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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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Boxing Insider Interview with Jez Smith: From Plumber to Boxer

By: Oliver McManus

Jez Smith is one of those fighters that as soon as you watch once, you can’t help but get hooked. Light-footed and heavy-handed, the 24 year old welterweight is primed to make an impact on the division and he’s got his immediate mind set on taking on his fellow unbeaten prospects – Connor Benn just one name that he’s targeting – and his career has, arguably, been slow to kick off especially after his all-out brawl with Macaulay McGowan back in 2016 but Jez, as he says himself, has rebuilt and feels ready for those titles whenever they come a-knocking.

I rang him up last week, when he was on a run, but he was kind enough to give me a half hour of his time when he got in so I won’t ramble on anymore, let’s just find out what he said –

Jez, great to speak to you, how did you first get into boxing?

I just followed my brother’s footsteps more than anything, my brother got bullied at school and went down the gym and because we were always close I was just around it and started doing it, really enjoyed it and realised I was good at and here I am.

Growing up with you and Mitch both boxing, was it always a good thing?

Yeah it was alright because we bounced off each other, we were always quite competitive so we’ve always wanted to be better than the other and that definitely helped.

At what point did you start considering boxing as a career?

To be honest I was doing it for fun, with the amateurs and I was winning a few tournaments, I represented England but when I got to senior level about 18 or 19, I went in the Senior ABA twice and I wasn’t really training full-time, I got beat in both years so I sat down and spoke to my Dad – Mitch was pro at the time – and I said “I’ll either take this seriously or forget about boxing”, I was either going to go in the army or take it on professionally and I’m glad I didn’t choose the army, I’ll tell you that!

Absolutely, how helpful was that amateur experience?

I think it’s good to have that pedigree purely because you’ve been about the game for a longer time, you know how it works, you’ve learnt the basics and you’ve learnt about other fighters. Don’t get me wrong it’s completely different to being professional but it’s good to have the background purely because it’s just extra experience.

Obviously we’re in the summer break from boxing, how do you stay busy? Are you still in the gym constantly?

I try to keep in the gym as much as I can, it is difficult because I’m not promoted by a big promoter and I’ve got to sell tickets, get sponsorships, I do still have to work so if I’m not in the gym, I will always run, I will always stay fit and keep my weight at a good level.

I don’t really blow up out of camp and go really heavy, I’m quite professional.

You announced a sponsor today so how much does that help?

Basically I’ve started working with Portobello PR who will be managing my exposure and will be managing my exposure and sponsors. They found that sponsor (BTR Podcast) and hopefully with them on board it will become a lot easier for me to train instead of working all the time.

I’m under no illusions, I will still have to work but if it means I can cut down my hours then obviously that will help, it is difficult at this stage where I’m ready for the titles but I’m not earning enough to afford to be able to stop working.

If you don’t mind me asking, what is your job?

I’m doing plumbing at the moment.

Is it easy to turn off from the boxing mind-set when you are plumbing then?

I’m always focussed on my boxing whether I’m working or not because it’s always in my mind, I want to do it full time and make a career out of it but obviously I need to be able to keep focussed at work to earn a living but it is so difficult. Only people who are not full time professionals will really understand but I know my potential if I was full-time boxing as opposed to where I’m at now and I still think I’m at that level where I should be fighting for titles. Hopefully Mo (Prior) can provide the goods and get me a title shot for September.

Talking of titles you were meant to fight for the Southern Area belt in June, how frustrating was it to hear that he’d pulled out?

Very frustrating, very frustrating, I’ve been waiting for my shot for a while now and I’ve fought a fair few journeyman. I had a good fight with Macaulay McGowan two years ago in 2016 and he was unbeaten fighter and I thought I’d have got more recognition after that fight, on TV on one of Frank (Warren)’s small shows and I thought I would have got more from that fight after the draw because it was a cracking scrap but nothing came about so I had to go back to the drawing board and I’m where I am now so hopefully I can start fighting for titles.

It was very frustrating with Louis Greene because I’d built back up to fighting for the Southern Area belt and he gave me that opportunity, he picked me as a voluntary defence and it was incredibly frustrating when I got the call because I was in good form, my weight was spot on, I’d got some good sparring and I was really looking forward to the fight.

Are you at the point, now, where you’d rather fight less but in more meaningful bouts or keep busy until those big fights come along?

That’s a tough one, to be fair, the thing is I wouldn’t mind being more active – I’d be very happy with that – but being on small hall shows you need to sell tickets and I’m at that stage where I’m not learning anything off these journeyman, they are just punch-bags. Not in a rude way but I would like better opponents so that the fans can see a better Jez Smith, fighting journeyman keeps me at the same level and you can’t see my full potential because, arguably, I drop down to their level at times.

I wouldn’t mind being active but I’m happy to wait and stay focused, stay professional, stay fit, I can learn more in sparring than I do fighting journeyman.

I actually remember watching your fight with McGowan, I thought you edged it, does it irritate you that you’ve not been able to kick on?

Oh massively Ollie, after that fight I thought that even the rematch would have been good because I had stepped up in weight for that fight so I wasn’t at my weight but I thought Frank would have used me a bit more but I didn’t get anything back.

I think things happen for a reason so it probably wasn’t my time but I believe, even though I had the hiccup with the Southern Area title, it is definitely my time now to kick on and start moving on.

