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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year That Was

This was the year of the cancelled fight in Jewish boxing. After an impressive win in January and signing with Lou DiBella, Ran Nakash came in overweight in June and was ousted from a South African cruiserweight tournament before throwing a single punch as a result. Yuri Foreman was poised to make his comeback to the ring in November, but his fight was cancelled because of damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.

Isaac Chilemba was scheduled to fight on HBO against Zsolt Erdei in September. Erdei injured himself in training and Chilemba's fight against late sub Rayco Saunders was not televised. Dmitriy Salita's proposed scrap with Ismael El Massoudi never came to be. Barry Groenteman and Danny Netzer also experienced fights being nixed.

Cletus Seldin and Mike Brooks both stayed undefeated and Danny Ahrens won his first two pro fights. But Boyd Melson, Zachary Wohlman, and Netzer all suffered their lone career defeat in 2012. Melson and Wohlman not only suffered a loss, but both had a fight resulting in a frustrating draw.

Melson's loss was a close decision against an undefeated prospect who Boyd knocked down twice. His draw came in a fight Melson deserved to win by a wide margin. Wohlman was stopped in his loss against a journeyman. He came in overweight partly because of a hiccup in maintaining his sobriety, according to an interview on KLEAN Radio. His draw was the result of an accidental headbutt and a quirk in the California rules in a fight he was controlling.

Next year looks promising for fans of Jewish boxers. Foreman, Chilemba, Salita, Melson, Seldin, Brooks, and Groenteman have all either signed or been rumored to fight within the first two months of 2013. Foreman is on the comeback trail, Chilemba is close to achieving a title fight and a spot on HBO, and Salita has been consistently stepping up on his way to another title shot. Melson, Seldin, Brooks, Ahrens, and Wohlman are all prospects to watch in the new year. And super flyweight champion Carolina Duer hopes to build off of her four 2012 wins.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Look Back: Alphonse Halimi

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

Alphonse Halimi, a native of Algeria, was one of the few Jewish boxers to win a world championship in the Post-World War II era. A boxer-puncher, Halimi captured the bantamweight championship twice.

Alphonse Halimi was born on February 18, 1932 in Constantine, Algeria. He was the youngest of 18 children in an Orthodox family. Though his father was a postal inspector, the Halimis lived in poverty. Alphonse and his brothers and sisters slept on the hard floor and rarely ate. Algeria was a French colony during Halimi's formative years. At the age of ten, Alphonse ran away from home and ended up in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. He remained homeless until a well-to-do woman adopted him.

During World War II, Algeria was ruled by Vichy France, a Nazi-sympathizing government. Concentration camps for Algerian Jews were maintained, Jewish businesses were given to gentiles, and Jewish kids were expelled from school. Alphonse spent much of this time getting into street fights with other boys.

After the war, Alphonse was an apprentice for a tailor and sewed his first boxing trunks, complete with a Star of David. Halimi was a successful amateur boxer during the early 1950s. In 1954, Algerians rose up in an attempt to oust France from control of the colony. This would lead to a war that lasted eight years, nearly the entire length of Halimi's professional career as a boxer. Not until 1962 did Algerians win independence. As a result, Alphonse never fought professionally in the country of his birth.

He turned pro in 1955 in Paris, France. Halimi won his first 19 fights; the first six came by way of knockout. In 1956, Halimi defeated Billy Peacock, a former North American bantamweight beltholder. At this point, there was talk of Halimi fighting Robert Cohen, also an Algerian Jew and the bantamweight world champion. But Cohen lost to Mario D'Agata, a deaf-mute from Italy. Halimi would have to wait a year to get his shot at the new champion.

On April 1, 1957, an undefeated Halimi won the world championship from D'Agata by decision. At one point, the fight was interrupted for fifteen minutes when part of the light fixture in Paris's Palais des Sports caught fire in the third round. Falling debris nailed both participants with D'Agata getting the worse of it. From that point on, Halimi dominated the fight. On June 4, Halimi suffered his first career defeat when he was stopped due to cuts in the 9th round in a non-title bout. It came at the fists of the nondescript Jimmy Carson. Alphonse bounced back to thrash Chic Brogan in two rounds. On the second knockdown of the round, Halimi threw a leaping left-right combination that separated Brogan from his senses.

