Archives for the month of: November, 2010

Kelly Pavlik faces a new battle outside of the ropes.

By Johnny Walker 

Back in 2008, when middleweight champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik, 28, of Youngstown, Ohio, defeated ex-champ Jermain Taylor for the second time, his future prospects in boxing seemed limitless.

Pavlik was set to be boxing’s newest American superstar, a working class kid from small town USA made good. 

Soon he had his own line of Affliction t-shirts, and was looked upon by the boxing community in the US as a possible savior for the sport, someone who could elevate boxing from its current niche status back into the mainstream.  

Losses to Bernard Hopkins in 2008 and to Sergio Martinez earlier this year dimmed Pavlik’s star, however, and rumors began to circulate that all was not well in his personal life, although these rumors were constantly denied by those around Pavlik. 

When Pavlik pulled out of a fight with Brian Vera on the undercard of the recent Manny Pacquiao – Antonio Margarito contest, the chatter about Pavlik having a problem reached a deafening pitch.

Now comes the news that Pavlik has checked into the Betty Ford Center in California to deal with alcohol abuse issues. 

People around boxing, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, have known about Pavlik’s issues with the bottle for a long time.  “Pavlik’s drinking problems are widely known in boxing even though nobody on his team will say it publicly.  But it is a major problem,” Rafael said during an online chat on November 5. 

After all the denials, however, the latest word from Pavlik’s team that their fighter is not only in rehab, but may be done with boxing for good.

Apparently an 8-hour intervention-like “conversation” between Pavlik, his parents, and his wife, Samantha, led to the fighter’s decision to check himself into rehab.  According to Pavlik’s father, Mike, his son was unable to handle the fame that came with being the middleweight champion.

“I’m not complaining about him winning the title, but it was instant stardom after that and the demands on his life became so hard and so intense that he couldn’t deal with it,” the senior Pavlik told Yahoo Sports.  “Everywhere he went, everyone wanted to buy the champ a beer. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone or say no and it wound up causing him a pretty serious problem.”

Pavlik’s recent career trajectory is almost certainly linked to his alcohol problem: according to co-manager Cameron Dunkin, this is Pavlik’s second stint in rehab this year, the first being a two-week stay at Betty Ford shockingly only 10 days before he lost his WBC and WBO middleweight titles to Martinez.

Now, Pavlik plans to stay in rehab as long as it takes to correct his behavior.

“Three months, six months, whatever it takes, he’s going to do it,” said Dunkin, who also admitted, “I don’t know if he’ll ever fight again.”

Ruslan Chagaev (l), had all he could handle from Travis Walker

By Johnny Walker

Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekistan, the mandatory contender for David Haye’s WBA heavyweight title, barely got by tough American journeyman Travis Walker Friday night in a fan-friendly, eight-round “tune-up” scrap in Hamburg, Germany.

Those who like to loudly bemoan the lack of back and forth action in today’s heavyweight division surely would have been silenced by the aggressive tactics of both Chagaev and Walker.  Chagaev, who has been talking up an upcoming 2011 contest with Britain’s controversial “Hayemaker,” had the most to lose coming in to this bout, and Walker did his best to take advantage of that.

Chagaev started well in rounds one and two, showing why he formerly held the belt that now resides around David Haye’s waist.  Showing fast hands and moving well, the southpaw Chagaev established a pattern of landing flush lead lefts to Walker’s face, and also backed up the American with some lightning fast combos.

Walker, as round two progressed, eventually started to get some rhythm going, and thudded a cracking uppercut into Chagaev’s sturdy chin in what would become a pattern of his own.

With Walker’s excitable and vociferous corner yelling for “right hands!” to the point of distraction in round three, it was Chagaev who landed a nifty uppercut of his own, followed by a flurry of lefts and rights.  Round four saw both fighters winging hard shots, most of which were blocked by gloves, with Chagaev again landing a thudding lead left near the end of the round.

The fifth round was one of the best in the fight: Walker came out aggressive, landing those “right hands” his corner had been begging for.  In what could be seen as an ominous sign for a future matchup with Haye, Chagaev proved vulnerable to repeated uppercuts, as Walker bullied the smaller man around the ring.  Yet another hard lead left from Chagaev only momentarily halted Walker’s progress, and both men flurried to end the round.

