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Boxing Insider Interview with Nonito Donaire: A Champ Once Again

By: Michael Kane

Four weight world champion, Nonito Donaire, added yet another world title on Saturday.

Donaire (39-5, 25 KOs) faced WBA Bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs) in the quarter final of World Boxing Super Series in Glasgow, Scotland.

Photo Credit: Nonito Donaire’s Twitter Account

The fight had been shaping up nicely, Donaire starting to throw and land some big shots and Burnett looking slick. Burnett then suffered an injury in the 4th round, with talk of a slipped disc, meaning he couldn’t continue into the 5th.

A bit of an anti climax after the action in the first few rounds. However a wins a win and Donaire shoved any talk of struggling to make bantamweight for the first time in 7 years down any naysayers throat. He, in fact, looked fresh at the weigh in, relaxed, joking and dancing for the crowd.

Donaire will now face South African Zolani Tete (28-3, 21 KOs), the WBO Bantamweight champion, in the semi final in what could be a great fight.

Boxing Insider caught up with the champion to discuss his win, Tete, and Scotland.

Donaire was happy to not only win the WBA title but also the WBC Diamond title. I asked if he wished that the WBSS tournament had been created earlier.

“Yes I am happy that I got both the WBA and WBC diamond belt but most of all I advanced in the tournament,” he said.

“This is a very fun tournament and it’s very exciting to participate in. Yes I wish it was created earlier because boxing needs this, so there is only one champion.”

Has Donaire watched much of Zolani Tete, previously?

“I haven’t seen much of Tete yet but I’m excited to face him and know I’ll be the best shape possible to take his title.”

As yet, the date and venue for the semi final has yet to be decided, although there has been talk of Manilla or Las Vegas, Donaire’s homeland and where he resides now. However Donaire doesn’t care where or when it happens.

“Anywhere! Just inside that ring.” He said.

Looking back over his career, I asked Donaire what would be his biggest win, he stated, “My biggest win is (Vic) Darchinyan because it started everything!”

The Scottish public have certainly enjoyed having Nonito Donaire and his family spend time in Glasgow and with Donaire showing his respect in helping Burnett after the fight, to being approachable and friendly to the general public he would be welcome back to my home town any time.

It seems Donaire enjoyed his time in Glasgow too.

“Glasgow was real great. We met a lot of friends who took care of us as well. I must say that the staff at Jurys Inn, particularly Laura, Chip, and Rumy really became part of our family since we were there for about 2 weeks. No one was a bad sport and people were friendly. It’s just cold, haha!”

“It also has so much history and culture which we made sure the boys witnessed.”

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Michael McGurk Interview: Back in Action and Looking to Add More Titles

By: Michael Kane

Former WBC Silver Youth champion, Michael McGurk made his return to action on Saturday at the World Boxing Super Series show in Glasgow.

McGurk (11-0) had been out injured for a year and made a winning return against Miguel Aguilar. McGurk is not wasting time before getting back in the ring with a scheduled bout on 30th November at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.

Photo Credit: MTK Global Facebook Page

Boxing Insider spoke with McGurk after he successfully completed 6 rounds on Saturday.

McGurk was happy to be back, saying, “It felt great to be back, it was a long wait in the dressing room so I just tried to stay relaxed and not think too much about it until it was my time to get shifted.”

McGurk felt a little rusty so the six rounds should prove beneficial.

“Yeah he was a very durable opponent, tough tough man I was landing some heavy shots and had him hurt a few times,” McGurk said. “I was a little rusty in there cause I’ve only had one spar in preparation for that fight so it was good to get the full 6 in.”

World Boxing Super Series was a big show to make a come back on, however McGurk felt it was a great experience to be part of.

“It’s been great being part of such a huge show, as soon as it got offered to me I jumped at it, I really enjoyed the experience and it’ll stand me in good stead for my future.” He explained.

Due to being scheduled as a live float, McGurk couldn’t get out to enjoy the event. His fight coming after the main event. Like most people in the arena he was impressed by Josh Taylor.

“Unfortunately I never got to really experience the event much, as I was in the changing room for it all,” McGurk said. “I watched the fights from my changing room though and enjoyed the show as a whole, Taylor put on a great display and was a pleasure to watch.”

Having won the WBC Silver Youth title last year, McGurk is keen to add more.

“I’ve always believed in myself and believe I will win major titles as a pro, I’m very ambitious and know I’ll progress through the ranks and bring those titles back home! Winning the WBC youth title is just a taster for me. I want more and it’s only a matter of time before that happens.”

MTK Global have signed up a lot of UK talent and have been putting on shows around the UK. How has McGurk enjoyed working with MTK?

“MTK have been great to work with, they got me on that huge show and now I’m looking forward to fighting on the show on the 30th at the Emirates, I’m unsure who I am fighting yet but I can tell you we are pushing on for some huge fights in the new year and I cannot wait for them.”

McGurk is looking forward to the year ahead and putting his injury problems behind him.

McGurk said, “Next year I’d like to challenge for more titles. I’ll fight anyone anywhere with a proper camp and I’m buzzing to be involved in huge fights in the very near future.”

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Boxing Insider Interview with Yuriokis Gamboa: Ready for Another Championship

By: Henry Deleon

Yuriokis Gamboa (28-2 17kos) a four-time world champion in three weight divisions and an Olympic gold medalist from Guantanamo, Cuba will be taking on Miguel Beltran Jr.(33-6 22Kos) Saturday Nov 10th.

I had the opportunity to interview the Olympic gold medalist over the phone. Here’s what he had to share:

Photo Credit: David Martin Warr

Boxing Insider – How do you feel about the fight this Saturday?

Gamboa – I feel ready, I Feel good. Thank you

Boxing Insider – looking past this fight, say you get through this fight with Beltran, what else would you like to accomplish?

Gamboa – Well to continue going forward with my career and to retain another championship belt like we have in the past.

Boxing Insider -In your division there is a lot of big names, a lot of talent in the surrounding weight classes like Gervonta Davis there’s also Lomachenko. How do you feel you would match up to names like these?

Gamboa – I’m basically in a weight class where that question makes no sense. There is nothing different, nothing new. Nothing that I haven’t already accomplished for someone in your case to be asking me that question.

Boxing Insider – In boxing, it is believed one ages rather quick. You’re almost 37 years old. How much more do you think you have left to give to the sport?

Gamboa – I can’t say exactly. Only god knows what he has planned for me.

Boxing Insider – You have had a magnificent career both amateur and professional. There was lot of potential for you to accomplish a lot more in the pros. What do you think prevented you from achieving that?

Gamboa – Well definitely the inactivity. We haven’t had much opportunity to fight therefor not much opportunity to win. That is the main reason.

Boxing Insider – Is there any last words you’d like to say to your fans?

Gamboa – Just want to say thank you to all the fans and to continue following my career. Come Saturday night we are going to demonstrate that we are still able to continue giving you guys exciting performances.

Gamboa vs. Beltran will be live on Pay Per view beginning at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT. Juan Manuel Lopez (35-6 32kos) will also be on the card taking on Cristian Mino (19-2 17kos). Tune in for another exciting night of boxing!

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Boxing Insider Interview with Kieran Smith: Looking to Collect Titles

By: Michael Kane

The World Boxing Super Series took place in Glasgow on Saturday 3rd November. On a card that had several current and former champions appear there were also a few bouts that included some local boxers.

One of these boxers was Kieran Smith who stopped his opponent within a minute.

Photo Credit: MTK Global Facebook Page

Smith is now preparing for his biggest fight yet at the end of November at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow when he faces Peter McDonagh for the vacant WBC International Silver belt.

Boxing Insider spoke to Smith after his quick fire finish on Saturday against Pavol Garaj.

Smith was happy to be a part of a big show like WBSS and explains why it was a long night for him. Saturday was a warm up fight before he faces McDonagh.

“Yeah, it was amazing to be part of such a big event in Scotland even though it ended up a long night for me because I was live float and did not get on until after main event, and as you say yes was a warm up fight but got change of opponent on Tuesday and I treat everyone the same, I never overlook anyone… one punch can change your career in this game.

