Boxing in New England By Kirk Lang

Boxing in New England 

By Kirk Lang




Boxing Returns to Connecticut

By Kirk Lang

Boxing returned to Connecticut’s capital city on Friday September 24 – after a lengthy absence due to the Corona Virus / COVID 19 pandemic – with a six-bout card promoted by CES Boxing. The main event saw Greg “The Villain” Vendetti, of Stoneham, MA, win a 10-round decision over New Haven-based CES fighter Jimmy Williams at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Vendetti, 31, earned the nod with clear-cut scores of 99-91 and 97-93 on two judges’ cards.  However, judge Ken Ezzo, somehow had it 96-94 for Williams. Fortunately, two judges paid attention to what transpired in the ring and the right man walked away with the victory. Vendetti also earned the vacant WBC USNBC silver super welterweight title.

“A piece of hardware is always good for the collection,” said Vendetti, who added, “I feel good. I got the job done. I wanted the knockout but what can you do?”

Williams, 35, gave a good account of himself over the first two rounds, but the more aggressive Vendetti – preferring hard left hooks and chopping right hands rather than a steady jab – seemed to take control in the third frame. After nailing Williams with a big hook less than 20 seconds into the round, he followed up with a whirlwind attack with Williams trapped against the ropes. He would continue to land big shots and had the crowd cheering in the final 30 seconds as he let loose with a barrage of leather.

The bearded and heavily tattooed Vendetti continued to impress in rounds five and six, as Williams was unable to land hard stiff jabs to make his opponent think twice about coming forward. He also seemed to forget to follow up his jab with straight right hands or better yet, combinations, that might have curtailed Vendetti’s desire to come at him like a bull.

The seventh-round saw Vendetti trying some big right uppercuts with Williams once again up against the ropes. Williams didn’t do anything in the 8th to try to turn things around. In the first half of the 9th round, Vendetti seemed to rock Williams with a big shot.

In the last minute of the 10th and final round, Williams, 152 ½, let his hands fly a little more, which created some nice two-way action between the two fighters. Williams again got bullied to the ropes, but this time he fired back with equal aplomb, and both fighters’ efforts had dozens standing and cheering them on.

Greg “The Villain” Vendetti

Greg “The Villain” Vendetti

Vendetti, 153, raised his record 23-4-1 (12) while Williams fell to 18-6-2 (6). Williams fell to 18-6-2 (6).

Williams thought his career was back on track in his previous fight, when he defeated former junior middleweight champion Yuri Foreman in June in Atlanta, GA. However, Foreman was 11 years removed from his seven-month championship reign. And with the loss to Vendetti, Williams has only two wins in his last eight fights. Before Vendetti, he was on a two-bout win streak, but before that suffered consecutive defeats, had a draw and had another pair of losses before that.

In the 8-round co-main event, undefeated middleweight on the rise Chordale Booker won a lopsided eight-round decision over Silveiro Ortiz, 157, of Yucatan, Mexico.

Booker, who raised his record to 17-0 (7), was fighting in his home state for the first time. He didn’t get to truly impress, as Ortiz’ strategy to hold and clown around made things a bit ugly. He was twice deducted points, once for hitting behind the head and the second time, in the seventh round, for hitting below the belt.

“I knew he was a veteran type,” said Booker, “Uses his head, punches low. He did what he could to try to survive the fight.”

CES Boxing matchmaker Michael Parente admitted, “Booker had his hands full.”

“Ortiz is a tough veteran who rarely gets stopped and you can see why,” he said. “He’s tricky, elusive and likes to maul his opponents, and when you’re not used to that style it can be frustrating. “

Parente added, “I’m sure Chordale wanted to close it out with a knockout in front of his fans, but this fight will be good for him in the long run. Not every opponent will stand in front of you as a stationary target. They’re all different and he faced a unique one on Friday that I think will be a good lesson going forward.”

Booker was asked who he wants next.

“Whoever wins this next fight (between Williams and Vendetti), I want him next,” he said.

Returning to the ring for the first in nearly two years, featherweight Nathan Martinez, 126, of New Britain, won a unanimous six-round decision over Francisco Dominguez, 126 ½, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The 19-year-old Martinez was simpler busier and more aggressive than the 35-year-old veteran in front of him. He raised his record to 7-1 (2) while Dominguez fell to 7-12-1 (1).

Undefeated Angel Gonzalez, 116, of Hartford, registered the only stoppage of the night when Juan Gabriel Medina, 117, of La Ramona, Dominican Republic, quit on his stool before the start of the fifth round. It was unclear why Gonzalez’ corner informed Dr. Michael Schwartz they were done, as Medina’s fourth round with Gonzalez was fought on even terms. Gonzalez is now 6-0 (4) and Medina dropped to 12-8 (11).

Ramon Caraballo, 146, of New Britain, had a successful pro debut in taking a four-round unanimous decision over Samuel Lajoie-Dery, 146, of Montreal, Canada. Lajoie-Dery came out on a tear in the opening round but after he got hit with a solid straight left in the second frame it made him think twice about attacking so aggressively.  Caraballo followed up with a volley of shots that put Lajoie-Dery on the canvas in center-ring. However, he made it to his feet and finished the round in impressive fashion, connecting with three good straight right hands just before the bell to end the stanza.

