Top Rank Publicist Lee Samuels Inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame
By: Rich Mancuso
Lee Samuels tells family, friends, and colleagues that a boxing publicist does not deserve recognition. As the lead publicist for Top Rank Boxing for 38 years, he has worked with the greats and witnessed some of the greatest championship fights. Sunday afternoon in the small town of Canastota New York, the newest inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame took it all in.
“Really, I am so thankful to be here, he said. “But I still don’t know how I got here. The fighters belong here.”
He was there with longtime promoter Don Elbaum, former champions Donald Curry, James “Buddy” McGirt, and with Teddy Atlas, the longtime trainer and former ESPN boxing analyst. They were also inducted as part of the class of 2019 as voted by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a committee.
Those who look at good guys in the sport said it was time for Lee Samuels to get the recognition. By all means this is the highest honor, the Hall of Fame, one of three publicists enshrined with Murray Goodman and Irving Rudd.
The first person that Lee Samuels reported to, after Bob Arum the Hall of Fame promoter hired him, was Irving Rudd. It has been a boxing journey many years later. On the same podium was a previous Hall of Fame inductee, Marvin Hagler, the first major assignment that Samuels handled as a publicist for his fight camp.
Arum hired Samuels in 1983 as the publicist when ESPN launched a venture with the new “Thursday Night Boxing Series.”
Now, many years later, the boxing business and the role of a publicist has changed. Top Rank as a company places a major emphasis on social media. Earlier this year, Samuels was reassigned to another role as Boxing Coordinator for Top Rank. He works side-by-side with the contenders and champions.
Samuels is still employed. He is thankful for that and continues with that heavy schedule of traveling with the hectic Top Rank calendar of events. He has accepted the change as to how boxing is covered. The South New Jersey native started this journey in 1964, Sports Editor with the Pennsville Progress in South Jersey. More newspapers followed, freelance work, and then Top Rank, all of this prior to serving in the U.S. National Guard for six years as a tank driver.
“I still have a job,” Samuels says.
Now at Top Rank events, Lee Samuels resembles that ambassador. They come over and say hello and that includes yours truly and some of the old school journalists.
He travels out of town with the staff at Top Rank. Usually that involves arriving six days before fight night and assuring that fighters are where they have to be for pre fight meetings with ESPN personnel, the final press conference, and the weight-in which has become a production.
Top Rank promotes more than 57 shows a year with their lucrative and extended deal with ESPN in this new wave of streaming fights to the fans. With their extended ESPN contract, there are more shows shown worldwide on the ESPN streaming Network.
“I’m honored to be in this group with all these great fighters and boxing figures,” he said. “Tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting this to be such a huge event and they do a great job here.”
And this was the second Hall of Fame induction. Late last year, Samuels was one of many of the new inductees into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. There is so much detail and one minute may not be sufficient. Samuels, though, after all these years in boxing is not one for the spotlight. Awards come and go and he is the last to expect one.
“So many friends over the years,” Samuels said. Top Rank has become his second family over the years.
The awards and recognition are deserved. He has traveled the globe and been at ringside for one super fight to another including that Mayweather-Pacquiao bout that reportedly is the richest fight on record.
Lee Samuels smiles and thanks each and everyone for their kind words. He was recognized twice with awards from the Boxing Writers Association. However, the biggest award is arriving home safe and being with his beloved wife, Mary.
Recently, he wrote a chronology about his journey and published it for his family.
He says, “From that very moment Mary Margaret and me and our dear family have been on an astounding journey.”
Yes, it has been a journey and highlighted at the Boxing Hall of Fame. Lee Samuels for weeks said, “ why me? The record speaks for itself and now those doors to the Hall of Fame are open for him along with the other greats of boxing.
Congratulations from this longtime colleague and others at Boxing Insider. See you at ringside!
A Look at Three of the Most Underrated Boxers of All Time
By: Donna Jo
To rise to the top of the boxing world, an athlete must be intelligent, physically fit, dedicated, aware, and, as many former champs have attested to, a little bit lucky. Because so much is demanded of boxers—because there’s always a younger, hungrier, and more skillful opponent on the horizon—some high-level competitors fly under the radar; that is, their accomplishments and capabilities are overlooked as a result of the sport’s breakneck speed.
Today’s starts soak up the entirety of the spotlight, while yesterday’s stars don’t usually receive much respect.
Let’s take a quick look at three of the most underrated boxers of all time—boxers who recorded magnificent achievements and made their mark, but who don’t necessarily receive their due from contemporary pundits.
Jake “The Bronx Bull” LaMotta was the subject of Martin Scorsese’s famed Raging Bull film, and in many ways, his out-of-ring pursuits overshadowed his boxing achievements. Consequently, LaMotta is remembered today as something of a media figure.
He was a media figure, to be sure, but there’s no denying that LaMotta was also a legendary practitioner of the sweet science. The New York native channeled his aggression and troublesome personal habits into training, and with the help of his brother and an unrelenting will, he became one of the most notable boxers of Forties and Fifties.
LaMotta wasn’t knocked down or stopped with strikes until the twilight of his career; he fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, in what was one of the most fantastic rivalries in boxing; and he gave a number of skillful opponents a very, very hard time in the ring.
Take a quick trip to YouTube to see LaMotta’s refusal to quit in action.
There’s a lot more to George Foreman’s achievements than his multi-million-dollar grills.
Throughout his 28-year boxing career—which spanned from the time he was 20 until he was nearly 49—Foreman was finished just once, by none other than Muhammad Ali, who also happened to snap Foreman’s 40-0 professional record. 68 of Foreman’s 76 wins came via knockout, and overall, he lost just five matches—roughly six percent of the fights he accepted throughout three decades!
The quality of Foreman’s career is further amplified by the fact that he made a successful comeback, which came when he was nearing 50 years of age. At 47 (almost 48) years old, Foreman topped Crawford Grimsley for the WBU and IBA heavyweight titles—Grimsley, a 23-year-old star who hadn’t been defeated! In short, comebacks like this almost never happen in the “real world”–or in the movies!
It can safely be stated that George Foreman, even in his ripe old age, can safely dispatch younger opponents; the man doesn’t need a bodyguard, a home security system, or any other type of protection. He’s got it under control!
Evander Holyfield has had his share of ups and downs in and out of the ring, but taken as a whole, his boxing career is terribly underrated.
Most people remember when Mike Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear, but few remember when Holyfield defeated Tyson via TKO in their first fight, which came at a time when Tyson was viciously dominating the competition. The same is true of Holyfield’s one-in-a-million bout against George Foreman. Similarly, Holyfield’s riveting series with John Ruiz isn’t often mentioned, nor is the fact that Holyfield managed to do what so many of history’s greatest boxers were unable to: retire on a win.
Hopefully this list provides some newer boxing fans with the information and foundation they need to learn about the sport’s most underrated competitors. Boxing’s history is rich, and in between today’s many exciting matches, viewers should flip on the computer and relive the many exhilarating contests that the twentieth century brought with it.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to the magic and appeal of the sweet science!
The Other Boxing Hall of Fame: Graziano’s Across the Street
By: Patrick Mascoe
Walk into any sports bar today and you will notice they are just generic versions of each other. Often the only difference is their address. Hang a few hockey or football jerseys in the rafters and advertise the next UFC fight. Then turn all your televisions onto the sport’s channel, serve some average-tasting processed food, and you have yourself a sport’s bar.
If you are a boxing fan who wants to step back in time, when the only sport that really mattered was boxing, then I have a place for you. Head to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. When you are finished there, walk across the street to Graziano’s World Famous Inn and Restaurant. I guarantee when you walk in you won’t be able to sit down. You will be drawn to the many pictures of boxing greats that flood every wall in the place. It is literally like stepping into another boxing hall of fame. The photos on the wall are fascinating: Joe Louis, Carman Basilio, Roberto Duran, and Jake La Motta, to name just a few, as well as a collection of original fight posters including a 1938 poster of Louis vs. Schmeling.
So who is responsible for preserving this rich heritage of boxing memorabilia? A lovely, gentleman by the name of Tony Graziano, who is both owner and head chef. In the small town of Canastota, this diminutive fellow possesses an almost mythical reputation. Born January 18, 1922, in Verona, New York, Tony still drives to work every day and works a full 8 hour shift in the kitchen. So what is Tony’s connection to boxing? He was Carmon Basilio’s first manager. He also managed Basilio’s nephew, Billy Backus, to a world title in 1970.
It is not just his connection to boxing royalty that makes Tony stand out in Canastota. It is also his service to his country and his community that have made him a legend. Tony served as a paratrooper with the 17th Airborne Division during World War II. He told me that being a paratrooper certainly had its risks. On one particular jump, he was stuck hanging in a tree. He was shot in the foot and had to pretend he was dead so that the enemy would stop shooting at him. After they left, he was able to escape. He also survived Normandy and later went on to liberate concentration camps where the survivors resembled living skeletons.
Upon his return from the war, Tony moved to Florida. Having boxed as an amateur and in the military, he decided to set up his first boxing gym in West Palm Beach. After getting married, he and his new bride headed back to Canastota where he set up boxing gyms there and in Syracuse, and Utica.
