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Arizona Boxing News & Notes with Don Smith: Kovalev vs. Shabransky at MSG & “The Torch”

Boxing Fans, The unexpected retirement of Andre Ward and Badou Jack’s shocking decision to vacate his title adds a bit of intrigue to the he light heavyweight doubleheader scheduled for November 25 at MSG in New York. In the Main Event of this HBO televised show, Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (30-2-2-16 knockouts) faces 30 year old Vyacheslav “Lion Heart” Shabranskyy (19-1-16 knockouts) in a 12 round bout for the vacant WBO light heavyweight crown. The fact that the bout is presented by Kovalev promoter Events Promotions in association with (Shuan Boxing Promotions, LLC.) should bring a smile to the face of Katy Duva, CEO of Main Events promotions. MS. Duva A few months back (in June) went on a post-fight tirade and attacked Andre Ward after his controversial stoppage of Sergey in their Vegas rematch on June 17 at Mandalay bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

I was there and the 34 year old looked dejected at the post fight press conference and I heard someone say his career is Finito, Kaput after the contest was stopped prematurely, I thought. He is back and this could be his last chance to regain a world title. The bout will be televised live on HBO Championship boxing beginning at 10 p.m. ET. The co-main will feature Sullivan Barrera (20-1) vs. Felix Valera (15-1-1)in a 10 round light heavyweight contest and Sosa vs. Castellanos in a super featherweight bout. Ticket prices range from $50.00 to $350.00 and available online at Ticketmaster, MSG box-office or Main Events office by calling 973-200-7050.

Smoker Result: I was out of town for the Campeones Boxing Gym smoker held on 10/21 in Mesa so, Lydia Hernandez and Harry Prezant saved my bacon and forwarded the names of the first place finishers at the event. We were told that an estimated 300 fans were on hand to support the boxers and Coach Ruiz (Compeones Boxing) was very pleased with the USA Boxing Arizona sanctioned “Day of Champions” Smoker. To everyone involved, we salute you! Coach Mario Ruiz, buoyed by the results, hopes to present a two day tournament in March. Keep reading this column for further details of his proposed event.
At the Saturday event, Cristian Sullivan (Ramos Boxing) won the best bout trophy and he hopes to turn professional next year. When I saw Sullivan box three years ago, I wasn’t impressed; but, the young man has developed into quite a talent; thanks to the smart coaching of trainer Jesus Ramos. Best female bout performance was won by Mariah Martinez (Knockout Boxing). Her coach is Andrew Soto. Ms. Martinez is a frequent winner and her future in boxing could be very promising. Team Trophy went to Martillo Boxing. The gym is becoming a dominant force in Arizona Boxing.

In the future we hope, all smoker hosts will send complete results to and we will print the names of the winning fighters. All reports will be verified and we are proud to support amateur boxing. On 10/21, the following boxers were awarded first place trophies: Sebastian Mitry (F-1 boxing), Brandon Lobatos (F-1 Boxing), Aaron Williams (Martillo’s Boxing), Josh Marquez (Rodriguez Boxing), Brandon Lobatos (F-1 Boxing), Othon Carrola (Broadway Boxing), Juan Gamez (Martillo’s Boxing), Esteban Inzunza (F-1 Boxing), Cristian Sullivan (Ramos Boxing), Romeo Miranda (Sonny’s Gym), David Vera (F-1), Eric Mungula (Scottsdale Boxing), Angel Urieta (Rodriguez Boxing), Christopher Fernandez (Knockout Boxing), Maximo Villalobos (Salvation Army Boxing), Angel Ortiz (Campeones Boxing), Melvin Hernandez (Guadalupe Boxing), Kevin Santana (Martillo’s Boxing), Jermaine Duran (Colorado Boxing), Andrew Mendez (Strong Enough), Alezet Valerio (Martillo’s Boxing), Michael Martinez (Colorado Boxing), Eddie Velasquez (Sonny’s Gym), Anthony Santana (Martillo’s Boxing), Thomas Valerio (Martillo’s Boxing), and Mariah Martinez (Knockout Boxing).

Upcoming Amateur On Saturday, 10/28 the Central Boxing Gym will host a smoker convening at 12:30 p.m. with 12- 18 bouts expected to be on the boxing menu. The venue is located at 1755 W Van Buren in Phoenix and for more info, calls Tom Garcia at 602-451-0689…. Detective/boxing coach Ernesto Prieto and his volunteer staff will host “Disorder by the Border at the Joe Orduno Park, 965 North Park Avenue in San Luis Arizona on Friday 11/03. Please call Detective Prieto (928—919-390) for times because there may be a change. The affable coach is the perfect host and a nervous father who will attend the wedding of his eldest son (Ernesto Jr.) the following the next day, congratulations……The granddaddy of them all, The Gene Lewis Invitational (11/09-10-11) will be held at 59 E. Broadway Road in Mesa….Sonny’s 2nd annual Masters Tournament is scheduled 11/17 at Sonny’s Boxing in Goodyear.

