Five to Watch in 2019
By: Oliver McManus
2018 was a sensational year for boxing, wherever you’re based. Mind you it does seem as though we say that with the passing of every annum. The first month of the new year is, always, relatively dull and mostly dedicated to looking ahead. With that in mind let’s take a look at five under-the-radar prospects for 2019.
Christian Kinsiona – Super Middleweight
We’ll start off up North with Christian Kinsiona who enters the year with a record of 7-1-1. The 28 year old’s only loss came against Scott Westgarth, narrowly, in March 2017 so not one to be sniffed at. Since then, however, Kinsion has built a strong record with four impressive victories on the trot.
Up against Curtis Gargano and Richard Harrison, two durable journeyman, Kinsiona displayed his killer instinct with stoppage victories. To close off 2018, The Grenade secured victory over Harry Matthews to claim the vacant Central Area belt. A confident and assured performance from the Sheffield-man saw him boxing patiently from the centre of the ring.
A dominant figure with imposing stature, Kinsiona has looked comfortable in the three fights of his that I’ve watched and is capable of mixing up the style. What I like the most about Christian are his body shots – it’s something really simple but Kinsiona works the body of his opponent effectively and it produces results.
Scheduled to face Mickey Ellison, in an English title eliminator, on March 30th, Kinsiona has a real opportunity to force himself into the title mix and continue his journey, guided by Stefy Bull.
Harvey Horn – Super Flyweight
Dropping down massively in weight class we’ll turn our attention to Harvey Horn who emerges as one in a number of fly / super-fly prospects coming through the ranks. Horn stands out for a variety of reasons and, off the back of a frustrating 2018, he’ll be looking to really push on over the next 12 months.
A GB Lionhearts in the World Series of Boxing, Horn has the pedigree to see him making rapid development and has honed his technical skill set over the course of four professional fights. Moving up to six rounds on the Warrington-Frampton undercard, Horn shook off the dust to claim a close contest against Adam Hutchinson.
Despite being just 23, Horn possess supreme confidence in his ability and takes to the centre of the ring and boxes with a constant, busy work-rate. The young man is willing to take a step back and evaluate the situation before landing the shot and is an intelligent boxer, not rushing into shots, as he pieces shots together nicely.
I’ve said it before but Harvey has really nice stance which is, let’s be honest, an odd thing to appreciate in a boxer but he looks light on his feet and is set up with a staunch defence that allows him the room of the ring.
Having ended 2018 on a relative high, Horn will be looking to gain some momentum over the course of the next 12 months in order for him to really push on.
Denzel Bentley – Middleweight
2 and 0 as we entered 2018, Denzel Bentley finished the calendar year boasting an impressive record of eight without defeat. A ferocious fighter, Bentley himself has admitted to not fully appreciating the scope of his power but the 23 year old really grew into his strength over 2018,
Starting out of the blocks in fast fashion, Bentley looks to impose himself straight from the off and against Daniel Urbanski, in September, Bentley did so to perfection. A searching, looping right dropped his Polish opponent within 20 seconds and on a further two occasions before the bout was waived off after a mere 71 seconds.
Perhaps more impressive was his win over Serge Ambomo (6-7) on less than 12 hours notice… Bentley turned up and blasted Ambomo out, who had never previously been stopped, within two rounds. Mightily impressive from the young man and, indeed, resulting in an ever growing fan base.
With one eye on the winner of Tey Lynn Jones vs Linus Udofia, that fight for the Southern Area title, Bentley has insisted he isn’t concerned with names on his record but simply wants to start collecting titles as soon as possible.
Edward Muscat speaks highly of him and rightly so – Denzel is some talent that Ed has got on his hands and, even better, 2 Sharp is a lovely bloke, too!
Deion Jumah – Cruiserweight
The most established of names across this list, Deion Jumah secured the first title of his career last night when he stopped Ossie Jervier in the fifth round on December 1st. The Southern Area title duly found a new home and, in equal rhythm, was vacated shortly after.
That’s a sign of the lofty ambitions that Jumah possesses – his next fight will be for the English equivalent. A professional since 2013, Jumah’s career has bounced along far more rapidly since hooking up with Steve Goodwin and the new management team has put him in a promising position.
Three fights last year, after an absence of 26 months, saw the 29 year old rack up three knockout victories with a particular penchant for body shots. The Ghost is one of the hottest prospects flying under-the-radar on the small hall circuit and it’s only matter of time before he starts headlining arena shows.
