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Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Look Back: Georgie Abrams

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.

Georgie Abrams was an underrated boxer who fought for the middleweight title in the 1940s. He had a pension for facing and, in some cases, defeating former and future world champions, including a controversial decision loss to Sugar Ray Robinson.

Born on the day World War I ended, November 11, 1918, his full name was Georgie Freedom Abrams. The middle name came from his mother's fit of patriotism upon hearing that the war had ended. It would cause Georgie some consternation as neighborhood boys picked on him throughout his childhood.

That childhood began in Roanoke, Virginia. The family moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and eventually settled in Washington, D.C.  Abrams was a good athlete and a smart kid. He learned to box at the Washington Boys Club and won a local Golden Gloves tournament before turning pro in 1937.

During the first year of his pro career, Abrams won his first 17 fights. He mostly fought at Turner's Arena on 14th and W Northwest in the District and at Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators, on U Street. A wild right landed by journeyman Jimmy Jones on Georgie's jaw in his 18th fight sent him down for the count. Abrams won the return bout less than a month later.

Sandwiching his second career loss were two big wins for Abrams. On June 6, 1938, he defeated former world champion Teddy Yarosz by split decision. On June 20, 1939, he outboxed future Hall of Famer Lou Brouillard. A year later, he drew with Charley Burley, an all time great.

Abrams donned thinning hair, a hairy chest, and a wizened air in the ring. He was a classy and intelligent boxer who wore a Star of David on the right leg of his trunks. His defense was legendary, particularly his purposeful head movement. But he cut easily and had trouble breaking an egg with a straight right. He stood 5'9" and had a steel chin.

On November 28, 1941, Abrams had a shot at the world middleweight championship against Tony Zale. Abrams nailed Zale in the first round and Zale barely beat the count. But Abrams took hellacious punishment to the body from that point onward and lost a decision. Georgie fought once more before taking four years off during World War II.

Abrams went 4-0-1 in his first five fights after the war. Then, he lost a bloody duel against future world champion and one of the greatest middleweights of all time, Marcel Cerdan. Two bouts later, on May 16, 1947, Georgie took on Sugar Ray Robinson, arguably the greater fighter who ever lived. Robinson was awarded a split decision win, much to the chagrin of the crowd at Madison Square Garden. The two men engaged in an action-packed chess match that took place in the center of the ring. Sugar came away from the battle with a renewed respect for Georgie's skills.

Abrams lost three more fights, including two of his three career knockouts. The lone decision loss was to former world champion, Fred Apostoli. Though Georgie Freedom's skills had eroded, he managed to make the fight competitive with Apostoli thanks to a crisp educated jab and accurate counters.

Abrams retired from the ring in 1948 with a record of 48-10-3 and 9 KOs. Afterward, he tried his hand at several different professions, including being a salesman, entrepreneur, and a barkeeper, but none stuck. He was married several times as well. But, bizarrely, life after boxing did not provide him with the same stability as life in the ring had.

On June 30, 1994, Georgie died at the age of 75 after suffering a stroke in Las Vegas and battling Alzheimer's Disease.

Acevedo, Carlos. "Detour Ahead: Georgie Abrams and the Middleweights of the 1940s." The Queensberry Rules. April 6, 2010.
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chilemba and Bellew Fight to an Unsatisfying Draw

Each of the three judges of tonight's bout between Isaac Chilemba and Tony Bellew at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England had a different perspective on the result of the fight. Christophe Fernandez gave the bout to Chilemba by the score of 116-112, Eddie Pappoe saw Bellew winning 116-115, and Fabian Guggenheim scored it even, 114 apiece. Despite the wildly divergent marks, none of these scores were egregious because the fight witnessed a dearth of clean effective punching.

Chilemba, wearing red and gold trunks with Wildcat written on the belt, danced his way to the ring to DJ Khaled's "All I Do is Win," smiling as he rapped along with the song. After sirens incessantly blared for nearly a minute, Bellew, in blue trunks, entered to the theme of his favorite soccer team. He glared at Chilemba throughout his walk to the ring and the subsequent introduction. Chilemba paced as his name was announced to the hostile crowd.

