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July 14, 2018
July 14, 2018
Amir Khan

Action Images/Peter Cziborra

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THE fragility that haunted the early part of Amir Khan’s career resurfaced with shuddering, dramatic consequences as underrated WBC super-lightweight champion Danny Garcia destroyed him in four rounds before a shocked crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

After he had absorbed Marcos Maidana’s best shots and gone on to win in their 2010 classic, the theory that Khan had become stronger with maturity and the move up to 140lbs had gained credibility.

That idea was left in ruins, along with, for the time being, Khan’s career, by the nature of this three-knockdown defeat. Khan was sent crashing to the canvas in the third round by a big left hook and in spite of the conditioning provided by a long training camp, and all those before it, never recovered.

He is only 25, so some extent of rebuilding is still possible, but it suddenly seems a huge task because as in his defeat by Lamont Peterson last December, he made wrong choices in the ring. And this time he paid in full.

For Garcia, who was outsped, outboxed and cut up in the first two rounds, the future is suddenly wildly exciting. The 24-year-old from Philadelphia had ground his way into the bigger money with points wins over old champion Nate Campbell, the dangerous but erratic Kendall Holt and the ageing Mexican legend Erik Morales. Good wins, all three, but in none of them did his performances suggest he was an extraordinary talent.

That is still the case. At this stage anyway Garcia does not look like a superstar in the making, just the right man in the right place at the right time. How far he progresses from here is anybody’s guess.

Khan walked straight out from the first bell, raked home a jab and right cross, and set the tone for the first two rounds. He scored cleanly with enough to keep Garcia occupied. In letting his combinations go he stopped Garcia from setting up accurate counters. The WBC champion’s hooks either hit his arms or shoulders, or whistled past his chin. One or two missed by a distance. Even so, Khan was staying in range too long.

After two rounds, though, Garcia was cut over the right eye – from a left hook – and his nose bled. He had not settled.

That changed in round three. Garcia began to work the body, including a couple of low shots, one of which needed a brief timeout, both of which earned him cautions from referee Kenny Bayless. Khan was landing more punches but wasn’t as effective.

Then suddenly he stayed in range once too often and a crunching left hook slammed into his neck and ear. He crashed down heavily and for a second or two it looked all over. He got up, but on disobedient legs and was lucky the bell was only a dozen or so seconds away. He made it through, but it took nearly the whole of the interval for Freddie Roach to be convinced he had recovered enough to come up for the fourth.

It was obvious as he lurched out of his corner the minute had been nowhere near enough. He tried to fight back instead of clinch and cling on and was soon down again. A right hand stiffened his legs and he stumbled along the ropes, touching down with his gloves, reeling up again as Bayless imposed another count.

In the next minute or so Khan rode some alarming punches and walked into Garcia in some desperate, crazy bid to fight to the bitter end. Maybe hanging on and spoiling would have helped, but as stirring as it was to watch him throw and even land punches, it was futile. Nothing had an effect, and eventually Garcia steadied his attacks enough to land one last left hook, to the top of Khan’s head, followed by a short, hard right as he fell.

Khan got up, told Bayless he was OK, but the referee decided he wasn’t and waved it off at 2-28 of the fourth.

Three days earlier Khan had been given back the piece of the WBA title he had lost in that split decision to Peterson last December as a result of Peterson’s testing positive for a steroid. Now that had passed on to the jubilant Garcia, who celebrated wildly with his corner, led by his truculent father, Angel, who had insulted Khan and his team through most of the build-up.

Roach admitted Garcia Snr had got under Khan’s skin. In the final press conference Amir had lost his cool and told him: “I can’t wait to be standing here after the fight after I’ve knocked out your son.”

Danny Garcia, well used to his father’s antics, made light of them and said: “I am a true champion. I will fight anybody. You don’t have to pamper me. Once I dropped him I thought it would be stopped but it was a world title fight and he did fight back. His punches didn’t hurt but they were fast and they stung. Once I got my vision right I was able to see them and get my timing right.

“I came from the streets of Philadelphia and it’s hard to get up from there, but I was built for this and I’m going to be around for a long time.”

Khan, dejected but dignified, said before leaving to be checked out at hospital: “It just wasn’t my night. I made a few mistakes and I paid my price.”

He said his mind was clear when the fight was stopped, and he was surprised but respected the decision.

