July 27, 2014

Gennady Golovkin KO's Daniel Geale in 3 - Triple G the Real Deal at MSG

"Real Deal" Geale goes out on his shield in 3 vs GGG
NEW YORK  — Perhaps Gennady Golovkin should consider moving to the Big Apple, or at least investing in some prime real estate. New Yorkers have readily taken to the WBA middleweight champion. Fighting at Madison Square Garden on HBO for the third time in six fights, the power-puncher brought the city that never sleeps to its feet Saturday night with his seventeenth consecutive knockout. "The Tyson effect," is how K2's Tom Loeffler described it at the post-fight press conference. With an anticipated crowd too large to be held in the smaller Garden Theater, the decision was made to have MSG's main arena (the big room) scaled down to a 9,000 seating capacity. With a turnout crowd of more than 8,500–the promotion was definitely a success, an indication that the unbeaten power puncher's fan base is growing.

As Kazakhstan boxing fans proudly waved their flags, the anticipation for the main event steadily increased. In fact, the mere sight of "GGG" on the giant screen drew loud cheers from the pro-Triple-G crowd. Perhaps unaware of Daniel "Real Deal" Geale's personal issues back home Down Under (the Australian fighter dedicated the fight to his mother who was diagnosed with cancer) Geale would be greeted with loud boos, a sharp contrast to Golovkin's entrance into the ring, like that of a knockout king.

It was a game of cat-and-mouse in the opening round, with Geale darting left-and-right, while looking for counter punching opportunities. Golovkin's first big punch, a sneaky lead right hand, drew oohs from the crowd. Geale did land a right hand to the body, and a left hook to the head, but Golovkin didn't blink. Golovkin landed a heavy jab, as well as a nice left hook right cross combination. In an opening round that would last four minutes long, Geale went down without a punch, thanks to a lazy camera man who left his camera strap dangling in the ring on the apron. The WBA champion increased the pressure in the second, but Geale made him miss often. But he also paid the price, as he expended a lot of energy to do so. A left hook to the body by Golovkin, followed by a right cross put Geale on his bicycle. Finally, a solid left hook, followed by a glancing right hand dropped Geale for the first time. The crowd erupted as Geale picked up the referee's count.

The scariest middleweight in the world
Uncharacteristically, Golovkin did not go to the body after he had his opponent hurt, and his punches went whistling over Geale's head. However, "GGG" did land a good right hand before the bell. Golovkin continued to miss some of his punches as he hunted his prey in the third, but he was narrowing the gap, as Geale's back got closer to the ropes. Suddenly, a straight right hand landed flush to the face of Golovkin, but the champion quickly countered with a right hand of his own off of his back foot, to the surprise of Geale, who did not get his own right hand back in time to defend himself. As Geale headed to the canvas for the final time, a left hook by Golovkin was added in for good measure.

As a totally beaten Geale tried to clear his head and stop stumbling, referee Mike Ortega indicated he'd seen enough. The time of the stoppage was 2:47 of the third round. "Is the knockout important?" asked Max Kellerman, minutes later in the ring. "The knockout is important, not just for me or for my team, but everybody. This is a show, a big drama show," he said. "This is my fighter style, like Mexican style. This is a fight, this is not games," added the champion. Golovkin 30-0 (27 KO's) mentioned linear world middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, Peter Quillin, and Sam Soliman as possible future opponents before leaving the ring.

Perez got docked a point by Harvey Dock
In the co-main event, referee Harvey Dock would become the main topic of discussion after the WBC heavyweight title eliminator between Bryant "By-By" Jennings and Mike "The Rebel" Perez. On paper, this should have been an exciting fight with Jennings being the better all around athlete, and Perez the more experienced boxer with extensive amateur experience. Although the fight wasn't  exactly pleasant to the eye, there would be momentum swings throughout. The fight started in favor of Perez countering Jennings, and his jab to the body and head was fairly effective. It wasn't all one sided. Jennings would have his moments, landing an occasional right hand to the body and head. "Embarrass him," instructed Adam Booth to Perez before the third. Jennings turned the tide in the next few rounds, as Perez was already breathing heavily. Jennings right hands to the body and head drew kisses blown from his opponent, but the Cuban now based in Ireland didn't receive any points for that. He did out hustle Jennings in the sixth, but the Philadelphian heavyweight slowly took over the next four rounds by beating Perez about the body with both hands and eye catching rights to the head. In the tenth, Perez stumbled from one of those right hands, after he got careless backing Jennings into a corner.

Also in the tenth, a nice right uppercut, and a temporary switch to southpaw won Jennings the round. The eleventh saw Perez step up with body shots, and move Jennings around the ring. With the fight fairly close, Perez lost a point in the final round for hitting Jennings on the break, but Perez fought back desperately trying to get the point back. Driving his fighter back with one two's mainly to the body, the round was even. Most in attendance felt Jennings won the fight, so there was a groan from the crowd when the first card of 114-113 by Tom Schreck was read in favor of Perez. However it was overruled by the scores of 114-113 and 115-112 by Glen Feldman and Joe Pasquale, respectively. Jennings won the fight on a split decision. Perez, whose record fell to 20-1 (12 KO's) left the ring, and was not seen the rest of the evening.

 GGG wants Cotto first and foremost
From pressrow on behalf of KO Digest, I scored it 114-113 in favor of Jennings.

At the post press conference, Jennings explained his fight plan. "I used my distance well, and I showed him I have an inside game. I made him do what I want to do," said the winner. "He didn't want to trade, which surprised me. Even though he was gassed, he was still tricky, because he didn't move his feet. I expected him to trade more, because I had more shit for him," laughed Jennings, whose record improved to 19-0, 10 KO's. The classy Geale 30-3 (16 KO's) was next. "Tough day at the office," the challenger cracked. He also stated the obvious. "You make a mistake with a puncher, especially one with good timing, you will pay." Finally it was Triple G's turn, and again he made reference to his "Mexican style" of fighting. Promoter Loeffler mentioned Cotto as a priority, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Canelo Alverez as possible opponents. I did question the champion on his preparation for Geale's style of fighting. "Obviously, you prepared for his fighting style in camp. Did he surprise you at any time, or did it go as expected?" I asked. "No. In the first round, I looked at his tactics and strategy, in the second, it was my time," said the proud champion.