Are you set on the Southern Area for now or if something like the WBO European or one of those titles came up, would you take it?

Listen, I’m a fighter, I’ll fight anyone and it doesn’t matter what route I go, I just want titles and I want to fight anyone who wants to fight and I’ll give it a good go. I’m not bothered what route, just get me the belts, get me in good fights with decent money.

Are you next out in September on the British Warriors show?

Yeah, September 29th at York Hall – what I’ve been told.

You do bring a fair few fans with you, does that add any extra pressure?

Nah not extra pressure, I like fighting in front of a lot of people and I’m only in small shows but I like having a lot of my fans there and, in general, a decent crowd because you get a good atmosphere and I thrive off that so I feel my performances get better as the crowd gets more excited. I look forward to when, one day, I’m in a big arena or somewhere like that.

Would you prefer to fight in an electric small hall or a big arena but with a relatively small crowd?

It don’t bother me as much, I want to be in the big shows and I’ll fight anywhere but it’s nice to be able to say that I’d have boxed at the O2, at Wembley because at the moment I’ve only been at York Hall, Camden and Harrow so I’ve only been on small shows so it would be nice to fight on a big card, in a big arena, but listen as long as I’m fighting in good fights, winning, I’m happy.

Biggest learning fight – Macaulay McGowan?

Without a doubt I learnt an awful lot from that fight, especially in being a professional, because like when I was a senior and I wasn’t taking it too seriously, this camp was probably the worst I’d ever had, I wasn’t eating the right food, I didn’t know what the right diet was and nothing was clicking. It was a massive wake-up call because I was stepping up in weight so I was just eating anything, not the right thing, so I’d put the weight on and if you’re driving a car, you wouldn’t put diesel in a petrol engine and that camp showed me it applies to boxing too, if you don’t diet right then you won’t perform even if you train to perfection.

Against an unbeaten fighter we both wanted it but I faded quite quickly although that proved to me and a lot of people that I could dig deep and against the journeyman beforehand it’s always hard to gauge where you’re actually at – even though you might think you know – so against an unbeaten fighter you can measure yourself up and it showed me I had it, I ticked a few boxes, I got a lot of heart, I can fight and I can dig deep.

I know it was a draw but did it, in a way, feel better than one of those wins against journeyman because of how much you learned?

Yeah I guess so, to be fair, gutted as I was that it was a draw I’ve got to think “it wasn’t a loss” and I haven’t lost yet. I took a lot from it, if I won I probably wouldn’t have taken as much as if it was a draw because I wouldn’t have changed anything and I wouldn’t have learnt so later on in my career I could have got caught out and I’m proving that now.

If you don’t mind I want to talk to you about Conor Benn, you were meant to fight Cedrick Peynaud, right?

The plan was, my manager asked his manager for the fight, and I got told he was up for it and a few days later I got called saying he didn’t want it anymore and I’m guessing he probably got paid a lot more for the rematch with Conor.

I could be wrong but I was told he got £8,000 for the first fight so make your own mind up but would you want a fight with Conor?

It’s a fight I would love, Ollie, if I got a call now and said “do you want the fight?”, I would jump right in, I believe I’m better than him, I’m stronger him, a better all-round fighter and I’ve got no disrespect for him, he’s doing well for himself, fighting on big Matchroom cards, getting TV but I just think I’m better than him and I want to fight good British fighters, he’s one of them!

And he’s a name, obviously, his dad was a hell of a fighter and it’s a fighter I really want and I think a lot of unbeaten Brits would want that fight. I want to see him step up a bit, too, that Peynaud fight, he should have beaten him comprehensively the first time round and if I’m hitting with the shots that Peynaud hit him with then he’s not getting back up.

There’s levels and I think I’m levels above him.

How much does being mentally strong impact on fight night?

Hugely, even when you’re in camp, doing the weight, training, mentally you’ve got to be strong to stay committed to eat properly, cut the weight. 100% important.

Do you find making weight easy?

I don’t find it too bad, I do it properly so I give myself eight weeks and I eat clean, I don’t cut massively and I do 10st 7lbs, 147lbs, quite easy. Good enough without being crazy.

Is there potential for you to go up a weight division in your career?

There was actually talk of me moving down so I don’t know about moving up because I hold my power and speed at welter so it’s definitely a possibility in the future but I’m very happy for now. I want to test myself first before making that decision, I think I’m at a good category for now.

In one year, in terms of titles, where would you like to be?

I’d like to be knocking on the door of British title, I just want to fight the best and whoever is in front of me and holding the titles then I’ll have to fight them.

I know you’re young so I don’t want to get you to think about retirement just yet but when you do hang up the gloves would you want to stay in the game?

No doubt, 100%, I’d like to start training people myself, I’d like to pick up a fair bit of knowledge whilst I’m fighting and you never stop learning so why not pass it on to some young kids in the game, I’d love that.

I’ll end on something random mate, if you were a crisp what flavour would you be?

Bloody hell… prawn cocktail, I reckon.

I thought smoky bacon!

SMOKY BACON? Nah, prawn cocktail because it’s my favourite because it’s my favourite, come up with a fancy reason for me Ollie when you write it.