Roach was in no doubt that Bayless was right: “It was a good stoppage. Amir never really recovered from the first knockdown. In the corner he didn’t really respond until just before the bell. I was really close to not letting him get off the stool. He said ‘Yes, I’m OK’, but it was a touch and go moment.”

Roach said Khan had forgotten or ignored the game plan. “I told him to keep using the jab. It was very successful and safe. I wish he could have done that a little more but his heart got in the way.”

Khan is proud, will want to come back and win again. He admitted before the fight that the six months since the Peterson defeat had been psychologically very tough, but now he faces even darker times and harder decisions. His close team will work with American promoters Golden Boy to find a way, but it’s hard at this stage to see what that will be.

For Garcia the future is suddenly everything he has dreamed of and waited for. After beating Morales in March he said he slept with his belt for three days. Now he has a couple more – Ring magazine gave him their symbolic one to go with the WBA strap.

He could fight either Ajose Olusegun, a man nobody seems to want to accommodate, or Lucas Matthysse, who just hammered Humberto Soto, and maybe even look at the welterweight division where the possibility of a fight with Floyd Mayweather is always tempting.

Intriguing times, but spare a thought for the one-time golden boy of British amateur boxing who has gone on to hold the WBA and IBF versions of the world super-lightweight title, has had eight championship fights and now, at only 25, has to map out an unexpectedly awkward future. Such is boxing.

Words: Bob Mee

July 14, 2018
July 14, 2018
david haye

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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THE bottle was not intended to be a weapon. The press conference not supposed to be a stage. And Dereck Chisora and David Haye were not destined to fight. But as machismo filled the air, fate went awry in Munich’s Olympiahalle on February 18 2012. Chisora had just lost a competitive decision to Vitali Klitschko. Haye was hanging around hoping to secure a shot at the Ukrainian.

“So you’re not going to fight David Haye?” he barked at Klitschko’s manager Bernd Boente from the back of the room, with a bottle of lemonade in his hand.

“At the beginning we all thought it was funny,” Boente recalls about the roots of this tale. “Haye was there shouting, promoting himself. We know David, we know that’s what he does and it was okay. He was trying to get a fight [with Vitali].”

But Chisora, sitting at the front alongside his promoter Frank Warren and freshly bruised from battle, took exception to his moment being abused. He leaned into the microphone and told Haye he had no business being there. Disdain drove each word from his mouth. Haye didn’t hold back with a response, choosing to remind Chisora he had now lost three out of his last four contests.

“I was p***** off,” Chisora remembers about that moment. “I’d just done 12 rounds, come out of the ring, it was hectic. Everything happened in a split second.”

The man who had just proved doubters wrong by going the distance with the WBC heavyweight champion, stood up from his seat, walked past Warren and headed towards Haye. No security tried to stop him, his path to his tormentor was clear. Haye stood his ground, shaping his body for confrontation, and focused intently on the fighter coming towards him.

“In combat situations, you don’t think, you just react,” Haye describes about his mindset at that time. “If you think too much about what’s going on, you’ll end up on the floor seeing stars. It’s like asking me what I was thinking the first time Wladimir Klitschko threw a left jab at me. I wasn’t thinking, I was just trying to react to it and do what I naturally do. I was working on instinct. The same happened when Chisora got in my face and threatened to start a fight. Fighting instincts kicked in.”

He slammed a right hand straight at Chisora’s jaw. Lemonade sprayed like champagne but this was no time to celebrate. Things had just got nasty.

“He glassed me, he glassed me,” a groggy Chisora cried after impact.

“As far as I know, everybody was handed a glass of lemonade upon entering the room,” Haye explains. “I took the bottle and drank from it because I was thirsty. I wasn’t even thinking about what was in my hand at that point. If we’d squared up in a cinema and I had a box of popcorn in my hand, you’d have seen bits of popcorn flying all over the room once my fist connected with his chin.”

The violence intensified quickly as people from both camps added to the mess. Fists and tripods enticed blood from wounds. And the world was in shock as news of the melee spread quickly over the internet. But not everybody was aware of what was going on. Robert Smith, the General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, was tucked up in bed, oblivious to the chaos.

“I was at my sister’s house and we’d been out to a family function on the night,” Smith says.
“At about 7:30 on the Sunday morning I received a phone call from Gary Richardson from Radio Five asking me what I thought about last night. I thought he was talking about the fight [Klitschko-Chisora], and I’d watched a bit of the fight, so I said, ‘Yeah, decent fight’. Wrong fight. When I realised what had happened, I was absolutely horrified.”

