This page sponsored by ABC Transmission, a part of Tacoma history. I would not let anyone else rebuild my classic 1950 power glide transmission. Just click to arrange an appointment.

Grinch Fight

by Richard E. Baker

In the old days a boxer of 31 years old was ready, after 100 to 300 bouts, to retire. He had generally fought several times a month, almost like holding a regular factory job. At 31 he was boxed out, pretty battered and flat-faced with a nose spread from ear to ear. One cannot linger on the past. Time moves on, or boxing fans do, whether they like it or not. I am always surprised to see how many boxers over 30 who are fairly new to the ranks and who enter the ring before really learning the trade.

Stephen Nelson (15-0-0) aged 31 stepped into the ring against Cem Kilic (14-0-0) who, at age 25, has at least gotten an earlier start. Nelson looks about 50 and brought 12 KOs to the show. His toughest opponent has probably been a TKO against DeShon Webster (10-1-0) two years ago in Las Vegas. Nelson has pulled off the  neat trick having fought twice at the MGM Grand, at Madison Square Garden, and at Treasure island in Vegas. He is a man in a hurry probably trying to delay Social Security. Many decent boxers never fight in such prestigious venues. More power to him. He is another midwest boxer, the new hotbed since Bud Crawford proved one does not have to be born in L.A., New York, or Las Vegas. There are many corn fed men who can fight. Crawford and he are pals and often fight on the same cards.

I have seen Nelson fight several times in Vegas on Crawford undercards. He always looks impressive and gets better each time out. One learns quickly when working with possibly the boxer today. He appears to be a kind and generous man outside the ring.

Kilic has a different story. Born in Turkey he carried 9 KOs on his shoulders against nondescript opponents. He has fought at the MGM Grand once beating Marten McGregor (8-1-0) on the last Tyson Fury card. They were now ready to put their undefeated records on the line.

Nelson entered the ring wearing a Grinch mask. His trunks, with hair and eyes, were also of the Grinch verity. Such antics makes it difficult to take a fighter seriously. One wondered if he wanted to steal the fight rather than earn the win.

No problem. From the opening round Kilic proved ineffective and confused. Nelson fights with his feet too far apart and throws uppercuts from too far out. Kilic could not take advantage of poor uppercuts except to eat them for lunch. Buddy McGirt, his trainer, needs to tell him that one cannot win fights without throwing punches. He needs to be in better shape and to keep his mouth shut before he gets his jaw broken. By round 8 Kilic’s corner had seen enough and stopped the fight. Kilic, although tough, but inexperienced, had no chance of winning.

The disappointing part is Nelson. This friendly and affable man is a joy to watch. At 31 how long can he keep it up? That is the disappointment. Oh, if he were only in his 20’s,what a joy he would be. Christmas might come every fight.

Tortoise vs. Tortoise: Wilder stops Ruiz again

By Richard E. Baker

They are afraid of stiff competition; they are afraid of losing; they are afraid of getting hurt. (Ryan Hafey/PBC)

On a night of mostly jokes and mismatches, Snoozerweight boxers Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz stepped into the ring, and did little else. Most of the time they fought through the boos and hisses of the crowd who had mistakenly thought they had paid to see a fight, not an event of tortoise vs. tortoise. If anyone, the crowd favored Ortiz who managed to throw out a few shots to carry the fight for 6 rounds. Wilder finally landed two shots that floored Ortiz. Ortiz beat the count but referee Kenny Bayless called the fight. It is always better to let the money-maker win when a huge fight looms in the future.

There appears to be an annoying trend in boxing today—not fighting. Canelo did not fight for most of his bout with Kovalov, before knocking him out. Even on the undercard, Dustin Long, with only 2 wins, both by knockout, refused to fight Marsellos Wilder, Deontay’s younger brother, until he threw the punch that knocked out Wilder—a big surprise for everyone. Winning, without fighting, might be good for armies, but not so much for a spectator sport.

