DEONTAY WILDER BRINGS THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BACK TO AMERICA

Bermane Stiverne vs Deontay Wilder

And the new WBC Heavyweight World Champion….

America finally has its heavyweight world champion as Alabama’s Deontay Wilder dethroned defending champion Bermane Stiverne via unanimous decision (118-109, 119-108, 120-107) Saturday on SHOWTIME® from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs), who had never fought past the fourth round and had knocked out all 32 of his professional opponents, boxed brilliantly behind a stellar jab to become the first U.S.-born heavyweight champion in nearly a decade.  The towering 6-foot-7 Tuscaloosa native capitalized on his reach advantage, jabbing consistently to set up a powerful straight right.

Fighting on Hall of Famer Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday, Wilder became the first undefeated American heavyweight champion since Michael Moorer in 1994 and the first American champion since Shannon Briggs won the crown in 2006.

“I’m just excited and happy to bring this belt back to America,” Wilder said.  “It’s going to mean a lot. I think I answered a lot of questions tonight.  We knew we could go 12 rounds.  We knew we could take a punch.  We knew we could do it.”

Bermane Stiverne vs Deontay Wilder

Heading into the first heavyweight championship fight at MGM Grand since the infamous Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield ear bite in 1997, there were questions from boxing insiders if Wilder, who had never been truly tested, could handle the power of a true heavyweight and last in the later rounds.  But Wilder answered those questions with a disciplined game plan, landing more than double the total punches and throwing 420 jabs to Stiverne’s 139.

“When I saw he could take a great punch we knew we were in for the long run.  Twelve rounds is nothing.  I want to bring excitement back to the heavyweight division.  Whoever is ready, I’m ready.”

Stiverne (24-2-1, 21 KOs) was able to stagger Wilder with a few shots, but he did not throw enough jabs or cut off the ring effectively.  Wilder was allowed to circle the ring and pop his jab at will.  Stiverne landed just 39 jabs compared to Wilder’s 120.

“It wasn’t my night,” Stiverne said.  “I felt 100 percent before the fight but once I got in the ring I couldn’t cut the ring, I couldn’t move my head like I usually do.  What can I say?  Congrats to him.

“I knew I was trying to throw combos of four or five punches and I could only throw two of them.  I just felt like I was flat in the ring.  What I know I could do I didn’t do.  I just have to go back and learn from my mistakes and find out what happened tonight.”

WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz defended his crown for the fourth time with an eighth-round TKO of Jesus Ruiz and afterword called out fellow champions Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux in the co-feature of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING.

The early rounds were close and competitive and Ruiz, a heavy underdog, seemed to be a tougher test than he looked on paper.  But it was clear that Santa Cruz was landing the cleaner shaper punches.  The former bantamweight world champion landed some meaningful shots and had Ruiz in trouble in the seventh and, for the first time, it appeared that he could finish Ruiz.

Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 KOs) came out blazing in the eighth, landed a big right cross to kick off the round and continued to tee-off on the challenger.  In trouble against the ropes and not fighting back, referee Kenny Bayless jumped in and stopped the bout with Ruiz (32-6-5, 21 KOs) still on his feet at :29 of the eighth round.  The champion landed 43 percent of his total punches and nearly 50 percent of his power punches, while landing an impressive 73 power shots to the body.

“Like I expected, it was a war,” Santa Cruz said.  “He came prepared.  We hurt him and we didn’t let the chance go away.  We kept going after him and we stopped him.  I hurt him with the right hand.  I knew he was hurt so I went after him.  I knew Kenny Bayless would stop it because he wasn’t throwing punches.

“I want the best and I want to please the fans.  I want (Abner) Mares, I want (Guillermo) Rigondeaux. Hopefully our next fight is against one of the best.”

Ruiz, who only landed 22 percent of his total punches, disagreed with the stoppage.

“I want a rematch,” Ruiz said.  “I don’t feel they should have stopped the fight, but I have to accept it.  But I’m fine.  Look at me – I’m not cut. He didn’t even drop me.”

In the opening bout of the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast, undefeated super lightweight Amir Imam floored Fidel Maldonado Jr. four times and scored a fifth-round TKO in a brawl that featured five total knockdowns.

Maldonado was the busier fighter, but Imam floored the Albuquerque resident for the fourth time in his career with a short right just a moment before the bell rang to end the second.  Then, in an early candidate for Round of the Year that featured three knockdowns, Maldonado responded by knocking down Imam for the first time in his career 30 seconds into the third with a solid straight left.  Imam bounced back and sent Maldonado to the canvas with a huge right with 20 seconds left in the third and then again with a straight right as part of a vicious attack with less than 10 seconds left in the round.

