June 26, 2014

Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield finally retires from boxing at age 51

The Real Retirement Deal
By Jeffrey Freeman -- You just never know when boxing history will be made in the Great State of Maine. I'm quite sure that nobody who was there in 1965 expected to be involved in the most iconic fight in the history of boxing when they took their seats in Lewiston to watch the ill-fated Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston rematch along with the smallest crowd ever for a world heavyweight title fight. I certainly didn't expect to be seated ringside next to Evander Holyfield two weeks ago at the Portland EXPO, when and where Holyfield told KO Digest he was "done" with boxing. In reality, I was just there to cover the local fights and maybe get a handshake from the former 3-time champ who was in the house for a paid meet and greet with fans. Instead, what I got was the the scoop before everyone else, making KO Digest "first" to break the news. Two weeks later, the rest of the boxing media is finally catching up.

Lem Satterfield of RingTV (the official website for The Ring Magazine) reported today that Holyfield had "officially" retired to a small group of reporters in New York, including their own Tim Smith.

For myself and readers of KO Digest, this is "old news" - twelve days old to be exact.

Media ally Michael Woods of ESPN fame was quick to take to Twitter  in favor of reality with this real deal of a Tweet:

Next stop Canastota
Inactive for the past three years, Holyfield kept the boxing world on hold, never announcing his retirement, rather insisting to anyone who would listen that his goal was to retire only after regaining the undisputed world heavyweight championship, a monster task considering Holyfield's age (51) and deterioration as a boxer. That's to say nothing of the current champion, Wladimir "Dr Steelhammer" Klitschko, a monster of a man, undefeated for the past ten years and eclipsed only by Joe Louis in terms of the length of his title reign. For the legendary Holyfield, retirement marks the end of a long and decorated career that began professionally in 1984 after coming home from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles with a controversial Bronze Medal. In 1986, Holyfield won the world cruiserweight championship in just his twelfth professional fight against future hall of famer Dwight Muhammad Qawi.

After earning recognition as the greatest cruiserweight of all time, the undersized Holyfield then moved up in weight to the heavyweight division in 1988 where he laid down a legacy of greatness that includes wins over Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Larry Holmes, Buster Douglas, Michael Moorer, Michael Dokes, George Foreman, and a holy host of others. Holyfield also made history by joining Muhammad Ali as the only heavyweight champion in boxing to regain the title not once but twice.

Reported by Jeffrey Freeman

With his place in fistic history secure as an all time great warrior, Holyfield is now just two years away from his inevitable induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in upstate Canastota, New York. As always, KO Digest readers were the very first to know.

June 17, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 13

Heather Hardy catches The Heat in victory
By Mark A. Jones – On June 14, one of the most recognized boxers in New York City, regardless of gender, Brooklyn’s Heather “The Heat” Hardy fought seven action-packed rounds against her most experienced opponent to date, Plattsburgh’s, Jackie “The Force” Trivilino. The fight, originally scheduled for eight rounds was stopped just prior to the start of the eighth when it was determined by the ringside doctor that Hardy was unable to continue due to cuts caused by unintentional headbutts in the second and seventh rounds. Hardy was awarded a controversial split-decision victory and improved her record to (10-0, 2 KOs).

Trivilino, much to the chagrin of her corner and a segment of the crowd, drops to (9-8-3, 1 KO) with the tough luck loss. The bout was tucked neatly away on the undercard of the HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” telecast which featured fellow New Yorker Chris Algieri's stunningly brutal upset of Ruslan Provodnikov. Most notably, this first-flying affair was the first-ever women’s professional fight at the Barclays Center and a much needed shot in the arm for women’s boxing in the US.

Love Conquers All
On Memorial Day, women’s amateur boxing received much needed national exposure when Private First Class Alex Love won a decision over 17-year-old Julie LaDisa, of the Bronx, New York, on a Golden Boy Promotions pro-am card from Fort Bliss, Texas. The card was televised on Fox Sports 1. PFC Love, of Seattle, Washington, is a member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), and competed in the first-ever USA Boxing Olympic Trials for female boxers in 2012. Love is currently ranked #2 in the 106 pound weight class by USA Boxing.

USA Boxing Elite Women’s Rankings (3-5-14): 

106- Elisha Halstead (Philadelphia)
112- Marlen Esparza (Houston)
119- Christina Cruz (NYC)
125- Jennifer Hamann (Seattle)
132- Queen Underwood (Seattle)
141- Destiny Chearino (Warwick)*
152- Danyelle Wolf (San Diego)
165- Franchon Crews (Baltimore)
178- Tiffanie Hearn (Oxnard)
201- Denise Rico (Los Angeles)

* Bertha Aracil (NYC) ranked #1 by USA Boxing, turned professional in May 2014.

A Look Back At May 2014 in Women's Boxing:

On May 17 at the Azalea Taisho in Osaka, Japan, 23-year-old southpaw Yuko Kuroki, 104, won the WBC female minimumweight title with a closely contested ten-round unanimous decision (97-93/96-94/96-94) over Mari Ando, 104 ¾. The victory marked the second attempt at a world title for Kuroki (11-4-1, 6 KOs) of Fukuoka, Japan, who in March 2013 dropped a decision to Etsuko Tada in an attempt at the WBA minimumweight title. With the loss, Ando (11-7, 5 KOs) of Kyoto, Japan, relinquishes the WBC title in her first defense. On the undercard, Nao Ikeyama, 102, won the inaugural WBO atomweight title with a ten-round decision over southpaw Jessebelle Pagaduan, 102, by the scores (99-91/99-91/98-92). 44-year-old Ikeyama (14-3-1, 4 KOs) Sakaide, Japan, the former WIBA minimumweight title holder owned a decisive experience edge (101-20 in rounds boxed) on the 29-year-old Pagaduan (6-1, 4 KOs) and holds wins over Kristina Belinszky, Ayaka Miyao, and Masae Akitaya. Going forward, Ikeyama, to retain her title must be maneuvered to avoid serious opposition. In her two previous bouts, she struggled in achieving victories over very ordinary competition.

