouth after I lost the fight against Brewster ten years ago today. I haven’t forgotten about it, I know exactly how I need to stay focused and I will achieve my goal to defend my titles. It took me a lot of time to collect those belts and to be where I am today. I’m not going to take easy Alex Leapai. He doesn't have a lot of knowledge about technique and strategy and neither does he coach, but he has tremendous health. Physically, he’s just a violent guy in the ring. You can see the pure violence, and he's been very successful with it. That’s how he became the number one mandatory. I didn't chose to fight Leapai. He surprised a lot of guys who never thought he’d make it with Denis Boytsov, who I was supposed to fight as a mandatory but instead I am fighting Leapai. He wants to make Australian boxing history and shock the world and shock the champ. Congratulations to him. I’m taking this challenge very seriously.

KOD: In the outstanding 2011 documentary “KLITSCHKO” you said "Since 2005, it hasn't been boxing, but PURE chess." This seems to be a much different approach than many other fighters take. Please explain that strategic mindset in greater detail and which chess piece best describes you, the KING? 

WLAD K: Through the years, you have to get flexibility to fight tall guys, short guys, skinny and a little heavier, and with good technique or pure violence like Leapai. A lot of different guys that were as technical as David Haye— Haye was really, really technical in the fight, the same as Ibragimov. Very quick and very technical, same as Chris Byrd. Or strength and confidence from Sam Peter in 2005. His confidence was as big as a building, and he was just tremendously strong and a heavy handed guy. Anyway, there are different guys with different techniques, including southpaws and different tactics so I would say probably the Queen because the Queen can move anywhere—if you know about chess. A combination of the Queen and the horse, a Queen that sits on a horse, because I think that makes perfect sense with the figures that I chose this flexibility—you need to make moves that are unexpected. Many guys when they fight me, they see only robotic and one side of me, which is good probably because it’s better to be underestimated than overestimated.

KOD: For both you and Vitali, your “secret weapon” was, for a long time, each other. Without Vitali in your camp and without him in the sport of boxing at all, how and why do you continue your career in the absence of your brother? 

WLAD K: It’s a déjà vu because I’ve been in this situation before. In December 2004 after the Danny Williams fight, Vitali retired. He was absent for four and a half years until he came back. So for four and a half years, I was the only Klitschko fighting. And now it’s kind of the same situation. Now he’s retired again and the focus is on me. I’ve been there and done that, and it’s repetition again. Do I miss my brother being in the sport? Yes. But, I think right now, he’s having much more complicated goals that he wants to achieve in politics. I admire his desire, his courage, and what’s he’s doing. He’s definitely someone who needs to stay focused on the politics in Ukraine, especially with all the circumstances we have in the country. You can’t do both and sit with one butt in two chairs at the same time simultaneously, so he chose to retire and continue his life with politics. But, I’ve been there before and I'll continue to defend my titles. I don’t want to talk about the future too much. The first and next step is Leapai and that’s what I’m focused on right now.

KOD: Upon venturing to America professionally, both you and your brother met with promoter Don King in 1996 and decided to reject his contractual advances. In a foreign land and having the largest sum of money ever thrown at you, why did the two of you elect to stay away from King? Has your perception of him changed at all over time? 

Klitschko shows no emotion for Don King
WLAD K: Well, after the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, we received a lot of different contracts from different promoters and one of them was Don King. We were comparing all the contracts and trying to get the best possible deal that made the most sense, and King’s contract was not one of them. That didn’t satisfy our imagination of how things should work, and that was it.

KOD: As an indirect result of rejecting his offer, you gradually forced King from the upper echelon of the heavyweight title picture, but for the first time in years, he has possible in-road back into the division with his WBC title challenger Bermane Stiverne. Do you feel any responsibility or need to defend the division, the titles, or yourselves against King?

WLAD K: I have nothing to do with Don King—fortunately, because he never was my promoter. He was the promoter of other guys I fought, so we had some fights and some contracts with Don King Promotions. I’m not going after Don King in this case. I’ve never had anything to do with him and I am totally emotionless in regards to his name. I care about fighters that I fight, that’s it. But just to take away the opportunity from Don King to hold one of the titles, that’s probably the idea, to hold all the titles under one name, but who stands behind the fighter as a promoter—that’s important in negotiation and eventually when you negotiate not with the fighter, you deal with his manager and promoter, but honestly, I have zero emotions in regards to Don King. I’m not interested and I don’t care.

KOD: Looking at the rest of the heavyweight division, three other names I would conclude have the most potential and would perhaps be deserving of a title shot are Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Kubrat Pulev. 
What’s your take on each of those fighters?

