Boxing Insider Notebook: Ali, King, Smith, O’Connor, Boxing Hall of Fame, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of March 14th to March 21st; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Sadam Ali to Face Liam Smith on HBO
Sadam “World Kid” Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) will defend his WBO Junior Middleweight World Championship against hard-hitting former world champion and No.1 contender Liam “Beefy” Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) in a 12-round main event at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. The event takes place Saturday, May 12 and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Ali, a 2008 U.S. Olympian, has always displayed the skills of a future world champion. The 29-year-old pride of Brooklyn, N.Y. held multiple regional titles and scored important wins against the likes of Francisco “Chia” Santana, Luis Carlos “El Potro” Abregu and former interim WBA World Super Lightweight Champion Johan “El Terrible” Perez. Though suffering a setback in a welterweight title fight against Jessie Vargas, Ali silenced his doubters by moving up to 154 pounds to defeat future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto in Dec. 2017. The newly-crowned WBO Junior Middleweight Champion will face a tough challenge in Smith, a former holder of the same 154-pound title.
“It felt great to accomplish my dream of becoming world champion,” said Sadam Ali. “I’m excited to defend my title and to demonstrate that it is not up for grabs. Liam Smith is a great fighter and I’m sure he’ll be ready, but so will I.”
Smith, the first of an impressive stable of brothers to win a world title, is a 29-year-old native of Liverpool, England. After scoring 20 impressive victories as a professional, Smith defeated John “Apollo Kidd” Thompson via seventh-round technical knockout to capture the WBO 154-pound title that Ali currently holds. Smith then faced Canelo Alvarez in front of over 50,000 fans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Smith lost the title in an impressive show of heart and determination, and after three consecutive victories, he is ready to regain the title that was once his.
“I’m very happy that we’ve got this fight,” said Liam Smith. “I’m looking forward to pitting myself against a good fighter in Sadam Ali, a former Olympian and now world champion who is coming off the back of a good win against Miguel Cotto. I’m confident going into this fight. I know I’m naturally the bigger man, and that will come into play, especially in the type of fight that I think it will be.”
“Sadam Ali climbed onto the world championship stage with one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he snatched the WBO Junior Middleweight World Title from Four-Division, Six Time World Champion, and Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “Being in the ring with a hungry fighter with a world championship belt on his resume like Liam Smith will be nothing new to Ali. Sadam will prove yet again he’s someone to watch out for in the division.”
“This is Liam’s chance to reclaim his world title,” said Frank Warren. “He’s come through two hard fights against Liam Williams to earn his shot, and he’s done what he set out to do. When he lost his belt against Canelo Alvarez, Liam said he would be a world champion again, and on May 12 he will deliver on that promise.”
Ali vs. Smith is a 12-round fight for the WBO Junior Middleweight Championship presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Frank Warren. The event is sponsored by Tecate, “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF BOXING” and Casa Mexico Tequila. The fight will take place Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Host of the May 12 event, Turning Stone Resort Casino is a Forbes Four-Star Award-winning destination resort, which continues to distinguish itself as a premier venue for fight-of-the-year level boxing. The May event will mark Turning Stone’s 25th nationally-televised boxing event, cementing the resort as a leading destination for nationally-televised combat sports. Turning Stone features world-class amenities including four hotels, more than 20 signature restaurants and dining options, two spas, an all-new 125,000 square foot Las Vegas style gaming floor, a cabaret-style Showroom, a 5,000-seat arena, five golf courses, several bars, cocktail lounges and nightlife venues with live entertainment every weekend.
Tickets for this highly anticipated matchup go on sale Tuesday, March 20 at 10:00 am ET and are available from $95 and $75 for ringside seats and all others priced at $55 and $45, plus any applicable fees. Tickets can be purchased at the Turning Stone Resort Box Office in person or by calling 315-361-7469 or online at Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com).