It is easy to see the distinguished amateur background within Jumah, not least in terms of his patience within the ring. Make no mistake, when there’s blood in the water, Deion is merciless in his hunt but he’s not reckless and that, for me, that temperament and level-head is what sets him apart from the rest of the troops.
James Beech Jnr – Super Featherweight
The current Midlands Area Super Featherweight champion, James Beech Jnr, burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion towards the back end of last year. Already growing a fan base in and around the West Midlands, his four fights in 2018 saw him step up to eight rounds for the first time and, subsequently, win his first career title.
21 years of age and already boxing like a seasoned professional, Beech stepped up in weight to take on the experienced Louis Fielding for the vacant Area title. The dazzling fighter, promoted by BCB Promotions, was quick out of the blocks and established his dominance from the off. Beech looked in fine form and maintained his front foot pressure even after a nasty gash emerged above his eye in the fourth. Beech controlled the bout but came out in the ninth with a renewed urgency, with a flurry of right hands bowling his opponent over to the canvas in sensational style.
But it’s not just the big occasions in which James has stepped up to the plate, across his nine professional fights, Beech has visibly matured and shown an eagerness to develop. Adapting to the opponent, the Bloxwich-resident has racked up 48 rounds in two rounds and looked impressive throughout.
With two years left of his BCB management, I’m sure Errol Johnson will be looking to push this young fighter on towards bigger things because his talent and development shows no sign of slowing down.
Five UK Based Fighters Who Need a Big 2019
By: Oliver McManus
12 months can be a long time in the sport of boxing – it can see you go from the cusp of retirement to the brink of a world title and for these next boxers, they’ll be hoping that 2019 is the year for them because these are five fighters in need of a BIG 12 months.
Photo of Jay Harris and Kristian Touze
Andrew Selby – Flyweight
There was a time, not so long ago, that we thought we had seen the last of Andrew Selby when he announced “I’m not fighting anymore”, quite understandably this prompted confusion because for a long time he had been scheduled to fight for the European title – indeed a clash with Vincent Legrand was postponed back in June – and Selby was deemed, by many, far good a talent to be allowed to go to waste.
Last month, at last, there was some good news as Jamie Sanigar won the purse bids for his challenge to, Frenchman, Legrand and set a firm date for the Welshman’s return – October 27th at the Newport Centre. Since then there has been mixed signals about the fight with no official confirmation save for the European Boxing Union website who, incidentally, have assigned officials for the contest but the good news is that Selby is back in the gym with fire in his belly, once more.
Further to that, consider the former Team GB member has been mandated to fight Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar in a world title eliminator with the winner set to face, WBC Champion, Cristofer Rosales – a man who Selby comfortably outpointed last May – and you start to see the makings of a sensational 2019 where, if all goes well, we could see the crowning of a new British world champion.
Anthony Yarde – Light Heavyweight
With one sharp intake of breath we get reminded that Yarde is the number 2 ranked challenger with the World Boxing Organization and, swiftly after, it is explained to us that he’s still not ready for a world title because he’s learning the trade.
Now there’s nothing wrong with either of those statements but the constant juxtaposition of the two leave me crying out for Yarde to have a monumental 2019 and this is nothing to do with Anthony Yarde, not at all, because he is a genuinely nice guy and rather this frustration is born out of a desire for him to do well and prove critics wrong – at least, attempt to prove them wrong.
Since fighting Nikola Sjekloca on December 9th, Yarde has seen his stock fall with the 27 year old facing, less than inspiring, Tony Averlant and Dariusz Sek in the meantime; that performance against Sjekloca was a top quality, high energy, explosive performance against a respectable opponent whilst against Averlant and Sek it is almost as though he’s dropped down to their level.
Next out on October 20th Yarde, now 16 and 0, will face the Argentine national champion Walter Gabriel Sequeira who steps up to the plate after, it is believed, Sean Monaghan priced himself out after initially accepting the fight – regardless, the whole boxing world wants to see Yarde get in the ring with an opponent will provide him with a solid test and there are plenty of British light-heavies that would be gunning for the fight.
Hopefully, for him and us, 2019 will see Anthony Yarde start to really make his mark on the 175lb scene.
Lawrence Okolie – Cruiserweight
British, Commonwealth, WBA Continental Champion with only 10 fights under his belt, things are going pretty well for Okolie from a belts point of view and you certainly can’t criticise Okolie for the guys he’s been willing to face – Isaac Chamberlain, Luke Watkins and Matty Askin in only his eighth, ninth and tenth fights.
That’s all fine and dandy but his much-hyped contests against Chamberlain and Askin, in particular, have failed to live up to the expectations as Okolie imposed a largely physical, holding game-plan much to the irritation of those watching.