Images and Words by David McLeod - exclusively for KO Digest 

KO Digest Ringside Report 

July 22, 2014

The Sweet Side of the Sweet Science - Women's Boxing Monthly Vol 14

Winning Women in Florida
By Mark A Jones – On July 8 through 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the 2014 National Women’s Golden Gloves was held with over one hundred female boxers from around the country competing. Many familiar names took top honors in their respective weight classes including Marlen Esparza of Houston, Texas, who was a member of the first ever USA Women’s Olympic Boxing Team at the 2012 Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal. She defeated Maureeca Lambert of Wisconsin by a 3-0 decision to take top honors in the 112-pound weight division.

Danyelle Wolfe, of San Diego, California, who recently appeared in the revealing ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2014, received a nod in the 152-pound class with a 3-0 decision over The Army's Fallon Farrar. 

Wolf is a punching pin-up girl

Senior Open (19-40) Champions:
106: Alexandra Love (Army)
112: Marlen Esparza (Houston)
119: Christina Cruz (NYC)
125: Rianna Rios (Alice, TX)
132: Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles)
141: Meghan Karcher (Tavares, FL)
152: Danyelle Wolf (San Diego)
165: Melissa Kelly (Somerville)

At the National Golden Gloves tournament, on July 10, the first-ever inductions for the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame (IWBHF) was held. The contributions of a fabulous cast of seven inductees were celebrated for their contributions to women’s boxing at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The event was hosted by Bill Calogero and each inductee was introduced by Malissa Smith, author of the “History of Women’s Boxing.” The IWBHF is the creation of Sue Fox; a former boxer and creator of the website, Women’s Boxing Achieve Network or “WBAN.” Foremost among the inductees is Barbara Buttrick “The Mighty Atom of the Ring” who barnstormed the United States in the 1940s and 50s and is considered the most important pioneer of women’s boxing. She compiled a reported record of (31-1) during her travels often fighting exhibition bouts against men. In the 1990s, she founded the Women’s International Boxing Federation, a major sanctioning body in women’s boxing.

Female Fighting Pioneer
2014 IWBHF Inductees:

1- Barbara Buttrick (boxer)

2- Bonnie Canino (boxer/coach)

3- Christy Martin (boxer)

4- Regina Halmich (boxer)

5- Dr. Christy Halbert (coach/author)

6- Lucia Rijker (boxer)

7- Jo-Ann Hagen (boxer) posthumous

And not to be outdone, The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame located in Belfast, New York, on July 12 during their induction weekend, held "A Celebration of Women in Boxing.” The list of new inductees included five original female bare-knuckle boxers, and five honorary inductees, all of whom brought a positive light to upstate New York.

 Christy Martin made the IWBHF
Original Bare Knuckle Boxers:

1- Elizabeth Wilkinson (Stokes)
2- Anna Lewis
3- Hattie Stewart
4- Hattie Leslie (Libbie Spann)
5- Alice Leary (Barbara Dillon)

Modern Honorary Inductees:

1- Christy Martin (boxer)
2- Leona Brown (boxer)
3- Gloria Peek (coach)
4- Melvina Lathan (NYSAC Chairperson/judge)
5- Nellie Bly (reporter)

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

On June 21 at the Trend Eventhotel in Pyramide, Vienna, Austria, on a card featuring two female world title bouts as co-main events, hometown favorite Eva Voraberger, 114 ¾, successfully moved up from flyweight to win the two vacant super-flyweight titles (WBF & WIBF) with a hard-fought, ten-round unanimous decision (96-94/97-94/97-93) over Thailand’s Nonggift Onesongchaigym 109 ½. Only a late rally by Voraberger (17-3, 9 KOs), prevented the 18-year-old Onesongchaigym (6-2-1, 1 KO) from returning to Thailand with two minor world titles.

In the co-main event, 37-year-old Oezlem Sahin, 104, won the WIBF, WBF, and GBU minimumweight titles with a sixth round knockout of Thailand’s Buangern Onesongchaigym, 103 ¼. Oezlem (18-0-1, 6 KOs), a Turkish-born German, dominated the action throughout finally ending things in the sixth stanza after scoring two knockdowns. The 21-year-old Onesongchaigym drops to (11-7) and suffers her fourth loss via the knockout route. The only blemish on the record of Oezlem is a four-round draw early in her career with the current WBF & WBC Silver female flyweight champion Raja Amasheh (17-0-1, 4 KOs).

Nelson above all but Braekhus at 147
On June 28 at the Du Burns Arena, in Baltimore, Maryland, in the main event, WIBA welterweight champion Tori Nelson of Ashburn, Virginia, defended her title for the third time with a ten-round unanimous decision (95-94/98-92/98-92) over Nicole Woods of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Woods (11-14-3) proved to be a tough customer displaying more skill than her pedestrian record would otherwise believe she owns. With the win, Nelson improves to (10-0-3, 1 KO) and continues to wait for the call to battle the division’s most decorated fighter, Cecilia Braekhus (25-0, 7 KOs). This fight was the main event.

On the undercard, promising flyweight prospect, Tyrieshia Douglas of Baltimore improved to (5-0, 1 KO) with a six-round unanimous decision victory (60-54/60-54/58-56) over Christina Fuentes (3-6-3). Fuentes battles out of Laredo, Texas.

Douglas, whose brother Antoine is an undefeated middleweight prospect, finished second to Marlen Esparza (112 lbs.) in the first-ever women’s USA Boxing Olympic Trials in 2012.