“I didnt know anything about my opponent apart from he had a kickboxing backround and I made sure I kept it that way of knowing nothing about him.”

Did Smith expect a stiffer test?

“I dont know about expecting more from him as I think that if I hit anyone with the shot that I hit him with then I think they would be in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately for him I timed his right hand and caught him while his rib cage was wide open.”

Having appeared on a massive show, there was only one highlight for Smith out with his own performance.

Smith said, “Highlight for me was the same as any boxing fan in the hydro last night… Josh Taylor’s performance. Taylor is the complete package.”

Looking ahead to his fight with McDonagh, Smith only sees one winner.

“I see the fight with me and Peter playing out with me outboxing him point blank.”

Smith has signed with MTK Global and he now sees the benefit of joining up with the management company, with his first-time shot. Smith explains why he is happy with his decision to join MTK.

“Yes definitely (happy). I’ve been waiting on a title shot and had a bit of an unfortunate period there for almost a year until I signed with MTK. Then as soon as they kicked things off in Scotland I knew big things were coming and thats exactly what they are proving. MTK and Danny Vaughan, my manager within MTK have been great with me and they are guiding me on the right path.”

Who inspired Smith to take up boxing as a youngster?

“I first got involved in boxing on holiday, I watched Hatton vs Tszyu and when I saw Hatton win that night it sent shivers down my spine. I have no similarities to Hatton with my boxing style but I think the thing that I loved about that fight, which I believe can take me a long way, was his grit and ability to dig deeper and deeper every round.”

Smith aims to keep winning and to compete for more titles.

“Target for the year ahead is simply to keep winning, keep building myself into a more complete fighter and keep pushing towards bigger title fights.”

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Boxing Insider Interview with Kathy Duva: “So Much Opportunity for Elite Fighters”

By: Henry Deleon

During the Sullivan Barrera vs. Seanie Monaghan media workout at the Mendez Boxing club in NYC, Boxing Insider had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of Main Events Promotion, Kathy Duva.

Boxing Insider – Boxing insider here with Kathy Duva. Kathy, what is your opinion on HBO no longer televising boxing?

Kathy Duva – Oh I feel like it’s a death! It’s been 45 years! longer than I’ve been in the sport and they’re aren’t too many things that have been in the sport longer than me. I’m really going to miss it.

Boxing Insider – Do you feel that with HBO getting out of the picture, is it going to have a huge impact on boxing how is being televised?

Kathy Duva – I think it’s happening already. When boxing went to HBO, all the big fights started going there. The other networks lost interest because they couldn’t compete. But now you can see them on ESPN they’re already out there. FOX is already out there and there may be others coming up soon too, you never know.

Boxing Insider – Rumor is that the Kovalev vs. Alvarez rematch is set to be on ESPN, is this true?

Kathy Duva – That is true. It’s going to be on ESPN February 2nd, 2019

Boxing Insider – How did you feel with the results of Kovalev’s last fight against Eleider Alvarez?

Kathy Duva – Obviously I was not too happy. I think we saw this happening in the Ward fights. He got so tired, first of all Ward’s people did an amazing job of getting into his head, It was like watching a master class and I think I learned from it. Sergey was convinced that you had to try harder and work harder, because you know you’re a guy who like to party and have fun, and the worst thing for a guy who’s in his mid 30’s to do is to try and work harder because when you get older you have to work smarter not harder. Unfortunately, Sergey being Sergey just did not believe that. As he got tired, he would just continue to work harder and all he did was set himself up so that he runs out of gas. So now you have a guy who is 35 and is trying to fight and train like he’s 25. He needs to learn to train and fight like he is 35 and he’s doing that now with Buddy McGirt. He has made some changes to his training regime and hopefully it will all work out.

Boxing Insider – So what you’re saying is we are going to see a different Kovalev come this rematch?

Kathy Duva – yeah, you know Buddy is the guy who brought back Arturo Gatti and responsible for the incredible resurgence at the back of his career. Buddy knows what to do with an old fighter, and Sergey at his age has to start fighting like an old fighter which is not something negative. Some of the greatest fights you’ve ever seen involved guys who have that experience and are now challenged in the sense that they don’t have the stamina they once did when they were younger. All that plays into a guy who is a really dominant fighter suddenly getting into fights that are very competitive. So, I believe we are going to see that and in the end the fans are going to be very entertained.

Boxing Insider – So coming into this rematch, do you feel Sergey will have a different outcome?

Kathy Duva – you know Sergey won 5 out of the 7 rounds. He is by far the better fighter. The problem was that he ran out of gas after the 6th round. I remember leaning over to Sergey’s manager before the 5th round and said “I don’t know how he’s going to keep up this pace, what is he doing?”. Sergey’s going to have to learn to beat Alvarez at a slower pace and he is going to have to learn to train in a way in where he doesn’t leave it all in the gym. If he does those things he’s going to win, and if he doesn’t do those things he’s going to lose. That’s what’s going to make this fight very interesting.

Boxing Insider – What is your opinion on what Eddie Hearn and DAZN are doing for boxing?

Kathy Duva – You have people who want to invest in boxing. It’s a great time to be an elite fighter, so much opportunity for elite fighters. How can one be opposed to that, it’s terrific!

Boxing Insider – What’s your take on Saturdays main event between Sullivan Barrera and Seanie Monaghan?

Kathy Duva – This is a terrific fight! This is the greater fight that isn’t happening in places like DAZN, ESPN, or FOX. You’re looking at high level elite fighter, fighters who are world title fighters. If you look at the history of our sport, and I did the other day. I looked at all the “fight of the year” fights and what I found, dating back to 1922, is how rarely the “fight of the year” is one of the “BIG” fights. Its usually a fight like this. Look at when Gatti and Ward fought, you had two guys who people considered to be on the downside of their career and look at what they did! This is one of those fights, now I will never say a fight will be as good as Gatti and Ward, but what I am saying is that you have the same dynamic in fight with Barrera vs. Monaghan. I think if our sport is missing anything right now, its fights like these.

Boxing Insider – Is there any other up and coming fighters under your promotion that you want fans to keep an eye out for?

Kathy Duva – We actually have quite a few. Some of them you will see on Saturday, others you will see in the upcoming months. Leshawn Rodriguez (9-0 7KO) unfortunately had to pull out due to an injury but he’s a terrific fighter. Cassius Chaney (13-0 6KO) is a terrific heavy weight fighter. We just signed Denis Douglin (21-6 13KO) he’s one of those guys who has a lot going for him. He took some bad advice on a fight once and suddenly his career was going to waste, but no we are going to make a career for him. We have Madiyar Ashkeyev (10-0 6 KO), Meriim Nursultanov (8-0 5KO), Enriko Gogokhia (8-0 3KO) and Frank Galarza (20-2-2 12KO). We have a lot of really talented young fighters who are going to be the next generation of people you hear about. We to say this last big group of the Pacquiao’s, the Mayweather’s, the Klitschko’s they all lasted beyond the prime of fighters of generations past because we know more about nutrition, and training. They’ve extended their athletic careers so, it’s been a while since a new crowd has come along and took over. I believe this is going to be the beginning of that and I hope that the people I just mentioned and a few others are going to be in the vanguard of that and I look forward to being part of it.

Boxing Insider – Thank you so much Kathy. Wishing you all the best.

Kathy Duva has over 38 years of experience in the business of professional boxing and is the CEO of Main Events promotions. Kathy has helped promote many legendary careers such as Evander Holyfield, Fernando Vargas, Vinnie Pazienza, Lennox Lewis and many more.
Tune in Saturday Nov 3rd for Sullivan vs. Monaghan live globally on Facebook Watch via the Golden Boy Fight Night Page beginning at 6:00 p.m. PT/ 9:00 p.m. ET.

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Troy Williamson Looks to Extend Amateur Success into the Pros

By Oliver McManus

Troy Williamson returns to the ring on November 24th as he looks to extend his professional record to nine fights without defeat and bounce back to winning ways in style following a controversial draw with Jack Flately in June of this year.

