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List of Articles by Don Smith

Arizona Boxing News & Notes with Don Smith: Rigondeaux/Lomachenko Schedule & Much More

By Don Smith
05 Dec 2017

Boxing Fans, On Wednesday Morning, ABNN will be headed to New York to cover the Lomachenko/Rigondeaux 12 round ESPN/Deportes televised battle for Lomachenko’s WBO super featherweight title on Saturday 12/9. It is arguably this year’s most ballyhooed boxing event with the possible exception of the GGG/Canelo & McGregor/Mayweather bouts in Las Vegas. The less we say about the M & M encounter; the better. I recommend all series boxing fans have your beers and snacks ready at 1st bell, it should be a night to remember; so, don’t miss because I want your feedback!

Top Rank sent out pre fight info and event schedule for the event and hopefully my flight arrives early enough to catch the media workouts on Wednesday December 6 at the Mendez Gym located at 23 East 26th Street beginning at 11:15 am. First fighter on tap to watch is Bryant Jennings (20-2-11 knockouts) whose career took a step back with consecutive losses to Klitschko & Ortiz; but he stopped the slide with a TKO victory over Daniel Martz (15-5-12 knockouts) in August. The 6’ 4” boxing veteran hopes an impressive win over Don Haynesworth (13-1-1) at MSG will signal that the 33 year old fighter is once again a contending factor in the heavyweight ranks; anything less than a victory might put his continuation on hold. Here is the remainder of the workout lineup and scheduled times. I wish all my readers could join me at the Mendez Gym, sorry, I am only taking a small carryon bag with me. You can slap me when I get back.

11:30 am: super featherweight Casey Ramos (24-1-6 knockouts) don gloves and workouts for 15 minutes. Casey faces Christopher Diaz (21-0-13 knockouts) on Saturday night. 11:45 am. Diaz will enter the ring and perform a light workout with his trainer. Noon: rising star Mikaela Mayer (3-0-3 knockouts) works out for the press photographers as she prepares for her Saturday night rendezvous with lightweight Nydia Feliciano (9-8). 2016 USA Olympic medalist (Bronze) Shakur Stevenson (3-0-3 knockouts) will face the press in a workout scheduled for noon. Stevenson faces Oscar Mendez (4-2) on Saturday and he has been sparring with Lomachenko. 2016 Canadian Olympian representative Michael Conlan is set for a 1:00 pm workout followed by Guillermo Rigondeaux at 1:30 pm and Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1) will conduct his workout at 2:00 pm. Conlan is being promoted big time by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum has given his seal of approval for the kid and he is being pushed very hard to become a contender by the end of 2018.

On Thursday 12/7, the final press conference at Chase Square in MSG will be held at 11:00 am and credentialed members of the media will be checked in starting at 10:30 am. Anyone losing their credential could be watching the event from their hotel room or a nearby bar; what an awful and painful thought.

The official Weigh-In is scheduled for Chase Square at Madison Square Garden with media check-in at 1:00 pm and 1st fighter must be ready to weigh at 1:30 pm.

Fight night is Saturday, doors open at 7:00 pm with 1st fight beginning at 7:30 pm. Members of the press are advised to pick up their credentials between 6:30-9:00 pm. If you can’t attend, view the action on ESPN or Deportes. I rarely confess to being anything less than super cool, but I am excited and can’t wait until 1st bell.

Comment: Sometimes I forget to thank all of my readers for their following my column and as we near the holiday season, I want to extend best wishes to everyone even those who rarely agree with me and wouldn’t mind throwing a pie in my face or something worse. It is the price we pay living in a democracy and I will always fight for the right for anyone to speak freely even when I disagree with its content. Thank you for being a reader and on behalf of Roy Moore, just kidding. Take care and be kind when appropriate and if you can’t be kind, just walk away.