I am not one of those guys who think fighters of the past were so much better. Maybe they were. One thing is, they were fearless and they fought and they fought the best competition available.

Today’s boxers live in fear. They are afraid of stiff competition; they are afraid of losing; they are afraid of getting hurt; they are afraid of going any distance; they are afraid of financial loss; they are afraid of brawling, fighting, and putting on an entertaining show. Only the win counts, regardless how bored or annoyed the spectators get.  

After the fight, Wilder said he wants to unify the heavyweight titles, that there should be only one heavyweight champion. Maybe he is right. Let’s hope it is someone who is not afraid to fight, someone with real heart and guts and not someone interested more in being a fighting champion than in his financial portfolio.

On a night of mostly jokes and mismatches, Snoozerweight boxers Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz stepped into the ring, and did little else. Most of the time they fought through the boos and hisses of the crowd who had mistakenly thought they had paid to see a fight, not an event of tortoise vs. tortoise. If anyone, the crowd favored Ortiz who managed to throw out a few shots to carry the fight for 6 rounds. Wilder finally landed two shots that floored Ortiz. Ortiz beat the count but referee Kenny Bayless called the fight. It is always better to let the money-maker win when a huge fight looms in the future.

There appears to be an annoying trend in boxing today—not fighting. Canelo did not fight for most of his bout with Kovalov, before knocking him out. Even on the undercard, Dustin Long, with only 2 wins, both by knockout, refused to fight Marsellos Wilder, Deontay’s younger brother, until he threw the punch that knocked out Wilder—a big surprise for everyone. Winning, without fighting, might be good for armies, but not so much for a spectator sport.

I am not one of those guys who think fighters of the past were so much better. Maybe they were. One thing is, they were fearless and they fought and they fought the best competition available.

Today’s boxers live in fear. They are afraid of stiff competition; they are afraid of losing; they are afraid of getting hurt; they are afraid of going any distance; they are afraid of financial loss; they are afraid of brawling, fighting, and putting on an entertaining show. Only the win counts, regardless how bored or annoyed the spectators get.  

After the fight, Wilder said he wants to unify the heavyweight titles, that there should be only one heavyweight champion. Maybe he is right. Let’s hope it is someone who is not afraid to fight, someone with real heart and guts and not someone interested more in being a fighting champion than in his financial portfolio.

A dull fight for fans, a great fight for Canelo

By Richard E. Baker

Kovalev slightly drops his right hand. Wham! A Canelo left-right KOs Kovalev while he is still on his feet. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)

So  now it is time for the big show. Kovalev works his way through the hostile crowd. He looks a bit like Joe Louis ready to fight Rocky Marciano: whenever he bends over his balding head shows. He looks fit, as always, and ready to go. Canelo Alvarez is greeted with cheers. He is the Mexican hero. The size difference is obvious. Alvarez resembles the middleweight he is.

At the bell, Kovalev is on the move. The action is slow. Whatever occurs is initiated by by the big Russian. Kovalev throws almost all jabs. He is one of the best jabbers in the business. Canelo keeps balled up. He is in the classic peek-a-boo style. He throws almost no punches. He looks slow. Perhaps the weight of Kovalev is too much. Already Alvarez’s right eye is puffy.

The fight goes from slow to almost non-existent with Kovalev jabbing and Alvarez covering. The crowd is anxious. They paid for action. Catcalls and boos flow above the ring like a fart in a punchbowl. All the energy put into promoting the fight does not transfer into the ring. Alvarez still refuses to throw any meaningful blows. Several things might account for this. Kovalev is old for a fighter. Perhaps Alvarez is taking him to the deep end. That is likely given what is happening. He is too smart to change his plans because of the fans and he is too decent a fighter to be outclassed. Whatever blows he lands are often left hooks. If Kovalev is not careful he will get caught with one.