A standout amateur, former English national champion, Williamson competed four times in the World Series of Boxing and, at 27 years of age, the Trojan is on a steady course to make his mark in the paid version of the sport; 7-0-1 since ticking over in October 2016, the Darlington man has grown into his power and has racked up five wins inside the distance, dropping Flatley in their fight and proving his pedigree with every passing contest.

I caught up with him earlier this week and here’s what he had to say to me –

Troy, great to speak to you, let’s start off at the beginning with how you got into the sport of boxing?
I went when I was about 10 years old but I was a little too young to compete so I got playing football from 11 to 16 because, if I’m honest, I just wanted to be able to compete in something but I went back to the gym when I was 16, to the local boxing club and I decided to stick at it.

And you had a very good amateur career, English national champion, how much did that help the transition into the pro game?
Yeah it helped a lot because, obviously, I was travelling all other the country and abroad all the time to fight some of the best in the world and I was doing it frequently, the fights had less time between them, and I was only there for about two years but I boxed the world number one twice and the rounds I got under my belt helped my development.

Of course you were involved with the World Series of Boxing, what was that like in to compete in?
It bridged the gap between amateur and professional, it’s far more like professional boxing and it gives you a taste of what that’s like so it’s a really good experience.

As a professional you’ve got seven wins and one draw, are you pleased with your development?
Yeah it’s been good, I’d like to be a little bit busier in the ring and get out more regularly but I’m happy with how I’ve performed in each of the fights and myself and my trainer can see elements where I’ve been improving so it’s going well.

What has been your most pleasing performance?
The one in my home town, Darlington, if I’m honest, in May this year. I stopped Michael Mora in the second round in front of my home support and I dropped him twice so that was a good scrap and it felt good to do it in front of the fans, too.

You’re out next on November 24th, what fight are you hoping for from the opponent (Darryl Sharp)?
Like you say, I’m boxing Darryl Sharp and he’s a tough contender. Think he’s got 40 losses but only been stopped once, a Central Area champion, so I’m expecting him to take me six rounds, I’m preparing for six and I’m preparing for a tough fight.

Let’s talk about that last fight with Jack Flately, many people had you winning, talk us through it from your perspective?
Well I thought I won and I thought I won comfortably. I did more than enough, if I’m honest. I dropped him in the first so there was a 10-8 round in my favour and the referee scored it 76-76. I can’t dwell on it but at the time it felt like a loss. Hopefully we can get a rematch and I’ll put the record straight.

Are you desperate to put it to bed or are you happy moving on?
If it happens it happens mate, I’m not going to shout for a second one but I’m happy for the rematch to happen. It was called a draw, I know, and in hindsight it’s given me the hunger for success and it’s done me a world of good. Obviously I’d have preferred the win, don’t get me wrong, but it’s made me hungrier and, like I say, it felt like a loss and I never want to feel like that again.

Obviously you’ve been out sparring Denis Radovan, what’s that been like as an experience?
Good experience and I’ve sparred him before, apparently, when I was with Great Britain but I had no clue about that until he told me when I got there. He told me we’d shared the ring before but it was a good couple weeks, strong kid, fast-paced spars and I’ll travel anywhere to spar because there’s not much around in the North East but I don’t mind that, really, it opens up doors for me.
The harder you train the easier it is to put things into place in the ring, no fight is easy but it gets easier to work your way around the fight and you’ve got to be switched on but those experiences help.

When can we see you fighting for title then, Troy?
Hopefully early next year, my last fight kind of put me a step backwards and I had one foot back but I’m still hoping that I can get a title early next year.

Do you prefer rounds or knockouts at this stage in your career?
I never go into a fight looking for a knockout but if the knockout is there than that’s great for the viewers watching but I’ll always have a game-plan that accounts for going the distance because I’ll never want to rush the shots and risk walking onto one myself.
As long as I’m winning, I’m happy!

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Unbeaten Former Olympian Lightweight Mikaela Mayer is a Boxer to Be Reckoned with in the Future

By: Ken Hissner

When I watched unbeaten 2016 Lightweight Olympian Mikaela Mayer in her most recent bout against Edna Kiss, 14-7(8), I knew she was a prospect to keep an eye on when she scored a stoppage at the end of the third round. I noticed Philadelphia’s Al Mitchel in her corner. I later found out that Kay Karoma was the co-trainer along with Mitchel and George Ruiz of Santa Monica, CA, her manager with all three since 2017. Ruiz is the CEO at Intelligent Arts & Artists.

This writer has written articles on women boxers and without a doubt super lightweight Lucia “The Dutch Destroyer” Rijker, 17-0 (14), of Amsterdam, Netherlands was the best I have ever seen. Super Middleweight Ann “Brown Sugar” Wolfe, 24-1 (16), of Waco, Texas, was another top female boxer.

Photo Credit: Mikaela Mayer Twitter Account

In viewing Mayer, now 7-0 (4), she had what seemed like such a long reach and a jab to stop you in your tracks. Earlier in her career she defeated tough and durable Nydia “Dha Phenomenal” Feliciano, then 9-8, out of the Bronx, NY, by a majority decision over 4 rounds at Madison Square Garden, in New York, in Mayer’s third fight. Two judges had it 40-36 and the other 38-38. “Mikaela is a rare combination of talent, determination and marketability. She’s going to be a household name soon,” said Ruiz.

Mayer started boxing at the age of 17 in kick boxing. Northern Michigan University coach Al Mitchel has worked with her for the past 10 years. Born in Woodland Hills, CA, Mayer lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where her co-trainer Kay Karoma. He works with boxers at the Olympic gym in Colorado Springs. The first six of Mayer’s fights have been at 131 ¼ or 131 ½. In her last bout she came in at 129½ against Kiss. She may stay at Super Featherweight having just turned 28 in July and is 5:09.

“I think it’s going to be a great fight and she is getting better and better with each fight. She has the height and can go up from super featherweight. We have a good team with coach Kay and the cut man is coach Manny Robles along with George Ruiz the manager,” said Mitchel.

Mayer will be on the undercard this Saturday on the WBO World Welterweight title defense of champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, 33-0 (24) against Jose Benavidez, Jr., 27-0 (18), at the CHI Health Center, Omaha, Nebraska, over ESPN.

In 2016 she represented the USA Olympic team at lightweight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She defeated Jennifer Chieng representing the (FSM) Federated States of Micronesia by a score of 3-0. In the second round she lost to eventual Bronze Medalist Anastasia Beliakova, of Russia by a score of 2-0.

KEN HISSNER: Mikaela, did you start boxing or kick boxing when you started at age 17?

MIKAELA MAYER: I first walked into a Muay Thai kickboxing gym when I was 17.

KEN HISSNER: Who was your boxing trainer at the beginning?

MIKAELA MAYER: I competed in Muay Thai the first year and competed in ten smoker shows. After a year my trainer suggested I took some boxing fights to develop my hands. I never went back. My first trainer was Ricardo O’Kane who ran Mejero Gym in Canoga Park, CA. He was a Muay Thai cash so when I became serious about boxing I started looking in the other direction to better my skills. That’s when I ended up taking the boxing scholarship to NMU and meeting Al Mitchel.

KEN HISSNER: What was your record as an amateur?

MIKAELA MAYER: I couldn’t tell you my amateur record but I had about 135 fights.

KEN HISSNER: In order to make the Olympic team who did you fight in the Olympic Trials?

MIKAELA MAYER: Making the Olympic team at 132 in the US was a definite challenge because it has always been a very competitive weight. In the 2016 Olympic Trials I had 5 fights and had to fight against girls such as Amateur World Champion Tiara Brown and Youth World Champion and Youth Olympic Gold Medalist, Jajaira Gonzalez. It was a hell of a tournament and one of my greatest accomplishments. However winning the US Trials wasn’t the last step qualification for the games. I had to qualify internationally as well because only 12 countries per weight can qualify for boxing. I had 2 chances…I either had to win Gold at the 2016 Continental Games or place Top 4 in the World Championships. The Continental Games came first and I and I ended up beating Canada, Puerto Rico and then Mexico in the finals to secure my spot at the Rio Games. It’s funny because I didn’t grow up around boxing and I’m the first one in my family to pursue and show interest in it. Also when I started….this career was non-existent. Women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics yet and promoters didn’t sign women. There wasn’t really a boxer to emulate or a path to follow….what I wanted to do was different and hadn’t been done. But I have always been a fan of Lucia Rijker (who is an amazing human being as well as a fighter) and “Sugar” Ray Leonard.