Far be it from me to criticise a professional boxer unnecessarily but Okolie himself admits his performances were disappointing and, yes he got the win, but he’s in a situation where he needs to start letting his hands go and relaxing through the bout in order to become a big Box Office attraction.
With strong amateur pedigree, Okolie was always going to take a hastened route to the top but the cruiserweight sensation needs to go back to basics and work the jab to tee up openings that he can exploit in order to look every bit as good as we know he can be.
Plenty of domestic challengers are salivating at a potential fight with the Hackney-man and I like Okolie, I really like him, but time is a friend not an enemy and, having smashed his way through his first 10 fights, he can afford to be patient for 2019 in terms of names but the performances need to be big.
Okolie needs to be seen as adaptive and exciting otherwise people, having seen what they have, will be inclined to switch off – I’ve little doubt as to the quality and desire of the cruiserweight prospect so he should be able to take it in his stride!
Joseph Parker – Heavyweight
Returning to the ring on December 15th having been subjected to back-to-back losses against Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, respectively, Joseph Parker is in danger of becoming the forgotten talent of heavyweight boxing.
Making history by becoming the first New Zealand heavyweight world champion, you’d be hard pressed to suggest that Parker looked impressive in the fight that saw him crowned WBO king – against Andy Ruiz – or indeed in his subsequent defences over Razvan Cojanu and Hughie Fury and, actually, that fight against Dillian Whyte is, arguably, the best we’ve seen Parker.
That sounds weird to say given that he was on the reverse side of a unanimous decision but when Parker really got into his rhythm he was able to control the tempo of the fight, force Whyte into hot water and he looked like a physically imposing roughhouse fighter as opposed to the technical man we’ve got used to seeing.
It raised questions of WHY haven’t we seen this fire and aggression from the Kiwi before and whilst I can’t answer that question, I look forward to seeing how it impacts the 26 year olds fight plans going forward.
Parker gets the benefit of being in a comparatively weak heavyweight pool of talent than in years previous with a distinct gulf in quality even ranging throughout the top 15 and that should, on paper, ensure that Parker gets back into the world title mix sooner rather than later and, certainly, there are relatively few challengers that you wouldn’t tip Duco’s main man to topple.
The rebuild starts on December 15th, the climb back to a world title shot continues into 2019.
Now this is the slightly left field option for this article because who said I was going for the obvious? Jay Harris is a fighter who has had a frustrating year thus far with the Commonwealth flyweight champion scheduled to defend his belt – won via unanimous decision over Thomas Essomba back in February 2017 – against Dexter Marques back the first quarter of the year before visa issues put that fight indefinitely on hold.
He would fight for the first time in nine months when he entered the ring at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport on August 11th and eased his way to a 60-55 points decision over Critisan Narvaez and with those rounds under his belt he quickly set about establishing a date to defend his coveted belt.
That fight, against Ross Murray, was scheduled for this month but pushed back ever so slightly to November 3rd at York Hall; Mo Prior, the man behind British Warriors, has taken the Welsh flyweight under his wing and is already on a mission to provide Harris with regular fight dates for, put simply, the 28 year old is a sumptuous talent.
With one on the winner of Ryan Farrag vs Sunny Edwards – that bout for the WBO European Super Flyweight strap – Harris has already been mandated for the British Super Flyweight belt as well as the EBU-EU title so there are plenty of opportunities available for the Swansea-man, and that’s without even considering the permutations of the CBC!
By no means is this an exhaustive list of fighters who require a big one next year nor, for that matter, is it the five fighters who need it the MOST but they are guys who, in my opinion, should be hoping to leave a mark over the course of the next 12 months.
For guys like Jay Harris it is through no fault of their own that they are in the frustrating situation that they are and, certainly, there are plenty other candidates for this article – Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Liam Walsh, Roman Gonzalez to name just a handful but keep an eye out on these five fellas as they look for a career-best 2019.
Ten Unbeaten Boxers with a Minimum of 30 Wins
By: Ken Hissner
When former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record gets surpassed its big thing. A half dozen have passed him but eventually got defeated.
Currently Floyd “Money” Mayweather defeated a rank amateur in order to improve his record to 50-0 (27). He no longer holds any titles but it seems when he is low on cash he fights again. In August of 2017 he carried and then opened up to defeat MMA boxer Conor McGregor who never had a professional boxing match. He is 41. He is not included on the list of boxers with a minimum of 30 wins. He is retired.
