May 25, 2017
May 25, 2017
Kanat Islam

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When and why you started boxing:
I’ve been in the ring since I was eight. My goal is to prove that Kazakhstan is a strong nation in professional boxing.

Favourite all-time fighter:
Muhammad Ali, because he was not only a great boxer but also a real man.

Best fight you’ve seen:
Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard. They showed what true fighting is.

Personal career highlight:
Winning bronze medals at the 2008 Olympic Games and 2007 World championships as an amateur. I’m currently highly ranked by the WBA, IBF and WBO, but I won’t feel like I’ve achieved anything in the pros until I become world champion.

Toughest opponent:
Emilio Julio Julio in 2013 [w ko 3]. It was at high altitude in Ecuador, so I found it difficult breathing.

Best and worst attributes as a boxer:
I knock a lot of opponents out due to the severity of my blows. Now I’m working on improving my technical skills and defence.

Training tip:
The three components of success are proper nutrition, exercise and rest.

Favourite meal/restaurant:
I like eating horse meat, as all Kazakh people do. I’ll go to any restaurant that serves Kazakh dishes.

Best friends in boxing:
Former Olympic champions Bakhtiyar Artayev and Serik Sapiyev, plus Roy Jones Jnr and Beibut Shumenov.

Other sportsman you would like to be:
I used to dream of being a football player when I was a young, but now I don’t need any other sport except boxing.

Last film/TV show you saw:
Kazakh Khandygy. It’s a very interesting movie about the history of Kazakhstan.

Who would play you in a film of your life:
Sylvester Stallone, because he’s an actor who knows about boxing.

Have you ever been starstruck:
I’ve never dreamed of being an actor, singer or dancer, so I don’t get starstruck by celebrities like that. Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali are the real stars for me.

Last time you cried:
It makes me cry when the young children of Kazakhstan have their pride diminished. The pain of my nation is my pain.

Best advice received:
When I first went to the boxing gym, my trainer said to me, ‘I don’t need a champion. I just need a man.’ I still remember his advice, and always try to be a good man.

Worst rumour about yourself:
I don’t pay attention to gossip.

Something not many people know about you:
I’m good at skiing and skating.

Age: 32
Twitter: n/a
Nickname: ‘QazaQ’
Height: 5ft 10ins
Nationality: Kazakh
From: Pahokee, FL
Stance: Orthodox
Record: 23-0 (19)
Division: Super-welterweight
Titles: WBO Inter-Continental, WBA Fedelatin & WBA Fedecaribe
Next fight: Islam faces Norberto Gonzalez over 12 rounds on Friday May 26 in Boca Raton, Florida.

May 25, 2017
May 25, 2017
Muhammad Ali

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DESPITE hammering Sonny Liston so emphatically the public were not convinced by Cassius Clay. Particularly after the young braggart then changed his name to Muhammad Ali to conform with his evolving religious beliefs.

The rematch with Liston was originally set for November 1964 but Ali had to undergo emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia, forcing a postponement three days before the opening bell was due to sound.

This sequel was never destined to run smoothly.

The bout was re-scheduled for Boston, but less than three weeks before fight night, the city’s district attorney told the fighters to look elsewhere because the promoters were not licensed in Massachusetts. A youth centre in the creaking industrial city of Lewiston, Maine, somehow got the gig. Extra police were called to oversee the May 25 1965 bout when rumours persisted that extreme supporters of Malcolm X, who had been assassinated three months previously, intended to kill Ali while he was in the ring.

As a consequence of the escalating chaos, just 2,434 attended (of which 1,510 were complimentary tickets) making it the smallest ever audience for a heavyweight title fight. Some were amused, others disgusted, when Canadian singer Robert Goulet forgot the words to the national anthem.

The challenger, hoping to become only the second man in history to regain the crown, pointed towards Ali beforehand and said, “This time I am going to knock you out.”

Oddsmakers again sided with the slugger, declaring him a 6-to-5 favourite to restore his pride.

Novice in charge

Former world heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, a former heavyweight champion of great standing, was handed the job as referee. The decision to appoint such an inexperienced official was destined for infamy. But for the first 90 seconds, as everything ran smoothly, Walcott had nothing to do.

