July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016
Anthony Joshua vs Charles Martin

Action Images/Peter Cziborra

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Anthony Joshua MBE is the 4/1 favourite with William Hill to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Joshua defended his IBF World Heavyweight title in style on June 25, stopping the brave unbeaten American Dominic Breazeale in the seventh round at The O2 in London.

Joshua landed the belt at the Greenwich venue in April, ripping the crown from another unbeaten American, Charles Martin, inside two rounds thanks to a pair of vicious right hands.

The Olympic gold medal hero will take a break over the summer before defending his belt for the second time later in the year, where another strong performance could see him become the first boxer to win the award since Joe Calzaghe in 2007 and the fifth fighter to take the trophy home following two-time winner Henry Cooper, Barry McGuigan, Lennox Lewis and Calzaghe.

“Anthony Joshua is one of the most adored sports personalities in the country,” said Tony Kenny, head of sponsorship PR at William Hill. “If you couple that with his World championship winning performance this year then it’s easy to see why he’s our favourite to win the BBC award.”

Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy is second favourite at 5/1 with Real Madrid and Wales hero Gareth Bale at 9/1. Andy Murray won the award for the second time in 2015 and is 10/1 to make it a hat-trick as he bids for glory at Wimbledon and the Olympics in Rio, and he’s joined at that price by Jessica Ennis-Hill who bids to defend her Heptathlon gold this summer.

The 2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony takes place at the Genting Arena in Birmingham on December 18.

William Hill have backed three of Joshua’s fight nights so far and signed a deal ahead of his first defence to back the next three blockbuster shows topped by the Heavyweight sensation.

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016

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IF the world was rocked by the death of pop genius Michael Jackson, boxing felt an equally crushing blow on Wednesday (July 1, 2009) with the sudden passing of Alexis Arguello, the legendary Nicaraguan who won – and never lost – world titles in three divisions.

He was found dead at his Managua home, aged only 57. A post mortem was to be carried out to determine the cause of death after this issue had gone to press, but there was some speculation that he had committed suicide.

It was no secret Arguello had struggled more than most following his retirement in January 1995, following the points loss to Scott Walker, a club-fighter, in Las Vegas. There had been several suicide attempts over the years.

Arguello was 42 against Walker, long past his immaculate prime, the days when he overcame Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Mexican southpaw Jose Luis Ramirez, Britain’s Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Rolando Navarrete, Californian Golden Boy Bobby Chacon and Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, all of whom would go on to become world champions.

But it was thought the Hall of Famer had got his life together, having been elected mayor of Managua last year when he ran for the Sandinista National Liberation Front Party.

It was as if he had finally discovered peace at last, that to be voted into such an esteemed position served to provide, to some degree, the adoration and respect he always enjoyed from his fans as a fighter, as well as closure on a dark political chapter earlier in his life.

Arguello had fled to the United States during a civil war as the left wing Sandinista regime took over in 1979 and confiscated his home worth up to half a million dollars. The bloodshed also claimed the life of Arguello’s younger brother.

This all came several years after Arguello had a home destroyed by a violent earthquake in 1972.

Arguello bravely returned to the battlefront to fight against the takeover, ploughed much of his own wealth into purchasing medical supplies and clothing for his ‘people’ and this earned him much respect and sympathy.

He took that courage into the ring. He was as cool and composed a fighter as anyone could possibly imagine. Eddie Futch, his American trainer, once described him as having “the best concentration of any fighter he had seen.”

His tall, wiry 5ft 10in frame, coupled with the power that saw him knock out or stop 65 from 82 career wins, made the nickname “Explosive Thin Man” more than appropriate.

But as well as being a ruthless, calculated puncher – he could knock out an opponent early or late and with the straight right or left hook – Arguello was a master boxer and superb tactician.

Jim Watt, Britain’s former WBC lightweight champion, discovered that at Wembley in 1981, when Arguello came over to challenge him, bidding for his third ‘world’ title in so many divisions during a time when there were only two governing bodies in operation.