Photo Credit: Hogan Photos
WBC World Minimum champion Chayaphon Moonsri, 50-0 (17), of Thailand reached the 50 mark on May 2nd 2018 defeating Leroy Estrada, 16-2, from Panama. He is 32.
WBC Bantamweight Youth Silver champion Tassana Sanpattan, 46-0 (31), of Thailand in 2017 he was 4-0 with all being 6 round bouts. In 2018 he has a pair of 8 round bouts going 2-0. He is 24.
WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, 40-0 (39), of Tuscaloousa, AL. He is 32.
Middleweight Damian “The Beast” Jonak, 40-0-1 (21), of Poland. He didn’t have any bouts in 2016 or 2017 but has one bout in 2018 in an 8 rounder. In 2011 he won the WBA International Super Welterweight title. He is 35.
Middleweight WBA and WBC champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is 38-0-1 (34), from KAZ, living in L.A., CA. He was stripped of his IBF title for not fighting his No. 1 contender. He is 36.
Former WBO Featherweight, WBO Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight and current IBF World Super Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia, 38-0 (30), of Moreno Valley, CA. He is scheduled to go back down to lightweight for a unified title facing WBC Robert Easter, Jr., 21-0 (13), on July 28th. He is 30.
Former NABF and current Russian Middleweight champion Konstantin Ponomarev, 34-0 (13), of Big Bear, CA. He is 25.
Former WBO, WBC, WBA and IBF Super Lightweight champion now currently the WBO Welterweight Terence “Bud” Crawford, 33-0 (24), of Omaha, NEB, just won the welterweight title. He is 30.
WBC World Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas, 32-0 (22), of Mexico. He is 27.
WBC World Super Welterweight champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo, 31-0 (15), of Houston, TX. He is 28.
These are the 10 unbeaten boxers with at least 30 fights.
Five Fighters to Watch in the United Kingdom
By: Oliver McManus
British boxing has got it GOOD at the moment, you’d go as far as to say we’ve never had it any better but it’s not just at the top with Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew in which we’re excelling, there’s talent across the board and here are five of the best lower weight class fighters you’d be a fool not to keep an eye on.
*DISCLAIMER* Lower weight = Super lightweight and under
QAIS ASHFAQ – Bantamweight
Gold medallist at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, Silver in the 2014 Commonwealth’s and 2015 European Amateur’s and a bronze at the 2015 European Games, Qais Ashfaq left a mark on the amateur scene and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same in the pro ranks.
Initially signing a deal last year with Hayemaker Ringstar, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing announced the signing of Ashfaq in February of this year and quickly set him to work against a durable Brett Fidoe.
A comfortable points victory put the bantamweight on the path to glory. Now 2 and 0 – thanks to a victory over Ricky Starkey in April – the 25 year old has already shown over the course of eight rounds just why he is such a hotly tipped fighter.
Fast with the feet, his game is all about dominating his opponent with superior movement, bouncing around the ring, before landing some crushing counter-punches. The style has brought him incredible success and being a pressure fighter with lightning fast hand speed, Ashfaq is always going to be one of those fighters you just love to watch.
JEFF OFORI – Super Featherweight
King Jeffy, as he’s known, Ofori made his debut in May of last year and has notched his way to five victories without defeat since – his 6th bout will come this weekend (May 19th) and in only his second bout at Super Featherweight he’ll be looking to send some statements.
A dominant third round TKO victory over Aleksandrs Birkenbergs in April saw Ofori display expertly the sort of power needed to mix it at the top but most impressive was his temperament to deal with an awkward opponent who came to duck and weave.
Ofori, himself, was critical and said he thought he tried too hard in the first couple of rounds to get the stoppage and whilst that may be true, the Tottenham-fighter kept a cool head when it came to crunch time to lay it on the Latvian and give, referee, Mark Bates no choice but to stop it.
Targeting a Southern Area title by the end of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffy is just going to keep better with every fight he has – who knows where he can end up…
RYAN GARNER – Super Featherweight
It’s not hard to understand why Ryan Garner is known as The Piranha given the ferocious way in which he attacks his opponents in the ring.
With seven fights under his belt, the 20 year old is already learning more than you do at University and the maturity developed within the ring is clear to see since he initially turned pro back in the summer of 2016.
A patient fighter, the former junior European amateur champion, is already experienced enough to know when to step on the gas and punish his opponent but, equally, when to take a breather and just play the waiting game.
An enforced sixth month absence from the ring, due to personal issues, has only made the Piranha even hungrier and his display against Lesther Cantillano on February 24th was a perfect example of a boxer looking to go places – he showed in that fight that not only does he pack a really solid flurry of punches capable of stopping his man but, more importantly, he has the technical ability to outbox opponents.