A sentiment shared by the majority. The brawl was not Chisora’s only Munich misdemeanour. At the weigh-in he slapped Vitali, and moments before their bout began, the Londoner spat water into Wladimir’s face. Understandably, Chisora was called before the Board to explain some of the decisions he’d made that weekend. His licence was withdrawn, but curiously, there was no ban. Haye, at the time officially retired, didn’t have a licence nor need to explain himself to the Board. Suddenly, Chisora was taking all the blame.

“The brawl shouldn’t have happened,” he reflects. “It was bad thing. People calling me mad and insane, I don’t care about that. I don’t worry about what people think of me. But it shouldn’t have happened. At the same time, people started to realise that boxing was still alive. You could say because of that, it was a bad and a good thing.”

Rumours about a boxing match between the pair began as soon as the brawl ceased. But Warren insisted he had no interest in staging such a contest. Haye immediately declared he would not share a ring with his rival. But the newspapers couldn’t leave the subject alone; the infamy was hyped to the hilt. Haye, always partial to being the centre of attention, realised the contest may not be such a bad idea, after all.

“It only seemed like a good idea when I got back to England and saw the national and international clamour for the fight,” he says. “Ultimately, the fight happened because of the way the media and the sportswriters reported the incident in February. If these boxing writers and news writers hadn’t blown the press conference brawl out of proportion so much, the fight would never have happened. The interest just wouldn’t have been there.”

There was talk that a foreign boxing body would sanction the contest. While those in the industry labelled such an event preposterous, Warren – furious with the Board’s treatment of his boxer – announced that the fight would take place on July 14 at Upton Park, the stadium of West Ham United. The unknown Luxembourg Boxing Federation were handed the job of sanctioning the contest and licensing the fighters. It was a mind-boggling development.

Within 48 hours, 20,000 tickets had been sold. The boxing purists may not have liked the contest, but the public certainly did. They didn’t care about Luxembourg’s role. And Haye had barely heard of the nation.

“Before anything, I actually had to go away, find a world map and discover where Luxembourg was. I then had extensive talks with my legal team to discover whether this was an avenue we could feasibly pursue and, in the end, it turned out to be above board and didn’t break or bend any rules. They assured me it was perfectly legal and, subsequently, we went ahead with it and agreed to do the fight. I did what I had to do to the make the fight happen there and then, when the fans wanted it.”

The Board, their rule over British boxing challenged like never before, steadied themselves for battle. They issued a statement warning licence holders that any involvement in the event would result in heavy punishment. Bruce Baker, the British representative for the Luxembourg commission and a man who had grown tired of the Board’s rules and regulations, was alongside Warren leading the charge for the opposition.

“We didn’t intend to have anything to do with Haye-Chisora,” Baker explains about his involvement. “What I wanted to do with Luxembourg was to rule small hall boxing, to allow promoters to make some money. The Board are a governing body who pile rules on top of rules. Small shows are not making money but the Board won’t relax their rules so people can make a profit for the good of the sport.”

Whatever Baker’s motives, he was a key figure in the bout taking place. He admits the final weeks were fraught with pressure, that predictions of crowd trouble made the final countdown nervy and expensive. But Smith “always knew the fight was going to happen.”

And, of course, it did.

At 6pm on Saturday July 14, fans were circling Upton Park in East London. The atmosphere outside the stadium was a curious one, mystery lingered with the dark clouds overhead. But an hour later, with the undercard underway, the air inside the ground was quite different. As the crowd swelled, excitement and optimism swarmed through the air.

“I’d never been to a fight before but the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve experienced, it was electric,” recalls Daniel Cook, one of 31,500 paying spectators. “I was worried beforehand with all the talk of trouble, but the banter and the crowd were superb. Even when it started to rain, everyone was happy.”

Everyone except David Haye. He had been out of the ring for a year, his previous appearance being a miserable loss to Wladimir Klitschko. On that night in Hamburg, pouring rain had hampered Haye, causing him to lose his footing on one than more occasion. While preparing for his return to another open-air venue, Haye had been monitoring the weather forecast.

“All day I was told it would be sunny, a perfect night for a fight, and then fifteen minutes before I was about to walk to the ring I heard it was chucking down with rain,” he says.

“Instantly I thought about Hamburg, the night I fought Klitschko, when it was also pelting down hard for what seemed like hours. I even asked the people around me how bad the rain was at Upton Park and, no word of a lie, one of them replied, ‘It’s just like Hamburg’. I wasn’t exactly pleased.”

