Boxing: Could Dogboe or Tapales be in line for an “interim” title fight against Juarez?

The Finger Post Boxing (October 9, 2017)

 

Some of you may have heard the reports that WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno has pulled out of his November 11th title fight against #1 contender Cesar Juarez.   Well, Jose Luis Camarillo with notifight.com has added an interesting twist to this story.  He is reporting that Juarez and his team are looking to approach WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel about fighting the next available contender on November 11th…for the interim title.   The #2 contender is Marlon Tapales (30-2, 13 KOs) from the Philippines, a former bantamweight champion.  Juarez-Tapales would normally be seen as a pick ’em fight, but the likelihood of Tapalas being able to properly prepare for a title fight against Cesar Juarez on such short notice seems slim.  Unlike with what we saw in New Zealand earlier this year (when Razvan Cojanu filled in for Hughie Fury at the last minute in a WBO title fight against Joseph Parker) there is the consideration of if Tapales has enough time to make weight as well.  I am assuming that any decision on the 122-pound title would not be finalized until the 2017 WBO Congress, which will take place from October 23-26.  If they agreed with Juarez, that would give Tapalas just over two weeks to get ready for a world title fight on the 11th.  But that is assuming they try and keep the November 11th fight date.

And herein lies the real drama, because most likely the October rankings will be decided during the Congress, and nipping at the heels of Tapalas is the WBO #3 ranked contender, undefeated Isaac Dogboe from Ghana.

Isaac Dogboe before his fight with Argentina’s Javier Chacon

If the WBO concurs with Cesar Juarez and decides to allow Juarez to fight the next available contender for the interim title (and that’s a big if) they could end up going with Dogboe, who last fought for the WBO International Title back in July (Tapales has not fought since April in a defense of his WBO bantamweight title, as has yet to fight at 122-pounds).  This in turn could force Tapales to take an ill-advised November 11th fight…if he thinks Dogboe may leapfrog over him in the world rankings during the WBO Congress.

Now Tapales is a road warrior (his last three fights were in hostile territory, and two of them were world title fights) so I am sure if anyone in boxing could and would take a world title fight on two weeks notice against a Cesar Juarez, it is Tapales.  But don’t rule out Team Dogboe just yet.

Regardless of how things pan out, the last day of the WBO Congress will undoubtedly be a nail-biter for boxing fans in the Philippines and Ghana both.

 

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Boxing: Remembering Jake LaMotta

It’s a sad day for boxing. Multiple news sources have reported that the “Raging Bill” Jake LaMotta passed away at the age of 95.

There will be a lot of obituaries for LaMotta by writers and pundits who knew him better than I, but I did want to share one story I had of LaMotta. I met him once, back in July of 2001, at a ESPN televised show I was covering for Fightnews. LaMotta was brought in to do some standup comedy, and, well let’s just say he was a better fighter than a comedian. After a series of jokes of the “take my wife, please!” varient, LaMotta returned to his seat where another writer decided to grab a quick interview with the former champ. LaMotta was personable and engaging…until the writer decided to try his hand at comedy at Jake’s expense. Quoting a line from the film “Raging Bull” (the famous scene where DeNiro confronts Joe Pesci about having an affair with his wife), LaMotta glared at the writer with a look that probably was identical to the scowl he bestowed on Sugar Ray Robinson. The writer joked afterwards that he was going to “leave the comedy to the professionals” and even wrote about the experience.

RIP champ.

 

 

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Boxing: Remembering David Bey

“(Y)ou only learn that when you start losing stuff.  You find out that life is just a game of inches.” – Any Given Sunday

I always loved this quote, and I always felt it applied to boxing as well as football. Boxing is, in the end, a game of inches. So many fighters come so close to glory, so close to that championship belt, that they can almost feel that cold metal faceplate on the front of the belt.

David Bey was one of those guys.