Boxing News: Arizona welterweight Abel Ramos was ready to fight on the Roy Jones Jr. Promotions 12/8 card “Season’s Beatings” in Austin, Texas but finding a suitable opponent for the crafty pugilist came up empty; so apparently his management team (Journeyman Promotions) put out an alert and as a result, Ramos may fight on the Jessie Vargas (27-2-10 knockouts) vs. Aaron Herrera (33-7-1) card scheduled for Friday 12/15 at the Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California located in Northern Los Angeles County.

The (Vargas vs. Herrera) card will be televised by Fox Sports/Deportes. All Ramos needs now is an opponent for the proposed 6 round bout, a familiar dilemma for the popular fighter (18-2-2) throughout his professional career.

Here is a suggestion for Team Ramos: welterweights Diego Chaves (26-2-1-22 Knockouts) and Jamal James (21-1) tangle in the 10 round co-mains; therefore it would be realistic for Team Ramos to challenge the winner of the bout. After all, boxing is a business; be innovative!

The rest of the under-card: John Molina (29-7-23 knockouts) takes on Ukrainian Ivan Redkach (20-3-1-16 knockouts) in a 10 round junior welterweight battle.

And if fate serves him well, Able Ramos will then prepare to travel to Park City Kansas, 5-6 miles from Wichita, and fight Cesar Soriano Berumen (28-36-1) at the Hartman Arena on 2/10. The headline bout at the spacious Arena is 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist Nico Hernandez (3-0-2 knockouts). Hard to believe that after 3 bouts, the 21 year is fighting José Ajtai (19-9) for the vacant IBA flyweight title. The match was to be held in December of this year; but, the Olympian suffered an unspecified injury prompting the fight date to be changed as a precaution according to KO Night Boxing (promoter) and the fighter’s trainer Lewis Hernandez. The capacity of Hartman Arena is 5,000-6,500 depending on the configuration.

Nico, Take Notice: Arizona’s popular flyweight Adrian “Sharkey” Servin (5-0-1-2 knockouts)is still upset over his controversial loss in the Olympic box-offs and he believes he will be ready to challenge the Kansas native by the summer of next year to fulfill his dream of winning a title. I talked to Mike Servin (Adrian’s father) and he described Hernandez’s foe (Berumen) as a hard working “journeyman” who doesn’t have the skill to beat top notch flyweights.

The confident dad, a man who speaks his mind, went on to issue a challenge to the Olympian and I am sure Arizona’s Iron Boy Promotions wouldn’t mind hosting and co-promoting the fight in Phoenix, Arizona if a contract is signed.

Team Servin will make sure Hernandez hears of the challenge and ABNN hopes Hernandez will commit and acquit himself of whispered charges that the Olympian is overrated.

More News: Abel Ramos’s 15 year old nephew (Jesus Ramos Jr.) is fighting in the USA Boxing Nationals in Salt Lake City Utah 12/3-12/9 representing Arizona and Ramos Boxing. Jose Vargas and Elijah Garcia will represent Hammer Boxing at the same event and Moises Rosales (Fuentes Gym) has entered the tournament and we don’t have the complete list of Arizona fighters going because only handful of Arizona gyms take the time to notify ABNN by contacting …….Arizona welterweight Jose Benavidez JR (25-0-16 knockouts) may be added to the 2/3 Gilberto Ramirez/Ahmed Corpus Christi Card televised by ESPN/Deportes. It is an idea being kicked around. The 25 year old Benavidez (aka “Merciless”) has a bit of ring rust after a 16-17 month layoff. His team says he is battle fit and ready for action; what else do you expect them to say? I personally wish him well, I found out we share the same taste in colognes: Ralph Lauren’s Polo Blue.

Sorry the show’s bout sheet isn’t complete; but, here is our updated card projection (with hesitancy) based on printed news and rumors from informants; none of which ever spent time in prison, we don’t think. Main Event: WBO Super Middleweight Champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (36-0-24 knockouts) will defend his title against Habib “Wild Hurricane” Ahmed 26-0-1-18 knockouts, in a 12 round contest. We can’t confirm the Co-Main Event. Phoenix’s Ray Beltran spoke to Deportes and announced he was fighting for the vacant WBO lightweight title; but, show promoter (Top Rank) hasn’t confirmed it, so we have to list his bout as tentative.