Klitschko respects Wilder for his knockouts
WLAD K: Honestly, I’m impressed with the record of Deontay Wilder. He was in my camp before the Marius Wach fight, and he’s a very athletic guy. It looks like he really wants to become a champion. He has the desire, strength, and talent to become one. Tyson Fury was also in my camp but I can’t say much about him because I think he’s kind of young and green behind his ears. It's always been in the history of boxing that suddenly some guy just pops up and conquers. You mentioned some names and so did I, but maybe there is somebody that we didn’t even talk about. Who knows, like a Mike Tyson. Who would have thought a 20 year old kid could become the heavyweight champion? Nobody. So suddenly he was right there in the picture. In boxing it's the same, if you look at the scale of the markets, it goes up and down, up and down. You have some times that are exciting, and you have some times that are less exciting. It’s always been like that. Any of them can show their skills. But I know boxing well, and I’m really impressed with Deontay’s record of 31 wins with 31 knockouts. Whatever people say about him not fighting great competition, it might be this way, but to have the skills and the ability to knock all of these opponents out spectacularly, it deserves some respect from my side.

KOD: You’re a dominant and dangerous giant of man. Do you ever worry about seriously hurting an opponent and to your knowledge have you ever? How would you even know if you were seriously hurting somebody? Nobody seemed to notice that Magomed Abdusalamov was being internally destroyed in the ring against Mike Perez in November. 

Haye disrespects Klitschko with his antics
WLAD K: Fighters are one family. We need each other obviously to make the excitement of boxing, and we need to compete with each other, but that doesn’t mean that I wish to hurt someone that after the fight with me, he’s going to become handicapped or worse. My goal and my task of course is to dominate and conquer any opponent that is going to be with me in the ring, but at the end of the fight, I wish they’re going to recover well and that there are going to be no downsides in their life outside of the ring. Sometimes, I get upset and emotional when opponents think it's a part of the promotion that some of them want to send my brother and me to the hospital because they want to beat us up so badly, or say some stupid things. I’m looking at them and thinking “seriously guys, do you even know what you’re talking about?” I think mentioning things like that is just stupid. It’s a full contact sport so there are things in boxing history where unfortunately guys end up handicapped or even killed in a fight so I definitely hope they recover well and maybe get even better with their skills and learn from fighting me, or sparring me.

KOD: Growing up in a Soviet Republic, the world was a different place, particularly in regards to the USSR’s relationship with the United States. Many kids in schools were taught a very different reality of life in the States, and although the boundaries and ideologies of nations have shifted over time, some Cold War sentiments remain among individuals old enough to remember this time period—with that being said, your relationship with America is rather enigmatic, because in boxing, it seems that you love the US but the US does not necessarily love you back. Why does this relationship exist? Does this have more to do with the fact that you are viewed as a Russian fighter who beat all the best Americans and killed the heavyweight division in America—a traditional American domain—and took the title overseas? Is it because of residual Cold War feelings, or is it something else? Why are you not embraced in the States?

Klitschko and his American fiancée at a Miami Heat game
WLAD K: I disagree with you about not loving. When my brother and I are in the United States, we meet people and people meet us, and most of the time, if not all of the time, people are excited and we receive only positive emotions. The Klitschkos haven’t fought in the States since Vitali in 2009 against Arreola. Even if we haven’t been present with our fights, we still have a following in the States and people know who the Klitschkos are, and we receive only positive emotions from the fans. I think there’s also—if we talk about politics right now, politicians are trying to divide and conquer. Politicians are trying to brainwash people with their system, their agenda, and their propaganda. I’ve seen it, I’ve been around in this world for long enough. I grew up in the Soviet Union and I was born in the Soviet Union and I know what ‘Soviet times” means. I see what’s going on in Ukraine, and the Ukraine is coughing out the Soviet times, that's what is happening right now. It’s like a side effect after a certain illness, when you have a cold and you’re coughing out things like that. Eventually, we’re going to get healthy. On the other hand, also why I haven't been fighting in the States is because of the world [economic] crisis. We do have a huge following in Europe and it’s amazing to watch where, in two days, you sell 50,000 seats in a stadium. This still amazes me how people watch boxing matches in a stadium. If you sit in the last row you really can’t see a lot, but people get excited about it. There is a following also on the economical side because of the difference between the Euro and the US dollar, by 30 to 40 percent, so on the economical side, it’s something that made us fight in Europe more often than the States. With that considered, I look forward to going back to the States and fighting so boxing fans and Klitschko fans can see me perform on American soil and I look forward to it. There’s definitely a connection with the United States because I do live in the US and my fiancé is an American, et cetera, and I spend a lot of time with my friends in the States as well, and part of my career is connected. My team has Americans, Italians, Germans—I have plenty of guys from the States on my team that have been with me for ten years, so there is definitely a connection. But as I said, on the political side, politicians are trying to use propaganda, as it was in the past, to say some of the countries are good and some are not good like in Cold War times.

KOD: To what extent were you influenced by the film Rocky IV? Who did you root for?

Yo Klitschko!
WLAD K: I’m very happy you mentioned Rocky. I’m also a co-producer of the Rocky musical that’s hitting Broadway with Sylvester Stallone. We started in Hamburg which was very successful for over a year, then Broadway was the next step. I'm a fan of Rocky and I’m thinking about Alex Leapai because he’s an underdog. In a way, he’s kinda Rocky with the things he’s trying to do in his life. But Rocky, at the end of the day, is a story about love between Adrian and Rocky because eventually, as he said, “Yo, Adrian, I did it!” With Ivan Drago and all the propaganda from the West side, seeing the Soviets through Drago, and presenting it in a different way, it’s a part of history now with Rocky.