When you can whack, dance, and out-work those who step in the ring then you’re very unlikely to taste defeat and, luckily, for Ryan he has all of that. Let’s not forget he’s only 20, too, so he’s going to get so much better as the years progress… it’s almost scary!
ARCHIE SHARP – Super Featherweight
Dubbed “the best kept secret in British boxing” by his promoter Frank Warren, Archie Sharp is a super featherweight on a mission and at 23 years of age there’s plenty of time, for the 12 and 0 Super Feather, to create his legacy.
Nine years in the amateur ranks saw him pick up nine national junior titles and Sharpshooter has wasted no time in racking up win after win in the professional game.
A clever fighter with fluid movement, Sharp takes to the centre of the ring from the outset in an attempt to draw his opponent into a proper fight and against tough, durable, journeyman Sharp has found considerable success when targeting the body of his opponent – often sending them crumpling to the canvas. Seven of his triumphs have come via knockout.
Having stepped up to eight rounds for the first time last year there can be no question marks about his stamina with Archie having the energy of a puppy throughout his eight round points victory over Rafael Castillo back in December.
Indeed the young whipper snapper isn’t far away from competing for his first title and with the widely held belief being that the classier his opponent, the better Sharp will look, he really is Hollywood.
BRING IT ON, that’s all I can say!
SAM MAXWELL – Super Lightweight
Now Sam Maxwell *just* makes the upper limit for this list and that’s not something that happened on purpose, it was a decision made beforehand that only fighters up to Super Lightweight would be included and, boy, what a decision it was because Sam Maxwell is of the most exciting boxers building a profile in the United Kingdom at the moment.
Having turned pro in October of last year the MTK Global fighter has shot to seven victories in double-quick time with the former Great British Lionhearts fighter recording six knockout’s along the way.
Already having fought on the undercard of a world title fight – that between Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov – Maxwell is no stranger to the big stage and, indeed, when thrust into the limelight at the SSE Arena on April 21st this year he blasted out Michael Isaac Carrero in less than sixty seconds.
The bruising super-middle is causing a stir in the domestic scene, he’ll be next out on June 9th as part of Frank Warren’s Manchester promotion and there’s a very real chance that the 29 year old Liverpool-resident will send a thunderous statement as he looks to gate-crash his way to the top of an, already bustling, British super lightweight division.
I’m only allowed five main fighters to pick but I can’t let this finish without mentioning two classy, classy fighters in Osman Aslam a 12-0 super bantamweight who brings a whole new definition to the word “technical fighter”, his movement is sublime and his shot selection incredible; and Ukashir Farooq the Scottish Area Bantamweight kingpin waiting for his postponed title tilt against Josh Wale, at just 22 Farooq still has a lot of learning to do but with experience under his belt he could well live up to his nickname – Untouchable.
NOW that’s just scratching the surface of lower weight fighters that should be in the spotlight but we’d be here all day if I was to talk about everyone with bags of talent so I implore you to get down to the small hall’s, see boxing at its purest and discover someone worth talking about because, I can’t say this enough, British boxing is having the time of it’s life!
Wasted Talent-Five Fighter Who Threw it All Away
By: Patrick Mascoe
To achieve greatness in any field in life takes a combination of talent, dedication, discipline and good fortune. The sport of boxing is no different. Add to that list the importance of physical and mental strength and you have the recipe for a world class fighter. To see a boxer who possesses all these qualities is rare. To see a boxer throw it all away is heartbreaking.
Boxing is a sport that requires a strong element of self-discipline. Some individuals like Bernard Hopkins and Dwight Muhammad Qawi used the discipline learned in boxing to change their lives. They went from nothing to something. Both men had served time in prison but used the lessons of the sweet science to keep them from returning to a life of crime. They became world champions and are true boxing success stories.
Unfortunately, the connection between boxing and prison does not always take on a positive narrative. For every convicted criminal who uses boxing to change his life for the better, just as many boxers throw it all away and travel in the opposite direction. They go from something to nothing. In order to be a great fighter, one needs to possess self-confidence and a feeling of invincibility. However, problems arise when one fails to distinguish between the rules inside the ring and the rules outside the ring.
Here is a list of five fighters who were undefeated and on the verge of greatness but threw it all away. For some, they felt their success in the ring placed them above the law and for others they could not leave their savagery solely in the ring.