Lajoie-Dery also tasted the canvas in the first 30 seconds of the third round. And once again, he came back strong. However, his no quit heart wasn’t enough to win the fight. Caraballo got the nod on all three cards. Two judges had it 38-36 and a third card had it for Caraballo by a score of 38-37.

Carlos Perez, 140, of New Haven, fighting for the first time since 2019, won a unanimous four-round decision over Tyriek Gainey, 134, of Paterson, NJ. All three judges scored it 40-36. Gainey loses his pro debut while Perez rises to 2-0.

In the second swing bout of the night – and the only female match-up – Stevie Jane Coleman, trained by Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame inducted trainer Paul Cichon, also cruised to a unanimous four-round decision by scores of 40-36 on all three cards. “Scary” Christina Barry may have been bigger but she wasn’t better. Coleman bounced back from an unsuccessful pro debut in May, when she suffered a six-round majority decision loss to Kelsey Wickstrum. However, that fight took place in Tennessee. On Friday evening, she refused to lose in her home state, in front of family and dozens of friends. Coleman is now 1-1. Just 20 years old, she has plenty of time to fine-tune her skill set.

The September 24 card marked CES Boxing’s third post-COVID boxing show with fans (There had been a behind-closed-doors event in October 2020), according to Parente, who added he was “thrilled’ with Friday’s turnout.

“There are still restrictions in place to ensure the safety of fans, fighters and staff, but it’s great to see boxing in front of a live audience again,” he said. “I thought the crowd was energetic and amped up throughout the night. This was the first boxing event in Hartford since October 2019. The fans in this area waited a long time and it showed on Friday.”



Arturo “Thunder” Gatti  and  “Bad” Chad Dawson  Lead Connecticut Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2019

Story By Kirk Lang

Photos by Alyssa Lang

The late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, who was dubbed “The Human Highlight Reel” for his blood-and-guts performances and ability to bounce back from the brink of disaster, was posthumously inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame at Mohegan Sun on November 9.

June 7, 2003; Atlantic City, NJ; Arturo Gatti (white trunks) and Mickey Ward (white/red trunks) trade punches during their second fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ.

While no one associated with Gatti was present to accept his induction plaque – trilogy opponent Micky Ward, who usually attends the annual dinner, was home nursing a double ear infection – top notch judge Glenn Feldman, founder and past president of the Hall, read some remarks he sought out from Kathy Duva, of Main Events, Gatti’s former promoter, and Pat Lynch, Gatti’s manager.

Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (R) and Micky Ward (L) engage in one of their memorable ring wars!

“He was an icon, an idol, a legend, an energetic impish presence and a great and loyal friend,” said Duva, who would add that the induction honor was “bittersweet.”

Gatti’s life ended in July 2009 at only 37 years of age under a cloud of controversy. His death was initially treated as a murder, with his Brazilian wife looked at as the prime suspect. A knife and bloody purse strap seemed to implicate her. However, Gatti’s death was subsequently ruled a suicide by Brazilian authorities.

Bad Chad Dawson (R) vs. Antonio Tarver (L).

Though the induction came 10 years after Gatti’s life was cut short, his presence was definitely felt on this night, due in large part to a gigantic banner that Feldman and Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame President John Laudati unveiled and raised to the roof of the Uncas Ballroom.

“This banner will be raised to the roof at the Mohegan Sun Arena,” said Feldman, “Hopefully at the next boxing match.” It featured an image of Gatti and Ward entrenched in battle with the words “Fight of the Century.” That’s not exactly an exaggeration either, since the fight was truly an epic battle, as well as the fact the current century (that of the 21st variety) isn’t even 20 years in yet.

The previous boxing match dubbed “Fight of the Century” took place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier 31 years prior to Gatti-Ward I, in the 20th century.

“Bad” Chad Dawson at Ceremony,

Feldman, reading words from Lynch, said, “Arturo was one of the most special and gifted fighters boxing has ever seen. He was known as the heart and guts warrior and was exactly that.” Lynch added, “Arturo never quit in the ring and he never quit in life.”

Gatti was a modern posthumous inductee along with another legend, referee Arthur Mercante Sr. Mercante Sr. refereed more than 140 title fights across 47 years, and became a judge after retiring as a referee in 2001. The first title bout he worked was the second fight between Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson on June 20, 1960. The most famous bout he worked was the first Ali-Frazier fight, which took place at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. Mercante had many assignments in Connecticut over the years.  One of his children, Arthur Mercante Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps to become a top notch referee.

Mercante noted he inducted his father into the International Boxing Hall of Fame back in 1995.

“And now here I am 24 years later for his induction into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, he said, adding, “It is especially moving because he is still recognized as one of the best referees in the sport.”

Two-time USBA welterweight champion Delvin Rodriguez at ceremony.

Mercante added, “To continue to be recognized by your peers all these years later is quite an accomplishment and my family and I are humbled and thankful for the award, which means another award that my brothers and I will have to fight over.”  Mercante had said early in his speech that the Connecticut award marks his father’s seventh induction into a Hall of Fame.