Don King Brings Isaac Ekpo and Rafael Mensah to America to Train for Upcoming World Title Fights
World Boxing Association (WBA) Mandatory challenger Isaac Ekpo (32-3, 25 KOs) from Abuja, Nigeria, and Rafael “Sweet Pea” Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs) from Accra Ghana both recently arrived to the U.S. with a new manager, new direction and first full training camps with trainer Stacy McKinley, to prepare for their upcoming world title fights.
Ekpo arrived in Germany Sunday for a world title rematch against WBA Super Middleweight Champion Tyron Zeuge. Their first bout, almost a year ago to the day on March 25, 2017, ended in controversial fashion and a loss for Ekpo.
Mensah has been in serious negotiations to challenge WBA Super Featherweight Champion Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KOs).
Both Ekpo and Mensah arrived in the U.S. having made little to no money while fighting in Africa. Both fighters have a new manager. Stacy McKinley is training both for the first time.
“My old manager and promoter in Ghana, Anthony Karmah, (of Landmark Boxing), did good by taking me to where I am but he cheated me and is cheating all the boxers.” Explained Ekpo, also a 2004 Olympian. “He never paid me for the fights. He told me the fights, all of my fights, were for building my career. He prefers to have the money all to himself and the boxers are suffering, which is very bad. I was the mandatory challenger to (WBO Super Middleweight Champion Robert) Stieglitz in 2013. I was No. 7. We fought 12-rounds and was paid only $12K – for a world title fight! I argued with him but it didn’t matter. After the fight I went back to Africa, and signed with Don King. When I came to America in December, Don King told me to put the past behind and move forward. My coach is there beside me taking good care of me. He and Don King don’t treat me like a boxer they treat me like I am their blood.”
“In Ghana I was the champion, but no, I didn’t get any money,” said Mensah, who as an amateur was the Captain of the Ghana National Team. “The promoter there signed me and I don’t get money. Why? Somebody chopped my money. Every time I fight he told me he was building my record for me. I don’t know why. I fought thirty-one fights, big fights. I won the African title twice and the African Boxing Union title. I fight in front of huge crowds in Ghana – it is like the Las Vegas of Africa, it is the Mecca. Ike Quartey, Joshua Clottey, Azumah Nelson, Agbeko – they all fought there.”
Ekpo went further: “I would fight under Don King Productions and Don would send the money to my manager and I would never see the money – my manger keeps saying, still, he is building my record and I never see the money. When I fought Zeuge my manager got the money from Don King but he took two months to pay me – he said Don King never paid him. My manger was trying to destroy the man’s (Don King’s) name and it’s not like that. When my wife passed, I was looking for some money to help my family and Don King sent my former manager $10,000 to give to me. I only received $2000 of it – my manager kept the rest.” Ekpo lived on his marginal soldier’s salary. “When I came to train in America in December, Don King told me to put the past behind and move forward. My coach is there beside me taking good care of me. He and Don King don’t treat me like a boxer they treat me like I am their blood. Don King gave me money and I shared it and said this money is going to change a lot of things in my life.”
Mensah on his arrival to the U.S.: “I was in Ghana and I was told I got this opportunity to fight Machado and I may not get this opportunity again so I said OK, I will come to the America to see Don King for the first time. I signed with Don King three years ago with my old manager and never net him. My old manager would not let me meet Don King. My contract with my old manager was up in November and my new manager told me to come to the US to get better training – he convinced me to move here. I came to US a month ago and Don King said, “Rafael, now that you are here, how can I help you?” I said ‘yes, I will take this title to give to you. Don’t worry about that.’ I am here in the USA training and it will not be a problem. I am the man, I am Sweet Pea.”
Ekpo wants this message sent across to Zeuge regarding the rematch – “Train hard because I am coming. My name is ‘Grenade’ and when I explode no living thing will be left near me – everything will fall, and he is going to fall. I promise him and by the grace of God he is going to fall.”
