Middleweight: The Best American Prospects

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

Tonight, Antoine Douglas headlines ShoBox: The New Generation from Westbury, N. Y.

This will be Douglas’ third appearance on ShoBox.

Douglas is 22-years-old, unbeaten, and among the most attractive U.S. prospects in the game.

Four promising home-grown middleweight prospects:

HUGO CENTENO, 24-years-old, 22-0, 1 NC: Has rebounded strongly from his disappointing performance against Julian Williams. Kayo of James De La Rosa in December was eye-opening.

ANTOINE DOUGLAS, 22-years-old, 16-0-1: Exciting style. We’ll see if he learned from his draw with Michel Soro, a fight in which Douglas faded late.

TONY HARRISON, 24-years-old, 20-0: Many could argue he’s more of a junior middleweight. Has looked good in dispatching a string of faded veterans in Bronco McKart, Tyrone Brunson, Grady Brewer and Antwone Smith.

DOMINIC WADE, 24-years-old, 17-0: Heavy-handed puncher who looked good, but not outstanding, in most notable win, vs. Nick Brinson. Has already gotten off the floor to win (vs. Dashon Johnson).

ShoBox Preview: Some 0’s Have To Go

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

About the only kind of fighter not seeing action on Friday’s smorgasbord edition of ShoBox is a Swedish meatball.

Included will be a nomadic lightweight who’ll be fighting in his sixth different country in six fights … and a pair of baby featherweights who’ve never fought outside of Texas.

There’ll be a super middleweight who won his last fight while on his knees … a lightweight from a country I’ll bet you never heard of … and in the main event, an exciting middleweight whose mother may be more entertaining than he is.

In all, we’ll see eight fighters, six of whom are unbeaten. The combined records: 105-3-4.

A fight-by-fight look:

Antoine Douglas-Thomas Lamanna, middleweights: Mama Douglas’ cameo was the highlight of Antoine’s last appearance on ShoBox, a draw with French veteran Michel Soro last July.

While I interviewed her between rounds, she showed as strong a jab as her son, and at least in the later rounds, a bit more energy.

That aside, Douglas, 16-0-1, is young (22) and refreshing. Naturally aggressive and quite promising. In Lamanna, 16-0, he faces a tall, tough kid from New Jersey who’s making a monstrous jump in class.

In other words, quintessential ShoBox: two unbeaten prospects who are willing to risk their fistic futures.

Ismael Barroso-Issouf Kinda, lightweights: Barroso’s five most recent fights have been in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, his native Venezuela and Panama. Now, the unbeaten and sharp-punching southpaw fights in the U.S.A. for the first time.

At 32, Barroso isn’t really a prospect. And he’s hasn’t yet done enough to have secured contender status. What he’ll gain from a win over the tough Kinda is invaluable American television exposure.

By the way, Kinda is from Long Island via Burkina Faso, which used to be Upper Volta.

If you can find that country on a map, you’ve probably traveled even more extensively than Barroso.

Jerry Odom-Andrew Hernandez, super middleweights: In January, the big-punching Odom was a sizzling and unbeaten prospect when he faced Hernandez, 8-0-1 with 1 ND, at Madison Square Garden.

Odom remains a sizzling prospect, but he’s no longer unbeaten.

In the fourth round, Odom was on the verge of scoring a stoppage when he threw punches while Hernandez was down.

Odom, 12-1 with 1 ND, was disqualified. This rematch is about one thing: cleansing his record, so he can move forward.

Anything less than a kayo win will be disappointing.

Pablo Cruz-Adam Lopez, featherweights: There are so many similarities between these two: both are Texans; both are unbeaten, but have fought squishy-soft opposition to date; both have low kayo percentages; both are six-round fighters jumping to eight.

They’ve even sparred together.

The difference?

Lopez has a much deeper amateur background. We’ll see if that’s neutralized by the fact that Cruz is the naturally bigger fighter.

Cruz, 11-0, marches forward, while Lopez, 9-0, counterpunches. This should be a good style matchup between young 126-pounders who are looking to begin to establish names and reps.