On November 6, Halimi traveled to Los Angeles, California for his first fight in the United States. There he took a split decision victory to defend the world championship from the formidable Raton Macias. The referee, Mushy Callahan, questionably gave the fight to Macias; Halimi controlled it throughout. He won six more bouts until running into Joe Becerra. Becerra beat Alphonse twice, once in 1959 to pry the title from the Algerian Jew's hands and again in 1960 to keep it. The first fight was close until the Mexican unleashed a barrage of punches to stop Halimi in the 8th round. Halimi was winning the second contest and had even knocked Bacerra down before being stopped early in the 9th.

Alphonse, whose nickname was "Little Terror," had a mean punch, but was also an intelligent mover in the ring. He stood a mere 5'3" and donned a flat nose and exaggerated sideburns that cascaded from his curly and casual coiffure. His prominent forehead distracted from his distended ears. Alphonse had a circular and yet distinct jawline. His left hook was his best punch, but he had power in either glove.

Bacerra didn't keep the belt long after his second fight with Halimi. He retired later that year and the belt was won by Freddie Gilroy. Halimi defeated Gilroy to regain his belt on October 25, 1960. He won three more fights before losing the crown to Johnny Caldwell on May 30, 1961. Halimi lost the return bout as well. Both were by decision.

On June 26, 1962, Halimi participated in the first ever boxing match in the state of Israel. The bout took place in Tel Aviv against Pierre Rollo and was for the European bantamweight title. Halimi won on points, but lost a rematch in Italy by decision four months later.

Halimi retired from the ring in 1964 as a two-time world champion with a record of 42-8-1 with 21 knockouts. In retirement, Halimi doubled as a fight promoter and a swimming instructor. He died in Paris on November 12, 2006 at the age of 74.

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Horvitz, Peter S. The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes. 2006.
"Former bantamweight champion dies in Paris, France." The Sweet Science. 2006.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Salita to Face Camacho on February 9

Welterweight Dmitriy Salita is scheduled to face Hector Camacho Jr. on February 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. This will mark Salita's second fight in the new arena. On October 20, he decisioned Brandon Hoskins.

Since Salita (35-1-1, 18 KOs) ended a 16 month layoff in August, he has consistently stepped up the caliber of competition. In August he knocked out journeyman Roberto Valenzuela. Camacho (54-5-1, 29 KOs)  is better than Valenzuela or Hoskins.

Camacho, is coming off of a KO loss in July to Luis Grajeda, will be fighting in the midst of grief. His father was killed in his native Puerto Rico on November 24. Hector Camacho Sr. was a fantastic boxer in his era.

Salita and Camacho are of equal height and possess the same reach. The 30-year old Salita is four years younger than Camacho, who is a southpaw. Salita's lone loss took place in 2009 to the WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan. he has won five straight since that defeat. Camacho's five losses have been against men who were solid, but not exactly world beaters.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Marcela Eliana Acuna

December 21, 2012
Club Universitario
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Duer: black trunks, black top
Acuna: silver trunks, white top

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Duer Wins Twelfth Straight

WBO super bantamweight titleholder Carolina Duer won a hotly contested unanimous decision over former world champion Marcela Eliana Acuna in a non-title affair at Club Universitario in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the hometown of both women.

Acuna entered the ring sporting an ensemble that either suggested she was crazy enough to do anything to win or hinted at her lack of honest friends. Her customary bangs were eerily reminiscent of Tanya Harding's. She wore blue shoes and silver trunks pulled up so high, Duer would have to aim for the head or risk a warning for a low blow. Acuna hid a purple sports bra behind a white top. Her overall appearance collaborated to produce the menacing message of "I just don't give a damn!"

Duer, on the other hand, wore gold shoes and a flowing black skirt. Her cute hair was wrapped tighter than ever, a byproduct of multiple mishaps in previous bouts. Carolina is a combination of two distinct professions. She's a model and a boxer. Her style in the ring mimics that dichotomy. She's the rare combination of a boxer and a brawler. At times, she moves and jabs; and when she does, her skirt gently ripples in the wind as if it was a photo shoot. She also rushes at her opponent bull-like, stumbling as she flails punches wildly. The intention of these charges is to land with either an overhand right or a sneaky left hook. As a result, Duer misses a lot of punches, but she tends to land more than her opponent. The fight against Acuna was no different.

