This week's version of The Daily Sports Herald's Boxing Notebook discusses a slew of exciting upcoming fight cards, and takes a look back at some of the sport's classic rivalries. Check out the latest news in the sweet science:
Andre Ward returns to ring on March 26
Two-time World Champion and elite pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) will return to the ring on Saturday, March 26, to renew his quest for the light heavyweight title when he takes on undefeated and number one-rated IBF light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) in a 12-round bout at Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California. The event will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing.
Ward has been a relatively inactive fighter over the past few years due to injuries and a contractual dispute with his prior promoter. As such, he seems more than eager to get in the ring.
“I don’t really have much to say other than this. On March 26, it will be very simple. I’ll be in a new weight class against a tough opponent but I’m coming with the same approach,” said Ward. “I’ll be in great shape and ready for battle. Sullivan Barrera has had a lot to say lately and I love it. He’s going to have an opportunity to back up every word that he has spoken. These are the type of challenges I like and on March 26, it’s go time.”
For Barrera the situation is a win-win, as he gets a chance to defeat one of the biggest names in the sport.
“We as a team had a tough choice to make – crash the party by taking out Ward first or wait for the mandatory and take out Kovalev,” said Barrera. “We decided that the time is now. Ward will fall first and then we will go after the belts.”
Ward, the former 2011 Fighter of the Year, recently scored a ninth-round knockout over Paul Smith, continuing his unbeaten streak which dates back to when he was a 13-year-old amateur.
Born in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Barrera had an impressive amateur run with a record of 285-27. Following his defection from Cuba, where he was a member of the country’s national team, Barrera made his professional debut in 2009, and is trained by legendary trainer Abel Sanchez, who is best known for his work with middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.
Showtime revisits classic boxing rivalries
Round Two of the Showtime Sports 12-round celebration commemorating 30 years of boxing continues in February with a showcase of several great rivalry bouts.
This month will be highlighted by five of the most exhilarating fights in boxing history: the two Paulie Ayala-Johnny Tapia battles, and the first three Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez wars.
Ayala-Tapia I was 1999 Fight of the Year, and Ayala was 1999 Fighter of the Year.
The initial three Vazquez-Marquez showdowns are universally acknowledged as among the best of all-time, and were consensus Fight of the Year winners in 2007 and ’08. Additionally, the third round of Vazquez-Marquez II earned Round of the Year honors in ’07, while the fourth of Vazquez-Marquez III was 2008 Round of the Year.
These epic rivalries will air on “Throwback Thursdays” all month long on the network and its online streaming service. Each fight will be wrapped with brief context and commentary from SHOWTIME Sports host Brian Custer.
Below is the programming schedule for the five bouts:
Feb. 4: Ayala vs. Tapia I
Feb. 11: Ayala vs. Tapia II
Feb. 18: Vazquez vs. Marquez I & II
Feb. 25: Vazquez vs. Marquez III
In addition, in celebration of the best rivalries on Showtime, the network's boxing analyst, Steve Farhood, wrote the following column on the topic of the sport's rivalries:
By Steve Farhood
Boxing without rivalries would be like elections without debates.
Rivalries are natural, especially in boxing. Who is the best prospect in the neighborhood? Who is the best bantamweight in Mexico? Who is the best fighter in the entire world?
Fans want to know, and so do the fighters, especially if a one-on-one matchup is likely to provide a definitive answer.
The best example comes from the best rivalry in history, regardless of sport: When Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier clashed in their rubber match in Manila, they were fighting for something much greater than the world heavyweight title. They were fighting for the championship of each other.
Ali-Frazier ... Robinson-LaMotta ... Louis-Schmeling ... Barrera-Morales ... Mayweather-Pacquiao ... Pep-Saddler ... Leonard-Duran … Holyfield-Tyson: Boxing history has been told through its juiciest rivalries.
In 30 years of memorable fighters and unforgettable fights, Showtime boxing’s history can largely be told through its rivalries as well.
On Showtime Extreme, we’ll be focusing on two rivalries in particular: Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez and Paulie Ayala-Johnny Tapia.
Marquez-Vazquez is the equal of any pairing in recent history. So compelling were the battles, so consuming was the rivalry that many fans can’t tell you what the final scoreboard read. It didn’t matter all that much.