See you Friday night in Westbury, N.Y.!

Vasquez Dominates Lartey

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0017 - Sammy Vasquez - Emmanuel Lartey

Sammy Vasquez put on a show for his hometown fans in Pittsburgh, winning a near-shutout 10-round unanimous decision (99-91 twice, 100-90) over Emmanuel Lartey in the main event of ShoBox: The New Generation on Friday, Feb. 20 from CONSUL Energy Center. 

Vasquez (18-0, 13 KOs) entered the bout seeking his 10th consecutive knockout against an opponent who hadn’t been knocked down before and had been in the ring with two U.S. Olympians.  The military veteran wasn’t able to finish Lartey (17-3, 8 KOs, 1 NC), but that was just about the only thing that didn’t go his way in a thoroughly impressive performance in which he landed 50 percent of his power shots. 

Vasquez started slow and was able to pick his shots in the early rounds, but he accelerated the tempo in the second half of the fight as Lartey appeared to slow down.  The hometown favorite did his best work with Lartey against the ropes and landed at will in the middle rounds.  Lartey seemed like he was ready to quit on his stool after the eighth, but he continued and Vasquez slowed his production in the final two rounds and cruised to the victory.

“I thought he was going down a few times but he hung in there,” Vasquez said.  “The jab was going well, but I made a couple of mistakes because I started feeling comfortable.  I knew he was hurt after the eighth and my corner told me to step off the gas a little bit and pick my punches more instead of just storming him.

“I thought he was going to quit a couple times on his stool.  He’s a tough guy – no one could knock him out. I couldn’t either.”

Lartey dropped his third fight to a top prospect after decision losses to Errol Spence Jr. and Felix Diaz.

“Sammy is a tough fighter,” Lartey said.  “He’s really strong. I did my best, but he was just too good.”

After the fight, ShoBox announcer Steve Farhood broke down Vasquez’s impressive game plan.

“It was a very controlled and intelligent performance by Vasquez, accelerating as the rounds progressed, dominating every round and controlling the action whether boxing, attacking or pinning Lartey against the ropes,” Farhood said.  “He showed a lot and he deserves the reputation he has as being one of the top young American welterweights.”

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0007 - Craig Baker

Craig Baker knocked out Humberto Savigne in a stunning upset, finishing the heralded former Cuban amateur with a highlight-reel TKO at 1:58 of the second round.

Savigne (12-2, 9 KOs, 1 NC), who had a huge size advantage and was the heavily favored fighter, landed a series of right hands in the first and looked like he could make it a quick night against the undefeated-yet-untested Baker.  But the Texan fought like an opponent who had nothing to lose against Savigne, an experienced veteran with over 400 amateur bouts under his belt.

Baker (16-0, 12 KOs) landed a few decent shots in the first and came out blazing in the second, throwing a high volume of punches with Savigne against the ropes.  Fighting in a small ring, Savigne had nowhere to go and continually ate shots on a suspect chin before falling face forward to the canvas.  Savigne got up, but he fell into the ropes and was clearly out on his feet, forcing the referee to halt the contest at 1:58.

“I hurt him in the first round and I could tell that his chin was weak, I could tell that I could finish him,” Baker said.  “In the second, I just smelled blood and I knew I had to go to work, I had to finish him.

 “Nobody gave me a chance going in, but I was the undefeated fighter and he wasn’t.  I worked too hard to come here and lose.  I just have to keep working.  You haven’t seen the last of me – this is a life changing moment.”

 The 36-year-old Savigne was clearly shocked after the fight.

 “He was the better man tonight,” Savigne said.  “I wasn’t expecting him to be as tough as he was.  I made a huge mistake in taking him lightly. This is something that I’ll learn from.  Now I’ll go back to the drawing board.  I’ll go back to the gym – I’ll keep working hard and I’ll be back.

 “In the first round, Baker hit me on the side of the ear and I lost equilibrium. I was completely dizzy. He hurt me with that shot.  He was the better man tonight.”