HARRY SIMON: Before Prison – Harry Simon represented Namibia at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics and finished his amateur career with a record of 121-9. From 1998-2002, Simon was one of the best Jr. Middleweights in the world. In 1998, Simon defeated Winky Wright to win the WBO Light Middleweight title by majority decision. In 2002, Simon won the WBO Middleweight title. The fighter with a 23-0 record appeared to have a bright future ahead of him. Showtime had just started promoting him as a future star.
Unfortunately, that all changed when he was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in the death of three individuals. Due to the combination of his injuries and his appealing the charges presented against him for culpable homicide, then his time served in prison, Simon entered the ring only once in the next eight years.
After Prison – At the age of 38, Harry Simon commenced his comeback. He continually faced and defeated weak opposition back in Namibia where his name still garnered some recognition. Simon last fought in 2016. He is now 30-0, but at 45 years old, he is no longer a threat to contend for a title again. We will never know how good Simon could have been as his prime was wasted due to a poor choice he made while behind the wheel of a car.
IKE IBEABUCHI: Before Prison – Ike Ibeabuchi immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1993. In 1994, he won the Texas State Golden Gloves Tournament in the Heavyweight division. He turned pro and won his first 16 straight fights. He was then matched against another undefeated fighter, the 27-0 David Tua. Ibeabuchi defeated Tua by unanimous decision and established himself as a top heavyweight contender. In 1999, he face undefeated future WBO Heavyweight champion, Chris Bird. He made easy work of Bird, knocking him out in five rounds.
His career became untracked when people around him began to notice his behaviour becoming more and more erratic. He began insisting that people refer to him as “The President.” At the same time, he began to have run-ins with the law. He abducted the 15 year old son of his former girlfriend and then was involved in a car accident that caused permanent damage to the boy. He pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and received 120 days in jail.
In 1999, Ibeabuchi was 26 years old with a 20-0 record yet he would never fight again. That same year, he was arrested on a number of allegations concerning sexual assault committed against escorts. Ibeabuchi was deemed incompetent to stand trial. Medical experts assessed that he suffered from bipolar disorder. He was convicted of sexual assault and served 16 years in prison.
After Prison – Ike Ibeabuchi was released in November of 2015. After only 5 months, he was rearrested for violating the terms of his probation. Now 44 years old and still in prison, we will never know what he could have accomplished. According to Eric Raskin of HBO Boxing, “No heavyweight of his generation possessed more ability and no heavyweight of his generation possessed less stability.” As a result of his mental health issues, Ibeabuchi proved to be just as scary outside the ring as he was inside it.
TONY AYALA JR.: Before Prison – Tony Ayala Jr. was considered a boxing prodigy. He compiled an amateur record of 140-8 and turned professional in 1980 at the age of sixteen. With a record of 22-0 (20 KO) Ayala was garnering national attention. He was a savage brawler who had caught the attention of the boxing world, much the way Mike Tyson did years later.
On January 1, 1983 Ayala broke into the home of his neighbour and sexually assaulted her. Despite the fact that he was only 19 years old at the time, this was his third assault against women. Under the Repeat Offender Act, Ayala was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
After Prison – Ayala was paroled from prison in 1999 at the age of 36. He proceeded to do the only thing he knew – boxing. He won his first six comeback fights all by knock out. Eventually, he was defeated by ex-champion IBF Super Welterweight champion, Yori Boy Campas. Though his comeback had been stopped, his trouble with the law continued. In 2000, he was shot in the shoulder by a woman after breaking into her home. In 2004, Ayala was sentenced to ten years in prison for probation violations.
He was finally released in 2014, at the age of 51, with no possible chance to return to the ring. He began to assist in running his father’s gym in San Antonio. On May 12, 2015, Tony Ayala Jr. was found dead in the gym from an apparent drug overdose. Angelo Dundee once said, “Ayala could have been one of boxing’s greatest fighters.”
PAUL SPADAFORA: Before Prison – Paul Spadafora had an amateur record of 75-5. However, his professional career almost never got off the ground. As a passenger, involved in a car chase with police, he was shot in the Achilles tendon. Once he started focussing on his boxing career, he proved himself to be an elite talent. In 1999, the undefeated Spadafora was victorious in his showdown with Israel Cardona to win the IBF Lightweight title. He went on to defend his title six times.
The year 2003 was the beginning of Spadafora’s downfall. His continual personal problems outside the ring ended up destroying his career. He was arrested in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend and followed that up by running his car into a parked police cruiser while intoxicated. Add to that a drug possession charge and you have a career in a permanent holding pattern. On February 23, 2005, Spadafora was sentenced to prison for the attempted murder of his girlfriend.