Kudos to Ponytail Promotions for scheduling female bouts as the main event on their cards.

Braekhus eyes her competition at welterweight
KO Digest’s Top Five Welterweights:

1- Cecilia Braekhus (Norway)
2- Tori Nelson (USA)
3- Oxandia Castillo (Dominican Republic)
4- Jessica Balogun (Germany)
5- Ivana Habazin (Croatia)

On June 28 in Hidalgo, Mexico, Canelo Promotions gave women’s boxing proper respect by placing five bouts, four of them high profile, on a nine-bout card. In the co-main event, Zulina Munoz of Mexico City defended her WBC female super-flyweight title for the sixth time with a six-round TKO over bantamweight contender Renata Domsodi of Budapest, Hungary. Munoz (42-1, 27 KOs) proved to be too strong for the 39-year-old Domsodi (12-5) who was game, but outgunned by a wide margin. The immensely popular Munoz, who holds the title once held by the come backing Ana Maria Torres (28-3-3, 16 KOs), is playing a waiting game in hopes that high profile battles with either Torres or longtime nemesis Mariana Juarez (39-7-3, 16 KOs) soon materialize.

Rivas is a two time bantamweight champion
On the undercard, Yazmin “La Rusita” Rivas, Torreon, Mexico, became a two-time bantamweight champion securing the WBC female version with a dominate ten-round unanimous points win (99-91/98-90/98-90) over former champion Alesia “The Tigress” Graf of Australia. It was the fourth loss in six fights for Graf who earlier in her career held the GBU super-flyweight title for nearly four years. She also briefly held a world title at super-bantamweight. It is the second consecutive win for Rivas since dropping a controversial split-decision to Jessica Gonzalez (5-1) in November 2013. Rivas previously held the IBF female bantamweight title successfully defending the strap four times over two years. Also on the undercard, in a non-title fight, interim WBC female bantamweight champion Jessica Gonzalez of Mexico City, won a ten-round unanimous decision over Yulihan Luna Avila of Gomez Palacio, Mexico. With the win, Gonzalez improves to (5-1) and Avila drops to (10-2, 1 KO) with the loss. Also in action, former pound-for-pound entry Esmeralda Moreno (27-7-1, 9 KOs) continues to struggle to find her groove in her comeback, wins an eight-round unanimous decision over Lorena Mendoza (1-8-1). The 27-year-old Moreno is (2-1-1) since November 2013 after missing a year due to childbirth. Estefani Casillas (1-1) knocked out Lorena Cruz (1-1) in the second round.

On July 7 at Korakuen, Tokyo, Japan, in front of her hometown fans, pound-for-pound elite female banger Naoko Fujioka, 115, defended her WBA female super-flyweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision (97-93 x 3) over former basketball player, Tomoko Kawanishi, 115, of Osaka, Japan. The 38-year-old Fuijoka (12-0, 6 KOs) started the first round slowly adjusting to the challenger’s superior five inch reach advantage. In round two, Fujioka found her rhythm landing quick combinations before sliding out of range avoiding her challenger’s imprecise counters. The 27-year-old Kawanishi (9-2, 4 KOs) eleven years the junior of the champion, displayed a good jab early in the fight, but faded as the fight matured failing to match Fujioka’s lethal arsenal. With the win, Fujioka maintains her status as an elite pound-for-pound competitor in women’s boxing. The #1 contender to Fujioka is an interim champion, “Triple L” Linda Laura Lecca (10-2-1, 3 KOs) of Lima, Peru. Fujioka, formerly the WBC female minimumweight champion, leapfrogged the light-flyweight and flyweight divisions in November 2013 winning her current title with a ten-round unanimous decision over compatriot Naoko Yamaguchi.

Another win for  the best female Super Fly Fujioka
KO Digest’s Top 5 Super Flyweights:

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

KO Digest’s Quick Hits for June/July:

Jennifer Hamann wins her pro debut
Highly ranked super-bantamweight Shelly Vincent moved to (12-0, 1 KO) with a six-round, majority-decision (59-55/58-56/57-57) over Nydia Feliciano (7-6-3). It was Vincent’s second-decision victory over former world title challenger Feliciano. Dahiana Santana (34-6-1, 14 KOs), in her hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, won the interim WBA featherweight title with a ten-round unanimous decision over Colombian import Francia Elena Bravo (16-3-2). Santana dominated the action winning every round on two of the three scorecards. Popular Californian minimumweight Amaris Quintana (8-2-2, 1 KO) won an eight-round unanimous decision (80-71 x3) over Susana Uribe (3-1, 1 KO) winning the NABF minimumweight title. Uribe was knocked down in the first round. Fernanda Soledad Alegre (19-1-1, 9 KO), the WBO female light-welterweight champion, in a non-title bout, won an eight-round unanimous decision over Roxana Beatriz Laborde (8-13-2) by the scores (78-77/79-75/80-74). Alegre, the WBO female lightweight champion since December 2010 has eight successful defenses. One of the most famous fighters in Mexico, Arely Mucino (20-2-2, 10 KOs) won every round on two of the three scorecards in route to one-sided points win over Suri Tapia (7-4, 2 KOs). And finally, Jennifer Hamann, ranked #1 by USA Boxing at 125 lbs., won her pro debut with a four-round decision (40-35/40-35/40-36) over southpaw Ariel Beck. Hamann scored a knockdown in round one and thoroughly dominated the contest with superior boxing skills. With the loss, Beck drops to (3-1). Former four-division world champion and the current featherweight contender Melissa Hernandez, who is Hamann’s favorite boxer, assisted head-trainer Tricia Turton in the corner.

