Manny Pacquiao Fires Freddie Roach
By: Sean Crose
Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach are no longer a team. The Filipino multi-division champ (59-7-2) has decided that Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez, along with Raides “Nonoy” Neri, will be his trainers leading up to his July 14th welterweight title fight with Lucas Matthysse (39-4). The news had been expected for some time. Still, Roach appeared somewhat dismayed that Pacquiao hadn’t told him in person that their longtime partnership was over. “I would be lying,” Roach said in a statement, “if I didn’t say I wasn’t hurt that he didn’t contact me personally about his decision, but the great times we enjoyed together far outweigh that.”
Roach has been in Pacquiao’s corner since the fighter made his United States debut back in 2001. During that time, they stayed together through over thirty fights, and the acquisition of numerous title belts. It was Roach who led Pacquiao into battle against Floyd Mayweather in the 2015 superfight that still holds the Pay Per View Record. Since that time, Pacqiuao’s career has been viewed as being on the downslide and word had gotten out recently that Pacquiao wanted to hand over the training duties to someone else. Pacquiao’s last fight with Roach was in early July of last year, when Pacquiao lost a highly controversial decision to Australia’s Jeff Horn.
Fernandez has been close to Pacquiao since the fighter’s debut and is a constant presence in Pacquiao’s entourage. Neri is also in Pacquiao’s inner circle and has been known to be Pacquiao’s cook while the fighter is in training. Among other things, Pacquiao was reportedly displeased that Roach was not firm enough with the referee during the Horn fight, which took place in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane, Australia. Pacquiao was cut numerous times during the bout and felt the cuts were due to Horn headbutting him illegally.
Roach has been credited with turning Pacquiao from a menacing but limited fighter into one of the greatest boxers of his generation. For his own part, the Las Angeles based trainer has not resorted to smearing his most famous and accomplished pupil. “Manny and I had a great run for fifteen years,” he stated, “longer than most marriages and certainly a rarity for boxing. I wouldn’t trade any of it.” Although displeased with the manner of his firing, Roach continued to wish Pacquiao well. “Inside the boxing ring and the political ring, I wish Manny nothing but the best,” he said.
Fire and Fury Results: Williams, Harding, and Egbunike Win in England
By: Oliver McManus
The iconic York Hall, Bethnal Green, played host to the latest promotion courtesy of British Warriors – dubbed Fire and Fury there was no shortage of action as 18 fights took place over the course of 7 hours.
When the action started at 4pm the first men into the ring were Connor ‘The Lion’ Vian and Ricky Rose who duelled it out over 4 rounds of welterweight action – at 6 and 0 Vian was the heavy favorite over a 3-2 Rose but the underdog was game and arrived ready to fight.
Vian, a former Army champion, looked to control the ring early on and established his superior aggression with relentless rope work and inside punches forming his attacking game-plan.
With an ever-bobbing head from his opponent it was hard for Rose to be the thorn in Vian’s side but he gave as good as he got, showing heart and courage aplenty to rattle the Lion on occasion.
Despite these momentary threats it was the army-man who came through this war with the victory on his resume – a final flurry of body shots securing a 39-37 points victory to set the tone for what be a night of non-stop barnstormers.
Returning to the ring for the first time in four years was Tommy Williams – known as The Wisp – who set to work immediately with a sharp left jab, taking to the centre of the ring and keeping his opponent at distance.
Despite this being his first fight in such a significant period of time, Williams showed no signs of ring rust although the occasional shot saw his head in jolt in recognition of a live opponent. Sustained pressure and a high work rate ensured he had nothing to worry about.
In the final stages, a stunning salvo of shots to the head failed to land the knockout but a convincing 40-36 points win saw successful return for The Wisp.
The next fight of note saw John Harding Jr fight Victor Edagha over four rounds – although initially slated as a six rounder – with Harding heralding a strong fan base and trained by Leon McKenzie.
Beset by an awkward opponent who held from the beginning, Harding showed great mental fortitude to stick to his game plan – a game plan that saw Edagha wobbled seriously in the 1st.
A composed performance was enough to gain the win but the lasting impression was one of good movement – a strong core supported by fleeting footwork and evasive body swivels enabled him to stand clear of any potential fire coming from his opposite man.
Instead Harding was able to pile on the pressure to Edagha, frustrating the Anglo-Italian in the process to the point of a head butt that almost saw Harding tumble out of the ring.
Talking to me after the fight he said “because he was so awkward, I was just trying to jab-jab stick to my gameplan… but you learn from these tricky experiences, the main thing I can focus on is job done and what I learnt.”
Jeff Ofori took to the ring, fighting for the first time at super-feather, and started strongly against Aleksandrs Birkenbergs – a durable Latvian – with the first two rounds all going his way comfortably.
The third round saw Ofori’s onslaught ramped up to maximum gear, unloading a never-ending series of shots to bounce Birnkenbergs, quite literally, all over the ring. Ducking and weaving would do the Latvian no good as Jeffy’s shot selection seemed superior.
“On paper it was a good fight but round one it took me a while to find my range, round two I caught him, he took two solid shots and he wobbled but he was still game.”