After Prison – After a 32 month layoff, Spadafora returned to the ring, winning his comeback fight by KO. Before he could fight again, he was back in jail for parole violations. Once again, upon his release, his extracurricular activities continued to hinder his boxing career. He was again charged with DUI, along with assault and brandishing a knife while making threats.
In 2017, Spadafora had another run-in with law enforcement when he was arrested for assaulting his mother and stabbing his half-brother. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also charged with uttering threats against Pittsburgh police. Despite a world title and a 49-1-1 record, Spadafora completely underachieved. With his boxing career now over, Spadafora needs to work on getting his life in order. That will begin by completing a court ordered drug and alcohol program.
EDWIN VALERO: Before Prison – Venezuelan boxer, Edwin Valero, compiled an amateur record of 86-5 with an incredible 57 knockouts. On February 5, 2001, Valero was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet and as a result, he suffered a severe skull fracture. He needed surgery to remove a blood clot. The injury prevented Valero from turning pro and even after his recovery, there were complications. Due to irregularities in his MRI, he was not given permission to fight in the U.S.
Edwin Valero began his professional career fighting mostly in Japan and Latin America. He competed from 2002-2010 and amassed an amazing 27-0 record, with all his victories by way of knockout. Valero obviously possessed phenomenal power and fought with a high degree of aggression. The result: two world titles, an undefeated record, and emergence as a national hero in Venezuela.
His manager claimed that Valero suffered from mental health issues and needed help. He also allegedly suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. Documents show that Valero’s wife had been admitted to hospital three times as a result of falling down stairs. His behaviour on her last visit was so volatile towards the doctors, nurses and police that he was sent for a six month psychiatric rehabilitation stint. Was this a result of his earlier motorcycle accident, from boxing or a combination of the two? We may never know for sure. Sadly, on April 18th, 2010, Valero’s wife’s body was discovered in a hotel. She had been stabbed three times. Valero was arrested after admitting to hotel security that he had committed the crime.
After Prison – A day after being arrested, Valero was found hanging in his cell. The man who was invincible in the ring took his own life. Edwin Valero, much like Ike Ibeabuchi, needed people around him who cared more about him as a person than as a boxer.
Ironically, the brutality and savagery that is responsible for the success of some fighters is also the characteristic that is responsible for the downfall of others. Boxing is a violent sport that attracts aggressive individuals. It is only those fighters who can leave or separate their life in the ring from their life outside the ring that truly prosper.
Five Fighters to Watch in 2018
By: Eric Lunger
As the final wrapping paper gets cleaned up from under the tree, and as we collectively vow – in varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction — to get back to sensible eating and exercise, it’s time to take a glance ahead at the upcoming year in boxing, and count down the top five fighters to keep an eye on. This is a pretty eclectic list, and no doubt you have your own picks; I’d love to read which boxers you are watching for 2018 in the comments below.
Photo Credit: WBSS
Joseph Parker (Heavyweight). The Kiwi WBO champion had a great 2017, defending his newly-won belt twice. In May, he took care of business against Razvan Cojanu, a late-minute replacement in a not-so spectacular bout, but in September, Parker traveled to Manchester, UK, to take on the talented contender Hughie Fury. Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) answered a lot of questions that night, and won over some critics. Still, there are some commentators who feel that Parker is the odd man out in the top tier of the division, that he doesn’t really belong in the same rarified air as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury. But with his power, his hand speed, and most importantly, his meteoric learning curve each and every outing, Parker can be a real spoiler in the division. Will he get a shot at AJ in 2018? That is tough to envision, given Team Joshua’s current aversion to risk, but as the WBO Champion, unification of the belts has to go through Parker at some point.
Oleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight). Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) fought on the same Olympic team as Vasyl Lomachenko, training with Lomachenko’s father, and it shows in Usyk’s footwork and use of angles. Already WBO world champion, the Ukrainian southpaw is in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight tournament, slated to take on undefeated WBC champion Mairis Breidis in Riga, Latvia, on January 27. Supremely confident, Usyk is one of those few European amateurs who understands that the professional game is about more than just scoring points; a fighter needs to be exciting to watch if he wants to build his fan base. With knockout artist Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos in the other semi-final in February, the WBSS tournament is exciting and dynamic, and Usyk has to be the favorite to unify all the belts and lift the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Javier Fortuna (Lightweight) A southpaw from the Dominican Republic and former WBA World champion at junior lightweight, Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) has an important title shot this coming January against undefeated IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. Fortuna is an underdog in this fight, to be sure, but the matchup will be competitive and entertaining. The Dominican standout is a risk-taker, and he can get caught. But he is also brilliant to watch, especially when he makes intuitive adjustments in the ring or decides to ramp up the performance aspect of his game. This will be no easy tune-up for Easter, and Fortuna should not be overlooked as a potential upset of the year.
