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Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Years Ago...

Two years ago, there was much to be optimistic about for fans of current Jewish boxers. Three well-regarded undefeated Jewish prospects made us dream of a Jewish boxing revival. That optimism has since faded. All three are currently coming off of their first career loss.

Heading into his bout with Cedric Boswell, Roman Greenberg had a string of wins over experienced heavyweights with winning records. The two met in the ring on August 29, 2008. It was certainly a step up for Greenberg (now 27-1, 18 KOs). Boswell, though well past his prime, had a sparkling record of 27-1. Boswell's only loss was a 10th TKO against world class opponent, Jameel McCline, in 2003. Boswell fought well, but ran out of gas in that final round.

Against his toughest test, Greenberg was knocked out by Boswell in the 2nd round. He hasn't fought since. An injury has delayed his return. There have been rumblings that Greenberg will make a comeback, but he hasn't yet materialized in the ring as of yet. By now, it has been a nearly two-year lay-off. When he does reenter the heavyweight picture, the question will be whether or not he can regain the momentum he was riding before the Boswell fight back in 2008.

Dmitriy Salita was scheduled to fight WBA light welterweight champion Andriy Kotelnik in 2008. But Kotelnik had to back out. Kotelnik then beat a world class puncher, Marcos Maidana, and lost to Amir Khan. Last December, Salita found himself paired up against Khan, who is on the short list of boxers on the cusp of mainstream stardom, for the belt. Khan's hand speed shocked Salita and the fight ended in the 1st round.

Salita's 30 wins include some foes with good records, but none against hot prospects or world class boxers. Between the talent of his opponents in his wins and that of Khan is a continent-size gap. As Khan could be a top pound-for-pound boxer in the near future, a loss to him should not define Salita. There is still room for Salita to work his way up to the world class level.

Yuri Foreman had defeated a number of solid fighters when he faced Daniel Santos for the WBA light middleweight championship last November. Foreman was impressive that night and won the title, improving his record to 28-0. He became the first Jewish world champion of this century. The win afforded him a historic bout against superstar Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium.

Foreman lost his title to Cotto earlier this month, but he gained respect within the boxing community in the loss. After rupturing his meniscus and ACL in the 7th round, Foreman continued to fight. He's likely out for the rest of 2010, but will likely return to boxing relevance when he heels.

There is one active Jewish boxer who remains undefeated. Ran Nakash, who is turning 32 next week, is a 22-0 cruiserweight from Israel. At 5'9", he's short for the division. But he wears the weight well, from his broad shoulders down to his massive legs. He harbors a vicious body punch.
Nakash has beaten some solid journeymen, though they had poor records, but he has not faced a world class opponent as of yet. Nor has he competed against a top prospect. His first test will come in July against an aged former champion, Lou Del Valle. Nakash has often fought over the 200-pound cruiserweight limit. But the Krav Maga instructor has stayed busy, engaging in six bouts in the past year. It remains to be seen if this dangerous puncher can win when he steps up next month.

Certainly, the optimism of having three renowned Jewish prospects has subsided. But a loss on one's record is not fatal in boxing. The Super Six Tournament, involving the best super middleweights in the world, is hoping to show that a loss will not stain a boxer's chances at gaining respect. Instead, involvement in tough fights is the key to making a fighter's reputation.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nakash Scheduled to Fight Del Valle

Ran Nakash (24-0, 18 KOs) is scheduled to face Lou Del Valle (36-6-2, 22 KOs) at The Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 14, 2010. Del Valle marks a step up for the undefeated Israeli cruiserweight.

Del Valle is a former WBA light heavyweight champion. The 41-year old Long Island native won his title nearly 13 years ago. He has faced top competition, losing unanimous decisions to Roy Jones Jr. and Virgil Hill, both taking place in the 1990s. It will be the second fight in roughly two years for Del Valle, who moved up to cruiserweight in 2004 after a spilt decision loss to Bruno Girard in a bid to regain the WBA light heavyweight title.

Meanwhile, Nakash has stayed busy this year. This would be his fourth fight of 2010 and his seventh in about a year. Nakash has never faced an opponent of Del Valle's caliber, though the ex-champion is past his prime. Del Valle is 1-3-1 in his last 5 bouts, which dates back to 2006.

The two have a common opponent. Dan Sheehan lost a unanimous decision to Del Valle in 2005 and was knocked out in the 3rd against Nakash this past April. The bout between Naash and Del Valle is scheduled for 10 rounds.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Look Back: Benny Leonard

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will present monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

A hero to poor Jewish kids, the great Benny Leonard, nicknamed the Ghetto Wizard, is widely regarded as the best Jewish boxer of all time. Many consider him the best lightweight ever and he is often ranked as one of the top ten best fighters in the history of the sport. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Benjamin Leiner was born on April 7, 1896 in New York's Lower East Side to poor Russian immigrants. He fought under the name Benny Leonard so his Orthodox mother wouldn't find out that he was boxing. Leonard's debut came in 1911 at the age of 15, a match he lost on a 3rd round TKO due to a bloody nose. He didn't lose many more after that. From 1917-1925, Leonard held the lightweight title, the longest such reign in the history of the division. He retired as champion.