As the rain hurtled down, Haye dispensed with boxing boots and entered the ring in trainers. Chisora entered to a chorus of boos.

“It didn’t bother me, man,” Chisora expresses about his mixed reception. “What you have to understand is, even though those guys are booing, they have paid money to come and watch you. I might be more disappointed if they were at home booing, but if people want to boo in the arena, that’s fine with me. When people pay to come and boo, to call me names, pay money to watch you, it shows you’re something special.”

The supposed villain of the piece circled the ring, his body covered with a long robe, his face hidden by a bandana. His trainer Don Charles was pumped, confident his charge was about to send Haye back into retirement. But it didn’t work out that way.

Soaking wet fans, some partially sheltered by ponchos that a gleeful Frank Warren had thrown into the crowd when the rain began, roared with excitement as the opening bell clanged. The enemies sprung from their corners, eager to conclude things quickly. The fight that the fans wanted was unfolding in front of their eyes.

“One of us had to go,” Chisora says. “Blows were chucked in there designed to take the other one out. And fair dos to David, he did the job. My blows in the third round shook him up but the bell went early for some reason, I’m not going to cry over that.”

With Haye stumbling backwards after a heated exchange, the referee reacted to the sound of the 10-second warning and jumped between the fighters. The confusion was caused by a broken bell, but Haye insists the intervention was inconsequential.

“I wasn’t hurt once in the fight, nor was I hit enough to really even feel anything,” Haye claims. “What he did do well was come forward, push the pace of the fight and eat up shots. He was known to be very durable, and that proved to be the case on the night. I certainly haven’t hit many better chins in my boxing life.”

In round five, Chisora’s resistance crumbled. Failing to defend himself after walking into an uppercut, he didn’t see the perfectly formed left hook that approached at haste. The following right hand that decked him was also out of sight. He rose, but any semblance of recovery was soon hacked out of him by five hurtful blasts. Chisora plummeted to the deck, the power of

Haye’s attack contorting his body. It was all over. What started with a right hand five months before, was finished with a left.

“We gave the public a great fight,” Chisora reflects. “I wasn’t that disappointed to lose. Listen, losing a fight on points is the hardest thing in life. It’s so depressing. But losing a fight by knockout, you can’t help it. You can go back in the gym and work on the mistakes that led to you getting knocked out.”

It all capped a hectic learning curve for Chisora. As with the vast majority of boxing rivalries, this one had an ending loaded with mutual respect; something lacking in Munich, something that only a boxing match could provide.

“More than anything, he’s a man of his word,” Haye says about Chisora. “Remember, after the fight he followed through with our bet and donated £20,000 to charity, the ACLT (Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust). In fact, he went down there personally and hand-delivered the cheque, which I thought was a really nice touch.

“Interestingly, on the day he handed over that cheque, only one news outlet made the effort to go down and report on it and that was iFilm London. Everybody else stayed at home and turned a blind eye to it. All the other media outlets who were so quick to jump on the pair of us back in February acted like Chisora’s goodwill gesture had never happened. Perhaps it didn’t fit the perception they were trying to push to the general public. Chisora was supposed to be an evil man, a thug, a heartless bully and boxing was supposed to be the sport of convicts. Yet here was a reformed character going out of his way to donate a significant amount of money to charity and everybody pretended it was no big thing. But apparently a fight between two fighters in a press conference room was.”

July 13, 2018
July 13, 2018
Mickey Walker

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SOME people box for glory, others for the money, but Mickey Walker did it simply because he loved to fight. The Elizabeth, New Jersey man enjoyed drinking and living the high-life nearly as much as brawling in the ring. A true character, he competed in 150 bouts during a career spanning over two decades. His crowning glories came when he secured the World welterweight title in 1922 and the World middleweight strap in 1926. He also fought for the World light-heavyweight title and met some of the top heavyweights of his time.

Nicknamed the “Toy Bulldog” on account of his stocky physique and doggedness, Walker would march into his rivals before unloading bombs with his squat, muscled pistons. He mastered the art of bobbing and weaving away from his opponent’s punches, which was vitally important for a fighter with such a come forward style.