The living members of the 2019 induction class were former light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson and two-time USBA welterweight champion Delvin Rodriguez. Two other inductees who went in posthumously were Teddy “Redtop” Davis and featherweight Eddie Compo.

Davis, who once took legendary featherweight champion Willie Pep the distance in back-to-back fights in 1948, won the New England lightweight title in Boston in 1953 against George Araujo. He retired in 1960 and passed away in 1966 at 42 years old. The New Haven-based Compo won his first 25 professional fights and eventually fought for the title against Pep in Waterbury in 1949. The match was much anticipated, as Compo boasted an impressive record of 57-1-3 heading into his fight with the featherweight legend. However, Pep recorded a 7th round TKO. Compo retired from the ring in 1955 and finished his career with a 75-10-4 ledger. He passed in 1998 at the age of 69.

Dawson’s entry into the Hall marked the first time in 15 gatherings that an active fighter saw induction, and as such, rather than speaking solely about past glory days, both he and promoter Jimmy Burchfield promised there’s more entertaining fights ahead.
“Chad has given the world of boxing so many thrills throughout the years, and it’s not over yet,” he said. “It’s far from over.”

John Rinaldi, the Publisher of The USA Boxing News receives a roaring ovation when announced at the Hall of Fame dinner.

Six years removed from the last time he held a world title, Dawson is confident he can rise again after some setbacks.

“I’m 37. I’m not that young 23-year-old kid that won that world title back in 2007,” said Dawson. “I’m older, more mature…I just learned so much over the years. When I won my world title I thought I was the man, but I was still a little boy. I’m 37 and I’m still learning how to be a man, still learning every day, learning from my wife, learning from the people around me. People don’t understand that boxing is a dangerous sport. If I told you I wasn’t scared every time I get into that ring I’d be lying to you.”

(L-R)Randy Gordon, CBHOF judge Glenn Feldman and CBHOF President
John Laudati hold the plaque for 2019 CBHOF inductee – the late
Arturo Gatti.

He added, “It’s a dangerous sport and due to recent ring tragedies we just had, you know sometimes I’ve got to second-guess myself and think am I doing the right thing at my age? Should I still be fighting? Should I give it up? But I’ve still got that passion inside me and I still believe I’ve got one more world title inside me and I still can be one of the best fighters in the world.”

As he talked at the podium, Dawson was surrounded by his four children of varying ages – all boys – wearing T-shirts under their suit jackets with images of their father on them. The oldest one, Chad Jr., now 16, earned a bit of fame himself years back when he would accompany his father into the ring in his prime years, throwing educated punches as a toddler that he learned from his champ dad. He and another son now box amateur.

“All four of my boys look up to me,” said Dawson. “They are the greatest gift God gave me.”

Dawson won the light heavyweight title in February 2007 with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tomasz Adamek. He would go on to twice defeat Antonio Tarver as well as Glen Johnson and in October 2011 fought Bernard Hopkins to a no-contest in a bid to become champion again after having lost his light heavyweight crown to Jean Pascal. The fight was initially ruled a TKO victory for Dawson but that result was later ruled a no-contest when it was determined Hopkins was unable to continue after getting thrown from a clinch in the second round. A rematch took place in April 2012 and Dawson dominated the boxing legend en route to a unanimous decision victory. And Hopkins’ career was far from over. Though Dawson gave him fits, Hopkins went on to win the IBF light heavyweight belt, as well as the WBA strap, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, in his late 40s, further cementing his legendary status as one of boxing’s all-time greatest pugilists.  Hopkins won three world titles in his 40s between 2011 and 2014, but he never had his way with Dawson, because at his peak, Dawson was as good as anyone. In fact, The Ring magazine once had him ranked 10th on their pound-for-pound list. However, no less than Floyd Mayweather Jr., once gave him even better praise. During one of his retirements, he proclaimed Dawson the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

Arthur Mercante Jr. accepts award for his deceased dad Arthur Mercante Sr.

Dawson isn’t that young gun anymore but he told everyone assembled at the induction dinner,” Don’t write me off yet. I’ve still got one or two special moments in me.”

The night’s final inductee was Rodriguez, who retired in 2017 with a 29-9-4 record. During his peak, he could always be counted on for truly entertaining fights. A two-time USBA welterweight champion and a regular face of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights broadcasts, he won 19 of his first 22 bouts (one bout in there was a draw).

He would lose his USBA belt to Jesse Feliciano by stoppage in March 2007 but regained the belt in July 2008 with an 11th round TKO of Oscar Diaz in Diaz’ hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Diaz was 26-2 at the time.

In 2008, he tangled with Isaac Hlatshwayo and managed a draw in Hlatshwayo’s home country of South Africa. The two would meet again, this time at Mohegan Sun in August 2009 with the vacant IBF welterweight championship on the line.  It was Rodriguez’ first world title shot. Once again, he fell a tad short, losing a split decision. 

However, the night of his Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame induction, Feldman presented Rodriguez with an IBF championship belt.

Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame Past Inductees gathered at Induction Ceremony.