The action continued and Imam (16-0, 14 KOs) floored Maldonado for the fourth time in the fight with a short right followed by a left hook just seconds before the bell to close the fifth.  Maldonado (19-3, 16 KOs) got up but was wobbling and referee Robert Byrd halted the contest at 2:59.  Imam’s power was the difference, landing 50 percent of his power shots.

“It was a tough knockdown, but champions get up and finish the fight hard and that’s what I did,” Imam said.  “I just had to stay composed and do what I had to do.  “I started timing him.  When I hit him with that good shot he was out.  I could see it.  That was the rope-a-dope.  I was swinging for the fences and that was it, baby.

“I’m ready for the title shot right now.  I just want to fight for the title.”

Four of the five knockdowns occurred with less than 30 seconds left in each round.  After the fight, Maldonado admitted that he simply failed to protect himself when the rounds were winding down.

“I just got caught with a couple of punches,” Maldonado said.  “He kept his composure and he came out with the W.  I just got caught.  I got lazy in there and he capitalized.  He was the better man tonight.  I got kind of bored at the end of the rounds and I paid for it.”

In the main event of SHOWTIME BOXING on SHO EXTREME, undefeated light heavyweight prospect Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (12-0, 10 KOs) kept his perfect record intact with a thoroughly convincing TKO victory of Garrett Wilson (13-9-1, 7 KOs).

Shabranskyy kept his distance and was very effective; landing 48 percent of his power shot and threw more than 60 punches in each round.  The Ukrainian prospect scored a knockdown with a right in the closing seconds of the second and another with a clean right in the final 10 seconds of the eighth, sending Wilson face first to the canvas.  Wilson beat the count but was saved by the bell as Shabranskyy unloaded more than a dozen consecutive punches.

The durable Wilson took a tremendous beating in the ninth and seemingly didn’t land a punch, forcing referee Jay Nady to stop the bout after the ninth upon suggestion of the ringside physician.

In the opening bout of the SHO EXTREME telecast, heavyweight Eric Molina (23-2, 17 KOs) defeated Raphael Zumbano (32-9-1, 25 KOs) via eighth round TKO in a one-sided affair.

Molina, who landed 76 percent of his power shots and more than 50 percent of his total punches, was connecting at will when referee Russell Mora halted the contest at 1:28 of the eighth.

 

 

A Birthday Like No Other

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

A suggestion from a writer and broadcaster who’s been around too long to feign emotional detachment: Deontay Wilder, should you score the most meaningful win by an American heavyweight in an elephant’s memory, elevate yourself during your post-fight interview by acknowledging Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday.

For that matter, the same suggestion goes for Bermane Stiverne, should HE be victorious tonight.

What Ali has meant to heavyweight history, of course, pales in comparison to a much wider significance. It’s been 33 years since Ali last fought, but go see the movie “Selma,” which details a critical chapter in the civil rights movement … or fast-forward to a week ago and consider the overwhelming gathering of humanity on the streets of Paris in support of free speech.

What you can’t help but realize is that what Ali boldly and unapologetically stood for …and fought for … not only made him unique in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but keeps him relevant today.

Like millions of other baby-boomers, I grew up watching Muhammad Ali and the fights that made the world stop and watch in wonder: wins against Liston … and Frazier … and Foreman … and Norton … and all the others.

I was lucky enough to cover his last two fights, both of which turned out to be sad LOSSES.

Regardless, Ali is the best heavyweight of all-time. But what makes him “The Greatest” is only PARTLY explained by what he gave of himself in the ring.

Happy birthday, champ.

You’re gonna live forever.

Frazier Ellis Ali Louis Patterso

All-Time Longest Kayo Streaks

Deontay Wilder

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Deontay Wilder, who will challenge WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane Stiverne on Saturday night, has built the fourth-longest kayo streak in boxing history. A kayo of Stiverne will tie him for third on the all-time list.

The leaders:

1. Lamar Clark (heavyweight) 44 1958-’60

2. Billy Fox (light heavyweight) 36 1943-’47

3. Bob Allotey (bantamweight) 33 1957-’64

4. DEONTAY WILDER (heavyweight) 32 2008-present

4. Wilfredo Gomez (jr. featherweight) 32 1974-’81

6. Jose M. Urtain (heavyweight) 30 1968-’70

7. Alfonso Zamora (bantamweight) 29 1973-’77

7. Acelino Freitas (jr. light/lightweight) 29 1995-’01

9. Carlos Zarate (bantamweight) 28 1974-’78

Timber! Why Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder is a Pick-‘em Fight

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

Forget the joy of contracting frostbite at Times Square. This is the way to bring in the New Year.