In the first Zeuge-Ekpo fight, in front of a Zeuge hometown crowd at MBS Arena in Pottsdam, Germany, Zeuge (21-0-1, 11 KOs) from Berlin, was cut in round three from an Ekpo left hook.. “I gave him a left hook and it caught him but they changed it to a head-butt. It wasn’t a head-butt like they called it. It was a left hook. I watch the fight every day,” said Ekpo. The decision would go to the judges’ scorecards, whom all had Zeuge ahead at the time (48-47, 49-47, 49-46). “In round 5 he was very tired, but he survived the round. When the round was over he called the doctor to stop the fight. When they stopped the fight my coach and I were celebrating, but next the referee said ‘no, it is a technical decision.’ Why technical decision? The guy said he can’t fight. I’m not tired. I didn’t give up. If he stopped the fight that means I am the winner because I never give up but the champion said he is not going to fight anymore.”
Ekpo had gone into the fight with extreme adversity, having lost his wife (a 32-year-old Nigerian National soccer star) during childbirth on March 9, just two weeks before the fight. “After my wife delivered she started bleeding and from there she passed away,” explained Ekpo. “She left the baby behind. I gave her the mommy’s name and she is living right now with her grandmother. ” Ekpo trained only one week with his new trainer and five weeks total for the fight. Ekpo thought long and hard before deciding to go through with the fight. “I needed the money to take care of my family. Coach Stacy McKinley said to me ‘you’re good, you can beat this kid.’ I fought Zeuge with pains in my heart.”
“This time my hands are my referee and my judges. I am going to fight Tyron Zeuge as if he is the one that killed my wife,” said Ekpo. “Last time I took all of his best punches. Now I am stronger and I’m going to hit him hard – harder than before, like a sledgehammer. This time I am going to knock him out in his hometown, right in front of his people. He is not going 12-rounds with me. I promised my wife before she died that I would bring the title back to my baby. I love her so much. Every time I think about her I shed tears.”
Machado on his immediate future: “My next fight will be against Machado. I know Machado and I know I can beat Machado. There is no doubt that Mensah can beat him. When I saw Machado I said ‘yes, I can beat you.’ You are not somebody that can beat me. You cannot beat Rafael Mensah. I will come and maybe not knock you out but I will beat you in boxing. I will teach you boxing very well. If I don’t knock you out I will teach you a boxing lesson.”
“I came to America and signed with a new manager and he exposed everything,” explained Ekpo, who moved to the United States on December 27. “When I first learned what had happened, I wanted to go back to Africa and fight him but Don King said no. He knows he can’t even call me any more and he’s scared. Everything is exposed. The last time I was at his office and he hid then ran out the back door. Don King gave me money and immediately I told my new manager to send it to my family and he said ‘why are you crying?’ The amount of money Don King gave me will change a lot of things and that makes me happy. Now I’m going to give him the title. That’s the thing I’m going to use to pay him back.”
“Now I am ranked #2 in the WBA and now I am waiting for Machado,” said Machado. “I came here to train and listen to my new manager. I left my 4-month old child and my wife to come to America because of Machado. When I arrived Don King said, ‘Rafael, now that you are here, how can I help you?’ I said ‘yes, I will take this title to give to you. Don’t worry about that. I am now focused about the business of being in the ring. I don’t see anybody coming to beat me. My new manager is here to help me. God has done everything for me and now I listen to Don King and my manager. So now everything will be all right for me in America.”
Nelson Aiyelabowo, current manager of both Ekpo and Mensah: “We are very grateful for how Don King has welcomed us. Isaac is having a great camp and we are ready to add to a stable of champions Don King has promoted over the past decades.”
MTK Global Opens MTK NewCastle as UK Presence Continues to Grow
MTK Global is pleased to confirm the opening of a new UK branch – MTK Newcastle in Gateshead.
With MTK Global’s UK bases in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland already thriving, the proud fighting city of Newcastle has joined the party.