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

Hammer vs Mathis
On July 26 in Dessau, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, two-division world title holder, Christina Hammer (17-0, 8 KOs) attempts to win a world title in a third weight class when she faces the toughest test of her career in French knockout specialist, Anne Sophie Mathis (27-3, 23 KOs) for the vacant WBO light-middleweight title. The 23-year-old Hammer, who simultaneously holds the WBO & WBF middleweight titles and the WBO super-middleweight belt, moved her training camp from Germany to the mountains of Tyrol, Austria, for a few days to engage in high-altitude training with Coach Dimitri Kirnos in preparation for the mega-fight. Hammer told German sporting news site RAN, "Training in more than 1000 feet elevation and excursions into the surrounding mountains all from part of my preparation program. In my last fight, this particularly strenuous training work has always paid on the steep slopes for my fitness and physique. I feel fit and have my weight is already close to the new weight limit.”

Since winning the WBO middleweight title in October 2010, Hammer successfully defended her title against an impressive line of contenders that include former champions Jessica Balogun, Mikaela Lauren, and Maria Lindberg. In May 2013, she elevated to super-middleweight winning the WBO & WBF super-middleweight title against former champion Zita Zatyko.

Can Mathis punch her way past Hammer?
Stylistically, Hammer is similar to the long time male heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. At 5’ 11” she towers over most opponents relying on a supreme sense of range to keep her opponents at arm’s length where she forces them to lead enabling her to counter from a safe distance. Only Teresa Perozzi and Maria Lindberg were at times able nullify this advantage by successfully getting inside Hammer’s range and engaging her on the inside. In those fights, Hammer made the proper adjustments and cruised to unanimous decision victories.

The 37-year-old Mathis of Varangeville, France, a professional since 1995, has already accomplished what Hammer, with a victory, intends on equaling, and that is winning legitimate world titles in three-weight classes. Mathis, during her legendary career, has secured titles at light-welterweight, welterweight, and light-middleweight. In world title bouts she has scored impressive knockout wins over high-level fighters such as Myriam Lamare, Ana Pascal, and Holly Holm. Of her three losses, two came against pound-for-pound greats Cecilia Braekhus (L-10) and Holly Holm (L-10). In her second professional bout, Mathis was stopped in five rounds by future champ Marischa Sjauw, who was (5-0-1) at the time.

Mathis, because of her nuclear-charged, right-cross is perhaps the premier power puncher in the history of women’s boxing. Mathis has finished 23 of her 30 opponents inside the distance. Stylistically, she is a stalker who backs her opponents to the ropes and unleashes a barrage of punches with emphasis on the right-cross. Hammer said of the Mathis challenge, "I want to set new standards in women's boxing. Mathis is, of course, in this new weight class for me a real size with a huge knockout ratio. I put out the challenge to fight the best. There are enough women who runaway repeatedly in front of me!"

Hammer vs Mathis Preview & Prediction:

Hammer is expected to prevail over Mathis
Power: Mathis
Speed: Hammer
Chin/Durability: Even
Size: Hammer
Accuracy: Hammer
Skills: Even
Conditioning: Hammer
Punch Volume: Hammer
Defense: Hammer
Quality of Opposition: Mathis

Sweet Side Prediction: In the twilight of her career, as demonstrated in the decision losses to Braekhus and Holm, Mathis can be outboxed and is vulnerable to lateral movement. Mathis will always have a puncher’s chance and is crafty enough to force Hammer into exchanges that benefit the power puncher from France. Hammer is younger, bigger, and faster, and if the reduction in weight doesn’t affect the chin of Hammer, she should prevail by decision. It is refreshing to note that two of the best female boxers currently lacing up gloves are fighting each other. Due to the politics of the game, this is rarely the case. 

Koseki is the WBC Atomweight Champion
On August 2 at the Adachi Ward Sogo Sports Center in Tokyo, Japan, Momo Koseki (18-2-1, 5 KOs) looks to defend her WBC female atomweight title for a record-breaking fourteenth time when she battles 42-year-old Muay Thai legend Denise Castle (Onesongchaigym) who sports a professional boxing record of (2-0, 2 KOs). Koseki will look to break the record of Yoko Gushiken, who defended the WBA light-flyweight title thirteen times from 1976-81. Also on the card, Naoko Shibata (12-3, 3 KOs) of Tokyo looks to defend her IBF light-flyweight title for the second time when she faces the WBF light-flyweight title holder, Ana Arrazola (20-9-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico. Arrazola has faced the superior opposition, losing more often than not, but does hold victories over Anahi Torres and Marisol Molina. Against A-level competition, Arrazola is a step behind dropping one-sided decisions to Yesica Yolanda Bopp (twice), Susi Kentikian, and longtime minimumweight champion Ji-Hyun Park.

On August 10 in Cleveland, Ohio, 22-year-old newly crowned WIBA featherweight champion Carla Torres (4-2) defends her title for the first time in her home town when she battles Canadian Natasha Spence (6-2-1, 5 KOs). Torres, in May, won the title by upsetting Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) by a split-decision. The title-winning effort was the first fight for Torres since dropping a split-decision to Ela Nunez 2 1/2 years earlier. After getting off to a 6-0 start to her career, the hard punching Spence is looking to return to her winning ways in Ohio after losing her last two bouts to New Yorkers Melissa St. Vil and Jeffrey.

KO's Editor Update: Torres is now defending her title against Brooklyn, New York’s, Jennifer Santiago (3-0, 2 NCs), who in her last fight, scaled 117 pounds. Santiago hasn't been past six rounds and hasn't defeated a fighter with a winning record.