Rounds six and seven saw Chagaev, who looked a bit soft at 232, rapidly tiring from the fight’s hectic pace, while Walker got a second wind.  The superior upper body movement Chagaev displayed when handing giant Russian Nicolay Valuev his first loss (lifting the WBA title from him to boot) was now nowhere to be seen, and Walker took full advantage, muscling Chagaev into the corners and teeing off on him with hard shots.

The fight was very close (I had it dead even) heading into the last round, and Walker tried to keep up the pressure.  Chagaev, sensing that his title shot against Haye could be in jeopardy, started winging wild punches in the hope of taking Walker out.  Finally, both men were exhausted, having given the heavyweight division the kind of competitive fight it could use more of.

Chagaev, as the “hometown” favorite (he fights out of Germany), got the benefit of the doubt from the judges, who saw it 78-75, 77-75 and 77-76 in his favor (I scored it a draw).  Walker, however, gave a very good account of himself on this night.

The result now sets Chagaev up for a showdown with Haye . . . or does it? 

According to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, “I don’t see Haye going to Germany for that fight. He has the title and is much bigger in the UK than Chagaev is in Germany.”

“However,” Rafael continued, “I would be surprised if Chagaev is licensed in the UK because of his positive hepatitis tests. The medicals are tougher in the UK than Germany. That would make this a big mess.  It may have to go to a purse bid and if Chagaev’s side wins, it would probably be put in Germany, but I’d be surprised if Chagaev’s side won a purse bid if there was one.  Haye can bid much more because of the greater revenue he supplies from UK television.”

Stay tuned.

(www.streetbeatboxing.com)

“Just you and me pal!” 

By Johnny Walker

WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko has once again thrown down the gauntlet to his trash talking nemesis, WBA heavyweight king David Haye.

As controversy continues to swirl around the Hayemaker in the aftermath of last Saturday’s farcical title fight between Haye and the hapless Audley “A-Force” Harrison, Klitschko has offered to fight Haye next spring in a 50-50 deal, anywhere in the world where the fight makes the most financial sense.

“I hear about the great venue of Madison Square Garden for this fight,” Klitschko offered. “But I’m ready to fight in Germany, the United States or Great Britain.” 

“Wherever the most money is on the table,” he continued, “let’s fight in this place.”

Conventional wisdom as to which Klitschko brother would be the best bet for David Haye in terms of winning the fight has changed in the last few years.  Initially, it was thought Wladimir, because of his supposedly soft chin, would be more vulnerable than his iron-chinned older brother.

Then, after Vitali looked a bit jaded in fights with Kevin Johnson and Albert Sosnowski (even though he barely dropped a round in either bout), the thinking was that maybe he was finally slowing down, while Wlad, after annihilating top American contender Eddie Chambers, and then doing the same to ex-champion Samuel Peter, was firmly in his prime.

That was before Vitali hospitalized ex-champion Shannon Briggs, again giving boxing’s big thinkers pause—maybe the elder Klitschko brother is not quite over the hill after all?

At any rate, Klitschko manager Bernd Boente today made it clear that while either Klitschko brother is willing to consider fighting Haye in England, they are not about to let the WBA champion call all the shots.

“If England is where we can make the most money, then we’ll go there”, Boente told BoxingScene.com.  “But the fight will happen where we can make the most money. If Haye is going to tell us that it can only happen in England, then we will never agree to start negotiations. A negotiation is where everyone comes to the table with open minds and together they make a deal. But if he is going to start telling us what to do, the fight won’t happen.”

The Klitschkos are indeed champs—and it seems that they are not about to be treated as chumps.

By Johnny Walker

“Legitimizing every criticism ever made against him, the man known in the UK media as “Fraudley” and “A-Farce” took the money and ran, exiting the arena in a big hurry after doing a very good impression of a statue for three rounds.”

I wrote those words after watching Saturday’s WBA heavyweight title fight from Manchester, UK, between David Haye and Audley Harrison, not yet knowing of the furor that would erupt soon after the Haye won by stoppage in the third round.

Today, the UK media is buzzing with stories of possible unethical behavior by Haye and Harrison: Haye, for possibly carrying Harrison until the third round because of gambling wagers he, friends and family members had placed, and Harrison for his deer-in-the-headlights, shameful non-effort after weeks of confident pre-fight trash talking.

According to The Sun newspaper,  Haye told a reporter after the fight, “I had a lot of money on the third round as did my friends and family – so I didn’t want to let them down by doing it too early.”