Renown journalist Arthur Brisbane claimed, "He has done more to conquer anti-Semitism than 1,000 textbooks." Leonard was known as a cerebral boxer, a master defensively, who developed power later in his career. A story about his wherewithal in the ring goes: after nearly knocking out contender Ritchie Mitchell earlier in the first round of their 1921 contest, Mitchell hit Leonard with a left to the midsection and a right to the jaw. Leonard went down and barely beat the count. At that point, he waved Mitchell in, which thoroughly confused the contender, and the chance to KO the champ faded. Leonard won a 6th round TKO.

As is the case with men who began their careers nearly 100 years ago, Leonard's official record is a point of contention. For starters, Leonard fought in an era when boxing was teetering on the edge of legality. By law, a winner was crowned only in the event of a knockout. To get around this restriction, newspapers often scored the fight and printed the results the next day. Leonard's record is approximately 91-5-1 with 71 KOs and perhaps 117 no decisions (he was apparently 93-14-10 in newspaper decisions).

In addition to his debut loss, he was stopped two more times early in his career. His next loss was a DQ for the welterweight championship against titlist Jack Britton about 10 years later. Britton was in control of the bout until Leonard nailed him with a left to the body in the 13th round. Britton went down. Leonard, the epitome of poise, then inexplicably ran over to a befallen Britton and whacked him causing the disqualification.

Seldom did Leonard ever lose control as he did in the Britton fight. Even his hair stayed cool. The Ghetto Wizard famously bragged that his slick-backed hair was never messed up during a fight. Ken Blady relays a story where an opponent, Leo Johnson, sullied Leonard's hair when they met in the center of the ring before their 1917 fight for the lightweight title in an effort to get Leonard out of his game. Leonard greeted the disrespectful gesture by knocking out Johnson in two minutes.

Benny Leonard lost his vast boxing fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. As a result, he set about on an ill-fated comeback. He won a number of fights, but only because his opponents took dives. He was fatter, slower, and even his trademark hair had receded. Leonard worked his way up to a fight with Jimmy McLarnin, one in which the former champion was beaten badly and stopped in the 6th round. Leonard then retired from boxing. He later contributed to the war effort in World War II, just as he had done during the first World War. Afterwards, he became a boxing referee and died in the ring on April 18, 1947 in New York.

Benny Leonard vs. Lew Tendler
July 27, 1922
Jersey City, New Jersey
Lightweight Championship

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988. pgs 109-128.
Bodner, Allen. When Boxing was a Jewish Sport. 1997.
Siegman, Joseph. Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Hall of Fame. 2000. pgs 57-58.
Sugar, Bert. Boxing's Greatest Fighters. 2006. pgs 17-19.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nakash to Fight in Philadelphia Again

Philadelphia is familiar ground for Ran Nakash (24-0, 18 KOs). He has competed there ten times. The cruiserweight is schedule to fight once again in the city, on July 14, 2010 against an unspecified opponent. Negotiations with former cruiserweight challenger Bobby Gunn are evidently off.

In other news regarding Jewish boxers in Philadelphia, Elad Shmuel was originally schedule to box at the Hyatt Regency in Penns Landing this afternoon, but was taken off the card earlier in the week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Foreman Underwent Successful Surgery

ESPN's Dan Rafael is reporting that former WBA light middleweight champion Yuri Foreman underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn meniscus and a torn ACL.

Rafael writes, "Murray 'Schpipples' Wilson, Foreman's manager, said he hopes Foreman will be ready to return to action in February."

Foreman released a statement saying, "I thank my fans for their outpouring of good wishes."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Foreman Tore His Meniscus

It has been widely reported that Yuri Foreman tore his meniscus against Miguel Cotto this past Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Foreman was defending his WBA light middleweight title. Cotto was ahead on the scorecards when Foreman collapsed, untouched, from a knee injury in round seven. From that point, Foreman was game, but his best attribute, his lateral quickness, evaporated.

A towel was thrown into the ring in the 8th round, and the fight was apparently over, but referee Arthur Mercante Jr. refused to stop it. After a brief delay, the two fighters finished the round. Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs) was knocked down by a body blow in the 9th and Mercante waved off the contest. Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) grabbed a belt in his third weight division. It is not known how long Foreman's injury will keep him out of action.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bizarre End to Foreman's Reign

Yuri Foreman lost his WBA little middleweight title to Miguel Cotto Saturday night after a bizarre finish to an otherwise entertaining fight.