Torres hopes to climb in the ratings
KO Digest’s Top 5 Featherweights:

1- Jelena Mrdjenovich (Canada)
2- Melissa Hernandez (USA/Puerto Rico)
3- Dahiana Santana (Dominican Republic)
4- Ronica Jeffrey (USA)
5- Edith Soledad Matthysse (Argentina)

On 15 August at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, Nordic Coliseum Boxing is promoting a nine-bout, all-female fight card. Headlining the card is the former WBO female bantamweight champion Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West facing the hard punching bantamweight contender, Dayana “El Diamante” Cordero in an eight-round bout. Fighting out of Moreno Valley, California, West has fought to an impressive record of (16-1-3, 4 KOs) since turning professional in 2006 winning the WBO bantamweight title in her 16th professional fight. She successfully defended the title three times holding off talented foes like Ava Knight and Jessica Villafranca before elevating to super-bantamweight to win a minor world title in October 2012. Since, West, now 26-years-old, has found opportunities few and far between and has not laced up a pair of fight gloves in nearly 22 months. At first glance, the record that Cordero (13-4-1, 9 KOs) of Barranquilla, Colombia, may appear respectable, but upon close inspection, she has been exploited. She does own record of (3-4-1) against opponents with winning records, which, which is eye-raising, but not alarming. However, she is often used as easy prey having been matched in world title bouts against exceptional champions such as super-bantamweight Yesica Marcos (TKO-6), featherweight Alejandra Oliveras (L-10) and most reprehensibly, light-welterweight Monica Acosta (TKO-5). Having turned professional just after her 14th birthday, the now 18-year-old Cordero should still be tooling in an apprenticeship and is in over her head against a fighter with the physical ability of West. Also on the card, two promising lightweight prospects Brenda Gonzales (3-1) will battle Lucia Osegueda (3-0) in a fight scheduled for six rounds. Super-middleweight Annie Mazerolle (2-0) will battle Charmaine “Not So Sweet” Tweet, who is making her professional boxing debut. Super-middleweights are an endangered species in women’s boxing, and both fighters could find themselves highly ranked after just a few fights. Vanessa Bradford (3-0-1), who is an underrated prospect, battles Sherine Thomas (2-3). Other notable fighters appearing on the card are Jacqueline Park (3-1), Maureen “Baby Face” Riordon, and Maricela Cornejo (2-1).

KO Digest’s Quick Hits for July/August:

On July 25, Fernanda Soledad Alegre (19-1-1, 9 KOs) will defend her WBO female light-welterweight title for the ninth time when she faces Dalia Vasarhelyi (9-5, 1 KO) in her home town of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Alegre is an exceptional champion, but Vasarhelyi, an import from Hungary, is only three months removed from a knockout loss to Maria Elena Maderna in a failed attempt at Maderna’s WBO female lightweight title. Vasarhelyi, nicknamed the Black Dahlia will be squashed quickly in this fight. Bright Mexican prospect Kenia Enriquez (11-0, 6 KOs) sees action in San Diego, California, against the ever-tough TBA over ten rounds on July 25. Enriquez is a future star at light-flyweight. Another bright prospect is in action on July 25, this time in Chicago. Light-welterweight Kristin Gearhart (3-0, 1 KO) will take on Ashleigh Curry (5-8-2, 1 KO) in a bout scheduled for four rounds. In a heavyweight contest, Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1 KO) battles Carlette “The Truth” Ewell (15-7-1, 9 KOs) for the IBO female heavyweight title in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. This fight is a rematch of their January 2012 fight that ended in a six-round, split-draw. Since, Lamonakis has matured as a fighter posting a record of (3-1-1) whereas Ewell has been inactive. In a rematch of KO Digest’s 2013 Robbery of the Year, Jennifer Retzke (14-1-1, 9 KOs) of Berlin, Germany, looks to win the vacant IBO female welterweight title by defeating Kenyan speedster Florence Muthoni (11-3-1, 5 KOs). The two highly ranked welterweights met in August 2013, and it appeared that Muthoni did enough to win the IBO title, but the fight was ruled a majority-draw. Muthoni, returns to the scene of the crime: Open-Air BUGA Familiengarten, Eberswalde, Germany, for this battle. None of the judges assigned to their first match are scheduled to score this fight. The appointed judges for the rematch are from Belgium, Italy, and the USA. Muthoni is clearly the better fighter and hopefully gets her just reward.

KO Digest’s Dynamite Dozen Top 12 Pound For Pound Ratings:

Braekhus is still the best female fighter in the world
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- Naoko Fujioka 12-0, 6 KOs (Japan)
11- Ibeth Zamora-Silva 20-5, 8 KOs (Mexico)
12- Jessica Chavez 20-3-3, 4 KOs (Mexico)

"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 

July 11, 2014

The Day Arturo Gatti Died

Boxing's Ultimate Blood & Guts Warrior
JULY 11, 2009 was a day like any other but for fight fans and those close to boxing legend Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, a day unlike any other. Exactly five years ago today, Gatti died at the age of 37 while vacationing with wife Amanda in Brazil. Retired for two years and very much out of the boxing limelight, Gatti was presumably off living the life many of us hoped he would be able to live after a brutal 2007 beating at the hands of "Contender" runner-up Alfonso Gomez. As sad as that final fight was, the final two years in Arturo's life were by some accounts even more tragic. Much mystery and controversy still surrounds the day Arturo died.

Did he take his own life as reported? Was he killed? Many unanswered questions still remain yet somehow, someway, his passing was on my mind that day even before I got the news that Gatti was actually gone.

Let me try to explain by telling the story.

The Saturday morning of July 11 was a typical sunny and bright summer day in the Boston area. Over morning coffee, I was flipping through some old boxing magazines from my collection. One issue in particular stood out. That was the October 1990 issue of The RING commemorating the passing of Rocky Graziano. "Thanks for the Memories" proclaimed the faded cover. As I read that headline and looked at the old fashioned illustrations of Graziano in action, I began to think about the obvious comparisons between Graziano and Gatti as fighters. Then for some reason it occurred to me that someday in the future I would surely hold a similar magazine in my hands commemorating the passing of MY generation's Rocky Graziano, Arturo Gatti.

Little did I realize just how soon I would have that fateful magazine in my hands.