Ikeyama beats Pagaduan
KO Digest Top 5 Under 105:

1- Ji-Hyun Park (South Korea)
2- Anabel Ortiz (Mexico)
3- Etsuko Tada (Japan)
4- Samson Tor Buamas (Thailand)
5- Ayaka Miyao (Japan)

She is back! On May 24 at the Municipal Auditorium in Tijuana, Mexico, Jackie “La Princesa Azteca” Nava, 122, returned to the ring after a 21-month layoff (childbirth). Nava, of Tijuana, impressed the hometown crowd by becoming a super-bantamweight champion for the fifth time by winning the WBA version with a seventh round knockout of Alys “La China” Sánchez, 122. It was the first knockout loss for the 27-year-old Sánchez (12-2-1, 4 KOs) of Maracay, Venezuela, who in 2012, held the WBA super-bantamweight title on an interim basis. Whatever rust the 34-year-old Nava (29-4-3, 13 KOs) failed to work off in training, was knocked off in the first round when she tasted the canvas after absorbing a clubbing right cross from Sánchez. The flash knockdown did more to awaken a sleeping giant then did it lend confidence to the fighter that scored the blow. After the knockdown, Nava relentlessly and with bad intentions, pursued her outgunned opponent with a two-fisted attack landing often to the body and head. Nava, successful in cutting down the ring, forced Sánchez into enough exchanges that she scored two knockdowns with the right hand in the fourth. She was pulverizing Sánchez so badly in the fourth stanza that the tough Venezuelan was out on her feet as the bell echoed the end of the round. Sánchez hit the deck twice more in the sixth, although the assigned referee generously nullified the first knockdown by ruling it a slip. In the seventh, a Nava combination opened a cut on the left eyelid of Sanchez, who immediately took a knee causing a referee stoppage, and a knockout win for Nava. With the win, Nava looks to have regained the form that allowed her to compete on an almost even basis in two epic battles with Mexican boxing great Ana Maria Torres (D-10, L-10). Her return makes for some exciting matchmaking possibilities at super-bantamweight against the elite of the division.

Acuna is #1 at 122
KO Digest Top 5 Super-Bantamweights (122):

1- Marcela Eilana Acuna (Argentina)
2- Jackie Nava (Mexico)
3- Yesica Patricia Marcos (Argentina)
4- Alicia Ashley (USA)
5- Yazmin Rivas (Mexico)

On May 31 in Krefeld, Germany, Susi “Killer Queen” Kentikian, 112, of Hamburg, Germany, returned to top form by defeating a tough challenger in Dan-Bi Kim, 111, retaining her WBA female flyweight title with a ninth round technical knockout. It was the third defense of the WBA flyweight title by Kentikian, who improves to (33-2, 17 KOs) and her first knockout victory since 2008. Kim (9-3-1, 2 KOs) of Anseong City, South Korea, who as recently as March 2014 challenged for a minor minimumweight title, entered the battle with notable wins at the smaller weight class, but proved to be too small to withstand the firepower of a championship caliber flyweight. Upon the retirement of Regina Halmich in 2007, Kentikian assumed the mantle of Germany’s most recognized female boxer. Kentikian, over the subsequent five years, carried the weight of female boxing in Germany successfully defending the WBA flyweight title 14 times. Since her losses to Americans Melissa McMorrow and Carina Moreno in 2012, the torch has been passed to middleweight Christina Hammer. The possible matchups for Kentikian are endless at flyweight; that is perhaps the most talented weight class in women’s boxing.

The Killer Queen beats Kim to stay #1 at flyweight
KO Digest’s Top 5 Flyweights (112):

1- Susi Kentikian (Germany)
2- Ava Knight (USA)
3- Shindo Go (Japan)
4- Arely Mucino (Mexico)
5- Raja Amasheh (Germany)

On June 7, at the Sport and Congress Center, in Schwerin, Germany, the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing Cecilia Braekhus, 140 ¾, successfully defended her WBC, WBO, & WBA female world welterweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision (98-92/100-90/99-91) over Jessica Balogun, 145 1/4. Said Braekhus, “It was a tough fight, but I expected that. Jessica is one of the toughest fighters around.” With her promotional problems sorted out, Braekhus (25-0, 7 KOs) and German coach Otto Ramin, since her last outing in February, worked on improvements in training. “All in all I was pleased with my performance. We had been working on some new things in the gym, improving my footwork and movement, and I think that showed tonight.” Going forward, Braekhus has shown interest in the IBF welterweight title currently held by Ivana Habazin (13-1, 5 KOs) of Croatia. “I would like to fight for the IBF belt next. I already hold the WBC, WBA, & WBO titles, and now I want to unify the division and become the first female fighter to hold all four belts,” said Braekhus. She has also expressed interest in moving up or down in weight to cement her legacy as the pound-for-pound queen of women’s boxing. Braekhus has options; the light-welterweight division is loaded with talented fighters and super-middleweight & middleweight champion Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) is the most notable opponent above welterweight. Said promoter Nisse Sauerland, “There are still many options available to Cecilia and we will be sitting down in the coming weeks to discuss what’s next.”