Pressure’s on now for me to come up with a fancy reason, let’s just say it’s because Jez is sizzling in the ring… a bit like prawn cocktails if you get them on your lips for too long! In all seriousness though it was an absolute pleasure to speak to Jez and I’ve got no doubt he’s on his way to big things in this industry so jump on the bandwagon now because it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

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Interview with Miles Shinkwin: Chasing the British Title

By: Oliver McManus

Miles Shinkwin has seen a lot in boxing, a professional for six years, his career has had a fair few ups and downs with a bruising Southern Area title fight in only his seventh contest – against Joel McIntyre – really putting his name on the map before a British title challenge, two years later, ended in defeat to Hosea Burton.

His most recent fight, in March, ended in controversy with Liam Conroy landing a series of shots to the back of Miles Shinkwin’s head (though, for what it’s worth, Liam says they were legal) calling a halt to the contest.

Enjoying training again and with a wonderful family behind, Hertfordshire’s light-heavyweight is back in his groove and on the way to title fights – his first, for the English, hopefully coming on September 14th.

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

How did you first get into boxing?

My grandad was used to box in the navy, my dad had five brothers who all boxed amateur and my dad, two uncle’s turned pro then my dad took over the amateur club that they were all at and when I was very, very young I went along and here I am now.

I knew your dad had the potential to be quite a good professional boxer, was it always destined for you, then, to turn pro?

Do you know what, I was at Watford for a couple years when I was about 12, football, and my dad said to me one day “I don’t care what you pick but you need to pick one” because the training night’s clashed, playing a game would clash too and he said boxing and football are both sports you can’t mess about with, because I was quite good at both, so I said I wanted to be a boxer.

He goes “don’t say that because of me, do whatever you want and me and your mum will support you”, so I chose boxing and I don’t think I’ve played more than five games since then and I was 12 at the time.

In the amateurs, you were a five-time national champion, I believe?

Yeah, five or six, something like that.

When you turned pro, did that amateur pedigree help you?

It’s hard to say it as a statement for everyone but for me I was very amateur in my style and if you look at fighters like Tom Stalker, for instance, his style was also very amateur and the pro ranks didn’t agree with him – no disrespect – and up until now it hasn’t completely agreed with me either so I think I spent too long trying to get out of my old style as opposed to trying to tweak it.

Until I joined Don I had tried to entertain people too much but because I’m not a puncher I felt like I had to have scraps and entertain people but that’s not my style, my losses have come through me scrapping.

If I could go back to when I started as a pro I’d definitely try to stick more to my amateur style.

It is quite a cliché that you learn more from your losses – have you found that to be true?

It is cliché, yeah, the first one I learned that if you lose your head then you lose the fight – I knew that before but this was the first time I experienced it – it’s really hard to say. When I beat Joel McIntyre for the Southern Area title – I was 7 and 0, 10 rounder at York Hall – absolutely boiling, broke my rib and I got cut and if I’d have lost that fight I would have learnt the exact same amount as if I won it because I went through it all.

Losses where there is an actual moment where you lose the fight, if that makes sense, like with Burton after the fifth round when I decided I was going to try and beat him up, that’s where I lost the fight. So you can learn things from the type of fight.

The Jake Ball loss just came at the wrong time for me, McIntyre rematch I shouldn’t have been boxing at the time because I hated the sport at the time and the last fight (against Conroy), I can’t really call it a loss really because it was illegal blows.

I’m glad you brought that up because let’s talk about the fight with Liam Conroy, tell me about it from your perspective…

The funny thing was that when we drove up on Wednesday, it’s quite a drive from here to Preston, and we were chatting away and he said “I’m going to pull the referee up before the fight, I’ve watched his fights and it’s a trait to punch to the back of the head”. I won’t lie, I hadn’t really watched much of his fights but we were in the changing rooms with the ref doing his usual pre-fight talk and these were his exact words, “I know you’ve been around for a long, long time, I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs but three things – obey my commands at all times, keep them above the belt and under no circumstances do you hit to the back of the head, it pisses him off and it pisses me off so don’t f***ing do it.”

Don was like “ah, sorted”… first round I hit him with a body shot and he hit me in the back of the head with a counter hook, square on the back of the head, top of my neck. The referee said stop and he said, to me, “keep your punches up” and the second round started but before it really got underway it was finished.

Anyone with a brain could see they weren’t legal punches.

Before the fight, how confident were you in winning?

I’m a notoriously slow starter, people with styles like mine genuinely are and when we’re cold it’s not great but going in I was fairly confident. I’ve stopped doing this now but after my fights, I used to tell myself what level I should be but I’ve stopped that now because I can’t take, well I haven’t managed so far, my gym performances into the ring and we can’t work out why that is. I’ve sparred all kinds of people – Groves, Lee, Cleverly – I was a world amateur, boxed Demetrius Andrade, lost 18-16 in a fight we fought I won comfortably so it’s not a question of IF I can do it, I know I can.

We were confident and the first round was first gear, he was missing me and I thought once I got warmed up I’d win it fairly easily but then, obviously, the second round happened.

Why do you think he doesn’t want the rematch? Surely from his point of view if he won fair and square the first time he can do it a second?

He can’t think that, if he’s got a pulse, Stevie Wonder could have told you they weren’t legal punches, before he blocked me on Twitter I sent him a photo of one of the punches and it was literally square to the back of my neck and he said it was legal. He knows it’s not true, after the fight I was gutted and everyone was telling me it was disgusting. On the night I said I wouldn’t talk about it so I couldn’t say something in haste that I’d regret and I was getting sent clips, I was thinking “that’s terrible” but Alex Steedman, the commentator, messaged me on Twitter saying “I’m so sorry we didn’t pull it up in the commentary, we couldn’t see it from the angle we were sat at but now I’ve seen it back it was horrendous”.