In a special bout, heavyweight contender Andy Ruiz (29-1-19 knockouts returns to the ring after his loss to heavyweight champion Joseph Parker of New Zealand. The quick punching Ruiz is very adept to using his immense bulk to his advantage. His opponent is to be announced. If Jose Benavidez is added to the show, expect brother David and the whole Benavidez clan to be there to support his return to boxing. I predict a strong turnout for the event; fans should get their ticket early like Arizona fight fan Geoff Ronning did. Good seats remain available online or at the box-office.

Mail Bag: Delores Fuentes wants to know how many times Phoenix lightweight Ray Beltran has fought in Arizona as a professional? Delores, according to our research, the popular pugilist (born in Mexico) has fought 8 times in the Grand Canyon state including 4 times in 1999; once under a tent at Bush Company in Phoenix.

More Mail: Carlos Gonzales wants to know how former Top Rank associate Peter McKinn can remain involved in boxing or any professional sport after his felony conviction 2-3 years ago. Carlos, several people believe McKinn received a felony conviction after his “bad” check writing incident, he did not. I asked McKinn recently and he showed me his voters registration card which means the case didn’t end in a felony conviction. I thought as you did until I was shown the proof. Update: Mr. McKinn left a message Saturday night on my voice mail informing me that he was retiring from boxing after 2 decades of promoting and producing, boxing & wrestling shows. In the past year he focused his energy on amateur Muay Thai and he played an integral role in presenting 2 amateur shows in Maricopa County, Arizona in 2017.

According to McKinn, his decision is a result of what he referred to as the “incompetence” of the Arizona Boxing/MMA commission and irrevocable differences he has with the proposed adoption of new rules and regulations presented at the monthly commission meeting on Wednesday, 11/29 in Phoenix.

The colorful and controversial McKinn went on to add that his retirement would become effective after he completed two “in the works” projects. He said it was a decision made after consultation with his family. I called him back and asked him what he what he would be doing in the future and he replied, “Chasing Big Foot”. We ended our conversation after his unexpected revelation. He called me back an hour later and said that if he doesn’t chase Big Foot, he might enter politics and run for a position in the state legislature. I know the members of the Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission are happier than a well fed Canary to hear that from someone who could conceivably be a watchdog over the agency. I will miss McKinn because I think dissent is healthy even from someone who disagrees with my point of view on a majority of issues.

Short Jabs: Central Boxing Gym manager Tom Garcia is out of the hospital and expects to be back to work within the week. …..Irish Canadian Janks Trotter, former seasonal Arizona resident, is fighting in Toronto on 12/8……..The Silver Gloves Tournament is scheduled for 12/16-17 at Sonny’s Boxing Gym in Goodyear, Arizona. Showtime is 3:00 pm on Saturday and 1 pm on Sunday. Contact more information by call Andrew Soto at 602-515-4747……Sorry to see Miguel Cotto lose his final fight, he was a great ring warrior. Fox Sports 1 will show former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal‘s fight from Hialeah Rack Track & Casino Florida live on 12/ 12/8. Undefeated Adam Lopez (8-0) is on the under-card. I met Pascal in Montreal, nice guy; I don’t know how much he has left in the tank.

Comment Session: On Wednesday 11/29 the Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission held its’ monthly meeting and while most monthly gatherings (the ones that are not cancelled) are usually considered Vanilla or ho hum; this one promised to keep all eyes wide open.

The Gaming Department and notified members of the boxing and mixed martial arts community seemed to agree this would be no ordinary meeting. I noticed a uniformed member of the Capitol Police present and I quickly picked up on the fact that Rudy Casillas, Deputy Director of Arizona’s Gaming Department was there accompanied by 2-3 associates wearing badges. I didn’t get close enough to examine the badges; but, their presence suggested they were ready for trouble if it occurred.

