Boxing History will be made in Las Cruces on April 27

The Finger Post Boxing (February 9, 2019)

 

It’s a story as old and as common as boxing itself.  The heavyweight champion on the comeback trail stopping off in some smaller venue far from the lights of Vegas as he tries to build up some momentum for one more world title fight or at the very least one more big payday.  Sometimes he’s in the top ten and his promoter just pays a local promoter to put him on a small show as a tune-up.  Sometimes he is forced to fight for pocket change just to keep active and hopefully build some momentum.  Michael Dokes, a former WBA world champion, once fought a guy named John Morton and was only paid $500 for that fight.  But it led to a world title fight against Riddick Bowe so it was a good investment in the long run.

Over the course of boxing history these former heavyweight champions ended up in every imaginable venue all across the country.  Larry Holmes was a regular in Bay St. Louis Mississippi in the 1990s but also fought in Hawaii during his comeback.  Riddick Bowe started his comeback in Shawnee, Oklahoma in 2004.  Evander Holyfield stopped by El Paso in 2007 and George Foreman once made a pit stop in Edmonton Alberta in 1990 to fight a guy named Ken Lakusta.  And these are the more well known champions…it is even more prolific and common with the lesser known ex-champs.

Yeah, a former heavyweight champion fighting in your hometown is a story as old as boxing: it’s like seeing the 90s one hit wonder perform at your county fair.

But it’s never happened in New Mexico.

That’s right, there has never been a former heavyweight champion on the comeback trail who stopped off in New Mexico as part of his comeback tour.

Never.

In fact, our history with heavyweight champions is limited at best.  We had two future heavyweight champions come to New Mexico on the way up.  On August 7, 1982 a young undefeated heavyweight prospect named Tony Tubbs won a ten round decision over fellow undefeated prospect Clarence Hill in Albuquerque.  Tubbs would go on to win a decision over Greg Page two year later to win the WBA title, holding onto it for seven months before dropping a decision to Tim Witherspoon in January of 1985.  On April 1, 1995 future WBO heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders would crush former cruiserweight contender James Pritchard in the opening round at the Lujan Building in Albuquerque in a fight that was little more than a tune up.

Of course on July 4, 1912 we actually hosted a world title fight in Las Vegas, New Mexico which is a lot more than Bay St. Louis or Shawnee, Oklahoma can say. Jack Johnson defeated “Fireman” Jim Flynn in a fight that would give Johnson fans some ammunition in the “who was the greater champion” argument with Jack Dempsey fans.  Flynn would be best remembered for destroying Jack Dempsey in the opening round five years after his fight with Johnson.

But despite hosting one world title fight in 1912 and witnessing two future champions on the way up, we never saw a former heavyweight champion in New Mexico…the closest we came was then Frans Botha stopped Steve Pannell in the opening round in Albuquerque on January 8, 2000.  Botha initially won the IBF heavyweight title by way of split decision over German Axel Shultz on December 9, 1995.  But that fight was later declared a no-contest and the title declared vacant after Both tested positive for steroids.  So, yeah that doesn’t count.

But on April 27, 2019, the drought comes to an end.  Former heavyweight champion Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall (58-14, 37 KOs) will be fighting on a School of Hard Knocks Boxing Promotions show scheduled to be held in Las Cruces at a venue to be announced at a later date.

Oliver McCall in 1994. Holly Stein /Allsport. Courtesy of Getty Images (photo hosted on Boxrec.com)

This is really a rare opportunity for boxing fan in New Mexico and West Texas and I say this with all seriousness: we will get the chance to see the fighter with greatest chin in boxing history. That is correct, the best chin in boxing history will be in Las Cruces and he will be in the ring, even if it is at the tail end of his career. McCall turned pro in 1985 (yes, you read that correctly) and in a 72-fight career that saw him fight some of the greatest fighters of his generation he never hit the deck or even really was hurt. In the 1980s and 1990s he earned a reputation as Mike Tyson’s most trusted sparring partner because of his ability to stand in there with Iron Mike and never get dropped. I’ve heard tales of those legendary sparring sessions and the one thing everyone agreed upon was that McCall was so highly regarded by Tyson because of his ability to stand his ground and take the best Tyson had to offer without getting hurt.

Let that sink in for a minute. Oliver McCall sparred hundreds of rounds with a young Mike Tyson and never was hurt.

Now don’t get me wrong, the 53-year old McCall is well past his prime and I can’t see any scenario where he makes another run for a world title.

But although he may not be a world class fighter but he is still a competent fighter despite his advance age. He has only one fight in the last four years (a decision over a journeyman named Larry Knight) and really has never been in serious discussion for a world title fight after his historic meltdown against Lennox Lewis in 1997, when he stopped punching or even protecting himself as he openly cried in the ring.