He was instrumental in the launch of Carman Basilio’s career, but it was Basilio’s nephew who he loved as a son. Billy Backus was really no more than a fringe contender when Welterweight Champion Jose Napoles chose him as an optional defence in 1970. Both he and his managers thought Backus would be an easy fight. However, in the first round, Backus landed a punch that opened a cut over the Champion’s eye. By the fourth round, the fight needed to be stopped and Backus was declared the new World Welterweight Champion.
As the years went by, Graziano’s became the place that the Hall of Famers would go for a meal and a few pints before the official induction ceremony. Mike Tyson was in a few months ago and asked, “Tony, where’s my picture?” “Mike, I have a picture of you up at the end of the bar – but you won’t like it cause you’re on your ass”. There at the end of the bar is a picture of Iron Mike on his back courtesy of Lennox Lewis. Tyson just laughed. Not even the former ‘baddest man on the planet’ can get mad at Tony.
All the while, as we spoke, Tony kept offering my wife and I food and kept saying “Don’t worry there’s no charge.” We had only just met and he was already showing his true colours. It’s probably why all those who work for him adore him.
According to Tony, some of the best boxers ever were guys who never made it out of the gym. They were too good and no one wanted to fight them. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, without a good manager, your career could be over before it ever got started. “Boxing today is not the same as it once was. In my day every kid boxed.”
Tony then asked me to come around the bar – “I want to show you something”. He pulled out a pair of 1922 bag gloves worn by the legendary Joe Louis. That’s what makes the place so darn interesting. Tony has boxing memorabilia everywhere and a story to go along with every item. He is everything that is good about boxing. To the youngest 97 year old you will ever meet, Happy Birthday Tony!
More Boxing History
2018 Fighter of the Year: Oleksandr Usyk
By: Jake Donovan
For the past 30 years, there has been no debate that Evander Holyfield is the greatest cruiserweight of all time.
That was until Oleksandr Usyk wrapped up his 2018 in-ring campaign.
The 31-year old southpaw from Ukraine hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of fighting at home since his final fight as a contender in Dec. ‘15. Each of his last eight starts have taken place on the road, all but one being staged in the home country of his opponent beginning with his title-lifting effort over then-unbeaten champ Krzysztof Glowacki in Sept. ’16 in Poland.
Fighting on the road is hardly a new experience for the gifted cruiserweight, who spent a healthy portion of his 350-fight amateur career away from his native Ukraine. Included among the lot were two Olympic tours, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and capturing a Gold medal during the 2012 London festivities.
It’s only fitting that every championship he’s won as a pro has come against the backdrop of a partisan crowd.
In 2018, Usyk (16-0, 12KOs) entered the lion’s den three times—twice in unification bouts and wrapping up the year with a defense versus a former champ, all taking place in sold-out arenas in packed with his opponent’s fans rooting hard for a hometown win.
His journey began with a trip to Riga, Latvia last January to face then-unbeaten titlist and local hero Mairis Briedis. It was already his third time facing an undefeated opponent in their home country, as he was the first to beat Glowacki (in Poland) and American contender Michael Hunter in the United States.
In Briedis, Usyk would receive his stiffest test as a pro, certainly a far more difficult challenge than having stopped former titlist Marco Huck in Germany the prior September in the opening round of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.
The first five rounds were anything but a clear-cut indicator that Usyk would even win, much less go on to enjoy a Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign. He first had to adapt to the brisk pace forced by the house favorite, then contend with a clash of heads in the 5th round which left him briefly wobbled and with reddening around his left eye.
It ultimately served as a wake-up call.
Usyk took over the fight once the second half began, his second-to-none conditioning carrying him to victory. Save for a minor scare in round nine and a final round last-ditch rally by Briedis, the second half surge was enough for the visiting Ukrainian to advance to the WBSS finals.
That led to his twice traveling to Russia: first to take in the other semifinals bout between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos one week later; then in July, for his finals meet with Gassiev in a bout that would leave the winner as the first truly undisputed cruiserweight champion in the four-belt era.
As it turned out, the hardest part in making history was getting to fight night. The unification clash itself was delayed by more than two months due to Usyk requiring elbow surgery, thus killing plans for a May clash in Saudi Arabia. The postponement worked out in Gassiev’s favor, in that the fight was relocated to his native Russia.
Home country advantage was the only edge he’d enjoy that night.
Usyk quickly took the crowd out of the equation, somehow reducing an undisputed cruiserweight championship contest into a one-sided sparring session in pitching a virtual shutout. Even before the final decision was announced, the immediate question was what the newly crowned World cruiserweight king would do for an encore.
The answer? A third road trip on the year, of course.
For months, the idea was floated of Tony Bellew challenging the WBSS winner—particularly if it was Usyk, who even entered a co-promotional pact with the Brit’s promoter Eddie Hearn. The union led to the finalization of plans for a November 11 clash in what would be a sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Even if Usyk opted to sit out the rest of 2018 following his win over Gassiev, he’d still serve as a leading Fighter of the Year contender. For much of the first half of his clash with Bellew, the risk of a third fight in an optional defense seemed to outweigh the reward.
That was, until the defending champ was ready to take over.
Once again displaying his superior ring smarts and conditioning, Usyk overcame a rocky start—and surprising scorecard deficit—to emphatically knock out Bellew in round eight. A textbook left hand landed flush, putting the former cruiserweight titlist down and out, a knockout loser in what would be the final fight of his celebrated career.
As for Usyk, it was merely the final moment of an unrivaled 2018 in-ring campaign. He entered the year at least a distant second in discussions of the best active cruiserweight of all time (Holyfield) and the best active boxer from Ukraine (Vasiliy Lomachenko).
Answers that were once foregone conclusions now warrant considerable discussion. Everything about the year that was for Usyk changed that mindset—while fittingly also ending any debate as to whether anyone else deserved the honor of being named the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fighter of the Year.
2018 Knockout of the Year – Naoya Inoue KO1 Juan Carlos Payano
By Jake Donovan
Naoya Inoue’s 2018 ring campaign was the model of efficiency. In two fights, the unbeaten 25-year old from Japan needed just three total minutes of ring time and barely two dozen landed punches to stake his claim as arguably the best bantamweight in the world.
Two of those punches helped create the 2018 Knockout of the Year.
The boxing world was thrilled to learn of “The Monster” offering his services in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight bracket. His entry was contingent upon his getting past 118-pound secondary titlist Jamie McDonnell, needing less than two minutes to accomplish the feat and claiming a title in his third weight class in the process.
Inoue’s inclusion in season two of the WBSS meant a jam-packed bantamweight bracket loaded with competitive matchups as opposed to most of the first-round serving as a foregone conclusion—at least on paper.
Juan Carlos Payano was three fights removed from his title-losing rematch to Rau’Shee Warren by the time he rolled up for his WBSS quarterfinals match versus Inoue on October 7. The two-time Olympian for his native Dominican Republic and former bantamweight titlist believed he faced enough world class competition in his boxing life to where he knew what he was getting himself into in drawing the first-round assignment versus Inoue.
He even considered it a blessing that he and his team arrives safely from his adopted hometown of Miami into Tokyo, despite the presence of Typhoon Trami which wreaked havoc in Japan, causing nearly $100 million in damage.
As it turned out, Payano wasn’t at all prepared for the level of damage that Inoue would inflict on that Sunday afternoon in Japan.
Only because he normally takes the first 0:30 or so of every bout to feel out his opponent did either of Inoue’s two bantamweight bouts last as long as they did. Payano pawed at Inoue’s parrying tactics before attempting to fire off jabs and looping left hands to the body.
Inoue never took the bait, nor did he bother to change his strategy. Circling his left hand around Payano’s extended right hand, the prodigious pound-for-pound entrant found just enough of a leak in his opponent’s defense to connect on a one-two.
The “two” was a thing of beauty.
A quick jab from Inoue caught Payano on the chin, freezing him just long enough follow up with a straight right hand. It was a shot that the Dominican southpaw never saw coming, pitching at the waist upon impact before falling back and crashing to the canvas.
Inoue strolled to a neutral corner before turning around to see that the fight was already done for the night. Payano’s legs quivered upon impact, before somehow peeling his upper body off the canvas as if he were prepared to continue. The effort was in vain, as the lack of feeling in his lower body disallowed him to do more than roll over, requiring assistance from the referee and ringside physician in being seated on a ring stool.
Not since a stoppage loss to Rey Vargas in the 2009 Pan Am semifinals had Payano even failed to hear the final bell in a given fight. He entered the pro ranks as one of the most decorated amateur boxers to ever come out of Dominican Republic, claiming two Olympic tours and more than 420 wins. Even in his rematch loss to Warren—a three-time Olympian for the United States—the margin of defeat was a single round.
Inoue needed just a single right hand to stake his claim as the man to beat in the WBSS bantamweight bracket—and to earn the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Knockout of the Year.
2018 Fight of the Year – Kosei Tanaka MD12 Sho Kimura
By: Jake Donovan
From early in his career, Japan’s Kosei Tanaka was mentioned in the same breath as countrymen Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue as the type of prodigious talent who warrants your undivided attention whenever he steps into the ring.
A mere 12 fights and three division titles into his career, the 23-year old from Nagoya has not only lived up to the billing but doing so while twice entering the record books. The latter entry—a 12-round majority decision victory over Sho Kimura to win the flyweight title last September—gets to make the rounds as the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fight of the Year.