And then Liston made a play. He stepped in with a delicate jab. Ali responded with a short chopping right that briefly nestled, rather innocuously, on Liston’s head. The challenger fell to the floor, initially on all fours, before rolling on his back. He made no attempt to rise, despite Ali standing over him and screaming at him to do so. Walcott tried to get the irate champion to a neutral corner, and as a result, failed to pick up timekeeper Francis McDonough’s count. By the time he was alerted to the fact that Liston had been on the canvas for more than 10 seconds, the heavyweights were behind him, exchanging blows. Walcott ran back, separated the fighters, and raised Ali’s hand.

Even the announcement of the result was bodged. Although the crowd were told the official time was one-minute, it actually lasted two minutes and 12 seconds.

The paltry crowd booed. Bewilderment ruled.

The fix is in

Cries of ‘fix’ could be heard throughout the arena. Without doubt, it was a suspicious finish. Timekeeper McDonough, blamed Ali for the confusion.

“If that bum Clay had gone to neutral corner instead of running around like a maniac all the trouble would have been avoided,” he said after claiming that Walcott did not look at him once when Liston was on the floor. But McDonough made little effort to make his count heard, failing to bang the canvas or motion a count with his fingers.
Walcott, who was clearly ill-equipped for the job, pledged his innocence.

“I did my job,” Jersey Joe said. “He [Ali] looked like a man in a different world. I didn’t know what he might do. I thought he might stomp him or pick him up and belt him again.”

The loser was also happy to deflect any responsibility for the farcical encounter.

“It wasn’t that hard a punch, but it partially caught me off-balance and when I got knocked down, I got mixed up because the referee never gave me a count,” Liston explained to The New York Times. “I was listening for a count. That’s the first thing you do, but I never heard a count because Clay never went to a neutral corner.”

The phantom punch

Debate raged about the punch that ended matters. Canadian heavyweight George Chuvalo, an absurdly durable contender whose chin could withstand a speeding train, was ringside and claimed Liston threw the fight.

“His eyes were darting from side-to-side,” he said. “When a fighter is hurt his eyes roll up.” However, Dr. Carroll L. Witten, former Kentucky State Boxing Commissioner, responded: “Chuvalo is wrong. The side-to-side movement of eyes is commonly associated with temporary unconsciousness and is one of the first things you look for. It is called nystagmus.”

World light-heavyweight champion Jose Torres also validated the finishing blow, calling it a “perfect punch” and Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated wrote, “The blow had so much force it lifted Liston’s left foot, upon which most of his weight was resting, well off the canvas.”

But only a few were convinced. Commentator Don Dunphy said: “If that was a punch, I’ll eat it,” he said. “Here was a guy who was in prison and the guards use to beat him over the head with clubs and couldn’t knock him down.”

In 1967, three years before his equally mysterious death, Liston allegedly told Sports Illustrated journalist Mark Kram that he took a dive over fears he might get shot by a bullet aimed for Ali.

The only thing that’s certain, all these years later, is that the conundrum of the phantom punch will never be solved.

May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017
Kell Brook vs Errol Spence

Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom

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THE expectation amongst most observers from across the Atlantic is that Errol Spence Jr will be taking home Kell Brook’s IBF title. The US fight fraternity can’t help it; they have an in-built superiority complex that’s very hard to shift. But they also have short memories, as much vaunted North American challengers have come to the UK before and it hasn’t always ended well…

Jim Watt vs Howard Davis Jnr – June 7th 1980, Ibrox Park, Glasgow

Howard Davis arrived in the UK unbeaten as a pro at 13-0 and marching towards his coronation as a world champion. Davis had won gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in a great US team, that also saw gold for Leon and Michael Spinks and Sugar Ray Leonard, and beaten Leonard to the Val Barker trophy for the outstanding boxer of the Games. In his way was our very own Jim Watt, making the third defence of his WBC World Lightweight title. Davis’ countrymen expected him to relieve Jim of his belt but Jim hadn’t read their script and beat Davis over 15 rounds. Davis never won a world title.

Nigel Benn vs Gerald McClellan – February 25th 1995, London Arena

Gerald McClellan touched down in London in early 1995 as one of the most feared fighters on the planet. He was the former WBO Middleweight champion and reigning WBC champion and he’d decided to step up to Super Middleweight, come over to England, smash our WBC Super Middleweight champion Nigel Benn to pieces and waltz off with his title. And everyone thought he would. Everyone. Many well respected judges even feared that McClellan might kill Benn. But despite being knocked out of the ring in the opening exchanges Benn somehow won a savage contest. McClellan suffered terrible injuries and never boxed again.

