The Finger Post Boxing: Former WBO champ Katsunari Takayama clears hurdle to compete in 2020 Olympics

The Finger Post Boxing (October 18, 2018)
Retired six time minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8, 12 KOs) was just approved an amateur boxing license by the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation, clearing his way to fight for Japan in the 2020 Olympics.
“After examination and an interview with him that we conducted on October 9 we, the JABF, came to the decision to permit him an amateur registration,” JABF attorney Yusuke Toda was quoted as saying by the English language Japan Times.
The move was hardly routine for the only Japanese fighter to win world titles in all four major sanctioning organizations.  The 35-year old Takayama retired in 2017 in an effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics only to have his boxing license denied.  This despite the fact that the International boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.  The subsequent battle for his amateur license proved to be one of Takayama’s most difficult, but against formidable odds Takayama was able to weather the storm and prevail after allegations of misconduct led to the resignation of former JABF president Akira Yamane.  Yamane’s opposition to granting the professional boxer a license was ultimately the biggest hurdle of Takayama’s dream of becoming the first boxing champion to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
“There has been many Olympic medalists throughout the world from many countries who have gone on to become world champions as professional boxers,” Takayama told Fightnews in an interview back in August of 2017.  “But there have been no world champions in professional boxing who have gone on to win the gold medal in the Olympics.”
Although Takayama will probably be the most accomplished fighter in the 2020 Olympics and one of Japan’s most promising medal contenders, he still needs to qualify for the Olympics in an amateur tournament.  Although Takayama is expected to resume his amateur career as early as April of 2019, there is a recognition by many in boxing that his path to a gold medal will still be a formidable one.  In 2016 three professional boxers competed in the Rio Olympics, and all failed to win a medal despite concerns early on that their experience would give them an unfair advantage.

“I’ve fought all these amateur boxers before. I’m not surprised I lost to an amateur because I used to be one. ” former WBA and WBO middleweight champion Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam told SB Nation after he was shockingly upset in the opening round of the 2016 Olympics to little known Brazilian named Michel Borges.  “Professionals don’t have an advantage because the characteristics of the fight are different.”

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The Finger Post Boxing: Looking for the next Freddie Pendleton or Mike Weaver (September 29, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (September 29, 2018)

 

Scouting is an inexact science in sports and boxing is no exception.  But with that being said, there are those can’t miss prospects…and usually they don’t miss.

Usually, not always. Photo (Ricardo Williams Jr.) via boxrec.com

Sure a lot of people are predicting a world title in the near future for 2012 Olympic bantamweight silver medalist Shakur Stevenson or welterweight gold medalist Robson Conceicao and I happen to think those are two really safe picks.   Both men have shown absolute brilliance in the ring as professionals and I feel there is a better than 50% chance that both will have world title belts around their waist by the end of 2019 or 2020.

Recently MTK Global signed 2012 Olympic flyweight gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov to a managerial contract.  Well, if I had any questions about Zoirov’s future as a pro I don’t now.  Although a lot of fighters from Central Asia make a splash in the Olympics, many often elect to remain amateurs.  This is one of the reason that so many Kazakh fighters don’t get the attention they deserve.  And for the Uzbek gold medalist Zoirov, I think the main reason he isn’t considered #1 draft pick in boxing is because he’s Uzbek.  Fighters from Central Asia just don’t get the attention they deserve unless they have the right team behind them.  It isn’t fair, but hey, that’s boxing.

But when all is said and done, just because Zoirov is flying under the radar doesn’t mean he isn’t a future world champion, and now that he has the right managerial team behind him I am assuming he will start turning heads right away.  Picking him to win a world title is still like picking a can’t miss prospect…just one that came out of some obscure European league as opposed to some high profile power forward from Duke

Now with that being said, the real challenge is trying to find a diamond in the rough when that diamond comes out of a club circuit and started off as a journeyman.  It happens, but it’s rare.  Perhaps the two most famous examples of fighters whose career started off in the club circuit and somehow, against all odds, became world champions were Freddie Pendleton and Mike Weaver.  Weaver is probably best remembered for his war with Larry Holmes in a WBC world title fight back in 1979.  He gave as good as he got but was ultimately felled by the undefeated champion in round 12.  It wasn’t just that he rattled Holmes and kept the fight reasonably close on two of the judges scorecards going into round 12 that shocked fans.  He was considered a very weak opponent by casual fans…the kind of fighter who an established champion gets to sharpen his blades on in between tough fights.  Weaver stated his career 1-3 and two years into his professional career he looked like the farthest thing from a world class contender, having lost by knockout to Duane Bobick and sitting on a less than glamorous record of 6-6, 4 KOs.  But a handful of boxing insiders predicted big things from Weaver and before long he was fighting for an NABF title…and soon after that he was brawling with Larry Holmes.  In 1980 the Cinderella story finally hit it’s pinnacle when Weaver scored a knockout over Gerrie Coetzee, winning the WBA World Heavyweight title.

Pendleton had a similar story, although a lot of boxing fans got on the bandwagon before his world title victory over Tracy Spann in January of 1993.  Pendleton started his career with a horrible record of 14-13-1, 6 KOs and he probably was hearing whispers of “hang ’em up, kid” from a lot of folks in the sport.  But those who were really paying attention started noticing that Pendleton was actually getting better with each fight.  In March of 1986 Pendleton was brought in as a sacrificial lamb for former super featherweight champion Roger Mayweather.  After all, it was Pendleton’s first trip to Vegas and with a 14-13-1 record against the 24-year old former champion there was no reason to assume he would be able to pull off an upset.  But some boxing insiders, such as ESPN commentator Al Bernstein, recognized that Pendleton’s record was somewhat “deceptive.”  The end result?  Pendleton scored a stunning sixth round knockout in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s.