KOD: You’re greeted by loud cheers and over 50,000 fans at your fights in Europe. Your last fight in the US in 2008 against Ibragimov was not met with many cheers, and despite holding the heavyweight championship of the world, many Americans even in the media don’t seem to latch on to you like they have other heavyweight champions like Ali and Tyson. What do you think about the American boxing media? Do you feel as though you’re misunderstood?

WLAD K: I’m not done with my career. I can’t really look back and say what was good and what was wrong. Hopefully I’ll be back fighting in the States soon. Florida is my home state in America. There’s another line: “you have it, you don’t care about it. You don’t have it anymore, you miss it.” There’s a lack of competition and good names in the States. Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings are both undefeated fighters from US and they’re building up themselves. That’s something that’s eventually going to come up with a fight for the title. It’s very complicated when you don’t have challengers. If David Haye had been from the States, it would be a different story but he's British. There’s a difference on the promotional side as well. Or, maybe it’s a boring style. But I was influenced by the American style through Emanuel and I still have American culture with Jonathan Banks who is following in Emanuel's footsteps.

KOD: In your childhood, your family was small and closely knit—mainly just your mother, your father, your brother Vitali and youreself. Even as your career moved overseas and progressed professionally, your team was kept small. But in the last few years, that team has diminished slightly, as both Emanuel Steward and your father tragically passed away. How have you carried on through those losses in your personal life, and in particular, how has the transition to Jonathan Banks been carrying on as the spiritual heir to KRONK and as your head trainer?

The world heavyweight championship coach
WLAD K: If you think about Jonathan, even to me it’s kind of interesting because he’s coaching the champion, he’s seven years younger than the champion, he never was working as a coach, and then he followed in the footsteps of Emanuel, taking over Emanuel’s job in a big fight while he was preparing for his first fight with Seth Mitchell that he fought one week later after my fight in November 2012. It’s pretty amazing that he can coach and it’s a big picture when preparing not just a regular guy, but working with the heavyweight champion. I think his story is amazing and he’s doing a great job. I think he has this analytic mind that is important for a coach, and he learned from Emanuel a lot because he has been in my camps over and over and over; and he was my sparring partner. Jonathan met my father as well, and he spent a lot of time with Emanuel and he was around me for a long time. In a certain way, he was learning from Emanuel and me because he was much younger when he got in our camp for the first time ten years ago. He was 21 years old ten years ago.

Manny lives on through Mr. Banks
It’s very tough to lose someone that you’re close with, but in a certain way, we’ll end up meeting each other later on. Whatever was taught before, and I learned a lot, I feel Emanuel’s presence when I’m in training camp and in the gym. Even the gym is set up the way he wanted it. For example, the clock and the boxing clock stays together in one spot, and then you have TV screens around the ring, the fights of the opponent needs to be shown over and over and the more you watch it for weeks, the more things you see and study. There’s a lot of little details, even like how to meet with fans and how to approach people, and how to set up the camp and sparring partners that need to be sharp and the best you can get. There are a lot of things I learned from Emanuel. In a certain way, when I train in sparring or do whatever work, he’s whispering in my ear. I hear his voice. I’m not psycho or anything—I hope—but I’m just saying that his presence is still there. It’s not something where the man is gone and everything is gone. It’s not like that.

KOD: Despite Vitali being gone, the name Klitschko still holds the heavyweight division in check.
But for how long can this go on? When you eventually do retire, what do you see in life after boxing?

WLAD K: It is too early for me to say anything right now but I am preparing myself for that period of time. I don’t want to say something that is going to affect anything in my official life after sport. Just wait for it and you will know about it.

KOD: If things don’t go according to plan politically, do you think your brother would consider a return to boxing?

Brother Vitali now fights on the front lines in Ukraine
WLAD K: Well, for right now, there is not any question that he will be back in boxing. All his time and his concentration and his focus is on the politics because people expect this certain performance from him in the political field, not in the boxing ring. 

KOD: For a while, your brother was pursuing Ukrainian Presidency but is now seeking the role of Mayor in Kiev. What don’t Americans see about what’s going on in Ukraine? We can view the television reports, but there’s always something that’s lost in translation through the media. From what you see of what’s happening in Ukraine, what would you want people around the world to know and understand about the situation in your country?