(Fittingly, the fighters split four bouts.)
What made Marquez-Vazquez different from most rivalries: They were defined more by similarities than differences. Most rivalries feature stark contrast. Think Borg-McEnroe. Or Bird-Magic. Or Evert-Navratilova. But Marquez and Vazquez were both classy champions from Mexico who needed each other to raise their profiles and all-time standings.
They gave us no trash-talking, no posturing, no hatred, real or imagined. Instead, they punched and bled and fought proudly and at the highest level. And because of the classic ring drama they created, that was more than enough.
Suffice to say that two of their bouts were chosen as Fight of the Year. And Marquez-Vazquez III was surely among the best fights I’ve covered live in my 37 years in boxing.
It was a bit different with Ayala and Tapia. When they first fought, Ayala wasn’t a familiar name. Tapia, on the other hand, was an undefeated and long-reigning champion with a unique personality and a distinctive ring persona.
A suitable rival is exactly what Tapia needed to fully realize the potential that we sensed when he soundly defeated New Mexico rival Danny Romero two years before.
A pair of controversial decisions, the contentiousness that marked the negotiations preceding the rematch, and Tapia’s raw emotion made Ayala-Tapia a particularly bitter rivalry.
It was a memorable rivalry as well.
Gennady Golovkin back in action at The Forum
Boxing Superstar and Unified Middleweight World Champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will make his highly anticipated return to the Fabulous Forum on Saturday, April 23, to defend his world titles against undefeated, mandatory challenger Dominic Wade. The event will be televised on HBO, and the undercard has not been announced yet.
Golovkin has previously fought at the Forum, earning a sixth round knockout of Willie Monroe in front of a huge crowd of 12,732.
“I’m happy to fight again at the Forum in front of my fans and friends in Los Angeles. Dominic Wade is a very hungry and skilled middleweight who is undefeated and will be another big test for me,” said Golovkin. “Thanks to my Coach Abel Sanchez, my promoter Tom Loeffler, my team, HBO and the Forum for another opportunity to defend my middleweight titles.”
Following a memorable year which saw three outstanding knockout performances, Golovkin, (34‐0, 31KOs) was lauded by numerous media platforms worldwide as the 2015 Fighter of the Year. Recently on October 17, before a sold‐out crowd of 20,548 at Madison Square Garden, Golovkin dismantled IBF Middleweight Champion David Lemieux with an exhilarating eighth-round stoppage.
With Canelo Alvarez electing to fight Amir Khan for his next bout, Golovkin had to find another opponent. Conveniently, the IBF ordered Golovkin to make his mandatory world title defense against the leading contender, Dominic Wade.
Stated Wade, "I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to fight ‘GGG’ for the IBF Middleweight Championship on April 23rd! I've worked hard my entire career to get to this point. I'm poised and ready to take on the challenge."
The 25‐year‐old Wade, (18‐0, 12KO’s), was an outstanding amateur as a four‐time Junior Olympic Champion and a participant in the 2007 Olympic Boxing Trials. In 2014, Wade was very active scoring four victories in dominant fashion. The Largo, Maryland native is coming off an impressive victory over former world champion Sam Soliman on June 26, 2015.
The powerful Golovkin has scored 21 knockouts in a row, extending his knockout ratio to 91.2%.
Exciting heavyweight Luis Ortiz to fight on March 5
Fresh off a knockout of Bryant Jennings, WBA Interim Heavyweight World Champion Luis "The Real King Kong" Ortiz (24-0, 21 KOs) will make his first title defense of 2016 when he faces former world title challenger Tony Thompson (40-6, 27 KOs) in a 12-round main event on Saturday, March 5, at the DC Armory, in Washington D.C. The bout will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark.
"This fight is just another stepping stone on my path to becoming the unified heavyweight world champion," said Luis Ortiz. "I came to the United States to chase my American Dream and fighting at the nation's capital is a dream come true. My life is coming full circle, and I know that this fight will put me a step closer to achieving everything I have worked so hard for in my career."