Pittsburgh Fight Night-0011 - Claudio Marrero - Orlando Rizo

Claudio Marrero won a dominating unanimous decision victory over Orlando Rizo in the opening bout of the telecast.  Marrero (18-1, 13 KOs) controlled the bout from the outset, knocking Rizo (18-6, 11 KOs) down four times en route to a convincing victory scored 78-71, 78-70, 80-68. 

Marrero was the more aggressive and effective fighter, landing 43 percent of power punches and 39 percent of his total punches.

“I was trying to set up the big shots so I could end the night,” Marrero said.  “It got away from me at times, but it was a good preparation for taking that step for a shot at a world title.

“I’m not disappointed I didn’t knock him out.  I underestimated his tenacity to get back up and stay in the fight and I need to work on my discipline so that doesn’t happen again.  I feel that I’m ready for a shot at a title whenever I get an opportunity.”

Sammy Vasquez: Pittsburgh-Tough

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Pittsburgh’s not a blue-collar town, it’s the blue-collar town, so it’s no surprise that since the Immaculate Reception in 1972, the holiest of local heroes have worn black and gold.

But there was a time the heroes were colored black and blue.

Before Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Mean Joe Greene transformed Pittsburgh from the Steel City into Title Town, the sporting scene was largely defined by boxing. Charley Burley was so good, he couldn’t get as much as a sniff of a title fight. Fritzie Zivic had a flattened nose that suggested the heavy bag occasionally punched back. And Billy Conn broke his hand not on the head of Joe Louis, but rather on that of his father-in-law.

They were tough guys who were easy to root for.

Judging by the substantial crowds he’s beginning to draw in Pittsburgh, unbeaten welterweight contender Sammy Vasquez could be the city’s next Chosen One. In today’s boxing world, it’s unusual for a young American boxer to secure a serious hometown following. For a while, Fernando Guerrero did so in Salisbury, Md. Mike Alvarado draws well in Denver—but that may be over now. And within the last year or so, Terence Crawford, now a world titlist, has won over all of Omaha.

There are precious few other examples.

Vasquez seems to have what’s needed. His back-story is rich: Serving in the National Guard, he survived a pair of tours in Iraq. And his boxing story is deep: As an amateur, he came close to making the 2012 Olympic team, and having turned pro one week before his 26th birthday, he’s been perfect, impressively defeating opposition that has recently included a couple of legitimate tests.

The 28-year-old Vasquez, 17-0, will fight for the second time on ShoBox: The New Generation when he faces Ghana’s Emmanuel Lartey at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Last April, Vasquez’s SHOWTIME debut was a brief one; he kayoed the previously unbeaten Juan Rodriguez Jr. in less than a round. This time, the southpaw, who can box with patience or attack with passion, will likely have to work a bit longer; fellow lefty Lartey’s never been stopped, having gone the distance with, among others, former Olympians Felix Diaz and Errol Spence.

What convinced me that Vasquez was made of the right stuff was an otherwise insignificant fight. In the first round of his February 2014 bout vs. Jamar Freeman, Vasquez stepped on the foot of the referee and twisted his ankle. No prob: He got taped up, resumed the fight, and scored a fifth-round stoppage as if nothing had happened.

The report card of a prospect cannot be fully filled out until he or she overcomes some type of adversity. Vasquez has already done so.

When you watch Vasquez, check out not only his technical skills and punching power, but also the buzz he creates. It’s too early to tell whether he’s championship-caliber. His star appeal, however, is already unmistakable.

On the televised portion of the card, Miami-based Cuban light heavyweight Humberto Savigne, who’s coming off consecutive second-round kayos of Jeff Lacy and Maxell Taylor, will meet unbeaten Texan Craig Baker.

It’s not really accurate to label Savigne a prospect because he’s 36 years old. But he’s had only 13 pro bouts. He’s worth a watch for a singular reason: He wields a destructive right hand.

Savigne has been calling out WBC 175-pound titlist Adonis Stevenson. To be considered for such a bout, he’ll need to look sensational against Baker.