The first half of the bout featured Bellew coming forward, jabbing and following up with looping shots. But Chilemba's defense was wiggly and slimy. Bellew could barely land a glove on the Malawian man due to Isaac's expert head movement. Chilemba, however, didn't throw enough punches to convincingly win those early rounds. That posed a problem for the judges; do they favor Bellew's aggression- ineffective as it was- or score for Chilemba despite his absence of punches?

The fight undeniably turned in the seventh round. At the urging of his trainer, Buddy McGirt, Isaac began coming forward. Bellew quickly began backing up. Chilemba countered effectively, particularly with straight rights. The Brit threw more in the eighth, but Chilemba's accurate shots carried the round.

Chilemba threw staggered combinations, landing a straight counter right, pausing, smashing a left hook on Bellew's face, contorting his body, hitting him with another right, and then moving out of the way. Chilemba won the ninth with quick and efficient right counters, though Bellew had his moments.

When Bellew was hit, he had the presence of mind to hit back. He came forward in the tenth and focused more on the body to carry the round, his first of the second half of the fight. Isaac turned the bout back in his favor in the eleventh. He fought on the front foot and controlled the center of the ring in that penultimate round. The final round was uneventful and the crowd treated it with quiet indifference.

The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the contest seven rounds to five in Chilemba's favor. Both fighters were crushed when the split draw was revealed. Tony Bellew believed he won nine rounds and asserted that McGirt told him he thought Bellew had won. About the decision, Chilemba said, "I'm not happy at all." He thought he lost two or three rounds at most.

The winner of this bout was supposed to get a shot at Chad Dawson, the light heavyweight champion of the world, but that has now been put on hold. Chilemba's record is 20-1-2 with 9 KOs and Bellew's is 19-1-1 with 12 KOs. There is early talk of a rematch.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Weights for Chilemba-Bellew

Isaac Chilemba weighed in at 173 pounds ahead of his clash with fellow light heavyweight contender Tony Bellew. Bellew was 174 pounds.

Chilemba (20-1-1, 9 KOs) displayed mock tears at the hostility of the crowd as he strode up to the scale. Bellew (19-1, 12 KOs) drank water before shedding his tracksuit and something called the WBC silver belt.  He then pounded his chest as the crowd roared, "Bellew! Bellew!"

During the stare down, Chilemba grinned and clowned while Bellew stared at his opponent stone-faced. The men had similar reactions during yesterday's press conference; Chilemba smiled and allowed his gaze to wander as Bellew glared with all the seriousness of a heart transplant.

The fight will take place at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England and is scheduled for twelve rounds. The winner is in line for a shot at the true light heavyweight champion of the world, Chad Dawson. The fight will air on WealthTV in the U.S. at 5pm EDT and on SkySports in the U.K.

Here's the video of the weigh-in:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chilemba-Bellew Preview

Isaac Chilemba and Tony Bellew will do battle on Saturday, March 30 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. This bout is crucial to the futures of both light heavyweight contenders. The winner will be penciled in for a shot at Chad Dawson, the recognized light heavyweight champion of the world.

Chilemba (20-1-1, 9 KOs) is rated seventh in the light heavyweight division by The Ring and ninth according to the Transnational Boxing Rankings while Bellew (19-1, 12 KOs) is tenth according to both sources. Yet, the "Golden Boy" is considered an underdog, perhaps, because the bout is taking place in Bellew's backyard.

Chilemba is an intelligent and multifaceted boxer who has exhibited a ton of heart. No fight proves his courage more than when Isaac picked himself off the canvas twice against Maxim Vlasov on February 25, 2011 to earn a unanimous decision victory.

Born to Christian parents, Isaac grew up with his nine siblings impoverished in Malawi. According to an interview with ESPN's Brian Campbell, Chilemba raised his siblings when his mother was away looking for work. When his mother died, 16-year old Isaac took responsibility for his younger siblings.

The desire to help his family influenced his decision to enter into professional boxing at the age of 18. Chilemba has since been drawn to Judaism through his manager, Jodi Solomon. Isaac is a member of the Lemba people, who, DNA evidence suggests, have Jewish roots. For the fight against Bellew, Chilemba trained in a New Jersey Jewish Community Center.