Mickey Walker made his professional debut at the age of 17 in his hometown of Elizabeth. Between 1919 and 1921, he fought over a half a century of bouts, predominantly in the New Jersey area. After winning the majority of these contests, Walker received a shot at Jack Britton’s World welterweight crown in November 1922.The pair had previously met over a year before, with Britton claiming a newspaper decision victory. In their second meeting however, Mickey demonstrated unrelenting aggression to topple his ageing foe over 15 rounds in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

With manager Jack Kearns by his side, world gold around his waist, and his popularity and wealth growing day by day, Walker found more reason than ever to indulge in the lavish lifestyle which he was so accustomed to. Nevertheless, he remained a destructive force in the squared circle, successfully defending his welterweight belt against Pete Latzo on a newspaper decision, as well as Lew Tendler (w pts 10) and Bobby Barrett (w ko 6).

In July 1925, the 5ft 7in terror stepped up to middleweight to challenge the reigning world king Harry Greb. In front of 65,000 fans at the Polo Grounds in New York, two of the game’s great warriors went to head to head over 15 exciting and brutal rounds. Walker steamed out of the blocks early on, but ultimately could not deal with Grebb’s mesmerising hand speed. Mickey showed immense bravery in the penultimate session, standing up to a devastating onslaught from the champion, who retained his title on points.

After losing his World welter strap to Pete Latzo on points in 1926, Walker faced off against Greb-conqueror Tiger Flowers for the Camilla man’s World middleweight championship. Mickey claimed the belt on a points decision and then moved up a division again to challenge World light-heavyweight boss Tommy Loughran.

Despite being outscored in his light-heavy title tilt, this did not deter Walker in his quest to succeed at the higher weights. Incredibly, he battled future World heavyweight titlist Jack Sharkey to a draw, outpointed King Levinsky and shared a ring with former heavy ruler Max Schmeling (l rsf 8).

mickey walker

Following a failed attempt at winning the World light-heavy title against Maxie Rosenbloom (l pts 15), Mickey defeated the same man in a non-title rematch (w pts 10) before retiring in 1935 with the majority of his boxing earnings largely used up.

Did you know?

Upon retiring, Mickey did some acting, opened a successful restaurant and later became an artist.

Beating the Bearcat

WHILE campaigning in the heavyweight division, Walker faced off against the Texas-born Bearcat Wright on April 10, 1931. Despite surrendering three stone to the Omaha-based fighter, Walker survived a first-round knockdown to win on points over 10 sessions. A crowd of 6,000 saw Mickey floor Wright in the second stanza, before boxing his way to a commendable win over the heavyweight contender. The Dubuque, Iowa Telegraph-Herald reported that Bearcat was “hanging on the ropes at the end of the final round.”

MickeyWalker3

FAST FACTS

Born July 13, 1901 in Elizabeth, New Jersey Died April 28, 1981 Wins 93 Knockouts 60 Losses 19 Draws 4 No Contests 1 No Decisions 46 Best win Jack Britton (II) w pts 15 Worst loss Harry Greb l pts 15 Pros Tenacity, courage, head movement Cons Major height disadvantage at higher weights, playboy lifestyle

July 12, 2018
July 12, 2018
Julio Cesar Chavez

Action Images/Reuters

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THE definition of what a Mexican fighter ought to be. Rugged, relentless, a man who would never back down, Julio Cesar Chavez became a hero to boxing fans with his body punching, grit and ferocious aggression.

His 1990 unification battle with Meldrick Taylor made him a legend. By that stage Chavez, raised in Culiacan, Sinaloa, had been a champion for years. He won his first title at super-featherweight but beating Edwin Rosario in an outdoor arena at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1987, with Chavez, in merciless mood, breaking him down to take the WBA’s lightweight crown confirmed his star power. He added the WBC version to his collection when he defeated veteran Jose Luis Ramirez.

A move up to light-welter soon followed. For a second time he stopped Roger Mayweather, father and trainer of modern star Floyd. The power he carried in his fists may have been the antidote to the slick skills of American boxers. But in IBF champion Taylor, Chavez faced the ultimate test.

Meldrick was a tremendous talent. When he was just 17, he was a member of the USA’s outstanding 1984 Olympic team and won a gold medal. By the time he met Chavez he was a hard-bitten champion inclined to a tear-up as much as making full use of his glittering array of skills.

Initially Taylor seized total command. He rattled home his punches in bursts, on the inside as well as at range, hugely out-throwing the Mexican, all the while winning round after round. It showed Chavez’s flaws, the difficulty he could sometimes have with movement and speed. But the fight would dramatise his virtues. For Chavez never gave up nor ever stopped coming.