It was a nice moment but it didn’t turn around Pendleton’s career overnight.  Still, it put him on the radar and although there were still setbacks, he continued to keep winning big fights.  By 1993 he was seen as a slight favorite over Tracy Spann in their fight for the vacant IBF lightweight title and he looked all the part of a world champion in winning a twelve round decision over Spann.

So yeah, picking out a future world champion from the Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver circuit is a lot harder than picking one out of the Olympics.

So is there anyone I think could be another Freddie Pendleton/Mike Weaver in the making?  A hard luck young kid who never raised an eyebrow as an amateur but who is starting to put it all together as a pro?

Well, again, this is an inexact science, but right now I would keep an eye out on Lansing, Michigan’s Kevin Shacks (3-2-3, 3 KOs).

Shacks started his career in 2015 with a pair of losses in Ohio and Detroit respectively before winning his first professional fight in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan in 2017.  His win came against a debuting fighter named Chad Coons and the fight had all the makings of pickup win for a club fighter en route to his next paycheck against a world class prospect.  By the end of 2017 his record stood at 2-2-1 and nobody was taking about him.

And in 2018 he seemed to be following the club fighter script.  He fought in hostile territory three times in 2018 against three undefeated fighters with a combined record of 20-0-1.

The thing is…he hasn’t lost any of those fights.

The club fighter from Lansing Michigan has been brought to California three straight times to lose, and he’s given it to the undefeated fighter all three times.  In March he held undefeated Greek born prospect Stylianos Papadopoulos to a six round draw.  Shacks followed that up with another draw against 4-0 Salvador Perez before deciding to take his next fight out of the judges hands on Saturday, September 29, 2018.  Shacks crushed a touted prospect named Ricardo Valdovinos in the opening round.  Valdovinos, a San Diego native, came into the fight with a 7-0 record and was needless to say a heavy favorite against Shacks.  Sure it wasn’t exactly a knockout over a 24-year old Roger Mayweather…but it’s still a big win for a kid who wasn’t expected to be more than a regional club fighter.  Shacks seems to have a good trainer but it is clearly time for him to get a manager and promoter behind him that can help him get to that next level.  Back in the early 1990s Lionel Butler was earning a reputation as a tough journeyman with an emphasis on journeyman.  With a 6-10-1 record and only three amateur fights he wasn’t really turning any heads in the heavyweight division but Butler turned his career around in large part due to the fact that he stumbled into Joe Goossen’s gym in California.   Goossen helped turn Butler into one of the most unlikely heavyweight contenders in the 1990s and matched him perfectly en route to a top ten ranking (there was a lot of boxing drama involved in his reign as a contender which I won’t get into here, but the point remains, he went from club circuit to contender because of finding the right team).  Maybe Shacks should pay Goossen a visit while in California…or someone else who can properly move his career.

Because he is on the cusp of something really special..contention.

 

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Boxing: WBC #9 minimumweight Tatsuya Fukuhara to return this weekend in Japan

The Finger Post Boxing: July 28, 2018

Kumamoto Japan’s favorite son, former WBO mini-flyweight champion and current WBC #9 ranked minimumweight Tatsuya Fukuhara (20-6-6, 7 KOs), returns to action this Sunday (July 29th) as he takes on countryman Naoya Haruguchi (15-8, 6 KOs) in an eight round fight in his hometown of Kumamoto, Japan.   Although ranked in the top ten by the WBC, the former WBO champion is not rated in any other sanctioning organization, something that a dominant win over Haruguchi could rectify.  However, few are counting out the cagy 29-year old from Kagoshima.  Haruguchi has won seven of his last eight fights, with his only loss coming by way of majority decision to former world title challenger Riku Kano back in November of 2017.  Fukuhara, who is keen on positioning himself back into the WBO rankings for a potential clash with newly crowned champion Vic Saludar, also recognizes that a loss could effectively end his run as a contender and would almost certainly close the book on a potential clash with the young Filipino champion.

 

In the co-main event Dr. Tomoya Ikeda (5-2-1, 4 KOs) will take on one of his toughest opponents to date as he steps in with the undefeated 21-year old Kazuki Nakazono (3-0-2, 3 KOs).  The 21-year old prospect is seen as the favorite over the medical doctor, who at 36-years old is admittedly running out of time for a serious run in boxing.  But Dr. Ikeda’s compelling personal story, which included volunteer work with an NGO in Afghanistan, has made him one of the most popular fighters in Southern Japan.  Even in Japan it is rare to find a prizefighter who co-authored a highly cited medical report such as Dr. Ikeda’s December 2016 report on “Age estimation by ossification of thyroid cartilage of Japanese males using Bayesian analysis of postmortem CT images.”

Rounding off the card is popular super bantamweight Yuki Hirashima (8-2-1, 2 KOs) squaring off against South Korean veteran Jong-Won Jung (5-6-1, 3 KOs).  Jung will be stepping in the ring for the first time since April of 2013.

 

The fight card will take place at the City Sogo Gym in Kumamoto, Japan.  Doors open at 11:30 with the fight fight kicking off at noon.  Tickets start at 5,000 yen.