There are good and bad fights for fans. There are good and bad fights for boxers. Sometimes there are bad fights for fans, but good fights for boxers. This is one of those fights. Canelo is out to win. He does not mind giving away rounds to reach his goal. He is not distracted by the crowd, even by the people who paid $1700 for a ticket. He is after something bigger - another title.

My attention is drawn to the ring girls, especially Yohanna Vargas. She is a bundle of motion. She can move her feet in one direction, her butt in another, her body from side to side, her arms jerking the round card up and down, and still manage to wave at the crowd with her smaller fingers.

By round 8 the fight starts to be more competitive. Alvarez starts to throw a few body shorts. Several times Kovalev winches. He has always been susceptible to body blows. The fight now starts to even out. If Kovalev does well in the last two rounds he will retain the championship. Oh, those terrible “ifs.”

Toward the end of the 11th round, Kovalev slightly drops his right hand. Wham! An Alvarez left followed by a right KOs Kovalev while he is still on his feet. The referee stops the fight almost before he hits the canvass. He falls into a deep sleep and for a moment is back in Mother Russia, cool snowflakes falling on his face while Alvarez soaks up the sun of another title.

The punches were tremendous, the left starting from Argentina followed by a New York right.  Kovalev hangs on the ropes before dripping to the canvas for five minutes. He is really out. Alvarez, concerned, stands above him to be sure he is OK. Kovalev starts to come around. Everything is fine except for the lost weight on losing the title.

A third fight with Triple G is in order. In spite of the draw in their first fight, GGG won. Alvarez closely won the second, Although it is time to settle the dispute, Alvarez is not inclined to take the fight.

Kovalev said  “I was tired after round 6, because I had my last fight very close to this one, but it’s okay, it’s a new experience for me. Canelo is really a great champion. A little bit right now, I didn’t recover from my last fight. But it’s okay. Thanks for the fight Canelo, I have big respect for him. He made history.”

 He felt he should have opened his body less and to use more jabs, more safe. I’ll be back. I’ll be back much stronger.”

 He is not discouraged. “I know that I can be a unified champion, let’s make a unification fight. But nobody wants to fight me in my division. This guy is more fresh, he came into my division more fresh. He has more stamina, but it’s okay, it’s a good experience for me.”

Canelo said “I’m very thankful. This is just a step in my career, in my history, and all I ask of you, is to be patient because Canelo will make history. That’s a guarantee.”

He knew the fight might not have been his most exciting. “The plan overall was patience, that was basically it - to have patience. We knew it was going to be five, six rounds and it was going to take some time for me to get him. But honestly he’s a great fighter. I’m new at this weight, new in this division. Much credit to him, he’s a great fighter, but we stuck to our game plan. It was delayed a little bit but overall it was successful.”

He also thought the fight was difficult because, “he was defensive, he was closing up his guard. All he was doing was trying to establish points, but we knew what was coming. Inevitably it would come, and everything came out the way we had planned.”

 He knows there is continued talk about fighting GGG again. “It’s really not a challenge to me. We’ve fought 24 rounds and I beat him. It’s really not a challenge for me, but if it represents business, why not?”

Undercard

Ryan Garcia (19-0) vs. Romero Duno (21-1)

This had shaped up to be one of the better fights of the evening. Garcia is just 21, a very nice kid with a hard punch. Duno is a lass act and and always to fight, alway aggressive. One of the media boys was talking in the media room prior to the fight. He knew both fighters. He had placed $1,000 on Duno. “If he keeps coming ahead he can’t lose. I stand to go home with $6,000.” Such are the dreams of fools. In little over a minute his $1,000 bucks hit the floor along with Duno’s face.

Garcia said, “I feel good. It’s kind of what I expected. All respect to Duno, he came to fight, he came in shape, he caught me with an overhand right and I took it and from there I knew I could keep taking them and keep coming at him. When I took his best shot, I knew alright, I got him. Everybody knows he has a big overhand right, he’s put a lot of people to sleep with that, and then when I took it, I thought - oh okay, that’s what it is. And I felt good from then on.”