Braekhus reviews her options
KO Digest’s Top 5 Most Probable Opponents for Cecilia Braekhus:

1- Ivana Habazin (Croatia)
2- Alejandra Marina Oliveras (Argentina)
3- Fernanda Soledad Alegre (Argentina)
4- Christina Hammer (Germany)
5- Tori Nelson (USA)

Quick Hits for May & June:

IBF female super flyweight champion, Debora Anahi “La Gurisa” Dionicius (17-0, 5 KOs) from the women’s boxing hotbed of Argentina, in a non-title bout, displayed her superior tactical boxing skills by out dueling Alejandra Maria del Lujan Rios (6-6-2) winning an eight-round unanimous decision. Sindy Amador (12-1, 1 KO) of Riverside, California, retained her IFBA light flyweight title with a ten-round, split-decision over Maria Suarez (8-1-1). Suarez showed well in her first excursion past the six-round limit. WIBA welterweight champion Tori “Shu-Nuff” Nelson (9-0-3, 1 KO) of Ashburn, Virginia, successfully defended her title for the second time with a second-round technical knockout of women’s boxing pioneer, Mia St. John (47-14-2, 18 KOs). Nelson landed a counter right-cross forcing the 46-year-old St. John into a corner, and after a barrage of punches, the assigned referee mercifully stopped the contest saving St. John from further punishment. Perhaps the most underrated fighter in women’s boxing, Shindo Go (14-2, 9 KOs) of Wakayama, Japan, defended her WBC flyweight title with an eight-round technical knockout of Thailand’s Kledpetch Lookmuangkan (6-3, 1 KO). 46-year-old Alicia “Slick” Ashley (21-9-1, 3 KOs) of Westbury, New York, is women’s boxing version of Bernard Hopkins, earned a sixth-round knocked out of Nohime Dennisson (5-4-2) in a non-title match. Ashley holds the WBC female super bantamweight title having defended the title successfully three times. Carla Torres (4-2) of Cleveland, Ohio, pulled an upset winning a ten-round split decision over Brooklyn’s Ronica Jeffrey (13-1, 1 KO). With the win, Torres secures the WIBA featherweight title. Super bantamweight contender and fan favorite, Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent, 122 ¾, of Providence, Rhode Island, took it to Philadelphia’s Lakeysha “The Total Package” Williams, 122 ½, winning a six-round unanimous decision (59-55/60-54/60-54). For the highly ranked Vincent, she gains six rounds of ring experience that may lend her well in future high profile bouts.

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science State of the Game:

Is it any wonder why Juarez is so popular?
Best Boxer: Cecilia Braekhus
Best Slugger: Delfine Persoon
Best Puncher: Diana Prazak
Best Southpaw: Alicia Ashley
Best Counter-Puncher: Marcela Eliana Acuna
Best Body Puncher: Yesica Patricia Marcos
Best Defense: Alicia Ashley
Best Chin: Cecilia Braekhus
Best Jab: Christina Hammer
Best Cross: Diana Prazak
Best Left-Hook: Jelena Mrdjenovich
Most Popular: Mariana Juarez
Most Fun to Watch: Zulina Munoz
Most Avoided: Jelena Mrdjenovich/Melissa Hernandez
Most Protected: Maureen Shea
Deserves a Title Shot: Jessica Nery Plata
On the Rise: Kenia Enriquez
On the Decline: Janeth Perez
Underrated: Shindo Go
Overrated: Ji-Hye Woo
Dirtiest (fouls): Alejandra Marina Oliveras

A Look Ahead To Women's Boxing in June & July 2014:

Women's boxing in Mexico 
On 28 June in Epazoyucan, Hidalgo, Mexico, Canelo Promotions, on a four-bout boxing card labeled “Breed Champions,” three female world title bouts are scheduled with one assigned as the co-main event. On the undercard, two former world champions square off as Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas (29-8, 9 KOs) of Torreon, Mexico, battles Alesia “The Tigress” Graf (26-4, 11 KOs) of New South Wales, Australia, for the vacant WBC female bantamweight title. Graf enjoyed a 4 ½ year reign as the GBU super-flyweight champion besting such high-level fighters as Zulina Munoz, Esmeralda Moreno, and Hagar Shmoulefeld Finer during that run. Since losing her title to Ana Maria Torres in 2010, she had seen better days splitting her last four fights suffering cuts in two of them. Rivas, a former world champion in three divisions attempts to regain a version bantamweight title in this fight. Rivas held the IBF bantamweight title from 2011-13. The 26-year-old Rivas is streaking winning eight of her last nine matches with the only blemish a controversial split-decision loss to Jessica Gonzalez. Graf holds a 3” height advantage, but is likely too far into the post-prime portion of her career to get past a fighter with the skills of Rivas. In a battle for the interim WBC female bantamweight title, Jessica “Magnificent” Gonzalez (4-1) of Mexico City, Mexico, will face rising star “La Cobrita” Yulihan Luna Avila (10-1, 1 KO) of Gomez Palacio, Mexico. It is likely much too soon for the 20-year-old Avila, who has yet to achieve a significant win, to endure the grueling 10-round distance against a championship level fighter. Of her ten wins, four have come via split decision. Gonzalez won the interim WBC female bantamweight title in November 2013 with a ten-round, split-decision victory over Yazmin Rivas. She also holds a split-decision victory over former WBA female bantamweight champion Irma Garcia.  

In the co-main event, one of the most exciting fighters in women’s boxing Zulina “La Loba” Munoz (41-1-2, 26 KOs) of Mexico City, Mexico, defends the WBC female super-flyweight title for the sixth time against Renata Domsodi (12-4, 5 KOs) of Budapest, Hungary. The 35-year-old Domsodi, who holds three minor titles at bantamweight, is target practice for Munoz. The challenger was dispatched inside the distance by Ramona Kuehne (twice) and Ina Menzer in world title fights at super-featherweight and featherweight respectively. Neither Kuehne nor Menzer owns the offensive arsenal of Munoz, who at the age of 26, is rounding into her prime. Munoz explained, “I prepared very hard with my coaches and Lazarus Mauro Ayala at the Olympic gym because my goal is to become the best world champion in Mexico today.”