Feldman told him, “Many people felt you had won one, if not both of your fights against Isaac, and in honor of those two great fights, please accept this IBF world title belt. This is a belt that may have alluded you 10 years ago, but we’re going to make up for that right now, and on behalf of IBF President Daryl Peoples (who was sitting at a nearby table), congratulations.”

Rodriguez was elated to be enshrined among greats such as Marlon Starling, Willie Pep and others, but on a more basic level, he was simply happy to see so many familiar faces again.

“An event like this brings so many memories back to mind,” he said, as he looked out into the crowd and saw referee Johnny Callas, a gym owner who also served as a mentor to Rodriguez as a youth. Rodriguez came to the United States at 8 years old from the Dominican Republic. He also talked about Ishmael “Mike” Salazar, who was a volunteer trainer at the Hat City Boxing Club in Danbury. Salazar passed away in 2016 at the age of 98. Rodriguez, who now does some broadcasting work, also made sure to mention his wife Evelyn, who has been “with me since she was 15.”

He added, “I’ve got so many friends because of boxing. Good friends, bad friends, but you learn. You learn business. I became a businessman because of boxing…Thanks to all the people that surrounded me. There are so many people that couldn’t make it tonight. It is because of everyone that my life turned out the way it is.”

In addition to the inductees, there were five awards presented early in the night. Kevin and Roma Smith received the Amateur Officials of the Year Award; Feldman took home The William Hutt Official of the Year Award; Felix Parilla, who was named the Outstanding Boxer at the New England Tournament of Champions for the second straight year, earned The Roland Roy Amateur Boxer of the Year honors; NABA light heavyweight champion Charles Foster, 29, received the Professional Boxer of the Year award; and Sherman Cain, a longtime writer for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, was presented The George Smith Contribution to Boxing Award.

The night’s Master of Ceremonies was Randy Gordon, former Editor-In-Chief of The Ring magazine, former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, and current host of “At the Fights” on Sirius XM Radio Network. The night began with a cocktail reception just outside the Uncas Ballroom. There was also a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle that earned one lucky winner $895.

Fighter attendees at the 15th annual dinner/induction, included, among others, “Iceman” John Scully, “Poison” Junior Jones, three-division champion Iran Barkley, former ESPN welterweight champion Troy “Schoolboy” Wortham, former IBO super middleweight champion Dana Rosenblatt, former NABF junior welterweight champion “Sucra” Ray Oliveira, former USBA lightweight champion Israel “Pito” Cardona and ex-welterweight king Marlon Starling.

Scully, a regular attendee, told The USA Boxing News, “I love going to the event because I am sure to see someone I have not seen in a long time from my boxing past in the state.”

He added, “I think most guys like me are at the age and time in their boxing career where they really appreciate running into people from days gone by.”

Steven Ike, a local boxing historian and serious autograph collector, said his highlight moment of the night was running into two granddaughters of the late Vic Cardell, a 2007 inductee who fought the likes of Kid Gavilan, Ike Williams, Carmen Basilio and others in the 1950s.

He gave them the only Vic Cardell autograph he had.

“They had never met him (Cardell passed in 1987). I just felt they should have it,” he said. “It made them happy.”

“You’ve got to love the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame,” said referee Danny Schiavone, ‘Because it’s geared toward honoring the great boxing people from around our region.”

Dawson Defeats Grachev

By Kirk Lang

October 11, 2019 – Hartford, CT – Returning to the ring for the second time following a two-year layoff, former light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson looked sharp in taking an eight-round unanimous decision over Russian-born Denis Grachev at the Connecticut Convention Center.

The winner – Chad Dawson.

Dawson took far less punches than he did back in June against Quinton Rankin, who caught him numerous times with straight lefts and dropped him and almost stopped him with a left uppercut in the fifth round of their eight-round affair at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Dawson boxed beautifully against Grachev, even if that meant giving the crowd less action than it hoped for. When Grachev tried to pressure Dawson, the 37-year-old New Haven pugilist sidestepped like a light heavyweight Willie Pep or stepped back just enough to be out of range of the shorter Grachev’s punches.

Former light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson (L) lands a straight left to the jaw of Denis Grachev (R).

Someone in the crowd yelled out “Let’s get this party started,” at the start of the third round, apparently displeased with the lack of back-and-forth action and Dawson’s unwillingness to unnecessarily put himself in harm’s way over the first two frames. Dawson knew how close he came to losing in his previous fight, so he made sure this time out to keep his opponent at the end of his punches, at the end of his longer arms.

Halfway through the third stanza however, Dawson began to get a bit more aggressive, clearly putting more steam on his punches. The fourth was another good round for Dawson and in the fifth, he displayed some shifty movement that had Grachev punching at air.

Main Events-promoted heavyweight Cassius Chaney (L) scored a first-round knockout of former cruiserweight title challenger Santander Silgado (R).

Grachev had his best moment of the fight halfway through round six when he countered a hard left uppercut from Dawson with a hard right hand. Grachev followed up with more leather as Dawson seemed content to try Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope technique employed against George Foreman in 1974. Before the round was over, Dawson was off the ropes and landing some good shots to end the round, including another uppercut and a quick one-two combination just before the bell to end the stanza.