The north-east has produced several success stories in the ring, such as Glenn McCrory’s world cruiserweight title glory down the road in Stanley in 1989. World title challengers John Davison and Billy Hardy are also local stars of yesteryear.
With interest in boxing and MMA on the rise, MTK Newcastle will provide excellent facilities for the stars of tomorrow while remaining an invaluable recreational facility for the local community.
MTK Newcastle Gym Manager and coach, Brad Tarren, said: “It’s exciting news for fighters in the north-east of England as we look to create combat teams under the MTK banner.
“MTK Newcastle adds to the growing entity of the MTK Global brand and we are certainly excited for the future prospects this opportunity brings.
“The gym will also remain as a recreational facility welcome to all members of the public – regardless of their level or experience.”
MTK Global CEO Sandra Vaughan added: “We are so proud to have added a Newcastle headquarters. It’s a fantastic city with a rich history in combat sports.
“We look forward to Brad and his team nurturing the local talent. This move is further proof of MTK Global’s commitment to improving opportunities for fighters in as many areas as we can.”
Follow MTK Newcastle on Twitter @mtknewcastle
National Boxing Hall of Fame Gala 2018
The National Boxing Hall Of Fame will be holding its Annual GALA April 28th, 2018 from 11:00am – 3:00pm, at Quiet Cannon Event Center, 901 Via San Clemente, Montebello, CA. Tickets are $75 and available at www.nationalboxinghalloffame.com All 2018 Inductees are confirmed to attend event this year! Limited seating available and tickets MUST be paid in advance to attend.
The 2018 Inductees are:
◦Eddie Mustafa Muhammad
POSTHUMOUS (Family will attend)
RISING STAR AWARD
◦2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas
DON SULAIMAN LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
HOWIE STEINDLER AWARD
◦Danny “Little Red” Lopez
◦Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez
BOBBY CHACON GIFT OF LOVE AWARD
Boxing Fans, don’t miss this great Boxing event with legends of our sport and future stars, for more information please contact [email protected] .
Danny O’Connor Defends WBC Title Against Steve Claggett
After coming off a of a great KO win, earning the vacant WBC Silver Intercontinental Title against rising Queens prospect and previously undefeated, DANNY GONZALEZ, (then, 14-0 5KO’s) at STAR BOXING’S Slugfest at the Sun, at Mohegan Sun Arena, in November, DANNY O’CONNOR (now, 30-3, 11KO’s) put his title on the line at the against an extremely tough Canadian in STEVE CLAGGETT (now, 26-5-1, 17 KO’s).
Claggett came into last nights title bout, just off of a hard fought win against previously unbeaten, and fellow highly touted Canadian prospect, YVES ULYSSE JR. (then, 14-0 9KO’s).
O’Connor vs. Claggett was seen live on PPV, and was the main event bout of a great night of boxing on St. Patricks day, from the House of Blues Boston.
For the opening two rounds, O’Connor and Claggett maintained a fast, competitive pace, with give and take action by both fighters. However, in the third round, O’Connor began to find his rhythm, landing strong combinations while alluding the attempted offense of Claggett.
O’Connor continued to use his combinations to score, while keeping his foot on the outside of Claggett, dodging most attempts the Canadian threw. However, in the seventh round, Claggett threw a perfect counter right, that sent O’Connor to the canvas. O’Connor managed to shake off the knockdown, got his legs under him, and finished the final two rounds strong, earning a unanimous decision vicory, and successfully defending his WBC belt.
Promoter JOE DEGUARDIA had this to say about O’Connor’s strong outing, “Danny O’Connor showed true guts, putting his title on the line against a very tough fighter in Steve Claggett. Danny used his skill and more importantly, great resilience, getting up from a late round knockdown to defend his title. This was a very solid victory for Danny against a tough opponent, and we look forward to what is to come.”
O’Connor vs. Claggett was promoted by Murphy’s Boxing and Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing.