Gennady Golovkin on the way to again selling out Madison Square Garden

Gennady Golovkin celebrates his fifth-round TKO of Kell Brook in September in London/Photo by Associated Press

 

Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin sold out Madison Square Garden when he stopped David Lemieux in the eighth round in October 2015 before 20,548.

Golovkin on March 18 will square off with Daniel Jacobs in a title fight at MSG (on HBO pay-per-view). Although exact numbers weren’t available, a spokesman associated with the promotion said Tuesday that ticket sales for it were ahead of those for Golovkin-Lemieux.

Golovkin’s ever-rising popularity is partly responsible. Another factor is that Jacobs is from Brooklyn.

Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, is 36-0 with 33 knockouts. He is on a string of 23 consecutive knockouts. Jacobs, at 32-1 with 29 knockouts, is a very hard puncher in his own right.

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Carl Frampton is our Fighter of the Year; Vargas-Salido is Fight of the Year

Carl Frampton celebrates after defeating Leo Santa Cruz in New York. 

Carl Frampton celebrates his July 30 victory over Leo Santa Cruz/Photo by USA Today

 

Winning a title fight against a worthy, not handpicked, opponent is tough enough. Doing so in the other guy’s country is even tougher.

Such was the case this year with Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland. He took on Scott Quigg in Quigg’s native Lancashire, England in a super bantamweight title-unification bout on Feb. 27, broke Quigg’s jaw and came away with a split-decision victory before about 20,000 at Manchester Arena.

What Frampton did July 30 was even more impressive. He moved up in weight and challenged Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights for his featherweight belt at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) took Santa Cruz’s title via majority decision, handing Santa Cruz his first loss.

For his work, Frampton is this newspaper’s Fighter of the Year. He still gets goosebumps when discussing his win over Santa Cruz, who entered that bout 32-0-1 with world titles in three weight classes.

“Headlining in New York against a great fighter like Leo Santa Cruz was a dream come true,” said Frampton, who Jan. 28 will take on Santa Cruz in a rematch at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime). “Now I have the opportunity to go to Las Vegas, where Leo has fought a few times.

“It’ll be his first time in the main event there as well, and I’m just excited to get out there and feel the buzz of fight week.”

Frampton believes he has become a very popular fighter, not just in his homeland. He had quite a few fans rooting him on at Barclays Center, thanks to New York City’s Irish population.

He said he realizes that Santa Cruz being from the L.A. area, he’ll bring more of his fans to Las Vegas than he did to New York City. Frampton doesn’t seem to care, though, and that’s what makes him the fighter he’s become.

“I believe if I use my brain a little bit more in this one, and don’t get dragged into his fight, that I can win it more convincingly,” Frampton said. “But there will be times in this fight where I’ll just have to bite down and fight for my life.”

If you love boxing, you love that kind of talk, that kind of fearlessness.

Fight of the Year
You probably won’t see many fights that end in a draw end up as our Fight of the Year. Nevertheless, the June 4 bout between super featherweight champion Francisco Vargas of Mexico and countryman Orlando Salido gets the nod.

That it was contested at StubHub Center in Carson was no surprise because that outdoor venue has been bringing out the ferocity in fighters for years. This was no different as the two went at one another with reckless abandon, showing no regard for personal safety.

When it was over, Vargas had retained his title because of the majority draw. He was happy with the decision. Salido thought he won. Ultimately, no one lost in the ring, nor out of it as the 7,378 in attendance were treated to one heck of a ring war.

Trainer of the Year
When featherweight Oscar Valdez of Mexico and super bantamweight Jessie Magdaleno of Las Vegas entered 2016, neither was a world champion. They are now, thanks in part to Manny Robles, who is our Trainer of the Year.

Robles, who trains fighters out of the Rock Gym in Carson, guided Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) to a world title when Valdez stopped Matias Rueda of Argentina in the second round on July 23 at MGM Grand.

Then came Nov. 5 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It was a night Robles won’t soon forget. On the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas undercard, Robles was in Magdaleno’s corner when he upset Nonito Donaire via unanimous decision, taking Donaire’s championship. This was Robles’ first fight with Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs), so this victory was ultra-impressive.