He tried to explain his tactics. “He came at me like a bull. I was like, oh shoot, I was trying to move out the way. I’m like, okay I’m going to start swinging. I’m going to let mine go then. I tried to fake with the overhand, jab right, bang bang, and it’s over - temple shot. Once you hit the temple, it’s almost over right there. There’s three places to knock somebody out, it’s right in the temple, behind the ear, and right in the chin. You hit anywhere with a solid punch and it’s over.”

Garcia is not afraid to admit he is young and still learning. He does not have a bloated ego. “I’m just learning my overall game, footwork, speed, power, I’m just soaking it in. With Canelo there, it’s an honor. It makes me feel good just watching him spar, watching him train. He tells me I’m gonna do good, and I feel good.”

He is not anxious to take too large a steps. He would rather be prepared for the future rather than rush it. “I just want better
competition, the more I step up. I’m only 21 and a lot of people forget that. But I’m going at my pace, whatever I feel I’m ready for, I’ll take on. Those fights down the line are huge fights, once my team feels I’m prepared. I’m always going to listen to my team.”

Blair Cobbs (13-0-1)  vs.  Carlos Ortiz (14-4)

Cobbs is a man to watch. He claims to be the most hated boxer in Vegas. The crowd agrees. His well-muscled body is puffed up by arrogance. He is the best fighter in the world, just ask him. Of course behind that bravado one senses a smirk and a decent man having a bit of fun. He says he does not mind being hated by the fans as long as they enjoy his fights. They will enjoy this one although they will not enjoy the outcome. He faces the ever-popular Carlos Ortiz.

As the fight begins it is all Ortiz. Blair “the Flair” Cobb is content to run about. He gets knocked down by a shot to the back of his head. When he settled down to fight, he takes over and soon puts Ortiz away. No one is happier than he is as he prances along the ropes backing under the camera lights. I sense a lot of television work coming his way.

Seniesa Estrada (17-0) vs. Marlen Esparza (7-1)

I don't know anything about women's fights. I can only say that Estrada chopped up a game Esparza, almost ripping her scalp from her head. Let the pictures do the talking.

Evan Holyfield (debut)  vs.  Nick Winstead (0-1)

Winstead had agreed to be the sacrificial lamb for Holyfield. He was not chosen because of his exceptional boxing skills, but rather for his total incompetence. He is not disappoint. At the bell he walked to the center of the ring, got hit, and fell. The referee immediately stopped the fight. Winstead, to his character, protested. He wanted to give it a shot. There was no reason. The end had been decided before the beginning.

Holyfield said, “It was such a blessing to be able to showcase my talent on the card like this and God bless us all. I was just expecting to box and I just went out there and did my job. I was zoned in and God just had me.”

In spite of the comments, God could have slept in on this one.

Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0)  vs.  Jorge Fortea (20-1-1)

This turned out to be a very interesting fight. Not much was expected from the Spanyard Fortea. With only 6 KOs in 22 fights, he is not much of a puncher. That lack of power cost him the fight. He had much better boxing skills and landed the more accurate shots. He simply could not move Murtazaliev. After the bout Murtazaliev said, “I feel very good. I was listening to the coach. I didn’t try to force anything and I was just listening to my coach." He was in the fight the entire way. "To all my fans, continue to watch my fights. I’ll get better and better and better.”

Tristan Kalkreuth (3-0)  vs.  Twon Smith (3-4)

Smith came out swinging hard, if not always accurately, in an effort to establish himself and to end the fight early. If only his plan had worked. Kalkeruth was not fooled and took his time throwing the more accurate punches. Kalkreuth took home the win. He said “I knew he was tough, he had twice the pro experience I did. He’s pretty much a veteran but for that being my third fight I think I did good. I wish I put more punches on him and obviously the one thing that boxers want is to get the KO and that didn’t happen but I know this fight is going to help me later down in the road. I want to thank all my Latino fans for coming out here!”