A native of Cuba, the 36-year-old southpaw Ortiz recently has scored three knockouts in three fights, each bigger than the one before it. Most notably, Ortiz defended his belt via seventh-round technical knockout of Jennings on December 19. It was a win that marked Ortiz as a must-see for fight fans around the world. A decorated amateur in his home country, Ortiz became a professional in 2010.
Thompson, meanwhile, is a skilled boxer from Washington D.C. who attempted to win the heavyweight world championship from Wladimir Klitschko in 2008. Although unsuccessful, Thompson continued fighting and remained undefeated until his second clash against Klitschko in 2012. Since then, he has stayed active and last held the WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Title in 2015.
"I'm happy to be back on HBO fighting for another world title," said Tony Thompson. "If you look at my competition and his [Ortiz], it's not even close. This isn't the amateurs. I'm going to use my experience as a professional to take him places he's never been. Odlanier Solis was a great Cuban amateur, but he was also an Olympic Gold Medalist, and I beat him twice. Ortiz thinks he has it tough. I've been avoided for my entire career. Just about all my fights have been on short notice and in foreign countries. If I fought the guys Ortiz fought, I'd be undefeated too. If Ortiz is King Kong, I'm Godzilla."
In another good matchup on the same card, contender and 2008 Olympian Sadam Ali (22-0, 13 KOs) will face former WBA Super Lightweight World Champion Jessie Vargas (26-1, 9 KOs) in a 12-round co-main event for the vacant WBO Welterweight World Championship.
A member of the 2008 United States Olympic boxing team, and the first Arab-American to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, Brooklyn's Ali, 27, has been sailing up the welterweight ladder thanks to his good speed and power.
"To fight for the world championship is something that I have been training and fighting for my whole career," said Sadam Ali. "I am grateful for the opportunity and promise all my fans I will not let them down. On March 5, I will have my hands raised up in victory as the new WBO Welterweight World Champion."
Las Vegas standout Vargas lost a controversial 2015 fight to Timothy Bradley for the WBO Interim Welterweight World Championship. Now, Vargas could get his wish of becoming a world champion once more when he faces Ali for the WBO Welterweight World Championship.
"This is a different Jessie Vargas," said Jessie Vargas. "I learned a lot from my last fight and I am ready to prove that I am still a world champion."
Julio Ceja and Hugo Ruiz battle on February 27
Hard-hitting Mexican warriors Julio Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs) and Hugo Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs) engaged in a memorable back-and-forth battle for the WBC 122-pound world title last August, and are eager to meet in the ring again to deliver another explosive fight. The rematch is part of a tripleheader televised on Showtime on February 27 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
“I feel like I have the advantage in speed and power,” said Ruiz. “I was looking for the knockout from the beginning and I will do that again on February 27.”
Headlining the event is undefeated featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz in his first title defense against former champ Kiko Martinez. Rounding out the card is a 10-round fight between undefeated heavyweights Gerald Washington and Oscar Rivas.
When Ceja and Ruiz clashed in Los Angeles last August, it was the U.S. debut for both and was also on a card headlined by Santa Cruz.
“One thing I can tell you, is that this fight will be as exciting as the first one,” said Ceja. “You don’t want to miss it. War is coming.”
Ceja recovered from a third-round knockdown to claim world title glory with a fifth-round stoppage of Ruiz, and he has promised once again to leave the fans thrilled.
“I knew it was a big step up in my career to get a fight in the U.S.,” said Ruiz, “It was very emotional to be fighting in front of so many Mexican fans on such an important card.”
In an excellent two-way matchup contested in the middle of the ring, Ceja and Ruiz combined to throw 373 power punches in just five rounds, with Ceja benefiting from a 96-67 advantage in power punches landed.
It was the sharp-shooting Ruiz who struck the first big blow of the match however, as he caught a lunging Ceja with a perfect left hook that put him down with just under a minute left in the third round.
“He definitely hurt me with that punch,” said Ceja. “I went straight into his hand and to the floor. But thanks to my great conditioning, I recovered fast. I train in the altitude in Mexico and that gives me the strength to fight 15 rounds. I’m working just as hard this camp.”