Southpaw Watt was making his sixth defence and had already seen off Howard Davis, America’s Val Barker winner from the 1976 Olympics, and Sean O’Grady.

When I broke the news of Arguello’s death to him this week, Watt recalled his fight with the Nicaraguan.
“What a classy guy,” he said. “I’d won the title late. I knew it wasn’t going to last. I thought I’d get as many defences as I could and get money in the bank.

“Boxers are great guys, but sometimes there’s trash-talking. I’d been through it against Charlie Nash and O’Grady. The first time I met Alexis was at a press conference in London. He walked over, held out his hand and said, ‘Pleased to meet you, Jim. How’s your family?’”

“What do you say to that? It threw me completely. I didn’t expect him to be such a gentleman. But that’s how he conducted himself, impeccably.”

The unflappable, charming, strikingly handsome Arguello wouldn’t fall for anything Watt tried in the ring.

“He was noticeably better than anyone I boxed. I’d perhaps reached the stage where I didn’t have the same ambition as when I fought Davis. But Arguello was always in front of you, not in a Barry McGuigan high- tempo sort of way. But he just had such long arms and used the range so well. He could thump to the body, too.”

Japan’s Royal Kobayashi, knocked out in five by Arguello for the WBA featherweight title in 1975 (Alexis’ third defence), said he just couldn’t see those wicked body shots coming.

“He was competent at everything he did,” said Watt. “There was nothing flashy. In the early rounds he hit me with a jab and I remember thinking, ‘Christ!’ That was a jab! It [the power] must have come from his terrific balance.

“I had thrived on annoying opponents, getting them to make mistakes, then hit them with the southpaw jab. But with Alexis, forget it. He threw punches when he knew it was time.

“I couldn’t have lost to a classier fighter. He was better than I was. I knew halfway into that fight I wasn’t going to beat him.”

Yet while Watt never had any difficulty walking away from boxing – in fact he must be one of the very few who actually looked forward to retirement – Arguello found it painfully difficult.

The news of Alexis’ death came as a particular shock to Watt because they’d met each other again only last year.

“I thought he had his life back in order,” said Jim. “Nothing looked wrong with his health. It must be so difficult with all the highs he had in his career. I always knew that as soon as the title went, then so would I.

“I enjoyed being a former champ as much as I did being the champ. Some fighters can’t. It’s tragic what has happened. But Alexis was a special fighter. That he never lost in the ring any of the titles he won puts him in a special club.”

Watt was also one of many who believed Arguello would make history in November 1982 in Miami when he challenged Aaron Pryor, the wild and extravagant American WBA light-welterweight champion. Victory would have made Arguello the first boxer in history to bag world titles in four divisions.

Their 14-round thriller is one of the greatest fights of the modern era. Arguello hit Pryor with everything, but simply couldn’t shift him and, having given his all, was smashed to defeat.

They would meet again, nearly a year later in Las Vegas, and again it was a spectacular show. Arguello was dumped early, but got up, tagged Pryor with some superb rights, and, resigned by having failed to make an impression, famously sat out the count in the 10th round. He knew he’d been beaten.

That wasn’t typical Arguello. He was no quitter. But Pryor was special and the two, curiously, would form a remarkable bond in the years that followed.

Tris Dixon, my colleague, phoned Pryor for his reaction to the stunning news and Aaron was understandably torn.
Usually, they get together each year at Canastota’s Hall of Fame. But, for whatever reason, Arguello wasn’t there this year.

Pryor’s wife, Frankie, said: “We missed him. But I can’t believe it [that he’s dead]. Aaron’s pretty upset. We have always been close. We went out to Nicaragua to help him campaign for two weeks when he became mayor.

“Alexis’ son and Aaron’s son were at elementary school in Miami together and from the time of the fight they’ve been friends. I always remember Alexis saying he and Aaron had a unique relationship.

“In Nicaragua they called Aaron Alexis’ Papa because he had taught him life lessons. Aaron adored Alexis and the feeling was mutual.”