 

Weights from Kumamoto:

Tatsuya Fukuhara 104.5

Naoya Haruguchi 104.7

 

Tomoya Ikeda 133.8

Kazuki Nakazono 133

 

Yuki Hirashima 121.9

Jong-Won Jung 121.3

 

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This Day in Boxing History: Rob Frankel wins a decision over Danny Almanza in Colorado (April 16, 2004)

The Finger Post (April 16, 2018)

 

Between 2003 and 2008 I covered a number of fights in the State of Colorado while I attended law school at the University of Denver.  One of Colorado’s most popular boxers during this decade was the gritty Rob Frankel.  Frankel started off in rather unspectacular fashion, getting stopped in his pro debut by Hector Munoz before winning a pair of uninspiring decisions over a pair of fighters with records of 0-7 and 0-6 respectively.

I won’t lie…I wasn’t expecting much from him.

Maybe a few more ugly wins before getting blown out against a top level prospect…and then either a slide into opponent status or an end to the boxing career.

But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity.  Frankel learned how to fight, and that coupled with his rock solid chin and his overall toughness led to Frankel becoming one of Colorado boxing’s most unexpected main event fighters.  On April 9, 2005 Frankel scored a stunning upset over Martin O’Malley, a moment that gave birth to one of Colorado boxing’s most unexpected stories.  Frankel gave as good as he got, and although he never quite pulled off that one big win that would put him into the world rankings, he gave a lot of Colorado boxing fans reason to believe in him nonetheless.  He was tough and we just knew that one day he would find that one contender who was looking past him.  One day he would march into the top ten and upend the apple cart.  Since that inglorious pro debut, Rob Frankel would win a NABA belt in 2008, a WBC regional belt in 2012, he would defeat a former USBA champion named Michael Stewart in 2007 and even scored a win over a guy named Pacquiao (OK, it was Manny’s brother Bobby, but still a nice win).

But back on April 16, 2004 he was just another unknown undercard fighter who I expected would be done with the sport by the end of the year.

Fortunately I was wrong on that assessment.

 

Rob Frankel’s April 16, 2004 fight with Danny Almanza in Denver, Colorado:

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Boxing: Revisiting a 2010 interview with Wladimir Klitschko (April 15, 2010)

The Finger Post (August 15, 2018)

 

April 15, 2010.  Eight years ago today.  I was approached by Fightnews about a possible interview with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.  Naturally I was excited about the opportunity to interview Wladimir, but not just because he was the heavyweight champion.  I felt like this interview might be the start of a legendary rivalry.  Quite frankly, in 2010 the division was stagnant.  In April of 2010 Klitschko had just passed something of a milestone: six years since he last tasted defeat on April 10, 2004.  In that time he won 12 straight fights but to many American fans the division had grown stale under his dominant reign.  But along came a cocky Brit who seemed to push all of Wladimir’s buttons.  In 2010 it looked like boxing was about to get a shot of adrenaline and the birth of a new rivalry for the ages: Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye.

Of course history has shown us that the rivalry was anticlimactic…but for a few months in 2010 and 2011…it did look like something special was brewing in the heavyweight division.

 

Wladimir Klitschko calls out David Haye 

    For many boxing fans, the heavyweight division has been in a serious slump for several years, despite the fact that the reigning IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (54-3, 48 KO’s) is so clearly a class above almost every other contender in the division.  Since winning the IBF title back in 2006 from Chris Byrd he has arguably not lost a single round against the eight fighters he’s defended his title against, and even his harshest critics admit that he could easily continue that streak of dominance for several more years.  But it’s not so much that fact that he’s dominant that has boxing fans writing off the division.  It’s the manner in which he has been winning lately, with some critics considering him to be to “safety first” against clearly overmatched opponents.  But if there is one thing that could give the division and the sport a much needed shot of adrenaline, it is a legitimate grudge match between Klitschko and the only fighter in the world who doesn’t share his last name and who is widely perceived as his only serious threat: David Haye.  And although a unification fight seems like a no-brainer, it is already emerging as quite possibly the most heated heavyweight rivalry since Mike Tyson and Razor Ruddock. 

    “I want to wipe (Haye) out of the ring,” Klitschko said to Fightnews with noticeable anger and contempt, “I care about the punishment in the fight for David Haye.  The best scenario is like the (Eddie) Chambers fight.  I want to punish him for twelve rounds and then knock him out.  But I don’t think I can wait, If I see the opportunity to knock him out at I’m going to do it.”

    Klitschko admitted to Fightnews that not only has Haye gotten under his skin, but he has emerged as the most despised fighter he’s ever encountered.

    “Whatever you call it, under my skin, it’s enough bullshitting from David Haye and his side, and I think now is the time to make it.”  Klitschko stated, “I made it clear in the message I posted online, I want David Haye’s title, and I want to beat this ‘bitching out’ person in the ring.”

    May boxing fans have already seen the now infamous clip of Wladimir Klitschko challenging the WBA champion in harsh and at times profane words; it proved as shocking as it was effective, showing a different side of the German based champion.  The Clip was featured on Fightnews and in the two days since it was posted on Youtube it has garnered nearly half a million views.  The video itself has created more buzz in the division than any of the title fights this year, but there remains one unanswered question: will Haye accept the challenge?

    “I made it as clear as possible, I used social media so it came direct from me and not the promoters,” Klitschko stated, “I just had enough of David Haye’s bullshit for a year and a half, and I laid back, but that’s enough now.  Actions speak louder than words.  Now we’ll see how scared David Haye is.”