I knew myself it wasn’t legal but having him say it affirmed what I was thinking because at first it was just family and friends who, generally, try to pick you up but to have him, as an impartial guy, saying it just confirmed it in my mind.

If he were to come out and say “look, I threw some shots, I didn’t mean to” then that’s a different story. I do think that if you’ve hurt someone you should punch wherever until the ref says stop and it’s the referee’s job to say stop but there weren’t any warnings or anything like that.

Are you going to continue to chase the fight or this just drawing a line under it?

The macho man in me would say I want to fight him at all costs but we got an inkling he vacated a while back and I said to Steve (Goodwin), I don’t care if it’s for the belt or not, just get me the fight. I want to prove to everyone I’m better than him. He’s given away his bargaining chip, no-one is going to want to fight him now.

I’ll be fighting for the vacant title, I want to get back to British title level at least and this is the quickest way of doing it. Steve is sorting out an opponent and going through the board.

I was going to ask you about Steve Goodwin. How much of an impact has he had on your career?

I signed with Frank Warren in my second and I weren’t getting a lot of fights and then I did an interview when I was meant to box at Wembley Arena with the fight that Cleverly postponed three times. When you’re a four round fighter training eight weeks to get paid, relative, peanuts and selling tickets, covering costs, for it to keep getting put back is really tough.

In an interview, I sold a bunch of tickets, I did an interview with my local paper and I said, “I’m not happy but I understand if the main event, the whole card is off, I understand but it doesn’t stop me from being unhappy”. They ran the story as “Shinkwin unhappy with Warren” or something like that and I imagine one of them saw the headline without reading the story and they just didn’t put me on the shows.

Steve came up to me and said, “come fight on my shows, tell me the dates you want and I’ll put you on”. As it happens on the day of the weigh-in (Joel) McIntyre’s medical had run out so Steve, out of his own pocket, paid for a private doctor and everything to get it done on the day so he could be cleared. You tell me how many people would do that?

I resigned with Warren – god knows why, but I did – but Steve has always been on the phone to me and when I wanted a new manager, Steve was my first call and everything has been great since. He’s done a lot of things for me.

And when you fight on TV, do you feel a difference?

I’ll be honest with you I felt pressure with the Burton fight – for the first time in my life, in boxing, I was nervous in the changing room. Not really because of the opponent, I knew I could beat him, but the occasion got to me a little bit and it took me a while to come to terms with that because I’m, genuinely, quite a positive person.

If you don’t mind me asking, what do you make of Anthony Yarde?

It’s hard to say, he’s not fighting the best of opponents but he’s beating what’s in front of him and whilst everyone is talking about Buatsi, Buatsi has probably had 100 amateur fights, been to the Olympics, Yarde has had something like 15 so if he can get paid and learn on the job then I don’t see the need to rush him.

He looks the part, he looks the part. The big test would have been Burton, would have been a great test, people feel like Burton would have beaten him.

I was offered the fight once after I lost to McIntyre, I had “retired”, I hadn’t been in the gym and I was about 15stone and I got asked if I wanted to fight him and all I said was “fuck off” because they didn’t want to give me a fight to get back in, the McIntyre fight was meant to be in London, on a Warren show, and they promised they’d win the purse bids and then Steve won it in Portsmouth and I had to go fight in a nightclub and then Warren’s team tried to use me as cannon-fodder for Yarde. Just wasn’t going to happen.

If we look at your career what would you say has been your best performance?

Purely through what happened, I’d say McIntyre (the first one) – broke my rib – my first ten rounder and up against an unbeaten opponent but if you watch me spar you’d say “where’s this bloke been?. But I’ve not been as good as I can be.

How long do you reckon you’ve got left in the sport?

Light heavyweights can go, what, 34, 35 if they want to so I’ve got a few years, I don’t want to be in it forever, you don’t get any prettier or any more clever by being a boxer. Fight night is the easy part, it’s the sparring, the training, losing weight that’s the hard part.

You’ve said there have been points where you simply hated boxing. So, what is it that’s kept you going?

It was, I suppose, a sense of underachievement at one point. I would have regretted it if I gave up and I keep wanting the British title, that’s what I’m going for and I’ve got two young daughters who I don’t want to say “I boxed for a little bit but I gave up because I got beat a couple times” to, now I’ve moved on and things are more positive, I’m enjoying it. My gym is literally 10 minutes from my house whereas before I was traveling to Essex today.

A lot of things have changed, I’ve matured, enjoying training, loads of factors.

September 14th was your scheduled fight date, is that still it?

I wish I could tell you more but yeah, that’s what I’m training for.

In 12 months time where would you want to be?

I’ve given up planning in advance because it gets me nowhere but if I didn’t win at least a British title, in my career, I would have massively under-achieved so make of that what you will, if that’s next year then that’s great but if not I’ll keep working.

I’ve not had a lot of luck in my career, I’ve always had to travel – Burton in Manchester, McIntyre in Portsmouth, Jake Ball on a Matchroom show, Conroy in Preston – so it would nice to be the home fighter for once and put in a performance that I have got the talent to do. Just put in a good performance and take a look at the landscape of the British division.