KEN HISSNER: How did you get involved with Coach Al and Coach Kay?

MIKAELA MAYER: At 19 I had come off a few losses and unhappy with my training. My first trainer was a great guy but just didn’t have all the boxing experience to take me any further, and he knew it too. My dad had seen an ad on the USA Boxing website about a boxing scholarship to NMU where I could go to college and train with a 2x Olympic coach (Al Mitchell). I was still down from my losses so I just told my dad to go ahead and look into it. Two weeks later I was on a plane from L.A. to the frozen tundra of Marquette, Michigan. I had no idea what I was getting into. I showed up in a pink velour juicy suit and Ugg boots, haha. I froze my ass off for 4 years.

The funding for school was cut after just one year but I knew coach Al was going take me where I wanted to go. We just fell short of making the 2012 Olympic team but I continued to fly up and train with him in camps and eventually moved up there and got a place to train full time for 2016 trials. Coach Kay was the assistant coach for the 2016 games and resident coach at the Olympic training center when I turned pro, it all started to unfold so fast and within one month I was having to move out of the training center and get ready to have my first fight in 4 weeks. Kay knew me as a fighter so I asked him if he would help get me ready until coach Al would fly in. Coach Kay and Coach Al work great together. Coach Kay gets me ready for the first 3-4 weeks and then Coach Al flies in for the last 2 weeks to strategize and break down the game plan for our opponent.

I don’t know much about my opponent other than her fighting style. Coach Al is very big on studying tape. He watches my opponent about 150 times (no joke) and we’ll watch her together about 4-5 times. Despite their experience….we always look at what they do best and strategize for that specific strength. That’s how I learn and continue to grow….we don’t look past anyone.

KEN HISSNER: I see the promoter is Top Rank. Are you signed with them?

MIKAELA MAYER: Yes, in August of 2017 I signed a multi-year contract with Top Rank Promotions as their only female fighter. This was such an honor and so huge for women’s boxing. I had a job to represent more than myself in this new journey but it was the challenge I was looking for after the Olympics.

KEN HISSNER: What’s the reason why you still do you’re camps?

MIKAELA MAYER: One of the reasons I continue to do my camps here in Colorado Springs because there is never a lack of sparring partners. USA Boxing still graciously allows me to join their camps and use their facility which has been such a huge help. You also have Triple Threat out here where (Terence) Crawford does his camps as well as a few others so there is always a fighting environment. I truly feel it’s the best place to train. Great facility, trainers, a great team environment, and not to mention the altitude which is a huge advantage that most of my opponents aren’t getting.

KEN HISSNER: I want to wish you nothing but the best in the future in boxing and in life thanking you for taking the time to answer these questions. I also want to thank your manager George Ruiz for helping us get together.

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Joshua Franco Aims to Continue Along the Comeback Trail

By: Sean Crose

“I trained very hard for it,” Joshua Franco tells me. It’s a rainy Tuesday evening. In just over 48 hours, Franco will be stepping into the ring to face fellow bantamweight Oscar Negrede in a bout which will be the main attraction on an ESPN card. “I know,” he adds, “how it’s going to be.” That’s something all professional fighters want to be able to say – that they know how it’s going to be, even if there’s no way to prove it until they step inside the ring. It’s the kind of confidence that an carry an athlete through a career.

Photo Credit: Joshua Franco Twitter Account

Like Franco, Negrede has a single loss on his resume. Also like Franco, Negrede is looking to redeem himself in front of a live televised audience after a single successful comeback bout. In short, this is a big fight for both men. “I’m feeling good,” Franco, the 14-1 bantamweight says, adding that his camp has contained a “lot of sparing.” A pupil of famed cornerman Robert Garcia, Franco knows he’s in serious hands. “When I was first at Oxnard with Robert,” says Franco, “he says ‘you look like you could be a professor.’” Hence the nickname Franco has carried with him throughout his career to date – The Professor.

“He has a lot of knowledge,” Franco says of his trainer. Garcia’s gym in Oxnard, California is also a place where Franco feels comfortable training. “Everybody gets along,” he says. As for Negrede, the 18-1 fighter known as The Jaguar, Franco realizes he’s in with someone much like himself. Still, the native of San Antonio exudes self belief on this rainy Tuesday, while making it clear he’s no one trick pony. “I can box,” he says, “and I can move forward.” Should he emerge victorious on Thursday, the bantamweight division may be Franco’s oyster.

“I’m not looking past Oscar Negrede,” Franco says, adding he knows that “Robert has big plans,” should he walk out the ring the winner Thursday night. For his own part, though, Franco wants to stay on point. “That’s something we’ll talk about after the fight,” he says of the future. Enthralled with boxing from a young age, Franco shows a willingness to take the steps needed to get to the top. And Golden Boy Promotions is happy to guide him along the way. “They have confidence in me,” he says of his promotional team. “They’re moving me very well.”

Franco-Negrete will air at 10 PM eastern time Thursday night on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. It will be broadcast live from the Hangar at California’s OC Fair and Event Center.

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Kash Farooq: One to Watch

By: Michael Kane

Last Thursday in Glasgow fight fans would see the vacant British Bantamweight title up for grabs.

For the first time in 25 years a British title would be competed by two Scottish boxers at the prestigious St Andrews Sporting Club in Glasgow. Not since the meeting of Drew Docherty and Donnie Hood in 1993 has two Scots competed against each other for the accolade.

This time it was Jamie Wilson from Dundee facing Kash Farooq from Glasgow.

The fight was over after 71 seconds when Smith was blown away by Farooq. Smith was down after 15 seconds and would then be down another two times before the fight was stopped.

On paper this was to be a stiff test for Farooq, Wilson had already challenged for the British title last year however he never had a chance to get going.

There is an air of excitement around Farooq in Scottish boxing circles and this display would only add to that excitement.

By winning the Lonsdale belt, Farooq created a bit of history by becoming the first boxer from a Pakistani background to have won a British title.

Farooq (10-0 4 KO’s) born in Pakistan, moved to Glasgow when he was a young boy and will now hope to emulate fellow Scot Josh Taylor, who takes part in the World Boxing Super Series next month, and compete on the world stage.

I caught up with Kash Farooq and asked him how it felt to add the British title to his Scottish belt?

“It feels amazing. I could never imagine been a British champion that early in my career.” Farooq said.

Did he expect the early finish?

“Not really to be honest. I was expecting to go the distance but I found an opening and took my chance.” Farooq replied.

With Edinburgh’s Lee McGregor taking on Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba later this month, there has been some talk of an all Scottish bout between McGregor and Farooq. Farooq, for one, would be happy to see the fight made.

He explained, “Definitely it’s an all Scottish clash. And the fans would be really interested in the fight as well.”

After moving to 10-0, Farooq is looking forward to a rest, leaving it to his manager to organise his next fight, asking Farooq if he would be able to fight on the November 3rd World Boxing Super Series card in Glasgow, he replied, “I’ll need to speak to my manager when he wants me out. At the moment I’m just resting.”

Farooq’s coach from Renfrewshire Boxing Club, Craig Dickson was happy with Kash’s performance and believes he has put the division on alert.

“Kash’s win on Thursday shows he’s potentially levels above.” Dickson explained.

“The way he went about dispatching Jamie was in a way only top pedigrees fighters do. He was patient, stalked his opponent and timed it precisely with perfect technique. The way he then finished Jamie was well measured and controlled also.

“I think this performance puts out a statement to the others in the division. Nobody has done that to Jamie and certainly not in that way. A lot of people will take note and interest in Kash after that.”