He swallowed the pain and walked through it. Taylor had landed so many more blows but Julio Cesar began to hit home with the punishing ones. Meldrick’s face was swelling, bearing all the marks of war. He was wilting but had such a lead that only a knockout could spare Chavez defeat.

In the final round Taylor should have run for it. Perhaps his fighting spirit wouldn’t allow that. A massive right hand bombed Meldrick off his feet. Referee Richard Steele would later say, “He went down like there was no more life in him.”

But Taylor made it upright, one arm resting on the ropes. Steele looked closely and deemed him unable to continue. Two seconds remained on the clock, two seconds that separated Taylor from what would have been a victory on the scorecards.

It is one of boxing’s most debated stoppages. Taylor himself was never the same after the fight. He declined almost straightaway. Chavez did box Taylor again, halting him in eight rounds four years later.

Julio Cesar Chavez

Julio Cesar had 87 fights before the first blemish of his career, a draw with Pernell Whitaker, the WBC’s reigning welterweight champion and future great himself, though Chavez was widely considered fortunate to have escaped undefeated. In his 91st professional contest Frankie Randall dropped and outpointed him on a split decision. That was his first loss and when you consider the few amateur bouts he’d had, that record is a testament to his will to win. The Randall loss was avenged a few months later, though the decision was controversial when a clash of heads cut Randall too badly in the eighth and the judges had Chavez ahead.

The Mexican hero couldn’t carry on forever. He hit the next generation in 1996 when matched against the “Golden Boy”, Oscar De La Hoya. The older man’s skin did not hold up, cuts stopped him in four, his first loss inside the distance. It showed it was Oscar’s time. De La Hoya would halt him again two years later.

He shared the ring with another great, Kostya Tszyu his final ‘world’ title bout, though it ended in another stoppage. A 2004 comeback was a faint echo of his past glory and the great champion bowed out on a defeat, retiring after four rounds with little known Grover Wiley.

July 11, 2018
July 11, 2018
arturo gatti

Action Images/Reuters

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IT was an extraordinary year for deaths. Alexis Arguello took his own life that June. But before him a long line of notable fighters have died in the previous seven months: Chris Finnegan, Mickey Goodwin, Ingemar Johansson, Pat McAteer, Greg Page, Giovanni Parisi and Jose Torres to name only a handful.

But then came the shocking discovery Arturo Gatti, only 37, was found dead in a luxury two-floor apartment in a northeast Brazilian beach resort.

Police suspect he was murdered and detained his 23-year-old Brazilian wife Amanda Rodrigues, accusing her of strangling the Italian-Canadian with the strap of her purse. Gatti also had head injuries.

It’s a barely believable tragedy. Police accused Rodrigues of murder.

According to police, Rodrigues couldn’t explain how she spent between four-10 hours in their apartment without noticing Gatti’s dead body. She denied murdering Gatti, claiming that a third party committed the crime. Police said there was no sign of forced entry. Apparently, she believed at first it was suicide.

Gatti’s family said Rodrigues had tried some time ago to convince Gatti to change his will, to leave her with more of his fortune.

Gatti and his wife of nearly two years reportedly had a stormy relationship even though they were on their second honeymoon (with 10-month-old son Arturo Jnr) and intended to spend a month in the South American country. Witnesses said they saw the couple rowing and that Gatti had been drinking heavily.

Gatti had been retired only two years, but there had already been one or two reports he was contemplating a comeback. I’m not certain how much truth to the rumours there were.

But needless to say, like so many big-name fighters, boxing meant the world to him.

He’d had difficulty adjusting to his new life, having returned to Montreal, and was arrested on a domestic violence charge against Rodrigues. The matter was later resolved out of court. Briefly, Gatti moved out of the couple’s Montreal penthouse to live with his mother.

Gatti was known to like the party life. For years it caused him to pile on excessive weight between fights.

It was around the time of his magnificent trilogy with Micky Ward (2002-2003, below) that Gatti, under a new trainer in Buddy McGirt, got his act in order. Although McGirt accentuated Gatti’s natural ability to box at the expense of his desire to brawl, the reconstruction was an extraordinary one.

arturo gatti

Gatti, in his prime, was as exciting a fighter as any I can recall watching during my lifetime. He gave every shred of himself – fought with broken hands, closed, bleeding eyes and through brutal punishment – even until the end when it was clear he had lost the spark that enabled him to reign as ‘world’ champion at two weights (super-feather and light-welter).