Finally then mate, what sort of a sweet would you be?

I reckon I’d be something soft in the middle, hard on the outside. A mento, I’m a tough guy but I’m also a softie. Mini refresher, as well.

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Interview with Melissa St Vil: Little Miss Tyson

By: Bryant Romero

Super featherweight contender Melissa St Vil, also known as ‘Little Miss Tyson’ is fresh off her first world title opportunity dropping a controversial majority decision loss to Eva Walshstrom at the champion’s backyard. St Vil to this day feels she was robbed of her glory of becoming a world champion and it only strengthened her belief that boxing is a corrupt sport that shows favoritism to the more popular fighter. The 34-year-old originally from Haiti, now living and fighting out of Brooklyn, New York is hungry for another chance at a world title. St. Vill fights for the underdog, and for the girls who go through struggles. Growing up in an abusive environment, Melissa St. Vil turn to boxing as a safe haven to let her anger out, and to get away from the problems she was going through.

Boxingsider recently caught up with Melissa St. Vil to talk about her controversial loss to Wahlstrom, her plans moving forward, and how boxing has helped her.

“I grew up in an abusive household and I found boxing,” St. Vil said. “I used boxing as an outlet to let go of my anger and I just stuck with it. It was a safe haven for me. I had my first fight when I was 17 and it just took off from there.

“I always liked fighting before boxing; I always got into street fights. Like I said before, boxing was a safe haven for me because I was going through a lot mentally and I just needed to get away and boxing was that for me,” she said.

St. Vil turned that anger into a professional boxing career, debuting in March of 2007 and establishing a record of (10-3-4, 1 KO) in 17 bouts. She’s an aggressive fighter and her favorite boxer to watch is Marvin Hagler. Like Hagler, St. Vil got the short end of a controversial decision where she traveled to Kulttuuritalo, Helinski this past April to challenge WBC super featherweight champion Eva Wahlstrom.

What felt like a sure victory for St. Vil, ended up with a defeat as the outcome, but walked away with the full belief that she was setup in Helinski.

“I definitely did not lose that fight,” St. Vil told me. “People always say that when you go to a girl’s hometown, you have to get the knockout. But sometimes the knockouts don’t come and you can beat their ass for all ten rounds and that’s what she got.

“When I went over there I had no dressing room. When I knocked her down, the ref called it a slip. The tape doesn’t lie, I have the tape. I definitely beat Eva Wahlstrom, she knows it and her team knows it,” she said.

The 34-year-old is itching to get back into the ring and is working on September return but currently doesn’t have an opponent. She’s willing to fight whoever though and is targeting the biggest names in and out of her division.

“I always come in as the b-side but I always come out winning,” St. Vil said. “I’m willing to fight whoever. The biggest fights in my weight class would be Mikaela Mayer and Katie Taylor who is 5 pounds up from me. Those would be two big fights for me.

“Maybe next year, they will definitely get exposed because there is no way they are putting me away. I’m a whole another breed,” she said.

Melissa St. Vil hopes to get another crack at a world title soon and wants to prove she would be a worthy champion, while continuing the fight for women’s boxing and to influence other young girls that are going through the same struggles as she did.

“I definitely want to get another shot at a world title and I want to change the other young ladies life that been through situations like me.

“I want them to see me and know that don’t quit. Whatever you want to do in life just go for it and stay focused. Shout out to all the immigrants and all my Haitians and all the women around the world,” St. Vil said.

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Lanell Bellows Aims for Four More Fights This Year

By Shakeria Hawkins

With less than six months left in 2018 super middleweight prospect Lanell “KO” Bellows wants to try to get four more fights before 2019.

“I want three to four more fights this year, at least three,” said Bellows

On July 21, Las Vegas’ Lanell Bellows, who has a record of 17-2-2 (10 KOs) will fight in his second fight of the year against Lamar Harris 9-15-4 (5 KOs).

The two super middleweights will step into the ring in Memphis, Tennessee at the FedEx arena for the vacant American Boxing Federation USA super middleweight title.

BoxingInsider.com caught up with Bellows on his thoughts of the opponent and their upcoming bout. Bellows stated,

“When you put those gloves on and you get in the square there’s always a danger for myself and the opponent so I definitely feel like he’s going to come and fight. I definitely don’t look past him. I take every fight very serious as if it is a title fight, and this is actually a title fight this time. I mean I don’t look past no one’s record.”

Bellows last fight was in May against Sweden boxer Naim Terbunja, in an 8 round bout which resulted in a draw.

When asked why he decided to take a fight so soon? Bellows responded, “Activity, I definitely want to be more active in this sport and in my career, so it’s actually a blessing to get a fight in a short time span.”

Bellows also included that it’s a lot better to take fights close together because, “it’s easier for you to stay on track with your routine diet and training.”

“Where I’m trying to go…It’s not just how many times I fight, but also with who I fight. I’d like a little more activity with a fighter who has a prestigious amateur background. I would like to fight more, but I would also like to get more quality fights,” he quoted in an exclusive interview with BoxingInsider.com.