Dickson would like to see Farooq take his time and build more experience in the division.

“I would love Kash to have the domestic dust ups, create interest and big nights but more importantly make bigger money for him and his family.” Dickson said.

“It’s not a big division so other opportunities may arise like European or even world but l’d prefer that a year or two down the line with more experience stepping up levels the old fashioned way. There’s no rush, he’s only 22.”

Dickson, like many others believes Kash Farooq is destined for the top of the sport.

“Kash ticks all the boxes, he’s extremely dedicated, fit and importantly talented, the stuff you can’t teach. With his potential and dedication I can really see him fighting for European then world titles. It’s all about timing and the right fights at the right time as they say.”

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Boxing Insider Interview with Martin Bakole and Billy Nelson: A Contender from the Congo

By: Oliver McManus

Martin Bakole and Billy Nelson aren’t, on paper, two names that you’d associate with one another but, forget paper, because the relationship that they have brings out the best in each other and it really is as simple as that with Nelson relishing the prospect of guiding his Congolese heavyweight to the very top.

Billy rang me on Monday, about 10 minutes after he and Martin touched down at the hotel in Sheffield – where they’ve been sparring Anthony Joshua – and Bakole started off by telling me about growing up in Congo, how his father used to be a boxer and that he and his brother, Ilunga Makabu, would bounce off each other trying to be the best.

There were relatively few details at this point with Bakole struggling to understand my thick Southern accent so for the duration of the interview I had to rely on Billy, kindly, relaying the questions back in his unmistakable Scottish voice.

Talking of Scotland and his relationship with Billy, the fighter told me, “Yes, I’m getting used to it (the rain), I am a vegetarian, not only in Scotland but everywhere…

… it doesn’t matter where the meat comes from Ollie, he won’t eat it, there’s actually an African shop nearby where he gets his stuff from but I do try to get him trying the Scottish stuff…

…but the relationship with Billy is a very good one, I trust him, it’s great, it’s lovely, lovely, I always listen to what he tells me and he knows what he’s doing. My career has moved on since I’ve met him, I’m getting better, I’m having bigger fights. He gets me good sparring and I’m happy”.

Billy echoed those sentiments and I asked him just how good Martin was in comparison to his former charges, “Martin is by far the best fighter I have ever trained, he is technically fantastic, naturally gifted which makes my job a bit easier but the most important part for me is just tweaking some of the areas, fight management and guiding him through, he really is a fast learner”.

11 and 0 as a professional boxer, having made his debut back in 2014, there was a refreshing honesty from Martin when it came to that first fight – against Cecil Smith, also making his debut, at Emperors Palace in South Africa – “It was scary, harder than I thought it would be, in the amateurs there are head guards and I wasn’t used to it”.

Any fears that he initially had have been long put to bed with the Airdrie resident first fighting in the United Kingdom in August 2016 and having seven fights since, his last two fights have been against DL Jones and Ali Baghouz which, whilst not the highest level of operators, Martin dispatched with quicker than Daniel Dubois and Tony Yoka, respectively, and yet there is a comparative lack of attention being shone on Bakole.

Nelson was tactful on this, insisting it was just a case of biding their time, “It’s a fair point, they are British heavyweights but I can assure you that Martin Bakole’s time will come and Daniel Dubois will not fight Martin Bakole, not in a month of Sundays, Martin is just far too good right now. As good a fighter as Daniel is, Ollie, Martin is far superior so we don’t worry about getting the hype around us, Martin does the talking in the ring”

Fighting DL Jones back in June saw Bakole drop the challenger on two occasions on his way to a 62 second knockout, including the count, but it was by far the test that the IBO Continental champion was hoping for with a, unnamed, former European challenger withdrawing from the bout –

“I was beginning to worry that we wouldn’t get an opponent, at least DL Jones stepped up to the plate but look at the difference between Martin’s first fight with me – against (Dominic) Akinlade – and a few months previously Akinlade had gone 10 rounds with Nathan Gorman who is well thought of, we’ve sparred him, but Martin destroyed Akinlade in one round. DL Jones went three rounds with Dubois, Martin Bakole broke his nose and fractured his eye socket in 62 seconds. But the thing is, if you look at the Top 12 in Britain, I’d say at least eight of them will say ‘no, thank you’.”

Martin interjected at this point, “I think that was my best fight, or the guy I fought before, it’s a difficult name to say (Ali Baghouz), but DL Jones was a good fight, I got a very good knockout and it made me happy”.

Finding opponents is an area Martin doesn’t have to worry about, with the Congolese giant saying, “I don’t mind who I fight, I will not pick, I just want to fight” but it is something that causes Nelson nightmares, “we’ve offered Dave Allen the fight two or three times but he won’t take it, he was a bit derogatory to Martin but we made up and sparred two rounds and that’s really concreted that he won’t fight Martin, after that. The thing is that Martin has been round the country to spar, he sparred Tyson Fury a few years ago, Dillian Whyte called off sparring the night before, everyone knows what Martin has done in sparring and I got a coach telling me “play the game”. I told him “we don’t play games”, we’re here to spar Anthony Joshua for the next week but Martin doesn’t seem him as a sparring partner, they both need quality sparring and you’d pay good, good money to watch the spars”.

Attention swiftly turned to Martin’s next fight, on October 13th, against Michael Hunter – former Oleksandr Usyk challenger – and Bakole seemed to relax in prospect of this fight, taking a deep breath before telling me, “I am ready to show to the world who I am, that I will be a future world champion and I’m not going to be scared, I’m going to show people how good I am with a big fight, I will stop people saying “Who is Martin Bakole?. I will make a statement, whenever I knock him out, it will be a statement.”

That confidence was expanded on when he opened up about sparring with Anthony Joshua, “it gives me good confidence, no-one else wants to spar me but Anthony Joshua and his coach know that I am the best so when I spar him it is very good sparring, high level and it keeps me focussed. Helps my intelligent and he always texts me after sparring saying thank you and it gives me confidence going into my fights”.

A much mooted fight was that of Joe Joyce, who claimed Bakole needed to bring more to the table, “Martin is fighting Michael Hunter, who knocked out Joe’s last opponent, Kiladze, so it’s hypocritical of him to say that, I think we’ll go down different routes now but we would fight him in a heartbeat.”

Despite hailing from the Congo, Bakole will be eligible for a British Boxing Board of Control License from next year, allowing him to fight for domestic and European titles, and I asked him if that was a fight (Agit Kabayel) that interested him, “I think I am better than that level, I am higher than that”.

It was pleasing to hear the quiet character showing such confidence and Billy was happy with the progress made under him, “the guys just don’t want to fight him but he’s knocked Akinlade, Baghouz, DL Jones out in one round and the only guy to go the distance under me was Sokolowski, no excuses that day because we travelled from Scotland to London at about 6.30 in the morning – I had three in title fights the night before but Martin didn’t want to go down with anyone else – and he gave that guy a hell of a beating, broke his nose, the worst broken nose I’ve ever seen and Sokolowski is one tough guy”.

This was another one of those rare occasion where Martin came in with a declaration of his own, “I will fight anyone, I will beat anybody, it doesn’t worry me who they are, I will not say this one or that one but whoever wants to fight me, I will be thankful but I will beat them. I would like to be out 4, 5 time next year.”

I asked him what he thought of fighting on TV and in his new home country of Scotland, “It is nice to be on TV, people watching me live and it makes me feel nice, thank you to them for watching and for Cyclone Promotions. I love fighting in Scotland. I like the people here, they make me feel loved and happy”.

The last word, fittingly, should go to Bakole who had a very simple, emphatic answer for me when I was cheeky enough to ask if anyone could beat him – “NO”.

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Shawn Porter: “You Can’t Stand the Heat, Then Get out the Kitchen.”

By: Shakeria Hawkins

Shawn Porter isn’t convinced that Danny Garcia wants to have a toe-to-toe center of the ring type of fight.