Fujioka #1 at Super Fly
KO Digest Top 5 Super-Flyweights:

1- Naoka Fujioka (Japan)
2- Mariana Juarez (Mexico)
3- Zulina Munoz (Mexico)
4- Melissa McMorrow (USA)
5- Debora Anahi Dionicius (Argentina)

On June 28 at der Burns Arena in Baltimore, Maryland, Tori Nelson (9-0-3, 1 KO) will defend the WIBA welterweight title against challenger Nicole Woods (11-13-3, 3 KOs). The underwhelming record of the challenger is deceiving as it was amassed by receiving the short end of decisions in the hometowns of her opponents. However, Woods, a rangy boxer-puncher from Stone Mountain, Georgia, owns an impressive decision victory over the current WBO lightweight champion, Maria Elana Maderna (13-8-3, 2 KOs). In November, Woods battled highly ranked welterweight Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (10-2-2, 1 KO) to a six-round majority draw. Nelson of Ashburn, Virginia, will engage Woods just six weeks removed from scoring a knockout victory over women’s boxing pioneer Mia St. John (TKO-2). Stylistically an aggressive counter-puncher, Nelson will look to land the counter right-cross on Woods as she was successful in doing against St. John. Cecilia Braekhus (25-0, 7 KOs) is the most decorated welterweight currently campaigning in women’s boxing holding the WBA, WBC, & WBO world titles. Her most serious threat to the supremacy of the welterweight division is Nelson, who will look to stay busy and in top form against Woods until the call to battle the division’s best inevitably comes.

Can Kawanishi upset Fujioka?
On July 7 at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan, Naoko Fujioka (11-0, 6 KOs) in her home town defends the WBA female super-flyweight title for the first time against Tomoko Kawanishi (9-1, 4 KOs) of Osaka, Japan. Fujioka, the former WBC female minimumweight champion, at 5’2” is an undersized super-flyweight, but carries serious firepower in both fists as she demonstrated in her title-winning performance in November 2013 against Naoko Yamaguchi (UD-10). Kawanishi, who sports a minor regional title, in 2012, lasted the distance against the heavy-handed Riyo Togo losing a closely contested unanimous decision. Kawanishi, who at 5’7 ½, “owns a 5 ½” height advantage on the champion, has displayed durability, but to wrestle the title from Fujioka, one of the pound-for-pound best in women’s boxing, she will need to employ skills that she does not possess. Look for Fujioka to retain the title setting up intriguing matchup possibilities in the loaded super-flyweight division.

Sweet Side Quick Hits for June & July 2014:

One of the most popular female fighters in Europe, Eva “The Golden Baby” Voraberger (17-3, 9 KOs) will face Nonggift OnesongchaiGym (6-1-1, 1 KO) of Thailand, for the vacant WIBF & WBF female super flyweight titles in her hometown of Vienna, Austria. Voraberger, at the age of 24, is improving with each outing and maintains the WIBF & WBF female flyweight titles. Rising Japanese female boxer “Miss Charm” Tomomi Takano, a well-known model in Japan competing in the “Miss Earth” and other elite modeling competitions, embarks on her sixth professional match in June battling ring veteran Kai Johnson (4-5-3, 1 KO). The 26-year-old Takano, a towering super flyweight at 5’ 10," has pummeled entry level competition during the introductory phase of her career exploding to an impressive (5-0, 4 KOs) will face her stiffest competition in Johnson. Both fighters hail from Tokyo, Japan. Takano, who is growing fundamentally as a fighter, is extremely popular and is a star in the making. Amaris “Diamond Girl” Quintana (7-2-2, 1 KO), one of the most popular female fighters in the Southwest, battles Susana Uribe (3-0, 1 KO) for the NABF female minimumweight title. The 24-year-old Quintana will drop from light-flyweight in hopes to secure her first title. Flyweight Tyrieshia “Lady Tiga” Douglas (3-0, 1 KO) of Baltimore, is perhaps one of the most talented young fighters in the United States, is battling the ever-tough TBA in her home town in late June. Douglas competed in the first-ever USA Boxing Olympic Trials for female boxers in 2012 finishing in second place to Marlen Esparza of Houston.
Braekhus continues her run at the top
The KO Digest Dynamite Dozen Top 12 Pound-for-Pound Women's Ratings:

1- Cecilia Braekhus 25-0, 7 KOs (Norway)
2- Marcela Eilana Acuna 41-6-1, 18 KOs (Argentina)
3- Christina Hammer 17-0, 8 KOs (Germany)
4- Yesica Yoland Bopp 27-1, 12 KOs (Argentina)
5- Delfine Persoon 29-1, 13 KOs (Belgium)
6- Diana Prazak 13-2, 9 KOs (Australia/USA)
7- Jackie Nava 29-4-3, 13 KOs (Mexico)
8- Erica Anabella Farias 19-1, 9 KOs (Argentina)
9- Jelena Mrdjenovich 32-9-1, 16 KOs (Canada)
10- Ibeth Zamora-Silva 20-5, 8 KOs (Mexico)
11- Jessica Chavez 20-3-3, 4 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 quality work on his women's boxing blog:  Boxing Jones 

June 8, 2014

Miguel Cotto mugs Sergio Maravilla Martinez in midtown Manhattan

Hall of Fame Weekend for Cotto in New York 
NEW YORK, NEW YORK --  Start spreading the news.

Sergio Martinez was violently mugged in New York City by a Puerto Rican assassin named Miguel Cotto. The culprit made off with his WBC World Middleweight Championship belt at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in the flower district, perhaps a fitting location for Cotto's pink ring attire and Martinez with his, shall we say, Maravilla-ness. Cotto put the "diva" issue to bed on his ring walk to challenge Martinez by being the first of the pair to do it, with no pre-walk introduction, and no music. Martinez then appeared and was introduced second as is boxing tradition for defending champions. Who's the diva now should be the question on the lips of critics who dismissed Cotto as a faded prima donna with too many "A-Side" demands, including top billing and a silly 159-pound catchweight.