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Franchon Crews Dezurn: Looking for a Title Shot

By: Bryant Romero

Super middleweight contender Franchon Crews Dezurn is still looking to duplicate the success in the professional ranks like she had as an amateur. Crews was a highly decorated amateur, an 8 time national champion, a 4 time national golden gloves champion, plus many other accolades in the amateur ranks. The 31-year-old originally from Virginia, now living and fighting out of Baltimore recently met with boxinginsider to talk about her boxing career, how the transition to the pro game has been, the feeling she had when she lost out on the Olympics despite her amateur success, and her rivalry with Clarissa Shields.

“I’m originally from Virginia and I moved to Baltimore around 2001 then I discovered boxing in 2005 on the fly,” Crews said.

Photo Credit: Franchon Crews Dezurn Twitter Account

Franchon originally had aspirations to be a singer and songwriter, but she was aware that image would be an important factor in accomplishing that dream. So she turned to boxing to lose some weight, but would soon discover she was always a fighter at heart.

“With my aspirations to be a singer you had to look a certain part, so I was interested in losing weight,” Franchon told me. “I wasn’t like obese or anything but I wasn’t typical pop star material back then.

“My mentor at the time told me ‘you know maybe you should lose a little weight,’ and I was in the studio one time and two gentleman who also come to the studio they told me about how you could lose 5 pounds in a day at the boxing gym.

“And that sounded very appealing to me and they took me to a gym and I’ve been stuck ever since,” she said.

From there she would a spark a very successful amateur career and was considered one of the faces in American’s women’s boxing. However, she would lose out on the Olympics when she was upset by a younger boxing prodigy in Clarissa Shields at the first U.S. Olympic Women’s boxing trials. Franchon was devastated by the defeat, but it did not break her.

“It put a damper on me, it bent me out of shape, but it didn’t break me,” Franchon said. “I had to dig down deep and find out who I was with or without boxing.

“It was really devastating because you work really hard and to be robbed of the opportunity to even go to the Olympics, it was devastating but it made me who I am. It definitely thickened by skin,” she said.

Franchon would later get a chance avenging her amateur defeat to Shields into the professional ranks when she stepped in on short notice to take on Shields in her pro debut. Franchon would lose again to Shields by decision and perhaps it wasn’t the wisest of moves to step in on short notice against Shields, but she’s a risk taker and still believes that one day she will defeat Shields.

“I live life on a limb. I’m a risk taker. I want to beat her, I’m going to beat her,” Franchon told me. “But at the time I wasn’t in any shape to be taking that kind of fight. But I know her very well and I know myself and no other girls would step up.

“I just stepped up and I know what I can do, I believe in myself. I really want a rematch,” Franchon said.

Franchon would go on to win her next three bouts in dominate fashion, but had a brief retirement from the sport just last December as she would grow tired of the politics of the sport. She would later sign with Salita promotions and had a good opportunity fighting on a shobox undercard. However, her stint with Salita promotions was short lived and is now a free agent.

“Right now I’m keeping my options open and I know in November I’ll possibly be fighting. I would love to fight before then, but right now I’m focusing on me and getting my conditioning together,” Franchon said.

“Since I been a pro I haven’t had an opportunity to be in the best shape ever. I’m just taking a time out and getting my business together, so I can jump back out there,” she said.

Franchon is itching to get back in the ring as she still wants to accomplish a lot in this sport that includes beating the best of the best around her weight class, to compete on the same card as her husband who is also a professional fighter, and to continue the fight to advance women’s boxing.

“I want to beat the best of best whether it’s a Clarissa or a Hammer whoever claims to be the best, I would love to fight them and beat them,” Franchon told me. “I want to be a world champ. I want to help advance women’s boxing; I want to be a part of that fight.

“Tell these girls to stop babysitting belts. I’m down to fight; I want to fight to become world champ, traveling the world and get my shot on TV. Lastly, I want to fight on a card with my husband in the future,” she said.

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Charvis Holifield Keeps His Forward Momentum

By: Sean Crose

“I’ve been in Vegas for the past five years,” welterweight Charvis Holifield tells me. I ask him what kind of town Sin City is to live in. “Can’t complain,” he responds good naturedly. “I’ve seen worse.” Holified will be putting his skills on display against Donald Ward on the 21st of this month in Memphis at the Fed Ex Forum. “Training’s going pretty good,” he says, “I’ve been going out to the mountains.”

Holifield, whose record stands at 7-2-1 may have two losses to his record, but one of those losses was by disqualification – in a fight Holifield says he was on the verge of winning. “It was a cheap mouthpiece,” he says in regards to the gum guard which caused him to lose his 2014 bout against David Thomas. “I was brought in on the B side,” he claims. “I’m one and oh at the time.”

Holifield had lost his mouthpiece twice in the end of the bout, then, when Holified was coming on strong, it happened a final time. “I was ripping my shots and my mouthpiece came out,” says Charvis. “I beat myself.”

Charvis, however, didn’t let the slip on the road stop him. Indeed, he had been boxing since he was a young man. “My dad introduced me to combat sports,” he says.“He was a fifth degree black belt and Tai Kwan Do.” It was clear early that Charvis had a talent. “When I turned nine he stopped teaching karate,” he says of his father. “Then I found a boxing gym in my hometown of Fremont, Ohio.” Charvis had found the sport which would define him.