Fifteen seconds into the 7th round, Dawson ripped Grachev with a three-punch combination and as the round progressed, Dawson showcased some slick footwork, making the man who thought he was going to frustrate Dawson with pressure look foolish. Dawson closed the round with some impressive straight left hands. The eighth and final round was another dominant three minutes from the former champion.

Dawson was announced the winner by scores of 80-72 (twice) and 79-73.

“I’m 37 years old but I feel like I’m 25,” said Dawson,” who is once again reunited with his amateur trainer Brian Clark, who was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame last year. Dawson, who will be inducted into the same Hall on Nov. 9, added, “I’m ready for any of the big guys at the top. If any of these guys wanna test me, the better the competition, the better I’m gonna perform.”

With his latest victory, Dawson wins the vacant WBC USNBC light heavyweight title and improves to 36-5 (19), with two no-contests. Grachev is now 19-9-1 (10).

In the night’s co-feature, unbeaten Main Events-promoted heavyweight Cassius Chaney scored a first-round knockout of former cruiserweight title challenger Santander Silgado. Following a couple of jabs with the first right hand he threw, Silgado, 28-8 (22), fell flat on his back and was laid out, positioned like he was in the midst of making a snow angel. He didn’t move for a minute or two but eventually got up with some kindly assistance and left the ring on his own accord.

Chaney said he had wanted to get some rounds in, “but once he threw a few punches my thoughts changed.”

Chaney added, “He wanted to land something sneaky so I felt I needed to land something clean that he felt. And I threw a basic double jab-right hand combination. He saw the jab but the right hand landed right on the chin and I knew he was done.”

The official time of the stoppage was 1:03. Chaney improved to 17-0 (11). A former University of New Haven basketball star, Chaney turned to pro boxing at a later age than most. However, this 32-year-old, who doesn’t drink, smoke or do any other drugs, is determined to do everything it takes to achieve his goal of becoming heavyweight champion, and this year has been an impressive one. His win over Silgado was preceded by an ESPN+-televised performance back in July in which Chaney knocked Joel Caudle out of the ring before stopping him a short time later. This New England prospect is on the fast track to reaching contender status.

David Benavidez Gives Boxing Fans a Taste of Training Camp

By Kirk Lang

Photos by Alyssa Lang and Kirk Lang

It was billed in a press release as his official start of training camp but David Benavidez’ challenge of WBC super middleweight champ Anthony Dirrell was still months away when he took on three sparring partners under the pavilion at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in upstate New York during the Hall’s 30th annual induction weekend.

“This is not really the start of my camp,” said Benavidez. “I still have 16 weeks left ‘til the fight. So I just came out here, enjoyed the people, got some good sparring and just enjoyed myself. I put a show on for the fans.”

David Benavidez (second from left) with his three sparring partners.

Benavidez, 21-0 with 18 knockouts, became the youngest ever super middleweight champion in September 2017 when, at 20 years old, he won a 12-round decision over Ronald Gavril for the vacant WBC super middleweight championship. However, a career misstep saw him test positive for a banned substance last September and he lost his crown.

At the time, Benavidez was scheduled to make the second defense of his belt against Dirrell. The title subsequently became vacant and Dirrell took possession of it in March with a victory over Avni Yildirim.

David Benavidez working out at the Boxing Hall of Fame.

The June 7th sparring in Canastota, New York, along with some shadowboxing the following day, provided a little sample of training camp life for approximately 100 boxing fans that crowded around the outdoor ring in perfect weather. Benavidez, who is intent on getting his belt back, didn’t appear to be too far from fighting weight, and looked sharp as he went three rounds a piece with a trio of local sparring partners.

David Benavidez getting ready for WBC champ Anthony Dirrell.

Benavidez, far more experienced than his opponents, clearly seemed to be holding back at times, but he also made sure to work on defensive maneuvers. However, he did let his hands go here and there, including when he positioned Syracuse, New York-based 6-foot-four-inch pro boxer Lawrence Gabriel, whose record currently stands at 3-2-1, into a neutral corner. Benavidez let the crowd know he could turn the heat up whenever he felt like it. In fact, although Gabriel has survived bullets – in 2015 he was the victim of multiple gunshot wounds while trying to stop a crazed gunman at a Syracuse bar – he couldn’t survive Benavidez. He came close though. As his third and final round with the former world champion neared its end, Gabriel got caught with a beautiful hook to the body. He rose to his feet, but needed a break and leaned against the ropes until the bell rang.

David Benavidez stretching out at the Boxing Hall of Fame.

“He’s a big puncher and he snaps every single punch,” Gabriel said. “And he gets his body into the right position to get power on all of his punches. He’s tough.”

Next up for Benavidez was the smallest of the three sparring partners – Luis “Azucar” Rojas. What Rojas lacked in stature he more than made up for in aggressiveness. Unfazed by Benavidez’ pedigree as a recent ex-world champion, he’d get in close and confidently let loose with combinations, usually to the head. Benavidez seemed to admire his opponent’s tenaciousness, but a well-placed power punch every so often let Rojas know who the real king of the ring was.

“I think he’s good,” said Rojas, who added, “I think he can be better. I’ve seen him fight before. I know he’s better than that.”

David Benavidez sparring.