Looks can be deceiving
The fight itself was an absolute drubbing. Martinez was maneuvered into left hooks with ease and his offense was rendered impotent by the fundamental skills of the Puerto Rican icon. Despite looking ready for victory at the weigh-in held at MSG Theater on Friday afternoon, Martinez was anything but ready when the opening bell rang in front of just over twenty one thousand decidedly pro-Cotto fans. The intense staredown at the weigh-in between the two fighters was as competitive as this middleweight match-up would ever get. At the final press conference on hump day during Fight Week, trainer Fredie Roach wished Martinez luck and told him that he'd need it. The truth is that even if he had it, luck wouldn't have helped.

Yet even more truth is the undeniable fact that Martinez is a broken fighter at 39 years of age. His late blossoming career now looks to be in serious peril, if not totally finished. The athletic cyclist-turned-pugilist finally pushed himself too hard and the crash was a gruesome spectacle, one that was hard to turn away from. Out of gloved competition for nearly a year and a half with myriad injuries, Martinez finally flipped himself over his handlebars and damn near broke every bone in his body. Not unlike my first used car, a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme with the standard stroke 350 Rocket under the hood, this little Argentine engine that could, can't. Not anymore. The whole exhaust system fell off, the brakes are grinding metal, and the transmission fluid leak—is massive.

There might not be a mechanic in the world who can put Martinez, 51-3-2, 28 KOs, back together now. 

Dressed in pink, Cotto makes off with the green belt
Trainer Pablo Sarmiento did not sound terribly optimistic at the post fight press conference when he told the media in attendance that "retirement" was something he and Sergio would have to discuss before making a decision on their future in boxing. Martinez, beaten so badly, was not in attendance to speak to his trainer, or the media, because he was on his way to the hospital, the victim of a simple assault that left Martinez with a fancy intro but no WBC (or Ring Magazine) middleweight championship belt. The only thing Cotto didn't take was Maravilla's purse. This mugger was one smooth criminal, after something else entirely, a fourth world title in as many weight divisions and he got what he came for, the "greatest achievement" of his Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile, the best and most consistent middleweight title reign since the glory days of Bernard Hopkins is over. Martinez will have to rebuild or retire.

At 33, Cotto, 39-4, 32 KOs, is apparently reborn under the training and motivational techniques of Roach. "I lost to Martinez with Chavez Jr but this time I had the right guy in Miguel. Ring generalship is a lost art in boxing. I never thought Martinez was a very good boxer," said the trainer responsible for preparing Cotto's plans.   

Quién es mas Macho Maravilla?
The first round was an unmitigated disaster for Martinez. Knocked down three times by Cotto, it looked like a highlight reel of recent Martinez stumbles and falls against the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Martin Murray, and even Matthew Macklin, who cracked Maravilla before crumbling. Things never really improved for Martinez and if I didn't know better, I'd say Sergio never laid a glove on Cotto, who uncharacteristically looked none the worse for the wear while Martinez sported a bruised knot under his left eye and a nasty slit on his right eyelid. Martinez brought bad knees to a knife fight and he got cut to pieces. The end came after nine one-sided rounds with Martinez failing to answer the bell for the tenth, and with chief second Pablo Sarmiento having seen enough, including a Cotto jab in the ninth round that buckled his fighter's knees and brought the fourth official knockdown of the fight. Replay showed the knockdown call to have been erroneous.

It hardly mattered. Cotto was busting up Martinez real bad and Sarmiento could see it clearly.   

In the end, what Martinez really needed was compassion in his own corner and he was lucky to find it there, even if he was unlucky in every other way on this late night at Madison Square Garden. That's the thing about muggings, when they're done by real professionals, they're fast and furious, leaving the target disoriented and confused. Done right, you never see it coming. After three first-round knockdowns, Martinez was, as the late great Puerto Rican trash talker Hector Camacho once said of a bewildered opponent—"on Queer Street trying to pick up a fag."

Classy promoter Lou DiBella addressed the media on behalf of his beaten ex-champion, ensuring the skeptical New York City boxing press corp that it was the knockdowns Martinez couldn't recover from, not an injury, or even an excuse.

Quiet Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wore the look of a man who knew this moment would surely come.

WBA champ GGG looks ready for the B-Side in NYC
Everybody now wants to know who's next for Cotto. The most likely candidates are either Canelo Alvarez or WBA middleweight champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin. The dangerous "Triple G" is currently making a star of himself at the Mecca of Boxing, and elsewhere around the world for that matter. On site over the weekend to promote his July 26 title defense at MSG against Australian Daniel "The Real Deal" Geale, Golovkin casts a large and ominous shadow over the middleweight division. The more likely choice for Cotto is Golden Boy superstar Canelo Alvarez.

With the promotional skids now greased up good between Arum and Oscar De La Hoya, the fight is just a peace pipe away. I can see the promotional posters now: Top Rank vs Golden Boy for the middleweight championship of the world, but which promoter plays the A-side to a T and who settles for the B?

KO Digest Credentialed Ringside Report by Jeffrey Freeman

June 3, 2014

KO Digest Previews Sergio Martinez vs Miguel Cotto at MSG in NYC

Can Cotto and Martinez see the Boxing Hall of Fame from up there?
By Jeffrey Freeman — The first time I ever laid eyes (and ears) on World Middleweight Champion Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez up close and personal, it was June 2012 at the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in upstate Canastota, New York during a star studded Induction Weekend that featured announcer Michael Buffer, Hitman Thomas Hearns, and trainer Freddie Roach. Let's get ready to rumble can be a costly catchphrase if you're not careful.

At the busy Banquet of Champions dinner, the colorfully dressed Martinez spoke with relish of his desire to one day be enshrined in the honor of such a place, seemingly in sync, if not under the influence of another Marvelous Middleweight Champion's presence at "boxing heaven" — Marvin Hagler.

Despite being from Brockton, Massachusetts via Newark, New Jersey but now residing in Milan, Italy with his Italian wife Kay, Hagler, a 1993 IBHOF inductee, repeatedly told those lucky enough to be in attendance, including Martinez, that he considers the hall of fame to be his "home" in a way that clears up where he's really from in his true heart of hearts. 