Now make no mistake, this is not a knock on Bey. I have tremendous respect for the hard punching bomber who came ever so close to removing Larry Holmes from his senses back in 1985.  Bey did something that few fighters ever did: fight for a title. He also did something only a fraction of those fighters can say they accomplished: he hurt the champ.  And it wasn’t a lucky shot that rocked Homes. When all is said and done, I think boxing history was wrong about David Bey. He wasn’t some tough kid who caught Greg Page on the right night and scored an upset over the most experienced contender, paving the way for a title fight nobody in boxing was expecting him to get. He wasn’t a lucky pug who stumbled into a title fight en route to  his inevitable fade into journeyman status. He was almost the real deal.

Almost.

Prior to his fight with Holmes he scored two wins over future word champions and against Holmes he rattled the undefeated Hall of Fame champion in the second round. Most fans felt that was where the story ended. He got his title fight and he would spend the rest of his career as an opponent for young up and comers. But he wasn’t done almost upending the heavyweight division just yet. In his next fight he almost upset Trevor Berbick before Bey’s notoriously bad endurance caught up to him. Berbick rallied from a deficit to close the gap and stop Bey in round eleven. But had the fight between Bey and Berbick not been for the USBA title, had Bey v. Berbick been a ten round fight, then things may have gone differently that night. Perhaps Bey would have been the one who caught a poorly trained Pinklon Thomas off guard on 1986. Perhaps Bey would have been the man who Mike Tyson had to get past in order to win his first world title.

Bey was a tough brawler, yes. But he was also an awkward fighter with bone crushing power who ultimately  suffered from the “punchers curse”: poor endurance coupled with a subpar chin. But so many other fighters became world champions despite suffering from the punchers curse (Mike Weaver, Tommy Morrison, Gerrie Coetzee, and Frank Bruno all come to mind). I also can’t help but wonder “what if Bey decided to fight Coetzee in South Africa?”  He certainly could have beaten Coetzee…all he had to do was sell out.

But from what I can tell reading about David Bey from people who knew him, he wasn’t the kind of guy who would sell out what he believed in. Instead he took on the much more dangerous Larry Holmes and came up short, although he came oh so close. .

I wanted to post a clip of David against Greg Page or Buster Douglas, but unfortunalty nobody posted those fights on YouTube. It’s a shame, but the only fights I could find of Bey were the fights he lost. But after watching the Bruce Seldom fight I couldn’t help but think about that quote once again.  Bey was trailing in the fight, but for the better part of ten rounds he gave as good as he got. It would ultimately be the last time he ever gave a contender a run for his money (Bey would be stopped by Joe Hipp in his next fight in a lopsided affair) but there was no denying that he gave Seldon all he could handle when the two fought in 1990. Seldon, boxing fans would discover, was a fighter with a less than stellar chin. But that wasn’t yet established in 1990. Nonetheless from rounds four to nine Bey would catch Seldon with the occasional left hook that would land just an inch from the sweet spot on Seldon’s chin. Seldon would stumble on occasion, but he would never go down.

After ten rounds Bey would again come up just an inch short, this time against a fighter who would go on to win the WBA heavyweight title five years later.

Boxing is, after all, a game of inches.

David Bey is survived by his daughter Leah Bey-Batie and step daughter Kyrstin Ellison as well as nine brothers and sisters.  David’s Life Celebration will take place on  Saturday, September 23rd, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 5930 Rising Sun Ave in Philadelphia, followed by his Funeral Service at 11:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, a donation in David’s memory to Pilgrim Baptist Church would be appreciated.

Boxing: Former heavyweight contender David Bey passes

I’m sad to report the passing of former heavyweight contender David Bey. According to WPVI, an ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, Bey was working as a Pyle driver with Local Carpenters’ 179 in Camden, New Jersey. He was killed on Wednesday, September 13th, in an industrial accident at the Camden Towers when he was reportedly hit by a steel sheet Pyle.

Bey is perhaps best remembered by boxing fans for his 1985 IBF world title fight against Larry Holmes. Holmes defeated the then undefeated Bey by way of tenth round TKO. But many boxing fans nonetheless remembered the gritty performance from Bey, who rocked Holmes in the second round. Holmes was later quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying Bey “got my attention” in the second round of the fight.