    Klitschko also made it clear that he believed that David Haye had ducked him in the past, and has not put it past the WBA champ to come up with an excuse to avoid fighting him.

    “No doubt he avoided me, Sorry to call him a liar.  But I was relying on his word.  Then two weeks before (the scheduled Wladimir KlitschkoHaye fight) he bitched out and claimed he had a back injury, and then asked for two more weeks.  And then four more weeks, and then six more weeks.  Then he made an excuse for not fighting Vitali, saying the contract was bad.  It was the same contract he signed with me!  That’s why I just can’t trust this guy.  He’s dishonest”. 

    For many boxing fans it is refreshing to see the heavyweight champion show a meaner, edgier side.  But some insiders are wondering if he is falling into Haye’s trap.  Most insiders felt that Klitschko was too cautious and defensive in his last several fights, and many are wondering if the raw emotion that Klitschko is displaying could lead him into a fight that would benefit that smaller, but hard hitting, Haye. 

    I have my strength, forty-eight fighters out of fifty-three that I faced ended up either sitting on the stool or being knocked out.  David Haye is going to be one of those guys.  I will knock him out.  I will knock this mo-fo out!”

    A tasteless T-shirt that Haye was recently spotted wearing created an uproar with many boxing fans (it featured Haye with the severed heads of both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko), but it appears that it had the desired effect.

    “It’s just not acceptable to represent himself with two (severed) heads and then not to take the fight, but just to promote himself.  I think he’s obnoxious and I don’t like how he walks and how he talks”.

    Klitschko also considered his plan-B if the Haye fight fails to materialize, a fight with long-time #1 contender Alex Poevtkin.  Although Povetkin is not widely recognized by American fight fans, he is widely regarded as the best undefeated heavyweight in the world and long overdue for a title fight.  A Haye fight will require another postponement for the #1 contender.  When asked why that fight hasn’t occurred yet, Klitschko pointed the finger squarely in Povetkin’s camp.

    “If David Haye keeps bitching, then I have to fight Povetkin,” Klitschko stated, “But we have another problem in which Povetkin is not ready.  His coach is saying he’s not ready.  Two years ago we had an opportunity and they say he’s not ready.  Now he is still not ready?  How much time does he need?”

    Although Klitschko has been getting a fair share of criticism in the last few years, there is little question that he has been dominant.  And Klitschko feels that much of the criticism is somewhat unwarranted. 

   “Eddie Chambers and Sultan Ibragimov are similar fighters,” Klitschko pointed out, “after four rounds they gave up with there strategy and were just playing safe.  If you try to knock out a fighter who is just playing it safe it is very difficult.   If a fighter is just playing safe, then any fight is going to be boring.  That’s why I got into the conversation with Emanuel Steward in the last round.  Emanuel was in the corner and told me I have to knock him out, I said ‘Emanuel, Relax, I’m trying!’”

    But for American boxing fans, it has been increasingly difficult to gauge his performances since his less than stellar decision over Sultan Ibragimov in February 2008 was his last U.S. appearance and his most recent title fight against Eddie Chambers has not broadcast on any major cable network.  HBO executive Ross Greenburg even made a comment that American boxing fans were having trouble telling the two Klitschko’s apart, leading to a drop in ratings and interest from fans.

   “It’s just about boxing and not about who looks alike or not,” Klitschko fired back, “and Vitali’s fight against Arreola had the highest rating on HBO of the year!  It is difficult to comment on such things.”

    Almost all boxing fans admit, however, that there is one heavyweight fight that could happen that would prove to be one of the most talked about, and possibly exciting, title fights in the division’s history.  But for boxing fans it is no closer to happening.

    “There is nothing that can make us fight,” Wladimir said about a possible Klitschko versus Klitschko matchup, “if the world goes down and only our fight can save the world then maybe we will fight each other, than otherwise not.”

 

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Boxing News: Former featherweight contender Tomas VIlla passes

Tomas Villa prior to his fight with Jhonny Gonzalez in 2011. Photo by Sumio Yamada.

 

The Finger Post  is sad to report that former featherweight contender Tomas Villa of Midland, Texas died this Tuesday (April 3, 2018). Villa was reportedly involved in a car accident two miles south of Midland. According to the police report A Dodge Durango driven by Villa hit a Kenworth truck tractor on Highway 349 at 5:44 PM. Villa, who according to the police report was not wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Villa, who originally hailed from Ojinaga, Mexico, was perhaps best remembered for his 2011 fight with Mexican bomber Johnny Gonzalez for the WBC featherweight title. Although Gonzalez stopped Villa in four rounds in what would ultimately become Villa’s final fight as a professional, it was nonetheless a proud moment for the Midland based brawler. Villa’s career spanned just over ten years and in that time Villa emerged as arguably the geatest boxer to ever come out of the Permian Basin. Villa was a two time Texas State featherweight champion before exploding onto the national scene in 2005, when Villa won the NABA super bantamweight title by stopping then undefeated peospect David Martinez in ten rounds. Three months after the win over Martinez Villa added the WBC Continental America’s Super Bantamweight tittle when he stopped another highly touted undefeated contender in Cuauhtemoc Vargas. In 2008 Villa would capture his first world title when he stopped Gilberto Sanchez Leon in four rounds for the IBA featherweight belt. In 2010 Villa would take on Mikey Garcia in a fight for the USBA featherweight belt and although he came up short against Garcia he would bounce back in impressive fashion, upsetting boxing royalty just two months later with a decision victory over Salvador Sanchez. Villa finished his career with a record of 23-8-5, 14 KOs.