Martinez keeps his eyes on the prize
In the company of boxing greatness and from a South American land that produces it, Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) draws inspiration from his literal and metaphorical lineage; from countryman Carlos Monzon to  the Marvelous One, to the one they call Maravilla, Sergio is indeed en Fuego. On June 7, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Martinez will continue his fight for respect and his march from Argentina to immortality on the B-side of a WBC middleweight championship title defense against Miguel Cotto in which he is being treated by the boxing establishment like the challenger (again) when he is in fact the undisputed world champion.

What we have then in midtown at the Mecca of Boxing is a Superfight between two super fighters, but it's also a continuation of the degradation that started when the late WBC President Jose Sulaiman's Godson, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., posed with Sergio's "green belt" for a while before relinquishing it in the ring to its rightful owner. In the days leading up to his seventh defense of the legitimate world middleweight championship against Cotto, Martinez, 39, now appears physically fit and mentally at ease after a year long layoff to heal from multiple injuries that were very serious ordeals for the Argentine athlete to recover from.

Martinez insists, however, that there is nothing to be worried about, and that he is as they say, 100%.  

"It is going to be the same Sergio Martinez you have always seen with a strong desire and the will to win. The only thing that will be different will be the strategy I will use. I don’t always use the same strategy on different opponents. I'm sure that I will win the fight by knockout because I'm training in a very hard and intense way and with such motivation that everyday I'm hitting harder and throwing more punches. Whatever Cotto will do in the ring, it doesn't matter to me, I don't care," said a confident sounding Martinez on an international media conference call hosted to promote the fight.

B-Side boxing politics
Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) is an unranked challenger but a boxing star and a respected competitor. A quick demolition of Delvin Rodriguez last year punched his ticket to an unexpected title shot because back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout at junior middleweight certainly didn't. His 8 appearances at Madison Square Garden (7-1) during his career do speak to his credibility in the big room, if not necessarily in the ring at 159 pounds. Under the guidance of Hall of Trainer Roach, Cotto, 33, is now determined to make Puerto Rican boxing history by winning what he calls "four world titles in four different weight classes" on the same weekend that one of the island's most beloved fighters, Felix Trinidad, is inducted into the IBHOF alongside Tito's 1999 rival Oscar De La Hoya, just a few hundred miles northwest in Canastota on the 25th anniversary of the hall's inception.

"It is a personal matter. A personal achievement that I want to win. It doesn’t mean I am going to be better than Wilfredo Gomez, better than Trinidad, better than all of the great champions that Puerto Rico has produced, but for me, Miguel, it will be the greatest accomplishment of my career. I don’t want to name myself as one of the elite boxers of Puerto Rico – that’s for the fans and for the people that know about boxing," said Cotto in occasional third person.

Certainly, a Cotto win would give the island of Puerto Rico a historic boxing weekend they would not soon forget.

Trainer Roach even predicted a 4th-round knockout win for Cotto that Martinez dismissed with a laugh.

"Freddie Roach is excellent at telling jokes and this is one of the best jokes he has ever told. There is no possible way that Cotto will make it out of the ninth round," warned the defending middleweight champion during Fight Week in N.Y. 

Maravilla's punchline is a prediction—a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

White towel win for Maravilla at Madison Square Garden?
KO's Martinez vs Cotto Prediction:  

There's no reason to believe that Miguel Cotto won't put up one hell of an effort against defending middleweight champion Sergio Martinez but there is also no reason to believe he'll win the fight. And regardless of what trainer Freddie Roach would have you believe, Martinez possess nearly every advantage imaginable including an upwardly mobile southpaw attack pattern that the naturally smaller Cotto will be beaten to a pulp by.

If Martinez can stay healthy and uninjured during this Superfight, his seventh defense of the world middleweight crown, "Maravilla" will prove to be very bad for Cotto's health. Expect Martinez to pick Cotto apart like he did to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr but the difference will be Cotto on the canvas late in the fight rather than Martinez. With all the speed necessary to put his punching power on a poorly defended target, Martinez improves on what Austin Trout did to Cotto and adds an Antonio Margarito ending with Cotto down on a knee and out of the fight before ten rounds are complete. 

It's high time that boxing starts treating Maravilla Martinez like the A-Side World Champion he is.

Also appearing on RingTV Experts

KO Digest will be live at Madison Square Garden in New York City June 6-7 to provide quality credentialed coverage of this important middleweight title fight.

Written By: Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest Editor-in-Chief
Photos: Top Rank/DiBella Entertainment/Ed Mulholland

June 1, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Randall Bailey - "I'd like to fight Keith Thurman"

The Knock-Out King wins the welterweight title by KO
There are many sports popular across the globe, but few mirror the universal appeal of boxing, and none can match the special circumstances that make the sweet science so unique. A homerun can't be worth more than four runs and a touchdown is worth only six points, but a knockout in boxing has value far beyond those: it’s an all or nothing event that can turn the tables in a remarkable plot twist, or one brutal blow that puts to rest a one-sided mismatch. Either way, the drama produced and the memories engraved by a knockout are what separates boxing from other sports, and in many cases, good fights from great fights. To boxing fans familiar with his fights, the name Randall Bailey is nearly synonymous with knockouts. Touting a record of 44-8 with 37 knockouts, Bailey has put to sleep many a competitor en route to many title shots.

Even in his late 30s, the pinnacle of Bailey’s career came against Mike Jones in June of 2012. Trailing handily on all three scorecards, the “Knock-Out King” surged back in the tenth round with a knockdown and keept the pressure on in the eleventh, knocking Jones out at 2:52. In doing so, Bailey shocked everyone but himself and earned the IBF welterweight title. However, immediately off the highest and most exciting peak of his career, Bailey dropped into the valley one fight later, losing the title in a snoozer to Devon Alexander and falling further back in the division’s rankings.