Approximately three weeks later I was holding it.
The Memory Remains

Some time after lunch on the day Arturo died, an old hometown friend from Brockton emailed and broke the news of Gatti's death to me. I immediately recalled thinking about Gatti and Graziano while looking at that Ring Magazine over coffee that morning and it seemed like too much of a coincidence. Still, I was sure that when I pondered his death earlier that day, I had no way to know that Arturo may have already been dead, or dying. The shock of a more tangible reality took over and I began to share with people the strange premonition I experienced earlier in the day.

Most people thought it was crazy and I'm not sure everyone believed me but it's the truth, and I stand behind it as such. On the day Arturo died, I seemed to be aware of it before being told of it and I don't fully understand why. Could it be that we receive and communicate information in ways we don't fully understand? Maybe it really was just a strange coincidence. Or perhaps the giant void suddenly left behind by Gatti's passing was just too big not to notice immediately. In any case, a true boxing legend passed away that day and I think it's fair to say we're all still in grief, even five years later.

Arturo Gatti was the most spectacularly exciting boxer of his generation. With his incredible heart and determination, Arturo far exceeded his own limited skillset and by doing so joined in the elite company of boxing legends like Rocky Graziano. In June 2013, Gatti was inducted on the first ballot into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canstota, New York. Boxing's ultimate blood and guts warrior has now been reborn and made immortal.

Thanks for the memories Arturo.

Written & Experienced by Jeffrey Freeman

July 1, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Jeff Fenech - "Boxing is the real ultimate fighting"

The Marrickville Mauler Training Down Under
In the 1980's, Jeff Fenech was the king of the little guys. Tearing through three weight classes and remaining competitive in a fourth, the “Marrickville Mauler” gradually added weight and career-defining victories throughout the decade. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, his name may have struck curiosity in the minds of American fans who never got the chance to watch him on television during his prime, but he struck fear into his opponents over a ferocious streak of seven years without a loss to begin his career. Stateside, Fenech was an underappreciated fighter in a country that always gravitated towards heavier weights. So as Fenech got progressively more popular as he moved up in weight classes, it seems fitting that he is now finding relevance again as a trainer in the heavyweight division.

Although the partnership did not last long, Fenech was Mike Tyson’s final trainer at the conclusion of Tyson's career, and he now has a future full of potential ahead of him with Lucas Browne, another Australian finding success in the blossoming Aussie boxing scene. For a time however, Fenech lost touch with the sport. “About five years ago, I had enough of boxing,” Fenech told KO Digest long distance from Down Under. “I have a young amateur I’ve been helping. That rekindled my love for the sport. Then I saw "Big Daddy" Browne fight on tape and I said 'Oh my God, what a load of potential this guy has got!' I thought it was going to be wasted. I said 'Lucas, please, don’t be like all these other Australians. Come and let me work with you.' We’ve done a couple of days training and we’ve formed an incredible bond. We’re going to win the heavyweight title.”

Whether or not the 35-year-old Browne will pose a real challenge in the top heavy heavyweight division still remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: if not for the ground broken by Fenech’s Hall of Fame boxing career, Browne and his fighting countrymen would not have had the opportunity to bloom that they now enjoy today.

Training rekindled Fenech's love for boxing
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: Australian boxing is very relevant right now, a change in the typical climate over there. Australia seems to be rising, especially at middleweight. Sam Soliman just won the IBF title, Daniel Geale has been making waves and is fighting Gennady Golovkin soon at Madison Square Garden, and Blake Caparello is undefeated and fighting Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight for the WBO title. Why is Australia coming on so strong in the sport now?

Jeff Fenech: Many of the Australian fighters are very talented right now. Soliman has been around for a very long time and he’s definitely somebody who is the hardest worker in the world and he deserves it. Caparello is a guy who is willing to fight anybody. I believe that if you aren’t good enough to beat the Australian champion, you should not be able to fight on the world stage. A lot of the fighters in the past could pay for their ratings and they were able to fight whoever they want, which I believe is really wrong. You’ve got to fight and earn your respect like Caparello is doing, like Soliman has done for the last twenty years, like what Geale has done. Geale lost his title, and then he fights the best out there [Golovkin] straight away, that's a fighter.

Browne is 35 years old with a 20-0 record and 18 KO's
KOD: Alex Leapai recently fought Wladimir Klitschko as well. I named some guys above, what’s your take on them? Is there any Australian in particular that stands out to you as having a bright future?

JF: There’s one who is going to be the next heavyweight champion of the world, a guy named Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne. That’s who I’m at the gym training right now. I believe that while he’s got so much skill, he’s like a diamond who has never been polished. Nobody has told him what to do, so at the moment, I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to show him that there’s more to boxing than just being able to throw a right hand and knock somebody out. I’m trying to pick his defensive skills up and trying to do a whole lot of things that so when he gets the opportunity, he’ll take it with both hands. He’s rated #8 in the WBC and he's also rated by all the other organizations. The WBC world champion at the moment [Bermane Stiverne] is very beatable, I think we’ve got the fighter here that, with three or four months of training, doing the right thing, and doing the right sparring, we can give the heavyweight title a real shake and we can win it. Let the world know through KO Digest that Browne is going to be the next WBC heavyweight champion.

More opportunities and more money now
KOD: How has the Australian boxing culture changed since you broke it open back in the day to now, with the sweet science being so much more wide open, international, and global in scope?

JF: There’s so many different titles and different weight divisions. There are many more opportunities for fighters to take and there’s more money with pay TV—we didn’t have that when I was boxing in Australia. There’s a lot more opportunity, but still, I would like to see more Australians get an opportunity to fight for the world title or something similar that is good enough. I don’t like these guys who go to the WBA and pay for their ratings, pay to win some regional title, pay for another title, then you fight for a world title and embarrass the sport. It’s good to make money, but I don’t want to embarrass my country. It has happened quite a few times. These guys who are getting these opportunities now—the Blake Caparello’s and Daniel Geale’s—they deserve to be in the ring at the moment.