Meirium Nursultanov (13-0)  vs.  Cristian Olivas (16-6)

The event was shaping up to be an Eastern European VS Mexican event, places that produce tough, although skilled, fighters. An occasional texan and Spaniard was thrown in for variety. 

Nursultanov entered the ring looking tentative. The pace was slow, as far as action went, but steady as far as technicality went. Olives showed the greater variety of punches and footwork. Nursultanov was difficult to hit. He kept his hands around his head making it difficult for Olives to break through. The fight was decent and pleasing for boxing affectionados but not enough action for the less knowledgeable. It didn’t have much zip. The fight was a lot closer than the score cards indicated as Nursultanov pulled off the win. 

After the fight Nursultanov said, “I feel good. I prepared well for this opponent. I know this guy, tough guy. I was ready and prepared for all 10 rounds. Thank you everybody, I want to say thanks to those that support me. I want to say hello to Kazakhstan, I love you.”

Bektemir Melikuziev (3-0)  vs.  Clay Collard (4-2-3)

This 8-rounder was a decent fight between two tough light heavyweights. They seemed to be evenly matched although Melikuziev, a southpaw, was the harder puncher and did most of the damage. Melikuziev played the aggressor and moved ahead with bad intentions. He caught Collard in the 4th round. Collard struggled to rise. Melikuziev was on him instantly and the fight was suddenly over. Melikuziev showed real style. When he realized how hurt collard was, and realized he was falling, he backed off and let him fall on his own to prevent any further damage. Melikuziev said, “I was very surprised at how durable he was. But it was a good experience. He was very tough. I needed this to get rounds of experience.” He got them against an opponent who refuse to give up.

A silly fight and mostly hype for Plant vs. Lee. Who would have guessed?

The MGM Grand Garden Arena is, like a good pastrami sandwich, packed to overflowing. Beams of light stream from every corner and dance together across the ring. Huge screens show every inch of anything important. People sitting in the oxygen area and who can’t see the fight can watch the screen. It seems as if Pacquiao has been fighting since the days of Mickey Walker. With the exception of Sugar Ray Robinson, he may have fought more tough boxers with more different styles than anyone in history: Broner, Matthysse, Vargas, Bradley, Mayweather Jr., Algieri, Rios, Marquez, Mosley, Margarito, Cotto, Hatton, De La Hoya, etc. These names are just a short sample. I was anxious to see what he had left against Keith Thurman. I also wondered what Thurman would bring to the fight besides youth, energy, power, and skill. The fight would have to wait. Lovely undercard appetizers are to be served first.

Caleb Plant (18-0) Mike Lee (21-0) 

Caleb Plant (18-0-0) took the championship from Uzcategui, one of the roughest, toughest, dangerous, boxers today. He did not just take the championship; he beat it out of Uzcategui, knocking him down twice. Plant has had a rough life. His daughter, ill and suffering constantly and having up to 150 seizures a day, succumbed before the fight. Now, his mother, just prior to this fight, has died. They will both be with him in the ring. He fears no one and it shows as he enters the ring. He is an articulate man.

Mike Lee (21-0-0) resembles Gene Tunney, an educated and thoughtful man, a former university football star, a man with a degree in Finance from Notre Dame. One might expect to find him reading Shakespeare before the bout. This is a dream fight for him. Most people thought he would never reach such heights. Of course, he has not exactly crawled over the toughest opponents to get here. There, in the corner of the ring, he resembles a movie star playing a boxer. Now, it’s time to see if he is a boxer.

He has taken some abuse because of his education. People often think boxers are dumb. With the possible of Battling Nelson, there is no such thing as a stupid boxer who is dumb. James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Juan Diaz, Carlos Palomino, Armando Muniz, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Vernon Forrest, all have university degrees. Bobby Czyz is a member of Mensa, Gennady Golovkin speaks four languages, Randall “Tex” Cobb, graduated magna cum laude from Temple University, and Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko both have doctorate degrees. Intelligent boxers and boxers with university degrees can fight—just not Mike Lee.