On Saturday night, WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane Stiverne will defend against unbeaten Deontay Wilder in what will surely stand among the most anticipated and significant fights of 2015.

Stiverne-Wilder will be the first heavyweight title fight broadcast on SHOWTIME in more than six years, or since Vitali Klitschko defeated Sam Peter in Berlin.

Should Wilder win, he’ll become the first American heavyweight titlist since Joe Louis.

Well, that’s not quite accurate, but it sure seems that way.

Stiverne-Wilder is an explosive showdown of punchers. It’s not difficult to make an argument for both fighters.

Bermane Stiverne and Don King

WHY STIVERNE WILL KNOCK OUT WILDER

1. DIFFERENT LEVEL: A rise in class? Given the quality of his victims to date, Wilder will be attempting to jump from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. Stiverne has proven his toughness in twice beating legit contender Chris Arreola. Wilder, on the other hand, has scored 32 kayos in 32 fights, steamrolling mostly overmatched or overaged opponents. A scary thought: For the challenger, it’s late in the game to be facing the first heavyweight who actually has a chance to beat him.

2. HEARING BELLS: The curse of a puncher: Wilder’s never been past four rounds. Stiverne’s been eight rounds or longer four times. What happens if the bell rings for round nine or 10? Wilder’s always in top shape, but until you’ve done it …

3. MOTIVATION: Wilder has much to prove, but this is Stiverne’s chance to validate his status as a titlist. Moreover, Wlad Klitschko is universally regarded as the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, and a win over Wilder could land Stiverne a megamillion-dollar unification bout vs. Dr. K.

4. TAKING IT: Wilder hasn’t proven his ability to absorb punishment because he’s rarely been touched, much less struck. In October 2010, he was dropped by an uppercut in a bout vs. a sub-.500 fighter named Harold Sconiers. It’s a safe assumption that Stiverne hits harder than Sconiers.

5. UNHAPPY NEW YEAR: On January 1, Ohio State upset Alabama by a score of 42-35 in the College Football Playoffs Semifinals.

Wilder is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Deontay Wilder

WHY WILDER WILL KNOCK OUT STIVERNE

1. SIZE-WISE: Wilder has an advantage in height, reach, and athleticism. He can box at a distance that will trouble Stiverne. In fact, that’ll probably be his exact game plan. Look for Stiverne to walk in with his hands held high, and Wilder to at least initially limit the power exchanges and gladly bank rounds. If the fight indeed ends by kayo, Wilder will likely be ahead on points at the time of the stoppage.

2. FINISHING TOUCH: Criticize the quality of Wilder’s opposition if you choose (and most of us choose to do exactly that), but the fact remains that he’s kayoed 32 consecutive opponents. Anyone who doubts the legitimacy of his power is making a mistake in judgment. If Wilder’s right hand lands first, Stiverne might not have the opportunity to land at all.

3. WHO’S MOVING UP?: Sure, Wilder’s never faced anybody the quality of Stiverne. But remove Arreola from the defending titlist’s record and Stiverne has beaten up on the same caliber of opposition. In fact, Stiverne has never faced anybody quite like Wilder either.

4. BUSY IS BEST: Wilder’s been far more visible, and that feeds both his confidence and sharpness. Conversely, Stiverne is a graduate of the Andre Ward/Mikey Garcia School of Ring Activity: Only one fight in 2014. Only one fight in 2013. Only one fight in 2012 …

Enjoy the fight. And don’t dare blink!

IVAN REDKACH BLASTS YAKUBU AMIDU IN FIRST SHOBOX OF 2015

Ivan Redkach vs Yakubu Amidu

Undefeated prospect Ivan Redkach (18-0, 14 KOs) was impressive in a sixth-round knockout victory over Yakubu Amidu (19-6-2, 17 KOs), who failed to get off his stool following the sixth round in Friday’s main event of ShoBox: The New Generation from Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.

Working for the first time with new trainer Robert Garcia, Redkach, of Los Angeles by way of Ukraine, started out slow as he found his range, with the durable Amidu handling his power in the opening rounds. Amidu, of Los Angeles by way of Ghana, started slow but picked up the pace in the fourth and then was docked a point by referee Ray Corona for repeated low blows in the fifth.