“That’s maybe where he thinks that he can win the fight. So whatever the case may be, that’s not what I’m prepared to do. The number one opponent to this game is you get hit, I get hit. We’re going to try to keep it as clean as possible. It gets a little rough sometimes, but if you can’t stand the heat then get out the kitchen,” said Shawn Porter at his public workout in Las Vegas.

This Saturday on September 8th, former welterweight champions Danny “Swift” Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Shawn “Showtime” Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) will face off for the WBC’s vacant 147-pound world title on PBC on Showtime at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Although Garcia is the favorite to win the bout, Garcia vs. Porter seems to be pretty evenly matched. As fight night approaches, countless boxing experts and fans’ predictions are surfacing with mixed emotions between the two elite welterweight contenders.

On April 24, Keith “One Time” Thurman vacated his WBC title, forcing the organization to mandate Porter vs. Garcia for the vacant title. Both Porter and Garcia have experienced devastating career losses against Thurman. Thurman defended his WBA World Welterweight Title against Porter in 147-pound bout at Barclays Center on June 25, 2016. Thurman claimed a split decision against Garcia on March 4, 2017, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

“This is the top; this is the top. I ready did think that Keith Thurman was the top and I still think that, and in a lot of ways that match brought a lot out of me and I brought a lot out of Keith as well, but I think this is the same kind of fight. I think if either one of us come in there slipping at all, slow at all, second-guessing at all, hesitating at all the tables can turn,” said Porter when asked out of all his title fights in his career how does he assess this challenge.

The welterweight fighters Porter and Garcia have both had their share of trash talking leading up to this point. Porter says that the trash talking has been fun up to this point, but he is done.

“There are no rebuttals from him that I can see and I when I not getting that I’m not getting the reaction that I wanted. I did do one post and he called me a clown and that’s the reaction that I wanted, since then I haven’t got much so what the point you know,” said Porter if there was any bad blood between himself and Garcia.

All trash talking aside, Both Porter vs. Garcia is definitely one of the closest matchups of the year. Porter was asked if everything goes planned on Saturday where does he see himself ranked in the division among Crawford, Thurman, and Spence. Porter said that its hard to put Thurman in there since he has been inactive. Porter admits that its Spence then his self since Spence has been the champion longer.
“Business has to play its role, I do expect if this is a fight that I want and a fight that he wants the business will take care of itself with no problems,” said Porter when asked about fighting Errol Spence if he becomes victorious Saturday night.

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Boxing Insider Interview: Jesse “Hollywood” Hart Wants Another Title Shot

By: Ken Hissner

Sometimes it isn’t easy following a legend especially if it’s your father. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart was one of if not the hardest hitting fighters to ever come out of Philadelphia scoring knockouts in his first 19 fights and 28 in his 30 wins. Jesse “Hollywood” Hart grew up in North Philadelphia and won the National Golden Gloves in 2011 along with winning the US Nationals. He entered the 165 lb. 2012 Olympic Trials with an 81-10 record and was on the USA team.

Hart was given four tough opponents in order to reach the finals in the Trials. First up was southpaw Chris “Sweet Pea” Pearson, 93-7, (13-2-1 as a pro) from Ohio who Hart defeated 18-6. Next up was D’Mitrius Ballard (18-0 as a pro) from Temple Hills, MD, who was the 2012 National Golden Gloves champion. Hart defeated him 20-8. Then came Antoine “Action” Douglas from Burke, VA, who had 120 amateur bouts (22-2-1 as a pro) who Hart defeated 14-8.

Photo Credit: Jesse Hart Twitter Account

In the semi-final Hart fought Luis Arias (18-1 as a pro) of Milwaukee, WI, who won the 2010 US Nationals against Hart 4-4 and Arias was given the win. He was 140-24 but was no match for Hart losing 21-6. In the final Hart faced Terrell Gausha (20-1 as a pro) of Cleveland, OH, who Hart lost to in the 2009 US Nationals final. Gausha had gone to Brazil and won Gold in the 2012 Americas Olympic Qualifier in order to qualify for the Olympic Trials. The final ended up 10-10 (34-34 count back; 3-2 vote) and given to Gausha.

This writer felt that decision was unfair to Hart who was already the USA Team member and should have gotten to go to the Olympics. He ended up as the Olympic Alternate to Gausha who went and lost in the second round. As a pro he dropped to 154 losing in an October 2017 title fight to Cuban Erislandy Lara the WBA Super World champion and hasn’t fought since.
Hart felt he had something to prove in the professional ranks after getting side stepped in the Olympic Trials. He left Northern Michigan University where his coach was Al Mitchell from Philadelphia and returned to his roots in Philadelphia. He split his time between returning to his old coach Fred Jenkins at the ABC Rec Center Gym at 26th & Masters in North Philadelphia along with his father Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, at the Joe Hand Gym in South Philadelphia. They co-train Hart.

Hart signed a co-manager contract with Doc Nowicki and Dave Price and signed a promotional contract with Top Rank. He turned professional in June of 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV, scoring a first round stoppage. Then three more stoppages followed going into December of 2012. Hart at 6:03 has the physique to be a light heavyweight like a past champion named Bob Foster.

In Hart’s fifth fight which was his first in Philadelphia at Temple University’s Mc Gonigle Hall he met up with a spoiler named Steven Tyner, 3-8-2, who had fought ten unbeaten opponents up until then with the last five unbeaten. Hart dropped Tyner in the first round and went on to win an easy 40-34, 40-35 twice four round decision.

Six of Hart’s next seven fights were six rounder’s with one four. He won six of those seven by stoppage. Top Ranks Bob Arum knew he had a future champion in Hart. Matchmaker Brad Goodman was matching Hart in a way a boxer should in order to get to a championship. Hart was 12-0 with ten stoppages and ready for his first eight rounder. He had fought in Atlantic City, NJ, three times but still only once in Philadelphia. “I have worked with Jesse from the time he turned professional with Top Rank. It’s doubtful Ramirez would give him a rematch. Jesse is willing to fight anyone even if it means going across the pond to the UK (and fight George Groves or Rock Fielding who hold the WBA titles). With a win over Mike Gravonski (who is No. 11 in the WBA) on August 18th he will enter their ratings. WBC champ David Benavidez is fighting (No. 2) Anthony “The Dog” Dirrell (former WBC World champion). Then there is the other Mexican champion Jose “Bolivita” Uzcategui who holds the IBF title (who defeated Anthony “The Resurrected” Dirrell’s brother Andre in March reversing a loss in their previous fight by DQ. No. 1 is vacant and No. 2 is Caleb “Sweethands” Plant who may be getting the next title fight. Hart is only ranked No. 10 in the June ratings with no July ratings shown),” said Goodman.

Hart was matched with southpaw Samuel Clarkson, 10-2 (currently 21-4 as a pro) from Cedar Hill, TX, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, in Las Vegas. He was a former 2-time Texas Golden Glove champion and a PAL National champion at 175. This bout would be for the NABF Junior Super Middleweight title. Hart had Clarkson down twice in the fourth round and won all three cards of the judges 80-72. Clarkson would go onto win his next nine fights before losing to current unbeaten WBA World Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol for the interim title.
Hart would post two stoppages in Atlantic City before returning to Philadelphia to stop Samuel Miller, 28-9, in the second round at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. In May of 2015 in his first ten rounder he fought for the vacant USBA title against unbeaten Mike Jimenez, 17-0, out of Chicago. The winner would automatically go into the IBF rankings. The vacant WBO NABO title was also on the line which meant going into the WBO rankings for the winner. Hart stopped Jimenez in the sixth round to enter both the IBF and WBO rankings.

Next up for Hart in September in Las Vegas would be the son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor’s son Aaron, Jr. 19-8-1, at 6:04 out of Cincinnati, OH. Hart would stop Pryor in the ninth round. At the end of 2015 Hart was dropped back to an eight rounder in a “keep busy” fight scoring a first round stoppage in Tucson, AZ. Hart received a right eye laceration in this bout.