Only minutes later, Robles was in Valdez’s corner when he defended his title with a seventh-round TKO of Hiroshige Osawa of Japan.

That’s not to mention Robles has done good work with middleweight contender Jason Quigley (12-0, 10 KOs) of Ireland. He is just mowing opponents down in vicious fashion.

KO of the Year
Of course, I didn’t see every fight in the world this year. But in researching this subject, the Dec. 17 middleweight bout between Hassan N’Dam and Alfonso Blanco of Venezuela in N’Dam’s native France sticks out.

About 20 seconds in, N’Dam caught Blanco with a right cross on the chin. Blanco fell face first, his legs then twitching as the referee waved off the bout.

It was reminiscent of Pacquiao getting knocked cold and falling on his face after being crushed by a Juan Manuel Marquez right cross in their December 2012 fight.

ETC
We are two weeks out from the Jan. 14 super middleweight title-unification bout between Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) of Sweden and James DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) of London at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (on Showtime). … The main undercard bout for the Santa Cruz-Frampton remtach will see Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) of Oxnard challenging Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) of Montenegro for his lightweight title. Garcia has won titles at featherweight and super featherweight.

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Adam Lopez, Daniel Roman ready for their biggest fight Jan. 20 in Atlantic City

Daniel Roman/Photo courtesy of Thompson Boxing Promotions

 

The Jan. 20 super bantamweight bout between Adam Lopez of San Antonio and Daniel Roman of Garden Grove at Bally’s Atlantic City is not a world-title fight, but there is plenty on the line.

Lopez is ranked No. 3 in the world by one organization, the same same of which ranks Roman No. 4. That means the winner could be in a line for a title shot real soon.

They know it, too.

“Roman is a very good fighter and I’m ready for a tough fight,” said Lopez, 26. “He’s progressed a lot. He’s a good puncher, counterpuncher and works the body.

“But I’m ready for whatever he brings. A win would be huge. It puts me in contention to fight a world champion.”

Lopez is 16-0-1 with eight knockouts.

Roman, also 26, is 21-2-1 with seven knockouts. He hasn’t lost since late 2013.

“I’ve been extremely active over the last few years and now all the hard work is starting to pay off,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity and the type of fight I’ve been preparing for.

“Adam Lopez is a great fighter, and he’s highly ranked, just like me. We are going to give the fans an exciting fight.”

This will be the main event of a Showtime quadrupleheader.

 

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Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland eager to tangle on Feb. 25 in Frisco, Texas

Miguel Cotto/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation

 

The first thing that came to mind upon hearing that Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland would tangle Feb. 25 in Frisco, Texas, was that this figures to be a bloody ring war. Neither has ever been a defensive wizard and both – especially Kirkland – have plenty of pop.

They played host to a news conference Monday promoting the bout, which will take place at Ford Center at the Star. It will be televised on HBO pay-per-view, which we don’t get at all, but it will be a vicious bout. That’s all but guaranteed.

Kirkland, of Austin, Texas, is coming off a third-round knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez in May 2015, and hasn’t fought since. He’s eager to make a better showing of himself.

“I didn’t give my all when I fought Canelo Alvarez,” said Kirkland, who has been in and out of trouble with the law. “I didn’t prepare the way I needed to, but I’m not going to bring any excuses to the table.

“This bout is to show my team, my fans and everyone who has followed and supported me, that James Kirkland is still in the race; Kirkland is still here to make a stand. Keep my name alive. … It’s going to be a war.”

Kirkland, 32, is 32-2 with 28 knockouts.

Interestingly, Cotto’s most recent bout – in November 2015 – also came against Alvarez, who won a 12-round decision over Cotto at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in a middleweight title bout.

“It’s good to be back,” said Cotto, 36. “I’ve missed boxing and all I can say right now is that I’m going to bring my best, every day, at every training session.”

Cotto, of Puerto Rico, is 40-5 with 33 knockouts.

This bout will be contested at a catch-weight of 153 pounds.

 

 

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All six TV fighters on Hopkins-Smith card successfully make weight

Bernard Hopkins

 

All six TV fighters successfully made weight Friday for their bouts Saturday night at the Fabulous Forum (on HBO).

Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), who will be in his final bout at age 51, weighed 174 pounds for his main-event bout against light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs), who also weighed 174.

The semi-main event will feature highly ranked featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) of South El Monte putting his undefeated record on the line against Horacio Garcia of Mexico. Diaz came in at the 126-pound limit while Garcia (30-1-1, 22 KOs) tipped the scales at 125.8.

Also, cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) of Ukraine weighed 199.6 pounds for his title defense against Thabiso McHunu (17-2, 11 KOs) of South Africa, who came in at 198.6.

.

 

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Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Sullivan Barrera ready to rumble Friday in Indio

Vyacheslav Shabransky Bernard Hopkins v Sergey Kovalev

Vyacheslav Shabranskyy/Photo by Getty Images

 

Golden Boy Promotions has its hands full this week. Not only is it promoting Bernard Hopkins’ final fight Saturday against light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. at the Fabulous Forum (on HBO), it’s staging Friday’s light heavyweight bout between Sullivan Barrera of Cuba and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy of Ukraine at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio (on HBO Latino).

It’s a big fight for both guys.

“Sullivan is one of the toughest opponents I have faced yet,” Shabranskyy said. “He’s faced fighters like Andre Ward and has gone the distance and has demonstrated his skill. Knowing that he needs this fight will make him even more hungry in the ring, and we are
expecting him to come forward.

“With this fight, I get the opportunity to face opponents like Andre Ward. But first things first; I have to finish Barrera.”

Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) in March lost a wide 12-round decision to Ward, who Nov. 19 took Sergey Kovalev’s three world titles via narrow decision at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barrera believes his rounds with Ward have made him a better fighter.

“I believe this fight is the most important fight of my career,” said Barrera, 34. “This fight will demonstrate that I am among some of the top fighters out there. My fight with Andre Ward has built me, and has given me the maturity to step back and think clearly. I needed that loss to win this fight.”

Shabranksyy, 29, is 17-0 with 14 knockouts.

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Terence Crawford sentenced to jail in Omaha over April body shop beef

Bud Crawford

Terence Crawford celebrates his 8th-round TKO of John Molina Jr. on Saturday/Photo by Sarah Hoffman, Omaha World-Herald

 

Junior welterweight boxing champion Terence Crawford on Thursday was sentenced to 90 days in jail in his native Omaha, Neb. The punishment stems from two misdemeanor convictions over a disturbance at an Omaha body shop in April.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Crawford figures to serve 53 days. He was handcuffed and taken to jail.

Crawford in April did business with Extreme Custom Fleet & Auto. He reportedly wasn’t happy with the work, or how long it took, and tried to take the car without paying the balance of the bill by removing it from a hydraulic lift, causing some $3,300 in damage.

The shop owner said he felt threatened by Crawford and a group of his friends, though there was no violence nor threat of it, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The newspaper wrote that Crawford showed up to court wearing a gray sweatsuit and Michael Jordan Nike high-tops. Upon sentencing him, judge Marcena Hendrix told Crawford, “You’ve continued to act as if you are above the law, and you are not.”

Prosecutors told the judge Crawford was “not truthful” during a presentence probe.

Crawford, 29, is coming off an eighth-round technical knockout of John Molina Jr. of Covina this past Saturday in Omaha. He must also serve two years probation and perform 120 hours of community service. He was ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution.

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Golden Boy Promotions signs Marlen Esparza to promotional contract

Marlen Esparza/Photo courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions

 

Golden Boy Promotions on Wednesday announced it has signed 2012 U.S. Olympian Marlen Esparza to a promotional contract.

Esparza, of Pasadena, Texas, won the bronze medal at flyweight in the 2012 London Games, but she lost in the 2016 Olympic Trials. She’s 27.

“I am excited to get back into the ring as soon as possible and start climbing the ladder toward winning a professional title,” Esparza said.