Showing little effect from the knockdown, Ceja made it through the third and had a solid fourth round against the lanky Ruiz. He began to work effectively inside the long reach of Ruiz and buzz him with left hooks and uppercuts. It was a perfectly timed left hook with 58 seconds remaining in the fifth round that put Ruiz down. Ruiz made it to his feet, but Ceja continued to batter him with both hands until the referee, Raul Caiz Sr., stepped in and stopped the fight at 2:34 into the round.
“Ceja came into the fight very aggressively and he put just the right amount of pressure on me,” said Ruiz. “This defeat is behind me now, but I did gain experience from the defeat that I will take into this fight.”
Both men know that there is plenty of work to be done in training camp.
“There is no way to get into a comfort zone against Ruiz,” said Ceja. “Just because I beat him, it doesn’t make this fight easier. He’s smart, experienced, and he won’t make the same mistakes again. He’s a guy who works distances perfectly and knows when to attack. We made mistakes in the first fight that we’re going to fix.”
Ruiz has been putting in the work during camp as well.
“I’m working on my defense and on putting more pressure on him throughout this fight,” said Ruiz. “I have to be aware of his left hand. The hook hurt me last time so I have been working on getting my right hand up to block it. I have to use my skills to be victorious.”
With a world title on the line once again, expect similar fireworks when these two proud Mexican sluggers share the ring in Anaheim.
Veteran Tomasz Adamek returns to ring on April 2
Former light heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion Tomasz Adamek (50-4, 30 KOs) returns to his native Poland to face Eric "Drummer Boy" Molina (24-3, 18 KOs) in Kraków on April 2 at the Kraków Arena for the IBF International Heavyweight Title.
"I am looking forward to fighting Molina and defeating him to show that I remain one of the elite fighters in the heavyweight division," said Adamek. "My victory over Molina will be a step toward another chance at the heavyweight title."
Adamek, 39, stopped Przemyslaw Saleta in the fifth round in his most recent fight back in September.
Molina, 33, is no slouch, as the tough Texan recently challenged Deontay Wilder for the WBC Heavyweight World Title in June, but was stopped in the ninth round. Still, he had his moments against Wilder. In his last fight, Molina stopped Rodricka Ray in the sixth round in Pharr, Texas.
"I'm at the point in my career where my back is against the wall," said Molina. "All I've ever known to do is bounce back and April 2nd I intend to do just that. The dream of becoming the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion continues April 2nd in Poland."
The parties are currently exploring possible U.S. telecast arrangements.
Zou Shiming draws large audience for bout
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Chinese icon Zou Shiming (7-1, 2 KOs) attracted an enormous audience of 36.5 million viewers on CCTV and live stream in his last bout on January 30. In addition, over 12,000 fans were on hand to see his victory live from the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China.
Zou regained the WBO International flyweight title by knocking out the previously-undefeated Natan Santana in the seventh round. It was Zou's first professional bout on the mainland, and his first fight since unsuccessfully challenging for a world title last year.
The card also featured 2012 Olympic gold medalist and undefeated Top-Five middleweight contender Ryota Murata (9-0, 6 KOs), of Tokyo, Japan. Murata stopped Gaston Vega in the second round.
Earlier that day, in the same venue, the 2016 debut of China's popular live boxing series, "League of Fists," presented its own card. All told, 28 bouts were fought between the "League of Fists" show and Shiming's separate card.
"These events are growing the sport of boxing in China at a tremendous rate," said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. "The voracious appetite of the fans and the sponsors proves that mainland China is very fertile territory for our sport. The potential is unlimited and should pay off big benefits in terms of exposure."
Antonio Orozco to fight on March 25 in local bout
Fresh off an exciting victory over former three-division world champion Humberto Soto, Antonio Orozco (23-0, 15 KOs) will face former WBA Super Lightweight World Champion Miguel Acosta (29-8-2, 23 KOs) next on March 25. The 10-round welterweight fight at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, will be shown live nationally on Boxeo Estelar on Estrella TV.
"I'm excited to get back in the ring on March 25," said Antonio Orozco. "I have had some great fights at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and on Friday, March 25, I'm preparing for a great one as well."
In the televised co-main event, newly signed Golden Boy Promotions fighter, Andrew "El Chango" Cancio (16-3-2, 12 KOs) of Blythe, Calif. will fight in a 10-round featherweight fight.