The pair shared common life experiences, having both conquered demons with drugs even though they came from very different beginnings.

“I was just so happy for him when he became mayor,” said Pryor. “We went to his country and there were 300,000 there for him. They loved Alexis. He was in good shape and living a good life. I will never have a friend like him again. It’s really hurt my heart. I didn’t know how to conduct myself until I met him. He was a gentleman. He was my best friend.”

Arguello didn’t fight again for two years after the second Pryor loss. The defeat was crushing and impacted heavily on his life. That’s when the cocaine-use problems started and was followed by a break-up in the family. The five houses, a yacht, Mercedes and BMW, plus wife and four children, went as well.

So Arguello returned to the ring, thrashed former WBC 10st champ Billy Costello in his second fight back, but then quit again when diagnosed with a heart problem.

No-one ever thought they’d see Arguello fight again. But over eight years later, against his better judgement and getting into middle age, he tried once more. Those splendid gifts of his youth had gone, however, even if Alexis refused to accept it until Walker beat him.

In his prime he was such a sleek fighter, though. He cut Alfredo Escalera to ribbons in their WBC super-featherweight title first fight in 1978 and then knocked him out in the same time in the return in Italy the next year. In 1974 he had also knocked out Ruben Olivares in 13 before 14,000 fans in Los Angeles as a featherweight.

Only eight defeats in 90 professional fights for a kid who grew up on the streets and had to go to work at 13 is some achievement. He made his mark in the toughest of all sports.

It’s a reflection of how highly regarded Arguello was that during the 1980s he’d been mentioned as a possible opponent for welterweight champ Sugar Ray Leonard and that in 1978 some believed him to be the only legitimate threat to then-9st 9lbs king Roberto Duran.

Arguello’s trainer of the time, Al Silvani, certainly believed so. He remembers the day he first set eyes on Arguello.

“His manager called me to Managua and asked me to start training him,” he said.

“I went down and first thing I wanted to do was look him over. I didn’t want to try to change him. I only wanted to observe him to see how he trained, to see how dedicated he was, to see his style.

“I didn’t want to wake him up. I wanted to see if he would get up on his own. Well, 10 minutes went by, then 15, then 20 and pretty soon I started to wonder if this kid was lazy and needed to be pushed.

“Just about the time I decided to wake him up, he comes in from outside. He had already done his running.

“Right then and there I realised how much dedication he had.”

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016

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MUHAMMAD ALI announced he would defend his world heavyweight title against Joe Frazier after outpointing Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.

“I’ve decided to fight Joe Frazier in Manila – I think in about 10 weeks’ time,” he told reporters after his 15 round drubbing of the European champion.

Before the fight had started, Ali leaned over the strands to exchange words with Frazier, who was sat ringside. He then strode over to Bugner’s corner, where Joe’s manager Andy Smith thrust a towel in front of the champion’s face. Ali tore it down and then traded barbs with Bugner. The fighters grinned at each other.

Ignoring the oven-like heat in the ring of the Merdeka Stadium, an ageing Ali danced around Bugner, peppering him with his sickening jab in the early stages.

For the first five rounds, it was one-way traffic. Rather than box on the back foot, Ali charged out of his corner at the opening bell and pressured the challenger, pounding in a series of jabs and hooks upstairs.

Bugner, though shamefully negative at times, soaked everything Ali threw his way. Despite the heat and blistering pace, super-fit Bugner came on stronger as the bout progressed.

After being manouvered round the ring and bulled into each corner, Bugner began to stand his ground and slam shots into Ali’s midsection. The 10th was Joe’s best round. He withstood some early punishment to rally in the late stages of it and had Ali retreating.

However ‘The Greatest’ was taunting Bugner at the beginning of the 11th, jabbing his pride with verbal blows before softening him up with physical ones. Bugner tried to counter, but Ali’s defensive genius was still masterful, even at his advanced age.