Tanaka (12-0, 7KOs) knew better than to expect a clear and easy path to his third major title in as many weight classes. A war with then unbeaten 18-0 Ryuji Hara in just his 4th pro fight was designed to brace the Nagoya-bred boxer for a historic run. His very next fight was a 12-round win over Julian Yedras to win the strawweight title in just his 5th pro fight, surpassing Inoue (six fights) and Ioka (seven) as the quickest in Japan’s history.
By the time he was lined up to face Kimura, he’d already claimed titles in two weight classes and survived the scariest moments of his career. Tanaka—just four months removed from turning back the challenge of then-unbeaten Angel Acosta—twice came off the deck to eventually stop Thailand’s Palangpol CP Freshmart in the 9th round of their Sept. ’17 war, vacating his junior flyweight title soon thereafter.
A win over countryman Kimura would give Tanaka yet another record-breaking achievement, joining Vasiliy Lomachenko in becoming the quickest in boxing history to win titles in three weight divisions. Lomachenko’s off-the-canvas stoppage win of Jorge Linares last May put the Ukrainian wunderkind in the annals of boxing history.
On the surface, Tanaka’s task seemed slightly less daunting. In countryman Kimura, he faced a defending flyweight titlist who was knocked out barely a minute into his pro debut before going unbeaten in his next 20 starts.
Among the lot was a rousing 10th round stoppage of Shiming Zou, a three-time Olympic medalist from China who was also fast tracked to the title stage. Kimura’s win at the time was considered a major upset, although his title reign has proven that the feat was no fluke.
Ironically, no greater proof came than in the 12 rounds of war he was willing to storm through versus Tanaka in his damnest effort to retain his title. The bout was Kimura’s third attempted title defense, having scored stoppage wins over former lineal champ Toshiyuki Igarashi and formidable contender Froilan Saludar leading into the September affair.
Tanaka initiated a slugfest from the start, scoring a barrage of body shots and right uppercuts in hopes of wearing down the defending titlist. There would be no such luck, as Kimura came roaring back after the first two rounds to launch a body attack of his own.
The tactic prompted Tanaka to slightly switch gears, doing his best to create some distance between the two whereas Kimura was determined to force an inside brawl. Both would ultimately have their way, with momentum swaying almost as often as punches were flying.
By the time the epic title fight reached the championship rounds, Kimura’s eyes were nearly swollen shut while Tanaka supported a mouse under his right eye. One last blitz from the challenger seemingly put the fight out of reach, but Kimura wasn’t quite ready to concede his crown.
The 12th round was nothing short of breathtaking, a slam dunk choice for Round of the Year up until Tyson Fury’s inexplicable rise from the canvas after what should’ve been a knockout blow delivered by Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight battle last December in Los Angeles.
Equally as stunning was Kimura’s ability to punch non-stop in the final round of his last fight as a defending titlist. Both boxers were dog tired by the time they touched gloves to start the 12th, but it was Kimura who initiated the action throughout the stanza. Tanaka seemed reserve to return fire only when necessary, but was forced to dig deep to find his own second wind when it was clear that the champ wasn’t about to ease off the gas.
Kimura was fighting on pure will, at one point even punching himself into a circle following a wild swing and a miss. Embodying their spirited affair was a sequence where the two simultaneously threw and landed right hand shots on three straight exchanges.
The final bell came with a two-way sigh of relief and a hearty embrace between the two warriors at ring’s center, where nearly all of the action took place with barely a clinch along the way. Judge Don Trella was stumped to declare a winner, his 114-114 card trumped by that of scores of 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of Tanaka.
With the win, Tanaka joined Lomachenko as the quickest in history to become a three-division champion. At 23 years of age, he was the third youngest ever to do so, right behind Tony Canzoneri and Wilfred Benitez.
Lomachenko led arguably the greatest amateur career ever while considered by many as pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world today. Canzoneri and Benitez have long ago gained enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
That’s already some incredible company for Tanaka to serve alongside, in addition to career-long comparisons to countrymen Inoue and Ioka, both of whom became three-division titlists a little bit deeper into their respective careers.
On September 24, he enjoyed some incredible in-ring company with Kimura—a historic night properly recognized by BoxingInsider.com as 2018 Fight of the Year.
Six of the Best – Unofficial FOTY 2018 Candidates
By: Ste Rowen
Isn’t it funny how quick the year goes when it’s packed with fights the fans want to see? Though with a few exceptions, the best have fought the best, therefore 2018 is wide open for fight of the year. Here we run through just six of the potential winners, starting with…
1. Murat Gassiev vs. Yunier Dorticos – February
It was arguably the most exciting World Boxing Super Series semi-final to call. Gassiev had cut down veteran, Wlodarczyk whilst Dorticos had vanquished the much feared, Kudryashov in the quarters.
The Cuban boxed brilliantly through the first half of the fight, testing the iron chin of Murat multiple times, but Gassiev remained stable where his fellow Russian, Kudryashov, had come apart. Having regained earlier lost rounds, the Russian began to overcome Dorticos’ best moves, which forced Yunier to put it all on the line in search of a knockout, which in turn led to the openings.
In the final round the IBF champ proved his quality, firstly with a perfect left-hook counter that sent Yunier down; then the second knock down with 60 seconds to go and finishing him off with a final 30-second assault that sent the Cuban through the ropes, and Gassiev into the WBSS final.
2. Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Estrada – February
February gave us another FOTY candidate as WBC super-flyweight champion, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai took on Juan Francisco Estrada on ‘Superfly 2’ in Inglewood, California. In his first fight after dispatching of legend, Roman Gonzalez for the second time, Thailand native, Srisaket came out swinging in his usual rough and ready style whilst Mexican, Estrada went in search of neat openings. Within two minutes of the 12 rounds, a brawl had broken out in the ring.
The action was uncompromising as the two superfly warriors failed to let up for almost all of the 36 minutes they were in the ring. Much like GGG/Canelo 2 (we’ll get to that), Rungvisai and Juan Francisco were at times, able to punish the other, but unable to drop their foe. The action was non-stop throughout, but the Mexican threw much more than he landed in the final three rounds, although the final 60 seconds of the 12th is awards worthy on its own.
It all led to a majority decision in favour of champion, Sor Rungvisai. It’s probably a result of this bout that both boxers have taken two relative walk-over fights to end the year and hopefully setup a rematch for 2019.
3. Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz – March
One of the biggest criticisms labelled at WBC champion, Deontay Wilder is that his reign as champion has lacked named fighters, or dangerous opposition, then along came Luis, the supposed bogeyman of the heavyweight division, and the ‘Bronze Bomber’ showed the world his best to let everyone know he wasn’t just here to take part.
Ortiz proved he wasn’t all hype in the early rounds as he landed numerous counters and not even a slip could deter him from attacking. At the end of the 5th, despite being on the back-foot, Deontay wobbled and eventually dropped his Cuban foe with a pin-point right hook, that halted the momentum Ortiz had built up. Towards the end of seven, Ortiz landed simultaneous shots that forced the American to lean heavily and nullify his opponent’s onslaught, rather than execute his own.
The WBC champ somehow survived Luis’ blitz for another two rounds before a knockdown and finish in the 10th. The first was sloppy, and more of a push, but the conclusion was conclusive as the ‘Bomber’ just unleashed hook after unanswered hook before the Cuban eventually fell.
4. Jorge Linares vs. Vasyl Lomachenko – May
It started beautifully and ended brutally. With the WBA & Ring Magazine titles on the line, in his first fight at lightweight, Lomachenko looked to dethrone the Venezuelan in Jorge’s 5th defence of the title.
The Ukrainian enigma in Vasyl undoubtedly overtook the early to middle rounds of the fight. Linares was probably coming up against the only boxer who could outdo him for style. The sheer speed of the fight proved difficult even for the most hardened of boxing fans to keep up with.
Though Loma was on top, in the 6th Jorge hit his opponent with a flash knockdown that briefly turned the tied of the bout. Vasyl regained his momentum and eventually got the champion out there, before the final bell with a cruel body shot in round 10, to finish an early candidate for fight of the year.
5. Alex Saucedo vs. Lenny Zappavigna – June
A world title eliminator that became a classic. Alex Saucedo and Lenny Zappavigna went to war immediately. ‘Zappa’ seemed to have the speed whilst Saucedo of Mexico had the thudding accuracy. Not even the greatest boxing writers can do the action justice from round 2 to 5.
Whilst on the offense in the third, Lenny was dropped by a swift hook to hit the canvas for the first time. Testament to the Australian for not only surviving the round but also firing back with fearsome intent.
And then the 4th happened, a full two minutes where it felt like Lenny started and didn’t stop throwing up until the bell rang for the end of the round. It was Saucedo surviving this time, but survive he did, flicking a switch to steadily dominant proceedings into the 7th where the opposition corner threw in the towel to end their fighter’s ordeal.
6. Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 2 – September
What more can be said about the repeat of Golovkin and Canelo’s 2017 Fight of the Year contender, this time with added needle – not that it needed it – due to Alvarez’s failed drug test at the end of last year.
It was a sensational 12-round back and forth. Both fighters pushed themselves forward and both were forced back. The magnitude of the event was matched with the relentlessness of the action.