But Bey’s legacy in boxing went beyond the fight with Holmes. Bey’s career would ultimately mimic another famous, albeit fictional, Philadelphia boxer. Having been brought in as the sacrificial lamb in his professional debut in 1981 Bey stunned the boxing world when he knocked out an undefeated prospect with a 5-0 record from Columbus, Ohio in the second round. That fighter’s name was James “Buster” Douglas. After stopping Douglas, Bey would go on to string together another twelve wins before he was again brought in as an “opponent”, this time against another future world champion named Greg Page in August of 1984. Bey would score a stunning upset over Page, winning the USBA heavyweight title by way of twelve round decision. Bey also earned the admiration of boxing fans the world over when he declined a $750,000 offer to fight then WBA champion Gerrie Coetzee in 1985. The offer came with an important caveat: Bey would have to fight Coetzee in the champion’s home country of South Africa. At the time South Africa was ruled by a pro-apartheid regime and Bey, worried that fighting Coetzee in South Africa would give the apartheid regime legitimacy, refused the offer.

Bey would ultimately fight six heavyweight champions in his career as well as an undefeated Olympic gold medalist named Tyrell Biggs. His final fight was a TKO over Dave Jaco in 1994, which brought his professional career to a close with a record of 18-11-1, 14 KOs. He was 60-years old.

Boxing: Tatsuya Fukuhara ranked 10 by WBC

If you haven’t already guessed by now, I’m a big fan of boxing’ smallest weight division.  And I won’t lie; I’m a fan of Kumamoto’s Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7 KOs).

He’s a throwback: a fighter who wasn’t handed anything on the way up and clawed his way to a WBO world title thanks to grit, determination, and perseverance. He’s an exciting fighter whose fight with Moises Calleros was arguably one of the best 105-pound championship fights of all time.  He may not have a flashy record, but in a way that only adds to his appeal.  How many 18-4-6 fighters can you name who not only earned a title fight but then capitalized on it?

For Fukuhara, his loss to Ryuya Yamanaka last month ended his brief title reign, but there is already signs that the gritty former champion may have another shot at a world title before long. The latest WBC rankings have just been released and Fukuhara is currently ranked #10 in the world. This sets up an intriguing matchup that I for one would love to see: a clash between the former WBO champion and the reigning WBC minimumweight champion Chayaphon Moonsri, aka  Wanheng Menayothin. Moonsri has an impressive record of 48-0, 17 KOs, but as it stands now he isn’t even ranked as the top fighter in the division. According to Boxrec.com that distinction goes to his countryman, WBA 105-pound champion Knockout CP Freshmart.

Nonetheless Moonsri is closing in on tying Rocky Marciano’s mark of 49-0 and may surpass Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 by early 2018. He does show a fondness for non-title fights to pad his record (his last fight was a six rounder against journeyman Jack Amisa back on August 25th. But for fight 49 and 50 he would be better served fighting a higher profile fight and as it stands now Fukuhara fits the bill better than anyone else in the top ten. A former champion with a reputation for fireworks is just the kind of fight that could have the world paying attention as the undefeated Thai champion attempts to tie one of boxing’s most prestigious records.  Here’s hoping for one more title fight for the Kumamoto native. In the end the biggest winner of a Moonsri-Fukuhara fight will be the sport of boxing.

Boxing: Yamanaka edges Fukuhara for WBO mini-flyweight belt

The Finger Post Boxing (September 8, 2017)

(Kumamoto, Japan.  August 27, 2017)

If there is one piece of advice I would give to an aspiring boxing writer it’s this: go to as many locations to see fights. Every country has a it’s own special relationship with the Sweet Science, and you often learn more about a place by watching their fight fans then you often can by visiting their tourist sites.