In March of 2016 Hart would return to the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia against another “spoiler” in Dashon “Fly Boy” Johnson, 19-18-3, of Escondido, CA, who had won his last four bouts, including reversing a loss to Mike Gavronski, then 20-1-1. Hart found himself hitting the canvas in the tenth and final round to the shock of the crowd and writers. He got up like a champion should and went onto win by scores of 98-91, 97-92 and 95-94. This was the kind of fight Hart needed to develop on his way to a championship fight.

Due to a hand injury suffered in his last bout Hart would be out of action for eight months before returning to the ring in Las Vegas to meet Andrew “Hurricane” Hernandez 16-4-1, at the Treasure Island Casino. Hernandez was on a six fight win streak including defeating Russian Arif “The Predator” Magomedov, 17-0, who two fights prior to this defeated Hart’s stablemate Derrick “Take It to The Bank” Webster, 19-0, even dropping him in the tenth round. Webster would move up to super middleweight after this fight obviously too light to be a middleweight at 6:04. Hart stopped Hernandez in the third round.

In April of 2017 Hart would defend his USBA and WBO NABO titles taking on Mexico’s Alan “Amenaza” Campa, 16-2, at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD. Hart went onto stop Campa in the fifth round. This win set up a world title fight with WBO World Super Middleweight champion Mexico’s southpaw Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, 35-0 (24). The bout was held at the Convention Center in Tucson, AZ, in September of 2017. Ramirez’s promoter was also Top Rank.

Hart’s manager’s contract ran out prior to the title fight and he decided not to resign with Nowicki and Price. “I had nothing derogative to say about either Doc or Dave. I just wanted to be my own manager. I have a solid partner in Steven Andrews. He is a real good business partner of mine. He’s one who can plan my future for me,” said Hart. In talking with Steven Andrews you knew instantly he knows his boxing. “I have been with Jesse since he was sixteen years old. I have films that no one else has going back to those times in the amateurs. The Jesse you saw in the Ramirez fight was not the Jesse I know. Not having a tall southpaw like Webster to spar with hurt Jesse. He wouldn’t return our phone calls after committing himself and never showed up in camp. Jesse will be champ no matter whose holding the title,” said Andrews.

Hart was 22-0 with 18 stoppages. In the second round Hart was knocked down. At the end of the fight it would play a major part in the scoring. It was a close well fought battle with Ramirez retaining his title by scores of 114-113 and 115-112 twice. Hart wanted a rematch with Ramirez but he was told he would not be given one by the Ramirez management. Both fighters would return to the ring in February of 2018.

Hart came in at his highest weight of his career at 173¼ and it had some of us writers wondering if he was moving up to light heavyweight. His opponent would be Thomas “Awin” Awimbono, 25-7, of Accra, GH, living in the Bronx, NY, and weighing 179½ and a full fledge light heavyweight.

A year before Awinbono had gone the distance with Webster and unbeaten Caleb “Sweethands” Plant. Hart wasted no time in taking out Awimbono in 1:28 of the first round.

Just two months later Hart returned to the ring taking on Demond “D’bestatit” Nicholson, 18-2, from Laurel, MD. Among his opponents he fought to a draw with Immanuwel Aleem, then 16-0. Hart returned to a super middleweight 167½. It was held at the Liacouras Center of Temple University in Philadelphia for the vacant NABF title. Hart would stop Nicholson in the seventh round.

Hart is scheduled to fight on August 18th at the new Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, taking on the No. 11 WBA ranked Mike Gavronski, 24-2-1, in a NABF title defense with the hope of entering the WBA rankings.

KEN HISSNER: Going back to your amateur days I remember seeing you in New York’s China town with the USA Team against the Chinese team. You were very impressive in winning your bout but Fred Jenkins or your father were not in the corner. Why was that?

JESSE HART: They (USA Team) pick the team coach and my father and Fred were not part of that team.

KEN HISSNER: The most impressive boxer on the Chinese team was Fanlong Meng who is now 13-0 (8), as a light heavyweight. Remember seeing him?

JESSE HART: I sparred him and had no problem with him. I think he has to come to the US in order to develop.

KEN HISSNER: In the amateurs I also saw you in one of your two bouts defeating Derrick Webster in a Philly tournament. As professionals the two of you ended up under the same management. I once did an article that the two of you were on a collision course. He was 38-2 in the amateurs only losing to you twice. Since you left that management has a bout with Webster ever been offered to either of you?

JESSE HART: Yes. He was mentioned to me and I agreed to fight him in my fight in August but my promoter couldn’t get them to agree to the match. (In all fairness to Webster though it was not publicized at the time he is fighting August 11th in Philadelphia)

KEN HISSNER: When you were training for the Ramirez title bout was Webster one of the people being a southpaw you used for sparring?

JESSE HART: Derrick agreed to help me prepare for Ramirez but everyone in Top Rank and even myself left messages but he never returned any of our calls.

KEN HISSNER: How has it been working with Brad Goodman of Top Rank being he is matching your opponents for you?

JESSE HART: He’s done a great job with my career. He knows what fights to get me better for my career.

KEN HISSNER: Of your 25 fights you have only fought in Philadelphia 4 times. Do you wish to have fought at home more?

JESSE HART: Yeah, but no. I don’t want to get that home mentality. I enjoy fighting in other areas.

KEN HISSNER: I understand the Ramirez camp is not willing to give you a rematch though you are still the No. 1 contender in the WBO. He recently in June defended against an opponent who is no longer in their ratings. The WBA champ George Groves is defending against Callum “Mundo” Smith and like you neither for some reason are in the WBA rankings. Is there another one of the champions that you have your eye on fighting?

JESSE HART: I’m No. 3 in the WBC. I would like to fight (WBC champion) David Benavidez but I think he has another opponent.

KEN HISSNER: WBC champion David Benavidez has a September 8th defense planned but with no opponent mentioned at this time. Smith is ranked No. 1 and you are No. 3 in the WBC. With Smith fighting Groves and you fighting three weeks before that it’s certain neither of you will be getting that title shot. Was fighting Benavidez ever offered to you?

JESSE HART: Yes, Top Rank were about to sign him but when they didn’t it fell through.

KEN HISSNER: In your division two of the champions are from the UK and two from Mexico with one from the US. Your promoter Top Rank may be the one of or the best promoter in the world. Do you have much interaction with Bob Arum?

JESSE HART: I talk to him and is a friend of the family. I can go to him direct. I’ve sat down with him in his home.

KEN HISSNER: You have a very outgoing personality which I believe is a plus for your career. Besides your father have you had or now have any boxers you admire?

JESSE HART: “Sugar” Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Ali was one that I admired the way he handled himself. Sacrifice now while I am young in my training and everyday life and I can live the rest of my career as champion.

KEN HISSNER: In your upcoming fight with Mike Gavronski who is No. 11 in the WBA rankings have you seen any films of him?

JESSE HART: I’ve seen a couple of films with Hendricks and Johnson. If I shows any kind of weakness he will press forward.

KEN HISSNER: With a win over Gavronski you should get into the WBA rankings. With both Groves and Fielding as the WBA champions and from the UK would you be willing to go over there if the opportunity was offered to you?

JESSE HART: Absolutely I would love to go over there. I saw Errol Spence go over there. I don’t care where I fight him. I come to shut the man down that I fight!

KEN HISSNER: I want to take the time to thank you for taking the time to answer questions and with one more question are you going by “Hard Work” or “Hollywood?

JESSE HART: I changed from “Hard Work” to “Hollywood” prior to the Ramirez fight which was recommended to me to add more flair. So that is what I am keeping. I want to thank you Ken for doing this for me.

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Boxing Insider Interview with Kathy Duva

By: Jeandra Lebeauf

On Saturday night, Main Events stablemates and light heavyweight champions Sergey Kovalev(WBO) and Dmitry Bivol (WBA) will defend their titles in separate fights where a win by both could lead them right back to each other.

With the fight taking place in Atlantic City, Kovalev and Bivol will not only defend their belts but act as global ambassadors for the sport to the area with big plans of it’s on. Plans to return the New Jersey city to the prominence it once held as one of boxing’s premier places to be.

Photos of Sergey Kovalev during a media workout at The Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard, CA on July 26, 2018.