Who won? Well, unlike the first fight where it seemed most picked GGG, this time round it was a lot closer, but it was the Mexican who took the split decision in a fight that had almost everything.
So there is, this writer’s, top six fights of the year. Special shout outs to Sho Kimura vs. Konsei Tanaka and Dereck Chisora vs. Carlos Takam that just missed out on this list, but don’t worry, FOTY is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Just go watch them again to really appreciate your favorite fights of 2018.
President Donald J. Trump Inducted into Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame
By: Ken Hissner
“Donald Trump couldn’t make it due to his day job,” said ACB HOF President Ray McCline. It brought quite a bit of laughter at the CLARIDGE a Radissan Hotel Sunday in Atlantic City, NJ.
Master of Ceremony NJB HOF President Henry Hascup and Ring Announcer Nino Del Buono did a fine job introducing the inductees. India Mercer, daughter of WBO Heavyweight champion Ray “Mercilus” Mercer did a great version of the National Anthem. Atlantic City Mayor Frank M. Gilliam Jr. also spoke.
The four “Special Contributors” were Trump, Mark G. Etess (accepting Don Hurley), former IBF President Marian Muhammad and former WBC President Jose Sulaiman (accepting Jill Diamond WBC Honoree). Officials being inducted who were present were judges Joseph Pasquale and Jean Williams.
Media inductees there were photographer Ray Bailey, and writers Bernard Fernandez and David Weinberg. Of the four Operations inductees Diane Fisher-Cristiano was there and had the audience in an uproar of laughter and got a great ovation when being introduced. She has been a long time promoter and was most worthy of her induction.
Fighters being inducted who were there were former Cruiser and Heavyweight champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield who accepted his award first. He had another engagement and wanted to get going first but took about 20 minutes in his acceptance speech which was a good one.
Mercer got a great round of applause when he was introduced for his induction. WBA Bantam champ “Joltin” Jeff Chandler, NABF champ Richie Kates and WBA Heavy champ Bruce “Atlantic City Express” Seldon were well received by the audience upon being introduced.
Hector Camacho Jr accepted for his father the late Hector “Macho Man”. Two division world champion Bobby ”Chappie” Czyz got a great ovation from the audience and had the them in stitches. He was followed by Vinny “Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza and they traded humorous jabs back and forth. Paz turned it into an R rated event and it can’t be in print the comments he said. He did say his most satisfying victory other than winning two world titles was stopping Dana Rosenblatt (in their first of two fights with Rosenblatt taking the second one).
In attendance were NJ Boxing Commissioner and IBHOF Referee Larry Hazzard, Sr., former Olympic, Light Heavy and Heavy champion Michael “Spinx Jinx” Spinks, 3-division world champ Iran “The Blade” Barkley, WBO Light Welter DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, champ Legendary matchmaker Don Elbaum, Referee Alan Huggins, Olympic and WBA World Welter champ Mark Breland, NJ and PA inductee cut-man Joey Eye, trainer Aaron Snowell, judge George Hill, writers Danny Serratelli of Brick City Boxing, Frank Bartolini of Boxing News, Joe Santoliquito of Ring Magazine and this writer.
2nd Annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Inductions Sunday at Historical Claridge Hotel & Casino
By: Ken Hissner
There will be 21 inductees Sunday going into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame at the Claridge Hotel & Casino. It was quite an event in 2017 and it looks like it will be another good night.
In the Boxers category there will be WBU Super Cruiserweight, WBA Cruiserweight and IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion Bobby Czyz, WBA Heavyweight Champion Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, WBA, WBC & IBF Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, WBC Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight and WBO Light Welterweight Champion Hector “Macho” Camacho, WBA Bantamweight Champion “Joltin” Jeff Chandler, IBF Lightweight and WBA Light Middleweight Champion Vinny “Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza, WBO Heavyweight Champion Ray “Merciless” Mercer and NABF Champion Richie Kates.
In the Trainers and Cut Man category will be trainers Carmen Graziano, George Benton and cut man Ralph Citro. In the Operation category will be promoters Bob Arum, Dan Duva, Diane Fischer-Cristiano, and Ring Announcer Ed Darian.
In the Officials category will be Judges Jean Williams and Joe Pasquale. Also, Former Heavyweight Champion and NJ Boxing Commissioner “Jersey” Joe Walcott. In the Media category will be writers Bernard Fernandez and David Weinberg. Also, photographer Ray Bailey.
There will be numerous guests including Hector Camacho, Jr., Mauricio Sulaiman, President of the WBC, Michael Spinks, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, Marlon Starling, Iran Barkley, DeMarcus Corley, John Scully, Larry Hazzard, Sr., Steve Smoger, Dave Bontempo, Freddie Roach, Aaron Snowell, Plaxico Burruss, Eddie Alvarez, Clinton Portis, Jill Diamond and Mayor Frank M. Gilliam, Jr.
Sweet 16 Inducted into Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame
By: Ken Hissner
The 2018 Inductees were announced at the Ring One Veteran Boxer’s Association monthly meeting Saturday by Chairman John DiSanto. There will be 16 boxing people inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in May at their annual banquet.
Heading the list will be former middleweight contender Frank “The Animal” Fletcher, 18-6-1 (12). He won USBA and ESPN titles. One of the opponents he knocked out Ernie Singletary, 26-6 (8), will also be inducted. Both are in the Modern Boxers category. Singletary defeated Tony Braxton, Teddy Mann and Al Styles.
Also in that category inducted are Bethlehem’s Angel Cruz, 26-6-2 (7), who defeated one-time world champions Alfredo Escalara and Saoul Mamby. This writer’s first boxing main event promotion in 1981 with Cruz and Sammy Goss in a draw. Pittsburgh’s Johnny Morris, 27-11 (16), was the PA State Middleweight champion. He defeated Tony Dupas, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and split with George Benton. Flyweight Larry Torpey, 14-4-1 (2), won a National AAU Championship in 1941. They are the 5 inductees in the Vintage category.
Inducted in the Modern Boxers category are led by Mike “No Joke” Stewart, 48-8-3 (25), from DE, who fought in PA some 18 times. He held the USBA title and defeated Ivan Robinson, Terron Millett, Chucky T and Ebo Elder. Featherweight Tony “Dynamite” Green, 23-6-1 (15), was the PA State champion and fought for the WBC featherweight title. He defeated Myron Taylor, Julian Solis, Tommy Barnes and Harold Rhodes.
Super Middleweight Marvin Mack, 18-8-1 (10), fought for the IBF world title in South Korea losing a disputed decision to Chong-Pal Park. He won the WBC Continental Americas title knocking out “Poncho” Carter. Mark Holmes, 38-1 (17), of Easton defeated one-time world champion “Buster” Drayton, Ben Serrano and Mike Baker. The brother of Frank Fletcher inducted is Anthony Fletcher, 24-4-1 (8), who was the PA State lightweight champion. He defeated one-time world champions Freddie Pendleton and Livingstone Bramble.
In the Non-Boxers category they were led by cut-man Stan Maliszewski, and followed by trainer “Pop” Bates, promoter Mike Acri, Dr. George Bonner and trainer Willie Reddish, Jr.
In the Old Timer’s category the lone inductee was former world heavyweight champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 51-18-2 (32). He defeated Ezzard Charles, Harold Johnson, Joey Maxim, Jimmy Bivins and Curtis Sheppard.
This meeting went well. This writers Friday didn’t go so well waiting for former WBC 2-division world champion Danny “Swift” Garcia to make an appearance at his gym for close to an hour with other members of the press. He finally showed 50 minutes late and went directly to his dressing room and was still there at 3pm when I left.
Then straight to the press conference for Saturday’s boxing event at the 2300 Arena. Boxing Director Greg Sirb decided to put the weigh-in in place of the press conference which was scheduled for 5:30 and at 6:30 it was still not started as this writer left the 2300 Arena. When there are obligations made by Garcia and Hard Hitting Promotions pushed aside by Sirb it isn’t fair to the public or the working press but that’s Philadelphia’s boxing for you.
Did Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran Duck Colombia’s Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes?
By: Ken Hissner
The boxing world knew that both Roberto “Hands of Stone” and Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes would be IBHOF inductees someday and they were right.
Duran ruled the lightweights after his defeat of Scotland’s Ken Buchanan on June 26th 1972 at Madison Square Garden. He was 31-0 when he suffered his first loss that to Puerto Rico’s Esteban “Vita” DeJesus, 31-1 (only loss to Antonio Gomez), at Madison Square Garden in a super lightweight match. Duran was knocked down in the first round and lost by scores of 5-4, 6-3 and 6-2.
DeJesus would drop down to lightweight and win the NABF title from Ray Lampkin, 19-0-1, in his next fight. It took until March 16th 1974 in Panama City to get his rematch with Duran and got knocked out in the 11th round. Like in their first match Duran was knocked down in the first round. Duran would sometimes get up to 200 pounds between fights. By then DeJesus was 42-1 and Duran 41-1.
Duran would win 4 non-title bouts coming in at 139 three times and 140 once. In December of 1974 Duran in a title defense scored a first round knockout over Japan’s lightweight champion Masataka Takayama, 21-5-1. In March of 1975 in his next defense it was his turn to defeat Lampkin, 29-3-1, stopping him in the 14th round. Lampkin’s was rushed to a hospital afterwards.