And nobody does boxing quite like the Japanese. There is a natural politeness and organization in Japan that surprises the Westerner. But for fight fans it’s not just the politeness…it’s the special appreciation Japanese boxing fans seem to have towards the fighter. It’s a unique form of admiration: not as a warrior but as a master of his craft. They cheer when the fight turns into a crowd pleasing brawl, as boxing fans in Kumamoto did when Tatsuya Fukuhara and Moises Calleros engaged in one of the best mini-flyweight fights in recent memory back in February. But they also seem to appreciate the boxer who treats the ring not as a battlefield but as a chessboard. He is an artist and the ring is his canvas, and whereas the American fight fan might grow impatient with his mastery, the Japanese fight fan will often sit back and simply…appreciate.

And on August 27, 2017 boxing fans in Kumamoto were treated to a true artist of the ring: Kobe Japan’s Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4 KOs). Yamanaka, the WBO #1 ranked contender at 105-pounds took on local boy Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7 KOs) the recently crowned WBO mini-flyweight champion and fellow chess master of the squared circle. It was a fight that promised to be less exciting that the one that preceded it, where Fukuhara brawled with Mexican contender Moises Calleros to win the vacant interim title. But in the end, it was intriguing in a different way. As the aggressive Fukuhara chased the fleet footed Yamanaka around the ring one thing was becoming clear: this was a chess match where neither man would be saying “checkmate.” This was a fight where a single jab here or a lone pawn there would be the deciding factor. This was a fight where every punch was going to count, even if it wasn’t as jarring as the heavy punches of the Mexican brawler from Monterrey who fought Fukuhara in February.

And in the end, it was the flashy Yamanaka who edged a close unanimous decision against the aggressive Fukuhara.  All three judges had the fight for Yamanaka, by scores of 115-113 (Surat Soikrachang and Carlos Ortiz) and 116-112 (Salven Lagumbay). For the record TFP scored the fight 114-114, but with that being said I have no complaint about the official score.  It was undoubtedly a fair decision on a close and competitive tactical fight.  And in the end, the close rounds made the fight a difficult one to score.  All three official judges were in agreement for only three rounds: round one (which all three gave to Fukuhara), round seven (which they all scored for Yamanaka) and round ten (which they also scored unanimously for Yamanaka).

Nonetheless, there was no question that Yamanaka boxed brilliantly and although majority of the rounds were won by the slimmest of margins, it was also clear that Yamanaka did frustrate the champion with his hand speed and defense.

The opening round immediately set the stage for the night as Yamanaka used his superior footwork to keep away from Fukuhara. Although Yamanaka caught Fukuhara upstairs with a picture perfect counter as Fukuhara came in, it looked like the dogged aggression of Fukuhara might carry the night as the opening round came to a close. But by round two Yamanaka started to better gauge his distance from Fukuhara, staying just outside of the punching range of Fukuhara while catching the local boy with a pair of overhand rights. Yamanaka continued to give Fukuhara angles in the second before a straight right landed for Fukuhara late in the round, seemingly putting the second round back into play. Nonetheless Yamanaka boxed well in round three and four, although Fukuhara did seem to rattle Yamanaka with a solid combination upstairs in the closing minute of round four. Fukuhara seemed to find his range again in round five, closing the gap ever so slightly. But the tricky Yamanaka revealed another weapon in his arsenal, as he landed a counter uppercut as Fukuhara tried to bull rush his way inside. Fukuhara seemed enraged and fired back with gusto, pounding away at the body of Yamanaka with some effectiveness. But the effective body attack was not utilized enough in round six, as Fukuhara seemed determine to try and sneak in overhand rights instead. Although Fukuhara seemed to bother Yamanaka on several occasions in the sixth with the body attack Yamanaka, he soon began to resemble to bull against Yamanaka’s matador: chasing the sick boxing Kobe boxer but never quite reaching him. Round seven would go on to be Yamanaka’s best, landing right hands against a bull rushing Fukuhara while using superior footwork to frustrate the champion. But although Yamanaka continued to box well in round eight Fukuhara seemed to goad him into a brawl of sorts by the end of the round. It was enough to prompt some ringsiders from asking if Fukuhara had finally worn down his slick opponent. But in round nine it was Fukuhara who showed early signs of fatigue as Yamanaka outworked and outboxed him. Although Fukuhara rallied in the closing seconds of the ninth round, it appeared to be too little, too late. Yamanaka continued his brilliance in round ten, catching Fukuhara on several occasions with solid shots as the aggressive Fukuhara marched in. Although Fukuhara seemed to rattle Yamanaka in the closing minute of the round, there was no question that Yamanaka was boxing well and that he had edged the last two rounds going into the championship round.