Bailey rebounded last November in a strange affair against Humberto Toledo and fights Fredrick Lawson on June 7 in Minnesota, but there’s more at stake than mere wins and losses. At 39, Bailey knows the time is now to get back into the discussion and rise from being just a fading memory in the back of boxing fans’ minds. With the right amount of right hands, he aims straight ahead to keep from being forgotten and earn one last shot at a world title strap.

KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: Opa-Locka, Florida isn’t a place that typically breeds many boxers, and it isn’t a place in Florida that many people are aware exists. It’s a different place—the largest collection of Moorish revival architecture in this hemisphere, quite different from typical South Florida lifestyle. Now you’re living in Miami—how has residing in South Florida helped your career? Have you been well-received in the region as a boxer?

Randall Bailey: It’s where I started at and where I choose to be. I get a lot of love here. I represent 305 to the fullest.

KOD: For most boxing fans, the first word that comes to mind when the name Randall Bailey is mentioned is “knockout.” You’re nicknamed “The Knock-Out king” for a reason—44 victories with 37 knockouts, many of them brutal. Are punchers like you born, or are they made in the gym?

Thank God for that power!
RB: I think they’re born. You’ve either got it or you don’t. I knew I hit hard with my right hand before I even knew how to develop it. It was a God-given talent.

KOD: How has your power and style evolved over the years? Even if you knew you had that God-given talent, how did you make it better and better?

RB: When I was 16 or 17 years old, me and Freddie Pendleton use to be together a lot. He was getting ready to face Tracy Spann the second time, and he brought Tommy Brooks in to help out with his training. Tommy used to be in the gym and I used to be in the gym to, so when I would shadow box, he would say “Randall, just do this one little thing. Just turn into the right hand when you throw it and it’s going increase your power more than it already is.” I used to practice that at least three rounds going around the ring before I did anything else.

KOD: Knockouts are an exciting part of boxing, but boxing is different from many other sports. A football fan can throw a football around in the yard like a quarterback, but a boxing fan doesn’t get to knock somebody out in their backyard. What exactly does it feel like to knock somebody out? 

"You can’t remake it or reenact it!"
RB: It depends on the fight because in certain fights, you do your research—me, I look to see if a guy has been knocked out before and if he’s been knocked out before, I already feel like I can knock him out. A guy that hasn’t been knocked down or never came close to being knocked out, to go and get a knockout over a guy like that is a big deal. I think when the punch lands, you can pretty much feel it’s over. I’ve had knockouts where I’ve hit him, and I turn away and know it’s over. That feeling right there, it can’t be rehearsed. Once you feel it, it’s there, and it’s gone.

KOD: Do you think that, on occasion, sometimes you are too rely too much on trying to land that one big KO blow? 

RB: Yeah, but I just feel like it all starts in the gym.
If the trainer is relying on it, then you get a fighter who has a reason to rely on it too.

KOD: Do you try to branch out in training and have other game plans in place in case you can’t knock a guy out?

RB: That would be the actual way to go about it. I would rather not use my right hand in the gym. I've been using my right hand since I was 14 and started in the gym, so that’s second-nature for me to throw it. Anytime I throw it, there’s nothing that needs to be worked. But, there are other areas in my boxing that need to be touched on a little more.

KOD: What’s a typical training camp like for you? 

Bailey getting back to basics in the gym
RB: Basically, what we’ve been working on for this fight is getting back to using my jab, moving around the ring a lot more, not just sitting back and relying on the right hand. We’re just trying to go back to the basics.

KOD: Would you define yourself as a knockout artist?

I really don’t put a label on myself. If I get a knockout, I get it, if I don’t I don’t, but all in all I’m trying to win the fight.

KOD: But even if you won’t put that label on yourself, other people will. Do you think that the term “knockout artist” robs you of the recognition for other things you do well?

RB: That’s a good question because I feel I have been slighted in a lot of decision victories just because I didn’t knock the guy out. It’s like a catch-22. You want to get the knockout, but you don’t want that to be the only resort. Certain judges put that on you and it makes you feel like you have no other options but to get a knockout just to win the fight.

KOD: Who else in the sport would you define as a knockout artist similar to you? 

RB: I like Keith Thurman and Gennady Golovkin.
Those are the first two right off the bat where I see raw power that could really hurt you at any point in a fight.

KOD: Thurman is another fighter in Florida that’s making waves right now. He’s undefeated and has shown a propensity for power shots as well. What’s your take on him and his career thus far? Do you want to fight him?

Bailey eyes Thurman for a Florida welterweight clash
RB: They are moving Thurman very well right now. I can’t really say too much about him. They’re doing a really good job moving him. I would most definitely like to fight Keith Thurman before I call it a career, but I’ve got to get myself back in contention because they won’t just give me a fight with Keith Thurman. So, I’ll do my best to earn a fight with Keith Thurman.

KOD: How do you get back into contention for a fight with Keith Thurman? You’re 39 and not getting any younger. What fights would you like to make, and is there a sense of urgency to make them given your age?

RB: It all stars June 7th. My next fight with Fredrick Lawson in Minnesota, it all starts right there. I have to take this fight very seriously and go in there and handle business. I know I need to go out and I need to be effective using my jab at the beginning of the fight. Once I get that going and set up everything off my jab, it could be a short night.

KOD: Before we dig into your past, let’s explore the present. Your next fight is coming up on June 7th in Minneapolis against undefeated Fredrick Lawson. He’s 22-0 with 20 KOs, but has never been tested by a notable opponent. 
How did that fight come about, and what do you think of your opponent?

RB: The people he’s beating were people he was supposed to beat. They put them in front of him, and he did his job. I need to go in with my mindset focused and know that this guy is undefeated for a reason. I watched a little tape on him, but I never expect the guy to fight me the same way he fought everybody else.
I don’t focus on the good that he does because every game plan can change.

Rivas, Jackson, and Bailey
KOD: It seems as though there has been a change in your camp. From the sounds of it, John David Jackson is out and Chico Rivas is in. What brought about the change?