With 2:15 left in the 7th Round, Foreman's right knee, which already donned a brace, gave out. Foreman, who relies on constant movement to keep his opponent off balance, hobbled for the rest of the fight. About 30 seconds after the contest restarted, Foreman slipped in the corner, further damaging his knee.

With 1:15 left in the 8th round, a white towel flew from Foreman's corner. The fight appeared to be over. Throngs of ringside observers poured into the ring. But Arthur Mercante Jr., one of the best referees in the business, decided the contest should continue. After about a three minute delay, Cotto and Foreman began to exchange once again.

It was an overwhelmingly pro-Cotto crowd for the first fight at the new Yankee Stadium. June 5th was a muggy sticky night in the Bronx. Only a smattering of fans came out to support the lesser-known Foreman.

Foreman looked tense at the outset of the fight. His lateral movement was unproductive and Cotto, displaying much improved footwork and boxing technique, established himself early. Foreman got into the fight in the 3rd round. In the 4th, despite receiving a bloody nose, Foreman repeatedly found success with rights to Cotto's face.

But in the 5th, Cotto took back control. The knee injury in the 7th effectively ended Foreman's chances to win. Foreman, however, refused to give in. Unable to move in his customary fashion, Foreman traded with the more-powerful Cotto. Paramount in Mercante's decision to continue the fight in the 8th was Foreman's insistence that he wanted to keep going.

Cotto landed a bruising left hook to Foreman's body in the 9th, and Mercante immediately ceased the bout. While Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) won the belt, Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs) won a great deal of respect, even from the discerning Puerto Rican fans in attendance, for failing to give in when he was in trouble.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weights and Predictions from Yankee Stadium

WBA light middleweight beltholder Yuri Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) weighed in at the 154 pound limit. Miguel Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) hit the scales at 153.5 pounds.

Doug Fischer, a writer for The Ring has predicted Foreman to win a close decision. Trainer and analyst for ESPN, Teddy Atlas, believes Foreman will outbox Cotto to pick up the victory. Cotto is currently a 2 to 1 betting favorite.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting Ready for Foreman-Cotto

Who: Yuri Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) vs. Miguel Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs)
When: Saturday, about 11:15pm (New York time) on HBO
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
For What: Foreman's WBA light middleweight title
Why: Why not?

Before the fight:
As an Orthodox Jew, Foreman will be observing Shabbat until sundown on Saturday. He will reportedly arrive at the stadium about two hours before the fight.

Cotto will have a lot on his mind. He is dealing with the psychological damage from his previous fight, a 12th round TKO loss against Manny Pacquiao. In addition, Cotto lost his father last January. If he doesn't perform well, it could be the popular Puerto Rican's final time on the big stage.

During the fight:
Foreman will want to utilize his movement and his jab to stay on the outside in order to take advantage of his height (5'11" to 5'7") and reach (72" to 67") advantages. Foreman must be willing to trade at opportune moments, especially when Cotto is off balance. Unless trainer Emanuel Steward has worked miracles, Cotto will present those opportunities.

Cotto will hope to cut off the ring, walk through Foreman's jab, and get inside his guard. Once inside, he'll need to work the champion's body with left hooks. That could slow down Foreman by the late rounds. Cotto is not a one-punch knockout artist, so he'll need to keep pressure on Foreman to be successful.

After the fight:
If Foreman wins, he'll instantly be a player at the top of the 154-pound division. Any win will bring critics claiming that Cotto was over-the-hill. A loss for Cotto, even a competitive one, could very well vault him into retirement.

If Cotto wins, it'll help him on his quest to return to the heights he experienced two years ago. A close loss and Foreman will become a B opponent for champions and top prospects in the division. A bad loss will force Foreman to put the pieces of his career back to together, possibly at middleweight, where he'll be relatively faster.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Foreman-Cotto Teasers

Just to get you excited for Saturday night...

Totally unrelated, The Ring's Michael Rosenthal has a list of the best ten Jewish Hall of Famers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Foreman Has Something to Prove

When Yuri Foreman stares across the ring before his fight this Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, he'll be looking at an undoubtedly more accomplished boxer. Miguel Cotto has been one of the best and most beloved fighters of the past few years.

Some deride Foreman as a "paper champion." In this era of a myriad of belts, Foreman holds one, the WBA light middleweight crown. At this point though, he isn't the cream of the crop of the division. That honor probably belongs to Sergio Martinez or Paul Williams should they decide to continue to fight at 154 instead of at middleweight.

The Ring Magazine has Foreman accurately (at this point) ranked as the sixth best junior middleweight. To gain the WBA belt, he dominated world class veteran Daniel Santos. That win propelled the first Israeli world champion into the Ring's top ten for the division.

A win over Cotto will probably not affect his Ring rating as Cotto is a novice at 154. But a victory late Saturday night over the Puerto Rican great will give him something that has evaded the Jewish beltholder to this point in his career, a ton of credibility in the boxing world.