King Klitschko's most difficult fight lies ahead
WLAD K: The Ukrainian people want to live in a country without corruption and dictatorship like we had with President Yanukovych. Eventually, Yanukovych is running for his life after everything that happened. There was a lot of death, over 100 people got killed and shot by the special police force with sniper rifles and AK-47s, which is unbelievable to even imagine. People that had no guns and no weapons got shot during the day on the 17th and 18th of February. Today we’ve got a geopolitical problem because Crimea is now taken by Russia, which is a  tremendous historical mistake. It breaks international and geopolitical law. You cannot just take over part of a country because you think it belongs to you. Alaska is probably going to be the next one. Alaska might be reconsidered about loopholes in the contract that were not done right. So, Ukraine is going through a lot of crisis right now: political, geopolitical, and economic. Fortunately, the world was talking about it and paying attention. Observers and news reporters have come to the country, and what is going on in Ukraine, the world is getting to know. It’s very simple to know through social media or the news—it’s not complicated. In all the propaganda that is going on in Russia, that in the Ukraine everybody demonstrating are fascists, is totally nonsense. Do I look like a fascist because I was there at the barricades and I was there and involved in the country? My brother is a part of the opposition and I was observing it at the beginning when it was just a 100 people on Maidan in Independence Square to over half a million people, and I haven’t seen any fascists. The complication of the situation is out there. I hope this evolutionary process of democracy in our country is going to proceed faster than slower.

KO UPDATE: (5/25/14) - Wladimir's brother Vitali was elected Mayor of Kiev, Ukraine's capital city.

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  

April 8, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 11

The team of Rijker and Prazak win again
By Mark A. Jones – Since the last edition of “The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science” (January) much has transpired in women’s boxing. The consensus #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Cecilia Braekhus, cemented her claim to that title with a dominant ten-round unanimous decision over former light-welterweight champion, Myriam Lamare. Super-featherweight Diana Prazak, who carries the weight of Australian women’s boxing on her shoulders, impressively dismantled a former featherweight champion in fellow Australian, Shannon O’Connell. Prazak, trained by Lucia Rijker, has developed into a force in the ring, and because of her success; an ever-growing number of Australian female boxers are gaining well-deserved recognition. 

USA vs Canada
In the amateur ranks, the 87th annual New York Daily News Golden Gloves finals are scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 18-19. Christina Cruz (Atlas Cops & Kids), the tournaments only seven-time winner, will look to add an unprecedented eighth title this year. She pounded out a 3-0 decision over Emily Colon (Glen Cove BC) on March 1 in the quarterfinals of the 125-pound division. On March 29 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, elite women’s boxing teams from the United States and Canada met in an International duel. It was the first such meeting for the United States in 2014. The US won the first six bouts and settled for a 7-2 team victory over their Canadian counterparts.

Winners: 112 - Marlen Esparza USA, 119 - Christina Cruz USA, 125 - Tiara Brown USA, 132 - Queen Underwood USA, 141 - Marie-Eve Dicaire Can, 152 - Myriam DiSilva Can, 165 - Franchon Crews USA, and Youth - Jajaira Gonzalez USA 

A look back at January - March 2014 in women's boxing:

On January 4 in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Daniela Romina “La Bonita” Bermudez, 114, won the vacant WBO female super-flyweight title with an eight-round technical knockout of “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca, 114 ¾. The 24-year-old Bermudez (16-2-2, 5 KOs), who fights out of Rosario, Argentina, now stands as a four-time champion winning world titles at both bantamweight and super-flyweight. She showed well in defeats earlier in her career against the current WBA & WBO light-flyweight champion, Yesica Yolanda Bopp and the current WBA featherweight champion, Edith Soledad Matthysse. It was the first stoppage loss for Lecca (9-2-1, 3 KOs) of Lima, Peru.

On January 18 in San Clemente del Tuyu, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ana Laura “La Monita” Esteche, 138 ¾, of San Martin, Buenos Aires, won the WBA female light-welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision (98-92/99-91/98-92) over the previously unbeaten Monica “La Gata” Silvina Acosta, 139 ¼. The 35-year-old Acosta (19-1-2, 5 KOs) fighting out of Santa Rosa, Argentina, was making her fourth defense of the WBA title. Esteche, with the upset win, moves her record to a deceiving (10-3-1, 2 KOs). The 23-year-old emerging star failed in previous attempts at world lightweight titles losing hometown decisions to fellow Argentine Victoria Noelia Bustos and Columbian Enis Pacheco.

Quick hits from January:

Southpaw Monica Lovato (13-1, 5 KOs) entered the ring for the first time in six years scoring a stoppage victory over DJ Morrison (TKO-4). Lovato is best known for winning the IBA female bantamweight title with a split-decision victory over Mexican boxing star, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez in 2007. Arely Mucino (19-2-2, 10 KOs), in her home town of Monterrey, Mexico, rallied to get past former longtime WBA super-flyweight champion, Tenkai Tsunami (19-9, 9 KOs) winning a controversial ten-round majority decision. Tsunami, a native of Tokyo, Japan, tasted defeat for the fifth time in Mexico. The first-ever Chilean born world champion, Carolina Rodriguez moved to (11-0, 1 KO) successfully defending her WIBA bantamweight title for the first time with a ten-round unanimous decision (100-89/100-89/99-89) over Simone Da Silva Duarte (14-5, 6 KOs). Duarte tasted the canvas in the eighth round. Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas (29-8, 9 KOs) won the vacant WBC Silver female super-bantamweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over the hard-hitting Calixta Silgado (11-3-2, 8 KOs) by the scores (100-90 x 3)