Amidu, who had never been knocked down in 26 professional fights, suffered two knockdowns in the sixth, with the first coming after a quick right followed by a hard left and the second after an onslaught of power punches. Amidu barely beat the count both times, but he simply couldn’t handle the power of Redkach, who landed 45 percent of his power punches.

“I was getting ready to knock him out,” Redkach said.  “I was going to finish him before his corner stopped the fight.  I would have finished him in the next round.

“I hadn’t been in the ring for sixth months, so I had to feel him out in the beginning before we attacked,” said Redkach. “That was the game plan with Robert Garcia.  I was in perfect physical condition. I will be a world champion very soon.  That is my dream.”

Amidu complained that a leg injury was the reason he quit on his stool.

“I hurt my knee in the last round when I fell on it,” Amidu said.  “I was OK after the knockdown, but when I stood up I felt something in my knee.  I didn’t stop fighting because of the punches; I stopped because I hurt my knee.”

While Amidu complained of a hurt knee after the fight, the California State Athletic Commission stated that the bout was stopped due to punches.  By rule, the commission rules that a knockout.

SHOWTIME Analyst Steve Farhood was impressed by Redkach, who has been labeled by many boxing pundits as a hot prospect to watch.

“It was a very impressive victory because Amidu had never been down and had fought much better opposition,” Farhood said.  “It’s not that Redkach beat him, it’s the way he beat him.  When Redkach debuted on ShoBox we billed him as a lightweight terror and he didn’t really fight that way.  But tonight he fought smart and in the sixth round the terror came out.  He showed he had legitimate power.”

In the co-feature, undefeated junior middleweight prospect Alantez “SlyAza” Fox, of Forestville, MD, kept his undefeated record intact with an eight-round majority decision victory over previously unbeaten Patrick Day, scored 76-76, 78-74, 80-72.

Fox (14-0-1, 4 KOs), who is 6-foot-5, was able to keep Day at distance with his highly effective jab, averaging 54 jabs a round with a total of 436 jabs thrown in just eight rounds. Day (9-1, 5 KOs), who went past six rounds for the first time in his career, wasn’t able to come forward and looked frustrated in later rounds as he entered unchartered territory.

“I was able to land my jab,” said the 22-year-old Fox. “I kept moving and was able to stay off the ropes. I kept him on the outside with my jabs and movement. That definitely was the advantage that I had over him in the fight. It wasn’t just my height that worked; it was my movement and range.

“I was anxious before the fight, but once I was in the ring I settled down,” said Fox, who was making his SHOWTIME debut. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity and am very excited for big things to come.”

Day seemed frustrated with the decision saying, “I think I did enough to win. I think that I landed the better, harder, cleaner, more effective punches.  I thought that’s how professional boxing is scored, but I guess not tonight.  His height wasn’t a huge issue because I still think I won, but it was definitely an obstacle.”

In the ShoBox: The New Generation opening bout, 2012 Olympian Ievgen “Ukrainian Lion” Khytrov (8-0, 8 KOs) remained undefeated with a dominating third-round technical knockout victory over outmatched Maurice “The Natural” Louishomme (8-1-1, 4 KOs).

Khytrov, of Brooklyn, N.Y., by way of Ukraine, controlled the fight from the outset, lighting up Louishomme, of Colorado Springs, Colo., with aggressive right hands and uppercuts to the body that sent Louishomme staggering on multiple occasions in a fight that was entirely one-sided.

Khytrov was highly accurate, landing 53 percent of his power punches, 51 percent of his jabs and 52 percent of his total punches. Referee Ray Corona stopped the fight just 24 seconds into the third round after a hard right from Khytrov sent Louishomme’s mouthpiece flying for the third time and awarded Khytrov the technical knockout.

“I was just concentrating and trying to get some work in,” Khytrov said. “I wasn’t in there just looking for the knockout.  I was looking for chances, but I wasn’t going to force it.  The plan was to get some rounds in and really start pushing in the fourth.

“I’m ready to take on anyone. It’s been hard to get fights, but we’re just going to go home and prepare for the next one.”

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

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

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

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

Both are pressure fighters who could break through in 2015.

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

TODAY’S BEST

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

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

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

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

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

TOMORROW’S STARS

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

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

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

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

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

 

Forward Progress: The First ShoBox Card of 2015

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re talking stud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of talent on this installment of ShoBox. Enjoy!