But even with that bizarre performance in 1997 boxing fans were left in awe…

How many fighters could just drop their hands and let Lennox Lewis unload on them and not end up on the canvas?

McCall’s run as a contender ended in 2004 when he lost a decision to DaVarryl Williamson but he nonetheless remained one of the toughest gatekeepers in the heavyweight division in the 2000s. From 2010 to 2014 he amassed 17-6 record (with one no decision) which included decision wins over an undefeated prospect named Marcin Rekowski (12-0) in 2014, a win over a borderline contender named Damien Wills (30-2-1) in 2011, a win over Fres “next in line for a WBA heavyweight title fight” Oquendo in 2010, former contender Lance “Mount” Whittaker in 2009, former world ranked contender Frank Lawrence in 2009, former EBU Heavyweight champion and WBC International Champion Sinan Samil Sam (27-3) in 2007, and a win over Shannon Briggs conqueror Darroll Wilson in 2006 for the WBC FECARBOX heavyweight title. Even though all of these wins are quite a few years old, they were part of an interesting trend in the early part of the 21st century: boxing insiders waiting to see if Oliver McCall would finally show his age and if his legendary chin would finally show signs of cracking…and then left waiting.

And of course, there is also the fact that Oliver McCall was the former WBC heavyweight champion, having handed Hall of Famer Lennox Lewis his first loss in 1994 in London. Yes, that was almost 25-years ago…but he still remains one of only two men to defeat Lennox Lewis.

 

Even if we don’t see a prime Oliver McCall, this is still a fight worth checking out.

Will Oliver McCall finally show his age on April 27th? Will New Mexico fans be the first to see that iron chin finally crack? Hard to say, McCall has proved everyone who assumed he was washed up wrong in the past. But how long can he keep pushing this envelope? Although the opponent has not yet been formally announced, the names I heard being considered by promoter Isidro Castillo are of some very solid opponents. I can see any of these fighters giving McCall, and boxing fans, a tremendous fight on April 27th. Mark your calendars boxing fans…April 27th in Las Cruces will be a show you don’t want to miss.

Richard Commey may have injured right hand “I felt something pop!”

The Finger Post Boxing (February 3, 2019)

Richard Commey might have put himself at the front of every fight fans list of dream match ups for WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko after his brutal stoppage of Isa Chaniev in Frisco, Texas tonight but those dreams may have to be put on hold. Commey admitted to reporters at ringside that he may have injured his right hand in the first round.

“When I hit him I felt my right hand moved. I’m going to have to look at it.”

When asked if he would be able to fight Lomachenko in April Commey couldn’t confirm that he would be available to fight The Matrix that quickly.

“I won’t know until I see a doctor.”

Commey added that his hand wasn’t swollen but that he “felt something pop” in his hand.

 

The Finger Post Boxing: Keep an eye on Janibek Alimkhanuly…he’s something special (February 2, 2019)

The Finger Post Boxing (February 2, 2019)

Frisco, TX- Texas fight fans may not remember everything that happened at the Star in Frisco tonight, but something tells me that February 2, 2019 may be remembered by boxing insiders as the day they first saw just how special Kazak middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly is.

This kid is an amazing prospect, and I think it won’t be long before he explodes on the scene.  After watching his demolition of New York’s Steven Martinez I was left speechless.  This kid is the total package.  An amazing jab, great counterpunching, and the size and speed to dominate a lot of good middleweights.

My report for Fightnews from ringside in Frisco, Texas:

In the fifth fight of the night boxing fans in Texas we treated to a first taste of what may very well be one of boxing’s next superstars and undefeated Janibek Alimkhanuly, 162, of Kazakhstan dominated the seasoned Steven Martinez, 160.4, of the Bronx. Martinez came into the fight with a reputation as something of a borderline contender, having lost close decision to then undefeated Terrell Gausha in 2016 and then another decision he dropped to undefeated Christopher Pearson in 2014. Although Martinez had come up short when he stepped in with top level opponents in the past he had never been stopped and always gave a solid performance. But against the talented southpaw from Almaty Martinez was dominated from the opening bell. Alimkhanuly cruised in round one and continued to box beautifully in the second, teeing off on the New Yorker in the closing seconds of the round. The Kazak wisely incorporated the body attack in round three and dropped Martinez to a knee with a perfectly times counterpunch in the opening minute of the round. By round four Alimkhanuly began to toy with Martinez, trapping him on the ropes before stepping back to wave his opponent in. A vicious left uppercut snapped the head of Martinez back in the closing minute of round four and the Kazak continued to dominate at the start of round five. Seconds into the round another left uppercut snapped the head of the New Yorker back, prompting his corner to throw in the towel. Referee Neal Young waved the fight off at 0:21 of the fifth round. With the win Alimkhanuly improved to 5-0, 2 KOs while Martinez slips to 18-5, 13 KOs.