Braehus retains her title as the best in the world
On February 1 at Arena Nord, Frederikshavn, Denmark, Cecilia “First Lady” Braekhus, 145, of Bergen Norway, retained the WBA, WBC, and WBO female welterweight titles with a commanding ten-round unanimous decision over challenger Myriam Lamare, 143, of Marseille, France. Braekhus, the consensuses #1 ranked pound-for-pound female fighter in the sport, moved to (24-0, 7 KOs) with the victory that included a seventh round knockdown of the well thought of French challenger. "The only reason Lamare was still standing was her twenty years of experience,’’ said Braekhus. “Me and my new coach Otto Ramin have trained explosively, and that came through in this fight.” Immediately after the fight, the 39-year-old Lamare ended her eleven-year professional career announcing her retirement.

“Cecilia was very strong, an incredibly good boxer,” said Lamare. “For me, the time has come to step down. I wish Cecilia all the best.” Lamare (22-4, 10 KOs), a three-time, light-welterweight champion, exits the sport having defeated several contenders during career losing only to Braekhus, Holly Holm, and Anne Sophie Mathis. Matched against an excellent opponent, Braekhus, at the age of 32, looked better than ever and appears to have reached the height of her career.

Mighty McMorrow dropped a decision to Barbie
On February 22 in Puebla, Mexico, Mariana “Barbie” Juarez, 114 ¾, Mexico City, Mexico, defended her WBC International female super-flyweight title for the first time with a ten-round unanimous decision over “Mighty” Melissa McMorrow, 112 ½, San Francisco, USA, by the scores (96-94 x 3). McMorrow, the WBO female flyweight champion, elevated to super-flyweight for this contest and showed well against the larger and immensely popular Juarez. This super-fight featured an excellent contrast in styles with Juarez having enough success from long-range to stave off a late rally from McMorrow, an extreme volume-puncher, who tried to take the fight to the inside. McMorrow, the tough-luck loser in this fight, at a minimum earned a draw.

Quick hits from February:

Esmeralda “La Joya” Moreno (25-7-1, 9 KOs) once a pound-for-pound ranked fighter, is attempting recapture top form after a year hiatus from the ring due to childbirth. She moved to (0-1-1) since her return dropping an eight-round, split-decision (77-76/75-77/75-77) to Maribel Ramirez (9-6-2, 3 KOs). Kristin Gearhart (3-0, 1 KO), a bright American light-welterweight prospect out of Chicago, scored a stoppage victory over Allanna Jones (RTD-3). Mako Yamada (7-0, 2 KOs) won the WBO female minimumweight title with a ten-round, split-decision over hard-punching slugger, Su-Yun Hong (9-1, 5 KOs) by the scores (96-94/97-93/96-97). Yamada, at the age of 19, becomes the youngest female world champion. Fernanda Soledad Alegre (18-1-1, 9 KOs) defended her WBO female light-welterweight title for the ninth time with a sixth-round technical knockout of Marisol Reyes (13-8-1, 6 KOs). Although underrated, Alegre is one of a long line of female world boxing champions from Argentina and is one high profile victory away from pound-for-pound mentioning. In a battle of two elite flyweight prospects, Kenia Enriquez (10-0, 5 KOs) emerged winning a six-round unanimous decision over Noemi Bosques (4-1-2, 1 KO). The scoring (60-53/60-53/59-54) was not indicative of the competitiveness of the fight. Enriquez scored a knockdown in the first round.

La Loba is an Avenger
On March 1 at the World Trade Center, Naucalpan, Mexico, WBC female super-flyweight champion Zulina “La Loba” Munoz,115, of Mexico City, Mexico, successfully defended her title for the fifth time with a six-round technical decision (59-55/ 58-56/58-56) over 33-year-old Alesia “The Tigress” Graf, 115, of New South Wales, Australia, by way of Belarus. Graf (26-4, 11 KOs), in September 2007 claimed Munoz as one of her victims (UD-10) during her nearly five-year stint as the GBU female super-flyweight champion. Since, the 26-year-old Munoz (41-1-2, 26 KOs), has gone undefeated, winning world titles at bantamweight and super-flyweight and she has developed into one of the most exciting and popular fighters in all of women’s boxing.

Clearly, “La Loba” Munoz treated this highly anticipated rematch as an opportunity to avenge the only loss of her career stated, “I can say that I feel much more mature and experienced defeating Alesia. I have thoroughly prepared to give my audience a memorable fight, which I dedicate to Don Jose Sulaiman.” In contrast, Graf, who has not defeated a world-class opponent since 2009, was confident that she would defeat Munoz and leave with the title.