Joe Calzaghe vs Jeff lacy – 4th March 2006, MEN Arena, Manchester

In this instance both fighters brought a belt to the table. Calzaghe (40-0), was the WBO Super Middle champion, whilst Lacy (21-0 and 1 NC) was IBF boss. Lacy was a heavy favourite; there was an astonishing amount of hype around him and his celebrated left hook. The fight even took place in the early hours of the morning British time at the behest of American TV so they could treat viewers to a prime time look at Lacy’s inevitable unification and glorification. But that isn’t what they saw. Calzaghe handed Lacy a systematic beating winning 119-107, 119-107 and 119-105. Lacy continued but was never the same again, the last I heard of him was in October last year when he retired after 5 rounds in Bristol against Tony Okey in a fight not licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control.

Lucian Bute vs Carl Froch – 26th May 2012, Nottingham Arena

I’ve cheated slightly with this one because firstly Bute was the champion and Froch the challenger, and secondly because Bute is Romanian. But it qualifies because Bute had fought his entire career (apart from one fight in Romania) in North America, and because he was unjustly a huge favourite. Unjustly because although he was 30-0, and making the 10th defence of his IBF title, his CV was nowhere near as good as Froch’s, who, as a 2 time WBC champion, had mixed in far better company. But Froch was coming into the fight off the back of a unification defeat to Andre Ward and many thought he was finished. But he wasn’t. The Cobra utterly annihilated Bute, stopping him in the 5th. Bute had a rematch clause but never exercised it, he didn’t want any more of Froch, not at any price.

But sometimes the hype is real; Terence Crawford was outstanding when he took Ricky Burns’ WBO Lightweight title in Glasgow in March 2014 (Gervonta Davis defended his title in style at the Copperbox on Saturday too) and Errol Spence Jr may also prove to be the real thing. But he’ll need to be because Kell Brook’s already proved that he’s the genuine article. And that, really, is my point.

May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017
George Groves

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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THIS weekend, George Groves makes his fourth – and perhaps final – attempt at a world title when he fights Fedor Chudinov for the vacant WBA super-middleweight title at Bramall Lane in Sheffield.

Groves meets the former holder of the WBA crown as chief support to Kell Brook’s IBF welterweight title defence against Errol Spence.

The Russian has not fought since his controversial points loss to Felix Sturm in February of last year, and Groves intends to use arguably his best punch to control his foe on Saturday night.

“I have a good jab so I want to go out there and establish the jab against Chudinov by that you can control the distance you want to fight at to control the fight, the range,” he said.

“I don’t think Chudinov will try to fight me at long range, is he going to try to crowd me, every fighter tries to do that and apart from a couple I have managed to figure them all out.

“You want to establish yourself from the very first bell, I will punch long with him – no surprise there. He’s been dropped before he’s been buzzed before, so I am sure I can beat him.”

Having twice lost to Carl Froch before being outpointed by Badou Jack in 2015, Groves has admitted that this is likely to be his final shot at world honours.

It is viewed by some – such as old rival James DeGale – as Groves’ best chance of becoming world champion and for the first time he will be the A-side of the fight.

“I’m boxing in the UK and I’m pretty sure Eddie [Hearn, the promoter running Saturday’s show] is going to make me the home fighter. I’m looking forward to that. It will be the first time,” Groves continued.

“Chudinov is a good fighter but is he the weakest of the challenges? Would he beat Badou Jack or Carl Froch? I’m not sure.”

May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017
Miguel Cotto

Stacey Verbeek

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MIGUEL COTTO (40-5, 33 KOs), the only four-division world champion in the rich boxing history of Puerto Rico, will return to the ring on Saturday, August 26 to take on the always-exciting Yoshihiro “El Maestrito” Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs) in a 12-round match for the vacant WBO Junior Middleweight World Championship from the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Cotto will attempt to secure a sixth world championship in four weight classes as he makes his 23rd appearance on HBO.

Cotto, a surefire, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, has held world titles in the super lightweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight divisions and has fought and defeated a who’s who of elite fighters over the last 15 years including Kelson Pinto, Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, Ricardo “Mochuelo” Torres, Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi, Zab “Super” Judah, Sugar Shane Mosley, Antonio “El Tornado de Tijuana” Margarito, Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga and Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez.

“I’m very excited to be back and showcase a high level fight for the fans,” Cotto said. “Kamegai is a great, tough fighter, but I will be ready for him and to capture the world title. I can’t wait to start training for this fight and get back in the ring on August 26.”