Mail Bag: Marcus Salas wants to know if I think the quality of Announcing at a boxing event sells tickets. Marcus, I don’t think so but a poor announcer or commentator can make the evening seem longer. The boxers, good or bad, are the main attraction and the announcer’s job is to enunciate clearly and write a clear and concise introductory script. Shows that have the announcer’s interview winning boxers after each bout are usually asking their paid talent to go beyond their pay grade; journalist’s interview and announcers introduce. I particularly don’t like announcers who don’t know the limitation of their voice and stray from their script. In some cases, local announcers wing it and that bird rarely flies. I hate to rain on anyone’s parade; but good announcers know their role and limitations. Locally, sonny Franco is a good announcer.

MSG Sellout: It didn’t take long to sell out the Vasyl Lomachenko/ Guillermo Rigondeaux fight at Madison Square Garden set for December 9 and televised on ESPN. The Garden has hosted a lot of great fights and this 12 round could rank with the best. This matchup didn’t need any hype; a New York yellow cab driver with a full tank of gas could have sold out the historic Garden in 2 hours or less. It is a match between double Olympic Gold winners and 2 of the greatest amateurs to ever wear pair of boxing gloves and trunks. Lomachenko (from Ukraine) will enter the ring with a 9-1 record and while the Cuban born Rigondeaux sorts a 17-0 record. The key to their success is that both men can fight and the Garden is the ideal spot for them to square off. I can almost envision some of the greats (Marciano, Louis, Ali) cutting a deal to attend at least in spirit; just a thought.

The fact that this match is happening is a tribute to the management teams at Top Rank and Roc Nation, the promoters of the event. It will be a zoo comes fight night and the craziness will last into the depth of the night and early morning.

I expect more than 2,00o journalists will ask for press credentials and at least 200 hotels will double their room rate before the day of the fight. It is quite possible this veteran journalist will be excluded from gaining a credential; if so, I will work the crowd until I get a story. A good journalist always finds something to write about. Be sure, you check out our fight profile in next column.

ABNN will profile both fighters in our next issue and I have already made air & hotel reservations and I plan to take in the all of the fight activities including the press conference and weigh-in. It is unfair to pre-judge the 12/9 battle for the WBO World super featherweight crown as cinch to be named the fight of 2017 but some scribes are leaning toward that prediction before the first blow is thrown. New York is the Big Apple for a reason, stuff happens, snap crackle and pop.; but, not all is good.

The Torch: question comes from Jesse Ruiz from Fresno California. Jesse wants to know why Johnny “The Torch” Vasquez isn’t acknowledged as a native born Arizonian who won a world title. Johnny won the International Boxing Council Super Bantamweight Title in 1992 and therefore, according to Jesse, deserves to be recognized with Luis Espinoza, Michael Carbajal and David Benavidez, all born in Arizona and winners of world titles.

Johnny was born in Phoenix, but he doesn’t meet the second criteria. An IBC title is considered a second tier title and their champions are not regarded as world champions, unlike the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO, regarded as the big 4. Vasquez had a very impressive 6 year professional career that saw him compile a record of 29 wins-4 losses and 1 draw. He retired in 1995 at the age of 28. We have spoken to each other during two brief encounters and I am attempting to secure an interview with the former southpaw boxing champion that will be printed in a future column. In meantime, go to You Tube and watch some of his fights. He was a very good fighter and we hope to corner him and throw some questions to the former IBC Champion.

Rule Changes: Martin Romero and other readers ask: what is the status of the proposed rule changes submitted by the Arizona Boxing Commission? Answer: Martin, I have talked to the Arizona Boxing Commission and the Arizona Gaming Department to answer the same question for more than a year and recently ABNN received a “Docket Opening” notice authorized by the Office of the Arizona Secretary of State detailing time(s) during which the agency (S.O.S) will accept written comments and the time(s) and place where oral comments may be made concerning the issue you raise. The draft rules, as they are termed, are expected to be posted on the Arizona Boxing webpage: as early as Friday afternoon, 11/27/2017. Also the Arizona Secretary of States webpage will deposit the drafted rules news at: www.http// It is good news for boxing fans that have waited patiently for a peek at the possible changes. ABNN hopes the long awaited document includes plans to address the need for baseline concussion testing. Most states require MRI’s after knockouts.