From the opening stanza, the ultra-aggressive Munoz dominated with her left hand consistently landing jabs and hooks keeping Graf off-balance, unable to mount an effective counterattack. After sustaining a cut over her left eye from an accidental headbutt at the end of the third, Munoz stepped on the accelerator in the fourth leading with left hooks, some of which had a noticeable impact on Graf. The aggressive nature of the bout caused referee Kenny Bayless to have his hands full with the two fighters constantly clashing heads. Graf, who suffered a cut over her left eye from an accidental head butt earlier in the fight, with a minute remaining in round six, sustained a severe cut over her right eye from yet another accidental head butt. After evaluating the damage, the ringside doctor called a halt to the contest resulting in the technical decision victory for Munoz. The fight was co-promoted by Canelo Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions and was televised on Mexico Televisa and USA Fox Espanol. Newly installed WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman Saldivar, stated that the fight for the WBC female super-flyweight title between current champion, Zulina Munoz and challenger Mariana Juarez (39-7-3, 16 KOs), is mandatory. The WBC has set a deadline for promoters to reach an agreement on the details of the fight, and if no agreement is reached, a purse bid will be conducted at a future date.

Winner and still champion Christina Hammer
On March 1 at the GETEC Arena, in Magdeburg, Germany, Christina Hammer, 159, defended her WBO & WBF female middleweight titles for the seventh time each with a one-sided unanimous decision victory (100-90 x 3) over former two-division world champion, Jessica Balogun, 156 1/4. The 23-year-old Hammer, who simultaneously with her middleweight titles holds the WBO super-middleweight belt, enjoyed a four-inch height advantage over the 25-year-old Balogun, a trait which she exploited over the course of the 10-round fight. Hammer appeared relaxed throughout keeping her hard-charging opponent at arm's distance landing at will with straight punches from the outside. Balogun, best known for winning three rounds on two scorecards against welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus in 2012, tried to take the fight to the inside against Hammer, but ran into uppercuts and hooks when Hammer adjusted to her tactics.

With the win, Hammer improves to (17-0, 8 KOs), whereas Balogun falls to (23-3, 11 KOs). Hammer has essentially cleaned out the middleweight division. Her next title challenger will likely elevate from the welterweight or light-middleweight classes. This match up was promoted by SES Boxing and televised live in Germany on SAT1.

Prazak fires her guns at Shotgun O'Connell
On March 1 at the Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington, Victoria, Australia, Melbourne native and two-time world champion, Diana Prazak, 127 ¾, successfully defended her WBC female super-featherweight title for the first time with a fifth round technical knockout over former featherweight title holder, Shannon “Shotgun” O’Connell, 129 ¼, of Slacks Creek, Australia. At the time of the stoppage, Prazak was leading (39-35) on each scorecard. The Prazak title defense originally received second billing on the card to a male middleweight bout between modestly ranked fighters. It was elevated to the main event when the middleweight bout was reduced in rounds.

The 34-year-old champion, a slugger with ever-improving boxing ability, nearly ended the fight early knocking the elusive O’Connell down twice in the second round with crushing right hands. The knockdowns were a harbinger of things to come as Prazak's physical strength, coupled with a two-fisted attack caused O’Connell to wilt under the pressure eventually prompting a referee stoppage at 1:56 of the fifth round. Prazak, who is currently based out of Los Angeles, California, moved her record to (13-2, 9 KOs). Under the tutelage of her trainer, Lucia Rijker, Prazak has developed from a one-handed banger into a two-fisted fighter boasting a left-hook that not only complements her right-cross, but essentially won her the WBC super-featherweight title with a knockout of popular Swede, Frida Wallberg (KO-8) in June 2013. It is no coincidence that the counter left hook was the signature punch of Prazak’s trainer during her active boxing career. The 31-year-old challenger won the WBF female featherweight title in June 2013 by knockout over Gabisile Tshabalala (KO-7). Before Prazak, her most significant fight was a decision loss to then WBA featherweight champion, “Defector Girl” Hyun-Mi Choi in South Korea. With the loss, O’Connell drops to (8-3, 5 KOs).
She is trained by former IBF lightweight champion, Philip Holiday.

Quick hits from March:

Hardy brings the Heat
Heather Hardy (9-0, 2 KOs) took a significant step in her maturation into a world-class, super-bantamweight with an eight-round unanimous decision victory over former world title challenger, Nydia “Dha Phenomenal” Feliciano (7-5-3)by the scores (78-74/78-74/79-72). Flyweight prospect Joselyn “Princesa Tapatia” Arroyo-Ruiz moved to (16-0, 7 KOs) by stopping Leidis Martinez (KO-2) who drops to (4-4) with the loss. The 19-year-old prodigy, who started punching for pay in 2011, has already won a minor title (NABF flyweight) and is on the cusp of making serious noise in the ultra-talented flyweight division. In a stunning upset, Yazmin Ortega (2-2-1, 1 KO) scored a ten-round unanimous decision over former two-division world champion, Irma Sanchez (28-7-1, 8 KOs). Ortega earned the Sanchez fight by knocking out Lourdes Juarez, the sister of Mexican boxing superstar, Mariana Juarez in February. In a non-title bout, heavy-handed WBC featherweight champion, Jelena Mrdjenovich (32-9-1, 16 KOs) won a ten-round unanimous decision (100-89/99-90/98-91) over survivalist Fatuma Zarika (24-7-1, 14 KOs). Zarika hit the deck in the first round courtesy of a left-hook from Mrdjenovich and looked to survive the rest of the fight. In anticipation of her super-fight with Delfine Persoon, in April, “La Pantera” Erica Anabella Farias stayed active improving to (19-0, 9 KOs) with a ten-round unanimous decision (98-91 x 3) over Maria Eugenia Lopez (8-8-2). Farias scored a knockdown of Lopez in the tenth. Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1 KO) won the vacant USA New York State female heavyweight title with an eight-round unanimous decision victory (79-73/78-74/77-75) over Tiffany Woodard who drops to a deceiving (4-8-3, 3 KOs). Marcela Eliana Acuna (41-6-1, 18 KOs) defended her WBO female super-bantamweight title with a sixth-round technical knockout of Estrella Valverde (9-4-1, 1 KO).