Did Rojas think Benavidez was holding back?

“Sometimes,” he said.

What did he learn from his three rounds with the former champion who is still at the top of the class at super middleweight?

“That you’ve got to stay ready, all the time,” said Rojas, who admitted to not being at his peak physically at this point in the summer.

David Benavidez sparring before the Hall of Fame crowd.

The last sparring partner for Benavidez was 25-year-old Michael Rycraft, of Utica, NY. Tall and quick with his hands as well as his feet, Benavidez had to work harder in those final three rounds.

“The last one, he was the best one,” said Benavidez. “So I had to use every movement right. There could be no wasted movements.”

As good as Rycraft was, Benavidez left him with a bloody nose his corner-men had to attend to.

David Benavidez sparring before the crowd.

Rycraft seemed to appreciate the sparring, the opportunity, more so than the others that scrapped with Benavidez. He was seen talking with him and thanking him well after the sparring was over.

He told The USA Boxing News, “It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to be in this position, to learn from a champion, a true champion, a young champion at that.”

Avid boxing enthusiast Mark Jones, of Syracuse, NY, who watched Benavidez’ nine rounds of sparring – a pre-cursor to actual training camp -believes Benavidez has the goods to defeat Dirrell.

David Benavidez in action.

“I think he’ll beat Dirrell based on his youth and the fact that Dirrell is in the post-prime phase of his career,” he said. “Benavidez has a big frame. I think he could eventually perform well at light heavyweight.”

Dirrell-Benavidez is scheduled to take place in late September in Los Angeles.

Clary Decisions Gonzalez to Win Vacant NABA Super Feather Title

By Kirk Lang

Photos by Al Derouin

August 29, 2019 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino. 

In an all New England match-up of super featherweights, Providence, Rhode Island’s Toka Kahn Clary, 128, won a lopsided 10-round decision over previously once-beaten Irvin Gonzalez, 127, of Worcester, MA to take the vacant NABA super featherweight title. The scores were 99-91 twice and 98-92. However, this fight was far more competitive and exciting than the scorecards would indicate.

Toka Kahn Clary (R) stabbing Irvin Gonzalez with a straight right.

While Kahn Clary clearly had the speed advantage – at times looking like a southpaw version of a young Shane Mosley – his 23-year-old opponent was never discouraged and always answered back with punches of his own – often delivered in spirited combinations – that kept things interesting. Kahn Clary-Gonzalez headlined the latest installment of DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing, held on this night at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater.

Kahn Clary, trained by Peter Manfredo Sr. earlier in his career, is now a pupil of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Kahn Clary’s sparring sessions with all-time great Manny Pacquiao seem to have given him an extra level of confidence in the ring, knowing that if he can trade shots with Manny at the Wild Card gym, then he can surely dare Irvin Gonzalez to try to hit him.

Hurshidbek “Hershey” Normatov

Gonzalez seemed a little bit in awe of Kahn Clary’s speed in the early going, hardly able to avoid the right jab and Kahn Clary’s preferred weapon of choice – the straight left hand. Kahn Clary bloodied Gonzalez’ nose in the second round. In the third frame, Gonzalez began to step up his aggression, willing to fire back more than he had in the first two rounds. The end of the fourth frame saw Gonzalez get off a couple of stiff right hands. If Kahn Clary wasn’t so quick-fisted, Gonzalez would have had more highlight reel moments. The fifth round featured great ebb and flow with both men trading serious punches that spurred on their respective cheering sections. Later in the round, Kahn Clary missed some big bombs that might have dropped Gonzalez had they landed. The final 30 seconds of the round turned into a live-action Rock ‘em, Sock ‘Em Robots affair. Gonzalez even seemed to hurt Kahn Clary as he took some shots along the ropes. However, Kahn Clary stood there strong and immediately fired back with a succession of power punches.

Hurshidbek “Hershey” Normatov (R) Walter Wright.

Gonzalez seemed a little arm weary to start the sixth frame but may have done enough throughout the round to earn the stanza, as Kahn Clary seemed to ease off the gas a bit himself. However, Kahn Clary came back strong in the seventh round, beginning with a right jab-right hook combination. In addition to his speed, it’s other things Kahn Clary does that are impressive, such as the lost art of feinting. Over and over again, he’d feint with his lead hand, or make a half step with his lead foot, and make Gonzalez think he was going to step forward and punch and then he’d fool him. Gonzalez was not only contending with far superior hand speed, he was often unsure of when Kahn Clary was actually going to attack. The combination of his speed and his feints often left Gonzalez perplexed, but the young pugilist showed no quit in him. He kept trying and gave a great account of himself. Gonzalez boxed well in the 8th frame but Kahn Clary landed the best punch of the round – a smashing straight left to the face that might have briefly stunned Gonzalez – with less than 20 seconds to go.

Stephen “Big Shot” shawvs. Willie Jake Jr.

Gonzalez’ nose would bleed once more, in the 9th round, after a beautiful straight left from Kahn Clary with about 1:20 left to go. Late in the 10th frame, Kahn Clary absolutely battered Gonzalez in a neutral corner. Referee Johnny Callas kept a watchful eye on things, seemingly ready to stop the fight, but every time it looked like Kahn Clary might get the stoppage, Gonzalez fired back with something. He eventually got out of the neutral corner but couldn’t get away from Kahn Clary, who kept firing punches from all angles until the final bell, giving the crowd a great ending to a dominant but entertaining victory.