This statement possibly answers the question of why Haye fought almost as negatively as the frozen, near-comatose Harrison did over the first two rounds, when referee Luis Pabon actually had to admonish the participants to stop staring at each other and feinting and to start trading punches.

Yet in the third round, with Harrison still doing almost nothing, Haye turned on the heat momentarily and easily finished off “A-Farce” in a way that suggested he could have done this at any time, including the first minute of the fight. 

Given all of Harrison’s confident talk about “fulfilling his destiny” leading up to the fight, his total lack of effort seemed mysterious.  Now, in light of Haye’s gambling admission, more suspicions are being raised, with some fans wondering if an arrangement of some kind between the two former (and future?) friends had been reached before the fight even began.  Some are calling for an investigation into the whole affair, which, if not illegal, certainly has the appearance of being unethical.

Haye is now attempting to walk back his original statement by claiming that he didn’t personally put any money on the fight, but the damage has been done.  Although the British Boxing Board of Control has decided not to punish Haye, the fighter’s reputation has been sullied by this debacle, perhaps in a karmic payback for the Hayemaker’s decision to fight such an unworthy opponent in the first place. 

While Haye chose once again to deride what he sees as the low-quality opposition of the legitimate heavyweight champions after Saturday’s fight, it is not an outlandish proposition to say that either Samuel Peter or Shannon Briggs, the two most recent opponents of heavyweight kings Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, respectively, would have knocked out Harrison long before Haye got around to it on Saturday.

As for Audley Harrison, there seems little doubt that he is finished: who would ever pay to see him fight again after such a dismal showing in the biggest match of his life?  However, the “take the money and run” approach for the hapless Harrison may have hit a snag: as outraged UK boxing fans cry “rip-off,” the British Boxing Board of Control is considering withholding Harrison’s purse, said to be in excess of 1 million British pounds — a lot of money for someone who landed one clean punch over 7 minutes and 53 seconds of (non) action before being stopped. 

Surely all of this turmoil is a far cry from the glories that David Haye himself along with many of his supporters envisioned two years ago, when the Hayemaker entered the heavyweight ranks for good.  Knocking out a man who refuses to fight is not likely to impress anyone outside of Haye’s immediate circle; add to that the appearance of unethical behavior linked to gambling, and Haye’s career trajectory looks to be rapidly headed south.

Haye is still insisting that the Klitschko brothers need him more than he needs them, but after the Harrison farce, and with Haye still tiresomely insisting that he will retire in a year’s time, that no longer seems to be the case (if it ever was).

In fact, a win over one or both Klitschkos may be the only thing that can save David Haye’s heavyweight career from being remembered more for what he didn’t do, than for what he actually accomplished

by Johnny Walker

David Haye successfully defended his WBA paper title today at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, UK,  with a third-round TKO stoppage of Audley “A-Force” Harrison. 

The fight made a mockery of Haye’s criticism, which he repeated again after the fight, that the legitimate heavyweight champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko fight “fat Americans” and “bums” who are supposedly beneath the Hayemaker’s own exceedingly high standards.

In reality, Harrison made the recent efforts of Shannon Briggs and Sam Peter against the Klitschkos look downright heroic in comparison with his own pitiful non-effort against Haye.

Harrison, who talked very big during the lead-up to this farce, came up small when it was time for action.  Legitimizing every criticism ever made against him, the man known in the UK media as “Fraudley” and “A-Farce” took the money and ran, exiting the arena in a big hurry after doing a very good impression of a statue for three rounds.

Haye, who had predicted a third-round KO, was content to do almost as little as Harrison for the first two rounds, both men staring at each other and feinting but exchanging very little in the way of actual punches.  Referee Luis Pabon actually admonished both men to start exchanging at one particularly static point in the fight, as the disgruntled fans in attendance rained down boos upon the ring. 

Haye made good on his prediction in the third round, as Harrison continued his frozen man impression.   A series of hard shots put Audley on the mat, though for some reason (as he surely didn’t want to fight) Harrison beat the count.  Haye then attacked him with another flurry and Pabon mercifully stopped one of the worst heavyweight title fights since … well, since Haye won the WBA title from Nikolay Valuev.

More entertaining than the (non) fight was the hyperbole dished out by the UK Sky Sports announcers.  Jim Watt, notorious in Britain for having called the Haye-Valuev fight for the Russian giant, seemed very eager to make amends for his past sins, raving about Haye’s win as if he had just knocked out a combination of Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson, rather than the anemic Fraudley Harrison.