Duran won four more non-title bouts before defending against Mexico’s champion Leoncio Ortiz, 30-5-2, knocking him out at 2:30 of the 15th and final round. In his next fight he defeated former WBA Super lightweight champion Saoul Mamby, 18-8. Just 19 days later he was in Erie, PA, dropping 6 pounds and defeating the local boxer Lou Bizzaro, 22-0, knocking him out in the 14th round.
In October Duran scored a 1st round knockout over Alvaro Rojas, 15-7, of Costa Rica. In January of 1977 he knocked out Vilomar Fernandez, 19-5-1, in the 13th round. Two more non-title wins and in Philadelphia in September in a “grudge match” he defeated Edwin Viruet, 22-2, over 15 rounds. This writer got a picture with him prior to the fight. I have never seen anyone skip rope better than Duran.
Next up would be his final defense at lightweight in a “rubber match” with DeJesus, 52-3, stopping him in the 12th round at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas also capturing the WBC title in addition to keeping his WBA title.
Duran would go onto win 8 non-title bouts coming in as high as 151 in one of them. In June of 1980 he won the WBC World welterweight title from “Sugar” Ray Leonard, 27-1, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. In the rematch in November came the humiliating loss to Leonard at the Superdome in New Orleans quitting in the 8th round.
Duran would go 4-2 before winning the WBA Super welterweight title stopping Davey Moore, 12-0, for his title in the 8th round in June of 1983. In his next fight he stepped in with WBA, WBC & IBF Middleweight champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, 57-2-2, losing a close 15 round decision by scores of 144-142, 146-145 and 144-143.
In Duran’s next fight in June of 1984 he suffered a devastating loss to former welter and super welter champion Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, 38-1, in the second round. In February of 1989 he would win the WBC Middleweight title that Iran “The Blade” Barkley, 25-4, held by split decision at the Convention Hall, in Atlantic City, NJ. He had Barkley down in the 11th round. He would end up his career in July of 2001 with a record of 103-16 with 70 by stoppage at age 50.
Now let’s look at Cervantes. In December of 1981 he got his first title shot against Argentina’s Nicolino “El Intocable” Loche, 103-2-14, losing every round for the WBA World super lightweight title. In October of 1972 Cervantes would win the same title from Panama’s Alfonso Fraser, 30-4-1, at Panama City with a 10th round knockout. It was just four months after Duran defeated Buchanan. That’s about as close as they met.
In Cervantes next fight and first defense he won a split decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico, over Josue Marquez, 26-5-1. Just a month later, he got his revenge defeating Loche, 110-3-14, who couldn’t come out for the 10th round due to a cut. Just two months later he gave Fraser a rematch, 31-5-6, stopping him in the 5th round.
In September of 1973 Cervantes was home in Bogota, Colombia, stopping Argentina’s Carlos Maria Gimenez, 72-2-3, in the 5th round. On December 5th he was back in Panama stopping Japan’s Lion Furuyama, 30-5-2, over 15 rounds. Just two days prior to this in Panama Duran was winning a non-title bout knocking out Tony Garcia, 13-2-4.
Cervantes would win three more title defenses starting with Chang-Kil Lee, 22-1, with a 6th round knockout in March of 1974. In July he would knockout in 2 rounds Victor Ortiz, 25-6. In October in Japan he would knockout Shinichi Kadota, 35-7, in 8 rounds.
In May of 1975 it was Cervantes’ time to meet DeJesus, 45-2, knocking him down in the 1st, 12th and 15th rounds winning a lopsided decision in Panama. In November back in Panama he would stop Australia’s Hector Thompson, 55-4-2 in the 7th round. Duran the following month was in Puerto Rico defending against Mexico’s Ortiz. Cervantes was 5-0 in Panama and maybe that is why Duran never challenged him with either he or his people seeing how good Cervantes was.
In March of 1976 Cervantes in his eleventh title defense would lose his title to 17 year-old Wilfred Benitez, 25-0, by split decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cervantes never got a return match. In January of 1982 Benitez then the WBC World Super champion would defeat Duran. After five wins Cervantes would get another shot at the vacant WBA title in June of 1977 in a rematch with Gimenez, 98-8-4, stopping him in the 4th round.
After a pair of title defenses Cervantes would go to South Africa and stop Norman Sekgapane, 51-6-1, in the 9th round. He had another three defenses including two against Miguel Montilla, 33-4-3, stopping him in the second one. In between those two defenses he was in South Korea defeating Kwang Min Kim, 15-0-1, by split decision. That gave Cervantes sixteen defenses.
Next up in August of 1980 for Cervantes would be future Hall of Famer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, 24-0, stopping Cervantes in the fourth round at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. The hanger-on’s swarmed Pryor to the point he couldn’t get interviewed. Cervantes would go onto win his next four fights before losing his final one in December of 1983. His final record was 93-12-3 (45), while Duran ended up 103-16 70). Both would become IBHOF inductees. What a fight that would have been if they ever met. Duran vacated his lightweight title in January of 1979 after defeating DeJesus in their third fight. He would “skip” super lightweight and go onto welterweight eventually winning that title, the super welter and middleweight titles. He never challenged Cervantes for the super lightweight title. What a match that would be between Cervantes and Duran.
Why Some of Boxing’s Most Famous Fighters Don’t Belong in the Hall of Fame
By: Patrick Mascoe
Being great and being famous are two very different things. However, one of the characteristics that often go along with greatness is fame. Sometimes being famous leads to the assumption that one is great, but they are not one and the same. For example, when a baseball player is inducted into Cooperstown there is certain unwritten criterion that the player is expected to achieve. In a sense, baseball has deemed that certain numbers quantify one as being great. It may be 3000 hits or 500 home runs. In hockey, 500 goals will get you into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In these sports, excitement, charisma, and entertainment value do not define greatness – statistics do.
Entry into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a lot more subjective. Statistics are still important, but charisma, courage, and bravery are also highly valued. As a result, not every boxer in the International Boxing Hall of Fame was great. Some were just very good. What allows them to be mentioned, in the same breath as the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Louis, are their intangibles.
Statistics can not measure a man’s will to win or his ability to take a punch. They don’t gage fan excitement or exhilaration. For example, Floyd Mayweather is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He exhibited greatness in the ring, was a multiple world champion, and remained undefeated throughout his career. Mayweather also possessed God-given talent that made it hard for the average fan to relate to.
When he clashed with Arturo Gatti, Mayweather made him look like an amateur fighter. Yet it was Gatti who could sell out venues and made every fight must-see-TV. The technically superior Mayweather was labelled “boring.” We as fans could relate to the Arturo Gatti’s of the world. We saw him labour and could appreciate his bravery and his tenacity. Floyd is boxing royalty while Gatti was boxing’s common man. Floyd Mayweather was great. Arturo Gatti was good, but made us feel great.
Arturo Gatti was not a great fighter. Nevertheless, in 2012 he was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Gatti was not the only good fighter to enter the Hall. Other fighters also captured our attention. They shined so bright, we were mesmerized and captivated by their talents but failed to see their inefficiencies.
Here is my countdown of boxers who were very good, but not great, who rode a wave of excitement and adulation into the International Boxing Hall of Fame:
5. Matthew Saad Muhammad: In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Matthew Saad Muhammad was one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. He held the WBC World Light Heavyweight title from 1979 – 1981 and defended it eight times. He finished his career with a record of 49 wins, 16 losses and 3 draws. He was known as an all-action fighter, who was incredibly resilient. Just when it looked like he was on the verge of defeat, he would mount a magical comeback and win.
Muhammad was an excellent finisher and possessed considerable power. His one substantial weakness was his permeable defence. He fought every match as if he were working out on a heavy bag: all offense – no defence. His style made him fun to watch, but it also made him very easy to hit. Every fight, no matter how strong or weak the opposition, was a life and death struggle.
When we break down what Muhammad did in the ring, you have to wonder why he is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. First of all, he lost a quarter of his fights. Yes, eight of his losses came at the end of his career, but they are still losses. Almost twenty fights into his professional career; he was still being matched against fighters with losing records. Even after winning a world title and right up to his retirement, he fought boxers with losing records.
Muhammad did defend his title eight times. However, none of those title challengers stood out as being exceptional. In one of his most illustrious fights, in 1980, against Yaqui Lopez, he was hit with twenty unanswered punches. He was on the verge of having the fight stopped, only to come back and knock out Lopez in the 14th round. Ring Magazine declared it the “Fight of the Year.” Yaqui Lopez was a solid fighter but he was a fighter who, during his career, challenged for a world title five times and lost all five fights.
The only truly great fighter Muhammad ever faced was Dwight Muhammed Qawi. They fought twice. Qawi won the first match and took Muhammad’s Light Heavyweight Title by way of a ten round TKO. In the return match, Qawi won again, this time in six.
Muhammad defeated a number of good fighters, but he never beat a great fighter. Many of his victories were against weaker competition and when he did fight good fighters, he had his hands full. He also lost 16 times during his career. Did he have the heart of a champion? Was he entertaining? Was he incredibly courageous? Yes. Yes. Yes. Was he a great fighter? No.