Not to mention the large-scale plan Main Events has in the work in a new partnership with Facebook to increase the sport’s exposure.

On an unseasonably hot southern California day, the Legendz Boxing Gym in Norwalk played host as Main Events chief Kathy Duva kept a watchful eye on Bivol on the young champion Bivol. As he worked out in the background for the Los Angeles media, Duva discussed the Atlantic City card, their new partnership with Golden Boy and Facebook to live-stream fights, and if Main Events is on the verge of signing their first female fighter.


BI: Congratulations on your new deal with Facebook. How did that deal come about?

KD: Everybody went to Facebook. My daughter had been talking to the guy at Facebook for 2 years. He’s the same guy that brought Major League baseball to Facebook and is responsible for bringing other sports in. Over the course of those conversations we decided there might be a way we could make boxing work, but Facebook felt they needed to do it with more than one promoter. We suggested Golden Boy who was like “Of Course.”

The idea of this is, boxing has gone on every free media platform first from radio to TV to cable to premium cable to PPV and of course online. We are seeing all these over the top projects come to fruition and those are great because they will generate revenue, but they are all competing for those fights that are in the $2m to $3M dollar range; the HBO and Showtime level fights. That’s what ESPN is doing, that’s what DAZN is doing that’s what PBC has been doing all this time. In the meantime, there are all these fights that don’t get made or end up on the undercard and they kind of get ignored.

Fighters need to learn how to be in the Main Event, they need to learn how to be the last guy to walk and I find in my experience that it’s not just for the sake of exposure but also for the sake of learning that you are THE man or THE woman. The need to have that experience.

There are a lot of terrific fights that don’t get made on those big platforms. Our goal is to make those fights.

BI: There was a time when fighters fought far more often than they do now. Do you believe with the increase in the number of platforms boxing is appearing, that current fighters will become more active or is it this just to add more volume?

KD: At the moment people are kind of siloed with their fighters. There’re guys that fight on each of the premium networks and I don’t know if it will create opportunities for them. But what’s good about this is it’s totally free. The way it is structured we can put on as many shows as fans want to watch. As long as we have an audience, FB isn’t locked into a linear schedule like TV Network so there’s no limit on how many fights we can do. They can be viewed all around their world.

There’s a whole big world out there and if we find out there’s an audience in that world that wants to see those fights, we’re going to get to do more.

BI: We are here today for Dmitry Bivol. He’s come so far in a short amount of time. As he heads into this fight [against Isaac Chilemba] how does he feel and how does he feel to be part of this big rebirth taking place in Atlantic City?

KD: Before I ever met Dmitry I heard about him and I remember telling his promoter from World of Boxing when you decide to bring him to the US please call me, and he did.

He’s clearly the future, he’s very young, he’s incredibly talented and he’s got a beautiful career ahead of him. But for this moment we have Sergey Kovalev, the man in the light heavyweight division. He’s fighting and it’s only right that the guy who aspires to someday to be the man to fight on those cards and get exposed to the crowd, so people get to know him.

BI: One last question, with Main Events, has long been a powerhouse and huge supporter of women, how close are we to seeing Main Events sign a female fighter?

KD: It’s going to depend on the fate of this Facebook platform. The thing is, I don’t have a lot of fighters, never had a lot of fighters and I’ll never sign anyone I don’t think I can’t do anything for. Unless I get the freedom to say ‘Yes, you get to fight on this day, and you’re going to fight on this day, on this I show’ I can’t. I still have to depend on network executives to make these decisions and I’m not going to make promises to someone I can’t keep.

Absolutely the day will come, we are struggling as is everyone in this business to create this mid-level platform, once we figure that out it will come.

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Kevin Newman II Returns To Action

By: Sean Crose

When I spoke with Kevin Newman last May, he was ready to return from his first loss and get his career back on track. What struck me was how grounded the guy was, confident, yet realistic. Sure, the loss, which occurred on last summer’s Mayweather-McGregor undercard, hurt, but life moved on and it was time to get back to business. The conversation made one think of all the great fighters with not one, but numerous losses on their records (in other words, the vast majority of great fighters). Unfortunately, Newman’s comeback fight was canceled. Not that he let it eat at him.

“Opponent issues,” he says matter of factly. “Guy bailed on us last minute.” Now, with a new fight scheduled for this evening, Newman is ready to finally get back to business. As far as Newman’s concerned, the cancellation “just gave me a little more time to sharpen up.” And so tonight, at Sam’s Town in Vegas, Newman will be entering the ring against fellow supermiddleweight Cesar Ruiz. “Tough guy from Mexico,” he says of his opponent. “He’s a shorter guy… I’ve got the height and reach advantage.” Not that Newman intends to become overconfident. “I’m just focused on this Friday,” he tells me.

He won’t have to travel far to get to the fight. For Newman resides in Vegas with his family. “Yeah man,” he says, “it’s always good to fight at home…I’m a home town guy.” That fact certainly makes things easier when one is a fighter who lives in the boxing capital of the world. There’s also the fact that one doesn’t have to journey far from home to fight. What’s more, Vegas is the center of the Mayweather Universe, which Newman is a part as a member of The Money Team. Newman knows how important it is to have strong backing, but he’s also self aware.

“I was trying to campaign at middleweight,” he says of the not so distant pass. It simply wasn’t meant to be, however. A fighter’s body simply changes. “My body is filling out and getting older,” he states. Here, after all, is a man who is disciplined enough to make weight, but who understands that a higher weight division is better for him at this point. “With me, it’s not necessarily the pounds,” he says, “maybe (it’s) my bone density or something like that…I could tell my body looks a little different the lower I dig.” It’s a common situation for many, if not all, fighters, one that Newman aims to take advantage of now that he’s a supermiddleweight.

“I’m going to do my thing on Friday,” he says. And afterwards? “Obviously I want to be as active as possible.”

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Sanjarbek Rakhmanov Prepares For “War” Against Marquis Taylor

By: Sean Crose

“When I was young,” welterweight Sanjarbek “War” Rakhmanov tells me, “twelve, thirteen years old, Las Vegas was my goal.” Not just Las Vegas, perhaps, but also the kinds of big fights that Las Vegas offers. If reaching great heights was the endgame, the undefeated Rakhmanov, can perhaps consider himself on his way. Not only does the native of Uzebekistan live and fight in Vegas now, he is also a part of Floyd Mayweather’s prestigious Money Team. “I have a good team,” he tells me. “I’m really proud of that.” So far, at least, the man is more than keeping up his end of the bargain. With an undefeated record and a fight coming up this Friday against Marquis Taylor at Vegas’ Sam’s Town, it’s clear the fighter is on a roll.

“He’s a tall guy,” Rakhmanov says of Taylor. “He’s boxing good…it will be a good fight. We have different styles.” The thought of fighting once again in his adopted hometown, where all but two of his previous fights have occurred, appeals to the twenty-eight-year-old. “I love that place,” he says of the boxing Mecca. Coming to America and being part of the Money Team was a sensible transition for the man after a standout armature career. “In my country,” he says, “I was number one in my division.” His pedigree was not something that went unnoticed for those eager to sign new talent.

And, sure enough, Rakhmanov has his sights set on the future. A man who knows how to pressure effectively, feint, and pick his shots for maximum effect. Rakhmanov claims that he and his team “have big goals.” He’s not about to rush things, however, as too many fighters tend to on the way up. “I think a couple of fights,” he says when I ask when he thinks he’ll be ready for a title shot. “Maybe two or three.” First, though, he’ll have to get past Taylor, a man with a solid 9-1 record of his own. Rakhmanov feels ready. “Training’s going very good,” he says.

The Money Team clearly has faith in its rising fighter. As it states on its website: “The welterweight prospect is patient and takes something away from each fight, enabling him to continue developing his technique and climb the ranks.” Rakhmanov doesn’t intend on letting anyone down. “I love my team,” he says. “I want to just say thank you to everyone whose supporting me,” he states later in the interview. If the fighter, who’s known as “War,” continues winning, he may start having a lot more people to thank.

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