Danny Garcia (Welterweight). Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) has always been one of my favorite fighters. A guy with deep Philly roots, he’s had tough battles with the likes of Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Paulie Malignaggi, and Keith Thurman. Danny is an accurate counterpuncher whose risky style is based on one of the most dominant left hooks in the game. The split decision loss to Thurman last March had to be a bitter pill for the proud Garcia to swallow. How does a fighter who has accomplished so much in the sport find the motivation to rebound from a loss like that? We will find out where Garcia is mentally and physically this February 17 as he takes on Brandon Rios (34-3, 25 KOs) in a twelve-round welterweight clash.
Vasyl Lomachenko (Junior Lightweight). Obviously, the slick Ukrainian southpaw is on top of the boxing world right now, and is a factor in everyone’s pound-for-pound discussion, but the real unknown for Lomachenko in 2018 is: whom should he fight next? Who will give him a challenge? Who will draw a big audience? Miguel Berchelt (32-1 28 KOs), who holds the WBC belt, seems like the logical next opponent for “HiTech,” but a case can certainly be made for Francisco Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) or even Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs). There has also been significant social media chatter about Lomachenko moving up to 135 to fight Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), and what a fight that would be. Unfortunately, for now, Garcia has moved to junior welterweight to face Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) for the IBF title. Regardless, Lomachenko remains a fighter to watch in 2018.
Boxers Fighting Past 49 Years Old in the Modern Era of Boxing!
Boxers Fighting Past 49 Years Old in the Modern Era of Boxing!
By: Ken Hissner
We all know about people like Archie “Old Mongoose” Moore, 186-23-10, finishing up in March of 1963, fighting past 45 and who knows how old he and Sonny Liston were when they stopped fighting. The record book claims Moore was only 46 which sounds too young. Today there are some successful boxers in the past that seemed to think when George Foreman, 76-4, re-won the title at 45 they could do it too. They look at what’s around today and still think they are in the prime of their careers. Foreman was 48 retiring after his November 1997 fight.
Today we have 48 year-old Roy Jones, Jr. who just defeating Bobby Gunn in Wilmington, DE, in February. Then there is 51 year-old Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins who split in two bouts with Jones. A rubber match in the making?
Possibly the oldest in modern times was SaoulMamby, PR, at age 60 finishing up in March of 2008.
Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, of Canada thought he still had what it takes at 53 in September of 2015.
Billy “Bronco” Wright,of Las Vegas at age 51 last fought in January of 2016 and might not be retired. Larry“The Easton Assassin” Holmes,was 52 finishing up in July of 2002 with “Butterbean”. Ron Lyle, was 54 finishing up in August 1995.Sal “Rocky” Cenicola, 19-2, was 52 returning to the ring after a 25 year lay-off. Dewey Bozella, on October in 2011 had his debut and only fight after serving 26 years in Sing-Sing Prison was released after being falsely imprisoned. Earnie Shavers, was 50 finishing up in November of 1995.
Others still fighting and over 50 are Andre Sidon, 45-11, of Germany who is 54 last fighting in November of 2016. Zoltan “Csepi” Petranyi, 53-22, of Hungary is 50 and recently fought in January of 2017. Summarizing this the oldest was SaoulMamby fighting at 60. Others over 50 are Levi Forte, 58, ZoranSekularac, 57, Andreas Sidon, 54, Ron Lyle, 54, Bob Adkisson, 54,Hairton Campos, 54,GoranDinic, 54, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock 53, Kenny Lane, 53, Sal Cenicola, 52, Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 52, Brian Durham, 52, Ronald Garr, 52, Johnny Reiffenstein, 52, Jose Carlos Amaral, 52,Jean-Pierre Coopman, 52, Billy “Bronco” Wright, 51, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins 51, AlbertinoMotaPinheiro, 51, Anthony Cooks, 51,Raynard Darden, 51, Mark Weinman, 51, Alexander Nuri, 51, David Combs, 51, Adnan Oezcoban, 51,Earnie Shavers, 50, Bob Mirovic, 50,Jerry Evans, 50, Attila Huszka, 50, Terry Scott, 50,Herbert Odom, 50, Ron Wilson, 50, Chuck Shearns, 50, and Zoltan “Csepti” Petranyi is 50.
With the help of Historian Henry Hascup who is head of the NJ BHOF.