4. Arturo Gatti: He was known as an absolutely fearless all-action fighter. Much like Matthew Saad Muhammad, Gatti had a supernatural ability to endure punishment while always pressing forward. He held the IBF Jr. Lightweight Title from 1995-1998 and the WBC Super Lightweight Title from 2004-2005. He retired with a record of 40 – 9.
Gatti was involved in the Ring’s “Fight of the Year” on four different occasions. He defeated Gabriel Ruelas, was defeated by Ivan Robinson, and had both a victory and a loss against Micky Ward. These fights were character defining, monumental battles for Gatti, but the men he faced were themselves not great boxers. They were like him, good solid professionals.
His will, power, and iron chin always made him a formidable opponent. However, he was easy to hit and was often out-boxed even in victory. In Gatti’s first defence of his IBF Junior Lightweight Title against Wilson Rodriguez, he was completely schooled and had been taking a hellacious beating before coming back to stop Rodriguez in a desperation finish. Against Angel Manfredy, another good fighter, but never a champion, Gatti was again completely out boxed and the fight was stopped in the eighth round.
When Gatti actually faced Hall of Fame level competition, he came up considerably short. He fought Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Neither fight was even close. Against Oscar, the fight was stopped in five rounds and against Floyd, the fight was stopped in six. These outcomes showed that although Arturo was a great fighter to watch, he simply did not posses the same calibre of skill as the elite fighters of the day.
Arturo Gatti may very well have been one of the most exciting fighters of his generation. He possessed a great chin, great power, and a great heart. Despite those valiant qualities, he was not one of the all-time greatest boxers in history.
3. Ray Mancini: If you judged Mancini only by his boxing style, you would swear that he and Arturo Gatti came from the same family. Like Gatti, Mancini was an in your face, aggressive pressure fighter. He had decent power and a granite chin. Whatever he lacked in skill, he made up for with unbelievable heart. Mancini held the WBA Lightweight Title from 1982-1984 and retired with a record of 29 – 5.
Mancini garnered national attention, not only for his entertaining fighting style, but because of a heart-rending background story. His father, veteran boxer Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini, missed his opportunity to fight for a world title because of WWII. Ray, who idolized his father, took up boxing with the idea that he could finish what his father had started.
After compiling a 20-0 record, Mancini was given the opportunity to fight for a world title. Unfortunately, it was against Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, arguably one of the greatest boxers of his era. Mancini fought bravely and took the fight to Arguello, but was eventually stopped in the 14th round. For the media and for boxing fans, this only made Mancini’s story more compelling. He won his next two fights and was again given a title shot, this time against Arturo Frias for the WBA Lightweight Title.
Mancini stopped Frias in the first round after almost being stopped himself. His fairy tale life story had now taken on the happy ending that all fans had wished for. Along with being a good fighter, Mancini always appeared to be a genuinely good guy. He went on to defend his title four times against the likes of Ernesto Espana, Duk-koo Kim, Orlando Romero, and Bobby Chacon and fought two non-title fights against George Feeney and Johnny Torres. Bobby Chacon was the only recognizable fighter Mancini faced as champion, and he was a natural featherweight who had moved up in weight for this fight. This would be Mancini’s last professional victory.
Eventually, Mancini lost his title, as well as a rematch to Livingston Bramble. He then lost bouts to Hector Camacho and Greg Haugen before retiring. Mancini was both exciting and entertaining. During his career he faced off against three Hall of Famers. He lost to two of them and defeated one. Mancini’s sentimental story was greater than his skills. I can’t help but think that without the story, he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he would be regarded as being very similar to the likes of Vinny Pazienza, an entertaining fighter who is on the outside of the Hall looking in.
2. Prince Naseem Hamed: He was known for his elaborate ring entrances, his unorthodox boxing style, and his one punch knock out power. Nassem reigned as the WBO Featherweight Champion from 1995 – 2000. He retired from boxing with an impeccable record of 36-1. Always a polarizing figure, some feel he was one of the greatest featherweights of all time, while others including his former promoter see him as one of boxing’s greatest underachievers.
Prince Naseem’s story is not about what he accomplished, but rather about what he never tried to accomplish. He defended his WBO Title a total of fifteen times. This was back in a time when the WBO was even more insignificant than it is now. His resume of title defences was a who’s who of no-name, average fighters; Said Lawal, Daniel Alicea, Remigio Molina, Tom Johnson, and Jose Badillo. Prince Naseem never fought the best fighters available at the time of his reign. The fighters he never faced tell us more about him than the fighters he defeated; Azumah Nelson, Jeff Fenech, Gabriel Ruelas, Arturo Gatti, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Diego Corrales, and Johnny Tapia.
Prince Naseem fought the vast majority of his fights in the UK, where fans obviously seemed unbothered by the lack of aggressive matchmaking. It was only when he came to the United States that the Prince was really tested. He knocked out a very good opponent in Kevin Kelly in the 4th round of their epic battle at Madison Square Gardens. Despite the victory, Kelly was able to expose Naseem’s defensive shortcomings as he put him on the canvas three times.
In 2001, Prince Naseem finally engaged in a high profile fight against a world-class opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera. Barrera had agreed to move up in weight in order to fight the larger Naseem. How did the Prince fare against a legitimate Hall of Fame fighter? He was given a complete boxing lesson. Not only did Barrera beat Prince Naseem physically, it looked like he beat the will to fight right out of him. When Barrera lost to Junior Jones, he demanded an immediate rematch. When he lost to Erik Morales he came back and fought him two more times. What did Prince Naseem do after losing to Barrera? He fought someone named Manuel Calvo, was booed by his hometown fans for his poor performance, and never boxed again.
Prince Naseem was far more flash than substance. Yes, he had a great record, but so did Butterbean. It’s not his many victories over subpar opponents that we should measure him by. It is his one loss and all the fighters he avoided that really define his legacy. Yes, he was famous, more for his ring entrances than anything else. That should get him on “Dancing with the Stars”, but not in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
1. Mike Tyson – From 1985 – 2005, Mike Tyson was the biggest name in boxing. Much like Prince Naseem, Tyson was a polarizing figure, both inside and outside of the ring. Once dubbed “the baddest man on the planet”, Tyson was the Heavyweight Champion from 1986-1990 and again in 1996. He was an intimidating force who possessed great power and fought like a ravenous predator. Tyson was well on his way to greatness. He became the youngest man ever to hold the heavyweight title and by February 10, 1990, he had a record of 37-0 with 33 knock outs.
Dramatically, the very next day, everything would change for Tyson and his cloak of invincibility would be shredded by Buster Douglas. Douglas was a tall rangy fighter with an excellent jab. He was a skilled fighter who often lacked motivation, yet against Tyson he refused to be intimidated. Despite being a 42-1 underdog, Douglas knocked Tyson out in the 10th round. It was at this point in his career that Tyson’s quest for greatness ended. No longer the intimidating figure he once was, his life began to fall apart.
He engaged in, and won two tough fights against Razor Ruddock. Then in July of 1991, he was arrested and convicted of rape. He spent the next three years incarcerated at the Plainfield Correctional Facility. Upon his release, he returned to the ring and defeated Frank Bruno to become the WBC Heavyweight Champion. The victory helped set up a much anticipated and long awaited fight against Evander Holyfield.
Going into the Holyfield fight, Tyson was considered a heavy favourite. Evander Holyfield was 34 years old and was thought to be washed up. Much like Buster Douglas, Holyfield was not apprehensive about facing Iron Mike and his celebrated reputation. By the end of the night, it was Holyfield’s reputation that had been boosted after stopping Tyson in the 11th round.
Their immediate rematch lasted only three rounds. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear not once, but twice and was subsequently disqualified. This was the action of a man who chose quitting over fighting. As a result of his actions, Tyson had become a pariah. Numerous boxing commissions refused to grant him a license to box. In 2002, in Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tyson once again challenged for the heavyweight title. This time he faced off against Lennox Lewis. Lewis dominated the match, winning by knockout in the 8th.
Throughout his career, Tyson fought four Hall of Fame fighters. He defeated Michael Spinks, a great light heavyweight masquerading as a heavyweight and a well past his prime Larry Holmes, who came out of retirement for an appealing pay cheque. He was thoroughly beaten by Lennox Lewis and lost to Evander Holyfield twice – once by knockout and once by disqualification (which was nothing more than a way to quit rather than being knocked out again).
Why is Mike Tyson in the Hall of Fame? The most memorable thing he ever did in a ring was to bite a man’s ear off. Tyson had a great start to his career however, along the way he was exposed as nothing more than a bully and a quitter. Tyson did not just quit against Holyfield. He also quit in the last fight of his career against journey man boxer Kevin McBride. Tyson could have been great; in the end I don’t believe he was even one of the top three best heavyweight fighters of his era. Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and Riddick Bowe were all superior to Tyson.
In conclusion, all five fighters mentioned on this list had one thing in common; they were aggressive warriors that endeared themselves to boxing fans. They were all great to watch, but they themselves were not necessarily great. Based on the intangible qualities of courage, bravery, and determination, I believe there is an argument to be made on behalf of Matthew Saad Muhammad, Arturo Gatti, and Ray Mancini, being in the Hall of Fame. However, there should be no room in the Boxing Hall of Fame for imposters like Prince Naseem Hamad and quitters like Mike Tyson, no matter how famous they were.
Is Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko 2017 Fighter of the Year?