Kamegai is known as one of the highest-action fighters in the sport having engaged in a fight of the year candidate against Jesus “Renuente” Soto Karass in 2016 and taking champions and contenders including Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Johan “El Terrible” Perez into deep water.

“I fully understand who I am going to be in the ring against, but Cotto’s record and history won’t matter once we are toe-to-toe,” Kamegai said. “I am looking forward to giving fans the kind of aggressive fight that they have seen from me before and having my arm raised in victory.”

Miguel Cotto

“Miguel Cotto is a legend who is still fighting for title belts more than a dozen years after first being crowned a world champion. It’s remarkable,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “But I’ve seen Kamegai in action many times, and the guy doesn’t ever take a step back. Miguel will have his hands full on August 26.”

“August 26 will mark the return of Miguel Cotto pursuing his sixth world title,” said Hector Soto, Vice President of Miguel Cotto Promotions. “Cotto vs. Kamegai will be another epic battle that promises fireworks in the ring between Puerto Rico and Japan. Miguel Cotto is back on the big stage of boxing, fighting in Los Angeles on HBO. Nobody can miss it.”

May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017
Tyson Fury

Action Images/Alex Morton

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THE British Boxing Board of Control has flattened Tyson Fury’s hopes of a quick return to the ring by confirming it will not lift his suspension until his doping case is resolved.

The 28-year-old lost his boxing licence last October, a day after he vacated his IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles citing depression. However, the Manchester-born fighter had already failed a drugs test in the United States for cocaine and been charged with the use of a prohibited substance by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).

With Fury now back in training, UKAD is his most serious opponent, as his National Anti-Doping Panel was postponed earlier this month, with no date set for its resumption.

Tyson Fury (left) with promoter Frank Warren, who hopes for some intervention (Simon Cooper/PA )
Tyson Fury (left) with promoter Frank Warren, who hopes for some intervention (Simon Cooper/PA)

His promoter Frank Warren has described this delay as “a liberty” and said he hoped either the BBBoC or sports minister Tracey Crouch would intervene. In theory, the BBBoC could lift his suspension at any time, but it is now clear it will not act until Fury has either been cleared by UKAD or served whatever ban he may receive from the panel.

BBBoC general secretary Robert Smith told Press Association Sport: “The BBBoC is awaiting the outcome of the UKAD hearing and at present his boxing licence is suspended until such time, after which the BBBoC will consider Mr Fury’s position further.”

There is also no chance of Crouch – or whoever is sports minister after next month’s general election – interfering in the anti-doping process.

The frustration felt by Fury’s camp is understandable, given the fact he has not fought since his famous win over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, a feat arguably trumped by Anthony Joshua’s thrilling victory over the Ukrainian last month.

There is also no doubt a Fury-Joshua clash would be a knockout at the box office and with broadcasters. But it is also true that this is a hugely significant case for UKAD, which has a new chairman in Trevor Pearce, the former director of special investigations at the National Crime Agency, and has been lobbying government for more money and extra powers.

Fury and his cousin Hughie, another leading British heavyweight, have been on the agency’s radar since traces of nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, were detected in their urine samples in February 2015, a story first reported by the Sunday Mirror last June.

Both men have strongly denied any wrongdoing and they were not charged with an anti-doping offence until June 24, 2016, the same day Tyson Fury postponed a rematch with Klitschko because of a sprained ankle.

It is understood these initial positives were not considered strong enough for anti-doping rule violations, particularly as follow-up tests did not corroborate them, and Tyson was allowed to fight Klitschko in November 2015, while Hughie has had five subsequent fights.

But those suspicious samples made it inevitable they would be targeted for extra tests in the future, which is what ultimately triggered UKAD’s decision to charge the pair.

Tyson Fury’s position is complicated by something Warren has only recently revealed – the boxer refused to give a sample to a doping control officer last year.

Kell Brook

Action Images

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THIS is a fantastic fight. Kell Brook is the IBF titlist and one of the best welterweights in the worlds. Errol Spence has proven himself one of America’s finest prospects and has accepted the ultimate test, travelling overseas to challenge a reigning world champion in his backyard.

Britain is again treated to a stadium fight, even if this event at Bramall Lane in Sheffield is a third of the size of Joshua-Klitschko. And to sweeten the deal it’s a proper 50-50 fight.

Read on HERE for the Betsafe betting preview