The only thing funnier than Watt was Haye himself, preening and bigging himself up in the post-fight interview as angry boos still reverberated around the arena.  Pressed about his desire to make a fight with one or both of the Klitschkos happen, Haye finally promised the audience that “those fights will happen next year.” 

Of course, we’ve heard similar promises from the Hayemaker before. 

As for tonight’s fight, if Haye is truly serious about retiring in a year’s time, this was a tragic waste of his remaining time in the sport– and of the paying customers’ hard-earned money.

David Haye (l) faces off with Audley Harrison

By Johnny Walker

When WBA heavyweight champion David “Hayemaker” Haye enters the ring against fellow Brit Audley “A-Force” Harrison on Saturday in Manchester, it will be almost exactly two years since the Hayemaker landed with a loud splash in the heavyweight division, the former cruiserweight champ promising to shake things up in a way not seen since the arrival of Mike Tyson.

Haye contended that the recognized champions, brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, were ruining heavyweight boxing by “fighting bums” and dominating all the competition in such as way as to turn off the general sports fan who might otherwise give boxing a look-in.

Haye was going to change all that, he vowed. 

Since stopping American Monte Barrett in a sloppy fight, however, David Haye has utterly failed to make good on his loud and oft-repeated promise of heavyweight domination.  Instead, the last two years since that 2008 tilt have seen Haye fight infrequently (only once in 2009, with this Saturday’s fight being his second in 2010), but talk almost non-stop, taking a break from the trash-talking verbosity only when the Klitschkos are looking for their next opponents, when Haye falls uncharacteristically silent.

After pulling out of a signed fight with Wladimir with a highly dubious “back injury,” and then bailing on a fight with Vitali at the very last minute with the contracts ready to be signed, Haye undertook a 2009 scrap against Russian giant Nicolay Valuev, wherein he lifted Valuev’s lightly regarded WBA title (which rightly belonged to Ruslan Chagaev).  For all of Haye’s yapping about bringing excitement, this was one of the worst heavyweight title fights of recent times, making Wladimir Klitschko’s less-than-scintillating 2008 unification fight with the now-retired Sultan Ibragimov look like Ali-Frazier III.

Haye spent most of the fight running away from Valuev, who remarked later that he “didn’t know he was going to a track meet.”  Claiming that he hurt his hand early in the fight, Haye produced a far less compelling “win” (even UK-based Sky Sports analyst Jim Watt called the fight for Valuev) against the giant than did Chagaev when he handed Valuev his first loss and took his WBA title in 2007, and didn’t even look as good as the ancient Evander Holyfield did in losing to Valuev in 2008.

Haye, it seemed, was more talk than substance, at least as a heavyweight.

Since taking Valuev’s title, Haye has spent most of his time not in the ring, but in front of various reporter’s tape machines, antagonizing the Klitschko brothers.  His litany of excuses for ducking fights with the Ukrainians has become somewhat of a running joke among non-UK boxing fans (and even among the more discerning and objective of the Brits as well). 

“Slave contracts” supposedly on offer from the Klitschkos’ K-2 Productions is one excuse that Haye loves to return to again and again, even though he gave Sauerland Event and Don King Productions options on at least three of his fights in order to get the title shot at Valuev.  Haye supposedly abhors the idea of rematch clauses, but he still included one in the contract he gave to his next opponent, Audley Harrison.  

When offered a 50-50 worldwide split with no options and no rematch clauses to fight either Klitschko brother, Haye then argued about TV rights. 

Meanwhile, the Hayemaker’s first title defence was against the ageing John Ruiz, a battle-scarred veteran with one foot out the door who, embarrassingly for Haye, didn’t even bother to go to London to promote the fight.  Haye prevailed with a TKO stoppage, but Ruiz hit him hard and fairly easily, exposing flaws that the Klitschkos no doubt would exploit to more devastating effect. 

Ruiz promptly retired after the payday against the Hayemaker.

With the Klitschkos coming off of impressive destructions of their recent opponents, ex-champions Sam Peter (Wlad) and Shannon Briggs (Vitali), the Hayemaker is now under pressure to produce something similar in his next title defense.  Yet even if he destroys Harrison on Saturday, Haye is unlikely to impress the fans to whom he made such extravagant promises two years ago.

Audley Harrison, after all, is a running joke in his own country, a chronic underachiever nicknamed “A-Farce” and “Fraudley” in the British press. 