Also televised will be a featherweight bout between a pair of southpaws, Dominican southpaw Claudio Marrero, 15-1, and Nicaraguan veteran Orlando Rizo, 18-5.

Marrero’s only loss came against top-10 contender Jesus Cuellar. Given his strong amateur pedigree and considerable talent, he’s a good bet to rebound strongly enough to eventually secure a shot at a world title.

Fighting The Good Fight

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Unbeaten welterweight prospect Sammy Vasquez, who will headline the Feb. 20 ShoBox: The New Generation telecast, served two tours in Iraq while a member of the National Guard.

Vasquez’s first tour began in 2005, and his second tour started in 2008.

Contrasting his 17 professional boxing battles in the USA to his 18 months in the Middle East, Vasquez said, “Here, maybe we get a black eye or a busted nose, but at the end of the night, we’re both going home.”

Vasquez is hardly alone; there have been countless fighters who have served in the military, whether before, during, or after their ring careers.

Here are some familiar names:

Barney Ross: Three-division world champ joined Marines during World War II. Insisted on serving overseas and proved heroic in battle at Guadalcanal, for which he was awarded Silver Star and honored by FDR.

Nigel Benn: Before winning world titles at middleweight and super middle, served in the British Army. He was stationed in Northern Ireland for 18 months during “The Troubles” conflict.

Georges Carpentier: This war hero was pilot in World War I. Awarded Croix de Guerre, ultimate military honor bestowed in France. Returned to the ring, and in 1921, he challenged heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey in boxing’s first million-dollar gate.

Leon Spinks: Dropped out of school in 10th grade and joined the Marines shortly after. He learned to box while enlisted. Won Olympic gold in 1976, and in his eighth pro bout, he dethroned heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali in ’78.

Max Schmeling: Germany’s former world heavyweight champ was drafted and served in an elite paratrooper division of Lutwaffe during World War II. Returned to ring after war.

Ken Norton: Future heavyweight titlist served in Marines from 1963 to ’67. He was a blue-chip prospect in several sports. Began boxing while enlisted.

Saoul Mamby: Future junior welter titlist served in Vietnam for, according to Mamby, “One year, six days, and four hours.” When asked if he saw combat, Mamby said, “Yeah, enough.”

Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano (all heavyweight champions): Tunney fought in France during World War I; after being labeled draft dodger World War I, Dempsey enlisted during World War II and became commander in Coast Guard Reserves … Reigning titlist Louis served as sergeant through four years of service during World War II, boxing 96 exhibitions and donating entire purses of two title defenses … Marciano was stationed in Swansea, Wales, during World War II, where he ferried supplies to Normandy. The Rock began boxing career while in Army.

 

The Russians Aren’t Coming … They’re Already Here

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

The fall of the Iron Curtain changed the world, and the fighters from the countries that comprised the Soviet Union have changed boxing.

Featured on this Friday’s ShoBox: The New Generation card from Cabazon, Calif., are a pair of streaking prospects from the Ukraine, lightweight Ivan Redkach, 17-0, and middleweight Ievgen Khytrov, 7-0.

Both are pressure fighters who could break through in 2015.

Here are the five most accomplished fighters from the 15 nations that once made up the USSR, and five hot prospects who have had less than 10 pro bouts.

TODAY’S BEST

Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine): Seems he’s been heavyweight champ since the Truman Administration. Who knows how long he’ll continue to dominate.

Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan): While the level of his competition hasn’t been top-shelf, he’s kayoed almost everybody he’s faced. And he’s done it with a smile.

Sergey Kovalev (Russia): The first fighter to make Bernard Hopkins look his age. Now a pound-for-pounder and according to some, 2014’s Fighter of the Year.

Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine): One of the five greatest amateurs in history, and judging by his comprehensive win over Gary Russell Jr., a pro with the potential for a lasting greatness.

Arthur Abraham (Armenia): The Super Six seems like decades ago, but old Artie, again a world titlist, keeps on rolling at super middleweight.