The Finger Post Boxing: New Mexico’s Jason Sanchez crushes foe in Frisco (February 2, 2019)

The Finger Post Boxing (February 2, 2019)

New Mexico’s undefeated world ranked contender Jason Sanchez, 125.4, had his first taste of the big stage as he stepped in the ring with Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Mexico’s Daniel Olea, 125.5, in the third fight of the night. Sanchez boxed well early on but the aggression he showed in Panama City in his last fight quickly emerged when he rattled Olea with a well times overhand right that sent the Mexican back into the corner a minute into the fight. Olea covered up and quickly moved out of the corner but he was unable to keep the Albuquerque native off of him. Sanchez turned into a hunter, stalking his prey, and showed a dazzling array of punches as he mixed up heavy punches upstairs with a solid body attack that had the Mexican doubling over at times. In round two Jason boxed well early on and continued his effective counterpunching as Olea tried to lunge in with looping punches. Although Sanchez did lose his mouthpiece in the second round he maintained complete control of the fight and timed a pictutre perfect overhand right that sent Olea crashing to the canvas. Although Olea rose on wobbly legs referee Gregorio Alvarez waved the fight off at 1:35 of round two. With the win Sanchez improves to 14-0, 7 KOs while Olea drops to 13-7-2, 5 KOs.

The Finger Post Travel: Ollantaytambo, Peru (November 5, 2018)

The Finger Post Travel (February 2, 2019)

 

You sometimes can’t help but wonder if Ollantaytambo has a Laughlin, Nevada problem.  It is an amazing archaeological site.  In any other country in Latin America it would be the highlight of any tourist’s visit and probably featured prominently on their currency.   Just like if you threw Laughlin in any other State other than Nevada it probably would be a pretty cool town that would be a favorite weekend getaway for locals and maybe even a bit of a tourist draw.  At the very least it wouldn’t be the butt of jokes.  But when your just a (sort of) cool little casino town less than 100 miles from Las Vegas you just never get a fair shake.  You just can’t ever get out of your big brother’s shadow.

Yeah, Ollantaytambo is sort of like that.

Almost always ignored by the thousands of tourists making their way to Machu Picchu, the town of Ollantaytambo seldom gets more than a cursory glance as the tourists make their way to the train station where their Peru Rain train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes) departs.

I know on my first visit to Peru I spent just enough time in Ollantaytambo to get to the train station and didn’t spend any time touring the only remaining inhabited Incan town…or the Archeological Ruins of Ollantaytambo (a former military, agricultural, and religious center). The city of Ollantaytambo was the scene of fierce fighting between the Spanish and the Incans in 1537 and much of the complex (and town) was subsequently damaged. But even if not as well preserved as Machu Picchu it was of considerably more importance and considerably more important historically.  And considering my father and I both planned to visit some of the sites in Cusco, we knew that the 130 sols (or about $40 USD) for a “”Boleto Turistico del Cusco” (tourist ticket of Cusco) would be a good investment. The toursit ticket of Cusco is a ticket that allows you to enter sixteen different toursit sites in the greater Cusco area, with Ollantaytambo being the most notable. What was most promising was that the tourist tickets of Cusco were available for sale at the entrance of the ruins, something that didn’t seem to be always the case according to other bloggers (although they only took cash payment). We purchased our tickets at the front and soon made our way up the stairs to the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), which remains one of the most impressive sites in the Sacred Valley despite the fact that much of the Temple was destroyed in 1537.



From the top of the stairs the views of the town (and the terraces along the stairs) were amazing, and it was enough to prompt me to expand my visit to include Inka Watana.

 

Inka Watana was a, well, I’m not sure what it was but it was the highest point at Ollantaytmbo and included a 45-minute hike up the side of the mountain on a narrow dirt path.  Although time was a concern once I reached the top I was happy with our decision.  It was quiet, peaceful, and well worth it just for the view.



Our return down the path included a pass through the Military Zone and Qolqas before we took a tour of the Inka Misana near the entrance.

The whole tour look less than three hours and that was taking our time to admire the site.  Again, I can’t help but think this would have been the highlight in any other country…but it Peru it was just a side trip folks did on their way to Machu Picchu.  But if you do find yourself at the train station at Ollantaytambo waiting for your Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu Pueblo someday, take a few minutes to tour where the Incan Empire made it’s final stand against the Spanish…and admire what will be the second most breathtaking place you’ll visit in Peru.

 

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