But the warrior who brawled with Calleros back in February began to emerge in the corner after round ten, as Fukuhara yelled in the corner and came out in round eleven with more aggression. Fukuhara still walked into some counter punches, but his aggression seemed to steal the eleventh. It seemed like anyone’s fight going into round twelve, and both fighters fought accordingly. Yamanaka boxed brilliantly and energetically, which Fukuhara stalked relentlessly. A solid right from the champion seemed to rattle Yamanaka midway through the round, and Fukuhara literally ran after Yamanaka to determine if he was hurt, but Yamanaka was able to step aside from danger. Fukuhara then returned to the strategy that could have turned the fight…had he employed it from the early rounds on: the body attack. Several hard body shots seemed to briefly rattle Yamanaka, and although the body attack did open up Fukuhara to hooks upstairs, there was little question that when Yamanaka was hit to the body it had an impact. Yamanaka threw a left hook upstairs but Fukuhara, looking to make a statement as the fight came to a close, threw caution to the wind. Both fighters threw punches with gusto as the bell sounded ending the fight with Fukuhara seemingly stealing the round.

In the end, the judges went with the slick boxing Yamanaka, who clearly fought the fight of his life against the champion. The baby faced 22-year old from Kobe now becomes the third consecutive Japanese boxer to hold the WBO mini-flyweight title. At 15-2, with only four knockouts it is clear that he isn’t a knockout puncher. But he is one of the more impressive boxers in the division and does possess impressive hand speed and ring generalship. But as Fukuhara can attest, winning the title is often not as hard as holding onto the title. Yamanaka impressed boxing fans back in November of 2016 when he defeated veteran Merlito Sabillo for the OPBF minimumweight title by unanimous decision. But he also was upset by lightly regarded Roque Lauro (13-22-5, 3 KOs) of the Philippines just three months before he won the OPBF belt. He also suffered a stunning loss to Kenta Shimizu (8-5-1, 4 KOs) by way of first round KO back in 2013, although in his defense, he was only 18 years old at the time. The #2 contender in the WBO is undefeated Panya Pradabsri (18-0, 10 KOs) of Thailand. Pradabsri has already won the PABA title and the WBC Asia Boxing Council belt and would have to be seen as a very tough opponent for the young champion’s first title defense. At #3 is another undefeated prospect in Robert Paradero (14-0, 9 KOs) of the Philippines. The 21-year old Filipino won the WBO Asia Pacific Youth title back in October of 2016 against Ronie Tanallon with an impressive decision, but unlike with Pradabsri it is a little tougher to gauge how tough of a contender he is as the rest of his resume is a little thinner. Although the WBO has him ranked at #3, Boxrec.com lists seven other fighters from the Philippines higher, and has Paradero ranked at 33 in the world at 105-pounds. Nonetheless he would be a dangerous opponent for Yamanaka’s first title defense. Just because he hasn’t fought as many solid guys as Yamanaka doesn’t mean he isn’t a dangerous opponent.