He was known as “Thunder”. His contests were never silent affairs. His three-fight series with Ward is arguably the best modern trilogy and the battles against Ivan Robinson (twice), Gabe Ruelas, Wilson Rodriguez and Tracy Patterson absolutely sensational.

Gatti was a TV star and in an age when big- spending TV executives favour fighters with winning records and titles, an exception was made for Arturo because he always delivered edge-of-your-seat sustenance.

Fans were seldom disappointed, even when, at nearly 32 and under McGirt, he converted from puncher/slugger into consummate boxer.

But in doing so Gatti prolonged his career and captured a second ‘world’ title, albeit of the vacant WBC variety, when he outscored Italian Gianluca Branco [below]. One could never consider Gatti the best at light-welter at any point and that was proven when, probably for the money, he was matched against Floyd Mayweather in June 2005 and found himself outclassed and outpunched. The one-sided match lasted six rounds.

artruo gatti

But even in clear defeat Gatti was still there pitching, trying his utmost.

Although he refrained from getting involved as much later in his career – and some felt Gatti was short-changing fans by doing so – Arturo remained fully committed to his tactics. I enjoyed as much watching him box artfully as I did when he stood and banged toe-to-toe.

By the end, though, when stopped first by Carlos Baldomir and then Alfonso Gomez, the fight had gone out of the outstanding warrior. It was sad to see him falter – by Arturo Gatti’s standards – so meekly.

Yet from 49 fights he was beaten only nine times. He scored 31 wins inside from 40. His left hook was a tremendous weapon. The blow that took out Ruelas in their October 1997 Atlantic City super-feather bruiser was spectacular. He had a heart to match.

Gatti lived then in Jersey City, about a two- hour drive from Atlantic City, where he regularly packed in the crowds.
It’s remarkable that after losing there by stoppage to Angel Manfredy in January 1998, then twice on points to slick Robinson, Oscar De La Hoya (rsf 5) and the first battle with Ward, Gatti would still go on to capture a major belt.

I watched most of Gatti’s fights on television, as did so many fight fans. He was made for the screen. But I also got to see him ringside several times, like when he smashed Joey Gamache in two at Madison Square Garden in 2000 (though was far heavier than his opponent) and bombed out former IBF 10st king Terron Millett at the Garden’s Theater in 2002.

Arturo had other great nights also. Taking out Canada’s unbeaten Leonard Dorin in 2004 with a body shot in two was a superb result.

Everybody loved watching Arturo Gatti. He was irresistible. He is missed.

July 10, 2018
July 10, 2018
greatest chins

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BOXING legend and former middleweight king Jake LaMotta was born on July 10, 1922. Hardened on the mean streets of The Bronx in New York, “The Raging Bull”, who retired from the ring with an astonishing 83-19-4(30) record in April of 1954, outlived his famous ring rivals by a considerable amount of time by the time he passed away aged 95 on September 19, 2017.

The sublime Sugar Ray Robinson had been gone for a quarter of a century, Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille, against whom Jake scored that flabbergasting, come-from-behind, last 13-seconds of the 15th-round KO, passed away back in 1971. Tony Janiro, the good looking kid Jake busted up (as immortalised in the classic movie starring Robert De Niro – “well, he ain’t good looking any more”) left us in 1985. And the list goes on.

Blessed with one of the hardest, most durable chins in all of boxing, Jake took everything his opponents could dish out. Rarely has a stronger man – mentally or physically – stepped into the ring. Turning pro in March of 1941, with a 4-round points win over Charley Mackley, LaMotta soon earned himself a reputation as a no-nonsense tough guy. Amazingly, Jake fought 20 times in his debutant year alone! The following year, in October, LaMotta faced “Sugar” Ray for the first time, losing a decision to the 35-0 master. Four months later the two met again, with Jake turning the tables on Ray, winning a 10-round decision of his own, thus ruining Robinson’s perfect (40-0) ledger. A genuinely fierce ring rivalry was born.

A self confessed bad guy outside of the ring in his younger days, Jake was a celebrated piece of ring royalty; a treasured former warrior who was applauded for the way he was able to survive both the rough, tough mean streets of his upbringing and the ravages of the ring.

And there could be more to come from the Jake LaMotta story. Reports say a sequel to the majestic 1980 movie that immortalised Jake is in the works (this despite reported legal issues). Movies aside, a number of LaMotta’s fight sequels proved to be better than the original: his six-fight series with “Sugar Ray” proving that a series can get better and better and better.