TOMORROW’S STARS

Artur Beterbiev (Russia): Hard to believe that in his sixth pro bout, this two-time Olympian was matched against Tavoris Cloud. Harder to believe that he kayoed Cloud in two rounds. Now 7-0 and already a legit contender.

Ievgen Khytrov (Ukraine): Friday’s ShoBox bout will be his eighth as a pro. Based in Brooklyn, the 2012 Olympian and 2011 amateur world champ is smashing whomever’s put in front of him.

Egor Mekhontsev (Russia): Southpaw light heavyweight is 7-0, and has already fought in Russia, China, and the U.S. Won gold at the 2012 Olympics in London. At age 30, will be moved in a hurry.

Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine): Another 2012 gold medalist, and another lefty. Cruiserweight is 6-0, and has already been as far as nine rounds.

Sergey Derevyanchenko (Russia): Middleweight, 3-0, was the king of the World Series of Boxing, where he went 23-1. (So that makes him 26-1 in my book.ard ) Promoter Lou DiBella promises he’ll be top 10 within 10 pro bouts.

 

Forward Progress: The First ShoBox Card of 2015

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Happy New Year! Or are we living 2014 all over again?

The reason I ask: The first ShoBox: The New Generation of 2014 featured Ukrainian lightweight Ivan Redkach, who was 15-0 and billed as a prospect who sought to break faces.

Guess who’s headlining our first show of 2015? The same Redkach, who’s now 17-0, and intent on validating the hype.

A year ago, Redkach, a southpaw, outpointed Canada’s spirited Tony Luis in a demanding duel. His only other start came in June, when he again won by decision, this time against a substitute from Belarus named Sergey Gulyakevich.

Gulyakevich came in with a sterling record of 41-2, but fought as if the least bit of physical contact would instantly result in banishment from boxing, or worse yet, forced viewing of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

The lack of action in the Gulyakevich fight wasn’t Redkach’s fault, and he won easily. Still, what happened to the concept of breaking faces?

The 28-year-old Redkach remains among the hottest prospects at 135 pounds, and I strongly anticipate improvement because he’s now working in Oxnard, Calif., with super-trainer Robert Garcia.

It shouldn’t be long before they rename Oxnard “Boxnard.”

I’m certain high-profile opportunities will continue to present themselves for Redkach because in December, he signed with advisor Al Haymon.

Stylistically, Redkach’s opponent this Friday, Ghanaian veteran Yakubu Amidu, should make for slam-bang fight. Amidu, 19-5-2, is better than his record suggests. He’s lost narrow decisions to contender Ali Funeka and prospect Haskell Rhodes (now 23-0), and more recently fought to a draw with another contender, Juan Carlos Burgos.

Amidu’s never been floored, and unlike the pacifist Gulyakevich, his game is all about pressure.

I don’t know about breaking faces, but this is a tremendous opportunity for Redkach to at least reestablish his rep.

The fighter most likely to steal the show is another prospect from the Ukraine, middleweight Ievgen Khytrov. In 2011, Khytrov won the amateur world title at middleweight, and in ’12, he fought in the Olympics.

We’re talking stud.

Now based in Brooklyn, Khytrov is 7-0 with 7 kayos, and being moved as if the short-term goal is contendership by the end of 2015. I’ve seen a few of his fights; he’s confrontational by nature and throws short, damaging punches. In other words, another guy who seeks to break faces.

In the first TV fight, Khytrov will face Maurice Louishomme, 8-0-1. Ten years ago, Louishome was a top American amateur, but he’s been slowed by several layoffs as a pro.

Louishomme stands 6’1″, which tells you all you need to know about his style.

And making his national TV debut will be poised, smooth-boxing New York junior middleweight Patrick Day, who was the national amateur champion in 2012. Credit Day, 9-0-1, for taking a major risk: He’ll be facing Alantez Fox, 13-0-1, who stands 6’5″.

That’s right, a 6’5″ junior middleweight.

Paulie Malignaggi famously once wore hair extensions during a fight. For Day on Friday, I recommend arm extensions.

Lots of talent on this installment of ShoBox. Enjoy!