Esparza has an endorsement with CoverGirl and has also done Spanish-language commercials for the likes of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

“Before she ever steps foot into the ring as a professional, Marlen Esparza has already established herself as a rising star,” said Oscar De La Hoya, CEO and chairman of Golden Boy. “At Golden Boy Promotions, we pride ourselves on developing fighters and transforming them into the best of the best. We look forward to doing the same with Marlen.”

Esparza was introduced by De La Hoya at Wednesday’s news conference at the Fabulous Forum for Bernard Hopkins and Joe Smith Jr. They will tangle in the light heavyweight main event there Saturday (on HBO).

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Bernard Hopkins, 51, still an intimidating force – at a news conference

Bernard Hopkins/Associated Press photo by Matt Rourke

 

Bernard Hopkins is the king of trying to win fights at news conferences. Even at 51, that hasn’t changed.

Hopkins and Joe Smith Jr. on Wednesday played host to a news conference at the Fabulous Forum ahead of their light heavyweight main event there Saturday night (on HBO).

This will be the final fight of Hopkins’ illustrious career, one that has spanned 28 years and included titles in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Smith, of Long Island, N.Y., has said all along that he is honored to be involved in Hopkins’ swan song.
Smith also wants to win, and he let everyone know that as he spoke from the dais.

“I know I’m going to be in there with a legend,” said Smith, 27. “But I work very hard, I’ve put many hours in the gym and a lot of sacrifices to get to this point, to where I am today. I’m just ready to get out there and put on a great show Saturday.

“He is a legend, but when he’s in there with me Saturday night, he’s just another opponent to me and I’m looking to get him out of there and stop him, be the first person to stop him in his career.”

Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), who will be 52 next month, wasn’t about to get that go without talking some serious trash. It included a reference to Kelly Pavlik, who Hopkins easily defeated in October 2008 at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Pavlik was middleweight champion at the time.

Pavlik went back down to middleweight, defended his title two more times before losing it to Sergio Martinez. Pavlik, who had all kinds of personal issues, fought four more times and won all four bouts, the final one coming at the tender age of 30.

“I’m not going to wish the Kelly Pavlik on him (Smith),” said Hopkins, insinuating he ruined Pavlik’s career. “But what I’m going to do is, I’m going to spank him, teach him his ABCs and then send him back to Long Island, up the road from Philadelphia.

“And then one day, if he recovers mentally … mentally, then he might have something to salvage and go forward. See, that’s what I’m about. I’m a career-stopper to most of my opponents that talk like that.”

Interestingly, Smith (22-1, 18 KOs) had a strange look in his eyes, like he didn’t know what to make of Hopkins and his intimidation tactics.

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Jason Quigley stoked to have cracked the top 15 in middleweight division

Jason Quigley would seem to be getting relatively close to fighting for a world title/Photo courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions

 

Anyone who has followed the career of Jason Quigley knows there is a strong chance the middleweight from Ireland will eventually win a major world title. He recently cracked the top 15 rankings – he’s ranked No. 14 by one organization – so he is well on his way.

Quigley, 25, on Saturday will attempt to continue his rise when he takes on Jorge Melendez (30-7-1, 28 KOs) of Puerto Rico. They’ll tangle underneath the light heavyweight main event between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Smith Jr. at the Fabulous Forum (on HBO).

Quigley on Tuesday via telephone spoke in excited tones about his ranking.

“That’s exactly where I want to be,” he said. “This is the stage of a career that I’m at, these are the steps that I want to be taking. And it’s all happening at the right time and at the perfect moment. I’m starting to climb that ladder, I’m getting my foot on the ladder and getting my feet in the door of the top 15 world rankings.”

Quigley realizes that along with being ranked comes more scrutiny.

“People are going to start seeing my name now, people are going to start recognizing me,” he said. “And people are going to start saying, ‘Who’s this kid?’ It’s up to me now to show everybody who I am, what I am and what I’m going to do.”

Quigley (11-0, 9 KOs) is now eligible to fight for a world title, but he’s still probably a couple of fights from that.

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