He improves to 27-2 (18) while Gonzalez falls to 12-2 (9).

Kahn Clary’s last defeat was a close decision loss at featherweight last October to unbeaten top contender Kid Galahad. Now fighting at super featherweight, he feels he’s not draining himself to make weight.

Stephen “Big Shot” Shaw knocking down Willie Jake Jr.

Asked whether he might return to the 126-pound class or stay at 130, Kahn Clary responded, “I’ve still got a six-pack at 130. I’m staying here. One-hundred-and-twenty-six kills me. I’m staying here.”

In the night’s co-main event, WBA super middleweight champion Alicia “The Empress” Napoleon-Espinosa, 161, of Lindenhurst, NY, stopped Schemelle Baldwin, 163, of Newark, DE, in the fourth round. The official time was 1:30.

Napoleon-Espinosa, 12-1 (7), was making the second defense of her belt and apparently had trouble finding an opponent of similar pro experience. Baldwin came into the fight with a record of 3-0-1 (2). Not only did the records not compare, Baldwin was also significantly slower of hand than the champion. Napoleon-Espinosa had her way with Baldwin, firing bursts of punches while consistently moving in and out of range without getting countered. Baldwin’s mouthpiece was sent flying in the second round. Early in the third frame, Napoleon-Espinosa began hammering away at Baldwin in Baldwin’s corner. The assault lasted for more than a minute. When the fight was dangerously close to getting stopped Baldwin let loose with a haymaker to show she still had some fire in her.

The fourth round was a repeat of the previous frame, with Baldwin again getting blasted in her own corner. A plastic piece of her chest protector fell out. Soon after, with Baldwin merely serving as target practice for the champion, referee Al Lobianco stepped in and ended matters.

Undefeated Hurshidbek “Hershey” Normatov, 152, of Andijan, Uzbekistan, now based in Brooklyn, NY, won the NABA super welterweight title with a lopsided eight-round decision over 38-year-old veteran Walter Wright, 154, of Seattle. WA. The scores were 80-72 (twice) and 79-73. Normatov’s straighter punches and effective use of the ring negated Wright’s offensive attempts for the most part. Wright’s corner was yelling and imploring him to get closer and cut the ring off as early as the third round. Wright finally seemed to let his hands go at the start of the fourth frame. It seemed he was getting braver as the fight wore on. However, Normatov, a 6’2” southpaw, nailed him with some very stiff straight lefts to close out the round and make him think twice about being brave.

Normatov opened the fifth with some impressive combinations. In the sixth he was back circling the ring, scoring with jabs and straight lefts. Normatov maintained control in rounds seven and eight but for some reason kept looking up at the clock in the final round, which seemed odd because he didn’t look all that tired and he never let loose with punches in bunches to close out the final 10 to 15 seconds of the fight in impressive fashion. Normatov is now 9-0 (3) while Wright falls to 17-7 (8).

Stephan “Big Shot” Shaw, 251, of St. Louis. MO, extended his undefeated record to 12-0 (9) with a fourth-round stoppage of Willie Jake Jr, 233, of Indianapolis, IN. He dropped Jake in the opening round and then twice in the third stanza –  the first of the third round knockdowns had Jake going through the ropes nearly falling on judge Glenn Feldman– before seriously hurting Jake in the fourth with a left hook as Jake was in a neutral corner. Shaw followed up by targeting the head with hooks, straight right hands and uppercuts. Soon after, referee Johnny Callas ended matters, giving Shaw a TKO victory at the 0:56 mark. Jake is 0-2 in 2019 after riding a seven-fight unbeaten streak that dated back to July 2016. His record now stands at 8-3-1 (2).

Former WBC/IBF/IBO light heavy king Chad Dawson returns to the ring in start of comeback trail to become champion once again

Story by Kirk Lang

Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods Resort Casino – Making his return after more than two years away from the sport, former light heavyweight champion “Bad” ChadDawson is giving himself one more go-round to try to reach the elite level once again.

In December 2017, he was TKO’d by Andrzej Fonfara, and in October 2014, Dawson – two fights removed from losing his WBC belt to Adonis Stevenson by first-round knockout– was outpointed by little known Tommy Karpency.

The 36-year-old New Haven fighter’s latest comeback almost hit a sour note. After outboxing fellow southpaw Quinton Rankin, 32, of Charlotte, NC, with relative ease over the first four rounds of their eight-round main event, Dawson got caught with a perfect rear hand left uppercut from Rankin that created the fight’s only knockdown and had Dawson buzzed for some time.

Fortunately for “Bad” Chad, a follow-up left hand to the back of the head from Rankin when Dawson was “down” – he did not hit the canvas, but collapsed to a squatting position and made contact with the ring floor with both gloves – prompting referee Micheael Ortega to provide him more time to recover than simply a standing 8-count.