“I stuck with boxing,” he says. “It was always something that I had, that I loved, that I wanted to do.” After a rather vast amateur career (“I made it to the national golden gloves in 2003 out here in Vegas), Charvis’ wife gave him the push he needed. “My wife was like: ‘If you want to box, we have to go to Vegas,’” he says. Taking her sound advice, Charvis moved to Vegas. “I was going to the Mayweather boxing club,” he says. “I met J’Lean love and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Holifield is now “with the Money Team, with Affiliation Management,” and ready to continue his climb. “I would like it to move forward and go in a positive direction, of course,” he says of his career. “I would like to have bigger opportunities.” Yet unlike some professional athletes, Holified knows that fighters can’t go on endlessly. “I’m not going to be doing this forever,” he admits. “Right now, I just recently got my real estate license. I just passed the state and the national test out here in Vegas.”

Perhaps that move out west will pay off in more ways than one.

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Pacquiao Understudy and Sparring Partner George Kambosos Jr. Puts In The Rounds, Eyes His Own World Title Campaign

By Vishare Mooney

He’s been busy. In the last 14 months, undefeated Greek Australian fighter George ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos Jr. (14-0, 8 KOs), left Australia to train in the U.S., made his American debut with a stunning first round knockout of Jose Forero and trained in two world title camps (Pacquiao vs. Horn, Pacquiao vs. Matthysse). With his eyes clearly set on the prize, a world title, Kambosos Jr. has also found a friend and mentor in Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), boxing’s most heralded 8-division world champion, having now sparred over 110 rounds with the legendary fighter.

The 25-year-old Kambosos Jr., who shares a coach with Pacquiao in former world title contender Justin Fortune and who is managed by Lou DiBella, will fight Filipino fighter JR “Star Boy” Magboo (17-1-2, 8 KOs) in the featured undercard of the Pacquiao-Matthysse WBA welterweight title fight in Kuala Lampur, this Saturday, July 14th on ESPN+. It was Pacquiao who insisted on adding his constant sparring partner, Kambosos Jr. on the already packed undercard roster. I caught up with Kambosos Jr. via videoconference, just days ahead of his fight and talked about his friendship with Manny, training regimen and goals for his own world title campaign.

Kambosos Jr. discussed why Pacquiao called on him again as a sparring partner. “I think he sees a younger version in myself, except for that I’m an orthodox fighter. We both train extremely hard, we both need to be pulled back by Justin Fortune, our coach at times to slow down. We both have the same mentality. He sees a young Manny Pacquiao in myself, so that’s how I got the opportunity. He wants to help my career as well. What better guy than the guy that’s done the most in boxing history” Kambosos Jr. added, “I think Manny will play a vital role in my future and my career, along side my promoter and my team.”

The camp was his second in 14 months. Kambosos Jr. was part of the Pacquiao vs. Horn team last summer. He said he is “still sore from the disappointment of the Horn fight” and adjustments have been made this time around. “We trained a lot smarter, pulled back on certain things, take a day off for rest, do some different kind of recovery, take a lighter session in the gym. I feel fresher during this camp. I feel great and I know Manny does as well. He will be ready for the fight on Sunday. There will be no excuses. Everything is ready to go.”

When Kambosos Jr. fights this weekend, it will have only been ten weeks since his last fight in May. He said it is the fastest turn around of his career and he likes it that way. He had trained hard for his American debut against Jose Forero, amassing over 150 sparring rounds prior to the swift win by TKO. By June, he was once again on a plane to the Philippines to reunite with Pacquiao. And after their first sparring session, got put on the undercard.

I asked Kambosos Jr. if he was at all nervous about his upcoming fight. “No, I have been sparring an all time great, the god of fighting. He’s Manny Pacquiao. I have been going toe to toe with Pacquiao not only on this camp but the last camp, that’s like over hundred something rounds together. I am more than ready for this fight. I’m excited for the challenge. And I know that I can’t afford any slip-ups. I need to make another good statement.”

What does he know of his opponent, JR Magboo? “He’s a tough Filipino. He’s 17-1. Knows his way around the ring. I research every fighter that I come across. I even research guys that I’m not fighting and could be fighting in the future so I look at everything. I’ve trained so hard I feel like I’m fighting Matthysse alongside Pacquiao.”

“As soon as I get in some shots, he (Magboo) is going to feel everything that I have done in camp and I’m coming for the knock out – that’s what I’m chasing. “

Kambosos Jr. seems to be keenly aware of the significance of this moment, his time with Pacquiao and his boxing career trajectory. On his quest to a world title, he has come a long way from being the chubby, bullied kid in Australia. “I was an obese kid, bullied, picked on, always picked last. If there was a joke it was going to be on me, So I just wanted to change my life. As soon as I started doing boxing the weight came off, my confidence got much better. I had a few school fights. Hurt them, beat up a few people, they realized, ok this guy can fight, we’re going to leave him alone. And now the rest if history.”

“Now look where I am, world ranked fighter, huge fan base, Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner. I get to fight on a huge show like this…it’s incredible the journey I’ve had. But you know, I already envision the future I will have, not only as a world champion, but multiple champion, unified champion.”

Kambosos Jr. trains for each fight as if he were in a world title fight. “Before I had my pro debut, a good friend of mine said, look, now you’re a pro, treat every fight like a world title fight because it is. Every step is getting close to the world title. That’s the ambition, that’s the end goal. “

“I have been fortunate to be a part of proper world title camps. And so I have taken what Manny does in his training and added it to my game. I know what it takes at that level. I have trained alongside a legend in the sport, and I’m ready to have my own world title camp in the very near future.”