The Arizona state law requires that members of the public be given at least 30 days to review and comment on the proposed changes to existing rules. Good news, Arizona fight fans and boxing officials have 60 days to read, digest and reflect on the suggestions. Silence means fans passed on the semi democratic process. I wish the ADG would have included a group of boxing insiders to sit in on the process, notable local boxing industry figures like Michael Carbajal, Michael Sanchez, Chris Flores, Don Smith, Tom Garcia, Wes Melton and Richard Soto but that ship has sailed so let it be.

Here is the essence of the official text we discovered on the S.O.S. website. The Agency will accept written comments, effective (11/27), from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (except state holidays), directed to the address listed on the document (item# page 5) as the location of the Arizona Department of Gaming, 1110 W. Washington, suite 450, Phoenix, Arizona. The telephone number listed (602-255-3879) is assigned to Aiden Fleming who is out of his office (Arizona Department of Gaming) but will return on Monday, 10/30. Mr. Fleming, an Arizona State employee, will be glad to answer all questions pertaining to the proposed document.

Comments, on the proposed Boxing/MMA rule changes, in addition to the previously mentioned webpages can also be registered by emailing the agency at: The more people informed, the better the final product will be.

In accordance with our adherence to common sense “Sunshine” rules that applies to the public’s reasonable need and right to gather information affecting their interests and livelihood, we are able to inform our readers of when and where those interested can forward oral comments favoring or opposing the pending changes: November 29, 2017 ( 6 days after Thanksgiving) at 10:a.m. at suite 250, W. 1110 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85007 and again on December 20 (5 days before Christmas) at the same time and place listed for the November 29th monthly commission meeting. I thank the readers for their input and ABNN would like to welcome their continuing interest in pursuing the issue.

RJJ Show in Texas: Roy Jones JR Promotions is taking its brand of boxing to the rapidly growing college town of Austin Texas on December 8 at the Round Rock Sports Center. “Seasons Beatings” is promoted by RJJ Promotions in association with Austin based promoter, Underwood promotions. The 10 round main event features slick boxing Aston Palcite (22-2-19 knockouts versus former WBC world champion Jose Alfredo Rodriguez (32-6-19 knockouts; at stake, Palcite’s NABF super-flyweight belt. Aston is ranked #4 as a flyweight by the WBO and #7 by the IBF and #10 by the WBC. An impressive win could earn the Filipino fighter a shot at a world title.

The co-main matches undefeated Kazakhstan light heavyweight Ali Akhemdov (10-0-7 knockouts) versus Roberto Silva (9-0-7 knockouts) who hails from the Lone Star State. 5 other fights featuring young talent from around the country perform on the undercard. All bouts are subject to change and coverage begins at 11p.m. ET on beIN Sports. Ticket prices range from $30.00 general admission to $100.00 ringside. Also in the mix, $150.00 table (includes open bar & catering. ABNN will be in New York; but, a night of boxing in Austin sounds like fun. I attended college in Texas.

MSCO Boxing: Recently at the request of a coach (Mike) formerly associated with the down defunct MSCO Boxing Program, I contacted Mark Casey , Director of Public Information for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to ask him about the now defunded MSCO Boxing Program and here is his response to Arizona Boxing News & Notes:

Mr. Smith (editor), “The MCSO Boxing Club remains in transition as it adjusts to the passing of long time coach Walt Hoskins. As often happens when a strong and involved leader like Walt leaves the scene, the new coaching leadership pauses, reviews its position, and decides if changes are needed. As it goes through that process, the Sheriff’s Youth Fund (YAF) has placed its support on hold and is assessing future funding. YAF donated all of the equipment in use by the club when Walt was coach to the new coaches and it is our understanding that they contribute to train fighters and assist youth. If there are any updates, we’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for your patience while we gathered the information”: Mark Casey, MCSO, Director of Public Information.

In a follow up phone conversation, he said the program was funded through YAF while Walt Hoskins was the head coach because Hoskins was a former employee of the Sheriff’s Department and he was a strong leader they trusted. He said the new coaches were probably good guys with the kid’s best interest at heart but the lack of perceived vision from the new leadership made them rethink their commitment to the program Casey said they tried to find someone but one person they had in mind backed out.

In a word, it is time for business owners to step up and save a program that keeps kids off the streets and teaches discipline. Email us at if you know of sponsors willing to help a program that meets the needs of its community. If the club continues, it will be renamed in honor of Walt Hoskins according to a coach (Mike) who spoke to me at the Arizona State Fair, recently. His heart is in the right place and we wish the program well!