At #4 is another Filipino in Vic Saludar (15-3, 9 KOs). Saludar already was stopped in 2015 in his first title fight against Kosei Tanaka, and has recently lost to Toto Landero (8-1-2) back in June. Saludar looks to be Yamanaka’s safest option for his first title defene, at least on paper. Below Saludar is Puero Rican Janiel Rivera (16-2-3, 10 KOs) who was stopped in three rounds in his only other world title fight back in 2014 agaisnt Adrian Hernandez of Mexico. Rivera wouldn’t be a bad option for Yamanaka either, although it is doubtful that Yamanaka would be able to test the chin of Rivera like Hernandez did. At #7 is Moises Calleros, a fighter that is arguably the most dangerous man in the division. Although Calleros could theoretically be David Tua to Yamanaka’s Chris Byrd, it is just as likely that the hard punching Mexican could test the chin of Yamanaka just like Kenta Shimizu did back in 2013. In the end it would also be an inadvisable fight for Yamanaka. At #7 is fellow Kobe native Reiya Konishi (14-0, 5 KOs).  Although the all Kobe battle would seem intriguing, it almost certainly wouldn’t happen as Konishi is a stablemate of Yamanaka.

At #8 is Namibian Japhet Uutoni (12-2, 5 KOs), who was knocked out in his last fight back in February by undefeated Angel Acosta.

But there is one other option for Yamanaka for his first title defense: the former champion himself. Tatsuya Fukuhara will most likely enter the rankings now that he is no longer a world champion and another all-Japan battle (this time in Kobe) could be the perfect optional title defense for Yamanaka. He already knows he can beat Fukuhara, but the fight was close enough to warrant a rematch. An option defense may be the best step for Yamanaka, who will most likely be looking at a mandatory defense against the Thai contender in early 2018.

 

 

Boxing: Kanat Islam (24-0) vs. Brandon Cook (18-0) this weekend is Khazakstan

It’s a safe assumption to say the biggest fight this month featuring a fighter from Kazakhstan will take place on September 16th in Las Vegas when Gennady Golovkin takes on Saul Alvarez in a middleweight title fight.

But there is another intriguing match up featuring a popular Kazak titlist set this weekend at the Saryarka Velodrome in Astana, Kazakhstan on Saturday, September 9th. Undefeated NABO junior middleweight champion Islam “Qazaq” Kanat (24-0, 19 KOs), the #7 ranked fighter in the WBO, will take on the undefeated Canadian prospect Brandon “Bad Boy” Cook (18-0, 11 KOs), who is currently ranked #13 by the WBO at 154-pounds.

The popular Islam has already earned a solid fan base back in Khazakstan, with the 12,000 seat Saryarka Velodrome in Astana reportedly already sold out for this weekend’s event.

The 32-year old Islam, who fought for China under the name Hanati Silamu at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics (but is of Kazak descent) is hoping to land a world title fight before the end of the year, but needs a solid win over the undefeated Canadian to position himself for a fight with Miguel Cotto. But his opponent is seen as the most dangerous foe he has faced to date and could derail the Kazak’s plans of a title fight before the end of the year. Cook is coming into the fight off the heels of an impressive knockout over fellow Canadian Steven Butler back in June in a fight for the NABA title.

The fight card is highlighted by a stacked undercard featuring eight undefeated Kazak prospects including Ali Akhmedov (8-0, 6 KOs) as he takes on American Justin Thomas (18-2, 7 KOs). Also on the card is welterweight prospect Zhankosh Turarov (21-0, 15 KOs) as he faces Bruno Romay (21-4, 18 KOs) of Argentina.

A fighter to keep an eye out for in 2017: cruiserweight contender Olanrewaju Durodola

 

Finger Post Boxing (July 22, 2017)

 

After the Isaac Dogboe v. Javier Chacon WBO International Junior Featherweight championship in Accra, Ghana we had the opportunity to see a walkout bout featuring heavy hitting Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola (25-4, 23 KOs), the #10 ranked cruiserweight with the WBC. Durodola possesses what seems to be the defining trait with Nigerian boxers: bone crushing power. But at 36-years old time is not nessesarily on his side. It was hard to gauge how he would do against a Tony Bellew considering the fact that opposition he faced in Accra was minimal. And to be honest, he sort of fought down to the level of his opposition. But what was undeniable was that he was a fighter with tremendous power and power sells tickets and makes things happen in boxing. I’d consider Durodola a fighter to keep an eye out for in 2017…and if he gets world title fight don’t rule him out.  Power, after all, is a great equalizer in this sport.