By: Ken Hissner
The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ukranian Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko, 10-1, living in Oxnard, CA, moved up from holding the WBO Featherweight title to defeating WBO World Super featherweight Roman Martinez in June of 2016, and defeating in his first defense the former WBA Super World featherweight champion Jamaican Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters, 26-0-1 by stoppage in 7 rounds.
In Lomchenko’s second defense in 2017 in April defeated WBA World Super featherweight champion (his title not at stake) Jason “El Canito” Sosa, 20-1-4, of Camden, NJ, stopping him in the 9th round at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, MD, stopping Sosa’s 17 fight winning streak.
In Lomachenko’s third defense in August he stopped Colombian Miguel Marriaga, 25-2, in the 7th round, at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles, CA.
In December Lomachenko in his fourth defense stopped the former two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, WBO World Super bantamweight and WBA Super World bantamweight champion Cuban Guillermo “The Jackal” Rigondeaux, 17-0, in the 6th round.
Lomachenko was 396-1 in the amateurs while Rigondeaux was 463-12. This was a major event having a pair of two-time Olympic Gold Medalists meeting one another.
Lomachenko is now considering seeking moving up the lightweight to gain his third division world title. Egis Klimas is his manager who also has WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, of Russia, living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, among many other boxers and promoted by Top Rank.
Another considered for “Fighter of the Year” was Anthony “A.J.” Joshua, 20-0, in April, defending his WBA Super world heavyweight title stopping former Super World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, 64-4, and stopping Carlos Takam, 35-3-1, in a not too impressive defense.
Also considered was IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, 37-0-1, of KAZ, living in L.A. who in March defeated former WBA World Middleweight champion Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs, 32-1, at Madison Square Garden, in NY and in September getting robbed being held to a split decision draw by former WBO World Super welterweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 49-1-1, at the T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, NV.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Groves, Arum, Holyfield, Hernandez, Eubank, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of November 21st to November 28th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Holyfield and Arum Headline 2018 Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Class
Evander Holyfield and Bob Arum headline the 2018 inductees into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame.
The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame (ACBHOF) has announced its 25 member 2018 Induction Class, which also includes President Donald J. Trump. This epic event will take place at The Claridge, a Radisson Hotel located at Park Place & Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 1 – 3, 2018.
Atlantic City, New Jersey Mayor-Elect Frank M. Gilliam Jr. commented, “The future of boxing in Atlantic City is brighter than ever. Being the newly elected Mayor of the City of Atlantic City, New Jersey it gives me great honor to be a part of bringing the 2nd Annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Weekend back to our Great City. I believe boxing and Atlantic City has always been a natural fit and we see it returning to its glory days, and under my administration, we plan on welcoming it back wholeheartedly: Congratulations to the ACBHOF “2018” Inductees!”
The Claridge Hotel serves as the signature Corporate Sponsor for this knockout weekend, “The Claridge is proud to be in partnership with the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame and to continue to promote professional boxing’s exceptional history in Atlantic City,” says Cem Erenler, Vice President/ Operations & Business Development for TMJ Properties, the owner and developer of The Claridge. The iconic hotel, which is now part of the global Radisson brand first opened in 1930. “Hosting this signature event is in the best traditions of The Claridge, which for more than 80 years has been Atlantic City’s center for exciting events in sports and entertainment,” Mr. Erenler said.
Evander Holyfield stated: “I have many great memories fighting in Atlantic City, and I am honored to be inducted into its Hall of Fame.”
The 2nd Annual Induction Ceremony & Celebration Weekend will honor some of the world’s most prominent trailblazers from the sport of boxing: President Donald J. Trump, José Sulaimán, and Bob Arum are just a few names who will be enshrined with the 2018 induction class. Also expected to be in attendance; current and former boxing champions, and VIP Guests for a fun-filled weekend that’s highlighted by a black-tie evening, and the acclaimed, unforgettable Induction Ceremony.
“The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame is here to stay! The epic success of our 2017 Inaugural Induction weekend was pivotal to our brand value in the boxing and business community,” said Rodrick Green Vice President and Business Strategist for ACBHOF. “We are excited about the economic and sports entertainment impact the ACBHOF will continue to have in Atlantic City. Thank you for your support and be reassured that at the 2018 Induction Celebration the bar will be raised even higher.
Over the next several weeks there will be updates on the schedule of events, room packages and expected VIP appearances on the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame and the Claridge Hotel websites and social media platforms.
“We’re excited about the ACBHOF 2018 Induction Class; I believe our nomination committee did an incredible job in selecting a diverse and richly deserving group of individuals. I’m extremely proud of this class because it contains three remarkable women: Diane Fischer-Cristiano, Jean Williams, and Marian Muhammad. The ACBHOF team along with our partners and sponsors are looking forward to June where we will pay homage to our 2018 inductees,” said Ray McCline ACBHOF President and Founder.
Tickets for Groves-Eubank Jr. Sold Out in Seven Minutes
It took seven minutes to sell out the Ali Trophy semi-final bout between WBA Super World Champion George Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) and IBO-Champ Chris Eubank Jr. (26-1,20 KOs) at the Manchester Arena on February 17, 2018.
Europe’s largest purpose-built indoor arena will be at capacity to witness what promises to be the biggest Super Middleweight night in years.
“This is a sensational start to the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series and the quest for the Muhammad Ali Trophy,” said Roberto Dalmiglio, Comosa’s CEO.
“I said before we went on sale that the fight between Groves and Eubank Jr. represents the boxing event fans cannot afford to miss, and I am happy to say that I was right.”
Said Kalle Sauerland, Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer: “This is clearly the fight everyone wanted and I am sure this super-fight will capture not only a nation but a generation of fight fans.”
“The build-up is going to be huge and we can’t wait to go to Manchester for a sold out event between two spectacular rivals and world-class fighters.”
“We will work hard over the coming weeks to release extra tickets to meet the huge demand for this fight.”
The build-up to the all-British grudge match begins today when Groves and Eubank Jr. come face-to-face at a kickoff press conference at 2 pm in London.
ITV will be live streaming the press conference on ITV Box Office, YouTube and Facebook.
The Ali Trophy super middleweight semi-final between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr. will be live on ITV Box Office on February 17.
Lucas Matthysse and Jorge Linares to Headline HBO Card at Los Angeles Forum
Two of the world’s most exciting fighters, Lucas “La Maquina” Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs) and Jorge “El Nino De Oro” Linares (43-3, 27 KOs), will kick off the 2018 boxing year with a bang as they compete in separate world championship bouts on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at the “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, California. This special double main event will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:20 p.m. ET/PT.
The first co-main event will see the 35-year-old Matthysse, an absolutely thunderous puncher out of Chubut, Argentina, facing undefeated Thai superstar Tewa Kiram (38-0. 28 KOs) in a 12-round battle for the vacant WBA Welterweight World Championship.
“I am honored to be able to fight for a world championship in just my second fight at welterweight,” said Matthysse, a former interim world champion at 140 pounds who has defeated the likes of former two-division champion Lamont “Havoc” Peterson, formerWBO Junior Welterweight Champion Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov and former three-division titlist Humberto “La Zorrita” Soto. “I understand I am facing a younger, undefeated opponent, but I am confident that ‘The Machine’ will emerge victorious.”
Since turning pro at the age of 15, Kiram has torn through an astounding 38 opponents, with 28 of them never hearing the final bell. He won the interim PABA Welterweight Championship in just his sixth fight and defended it – and the full PABA Welterweight title – more than 30 times over seven years. This will mark his first fight outside of Thailand.
“I understand not many people know me in the U.S., but they are in for a big surprise on Jan. 27,” Kiram said. “I have never been defeated, and I am fully confident that I will return to Thailand with the WBA Welterweight World Championship around my waist.”
In the second co-main event, Linares, a 32-year-old Venezuelan considered one of the top fighters in the world, will make his second trip to the ‘Fabulous’ Forum in a row to defend his multiple lightweight world championships against the once-defeated Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs).
“I have travelled all over the world to win and defend my titles, and I am looking forward to having my hand raised in victory once again in America,” said Linares, the three-division world champion who holds victories over world champions and contenders such as Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla, Kevin “Mighty” Mitchell and Gamaliel “El Platano” Diaz. “I know that Gesta has speed and power, but he hasn’t been at this level before, and on Jan. 27, he’ll know what it’s like to face a world champion.”
Gesta, a 30-year-old from the Philippines, has not tasted defeat in six fights, beating quality opponents including Gilberto “El Flaco” Gonzalez and former contender Martin “El Brochas” Honorio. Gesta is getting his second shot at a world championship more than five years after dropping a unanimous decision to Miguel “Titere” Vazquez for the IBF World Lightweight Championship.
“I know firsthand how long it takes to get a shot at a world championship, and I will not allow this opportunity to pass me by,” Gesta said. “I understand Linares is a great fighter, but I know I have the skills, speed, power, and great coaching which will get my hand raised in victory.”
“What a way to kick of 2018 – with two of the top fighters in the sport taking on younger, hungry challengers,” said Oscar De La Hoya, CEO and Chairman of Golden Boy Promotions. “It’s not often you get two main events on one card, but that is what we will have on Jan. 27 at the “Fabulous” Forum. This card will help keep the momentum that boxing established in 2017.”
