By Anthony Cocks
While much of the media focused on the historic WBO heavyweight title fight between Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz Jr that took place in New Zealand this past weekend, there was another story brewing on the sidelines that seemed to involve everyone in boxing from the southern hemisphere and one of the most notorious names in the sport from the past 50 years.
If you believed the media coverage, Bob Arum was the Pope, the Frank Sinatra and the Nelson Mandela of boxing all rolled into one. And his arrival in Auckland was, by all accounts, treated like the second coming of Christ.
On Thursday night, the CEO of promotional firm Top Rank charmed a large contingent of media and boxing personalities at a dinner to celebrate his 85th birthday, but the real story wasn’t about The Bobfather inching a year closer to death. Rather, the savvy businessman was toasting a deal that would see some of the southern hemisphere’s best talent get a start in the States – and/or China, where Top Rank has established a solid foothold in the market.
"Parker has natural skills,” Arum said before the fight. “He’s so big and he punches so hard, and Andy has the fastest hands that I’ve seen on a heavyweight since Muhammad Ali.
"If Parker does defeat Andy Ruiz then we will, together with Duco, perhaps have Parker fight in the United States, then come back here and then fight in China. Believe me, this [is] just the start."
Co-owner of Duco Events, Dean Lonergan, see this as a big opportunity to Oceania fighters on the map.
"We have massive global ambitions for Joseph and for a number of other fighters," said Lonergan. "Just because we come from New Zealand doesn’t mean to say that we can’t do it overseas. In fact, it encourages us to go overseas because our market is so small."
The deal with Duco Events will hand over USA and China promotional rights to Top Rank, with Duco Evets retaining the Oceania promotions and TV rights. On paper, at least, this means exposure not only for Parker in the biggest boxing market in the world, but also for his Duco stablemates like Jeff Horn, Shannon O’Connell, et al.
The big name being bandied about for Horn is reigning WBO welterweight champion and Filipino superstar senator Manny Pacquaio. The likelihood of this fight actually taking place would seem low on paper, with Horn’s almost non-existent profile in the States all but nixing the bout. However, Arum was adamant that a Pacquaio fight was a very real possibility for the former Brisbane schoolteacher.
“The truth is that back in the States where a Pacquiao fight will have to happen, Jeff Horn is not well
known,” conceded Arum. “Only boxing people know him.”
There was also talk of Horn facing either Timothy Bradley 33-2-1-1NC (13) or Jessie Vargas 27-2 (10) in the USA next year, both of whom are former WBO 147-pound titleholders and box under the Top Rank banner.
“That fight (Vargas or Bradley) I would like to see happen in the first three months of the year so that if Horn is successful, we can build for a fight with Pacquiao late in the year, because Manny told me he was fighting twice in 2017 and then he will hang up his gloves,” said Arum.
Another boxer in the frame is Shannon O’Connell, who revealed on her Facebook page that Arum is looking to capitalize on her Irish surname for a St Patrick’s Day clash in New York next year.
Of course, no-one needs reminding that Arum’s most famous quote is “Yesterday I was lying, but today I’m telling the truth”. But we here at Maxboxing are eternal optimists. We hope for the best and plan for the worst.
FINAL WORD ON PARKER VS RUIZ
The Parker vs Ruiz fight has already been analysed to death, so this column will simply say this: when you fight in your opponent’s backyard, you start a round or two behind. And in a close fight, that matters.
Every boxer fighting abroad should remember that.
HORN, O’CONNELL AND DOGBOE SHINE ON UNDERCARD
Perhaps lost in hashing and rehashing of the main event was WBO #2 Jeff “The Hornet” Horn’s impressive performance against former three-time world title challenger Ali Funeka 39-6-3 (31) from South Africa, dropping him twice and stopping him by TKO in the sixth.
Sure, Funeka had seen better days and was two weight divisions removed from his prime. But the lanky 6-foot-1 boxer-puncher came to fight and wasn’t going to let Horn have it all his own way.
“It was a tough fight because he was so awkward and tall,” said Horn, who was at a four-inch height disadvantage against WBO #8 Funeka. “It was a new challenge with his height and the experience.”