 

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Boxing: Five Fighters who will win world titles in 2018

The Finger Post Boxing (December 31, 2017)

 

Well, 2017 is coming to a close and this seems a good opportunity to look at the coming year in boxing. In particular, who might explode on the scene in 2018.  Well, there are no shortage of talented young fighters set to emerge as world class contenders. But stepping up is one thing…winning a world championship is another. That takes more than just talent and skill…it takes connections, a world ranking and being at the right place at the right time.  So with that being said here is my list of five fighters who I think meet all the requirements of becoming world champions in 2018.

1. Issac Dogboe (17-0, 11 KOs)

OK, most of you know I covered Dogboe’s fight against Javier Chacon in Accra back in July. The super bantamweight impressed me against the seasoned Chacon, who went into the fight on the heels of a five fight win streak and was undefeated since a loss in a fight for the WBA bantamweight belt in 2014.  And after covering Dogboe’s last two fights and watching a half dozen more online what was most impressive is that the undefeated Ghanaian is improving with each fight. Now Dogboe is slated to fight for the vacant WBO interim  junior featherweight belt against Cesar Juarez next weekend. So it goes without saying that I think he beats Juarez. But I don’t think it will end there in 2018.

So am I picking him to follow up his win over Juarez with a win over undefeated WBO champion Jessie Magdaleno?  Not exactly.

In all honesty I don’t think he will be fighting Magdaleno at all in 2018. It seems clear to most insiders that Magdaleno is having trouble making weight and my prediction is that Magdaleno will vacate his world title and move up to featherweight. That means the interim champion becomes the WBO world champion. And I think that man will be Isaac Dogboe.

 

2.  Kanat Islam (25-0, 20 KOs)

It’s pretty clear to me that the former 2008 Olympic bronze medalist is making up for a lot of wasted time and I think 2018 is going to be his year.  After competing in the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 his professional career was delayed until September of 2012  but initially it looked like he would make up for lost time when he won his first regional belt just three months later against the 49-fight veteran Humberto Toledo.  He crushed Toledo in the opening round (capturing the WBA Fedacaribe title)  and if you asked me then I would have said he should punch his way into a world title fight no later than 2015.  Well, as is often the case in boxing his career never really took off and for awhile he looked to be the latest in the long line of talented Eastern European and Central Asian fighters who simply couldn’t register on the radar of boxing fans or the sanctioning organizations.  But in the last two years Nelson Lopez and NelSons Promotions have done a masterful job of positioning Islam into the #1 ranking in the WBA and #2 with the WBO.  Last month the WBA ordered Islam to take on #2 ranked John Vera Jr. In an eliminator and although I feel Vera is very much a live underdog right now I would have to give the edge to Islam.  But as of yet the fight has not been announced. Now if that fight doesn’t materialize (just to stress, I have not heard anything to indicate it won’t go forward other than it has passed the WBA’s 30-day deadline, and with that being said I expect it to go to purse bids) there is an interesting second option: Dubai.

You can stop searching Boxrec, I’m not talking about a fighter.  I mean the city. Now Dubai has sadly earned something of a reputation in boxing as it always seems like there is a promoter or manager who was contacted by a “sheik” looking to pump a few million dollars of oil money into hosting a professional boxing event…only for the whole thing to end up being a pipe dream at best and a Nigerian email scam at worse. Most recently the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight was nearly derailed when Manny was made an outrageously lucrative offer to defend his title in the UAE. Well, that turned out to be wishful thinking as there was no money behind the offer and Pacquiao decidedly to accept Horn’s offer to fight him in Australia.

But I think the time may be right for Dubai to finally put the peices together for a world title fight and there are three fighters who I think would be a huge draw in Dubai: Manny Pacquiao (still to expensive), Amir Khan (still hasn’t fought since he was knocked out by Canelo Alvarez in 2016) and the new WBO 154-pound champion: Sadam Ali.

Ali’s win over Miguel Cotto for the belt propelled him to the top of the world but I can’t help but think that had more to do with Cotto finally showing his age than Ali being a pound for pound contender.  And from what I saw in Islam’s fight with Brandon Cook I think he beats Ali.  If Ali does end up being the fighter who ends the Dubai boxing drought then I would expect Islam to be the most likely opponent for the Brooklyn native. Even if that doesn’t happen then it means he fights John Vera and then undefeated WBA champion Brian Castaño after that.  Again, I see Islam winning both of those fights if he goes that route instead.  Make no mistake, it’s been a long wait for Kanat Islam, but he is very much poised to finish the year with a world title.

 

3.  Jose Carlos Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs)

Ramirez is quickly emerging as one of the hottest young prospects in the sport and he is currently scheduled to fight fellow prospect Amir Imam on March 17, 2018 in a fight for the vacant WBC super lightweight title.  Imam is an attractive prospect but Ramirez simply looks like a superstar ready to explode onto the scene.  In my opinion Ramirez  wins this fight…and wins the WBC belt.