Ali displayed how spiteful he could be on the attack in the 13th. Bugner’s tree-trunk legs buckled as Muhammad pinned him into a corner and unleashed savage hooks to head and body. One piledriver right hand rocked Bugner’s head back and had the baying crowd on their feet, eager for a knockout.

The challenger survived and started to take the sting out of Ali’s blows on his gloves and forearms, though that didn’t stop Muhammad morphing into a human buzzsaw for the final three minutes of the fight. He tore into Bugner, despite being visibly tired, though Joe managed to hear the final bell.

“Well, gents, we tried,” remarked Bugner after the fight.

Although Ali had originally said he would retire after the Bugner fight, he changed his tune once the unanimous verdict was announced. Promoter Don King spoke of staging the rubber match with Frazier in Manila, and, rather prophetically, said it would be “the greatest fight of all time.”

When asked how he thought Ali-Frazier III would go, Bugner said: “Muhammad is in for a hell of a fight.” He was spot on.

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016
Liam Williams

Action Images

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White hot British and Commonwealth light-middleweight king Liam Williams claims challenger Gary Corcoran scored a huge own goal by attempting to rile him at the recent press conference to publicise their sizzling showdown set for Cardiff Ice Arena on July 16th, writes Glynn Evans.

Verbals almost disintegrated into violence when the pair went nose-to-nose for the obligatory stare-off for BoxNation TV cameras.

As skulls touched, Wembley puncher Corcoran attempted to drive the Welshman backwards and copped a clip on the cheek for his insolence.

‘First Corcoran tried to get clever and kiss the sides of my cheeks. Then he put his nut on me! I just shoved his face, he reacted and it kicked off a bit. He’ll regret that fight night,’ warns Williams who, like Corcoran, is unbeaten in 15.

‘He doesn’t get under my skin – I won’t allow that – but I do dislike him. He thinks far too much of himself and is very rude. There’s no respect.

‘I train hard for every fight but the ‘needle’ that’s developing for this one – which started on Twitter – is definitely giving me extra motivation. Winning this fight means even more. I definitely don’t intend losing to him.’

Nevertheless, the 24 year old champion from Clydach Vale in the Rhondda valley is far too savvy to overlook a contender who represents easily the stiffest test of his five year professional career.

‘Corcoran needs to learn some manners but I certainly respect him as a fighter,’ concedes Williams who recently became a father to daughter Myla.

‘He’s a pretty good all-rounder with a high work rate. He’ll come forward and he’s got big balls. He says he’ll meet me in the middle of the ring and scrap it out and I’m inclined to believe him. He’s plenty game.

‘But all this talk about his strength certainly doesn’t concern me and I can assure you he’ll not be bullying me in the clinches. I turned pro up at middleweight, Corcoran started out at light-welter a few years ago. I’m a naturally bigger, stronger man.

‘I’ll not allow the ‘niggle’ to deflect me from my game plan. Gary’s a professional too so I doubt it’ll affect him either. I’ll do whatever is needed to win the fight, box, fight, whatever.’

While the mammoth promotion is garnished by two world title fights – Cuban legend Guillermo Rigondeaux meets Jazza Dickens for the WBA super-bantam title while Terry Flanagan gambles his WBO lightweight gong against South Africa’s Mzonke Fana – it’s smooth boxing, hammer punching Williams who carries the burden of restoring big-time boxing to the Principality on his firmly chiselled shoulders.

‘Knowing it’s me the Welsh fans will be turning out to support, and the prospect of putting on a show for them, really excites me,’  he insists.

‘Even when I fight in Liverpool or Manchester – five or six hours away – I’ll take 250 fans with me and this time ‘fans’ have no reason not to turn up.

‘To be far, my door hasn’t stopped banging and already, two and a half weeks out, I’ve shifted over 850. I expect to have passed the thousand mark by the time the show comes and that means a hell of a lot to me.

‘There’s not been a really successful fighter from the Rhondda since (world heavyweight challenger) Tommy Farr back in the 1930s. Everybody seems really excited and is relying on me to bring the big shows back and push all of Welsh boxing forward. My promoters are delivering the right fights and paying me decent money so ‘Happy Days!’