The Sweet Side Previews Erica Farias vs Delfine Persoon:

KO Digest breaks down Farias vs Persoon
On April 20 in Zwevezele, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, Erica Anabella “La Pantera” Farias (19-0, 9 KOs) of Virreyes, Argentina, goes on the road to make her twelfth defense of the WBC female lightweight title facing her toughest challenger to date, Delfine Persoon (28-1, 13 KOs) of Roeselare, Belgium. In this battle for supremacy of the lightweight division, both fighters are 29-years-old and are currently among the pound-for-pound best in women’s boxing. Farias, from the rich women’s boxing hotbed of Argentina, receives less attention than fellow Argentine fighters Marcela Eilana Acuna and Yesica Yolanda Bopp, but has carved out a niche in her home country displaying elite power-punching during her current four-year reign as WBC champion. First appearing on the radar in 2012 with devastating stoppage victories over Lucia Morelli (TKO-5) and Erin McGowan (TKO-7) winning the WIBF and IBF lightweight titles respectively, Delfine Persoon has developed into a very dangerous puncher with her right hand.

With the momentum of a stellar 2013, that witnessed her post a record of (7-0, 3 KOs) including knockout wins over Eva Halasi (TKO-3), then the IBF welterweight champion and Lucia Morelli (TKO-10), which secured her the WIBF, WBF, and WIBA lightweight titles, Persoon poses a serious threat to Farias’s reign as champion. Stylistically, Persoon aggressively moves forward behind a jab in a straight-line looking to deliver her hard right hand. As with most European boxers, she needs room to punch and is an ordinary at best infighter. She often reaches with her punches leaving herself open to counters. She has elite power, good hand speed, and is exceptionally strong. Of the two, Farias is the more complete fighter adding long-range boxing ability and movement to her impressive arsenal recently. She throws a wide left hook, ordinarily considered a technical flaw, but it works to corral her opponent into her right hand. The most prominent common opponent is former WIBA featherweight champion, Irma Balijagic Adler (14-5, 7 KOs). Adler lost a lopsided decision to Persoon (UD-8) in October 2013 but suffered a stoppage loss to Farias (TKO-1) in June 2012.

Here is how the two female fighters break down in ten important categories. 
Farias holds a key advantage in 6 out of 10 of them with 1 even:

Power: Farias                        Speed: Farias  
Chin/Durability: Farias      Size: Persoon   
Accuracy: Persoon               Skills: Farias                            
Conditioning: Even             Punch Volume: Persoon
Defense: Farias                    Quality of Opposition:  Farias

KO's Sweet Side Prediction: Persoon, early in her career suffered a stoppage loss to Zelda Tekin, who, in her next fight received a two two-year suspension for refusing the post-bout doping test. Farias has knocked down six of her previous ten opponents stopping five of them. With the venue in her home country, Persoon could possibly obtain a decision win if she lasts the distance; however, I see this as doubtful and believe Farias lands early and often earning a stoppage victory in the mid-rounds.

Three Questions - Sweet Side Q&A with Sarah Kuhn

The Knockout
Welterweight contender Sarah “The Knockout” Kuhn, ranked as high as #4 by the IBF, turned professional in 2010 after a brief, but successful amateur career winning the New York State Golden Glove title at 152 lbs. in 2009 and 2010. Since turning professional, Sarah has pounded out a deceiving record of (7-4-1, 1 KO) with three of her four losses resulting from razor-thin decisions. In 2011, Sarah went on the road for the first time leaving the cozy confines of Albany, NY, for Mableton, Georgia, where she secured the WIBC light-welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over Lisa Garland. As with most boxers, Sarah holds down a full-time career and recently signed with an upstart boxing equipment company to promote their products.

Q: How did you get your start in boxing?