Chilemba, who will have Buddy McGirt as his trainer for the second time, has thus far fought the slightly stiffer competition. In addition to Vlasov, he defeated Edison Miranda and drew with Thomas Oosthuizen. Including Vlasov, Chilemba is 4-0-1 against undefeated fighters with at least ten wins.

Bellew also defeated Miranda and lost.a majority decision to beltholder Nathan Cleverly, the only undefeated man with at least ten wins the "Bomber" has faced. He defeated an Argentine club fighter with a gaudy record, Roberto Bolonti, last November. Otherwise, Bellew has stuck to British opposition.

Bellew, who throws straight hard jabs and  has no hesitation about attacking his opponent's body, is quite capable of adapting within a fight. One negative is his propensity to get knocked down, which is primarily caused by his poor defense. Jevgenijs Andrejevs, Bob Ajisafe, and Ovill Mackenzie have all put him down. If you've never heard of any of the three, you are not alone. What's worse, none of them have achieved even 50% of their wins by way of knockout. Bellew also suffered a horrendous cut on his nose in his last fight, which took place only four months ago.

To Bellew's credit, he came back to win all of those fights. When hurt, Bellew has the unusual desire to lower his defense and want to trade with his opponent rather than cover up and hide. That urge is a testament to his fortitude rather than his intelligence. But don't be fooled, he is also a smart fighter. In his step up against Cleverly, Bellew was on the receiving end of a number of hard overhand rights to the face in the first round. By using his jab from that point onward, Bellew was able to keep Cleverly off balance and avoid eating any more flashy rights.

Bellew's path to victory will likely come on the end of a busy jab. He's an inch and a half taller and has a longer reach than Chilemba. But Chilemba has a five year age advantage. The 25-year old has shown better stamina in his fights. He'll need to keep his hands, particular his own jab, moving towards the target throughout the bout to overcome Bellew's steady work rate and crowd support. If they both dispense with their jabs and begin to trade, Bellew has more power, but Chilemba will likely have the faster hands.

Dave Oakes of Bad Left Hook sees Bellew exiting the ring victorious. He envisions the Liverpool-native landing powerful right hands and possibly stopping Chilemba inside of eight rounds. Oakes curiously describes Chilemba as someone who swings when hurt and has poor defense (a rather apt description of Bellew, actually). This analysis is based on his fight with Vlasov and doesn't take into account more recent contests.

British pundit Wingy believes Chilemba will win by decision after frustrating Bellew with his awkwardness. He notes that Bellew can land one big knockout blow, but Wingy isn't willing to risk his prediction on that possibility.

The fight is scheduled for twelve rounds. It will air on WealthTV in the United States and SkySports in England.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wohlman Suffers Injury

Two of Zachary Wohlman's scheduled fights have been cancelled this year. On February 22, his opponent failed the doctor's physical at the weigh in. He was then scheduled to fight on March 14, but he suffered a broken jaw in training, Wohlman told The Jewish Boxing Blog.

"My mouth is wired shut right for another five weeks; then I'm back in the ring," Wohlman explained. Despite the setback, the California-native noted, "I'm trying to be as positive as possible."

Zac has fought all six of his career bouts at welterweight. The consequences of the injury will likely change the division in which the 4-1-1 fighter will campaign. "Because of the liquid diet, I've lost a lot of weight. I'll be fighting at light welter from here on out."

Wohlman lost his last fight back in November. He has since rededicated himself to the sport of boxing, but this latest obstacle will postpone his attempt to erase the memory of that last contest.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weinman Vows to Keep Fighting

Last September, Mark Weinman's name was splayed across internet sports sites. Here was a 50-year old man coming back into the ring after a 21-year layoff. And he won! It was the type of feel good story that we all cling to; a man successfully exorcising the demons of what could have been.

The thought of 'what if' gnaws at most of us. For two decades, Weinman had been wondering what would happen if he came back to boxing. But rarely does anyone have the courage to actually attempt to recover their failed dreams. Not only did Weinman step back into the ring; his victory was an inspiration to those jaded souls who have long given up the pursuit of their childhood aspirations.