Of course, a box-office bonanza will serve little purpose if the 5ft 10in Gary Lockett managed champ fails to retain his belts – and deliver a large dollop of stardust – against nemesis Corcoran. He knows there is no margin for error if he is to continue to drive the Welsh renaissance forward.

‘If I keep my mind straight, I just can’t see myself losing to him, I’m better in every department. Gary’s only hope is to apply constant pressure and hope I wilt. I won’t,’ he insists.

‘He attacks with mindless aggression and takes far too many risks. I’ll be picking him up off the floor. He’s getting knocked out!’

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016

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RAU’SHEE WARREN has been ordered by the WBA to face Jamie McDonnell, with a 30-day deadline on negotiations.

If a deal is not reached in that timeframe, the fight will go to purse bids. Warren won the WBA bantamweight title from Juan Carlos Payano last month, and must now face McDonnell, who holds the sanctioning body’s secondary belt.

The decision is a part of the WBA’s initiative to create just one champion in each weight class after they littered the sport with their spurious titles. It should be noted that McDonnell is a former holder of the IBF title, but was unceremoniously stripped, and would also have the WBO belt if Tomoki Kameda had not vacated it before their first fight last year.

Warren outpointed Payano in June after having dropped a close decision to him last year, becoming the first US 2012 Olympian to win a world title.

Payano had originally been ordered to begin negotiations with McDonnell, though his hastily arranged rematch with Warren took precedence with the caveat that the winner would then have to face Jamie.

After twice beating the highly-touted Kameda, McDonnell stopped Fernando Vargas (not that Fernando Vargas) in nine rounds in April.

The Doncaster native is no stranger to boxing on the road – his two wins over Kameda were in Texas – and has expressed his willingness to once again go across the pond for big fights.

His time at bantamweight is limited, however, and he will eventually move up to super-bantam, where his twin brother Gavin is on the verge of a world title shot.

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016
deontay wilder

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

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Heavyweight world champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder and two-time title challenger Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola have both enrolled with the world-renowned Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (“VADA”) to conduct the anti-doping program leading up to their Saturday, July 16 showdown that headlines Premier Boxing Champions on FOX & FOX Deportes from Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. Televised coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

“Despite the short lead time to Wilder vs. Arreola, I am happy to report that VADA is in place as the anti-doping agency in accordance with the WBC Clean Boxing Program,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “VADA is a preeminent and reliable service and its relationship with the WBC evidences a commitment to a cleaner sport.”

This marks the second straight training camp in which Wilder has enrolled with VADA.  VADA testing, in accordance with the WBC Clean Boxing Program, was in place for Wilder’s scheduled May 21 defense versus Alexander Povetkin, which was canceled following Povetkin’s positive test for Meldonium.  In addition, Wilder has submitted paperwork to VADA and the WBC to participate in year-round anti-doping testing that is expected to commence later this summer.

July 1, 2016
July 1, 2016
Ricky Burns

Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom

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RICKY BURNS has been ordered to defend his WBA world super-lightweight title against Kiryl Relikh next.

The hard-hitting Belarus native, promoted and trained by Ricky Hatton, is unbeaten in 21 outings with 19 stoppage wins.

Burns, promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, has 30 days to agree a deal with Relikh and his team or else the fight will go to purse bids.

Relikh, ranked No 1 by the WBA, has not yet boxed beyond the eighth round, having most recently forced Joaquim Carneiro to retired after four rounds of a scheduled 10 in May.

Burns became Scotland’s first ever three weight world champion in May when he stopped a disappointing Michele Di Rocco in eight rounds for the vacant title.

While Relikh has looked the part against his unheralded opposition, he has not faced anyone of Burns’ calibre yet.

Burns had been hoping for a fight with more marketable names like Adrien Broner or the winner of Terence Crawford’s July 23 meeting with Viktor Postol.