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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.

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