Undefeated top prospects round out the non-televised undercard, which will stream live on Ring TV.
Jason "El Animal" Quigley (9-0, 8 KOs) of Donegal, Ireland, is scheduled for an eight-round middleweight bout. Undefeated welterweight KeAndre Gibson (14-0-1, 6 KOs) also will fight in an eight-round fight.
Toka Kahn-Clary to battle on local card
Rising super featherweight star Toka Kahn-Clary (17-0, 11 KOs) returns to action this Saturday night against Mexican opponent Gabino Cota (18-5-1, 16 KOs) in an eight-round bout as part of Valley Fight Night 6 at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, California.
"Toka is ready for this fight," said Kahn-Clary's head trainer Peter Manfredo, Sr. "He's had a lot of good sparring. Toka is aggressive, well-conditioned, a good defensive fighter who can crack. There wasn't a 10-round fight available on this card but we wanted this fight. Toka's still only 23 so there's no reason to rush things."
Kahn-Clary recently scored an impressive second-round stoppage of Sergio Lopez (19-10-1, 13 KOs) last November.
"I'm a lot better fighter than I was a year ago," Kahn-Clary said. "I'm a lot more relaxed in the ring. I think more as I'm moving in the ring, adjusting a lot better, and my combinations are coming out a lot better."
A former WBC FECOMBOX and Mexican featherweight champion, Cota is a dangerous opponent who has knocked out 16 of the 18 fighters he's defeated as a professional.
"Cota may have lost four of his last six, but they were all title fights or on television against name opponents," Manfredo, Sr. noted. "He has some pop, throws a zillion punches and just keeps coming forward. This is a good step up for Toka."
Cota is battle-tested having fought world title challenger Jonathan Oquendo, Puerto Rican Olympian Orlando Cruz, and Russian champion Andrey Klimov.
"I like fighting guys that come to me like Cota," Kahn-Clary remarked. "It makes my job easier. I can setup my punches and fights against guys like this aren't as much as a chess match. I'll be landing hard shots and fans like that better than a chess match."
Also on the card, in the 8-round Welterweight main event, 21-year-old Oklahoma prodigy Alex Saucedo (20-0, 14KOs) takes on the toughest challenge of his young career against Florida's Clarence Booth (13-1, 7KOs).
Saucedo introduced himself to Southern California fight fans last year with a spectacular fourth round KO of Jake Giuriceo (17-3-1). But the powerful Booth is riding an 11-bout win streak, with his only professional loss coming at the hands of another undefeated prospect, Cleatus Seldin (currently 17-0).
In the co-main event of the card, undefeated prospect Andy Vences (14-0, 10 KO's), from San José, California, will face Mexico's Yardley Suarez (14-1, 8 KO's) in an eight-round bout in the super featherweight division.
Pacquiao-Bradley III undercard announced
Cinco de Mayo comes one month early with the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley welterweight championship pay-per-view undercard, as four Hispanic contenders will be featured in three title fights. The six fighters in those bouts have a combined record of 158-16-2 (96 KOs) -- a winning percentage of 90% -- with a knockout ratio of 61%.
"On April 9 we will be presenting three of the top fighters in the world today engaging in significant bouts," said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. "All three are of Mexican origin and represent the future of the sport of boxing."
WBO super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (44-4, 29 KOs) of Berlin, Germany, will defend his world title against 24-year-old undefeated WBO No. 1 super middleweight contender and mandatory challenger Gilberto Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs) of Mazatlan, Mexico, in the co-main event.
“Fighting in Las Vegas on the biggest stage of them all is a dream come true for me, and sharing the spotlight with Manny Pacquiao, a true legend of the ring, makes this opportunity even sweeter," said Abraham. "I have all the motivation I need including the challenge of a young hungry fighter in Gilberto Ramirez. I respect Ramirez and see him as one of the toughest challenges in my career, but I will not be denied a victory in my U.S. breakout fight, and believe my experience will prove too much for him."
The undercard will also feature undefeated No. 1 WBO featherweight contender Óscar Valdez (19-0, 16 KOs) of Nogales, Mexico, defending his NABO featherweight title against former IBF featherweight champion and Robert Garcia-trained fighter, Evgeny "El Ruso Mexicano" Gradovich (21-1-1, 9 KOs).
"I am happy to fight on April 9, I have a difficult opponent on that night but the plan is to get a win and get myself closer to that world title shot that I hunger for," said Valdez.
The pay-per-view telecast will open with Jose Ramirez (16-0, 12 KOs) of Avenal, California, risking his undefeated record and WBC Continental Americas super lightweight title against seasoned veteran Manny Perez (25-11-1, 6 KOs) of Denver.
"I'm excited and honored and feel blessed for this opportunity for myself and my team on one of boxing's biggest stages," said Jose Ramírez.
Ramírez is trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach and will prepare for this fight as a sparring partner for Pacquiao. His social activism on behalf of the Central Valley farmers' water rights has made him an icon in that area where he regularly sells out their largest venues as a fight card headliner.
Julian Williams to battle Marcello Matano on March 5
Undefeated super welterweight contender Julian Williams (21-0-1, 1 ND, 13 KOs) and once-beaten Italian Marcello Matano (16-1, 5 KOs) will square off in a 12-round IBF eliminator for the No. 1 ranking at 154-pounds in the main event of a card held on Saturday, March 5, from Sands Bethlehem Events Center in Bethlehem, Pa.
"This upcoming fight will be the biggest fight of my career," said Williams, 25. "I'm chomping at the bit to get back out there. I am taking my opponent very seriously and I refuse to let Marcello Matano stop me from being a world champion."
The bout will be shown live on Showtime.
“This is a dream come true,” said Matano. “I’ve been working for my whole life for a real opportunity to make to the top level and I will not let Julian Williams take it away. What will happen when Williams has to go to the championship rounds? Will he be ready? I know for sure that I will. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I will do all I can to grab it.”
In the co-feature, fast-rising middleweight contender Antoine Douglas (19-0-1, 13 KOs) will take on former world champion Sam Soliman (44-13, 1 NC, 18 KOs) in a 10-round middleweight bout.
"Facing a former world champion like Sam Soliman is a great opportunity for me," Douglas said. "The plan has always been to keep moving forward, and to do it successfully. This is that next step, and I'm ready for it. I've grown and learned so much fighting on ShoBox and it's a beautiful thing to continue to progress and move to the next level.”
In the opening bout of the telecast, hard-hitting prospect Tony Harrison (22-1, 18 KOs) will face veteran former world title challenger Fernando Guerrero (28-3, 20 KOs) in a 10-round super welterweight contest.
“I’m excited and eager to showcase my abilities to the world again,” said Harrison. “I’d advise fans to arrive early because I don’t plan to be in the ring long. I’m knocking this guy out. I know Guerrero is coming in with a chip on his shoulder and I can’t overlook him. I brought my uncle into camp and I think that’s going to give me the edge that I’ve needed to get over the hump."
Jesse Hart stays loyal to Philly roots
How did super middleweight Jesse Hart go from fighting February 27 at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden on an HBO championship card, to a March 18 non-televised show from the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia?
The answer says a lot about the direction boxing has traveled in recent memory.
“I don’t want to fight on someone else’s undercard,” Hart said recently, removing himself from his off-TV fight underneath Terrance Crawford’s WBO junior welterweight title defense against Hank Lundy, another Philadelphian, in New York City.
“I wanted to be the main event in Philadelphia where my dad (Eugene “Cyclone” Hart) was a star years ago,” Hart added. “I called up my promoter, Bob Arum, and explained this to him and he gave me the green light.”
Hart’s NABA and USBA championship belts will be at stake against Dashon Johnson, of Escondido, California, who is riding a four-bout winning streak.
Hart, who has scored 16 knockouts on his 19-0 record, is pounding the pavement for the March 18 card, acting as part of the promotional team.
“It’s not even about the money,” Hart said, “because I’m taking a pay cut to fight in Philly. It was about bringing something back to my city. I’m not knocking other towns, but Philadelphia is the Mecca of Boxing. It’s been that way for a long time, even before my dad was fighting. We have good fighters in Philly but they are not fighting here so I have to show the way by doing this and coming home. Fighting in Philly is meaningful to me. It means a lot to me to uphold my city.”
Hart’s attitude is music to Peltz’ ears.
“You’ve got other outstanding Philadelphia fighters who never fight here; guys like Danny Garcia and Julian Williams are the most obvious,” said J Russell Peltz, whose company will stage the March 18 card along with Top Rank, BAM Boxing, and Joe Hand Promotions.. “It’s been a long time since we drew crowds of 7,000 to 10,000 to watch fights in this town and I’m not saying we can do that overnight, but you have to start somewhere."
“It’s a pleasure to watch Crawford defend his title in Omaha, NE, and draw 10,000 people in his backyard even though now he is testing the New York market," said Peltz of fighters who ignore casino venues to fight at home. "There’s a junior welterweight in Fresno, California, (Jose Carlos Ramirez) who is drawing crowds in excess of 10,000. That is sensational but why don’t we see more of it?"
In the 1970s, which Peltz labels the Last Golden Age of Boxing in Philadelphia, “Cyclone” Hart was a major attraction, blowing 160-pounders out of the water with a devastating left hook. The older Hart’s fights with Briscoe, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, Don Fullmer, Nate Collins and Denny Moyer drew large crowds to the Arena and Spectrum.
He was a bona fide Top 10 contender at a time when it really meant something—an era that also included Carlos Monzon, Emile Griffith, Rodrigo Valdes and Billy “Dynamite” Douglas.
Golden Boy signs super featherweight Oscar Duarte
Undefeated super featherweight prospect Oscar Duarte (4-0-1, 3 KOs) of Mexico has signed a promotional agreement with Golden Boy Promotions. The 20-year-old, who is managed by famous Mexican actor Gabriel Soto, will make his debut as a Golden Boy Promotions fighter on February 19 at LA Fight Club at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
"Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez are big heroes of mine and to be alongside them at Golden Boy Promotions is a dream come true for me," said Oscar Duarte. "I am very grateful for the opportunity and feel a big responsibly to them to prove that I have what it takes to one day become a world champion. I want to thank my team, Gabriel Soto, Guillermo Rocha and Ricardo Mijares for helping me get to this point in my career."
Duarte is a third-year engineering student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua. He began boxing at 11-years-old, and six months after his introduction to boxing, Duarte competed at the amateur level and amassed five state championships, five regional titles, and a record of 62-4.
Randy Caballero picks up win
A sold-out crowd of 1,814 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino welcomed back hometown hero Randy Caballero (23-0, 14 KOs) of Coachella Valley, California, in his fight against Ruben Garcia (15-2-1, 6 KOs) of Mexico City.
The exiciting bout had the crowd on their feet, as Caballero took control with a series of combinations in the first round, setting the stage for the remaining rounds. Both fighters exchanged constantly, but as the rounds crept up Garcia was getting exposed by Caballero's punches. Before the eighth round, the referee ruled Garcia unfit to continue, waving off the bout and declaring Caballero the victor by seventh round technical knockout.
"It feels so great to be back," said Caballero. "I felt strong and in control the whole time and glad I was able to shake off some of the ring rust. I am glad I was able to share this victory with my hometown and have them witness my return to the ring. I know I delievered a great fight, and I am ready for the next challenge."
In the co-main event, undefeated welterweight Frankie Gomez (20-0, 13 KOs) demonstrated his control of the ring in a fight against former IBA Super Lightweight Champion Silverio Ortiz (29-17, 15 KOs) of Mexico in a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight.
In the end, Gomez was awarded an unanimous victory with a score of 100-90 by all three judges.
"I felt very strong in the ring and felt in complete control throughout the fight," said Gomez. "I am glad with the decision, it's another victory on my record. Ortiz was a tough guy, he was taking a lot of hits and didn't go down until the ninth round. He definitely earned my respect, but I am here to win and become a world champion."
As part of the non-televised portion of the night, Shane Mosely Jr. (5-1, 4 KOs) of Pomona, California, had his father and former world champion Sugar Shane Mosely in his corner when he defeated Daniel Henry (3-5-3) of Lewiston, Maine, via unanimous decision.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services