After boxing his way to a lead in the first two rounds, the 28-year-old Australian was on the receiving end of a head clash combined with a body shot that dropped him right at the bell to end the third round and Canadian referee Marlon Wright applied a count. Another headclash in the fourth opened up a cut over Funeka’s left eye and suddenly the fight hung in the balance if it was stopped early due to the cut.
The Hornet knew what was on the line and threw caution to the wind, tagging Funeka repeatedly with both hands and in the fifth dropped him two minutes into the round with a crushing right hand. He worked desperately to end proceedings before the bell but the rugged South African somehow survived to wobble back to his corner at the end of the round.
But the one minute rest break wasn’t long enough for Funeka to recover and Horn went straight back to work where he left off when they came out for the sixth. Accurate lefts and rights rained down on Funeka’s head and with him reeling across the ring on the verge of going down again, referee Wright waved off the contest at 0:30 of the round.
It was only the second time the 38-year-old Funeka had been stopped in his 48-fight professional career.
With the win, Horn, 16-0-1 (11), will likely be elevated to the number one position in the WBO rankings behind reigning titleholder Manny Pacquiao.
“I could be fighting Manny Pacquaio or Tim Bradley in my next fight, who knows,” said Horn. “I’m ready for any of them.”
In an entertaining, fast-paced bout “Shotgun” Shannon O’Connell 15-4-1 (7) from Slacks Creek, Queensland, showed her class outworking Laura Griffa 13-1 (1) over 10 two-minute rounds. The 33-year-old Australian mother of two was grateful to be back in the ring and showed her pleasure by bringing the heat to the previously undefeated Argentine from Buenos Aires.
“I’ve had so much support so thank you to everyone for getting behind me,” said O’Connell after the fight. “My two kids have had to put up with the brunt of my moods while I’ve been in training but I’ll be nice to them when I get home.”
Scores at the conclusion were 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75.
WBO #8 122-pounder Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe 16-0 (10) from Accra, Ghana was impressive in stopping WBO #9 Julian Aristule 32-7 (16) in the 7th round on a scheduled 10.
Once the 22-year-old London Olympian figured out his more experienced opponent’s tricky southpaw style it was only a matter of time before the fight was stopped. Dogboe, who is managed by Mike Altamura of MJA, increased the tempo as the fight went on and by the seventh round the 33-year-old Argentine was wilting under the pressure. Two trips to the canvas prompted Aristule’s corner to wave the towel and the fight was stopped at the 1:15 mark.
The win earns Dogboe both the WBO International super bantamweight title and the WBO Latino super bantamweight title.
ZAPPAVIGNA’S LUCK RUNS OUT AGAINST LIPINETS
In a bloody battle for the right to challenge newly minted IBF junior welterweight titleholder Julius Indongo from Namibia, 29-year-old veteran Leonardo Zappavigna 35-3 (25) came up heartbreakingly short against rugged 27-year-old Kazakh Sergey Lipinets 11-0 (9) on the undercard of the Jermall Charlo vs Julian Williams IBF junior middleweight title fight at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
The rough and tumble, seesaw affair saw both boxers cut, bruised and busted up over seven-and-a-half entertaining, exhilarating rounds.
Zappavigna dominated Lipinets in the fourth, staggering him and busting open his right eye in one of the exchange. Lipinets returned the favour and then some in the fifth, opening a cut over Zappavigna’s right eye and sending him to the canvas with a counter left hook.
The toe-to-toe action continued in the sixth as both boxers dropped bombs on each other. Between rounds the ringside physician examined Zappavigna’s facial cuts.
After seven rounds, two of the judges had the fight even at 66-66, while the third judge had the 27 year-old former world champion kickboxer up by two points 67-65. Zappavigna’s skin wouldn’t hold up as he was cut from punches around the left eye in round six and again in round eight.
"My eyes were cut, I couldn’t see in one round because I had so much blood in my eyes," said the Freddie Roach trained Zappavigna.