Geale is the Real Deal Down Under
Jeff Fenech's Top 5 Australia Today:

1. Daniel  Geale (middleweight)
2. Sam Soliman (middleweight) 
3. Lucas  Browne (heavyweight)
4. Billy Dib (featherweight)
5. Will Tomlinson (super featherweight)

KOD: With so many weight classes and with sanctioning bodies operating the way they currently do, do you believe the sport needs some type of reform?

JF: Of course. They’re talking about a fight here in Australia between Danny Green and Anthony Mundine. One guy was 15 kilos heavier in his last fight. How can a sanctioning body even consider sanctioning it? You’ve got to make sure that the fights are competitive and the fighters have the same ability. Listen, when people get hurt in the boxing ring or when there's a fatality, that’s because there’s a mismatch. The guys who put them in there, they know nothing about boxing, they’re thinking about a payday. You’re giving him an opportunity for what, to get brain damage? To get hurt? To never fight again?

KOD: Who has been the best Australian fighter since you’ve retired?

JF: You’ve got to say Vic Darchinyan, but you forget to mention Sakio Bika. Sakio trained and trained. He’s not the prettiest fighter, but he’s a fighter who loves it. About five years ago, I had enough of boxing. I stopped everything. Today, I have a young amateur guy I’ve been helping that rekindled my love for the sport. Then I saw Lucas Browne fight on tape and I said “Oh my God, what a load of potential this guy has got!" I thought it was going to be wasted. I said “Lucas, please, don’t be like all these other Australians. Come and let me work with you and then you can make your mind up.” We’ve done a couple of days training and we’ve formed an incredible bond. We’re going to win the heavyweight title.

The young Fenech was influenced by Duran
KOD: We’ve touched on many fighters who have made a name for themselves and are very prominent out of Australia now. Back when you began your career, were there any fighters that you modeled yourself after?

JF: I never boxed until 17 and a half, I was in the Olympics at 19, and I was world champion when I was 20. I never watched a boxing match life in my life. The only boxer I had ever heard of was Muhammad Ali. When I did start to fight, I watched Roberto Duran and loved the way he fought.

KOD: Seventeen is late to start boxing. What brought you into the sport? 

JF: I went to a youth club looking for people to have a fight with. I was in a gang and they weren’t there, but there was a boxing ring. I sat there and I listened to a friend of mine from school and he said his trainer wanted somebody to box so I said I would box him. I said I’d take the challenge, and the trainer asked me to come back the next day. It was all history then.

KOD: After winning the world title in 1985, you had many title defenses during a stretch of about five years atop the bantamweight, super bantamweight, and the featherweight divisions. 
Who was the best fighter you’ve fought and why?

Rumble with Villasana
JF: I think it would be Marcos Villasana. Azumah Nelson's credentials speak for themselves but he was never my toughest fight. My first fight with him, that wasn’t tough for me. That was just what I had done in every fight and I believe I won at least nine rounds out of twelve. Victor Callejas from Puerto Rico, he was so tough. He was such a big puncher, so tough. And, I fought a guy named Georgie Navarro. He was the most skillful guy, an American who had beaten everybody. He beat Hector Lopez and they were all talking about him as being the next Sugar Ray Leonard.

KOD: What attributes in opponents gave you the most trouble?

JF: None of them. I knew that none of them could handle my pressure. I didn’t have a problem. If they came for me, that was great. If they were boxers, it took me a couple of rounds to catch them and slow them up. I stopped most of the great boxers in the world.

KOD: For American fight fans, the first fights that come to mind are the fights with Azumah Nelson...

Fenech beat Nelson only to get robbed by judges
JF: That’s what hurts me the most. They always bring that up and that’s what they all see, but if they had seen me fight Villasana, who had basically beaten Nelson, it was a very controversial decision, or Mario Martinez when I had won every round, or Daniel Zaragoza, I had beaten these guys in every round. It was 120-108 every fight, no other fighter had done what I had done to these champions. After the first Nelson fight, I have no excuses, but I was never the same. It took something away from me. I was going to be the first boxer ever to win four world titles undefeated. I was the first fighter to win three undefeated. Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, and Roberto Duran, they all lost before winning their fourth titles. I was the first undefeated three time world champion. After that draw, I was never the same. I can’t put my finger on it, but something left me that day.

KOD: Do you believe you won that first fight?

JF: Absolutely. Can anybody watch that fight and give Azumah Nelson more than three rounds? I threw a hundred punches more. The fight wasn’t even close. Of course, it was a great fight, it was one of the greatest fights in history, but it wasn’t close. At the end of the twelfth round, if I hadn’t held him up, he would have fallen down. If they didn’t hide his mouth guard at the end of the ninth round, I may have knocked him out. If this was a 15-round fight, I’d have stopped him.

Boxing magazines knew Fenech was special
KOD: Early in your career, you had a lot of extensive print coverage in magazine like The Ring and KO, but American fight fans didn’t get a chance to see you fight often on TV, instead reading and learning about you in these publications. 

JF: And that was the thing, I was robbed by my promoter. Of course I wanted to fight overseas. My fight against Zaragoza was a ten round war. My fight against Marcos Villasana was a twelve round war. Americans would have loved what I did to those guys! Those guys gave Azumah Nelson not just fights, but decisions that were controversial. I beat these guys every round. I beat Jerome Coffee, I boxed his brains in, I beat them all,  the Olympic gold medalist, but Americans didn’t get to see me until the end. You’ve got to think of this also, not just to give myself a pat on the back. I fought every fight, about 80 percent of my fights, with two broken hands. Tell me one Olympic runner that won a race with a broken toe! My hands were broken every fight. I broke them every fight and I still won every round. Watch my fights against Villasana and Callejas and see how dominant I was. I had done some things that nobody had ever done, but I never got the credit because I fought in Australia. Of course, Australians loved me, but I wanted to be recognized internationally for what I had done because nobody had ever done it.