Boxing Notes: No updates on when the Benavidez brothers fight next and both boys are anxious to get in the ring as they continue training n Oregon. Jose Jr. has his weight down to 154 lbs., 9 pounds over his projected weight for his return bout; he hasn’t fought in more than a year. David and his team can’t understand why it is taking so long to set up his first title defense…..Caroline Oppleman is the new PIO for the Arizona Gaming Department. She has replaced Kristian Fasching who has taken another position in the Department. He will be missed and we welcome his successor.

In our opinion, the Arizona Gaming Department and Boxing/MMA commission is overworked and understaffed. We hear there is a movement to make the Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission independent; but, don’t hold your breath. The process of looking at the rules and suggesting modifications has taken far too long…… retired Arizona boxers Jessica Mohs and Martin Vierra were introduced at the Muay Thai event in Mesa and I forgot to mention their presence in a recent column; it must have been hat noisy drone that distracted me. ….October 25 marked the 5th Anniversary since the passing of legendary boxing trainer Emmanuel Steward who trained 41 world champions including Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko. ABNN sends our regards to daughter Sylvia Steward Williams, manager and owner of the famous Kronk Gym, home for so many champions. …. We keep taking calls complaining about the judging at the last Iron Boy Card at the Celebrity Theatre; within the past few days, several callers told us that Matt Mattingly (3/17/3) was robbed in his fight with undefeated Arizonian Eben Vargas (7-0). I wasn’t there, so I think a rematch with different Judges is a fair way to settle the dispute if Mattingly received the short end of the Judges stick.

Rumble in Fresno: Top Rank’s Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler is on record stating that undefeated Mike Reed (23-0-12 knockouts) can defeat WBC Continental Americas super lightweight champion Jose Ramirez in their title match showdown scheduled for November 11 at the Save Mart Center at Fresno State.

The scrap is billed as A “Fight for Water” has boxing insiders scratching their heads over the matchup because the WBC has already sanctioned Ramirez for a bout with Amir Iman to fill the vacant WBC super lightweight world title. Reed thinks he will make Ramirez regret the decision to face him. Reed thinks a win gives him a shot at Iman and the title. The young man doesn’t lack confidence.

It is becoming common place for promoters to seek out college venues to present a variety of events including boxing. The Save Mart Center is considered one of the most prestigious venues in America with a 10,000-15,000 capacity limit.

Reed (born in Washington D.C.), knows that the California born Ramirez is fighting in his backyard at a venue where he posted record numbers when he fought there in 2015 and 2016. Promoted by Top Rank, the title fight is expected to be a sellout and tickets are available at the box-office ( or by calling Toll Free-1-800-745-3000. Tickets for the championship event are available with ticket prices ranging from $33.00 to $150.00 for floor seating, plus applicable fees. It will be televised live at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN and the co-main features Arthur Beterbiev vs. Enrico Koelling in a 12 round battle for the vacant IBF light heavyweight title. 7 additional fights are on the under card.

Clarification: Muay Thai Level 1 is a bare footed, hands only form of Muay Thai and members of the commission and the general public can watch Muay Thai Level 1 and other levels of Muay Thai performed in multiple contests at the Legends Event Center (43rd Avenue & Camelback Road in Phoenix) on December 2. For a better understanding of Muay Thai, we suggest going to the World Muay Thai Alliance Association website and become familiar with the rules of the sort. The practice of Muay Thai was introduced in Thailand during the 18th Century.

In my review of the Muay Thai show held at Maya’s in Mesa, I mentioned that one of the contestants thought she was there to box and her foe delivered a spin kick to her chest, she told me she the thought it was a boxing match; but I checked with World Muay Thai officials and they said she mistakenly thought the match was level 1 Muay Thai and not the higher level that was listed on the bout sheet. I was there and I apologize if anyone misread my account of the match which was stopped when the woman threw in the towel; no harm, no foul. I expect the Arizona Boxing/MMA commission to monitor the World Muay Thai Alliance more closely; but, I never saw events nothing devious about the Alliance in the two -three show, I have covered …..WBO super middleweight Titlist Gilberto Ramirez is steeping up his game in 2018 and wants to fight in Las Vegas on 2/3 and again in Australia on May 12. His impressive win over tough Jesse Hart has turned a few heads and put at least another zero on his take home paycheck, he is someone to watch in the next two years He is on record as wanting to fight GGG if he (GGG) gets past Canelo in an expected rematch in May, 2018 during Cinco De Mayo Weekend……. Until Next Time!

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Don Smith.

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