Within 15 seconds of stepping into the ring with Plant, he showed he did not belong there. Had he been wearing big shoes and a rubber nose I might have thought I had wandered into Circus Circus. He looked every bit the clown. The discredit is not to him, but to his team. Lee in a decent man, a smart, handsome, and natural athlete. A prize piece of meat waiting to be placed on the scale and sold to the highest bidder.

It’s easy to see what has happened. A group of wise guys see Lee playing football. He’s white; he’s good looking; he’s in great shape; he speaks well; all the things Primo Carnera was not; and look what Carnera accomplished with the right connections. The team gets Lee in the gym, teaches him a few moves, gloat over his every move. Everything he does is miraculous. They have never seen a better left or faster power shot. He has a great chin, iron. Hit him in the face and your hand will break. Even his farts are sweet—glorious bits of air superior to all other hot moving air. They feed him sawdust and say he is knocking over redwoods. He believes it. He is vain. He is too young to understand objectivity.

During the instructions he does not look at Plant. He will do his looking when Plant hits the floor. As if delivered by a clown car he is deposited to the center of the ring, then onto the canvas. Plant has done no work. His work has been done for many years before the fight while Lee has apparently been attending university parties, hanging with the football team (a group of mostly slow-moving glue-footed buffoons getting by on athletic scholarships) and enjoying panty raids. It is his turn to get caught with his pants down.

He has guts. He has pride. What he lacks is skill. He is game. He keeps trying. He looks like an amateur. He is a paper fighter, completely fiction. He makes an attempt to fight in round 2. Plant goes easy. Plant can put him away at any time.

By round 3, Plant gets tired of the game. Down goes Lee once; down goes Lee twice; down goes Lee for the third time. He continues to rise. The referee gets tired of counting and brushes off Lee’s gloves. He stops the fight even though the last knockdown was because Lee lost his balance. Plant plants him.

Lee might continue boxing. If he keeps it up, he might even win a championship, the best championship money can buy.

Yordenis Ugas (23-4) vs. Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-0-1)

Ugas enters the ring ready for action. His often-smiling face carries a grim, determined look and no single white tooth shows. He bangs his gloves together as he paces in circles.

Figueroa looks equally determined. He also seems more relaxed and there is an aura of confidence about him. Perhaps that is because he has beaten John Molina Jr., Robert Guerrero, Antonio DeMarco, and Abner Cotto. With those wins, and others, he is bound to feel poised and ready for action. He looks fleshy, a roll around his waist, a soft back.

Ugas pounds him every round. He is relentless. Figueroa presses, tries to fight inside. It’s no use. Ugas will not give up the fight and walks away with the victory. Figueroa walks away with his life.

Luis Nery (29-0) vs. Juan Carlos Payano (21-2)

Payano is all action. The fight is a good one, all tough, hard action. Payano is all over the place including the canvas with a body shot from which he cannot rise.

Sergey Lipinets (15-1-0) vs. Jayar Inson (18-2)

Lipinets is riding high with wins over Lamont Peterson and Mikey Garcia. Inson is a last-minute replacement for John Molina Jr. (30-8-0). Molina continues to struggle. He looks good, even great, on occasions, but less than up to the task at other times. He has beaten Provodnikov but lost to Terence Crawford and Omar Figueroa Jr. There is no shame losing to Crawford—everyone does, and the Figueroa Jr. loss was controversial. The crowd shouted its disapproval at the decision. Unofficial judge Larry Hazzard had Molina ahead by 2 points. Hazzard is the best in the business and knows what he sees. Unfortunately, Inson is no Molina. He ends up the same way most replacements do—knocked out early.

© Copyright Left Uppercut