“This is a very important fight for Argentine boxing, for Lucas Matthysse and for Arano Box,” said Mario Arano of Arano Boxing. “Matthysse is ready to be a world champion, and we are more than sure that his win will make huge waves throughout the entirety of the Republic of Argentina and South America.”
“Thailand has never had a Welterweight World champion before,” said Taweesin Terry Laosuwanwat, Manager and Promoter of Kiram. “We are making history here, and Tewa [Kiram] will do anything to win this fight. Tewa has never lost before, and he will keep his undefeated record against Matthysse.”
The remainder of the undercard and the ticket information for this stacked event will be announced shortly.
Jose Lopez to Take on Avery Sparrow in New Co-Main Event on November 30th ESPN Show
Super featherweight contender José “Wonder Boy” López (18-1-1, 13 KOs) of Carolina, Puerto Rico will now take on Avery Sparrow (8-1, 3 KOs) in the new co-main event of the Nov. 30 edition of Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN at the MGM National Harbor in Maryland. The event will also feature the headlining debut of Lamont Roach, Jr. (15-0, 6 KOs) as he defends his WBC Youth Super Featherweight Title against Rey “Flash” Pérez (21-8, 6 KOs) in the 10-round main event. ESPN3 (English) and ESPN Deportes (Spanish) will air the fights live at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT. Undercard will stream on ESPN3 at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. ESPN2 will air the fight at 11 p.m.ET/8 p.m. PT.
López, a 23-year-old contender who is coming off a four-fight win streak, has earned two regional titles since making his debut in Sept. 2011. In 2014, Lopez defeated veteran Leivi Brea to win the Interim WBC Fecarbox Super Bantamweight Title via first-round technical knockout. Two years later, López captured the WBO International Super Featherweight Title by defeating Edgar López Sasso via stunning second-round knockout. López was originally scheduled to fight against Miguel “Miguelito” González, but González was forced to pull out due to an injury suffered in his left arm when sparring.
Sparrow, who is also 23-years-old will took to take advantage of his first co-main event opportunity. The Philadelphian is coming off a four-fight win streak, defeating two undefeated prospects in his last two fights.
Fairfield, California’s Manuel “Tino” Ávila (22-1, 8 KOs) will take on Nick Otieno (31-12, 13 KOs) of Nairobi, Kenya in an eight-round featherweight fight. Ávila will return after his only defeat, which was in a tough battle against Joseph Diaz, Jr. on the Canelo vs. Chávez Jr. undercard in May of this year. The featherweight contender is looking to get back into the 126-pound mix before the year ends.
In the night’s swing bout, George Rincón (2-0) of Dallas, Texas will take on Jihad Wise (3-3, 1 KO) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a four-round 140-pound clash. Rincón’s brother, Alex Rincón, was originally scheduled to be in the swing bout, but the welterweight prospect who is currently signed to Golden Boy Promotions was forced to pull out and undergo surgery as he has been diagnosed with appendicitis.
Luther Smith (9-1, 8 KOs) of Alexandria, Virginia will open the night of boxing in a four-round bout in the cruiserweight division against an opponent that will be announced shortly.
Roach, Jr. vs. Pérez is a 10-round super featherweight fight for the WBC Youth Super Featherweight Title and is presented by Golden Boy Promotions. The event is sponsored by Tecate, “THE OFFICIAL BEER OF BOXING” and Hennessy “Never Stop, Never Settle.” ESPN3 (English) and ESPN Deportes (Spanish) will air the fights live from MGM National Harbor at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT. ESPN2 will air the fight at 11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. PT.
Tickets for Roach, Jr. vs Pérez are on sale and are priced at $75 VIP, $75, $55 and $35, not including taxes or fees. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call the Ticketmaster Contact Center at (800) 745-3000. Tickets will also be available for purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.goldenboytickets.com.
Nico Hernandez Injured, Fight Posptoned
Due to an injury suffered by 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Nico Hernandez last week at training camp, this Saturday night’s “KO Night Boxing: Gold & Glory” card, presented by KO Night Boxing LLC, has been postponed until February 10, at the same venue, Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas.
The 21-year-old Hernandez was scheduled to headline the event in his hometown against Hungarian flyweight champion Jozsef “Little Red” Ajtai (19-9, 12 KOs) in the eight-round main event for the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas flyweight championship.
The promoter plans to keep the card intact, as much as possible, and he is hopeful that Ajtai is available to challenge Hernandez for the IBA Americas title.
“Injuries are an unfortunate part of boxing, but the good news is that Nico will be 100-percent ready to go February 10th,” promoter John Andersen said. “I know that Nico feels that he’s letting everybody down but, at the end of the day, all that really counts is his health. He’s a tough kid who has his entire pro career ahead of him.”
“Over the last six months, Nico has become like family to the Hartman Arena staff,” said Hartman Arena Executive Director, Ben Bolander. “We wish the best for him and hope for a speedy recovery, so we can see him back here in February fighting for the title.”
TIckets to the December 2nd event will still be honored at the February 10 event. If ticket holders, are unable to attend the new event date, full refunds will be offered at the point of purchase. Tickets will remain on sale for the February 10, 2018 event date.
The Real Fight of 2016
by B.A. Cass
The fight between Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido, which seemed to be just about everyone’s pick for 2016 fight of the year, was certainly a good fight. But thirty seconds into Round One and the two men were already in their first clinch, something that turned into a bizarre twirl. A minute later, Vargas was walking Salido back as if they were partners in an intermediate ballroom dance class. Yes, there were moments of intense onslaught by both men, and yes, the majority of the fight was brutal and entertaining. However, it was nowhere near as thrilling as the best fights of the past.
Over the week I watched nineteen fights, both female and male, from 2016. I had originally intended to watch twenty-four, but five of the female fights were not available online. (Click this link to get the full list of the fights I watched: http://bit.ly/2x65wKk.) I had two criteria for judging these matches. The first was that the opponents had to be well matched, meaning no early round knockouts or clear domination. The second was that that the fight had to be thrilling from beginning to end. This, unfortunately, disqualified Amanda Serrano, who KO’d Olivia Gerula in the first round of their fight. And while it was a pleasure watch the skilled Jelena Mrdjenovic, she was the more talented fighter in both her fights that I watched. On the male side, I was impressed by all of what I saw except by the Dillian Whyte vs. Dereck Chisora fight, which seemed to me just like two really big guys punching each other in slow-motion.
And while I was deeply impressed by the Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santo Cruz bout (I gave it runner up), one fight stood out from all the rest. And that’s Heather Hardy vs. Shelly Vincent, my pick for “2016 Fight of the Year.”
The public animosity between these two fighters has been well-documented. Vincent spent years trying to secure a fight with Hardy, going so far as to show up at Hardy’s fights to taunt and ridicule her. Their fans exchanged vicious words. Hardy’s mother may have even been involved in a physical altercation with Vincent at The Roseland Ballroom, though that has not been confirmed. In other words, this was the real deal, an epic fight three years in the making.
But put aside all that, and put aside the historic nature of the fight. (It was the first female boxing match televised in the US in over 20 years.) In fact, put aside everything and anything that didn’t take place in the ring that night at Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater because it was, from beginning to end, a spectacular fight. There was no clinching, not a single moment when either fighter tried to save energy. Hardy and Vincent simply gave everything they had from the first bell to the last.
The New York based Hardy won by split-decision, which didn’t surprise Vincent, who had traveled from Providence to take the fight. “It being in New York, I knew from the gate that unless I knocked her out, I wasn’t going to get a W over there,” Vincent recently told me. “I had it six rounds to four. And two rounds she beat me. I admit that. She beat me those two rounds. But clearly I dominated. I kept moving forward.”
Devon Cormack, Hardy’s trainer, obviously doesn’t agree with Vincent’s analysis: “At no point did I feel Heather was losing the fight,” he told me over the phone. “She made the adjustments as the fight went on, more than Shelly did.” Still, Cormack acknowledges that it was close. “It wasn’t a perfect thing having a split decision, but I didn’t think it was that far removed, which is why I thought it made for an excellent fight.”
Vincent’s trainer, Pete Manfredo Sr., can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a rematch. All he knows is that it should have been done already. “It was the fight of the night, and it even had Errol Spence on the card that night. I thought Vincent/Hardy was a much better fight for the crowd, even the television crowd.”
Let’s be honest, though: if a rivalry like this occurred between two male boxers and their much-anticipated, widely-viewed fight ended in a close, split-decision win, the rematch would have already happened.
Still, Hardy remains hopeful for the future of women’s boxing. “If you put Holly Holm with someone like a Katie Taylor, or one with Cecilia Brækhus, that would be a huge money fight—maybe not in America but it would be a huge money fight because so much of the country follows MMA. Even when I had my first MMA fight, I got tens of thousands of new followers. I was on the MMA radio show with Ariel Hawani and like a hundred people had tweeted it out. And so the more public demand, the more popular it gets, the easier it will be.”
Let’s hope Hardy is right. Let’s hope that the gods of the boxing world come together and align the stars to make this rematch happen. In the meantime, you can see Shelly Vincent fight in person at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on September 15th. (Buy your tickets here: http://bit.ly/ShellyVincent). And, though her opponent has yet to be announced, Heather Hardy is set to return for her second Bellator fight on October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch