One of the downsides of only doing this column every other week is in missing the news that comes up in that gap. The death of Manny Steward is one of those items. Everything that can be and needed to be said has already been covered. It is not surprising that the praise was so high and unstinting for a great trainer and one of the nicest and giving guys in boxing.
He showed genius in the way he brought through his Kronk Kids, but was equally appreciated for what he brought to fighters at other times in their careers.
My first dealings with Manny go back to those Kronk days. I used to write features on overseas fighters for Boxing News. In those days there was no such thing as the Internet so the only method open to me was to compile a questionnaire covering the usual details of a boxers’ background and send them out to gyms/managers/promoters/fighters and hope to get something back. No matter how many I sent to Manny he always made sure the guys completed them and responded and with photos etc. A gesture I appreciated so much. The one funny part was that I also did my own research, as you could never be sure the responses would be accurate. Manny once told me that when reading my pieces later he learned things about his boxers he never even knew. A great trainer and a true and generous gentleman. RIP Manny.
There must be a bit of the cat in Joan Guzman. In boxing terms he is in danger of using up his nine lives. He just seems to bounce back from disaster. In 2008 he was badly overweight for his scheduled super featherweight unification bout with Nate Campbell and instead of fighting was rushed to hospital experiencing dehydration and vomiting. He came in 9lbs over the limit for his fight for the vacant IBF lightweight title against Ali Funeka in 2010. He then moved up to light welterweight and fought Jason Davis. Guzman was 4½ lbs over weight for that one, and also tested positive for Furosmide, a diuretic. That lead to his win over Davis being changed to a No Contest and to Guzman receiving an eight-month ban. He returned to the ring in November last year and has twice made the light welterweight limit. He has had just three fights in almost two years, wins over Florencio Castellanos, Jesus Pabon and Jorge Pimental. None of those were even remotely rated and yet Guzman is the top rated fighter in the WBA ratings, and at the end of the month he fights the IBO champion Khabib Allakhverdiev for the vacant secondary WBA title. Seems like the cat is getting the cream.
Daniel Geale was rightly upset over the WBA taking away his title. He won their title in September and was stripped less than two months later for not fighting Gennady Golovkin. Not very even handed. Guillermo Jones won the WBA cruiserweight title in September 2008. He made one defence in February 2010 and a voluntary defence in November 2011. That’s now a year without making any defence with Denis Lebedev playing the role of Golovkin. It takes the WBA a year to take action against Jones and it was only this month they declared Jones “champion in recess” (for me that always conjures up a row of boxers hanging on coat hooks in a cupboard somewhere). A year for Jones-two months for Geale-and even then they gave Jones the sop of a meaningless title. Let me see now. Jones is Panamanian and the WBA Head Office is in.......oh yes. Panama.
Going back to Golovkin there are rumors that Golovkin’s next opponent Thomas Oosthuizen may be struggling to make the weight for his fight with Fulgencio Zuniga at the weekend. At 6’4” it is amazing he makes 168lbs at any time, but he has made it and may do it again. The plan is for an Oosthuizen vs. Golovkin fight so it will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday.
I saw Don King at the WBC Convention in Las Vegas and he has never looked more like yesterday’s man. He was a parody of himself. He still has some power, as Ryan Coyne found out, but it is minimal. The man who promoted Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson etc. recently held a press conference to trumpet about a fight between Omar Henry and James De la Rosa (now Juan Ubaldo Cabrera). Oh how the mighty have fallen. King’s mistake was in not noticing the trend away from heavyweights. In the past his agile mind was always a jump ahead of the competition, but he took his eye of the ball, whereas his great rival Bob Arum is, if anything, even more influential now than in the past.
One of King’s charges, Samuel Peter, is due to return to the ring on December 15 against Australian Mark de Mori. First fight for the former WBC heavyweight champion since being kayoed in nine rounds by Robert Helenius in April 2011. The 30-year-old de Mori is 19-1-2 with 17 wins by KO/TKO, but from what I saw of his win over Troy Weida in June he has some rough edges to his style, so this will be a big test.
King was still able to put a spoke in the wheel of Nat Cleverly’s fight with Ryan Coyne. There has been some mention over Coyne’s replacement Shawn Hawk not being in the WBO ratings. That’s no change as Coyne was not rated by the WBO either. Now Hawk is slipped in at No 15. Hawk has done most of his fighting on the Mid-West circuit where the competition is not strong, but he has wins over experienced fighters in Otis Griffin and Henry Buchanan, and has lasted the distance with Matt Godfrey and big punching Colombian/Canadian Eider Alvarez. He has brought his fighting weight down from 209lbs to 175lbs. Not the toughest of opponents but not bad for a late replacement and Cleverly needs to keep busy.
Roy Jones is in Russia right now. Luckily he is not fighting. Jones is out there doing a tour with his own show which will feature both music and sparring sessions with local boxers. Pop and punch. It is better to see Roy doing that than damaging his health and his legacy by fighting on.
Boxing got a break, almost literally. New Zealand All Black Sonny Bill Williams was to have fought South African Frans Botha in Brisbane on November 26. However, the rugby star injured his shoulder playing in Japan, and the fight is postponed. The 27-year-old has had just five fights. Two of his opponents had never won a fight; two were relatively inexperienced, and had lost more than they had won. The one experienced opponent - Clarence Tillman had an 11-8-2 record and would not be in anyone’s top 100. A novice against a 44-year-old Botha. We don’t really need fights like this.
Boxers come from all backgrounds and professions. The most surprising one at the moment is Russian Sergey Akimov. The 34-year-old light heavyweight is an ordained priest. He has the permission of his order to fight and has had three bouts. Unfortunately he has lost all three. Make it to the top? Seems like he hasn’t got a prayer.
From Saint to past sinner. Canadian-based Romanian heavyweight Bogdan Dinu is making steady progress with eight wins, five by KO/TKO. He had a very good record as an amateur winning the World Youth title in 2003. He had high hopes of a medal at the 2007 World Championships but lost on a CS. No, not a cut or a stoppage a “caught shoplifting”. He was then banned for life as an amateur. Better days ahead I hope.
A good prospect in boxing is something worth protecting, but over protection is a danger. At the weekend the German heavyweight prospect Edmund Gerber was up against a much smaller, very over weight (he was 175lbs when he turned pro in 2000 and was 240lbs for this fight), 38-year-old Darnell Wilson, who had lost nine of his previous ten fights. Gerber was walking Wilson down so confident that he ignored defence. He almost paid the price as he was nailed at the end of the first with a left that shook all the way down to his boots and only the bell saved him. He was overconfident and careless and that’s what can happen to an over protected fighter.
We have had father and son world champions, and brothers winning world titles. It’s a long way away but perhaps we might one day get a brother and sister pair. On a show in El Paso last month light middleweight Abraham Han moved to 18-0 with a win. On the same show his sister Jennifer rather let the side down by losing a split decision, but that was only her second loss in 14 fights. With the exposure that women’s boxing received at the London Olympics we might just get that unique double one day.
I don’t know who runs boxing in the Dominican Republic but whoever they are they should be fired. Cuban Luis Ortiz, a 6’4”, hard-hitting, former amateur star fought in the Republic at the end of last month. Ortiz, the WBA No 3, had a 16-1 record with 13 wins by KO/TKO. His opponent that night was Jose Santos Peralta. His record before the fight was 1-2. Those two losses were in 1999. His next fight, his win, was in February 2003. Only three fights, one win and inactive almost ten years, and someone with responsibility for boxing and the safety of boxers approved it as a match. Ortiz won on a first round kayo. What a surprise.
Filipino John Mark Apolinario came close to winning the interim WBA bantamweight title in his draw with Roberto Vasquez at the weekend. A good fight. However, the question is how Apolinario got the chance to fight for the title. In November 2010 he fought a majority draw with a guy with a 10-7-2 record. He did not fight again until December 2011 when he won a six round fight. Suddenly, without fighting again, he, out of nowhere, appears at No 3 in the WBA ratings in April. That stinks, but then it is the WBA.
Similarly at the weekend Nestor Narvaes put up an excellent fight against Toshiyuki Igarashi for the WBC flyweight title. He was No 7 with the WBC and unbeaten in 22 fights. All sounds just right, until you consider that Narvaes had only had one ten round fight. That was back in April 2011 against a guy with a 16-6-1 record. How can a guy rise to No 7 in the world on the back of only one ten round fight (he also had only two eight round fights, all the rest were 4 and 6 rounds). It defies all reason and makes a mockery of ratings.
There were celebrations in Colombia at the end of last month to mark the 40th anniversary of the victory of Antonio Cervantes over Alfonso Frazer to win the WBA light welter title. Over 15,000 people attended the fight in Panama and most of those were cheering for Frazer. Cervantes became Colombia’s first world champion and is still probably the best fighter ever produced there. It was the usual sad story when 'Pambele' stopped boxing. He blew all of his money and was in and out of rehab fighting a drug addiction. There were serious concerns over his health. Now at 66 he seems to have beaten his demons. He is now settled on a farm with his son’s family and working in the business. Perhaps a happy ending at last. Cervantes was twice WBA light welterweight champion and took part in 21 WBA title fights losing only three of those. The losses were to boxing greats in Nicolino Locche (an unsuccessful challenge) Wilfred Benitez ( a split decision) and Aaron Pryor. A truly great fighter.