Acuna controlled the center of the ring throughout the entire battle. But, contrary to her aggressive wardrobe, she passively waited to counter Duer's charges with varying degrees of success. Duer was far too active at the outset of the fight for Acuna to have won any of the first three rounds. In the fourth, Acuna landed a solid jab as Duer stormed towards her. It was a tactic Acuna should have used with more frequency. At the end of the sixth round, Acuna landed a hard right that shook Duer momentarily before she produced a glowing smile on her lips.

The model's ferociousness helped carry her through the final rounds. Duer's constant movement in the ninth round frustrated Acuna. Duer won the tenth thanks to a left hook that was thrown a little lower than a normal version of the punch.

After the fight, the two women embraced as if they had been long lost friends reunited at an airport gate. They hugged tightly after the decision was announced as well. Duer won with the curious scores of 97.5-93.5, 98-94.5, and 96.5-96. Duer improves to 14-3 with five KOs and Acuna falls to 37-6 with 17 KOs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Maria Jose Nunez

November 11, 2011
Club Atletico Lanus
Buenos Aires, Argentina
WBO super flyweight championship

Duer: white trunks
Nunez: red trunks

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Fleis Djendji

July 15, 2011
Salon Tattersall
Buenos Aires, Argentina
WBO super flyweight championship

Duer: black trunks, blue top
Djendji: black trunks, white trim

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Loredana Piazza

December 17, 2010
Casino Victoria
Entre Rios, Argentina
WBO super flyweight championship

Duer: black trunks, white top
Piazza: gray and black trunks, black top

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Silvia Fernanda Zacarias

July 16, 2010
Estadio F.A.B.
Buenos Aires, Argentina

part 1

part 2

Duer: yellow trunks, black top
Zacarias: yellow and green trunks, blue top

Friday, December 7, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Anahí Yolanda Salles

May 14, 2010
Estadio F.A.B.
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Duer: yellow trunks, black trim
Salles: black trunks, yellow trim

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cletus Seldin vs. Tyler Pogline

January 28, 2012
Paramount Theatre
Huntington, New York

Seldin: purple trunks
Pogline: blue trunks

Monday, December 3, 2012

Danny Ahrens vs. Rick Boulter

November 26, 2012
Royal Lancaster Hotel
London, England

part 1

part 2

Ahrens: black and white trunks
Boulter: gray and red trunks

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review of Golden Boy

Bartlett Sher directs a revival of Clifford Odets's Golden Boy at the Belasco Theatre in New York, New York. Seth Numrich plays the conflicted Joe Bonaparte, a young man torn between pursuing a career as a musician or one as a boxer. The advisers in his life each have plans for the young man, who is tortured by a fleeting love affair.

With few exceptions, the cast is strong. Numrich encapsulates the intelligent Italian-American lead. But, of course, this is a boxing blog, not a theater review site. As a boxer, Numrick is an excellent actor and should keep his day job. His hand speed makes George Foreman look like Manny Pacquiao. But he looks the part of boxer and offers a poignant sensitivity to the travails of a man in the trade. One miss takes place after Bonaparte's second fight with the Baltimore Chocolate Drop. Numrick's back is heavily covered in splotches of blood, a rare occurrence in real pugilism.

Tony Shalhoub is wonderful as Bonaparte's father, affecting a convincing Italian accent and the concerned disposition of a fighter's parent. Yvonne Strahovski plays Lorna Moon, the love interest, and is equally persuasive in the role. Anthony Crivello is menacing as the gangster Eddie Fuseli. Danny Burstein treats the role of Bonaparte's trainer, Tokio, with a realistic fatherly disconnect that many trainers display towards their charges. Danny Mastrogiorgio (Tom Moody) looks and sounds like a boxing manager, but his cadence and elocution was out of step with the rest of the cast.

Jews are sprinkled into the play. Bonaparte gets his first chance to fight when a boxer named Kaplan injures his hand. Ned Eisenberg plays Bonaparte's promoter, Roxy Gottlieb, who is Bob Arum meets a Don Knotts character. Michael Aronov is an over-the-top whiny Siggy, Bonaparte's Jewish brother-in-law. Jonathan Hadary is the Bonapartes' neighbor, Mr. Carp, and conveys a man with a dry ironic wit.

The set design is expertly done. It takes one back to the dim, hard life of the first part of the twentieth century in New York. During the foggy street scenes, the traffic lights don't change, which would drive a motorist insane. But beyond nitpicking, the design adds to the sense of doom that plagues Joe Bonaparte's struggle to understand himself.

The play is in previews and will open on December 6. For more information, click here.