Richard Schwartz, one of Rankin’s cornermen, complained that Dawson was given 41 seconds to clear his head before the action resumed. However, if Rankin, 32, had not thrown the illegal punch after the knockdown, he would have been able to mount a follow-up attack sooner rather than later while Dawson was in his most vulnerable state.

With roughly 1:20 remaining in the round, the action resumed and Rankin, 179, attacked Dawson, 178, along the ropes. Soon after however, time was called and Dawson received another respite, the result of referee Michael Ortega taking a point from Rankin for another punch behind the head. The slight break seemed to be the trick for the ex-champ because when both men to box again, Dawson looked like his younger self, ripping hard rapid-fire shots to the body with both hands. Trapped in a neutral corner, now seeing the man he dropped turning the tide in the same round, Quinton looked visibly tired. In addition to power punches, Dawson also did not forget the jab, and a series a right jabs set up a beautiful left uppercut seconds before the bell to end the round.

While Rankin’s most consistent punch of the night was a sneaky straight left, he also made the fight ugly. In addition to some punches behind the head, he was often guilty of pushing up on his opponent’s chin with his right arm. In the seventh round, Rankin finally had a point deducted for such a maneuver.

In the eighth and final round, the former champion boxed smartly, not wanting to give his opponent any possible chance to score another knockdown, or worse, connect with a fight-ending punch. With a minute left in the stanza, Dawson impressed the judges and the audience with a trio of right hooks in rapid succession. When there were only twenty seconds left on the clock, Dawson landed a solid right hook to the body, and Rankin, in one last good effort, countered with a hard straight left.

Other than the fifth round, the fight was pretty much a one-sided affair, as the judges had it 80-68 and 78-72 twice.

 “He [Rankin] was very durable, a very strong guy,” said Dawson. “He came to win and think for a two-year layoff that was a good guy to come back against. The kid was strong. He was better than what his record said.”

Dawson, 37, improved to 35-5 with 19 knockouts while Rankin fell to 15-6-2 with 12 knockouts.

In the night’s co-main event, another New Haven fighter notched a lopsided victory. Featherweight Tramaine Williams won a 10-round unanimous decision against Neil John Tabanao of the Philipines. The scores were 99-91 twice and 98-92. Williams, like Dawson, learned the fundamentals of boxing under the tutelage of local legend Brian Clark at New Haven’s Ring One Boxing gym. Because of the New Haven connection with the top two guys on the A-side of the bout sheet, the fight show was billed as “Homecoming Kings.” Foxwoods Resort Casino is little more than an hour from New Haven.

But whereas Dawson is trying to return to former glory, Williams’ star is still rising. The sky is the limit for him as long as he stays dedicated to his craft. Generally considered the most talented young boxer in the Nutmeg State, the win over Tabanao is the latest step on the path to a world title opportunity.

The opening round of Williams-Tabanao was a feel-out round for both fighters. Neither man had many solid connects and it seemed like they were an inch too far apart from one another at all times. Williams certainly possesses the speed to quickly close the gap but he seemed content to be patient and observe his man from afar, at least in the opening stanza.

A minute into the second round, Williams jumped in with two straight lefts that caught Tabanao’s attention. Later in the frame, Williams seemed content to make his adversary miss. A very solid defensive fighter, Williams draws comparisons to the recently deceased Pernell Whitaker, boxing’s former pound-for-pound king.

The third round saw Williams gradually increase his offensive output and “The Mighty Midget” ended the round with a beautiful right hook with about 12 seconds left in the frame. The fourth round saw increased use of the right hook but the best punch of the round was perhaps a lead straight left with about 25 seconds left.

Williams, 123, upped the aggression in the fifth stanza, yet also showcased some great upper body movement in evading Tabanao’s offensive attempts. Tabanao, 123, had some success in the sixth with a few right hands to the body, but Williams never allowed him to get into a groove. As Williams continued to dominate in rounds seven and eight, Tabanao was simply perplexed. Unable to land anything of significance, he found himself rushing at Williams like a bull at one point in the 9th frame.

In the tenth and final round – halfway through the frame – Williams landed two successive straight lefts that caused Tabanao to fall back a step. He followed up with some good power shots, but was unable to get Tabanao out of there early.

Williams, 123, improved to 18-0 with 6 knockouts. Tabanao saw his ledger dip to 17-6 with 11 knockouts.

 “Tramaine controlled the action, the fight, to his pace,” said Williams’ trainer Mike Conroy, who had no issue with his fighter taking Tabanao the full 10 rounds. “Sometimes people don’t understand the art of boxing. Everybody wants to see the knockout but we knew he was a durable guy so we were not going to go in there and try to knock somebody out that hadn’t ever been stopped.”

On July 27 at the College Park Center in Arlington, VA, Williams, 26, won a 10-round unanimous decision over Yenifel Vicente, 33, to capture the vacant USBA and NABO super bantamweight championships on the undercard of the super lightweight unification clash between Maurice Hooker and Jose Ramirez. That means that Williams engaged in two fights in less than a month, which makes Tramaine on pace to earn “Pro Fighter of the Year” honors from the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2019. The late July clash with Vicente was Williams’ fourth bout of the year, and that still leaves August through December for him to rack up a few more wins.

by Kirk Lang