 

4.  Moises Calleros (28-7-1, 16 KOs)

Now it would be easy to look at Calleros’s less than flashy record and close the book on him, but sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time.  Calleros engaged in one of the best 105-pound fights in recent memory when he took on Tatsuya Fukuhara  for the vacant WBO interim belt. Since then Fukuhara dropped a decision to the  slick boxing Ryo Yamanaka while “Taz” clawed his way into a #4 ranking, winning three fights against limited opposition.  But Calleros reminds me of a fellow Mexican who also racked up more than a few losses early on only to position himself into another title fight: Miguel Roman.  Like Mickey Roman, Calleros combines relentless pressure with explosive punching power and like Roman “Taz” has shown a knack for never letting a loss hold him back.  The interesting thing is if I were Yamanaka  would avoid Calleros like the plague (Yamanaka has shown a suspect chin in the past) and fight the undefeated #1 contender Robert Paradero instead.  Paradero cleary is a talented fighter but he is still somewhat green and he throws  wide, looping punches that he tends to load up on.  He’s only going to get better so the smart move would be to catch him early, before he refines his game.  But reports from Mexico indicate that the champion is electing to go with Calleros, which I think is a mistake for the slick boxing champion.

Because unlike Paradero, who throws wide looping punches, Calleros tends to throw short, compact bombs.

And he throws a whole lot of them.

If Yamanaka does go with Calleros for his first title defense I think the Mexican leaves Japan with the belt.

 

5.  Aston Palicte (24-2, 20 KOs)

This one is honestly a tougher pick for me and it’s tough for one reason: because I really don’t know how good WBO #1 ranked junior bantamweight Rex Tso is. Tso is undefeated (22-0, 13 KOs) and won the WBO International junior bantamweight title back in October against a tough 36-year old Japanese boxer named Kohei Kono.  Kono had a solid career but it’s hard to gauge what he had left when he fought Tso (he lost two of his previous three going into the Tso fight).

But back to my pick, Aston Palicte.  None of this about Tso and Palicte would normally matter when looking for a future world champion except for one detail: Palicte is ranked #2 by the WBO and the champion, Naoya Inoue, will almost certainly move up to 118-pounds. Which means in a few months the WBO will order a fight between the next two availble contenders for the vacant world title.  And right now that is Tso and the Filipino puncher Palicte.

And right now my gut tells me Palicte wins that fight. He clearly has improved tremendously since his last loss to Junior Granados in March of 2016 and he seems to be in the zone ever since he scored the upset over undefeated Oscar Cantu for the NABF belt in December of 2016. Tso may be the real deal, but he hasn’t fought a fighter like Palicte yet and I think the Filipino will be the man holding the WBO belt over his head in 2018.

Boxing: Will Tatsuya Fukuhara be the latest to capitalize on the “Marciano jinx”?

The Finger Post Boxing (November 21, 2017)

Boxing, like life, is often about being at the right place at the right time. And for popular Japanese minimumweight Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7 KOs), he is now very much in the right place. Just three months after the former WBO champion dropped his belt to countryman Ryo Yamanaka, Fukuhara is set to take on the biggest name in the 105-pound division: Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin. Fukuhara is slated to take on the undefeated Thai champion on November 25th in Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand in a fight that could propel Fukuhara back on top of the minimumweight division.

After all, Menayouthin is arguably the most recognizable champion in boxing smallest weight division since Ricardo Lopez…thanks in part to a former heavyweight champion from Brockton, Massachusetts. Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0 was thrust back into the spotlight when Floyd Meaweather took on Conor McGregor in a glorified exhibition match that saw “Money” improve his record to 50-0. It was enough to create interest in the little known Thai champion who himself was inching towards tying Marciano’s mythical record. But unlike Mayweather, who broke the record against a fighter making his professional debut, or even the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez (whose 50th fight was a non-title affair against a fighter with a 1-15 record) Menayothin seems determined to take on the toughest opponent out there for his 49th fight. Fukuhara is widely seen as one of the most dangerous fighters in the WBC rankings and although he will be stepping into hostile territory he nonetheless is regarded as a tough fighter who has the tools to give the Thai champion problems.

He also is keenly aware of the history of Japanese boxers stepping into the ring against Thai champions in Thailand.

“I’m aware of the situation, but I’m not worried about it.” Fukuhara said of fighting in Thailand. “I’m fighting to win. Out of the 22 times Japanese have fought in Thailand for world titles, we’ve got one win, one draw and 20 losses. My record in Thailand is one win, one draw.”

Nonetheless Fukuhara recognizes that there are some factors that may actually work in his favor.

“The matchmaker for this bout is the same one who matched the one world title bout when the Japanese boxer won,” Fukuhara added. “I have heard that the supervisor and one judge will also be coming from Japan. This is a big chance for me, so I’m going to put it all on the line. I’ve been training hard, and I’m excited. This is a big chance for me, and I’m going to win.”

Fukuhara may also have one other interesting historic factor working in his favor as well. When champions close in on the Marciano record, more often then not they stumble. Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes ran into Michael Spinks in his 49th fight. Former light heavyweight champion Dariusz Michalczewski was derailed by Julio Cesar Gonzalez in his 49th fight. Even former IBO champion Brian Nielsen stumbled in his quest to break Marciano’s record, getting stopped by Dickie Ryan in fight number 50. For world champions with 48 or 49 wins, unless they are fighting a journeyman with a 1-15 record or a debuting MMA fighter, they tend to stumble just as they close in on 50-0.

Still, titles are won in the ring and Fukuhara knows he will have his work cut out for him on November 25th.

“He’s a fighter, a slugger, so this is going to be a brawl.” Fukuhara added. “We are going to go at it. I’ve been training to increase my punching power.”

As Fukuhara showed in his WBO world title winning performance against Moises Calleros, a brawl is something that would suit him just fine…and more than likely it would suit boxing fans as well. After all, if a record of Marciano’s is going to be broken or derailed, it is just appropriate for it to be decided in a Rocky-esque slugfest.