But on January 19 at Amos' Southend in Charlotte, North Carolina, Weinman suffered a first round stoppage at the hands of a previously winless fighter. Jahaad Wingfield improved his record to 1-6-1 by landing one of his wild punches on his elder's face. The 26-year old then pushed Weinman to the ropes and began raining down untamed blows on his foe. The referee waved off the contest a mere two minutes and four seconds after it began.

And the feel good story has seemingly come to a crashing end. For his part, Weinman (12-4, 10 KOs) believes it was a premature stoppage and asserts that he wasn't hurt. He told Ted Fleming of Examiner.com that he will fight again, "I have to. I have to rectify this debacle."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hunter Sundberg to Fight in April

Light welterweight Hunter "The Jewish Dragon" Sundberg is scheduled to face Jose Rivera at the Miami Jai Alai Fronton in Miami, Florida on April 6. Sundberg will be looking to improve his record to 3-0 while Rivera is in search of his first victory in his sixth fight.

Sundberg, a Florida State University graduate, stopped Gregory Joyner in the first round back in December. Last month, the Tallahassee-resident decisioned Fredrick Wilcox.

This fight with Rivera is scheduled for four rounds.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Foreman to Face King in April

Light middleweight Yuri Foreman is scheduled to get back into the ring against veteran Gundrick "Sho-Gun" King on April 4 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York. This will mark Foreman's second fight back after a nearly two-year layoff.

Foreman (29-2, 8 KOs) admitted he was rusty in his January return against Brandon Baue. Still, he won every round on route to a unanimous decision. That win broke a two-fight losing slump for Yuri, who fell to Miguel Cotto in 2010 and Pawel Wolak in 2011.

King (19-8, 11 KOs) is a short and stocky southpaw. He tends to club and push his punches, but has been known to knock an opponent to the canvas with a sneaky straight left. Of his 19 wins, only three have come against opponents with a winning record. King has some loses against solid opposition, including Brad Solomon and Jonathan Gonzalez, but he has also lost to a few less-than-stellar foes.

The Alabama-native seems tailor-made for Foreman. Yuri struggles against pressure fighters, but King is anything but. Despite being short, King has shown a propensity to stand on the outside, a recipe for disaster against the superior-skilled former world champion.

The one real question might be whether or not Foreman will score a knockout. In his 29 wins, Yuri has only eight KOs, but King has been stopped six times and hasn't shown a good chin. In fairness to King though, he tends to be stopped while standing on his feet.

This bout is scheduled for six rounds.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Elad Shmuel Update

Elad Shmuel, a 26-year old welterweight from Israel, hasn't stepped into the ring in nearly three years. He continues to train at the Nakash Boxing Gym, which sits below the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv.

At 22-2, Shmuel was an up-and-coming boxer with a four-fight win streak when his career abruptly stopped. It turns out, while running on the beach in training one day, his knee gave out. He attempted to recover, but the same knee folded while sparring with Danny Netzer.

When Elad's name was brought up to Netzer and Ran Nakash in Ran's office at the Nakash Gym last month, both had nothing but glowing things to say about him. They both repeated, "Great boxer!" It was no passing compliment; both men meant it. Shmuel trained a few yards away from the office out of earshot. When asked if Shmuel would ever get in the ring again, Nakash became sullen, "I don't think so."

Shmuel fought thirteen times in Israel, as one of the early pioneers trying to popularize the sport of boxing in the Holy Land. He also fought seven times in the famed Blue Horizon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Foreman Had Second Child

Yuri Foreman's wife gave birth last week to a boy, according to Michael Woods of ESPN New York's NYFightBlog. This is Foreman's second child. Woods said Foreman might be back in the ring on April 4.

Mazel tov to Yuri and his family on their new addition.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Groenteman Out With Injury

Junior welterweight Barry Groenteman was forced to pull out of a scheduled April 6 clash with undefeated prospect Jarkko Putkonen in Finland. The Amsterdam-native is coming off a unanimous decision in January over Samir Boukrara.

Groenteman told The Jewish Boxing Blog, "For the first time in my career, I have an injury." He said that he hopes to return around May or June.