A: In 2008, I wanted to change up my workout routine. I was stuck in the world of dieting and going to a gym with no direction, no one pushing me and no results. I've always been a heavy girl and pushed over 200 lbs in my late teens. I just couldn't figure it out. I tried all the fad diets, crash diets, treadmill routine, and swimming. As a child I took ballet, tap and jazz for about 10 years, so I decided I would give that a try again! A few doors down in the same plaza I saw a sign for Sweeney's Boxing and Fitness. I thought "hey why not" and I walked through the door. This would change my life. Rick Sweeney, the owner and my trainer looked at me, and one of his first questions was "how much do you weigh?" followed by "do you want to fight?" All he saw was a girl walking into a boxing gym. I made an appointment for a free trial, and that's where it started. I worked my butt off that day. I proved to myself that I could get through that workout and after a long talk with myself, I decided to stay. My 3 times a week turned into 6 days a week. I trained 4 hours average every day, trying to learn this sport that I knew nothing about. It's the first athletic thing that I've been really good at. I played a lot of sports growing up, but I just wasn't very good at any of them. For some reason this sport came naturally. Six months later I had my first amateur match. I walked into the gym weighing 178 lbs., and I stepped on the scale at 152 lbs. that night. The first round of that fight was a whirlwind. I've never been so scared in my life! My opponent had a little more experience, all I remember in the first round is taking a beating. I remember thinking to myself "Sarah, mom is watching you get punched in the face right now, she must be so worried and upset." After the first round ended I walked back to my corner. Rick says to me "are you tired?" "No," I said. "Well look at her, because she is exhausted. Now go punch her back." And that's exactly what I did. In the 3rd round, the ref stopped the match, and I won my first fight and the Adirondack Regional Golden Gloves. I went on to win NYS Golden Gloves the following month. My amateur career was pretty short. I finished with a 6-3 record, my last fight being in the National Golden Gloves, which was a great experience in being there with all of those amazing women.

Q: The Albany, NY area has several successful boxing gyms. 
Which is your home and who is your trainer?

A: I train with Rick Sweeney at Sweeney's Boxing and Fitness in Delmar, NY. There are a few gyms in the area, but even less with female boxers, and even less than that who want to work with female boxers. Rick happens to prefer working with female fighters. We both knew my style was a little more conducive to professional boxing. I'm not the quickest boxer, and endurance is definitely my strong point. So here I am 5 years later, still following this journey. I’m just a small-town, home schooled girl from Schoharie, NY, who is ranked in the top 10 in the world, getting ready for my 13th professional fight. I truly believe our lives will take the path that they are meant to; we just have to be willing to take that turn. We have to trust our souls, even when we don't know why it's leading us that way. This has been the most difficult and rewarding journey of my life. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings me, and no matter what it does bring, because of this experience I know I'll be able to conquer it. I don't believe I would have had these opportunities at any other gym. Rick is a special trainer. He's been like another Dad to me. He's sacrificed a lot, time, money and taken me all over the country to fight, and all over the state to spar. I was meant to find him. I work very hard for him, and he works very hard for me. We both do it for the love of boxing. It's certainly not for the money! It’s great to see more and more females coming in over the years too. I'm very proud to know that I share a part in that.

Kuhn has a hand in Machina Boxing equipment
Q: Recently, you signed with Machina Boxing of Philadelphia to promote their line of boxing equipment. Can you please describe your relationship with this upstart business?

A: My role is to basically give ideas on what styles I do and don't like as a professional boxer. The fit of their gloves are engineered to fit a woman's more narrow hand, the clothes are flattering and supportive, and their new sparring equipment is some of the best I've ever used. Before I signed on they didn't have headgear or 16 oz. sparring gloves. I was able to tell them what I thought was the best fit, most comfortable, practical and protective. I try it out and give feedback which goes to the designer. Machina is breaking into the professional competing side of it, and I'm very proud that I've had a hand in that. They are going to provide stylish and good quality equipment, and I am excited for what they bring to the table. It's wonderful to know that there is a company out there that believes in 'us'. Sometimes I feel like the bigger companies just think of women's boxing as an afterthought. I think products from Everlast, Title, and so-forth are great, but just because you make something the same way and color it Pink or Purple (girlie colors) don't mean it's designed for a woman! That's where they are different. I'm very happy for the opportunity to represent them and women's boxing. Thank you for this chance to tell a little bit about myself. I love this sport; I love the ins and outs, the ups and downs. I love the challenges, and the victories that I have gained whether I won or lost the match. I try to live the other parts of my life like I do boxing.
Take chances, train hard, FIGHT and then no matter the outcome, learn.

KO Digest's Dynamite Dozen Pound-for-Pound Ratings:

Braekhus is still #1 Pound For Pound

1- Cecilia Braekhus (24-0, 7 KOs) Norway
2- Erica Anabella Farias (19-0, 9 KOs) Argentina
3- Marcela Eilana Acuna (41-6-1, 18 KOs) Argentina
4- Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) Germany
5- Diana Prazak (13-2, 9 KOs) Australia/USA
6- Yesica Yolanda Bopp (26-1, 12 KOs) Argentina
7- Ann Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) France
8- Jelena Mrdjenovich (32-9-1, 16 KOs) Canada
9- Jessica Chavez (19-3-3, 4 KOs) Mexico
10- Delfine Persoon (28-1, 13 KOs) Belgium
11- Ibeth Zamora Silva (19-5, 8 KOs) Mexico
12- Naoko Fujioka (11-0, 6 KOs) Japan 

"The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science" is written 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:  Boxing Jones