Continue reading “Boxing: Will Tatsuya Fukuhara be the latest to capitalize on the “Marciano jinx”?”

Boxing: Salinas stuns Zubia in Hobbs (October 26, 2014)

The Finger Post Boxing (November 3, 2017)

So I suggested fans keep an eye out for Saturday’s fight featuring Joey Alday and Chris Leyva in Hobbs, and I figured this might be a good time to revisit a previous show done by School of Hard Knocks Boxing in Lea County, New Mexico. So here is my Fightnews.con report from Isidro Castillo’a last show at the Club La Sierra in Hobbs, New Mexico back on October 25, 2014.

Salinas stuns Zubia in Hobbs, New Mexico

(Originally published on October 26, 2014 on Fightnews.com)

In what can only be called a knockout, School of Hard Knock Promotions put forth one of the most exciting boxing events to hit Southern New Mexico in recent memory as local boy Edgar Zubia took on his toughest opponent to date, fellow New Mexico prospect Jose Salinas last night in Hobbs, New Mexico in front of a nearly sold out crowd of over 500 boxing fans. In the much anticipated crossroads fight, local boy Edgar Zubia, 140, took on cross state rival Jose Salinas, 139.8, in a six round war that left many fans calling for a rematch immediately afterwards. The quick Zubia was in a “do or die” situation after losing a heartbreaker to Colbert Lozoya in his last fight back in 2013. The talented Zubia was hoping to revitalize his career with a dominant win over the highly regarded Salinas, and for two rounds, it looked like the plan was working. Despite the fact that Salinas was considerably more aggressive, Zubia initially utilized the effective jab that he abandoned against Lozoya, nailing Salinas coming in on several occasions. However, although Zubia had the edge in speed, Salinas was still able to land a few hard shots coming in. By mid round the fight erupted into a brawl as both men swung for the fences, much to the delight of the crowd. As both fighters touched gloves twice after the round ended (the second one coming when Zubia accidentally tapped Salinas in the face while trying to touch gloves) it was apparent that both men earned the respect of the other in the exchange. Both fighters traded hooks to start the third round, but it appeared that Edgar’s jab would be the most important punch of the night as Zubia seemed to time Salinas on several occasions coming in. Although the fight soon moved back to the inside, it again appeared to the local crowd that Zubia won the round thanks to the effectiveness of his jab and his ability to punish Salinas from the outside. However, the clear edge in conditioning for Salinas would soon become abundantly clear in the third round as Salinas began to tee off of the Hobbs native. Zubia’s jab, which had worked so effectively for him in the first two rounds and kept the fight close up to that point, became non-existent as he showed signs of fatigue. A hard overhand right from Salinas seemed to briefly stun Zubia midway through the round and by rounds end Zubia appeared to be sporting a knot under his left eye. Salinas again dominated round four, landing several hard right hands and at one point tagging Zubia as the local boy was raising his arms in an attempt to rally the crowd and wave in Salinas. Edgar seemed able to close the gap somewhat in round five, but still ate several hard right hands and a sharp left hook that ensured that Salinas would win the round on all three judges. By round six it appeared that Zubia would need a knockout, or at least a knockdown, to win the fight. But, in a move reminiscent of Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad, Salinas appeared willing to circle the ring and seemed disinterested in mixing it up with Zubia. Zubia appeared to find his second wind, aggressively trying to mix it up with Salinas and on several occasions raising his arms and inviting Salinas to stand in the middle and brawl with him. As the bell sounded ending the fight, it appeared to many fans in attendance that Zubia might have pulled off the improbable comeback and won the decision. However, Zubia would come up short on all three judges scorecards with Joel Perez (who scored the fight 58-56), Ray Chavez (who scored the fight 60-54) and Anthony Romero (who scored the fight 59-55) giving the nod to Salinas. Fightnews scored the fight 57-57. As soon as the decision was announced the fans in attendance began chanting “Rematch! Rematch!”, something that both fighters were more than happy to entertain.

