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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Yuri Foreman Reflects on His Career So Far

Rabbi Yuri Foreman is still an active boxer and his goal is to fight for the title, but he was kind enough to reflect on his career so far with The Jewish Boxing Blog. The 41 year former world champion's many great accomplishments make him the best Jewish boxer of this century.

Foreman's proudest moment in professional boxing was winning the WBA world junior middleweight title from Daniel Santos on November 14, 2009. "It was my proudest moment because I became the first Israeli world champion." It was also a time for the Brooklyn-resident to reflect on how far he had come and just how improbable his journey had been.

"I came from a city in the Soviet Union- it's now in Belarus- that has maybe one tenth of the people that live in Brooklyn. I came from a little place and became a world champion," Foreman says proudly. "If you put all your effort into something, you can do it."

His biggest disappointment was each of his four losses. "I can't grade them and say which one is worse." His losses came against Miguel Cotto, Pawel Wolak, Erislandy Lara, and Jimmy Williams. He hints at issues in preparation against Lara but generally makes no excuses. Against Cotto, he tore his ACL in the middle of the fight.  "I wish my knee held up," is all he says of that injury. He came back just nine months later to face Wolak. And against Williams, he had recovered from the first strain of covid-19 just three months before the fight.

Foreman names Cotto, a Hall of Famer he greatly respects, as the best opponent he has faced so far. "He's the most sophisticated. He has heart, and he's smart," Foreman says. Cotto is sophisticated in the ring because he "concealed his intentions."

"I landed a one-two in about the third round," Yuri, who has never gone back and watched the fight, remembers. "It landed flush. I thought I hurt him. He buckled a little bit. But he kept coming forward. He was smart. He didn't go backwards but was in attack. He concealed that he was hurt. I miscalculated."

The hardest puncher Yuri faced was a bit of a surprise: Daniel Santos. In winning the title from Santos, Foreman knocked down the champ twice. After the weigh-in for the 154 pound title, Santos put on an extra 19 pounds and entered the ring at 173, a number Foreman accurately remembers twelve and a half years later.

"Punches you don't see hurt," Foreman explains. "Punches you see, you can withstand. I could see the punches from Santos, but they were still paralyzing. He hit very hard."

As for the best opponent in terms of technical boxing ability, Foreman cites Erislandy Lara. Yuri dealt with personal problems in the lead-up to the 2017 fight against the Cuban great. "I wasn't the same as when I was getting ready for Cotto and Santos," he says.  Foreman, who was 37 at the time of the fight, wishes he was in his prime at the time because he would have loved to "match up our different schools of boxing."

Foreman jokes that not too many fans would have appreciated the boxer vs. boxer matchup between the men had Yuri been in his prime. He astutely notes that the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward trilogy of the early 2000s shifted the fans away from enjoying good technical boxing and more for the blood and guts style of fighting.

With that shift away from the sweet science, younger fans may appreciate Yuri's remarkable ability and amazing career less and less. Let's hope that's not the case.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Stefi Cohen to Fight in May

Dr. Stefanie Cohen revealed that her fourth career bout will be held some time in May. An exact date, location, and opponent have not yet been announced. Cohen, who just celebrated her 30th birthday yesterday, is a world record-breaking powerlifter, a PhD, a noted soccer player, and an entrepreneur.

Boxing has been her latest undertaking. Stefi has been boxing for less than two years but has made remarkable strides. Her debut came on June 4, 2021 in the Dominican Republic. She used her superior strength to bully and maul her opponent, Haidde Zappa, who entered the ring with a record of 3-4. Cohen used effective aggression to earn a third round TKO. But her punch technique and her footwork were that of a novice.

Cohen, her coach Dr. Pedro Diaz, and her team seemed to go back to the drawing board in the run up to her second pro fight. On September 18, 2021 in Dubai, Stefi came out with improved footwork and a sharp quick jab. She moved in and out of range as she jabbed and carried the first two rounds against an opponent with a 2-0 record and MMA experience. But the opponent, Marcela Nieto, adjusted and Cohen's only other weapon was a telegraphed overhand right. Though her skills had progressed, the result was a step back: a majority draw. After the fight, Cohen, a native Spanish speaker, assumed the unusual duty of translating the post-fight interview with Nieto, a native of Colombia.

After a couple of fights that fell through, Cohen came back on February 11 in her adopted hometown of Miami, to fight for the third time as a pro. Against a 31-fight veteran who had racked up 25 losses, Karla Valenzuela,Cohen displayed much improvement. Stefi, who was nearly eight pounds lighter than in her previous bout, showed better defense by moving her upper body and head. She still had a snapping jab but also added a body attack and a counter left hook to her game. She still telegraphed the overhand right but won by unanimous decision.

The results have not matched her progress. She earned her lone KO victory in her first fight, but Stefi's boxing ability has come a long way since her debut. It should be noted that Cohen has faced stiffer opposition than most pure novices would. Typically a well-managed beginner would battle against less experienced foes than Stefi has and wouldn't fight anyone even sniffing a winning record for quite a few bouts. The undefeated Nieto, who has since moved her record to 3-0-1, was Stefi's opponent for her second ever fight.

For her next fight in May, Cohen told The Jewish Boxing Blog that she's her training is focused on improving her "speed, volume, and angles." Considering her exponential growth as a boxer from one fight to the next, it will exciting to see what skills she adds next to her arsenal.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Alleged Corruption in Lazarev-Hawankowski Scoring

On March 19, Igor Lazarev faced local product Dominik Harwankowski at Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa in Świecie, Poland. Lazarev fought incredibly well and deserved to win. The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the bout 59-55 in favor of Lazarev. The judges, all from Poland, disagreed. Two judges scored the bout 58-56 for Harwankowski, a preposterous score that did not reflect the action in the ring. The other judge's score was even worse, 59-55 for Harwankowski.