“The thing is he wasn’t throwing back and I could see the ref creeping up on my shoulder so I was trying to give him a good whack but at the same time I understand the referee didn’t want any injuries”.
In the fight of the night was Daniel Egbunike, “Danny Darko”, a 2-0 welterweight looking to make it three wins and three knockouts on the trot. Having sold 150 tickets there was vocal support from all corners of York Hall – an incredible atmosphere, salacious noise.
Darko looked to establish his control over Ivan Godor (an 81 fight veteran) in the 1st round with incredible hand speed and power keeping his opponent in check, with the roar of the crowd behind him, Darko refused to back down and slammed shots repeatedly for the opening three rounds.
The young fighter remained relaxed throughout despite his incredible hand speed seeming to come with ease, a real snap of the wrist whilst throwing showed vicious intent and the he displayed all the characteristics of a top quality technical fighter.
Continuing in the same vein, Godor absorbed the punishment like a sponge whilst Egbunike put on record his “box office” credentials, flashy footwork perfectly complimenting his sumptuous shot selection.
Bouncing his head like a watermelon between the hands of a gorilla, Darko appeared to be toying with Godor and was an easy points winner over the course of six rounds but it could easily have been stopped on two or three occasions.
Speaking to Godor afterwards “the Slovakian Dragon” told me he’d welcome the fight again, “next time we do it in London or in Glasgow”. For Darko, however, it’s onwards and upwards.
Also on the card was a young Polish-born, Camden-resident in Peter Mirga who, hands down, is one of the nicest people you will ever meet – he eased his way to a points victory over Harvey Hemsley and in his post-fight interview Mirga said remained humble;
“Fight was all good, boxed nicely, took my time, my second fight now, get as many rounds as I can and hopefully it will pay off in the future. I can box until I’m at least 30, I’m realistic with my goals at the moment, stick to Southern Area titles.
When my managers think I’m ready, for now just learning fights, I want to keep really busy – maybe 5, 6 times this year, just keep busy and keep learning – I love having people, voices that I know, just feels like someone has my back”.
Other fights on the bill saw Andre Grant move to 3-0 with a points victory, Darren Gibson was involved in a thrilling fight against an ever-game Elvis Dube but secured a points win to go 2 and 0; Chavez Campbell enhanced his record with a points victory as did Tommy Williams and Lewis Adams.
The proclaimed headlining fight, Kallia Kourouni vs Monika Antonik proved to be a damp squib with the most notable action coming when Kallia turned up to the ring with the wrong size guard on, prompting a 15 minute delay to the fight.
A chess match encounter failed to see styles mesh and Kallia managed to get the tactical better of her opponent – perhaps the most telling comment as to the nature of the fight is that her second (corner-man) sat next to me and said “this is one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen”.
That aside this was an INCREDIBLE night of boxing courtesy of Mo Prior and British Warriors, with the whole of British boxing set on notice for these youngsters poised to set the domestic scene on fire.
Famed Kronk Gym Destroyed By Fire
By: Sean Crose
The abandoned building which once housed the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit has been destroyed by a weekend fire. Detroit police suspect that the incident may have been the result of arson. The building, which was known as the Kronk Recreation Center, once contained one of the most iconic gyms in boxing within its basement. From that gym’s confides, stars such as Thomas Hearns emerged. “What this building brought for me was a chance at life,” Hearns told the Detroit Free Press from the site of the blaze. “I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here.” A call came into authorities Saturday night reporting the fire. Detroit’s fire department was subsequently unable to save the structure.
The Kronk Gym was the creation of Emanuel Steward, one of the fight game’s great trainers. Known as the Godfather of Detroit’s boxing scene, Steward not only helped give the world Hearns, but also trained such notables as Wladimir Klitschko, Andy Lee, Mike McCallum and Lennox Lewis. An electrician by trade, Steward started training amateur fighters in the recreation center’s basement in his spare time. By the time Hearns turned pro in the late 70s, however, it was clear Steward had found his true calling as a top tier trainer.
Steward went on to train literally dozens of champions in his basement gym. Kronk fighters could usually be noted for the fact that they wore the gym’s famous gold trunks. Steward passed at the age of 68 in 2012, yet by then the gym had closed been closed since 2006 (a new Kronk boxing facility was created in a former church). Still, Steward’s daughter, Sylvia Steward-Williams, told The Detroit News that her “father’s heart lived in that gym.” Ms. Steward-Williams added that “he’d still pay for the (property) even after we moved out because his heart was so much with those kids who wanted that space to train.”
According to the Detroit Fire Department, flames were already emerging from the second floor when help arrived. “We surrounded the building,” Deputy Chief Dave Fornell told The Detroit News, “and then the roof collapsed.” One firefighter was reportedly injured in the blaze and taken to be treated for an ankle injury. Thankfully, no one was reported severely hurt or killed. Firemen tried to fight the blaze for around four hours. “We are listing the fire as suspicious,” Fornell stated, “and it is an ongoing investigation.”
“It’s just sad,” stated Hearns, “to see that people didn’t value this place like we did.”