Haye has taken the easy path here — he hopes.  He is going to make good money, and hopefully put on a show against a fighter who has accomplished very little at all since winning a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics.  But even a destruction of Harrison isn’t going to placate boxing fans around the world who expected so much more of David Haye.  And a loss to Harrison would destroy Haye’s credibility entirely.

Haye versus Harrison, then, isn’t so much an international boxing event, but what Wladimir Klitschko more accurately called “the London championship,” a bout of mainly local interest. 

Or perhaps, given the beverage of choice in England, we might call it, “The Tempest in a Teacup.”

David Tua (l), knocked down for the first time in his career by Monte Barrett in his last fight.

By Johnny Walker

Heavyweight contender David “Tuamanator” Tua of New Zealand still hopes to get a shot at some version of the heavyweight title.  Tua, 37, known for his lethal left hook and iron chin, was shockingly knocked down for the first time in his long career last time out in July against heavy underdog American Monte Barrett in Atlantic City. 

Tua later claimed that a shoulder injury had prevented him from properly preparing for the bout, an exciting draw that many fans felt Tua had actually lost. 

According to Tua’s promoter Cedric Kushner, the Tuamanator plans to fight twice more before challenging for a world title (if all goes well, that is).   Possible future bouts include a Barrett rematch (which Tua would certainly have to win by knockout in order to make up for last time), and fights with Hasim Rahman and/or (say it ain’t so!) Evander Holyfield

Many have jumped off the Tua bandwagon after the Barrett fight, and it remains to be seen if wins against ageing opposition like this will get them back on board. 

With Tua giving up considerable size, a fight against one of current champs Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine seems like a suicide mission; Britain’s David Haye might be a better prospect for Tua, but the WBA paper champ is adamant that he is retiring in a year’s time, not leaving Tua enough time to get in his much-needed preparation bouts.

Javier Capetillo and Antonio Margarito

By Johnny Walker

The “Bible of Boxing,” The Ring magazine, has just published an in-depth interview with Javier Capetillo, disgraced ex-trainer of Antonio Margarito

With the Margarito – Manny Pacquiao fight only days away, the until-now silent Capetillo responds to Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach’s allegations that Margarito had been using illegal hand wraps in previous fights with Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron: ““I respect Freddie Roach … He’s a great trainer, but someone needs to tell him to stop being an a__hole” says Capetillo. “I thought he was a friend before the Mosley fight. He was always friendly, but since the incident, all he’s done is run his mouth.”

Capetillo goes on to deny that Margarito’s signature wins were the product of anything but the fighter’s own talent.  “I think Freddie knows we didn’t cheat in any of those fights,” he says. “What he’s doing now is selling the controversy. He’s selling it to the media, the media is running with it and the public is buying it.”

As for the illegal wraps that were found before Margarito’s KO loss to “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Capetillo says he was panicked by his fighter’s drastic efforts to make weight for the fight — which left Margarito drained, weak and ill, with flu-like symptoms — leading him to make a mistake: “It was too late to pull out of the fight. But I want to make it clear that I did not plan what happened. Maybe I was feeling the pressure of the fight and not paying attention to what I was doing when I reached into my bag and grabbed the training gauze, but I didn’t do it on purpose.”

Capetillo makes it clear that he still has great admiration for his former pupil, and picks him to stop the Pac-man: “Tony has never fought with anything illegal in his gloves. He won’t have anything in his gloves on Saturday, they’ll make sure of that, and he’ll beat Pacquiao.”

Wladimir Klitschko (l), and Dereck Chisora

By Johnny Walker

According to the UKPA, British heavyweight contender Dereck ‘Del Boy’ Chisora has avoided a jail sentence for an assault on his ex-girlfriend. 

Chisora was given a suspended sentence for the assault, and was given a lecture by District Judge Quentin Purdy: “Your behaviour on May 28 was disgraceful and downright humiliating. You used violence on this young lady and then to heap ignominy on her you turned her over and slapped her on the bottom repeatedly,” said the judge.  “You clearly have a problem with violence and that has got to stop or your career will be over.” 

That last bit of advice is a bit ironic, considering how Chisora makes his living: perhaps the judge should have said, “Limit your violence to the ring against people your own size, like Wladimir Klitschko.”

Heavyweight champ Klitschko will be relieved to hear of Chisora’s verdict, as their fight on December 11 had been in jeopardy pending the court’s decision.  Chisora, however, may be longing for a nice, safe jail cell in London when Klitschko starts dishing out those left jabs and right crosses on December 11.