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Joet Gonzalez – Ready For The Spotlight

By: Sean Crose

“Every other day, we run six to eight miles,” Joet Gonzalez tells me. “The location varies.” There are nineteen year olds who go to college. There are nineteen year olds who hold down forty hour full time jobs. There are nineteen year olds in the military. There are nineteen year olds who are slackers. There are few nineteen year olds, however, quite like the well spoken young Californian on the phone, who currently holds a record of 19-0, with eleven of those nineteen wins coming by knockout. “I start with jumping rope,” he says of his gym routine while in training, “shadow boxing, spar…go over the game plan.”

It’s a routine and a strategy which has served the rising featherweight well. He’s about to highlight his own ESPN card, after all, when he faces the 25-1-2 Rafael Rivera in Las Angeles on the 13th of this month for the vacant NABO featherweight title. “I take Rafael very seriously,” Gonzalez says, pointing out that Rivera fought the very notable Joseph Diaz last September on about “two to three day’s notice.” Rivera may have lost that fight, but Gonzalez knows that this time out, things will be different in the lead up for his determined Mexican opponent. “With me,” he says of Rivera, “he had time to prepare.”

Growing up, Gonzalez probably wasn’t the sort of kid most people figured would become a headline fighter showing off his skills on national television. “I was a little overweight,” he says, “and I was picked on.” Like many fighters who got their starts as bullied kids, Gonzalez’ father introduced him to boxing. Needless to say, the young man soon became hooked. Aside from his own experiences, Gonzlaez was inspired by Oscar De La Hoya, the man who would someday become his promoter. He speaks fondly of watching the thrilling throwdown De La Hoya had with Fernando Vargas back in 2002. “That really pushed me,” he says. It clearly helped push Gonzalez far, for the young fighter now willfully forgoes a life of ease.

“Obviously,” Gonzalez claims in regards to his athlete’s lifestyle. “I’m not out late.” Although he has a girlfriend, the professional boxer won’t be seen running around out and about with people his own age during all hours of the night. His profession, after all requires a large amount of discipline. Even during the Fourth of July, while everyone else was celebrating, Gonzalez was in the gym training for Rivera. “I could smell the barbecue from outside,” he says. To Gonzalez, however, such temptations are all a part of the job. “When I’m in camp,” he states, “I’m really focused.”

Such dedication leads to good things – one of those things being the ability to sign with a top promoter. De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions has not only made good fights available for Gonzalez, the company also offers the kind of exposure that’s hard to come by. “Since I signed with Golden Boy in 2012,” Gonzalez says, they’ve treated me really good.” Gonzalez states the company has gone out of it’s way to make him feel at home. “Just the way they talk to me,” he says, “they treat me like family…not just me, but my (own) family, as well.”

Hard work brings about its own rewards.

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Alberto Machado: “You Need To Have Heart To Fight”

By: Sean Crose

“Camp is going very well,” WBA super featherweight titlist Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado tells me over the phone. “People are going to see the best version of me.” He’s speaking of his July 21st match against fellow undefeated fighter, 31-0 Rafael Mensah of Ghana. “He’s a good fighter with a great record,” the 19-0 Machado says of his foe. “I know he’s strong, but I’ve been preparing for that opponent.” With 23 knockouts, Mensah can indeed pack a wallop. Yet Machado, with 16 knockouts of his own, can hit as well… a fact that was reiterated when he won the title last fall against Panama’s Jezreel Corrales.

Photo Credit: Alberto Machado Twitter Account

Despite the fact that Corrales was cruising past Puerto Rico’s Machado. The 27-year-old was able to get off the mat and then go on a tear. As I wrote at the time: “Machado rocked his man…He then rocked his man again seconds later. The fight was changing course – and getting quite exciting. Corrales came back and nailed his man in the seventh. Machado, however, suddenly dropped Corrales in the eighth.” Corrales gamely go back up on wobbly legs, but the fight was stopped. Machado found himself a world champion.

While Machado has proven himself to be a knockout artist (winning 16 of 19 fights by kayo will do that for a fighter), the bout against Corrales showed that a large degree of heart and guts is also in his arsenal. That sort of thing not only helps a boxer exponentially; it makes that fighter fan friendly. There’s a reason, after all, why Machado can boast of having Golden Boy Promotions, Miguel Cotto, and Freddie Roach on his team. “You need both,” he says when I ask if heart trumps skill. “Heart and skills are things all boxers should have…you need to have heart to fight.”

Despite the fact he’s facing a fellow undefeated fighter on July 21st, despite the fact that he will be facing his man live in front of HBO cameras, despite the fact that the shape of his entire future depends on his performance that evening, there’s something else besides just besting Mensah that Machado may be expected to accomplish. For Machado comes from the same island that produced such notables as Wilfred Benitez, Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto, Hector Camacho, Edwin Rosario, and what seems to be countless others. In other words, the young man is representing an impressive pugilistic tradition…not that he’s letting it weigh on him too heavily.

“I’m so happy,” he says, “to see my name on the list of all those great champions” from Puerto Rico. For the time being, though, Machado is happy working hard and being a world titlist. “Training’s good,” he claims. Knowing that the unexpected to can always happen (he proved it himself against Corrales), Machado plans on entering the ring at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Vegas on the 21st ready to battle with the widely unknown Mensah. A bout, as he himself knows all too well, can be altered in an instant.

“It’s going to be a good fight,” he says.

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