RB: Chico Rivas has always been there. I would leave and go train with Chico for a while if things were getting too ordinary on the other side, and I think the switch up in trainer comes at a good time. John trains a lot of fighters now, and I think it’s hard to give each guy the right attention that they need when you’ve got so much on your hands at one time. There were no hard feelings—he actually went to another gym and picked up a lot more work.

KOD: You’re also continuing your career without a promoter. How has that affected everything to everyday operations in the business of boxing to finding and accepting fights?

RB: It’s kind of hard because getting fights is not easy. Every promoter that wants to give you a fight either wants to  sign you, or you have to come into hostile territory. It’s kind of like the situation with this fight. I’m fighting on his card, so I need to go in and I can’t make it close. I’m never anyone’s choice to put in a fight because of the punching power. There’s always a chance that if I catch a fighter, I might knock them out, so I’m never the chosen one on anybody’s ticket.

KOD: Understandably, your power has made it very difficult to make certain fights happen. 
Are there any bouts in particular that you wish were made that didn’t come to fruition because of that?

Bailey is no fan of Tim Bradley or his hat
RB: I’m going to go back because I have a really bad taste in my mouth for Tim Bradley. We had a signed contract to fight on Showtime, and he pulled out of the fight the week of the fight. That has been sitting bad with me ever since that happened. I haven’t been a fan of his ever since for that reason. I know he wasn’t injured, I know he signed with new managers, and my guess is that they felt like it wasn’t safe for him to fight me.

KOD: We hear the phrase “the business of boxing" all the time and although boxing has always been a business, that business used to do a better job of delivering satisfaction to its customers, and a lot of that can be blamed on the relationships between promoters. Do you think the current promotional landscape is actually harmful for boxing? Would you advise more fighters to represent themselves as you do?

RB: It’s hard to say but a lot of these guys like being protected. Being protected is something you need in boxing, and a lot of these guys, they like it. They’re comfortable with the money they’re making, so I don’t see a lot of them leaving their promoters to do it on their own. I think Bernard Hopkins was the only one who really, really, really, really did it for a long time, and Roy Jones, but even he had to sign with Don King just to get in the middleweight tournament before he could break out. The money is the problem. Everybody is out to get the dollar. If you’ve got control, you’re making the money, and it’s all about the money. At the end of the day, everybody wants to be paid. It’s a real touchy situation in boxing.

KOD: Your last fight had quite an odd ending.  Against Humberto Toledo, you frustrated him and controlled most of the fight. In the eighth round, he took a knee then pushed the referee and was disqualified. Take us through hat fight—was it the fight you expected, and how bizarre was that finish from your vantage point in the ring?

Holy Toledo, this one did not go according to plan!
RB: I had planned on knocking him out, but I hurt both of my hands in that fight and I was hitting him really hard. I could see it on his face, he was trying to find a way out. I guess he felt he had to go after the referee, because he took the knee and the referee pushed me to the side and I went to a neutral corner when he started counting, and then he jumped up and started trying to attack the referee. I had no idea what was going on!

KOD: We harked on the positive aspects of your career, but there are down moments in any fighter’s career too. The loss to Devon Alexander was a tough one. Fans did not appreciate the lack of action, and neither did you. Did you expect Alexander to fight the style of fight that he did? 
Is there anything you would do differently?

Nobody liked this fight, especially Bailey
RB: I hate that fight. I don’t mind losing a fight, but at least let’s fight! I thought he was coming up in weight, I felt like he was a lot stronger and was going to punch, and he said he was going to do all this stuff, but the hardest thing I got hit with was the head butt. My whole camp wasn’t really focused on winning, we’ll just put it that way. When people have different agendas than yours, things seem not to go right. Maybe I should have separated from my trainer before that point and found another one, who knows. I think I’m better now. We aren’t trying to pull any magic tricks, just back to the basics. I’ve been fighting for 17 years now and there isn’t much I haven’t seen in boxing, and Chico Rivas has been around for a long time and we’ve been together.

KOD: Nearly a decade ago, you fought Miguel Cotto in December 2004 and lost by 6th round TKO. 
How does the Miguel Cotto of today compare to the one you faced back then?

Bailey predicts a Cotto win by decision
RB: I think he’s gotten better since he moved up from 147. He's probably a lot stronger there than when he was at 140. He’s better all-around, and the experience factor. He’s become a well-rounded pro now, and even the fight against Sergio Martinez, I don’t see that being a walk in the park for Martinez.

KOD: Who wins Martinez-Cotto on June 7th?

RB: I’m going with Cotto by decision. Martinez has had a lot of injuries and I think Cotto is going to be rugged with him. He’s coming up in weight so he’s going to be stronger and he’s going to make it real, real tough.
You can’t underestimate his speed either.

KOD: Is Martinez a bit disrespected as the middleweight champion?

RB: If you want respect, you fight the toughest guy in your division. You don't pull somebody up from a lighter weight class. Gennady Golovkin is the next man up at 160, why is Sergio not fighting him?

KOD: As a heavy puncher, I’m sure you have a great gauge for power.  
Who is the hardest puncher you’ve ever faced?

RB: I ain’t never been hit by somebody that made me say “ouch!” I don’t really look at knockdowns because anybody could get knocked down. There’s a spot in that chin where you will go down. If you get hit right, you will go down, from a hard or soft puncher. I’ve never been hit to where I’d say “damn, that hurt!”

KOD: Do you have a favorite career defining moment that you’re most proud of?

RB: It would have to be the Mike Jones fight. That fight was very dramatic. To comeback, and how it ended—I told everybody I was going to knock him out. The way the fight was going and how it ended made it a great moment.

KO UPDATE: (6/4/14) - According to Randall, his scheduled bout against Fredrick Lawson on June 7 in Minnesota is cancelled. No reason was given for this and it remains unclear at this time what the cause of the cancellation was. 

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