Jake, (in the film at least) bellowed to Robinson in the 13th-round of their sixth and final meeting – this one for the middleweight crown owned by LaMotta –  that “you never got me down, Ray!”

jake lamotta

July 10, 2018
July 10, 2018
sugar ray robinson

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HOW RANDY BEAT SUGAR RAY: BRITISH CHAMPION WINS NINE CLEAR ROUNDS TO TAKE WORLD TITLE

A GREAT hand for Randolph Turpin for a magnificent victory gained over Sugar Ray Robinson – a triumph of physical strength and boxing science over a world champion, generally regarded as a brilliant and expert exponent of the noble art. Our man went into the exhibition hall ring the underdog at odds of not less than 5-to-1 one against. Many critics feared the consequences of what they regarded as a prematurely made match; in fact, about the only man who wasn’t worried was Randy himself.

But Turpin was blessed with supreme confidence in his ability to win, despite the great publicity afforded his opponent and the sensational stories of his apparent invulnerability. Perhaps Randy remembered the encouraging remarks made to him by Len Harvey at this year’s “Boxing News” annual luncheon. Commenting on the fourth coming world’s title fight, the many times British champion remarked, “I see no reason why you cannot beat Superman, he’s two arms, two legs, two fists, so have you. Just get in there and show him who’s boss and you’ll win the world title.”

Well, that’s exactly what Turpin did. From the very first going he carried the fight to Robinson and he never let him up for a single moment thereafter. He had seen to it that he was superbly fit; he had well planned his campaign. It did not take long to realise that Robinson could be hit and hurt; that he could take the champion’s best punches unflinchingly; that he could out-guess and outbox him. After the first round, when Randy walked quietly back to his corner and sparingly relaxed on his stool he smiled up at his seconds as much as to say, “I’m the governor in this scrap.” And so it proved. It has been said that Robinson was not at his best form. Well he had only himself to blame. If he neglected his training and underestimated the strength of his opposition then he deserved to lose his title.

With all his experience he should know by now that an opponent is always dangerous while he is on his feet and if considered that Turpin was going to be “easy meat” then he must have had the shock of his life. The champion scaled 11st 0lbs while his challenger tipped the beam at 11st 4lbs. It was Turpin’s consistent use of the good old-fashioned straight left that beat Robinson. In spite of his dancing feet and weaving tactics, Sugar rarely got his face out of the way of these leads, that were sent with power and precision. Turpin did not wildly toss his right, but kept this weapon under restraint, using it effectively in the clinches as a short hook to the head. He also hooked Robinson with the left from long range and caught Ray with some solid blows that sent the American reeling round the ring and back-pedalling in brisk fashion. It was obvious that British champion was the stronger of the pair. He tossed Ray around in the clinches as if he was a baby and the American only managed to stay close by hanging on like a limpet. Sometimes Randy had to wrench himself free to respond to the call of the “break” then he would immediately go after the world’s champ again. Robinson flicked out a left hand to the face but was very short with most of his leads, while those that got home carried little sting.

Sugar’s best blow

His best blow was a right uppercut to the body that was whipped in at lightning speed. These were the punches that dropped the best in America and on the continent, but Turpin took them in his stride. He also rattled the ribs with a two-fisted bombardment whenever he got the opportunity. But the occasions were rare and Turpin remained unaffected. When Robinson lashed out with a swing, his blows bounce as few rights on Randy’s chin, but only a twice was the Britisher shaken in the numerous clinches there was little real infighting. Both were keen on typing-up tactics and honours were about even although Turpin’s extra strength enabled him to push Robinson about in what must have been humiliating fashion for the great Sugar. On a few occasions that they dropped the fencing and took a belt at one another, it was Robinson who was first to break off. He usually started these punching spells and got home some sharp shots, but when Turpin joined issue, his heavier punching soon made the American anxious to get away to long range.

Robinson’s bubble burst

As round succeeded round, Randy’s chances grew rosier. The crowd of 18,000, which had raised the roof when he entered the ring, began to realise after the halfway stage that the Robinson was burst, that only a knockout would prevent Turpin from winning the title and this possibility seemed less likely the further the contest went. With increasing cheers Turpin added to his advantage while Robinson went weary and lost ground rapidly. He was always in there fighting but he had no way of stopping the Britisher and no answers to his moves and leads.