Nelson and Fenech are respectful rivals for life
KOD: The first two fights against Azumah Nelson were in 1991 and 1992, but the third came over a decade later in 2008. How exactly did that fight come about and how do you think about that fight now?

JF: I don’t even classify that as a fight. I was training and had lost a lot of weight and somebody said we should have a fight. I was going to try to go to Thailand to fight the Thai guy Samart Payakaroon again, and look at him—he knocked out Lupe Pintor, but I knocked him out in four rounds. I was training and all of a sudden, somebody called Azumah Nelson and said “would you be willing to fight Jeff Fenech again?” And of course, he said yes, being the warrior that he is, and we boxed again. I didn’t count that as a fight for me, it was just something I did at 44. It was a great experience, training, losing weight, and doing all that stuff, but it didn’t really mean much to me.

KOD: Some American fans have suggested that you are a borderline entry into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. You know why you belong in the IBHOF, but looking at the fights that Americans have seen—the Nelson loses and the KO loss to Calvin Grove—do you think this is just because they are unfamiliar with you? 

Legends Tyson and Fenech together at the IBHOF
JF: They don’t even know what I’ve done in my life. If the Americans knew that I fought as an amateur for two and a half years, went to the Olympics after 24 fights, then turned professional and won my first title in 196 days. I defended against the Olympic gold medalist Steve McCrory, I defended against Jerome Coffee. I was undefeated bantamweight, super bantamweight, and featherweight champion. I never lost any of my titles. I moved up in weight a few times. At the end of my career, the guys that beat me didn’t beat the Jeff Fenech that I know. I won a bronze medal before they overturned the decision. I was world champion in my seventh fight. Three time world champion, all with broken hands. In between fights, I had an operations to put pins in my broken hand, nobody in boxing has ever done that. Tell me somebody who has done it—nobody!

KOD: Obviously, you have many skills and were successful for a long period of time. But looking back on your prime, what was the one thing you can say that Jeff Fenech did better in the ring than anyone else? What were you most proud of?

JF: I remember back in the day that Ring Magazine said there’s nobody in the world that could cut off a ring better than Jeff Fenech. So, my pressure and the way I could punch. Nobody could do it like me. Nobody. You look at my fights and the caliber of opponents I fought, and see how easily I beat them all. I trained 24 hours a day and did everything properly in training.

Ultimate Fighters Fenech and Tyson
KOD: As trainer, you were only with Tyson for a short period of time at the end of his career, but how did the partnership with Tyson come about?

JF: As fighters, we trained together many times. He’d make me put him through pads, we’d run together—Mike trusted me. Mike knew I had his back and I loved him, and to this day I still do. We have a very good relationship. I won an award in America and Mike was walking through the crowd and said “ah, Jeff Fenech!” He was all excited, gave me a hug, and told me he thought I was great. Our friendship began there. I was always overseas visiting and being with Mike for all his fights. He asked me to help him with his comeback. 

KOD: Tyson is revered as being one of the best fighters in history, but the heavyweight division now is a stark contrast to the division during Tyson’s day. It used to be marked by guys who were brawlers like Tyson, but now it’s ruled by technical guys like Wladimir Klitschko. Do you think that Tyson and his legacy are actually bad for US fight fans in the sense that it spoiled American fans and distorted the way they see the heavyweight division?

JF: No, I just think the he was a freak of nature. He gave people what they wanted: exciting fights and knockouts, and he created this amazing aura. Nobody will ever match him. Nobody can do what Mike did and bring excitement to the ring like Mike. That animal instinct and the whole persona of being the baddest man on the planet, it erupted when he got in the ring. People want to see people beat each other up. We like to see somebody great at something, and Mike was great at what he did. In my opinion, Mike Tyson is the greatest heavyweight in boxing history.

KOD: What elevates Mike Tyson above other great heavyweights? 

JF: You’ve got Muhammad Ali who was an absolute freak of nature. I think Joe Louis was the most perfect boxer I’ve ever seen. He was beautiful, him and Sugar Ray Robinson, but Mike brought a little bit more to the ring. Ali predicted the round. Tyson predicted violence, and that’s what people pay for. People pay to watch people get beat up, that’s just boxing, that’s the truth behind the sport. Mike was great at doing that.

Fenech with his Cus D'Amato, trainer John Lewis
KOD: Some people have even compared you to Mike Tyson. When you were young, you were both ferocious and champs around the same time. Do you see a lot of similarities between the two of you? 

JF: Not just boxing, but life in general, we have so many things in common. When I used to watch Mike fight, it was very motivational. We'd sit and talk about Cus D'Amato. Tyson was the benchmark, the front page of everything. Everybody wanted to be Mike Tyson. I lived with him, trained him, traveled with him. As ferocious and animalistic as he was, he was the most kind hearted person. I was on a plane with him once in first class, I fell asleep, when I woke up and had a look, I was sitting next to an old lady, he'd given up his seat for her. He's a generous man. I've seen him give beggars a thousand dollars just to leave people alone. I've seen him stop the car on the side of the road and give people money. He doesn't do it for attention. He has a heart of gold. As a human being, he's one of the best God ever put on Earth. That's why he was able to come back and be beautiful again. God is rewarding him for all the beautiful things he's done.

KOD: What do you want to see for the future of boxing?

JF: I'm active on the board of governors with the WBC. I think the new WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman will do so good for the sport. I want people to love boxing again, for boxing to be respected. When people make a mistake, the referee or the judges, they need to be punished for there to be credibility back in boxing. If you can't do your job, they're not going to give you another job, so get rid of them idiots. Look, Dana White is a genius in marketing UFC. Boxing needs to do the same and make people love boxing again. There is no sport that compares to boxing. It's the ultimate, best form of fighting.

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