The slugfest continued in the 8th until Lipinets landed a clean right hand to the head that dropped Zappavigna to the seat of his pants and referee Tom Taylor counted him out at 1:23 of the round.
"I left it all in the ring," said a clearly disappointed Zappavigna afterwards. "I fought my heart out and I came here to give it my best. Even though I’m disappointed with the loss, I am at peace with the result because I know I couldn’t have done anything else."
While Zappavigna didn’t get the win, he did prove once again why he is the most exciting fighter Australia has produced since 135-pound powerhouse Michael Katsidis.
HOSKING PROMOTIONS FINISH THE YEAR WITH A BANG
Hosking Promotions have closed the year out with a bang with the Moloney twins – Jason and Andrew – both scoring knockout wins in their sixth fights for the year at the Melbourne Park Function Centre in Melbourne on Saturday night.
Super bantamweight Jason 11-0 (10) dismissed 28-year-old Mexican Enrique Bernache 22-9 (11) in six rounds to successfully defend his WBA Oceania strap, while bantamweight Andrew 11-0 (7) took even less time to get rid of Argentine Carlos Ruben Diaz Ruiz 21-9 (10) in the fourth to retain his WBA Oceania title.
Both Maloney’s debuted in the WBA rankings for November with Jason opening his account at #11 while Andrew entering at #13. With their most recent wins they can expect a further boost when the Panamanian-based sanctioning body next updates their rankings.
There won’t be much of a break for the 25-year-olds over Christmas with their next scheduled assignments on the Anthony Mundine vs Danny Green undercard on 3rd February 2017.
Also on the card middleweight Michael Zerafa 21-2 (12) dropped Spearwood, Western Australia’s Renato Oliveria 9-1 (2) in the first round and finished him off in the third to defend his IBF Pan Pacific title for the first time.
Balla brothers Qamil 10-0-1 (4) and Ibrahim 9-1 (7) turned in near identical performances to both get rid of their Indonesian opponents by 5th round KO. Featherweight Ibrahim dominated every round against Augus Kustiawan 17-6-1 (7) while lightweight Qamil did likewise against Musa Letding 11-6-4 (6).
“FRENZY” MACKENZIE WINS AUSSIE TITLE, WANTS DIB NEXT
Kye “Frenzy” MacKenzie 16-1 (14) scored the biggest win of his career when he stopped previously unbeaten Dylan Emery 17-1 (10) in the 4th round for the Australian junior welterweight title at the Horden Pavilion in Sydney on Friday night.
The win was made even more impressive by the fact that MacKenzie, a natural super featherweight, jumped up two weight division to take on the challenge.
Mackenzie has declared himself ready to challenge former IBF featherweight champion Billy Dib 41-4 (23) who is back in action this Friday night against Tanzanian Emilio Norfat at the Bankstown emporium Function Centre Sydney.
“RAM” ROD CARR PASSES AT 48
This week the Australian boxing community was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of former Commonwealth champion and world ranked super middleweight “Ram” Rod Carr who passed away unexpectedly at the tender age of 48.
Carr made his pro debut in 1987 as a light heavyweight against Bob Drummond at the Fitzroy Central Hall in Melbourne, Victoria, winning by second round KO.
Two years later the same venue Carr annexed 168-pound Commonwealth title against Ghana’s Ray Acquaye, knocking him out in the 4th.
Carr is perhaps best remembered for travelling into Henry Wharton’s backyard of Yorkshire, England for a brace of challenges for the Commonwealth title in 1991 and 1992. In the first fight Carr was unlucky to lose by a single point on referee and sole judge Dave Parris’s scorecard. In the rematch, he was unlucky to be stopped on a cut eye in the 8th.
Wharton’s three career losses were all close points decisions in world title fights.
Carr retired in 1995 with a respectable record of 13-7-3 (11). In recent years Carr was a fixture in the corner of his talented son Jake, a former Australian champion who also fights at the family weight of 168-pounds.
Carr is survived by wife Sharon and sons Ryan and Jake. Maxboxing passes on its sincere condolences to his family, friends and many fans.
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