The November meeting was a special occasion because the session offered the public an opportunity to comment on new rules and regulations that were drafted by a writing team assigned to the task. In doing so, they made some changes and these proposed changes pleased some members of the audience while others present thought the commission had sinister reasons for repealing all of the rules and writing new ones that addressed the governing of boxing, MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

The meeting inside room 245 (at 1110 Washington Street in Phoenix) commenced at 10:00 a.m. as scheduled. Commission Chairman Scott Peters called the session to order and he was flanked by fellow commissioners Joe Pennington and Scott Fletcher. Sitting with them were Executive Director Juan Estrada and his associate Norma Rivero. Also present on the dais was the commission’s attorney (I didn’t catch her name) and Public Information Officer, Caroline Oppleman who was nursing a cold.

I entered the room at 9:50 am and signed in as requested. I was scolded unceremoniously at a previous meeting for not doing so and as a result, I promised myself to never commit the offense again. Failing to comply again could result in a call to the Capitol Police to remove me or chants of lock him up. I should refrain from taking cough medicine.

At least 12-15 attendees failed to follow my example for whatever reason and several people failed to sign the guest sheet manned by a security guard on the ground floor. I spotted at least 4 people, headed for the meeting, who climbed the stairs thus bypassing a guard who didn’t see the technically illegal entrants; maybe the state should build a wall surrounding the stairwell. I felt tenseness in the air as I entered the building and rode the elevator to a room filled with overly serious looking people. One spectator approached me and told me she didn’t feel comfortable and it wasn’t the presence of the Capitol Police that made her feel like leaving, but she stayed because she thought she should.

At most monthly meetings, member’s pf the commission share a few light moments before turning to the agenda. Commissioner Scott Fletcher did share the fact that he was wearing a Denver Bronco Team tie but he wanted it known that when it came to football loyalty ties , he lined up with the Arizona Cardinals and his remark dew a giggle or two but the mood of the audience was too somber to appreciate his corny ad lib. He must be crying after the Cardinals loss to the Rams on Sunday.

After quickly approving the minutes from the October 25 meeting, commission chairman Scott Peters and Executive Director Juan Estrada hurried through the first 2 agenda items that seemed unimportant compared to the big ticket item, discussing the proposed rule changes. I thought both men were nervous and were sweating and only Commissioner Joe Pennington appeared calm, cool and collected.

Mr. Pennington met with 2-3 people with opposing views after the meeting in the parking lot and listened to them for more than 30 minutes; he was brave and right to do so.

A review of the meeting: Each person who wanted to speak was given 5 minutes to comment on the proposed rule changes and they were told be specific and stay on topic. I was asked to comment but declined because I didn’t like the process used to determine the proposed changes. In my opinion, the writing team, a cadre of dedicated government workers, lacks the experience and knowledge to repeal and rewrite an entire set of new rules without holding a series of hearings and accepting input from people who know the subject matter. That sentiment isn’t mean spirited or directed any one person.

I also share the opinion that we don’t have enough qualified judges, referees and inspectors in the state of Arizona to enforce new rules or even the existing. Rules and regulations please excuse my insight; but, I think my view is shared by a multitude of people in the industry.

My critique isn’t personal, as a member of the fourth estate I went to the meeting as an observer with a duty to report to those who couldn’t be there for whatever reason.

I was impressed as I listened to Arturo Ortega and Harry Prezant gives their take on the process. Mr. Ortega is a former professional boxer, coach and he is knowledgeable in kickboxing and Muay Thai. His message was very simple; why didn’t the state not contact him and ask him his opinion. Harvey asked the same question and he reiterated, during his allotted time, what he said in a recent ABNN column about a former Executive Director of the Arizona Boxing/MMA giving him an order to do something illegal while he (Prezant) was working as a judge; he refused and rightfully so.

Matchmaker/Promoter Peter McKinn suggested that everyone working with and for the commission passes a rules test before settling into their duties on the commission. The suggested test would cover Muay Thai, Boxing, MMA and Kickboxing. The Mixed Martial Arts Test is quite difficult and a number of people, who take it, fail.

Also, I am disturbed about the fact that the state of Arizona wrote a statute in 2015 covering the professional Muay Thai without a set of rules in place. In 2017, a professional Muay Thai show was performed in Tempe and it was sanctioned by the state of Arizona before the rules were written, mind boggling and very confusing.

There was a myriad of questions left unanswered; at least 5-6 people at the meeting were curious about the data collected for the project. They were told it was public record and easily accessible. It should have been available at the meeting if not in synopsis form and possibly on display at the commission 30 days prior to the meeting so the boxing community could drop by and get a better understanding of the immense effort undertaken by the commission. Part of the problem is the fact that the commission is understaffed and lacks the financial resources to get up to speed. I sympathize with their needs and I don’t see their situation improving, unfortunately.

I counted 10 speakers. Dennis O’Connell, boxing referee, Judge and former Executive Director was the first and he praised the commission for their work. He said anything that could be done to make his work easier was greatly appreciated. 3 local promoters took to the podium also praised the commission. Roland Sarria, a controversial figure in the world of MMA and Muay Thai, used his 5 minutes to bash the commission and praise himself.

He was admonished twice by the commission for rambling and sounding incoherent. Before he left he left the commission grounds ; he got into a shouting match outside with another promoter (Joel Lopez) who accused Sarria of being a dishonest promoter. Lopez does the majority of shows on Indian land and he said Roland put on some pretty sloppy shows on reservations and Lopez said he had to convince tribal leaders that he wouldn’t rip off the Native Americans like Sarria did. Lopez is part Native American. During his stand at the podium he suggested the commission look into sanctioning shows on Indian reservations outside of the state an idea that won’t float with anyone who understands the rule of law.

I forgot to add that Roland was asked, at one point while he was in the audience, to be quiet by the Capitol Police officer. Sarria was quite provocative and provided free entertainment throughout the very special meeting. 2 years ago, Mr. Sarria called my house and accused me of investigating him on behalf of USA Boxing Arizona. He called numerous times and when I approached him about the threats, he said he would never harm me because I am near the age of his father. As to his accusation; false!

Banner Health was represented by Bryce (last name on the sign-in sheet was illegible) at the meeting and he thanked the rules drafting team for implementing a proposal to include mandatory baseline concussion testing when a fighter showed problematic symptoms. I was at a commission hearing some time ago when Bryce and several medical colleagues discussed the subject before then Executive Director Matthew Valenzuela and they grappled with who was going to pay for such testing and the question wasn’t answered. As I recall, the estimated cost for the very basic test was $20.00-$25.00. Mayo Clinic supposedly administers free test to athletes, age 18 and under, who show possible signs of suffering a concussion. I was never able to verify that claim.

Also, I contacted several organizations dedicated to treating and caring for athletes (some homeless) suffering from brain trauma and they tell me that what was being proposal is similar to treating a severe wound with a simple Band-Aid.

The next step will to be to collect all of the comments made at the meeting and to the Department of Gaming by letter or email and forward them to the Office of the Secretary of State where it will remain for a period of time for scrutiny. After it has been assessed and reassessed, the document will be forwarded to the Governor’s desk for inspection and possible signature. He doesn’t have to approve of any of the proposed measures; it is totally up to him. Members of the commission told me the rule making proposal is a mandated requirement and now that it is done, we can only wait and see until the document presentation has been made, approved or disapproved, partially or fully. I am not sure if the state legislature takes an active role in the final decision process; but, I will investigate and report, if so.My concern is the integrity of the process and the protection of all athletes who are affected by its possible passage….Until Next Time!

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