  1. “I’ll be willing to do a rematch at 135,” Salinas said through a translator after the fight, “and an eight rounder.”Zubia expressed a desire to do a rematch as well, and even indicated that he would go to Las Cruces (the hometown of Salinas) for the rematch. School of Hard Knocks Promoter Isidro Castillo indicated a desire to bring both fighters back to Hobbs for a rematch in early 2015. With the win Salinas sees his record improve to 6-1, 3 KOs, while Zubia drops to 4-3-1, 3 KOs.In the opening fight of the night Albuquerque’s Brandon Munoz, 120.6, won his first professional fight after stopping Albert Tapia, 121.8 and hailing from Plainview, Texas, in the third round. The excitable Tapia seemed to do well in the first round but ultimately was unable to get inside the jab of Munoz. Tapia’s aggression led to a pair of accidental head butts in the first and second round, and the Texan did find a home for the overhand right on occasion. But after two fast pace rounds, in which Munoz seemed to edge, Tapia was simply unable to maintain the pace. A hard left hook from Munoz seemed to hurt Tapia in the opening seconds of the third, something that was confirmed when a hard counter right knocked Tapia nearly out of the ring. Although Tapia started to pull himself up, he waved “no mas” to referee Rocky Burke, prompting Burke to wave the fight off at 0:53 of the third round. With the win Munoz improves to 1-1-1 while Tapia drops to 0-2.In the second fight of the night a new prospect exploded onto the scene as hard punching Raul Rosas from Clovis annihilated the game, but outgunned, Anthony Rocha, from Amarillo, Texas. Although both fighters weighed in at almost identical weights (144.8 for Rosas and 144.4 for Rocha) Rocha looked somewhat soft around the middle whereas Rosas looked to be in peak condition. But although Rocha looked to be the sacrificial lamb at first, to his credit he fought with grit and toughness. Three straight right hands from Rosas in the opening seconds dropped Rocha hard. Although Rocha was visibly hurt, he gamely told referee Ray Chavez that he wanted to fight on after getting up on unsteady legs. However, Rosas swarmed all over the badly hurt Texan, prompting Chavez to jump in and wave off the fight at 0:41 of the first round. With the win Rosas now sees his record stand at 1-0, 1 KO while Rocha drops to 0-2.In what will probably go down as the New Mexico knockout of the year, tough Benjamin Vasquez from Amarillo, Texas won his first professional fight after he brutally stopped debuting Ray Howell from San Antonio in a junior welterweight fight. Howell was a fighter with some obvious talent, but the rugged aggression of Vasquez almost ended the fight in the opening minute. Timing a Howell jab perfectly, Vasquez landed a devastating overhand right that badly rocked Howell. Vasquez then jumped all over the debuting fighter, dropping him with another hard right hand. Howell looked like he was finished after he got up on very shaky legs, but the inexperience of Vasquez kept him in the fight after Vasquez came after Howell recklessly. Although Howell looked finished, he shocked fans in attendance by going after Vasquez and even hurting him with a shot at the bell in the final ten seconds. The Howell comeback continued in the second round as the suddenly rejuvenated Howell traded bombs with Vasquez for the better part of the round. Howell landed a hard three punch combination of his own, which visibly hurt Vasquez. By rounds end Vasquez was showing signs of frustration and fatigue, as Howell landed a quick combo as the round came to an end.

    Sadly for Howell, his miracle comeback came to a crashing end in the opening seconds of the third round when Vasquez wisely listened to his corners advice and returned to the devastating overhand right that worked so well for him in the opening round. Timing a jab perfectly, Vasquez dropped Howell with a devastating picture perfect overhand right in what was the “knockout of the night”. Referee Ray Chavez wisely waved the fight off at three as Howell lay on the canvas. With the win, Vasquez improves to 1-1, 1 KO while Howell drops to 0-1. The official time was 0:35 of the third.

    In the co main event, undefeated Augustine Banegas, 118, of Las Cruces stopped winless Christopher Salinas, 122, of Plainview, Texas. Despite the less than stellar record of Salinas, he fought admirably well, although he did show a disturbing tendency to switch from southpaw to orthodox while standing in front of his opponent. After a slow first round, Salinas seemed to outbox Banegas in the second and third. However, Banegas sealed the deal after a dominant forth round in which he dropped Salinas with a devastating body shot. Banegas lost what few fans he had in Hobbs after that by mocking Salinas as he walked away after dropping him. In a classless move, Banegas mockingly “kicked dirt” over Salinas like a dog at a fire hydrant, something that immediately made him the “heel” of the night. Salinas was able to get up and finish the fight, but the knockdown ended any possibility of him getting the decision. All three judges (Anthony Romero, Ray Chavez, and Joel Perez) had the fight 39-36 for Banegas, who improves to 2-0. Fightnews had the fight somewhat closer, at 38-37 for Banegas. With the loss Salinas drops to 0-3.

Boxing: This week’s top fight (you probably won’t see): School of Hard Knocks Boxing

The Finger Post Boxing (November 3, 2017)

So going back to the series I started earlier this year, I decided to pick my top fight you probably wouldn’t see for the weekend of November 3-4, 2017. And my pick?

Joey Alday vs. Chris Leyva.

I know, I know.  This hardly seems like the most significant fight in boxing this weekend. And the 22-year old Alday looks to be a world class prospect whereas Leyva seems to be more of a tough regional fighter.  But here me out.  The reason you should see this fight doesn’t have to do with Alday or Leyva. It has to do with promoter Isidro Castillo.  You see, Castillo is one of the best regional promoters I’ve seen in action, having covered several of his shows. He has an eye for talent and more importantly he has an eye for matching fights. Almost every card I’ve ever covered of his has a fight that would be  candidate for fight of the year had it been broadcast on ESPN, and I have the sneaking suspicion that his card will be no different. There will be fireworks in Hobbs, New Mexico on November 4th, maybe not in the Alday fight (although I consider Leyva to be a dangerous underdog who can’t be counted out), but fireworks nonetheless. In seven years of covering Castillo’s fights in Lea County, New Mexico I saw only two fights I’d consider “stinkers”. One was a female fight where one of the fighters quit after one round and the other was a fight where a last minute sub was needed to fill in for a bout featuring his son: Isidro Castillo Jr.

Two fights in seven years.  Not a bad streak by any means.  Even if Castillo had a fight that ended early, even if the fight wasn’t particularly competitive, Castillo always seemed to find a kid who refused to quit.  He just had a knack for finding tough guys who will come to fight.

So if you are reading this in Texas or New Mexico, consider heading down to Club La Sierra in Hobbs tomorrow night for what should be a tremendous night of boxing.  ANd if you don’t live near Hobbs, well, I guess your stuck with a WBA international title fight featuring an undefeated Russian prospect against 44-year old Ricardo Mayorga.

Read more Finger Post Boxing here!