"Igor was very disappointed," Lazarev team member Evgheni Boico told The JBB. "But it's all good. This is another adventure and experience."

New information has come out about the relationship between Harwankowski and one of the judges. The Jewish Boxing Blog has learned that Arek Małek (also known as Arkadiusz Małek) had a close association with Harwankowski when Dominik was a young child.

Journalist and Polish boxing expert Kacper Bartosiak told The JBB, "You know what was most outrageous about this decision? One of the judges was the same guy that raised Harwankowski as a boxer from [a] very young age!"

Małek, who turned in one of the 58-56 cards, was a journeyman boxer based in Poland.  He last fought professionally in 2014 and finished with a record of 13-70-5. Małek has been a judge since 2016.

"The judges were appointed by Polska Unia Boksu - a newly founded body that was created in order to improve the standards of refereeing," Bartosiak explained, "That attempt clearly failed."

Polska Unia Boksu came into being in August of 2020. Its website displays its mission statement, a quote from president Jarosław Kołkowski:

"We want, together with people who think similarly, to civilize the professional boxing market in Poland and improve its quality. This includes the introduction of uniform rules for players, judges, promoters and managers, including those relating to disciplinary liability, limiting the phenomenon of doping and improving the quality of judging."

The JBB reached out to president Kołkowski and Polska Unia Boksu for comment about the apparent conflict of interest involving Małek judging his protege's fight and the poor judging but did not receive a reply for this story.

Bartosiak gave his view of the judges' cards, "That was a shameful and unexplainable decision." It is now up to Kołkowski and the commission to acknowledge and rectify that horrible decision.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Shawn Sarembock Earns Eighth Stoppage Victory

Junior middleweight Shawn Michael Sarembock earned his eighth consecutive stoppage victory last night at the famed Big Punch Arena in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Sarembock defeated Miguel Reyes Gonzalez by TKO in the fourth round when Reyes Gonzalez could no longer continue due to cuts.

This was Sarembock's fourth fight at Big Punch Arena. Opened only in 2018, Big Punch Arena is quickly becoming to Tijuana what the Blue Horizon was to Philadelphia or Roseland Ballroom was to New York: a hub of club boxing with an atmosphere matched by few other venues around the world. Home to concerts and wrestling shows, boxing is usually the focus of Friday and Saturday nights. Tim Boxeo, who covers live-streamed club shows all over the world, calls it his favorite spot for boxing.

Gloves on, Sarembock shadowboxes towards a rectangular window in a room painted purple in order to work up a sweat before his fight. He shares the room with three other boxers. Christian "Star Boy" Santiago, whose hands are taped, stretches, and Rudy Macedo, a Uruguayan welterweight set to fight 45-year old 80+ fight veteran Cosme Rivera, sits and watches his trainer wrap his hands. Sarembock's dad Neil, a veteran of combat sports himself-  donning jean shorts, a white towel draped across his shoulder, his long hair resting on the back of a black shirt with Shawn's name written in yellow- carefully watches his son's warmup.

The room is tiny. Too small with all of those boxers and their teams to feel comfortable. It sits directly next to the elevated stage where musicians will blast out their notes in between rounds and after fights. There's little worse than a boxing card in silence. Years ago, spectators at a boxing event in Tel Aviv broke the quiet by politely clapping when the home fighter landed a solid punch. It's unlikely that will ever be the case in raucous Big Punch Arena.

Last night, as the band hammers out upbeat songs, multi-colored lights flash frantically across the arena. With their hearts pounding, it's impossible for the crowd not to buzz, even when an out-of-towner like Sarembock enters the ring. If Madison Square Garden is the mecca of boxing, Big Punch Arena, which might never be as holy as MSG, is fast becoming something like The Big Lebowski of boxing.

Reyes Gonzalez proves durable, lasting in to the fourth round. Referee Miguel Hernandez waves off the bout a minute and 36 seconds in the round. Shawn Michael Sarembock improves to 8-0 with all eight victories coming by way of KO. Reyes Gonzalez is now 3-4-2 with two KOs.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Shawn Sarembock Weighs In

Shawn Michael Sarembock weighed in today for his fight against Miguel Reyes Gonzalez scheduled for tomorrow at Big Punch Arena in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. This bout will be featured on a card put on by Guerreros Promotions.

Not every promotional company is media savvy enough to post weights for their events. Sarembock's  weight for the fight is 150 pounds. Reyes Gonzalez came in a career high 149 pounds.

Sarembock is 7-0 with 7 KOs. The 31 year old has had all of his pro fights in Tijuana and this will be his fourth at the famed Big Punch Arena. Reyes Gonzalez is 3-3-2 with 2 KOs. This will be his first pro fight outside of his hometown of Culiacan. Click here for more information about tomorrow's fight.

Click here for coverage of Sarembock's last fight: December 11, 2021 against Adrian Zendejas.
Click here for coverage of Sarembock's sixth pro fight: October 8, 2021 against Adan Gamboa.


Photo Courtesy of Sarembock's IG

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

David Alaverdian to Face Jeno Tonte

David Alaverdian is scheduled to face Jeno Tonte at the Ford Community Center in Dearborn, Michigan on April 2 in David's U.S. debut. The experienced Tonte represents a bit of a step up for Alaverdian.

Alaverdian, Israeli-native who resides in the U.S., is 5-0 with 4 KOs. Trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr., David has fast hands, quick feet, is technically sound, and switches stances to keep his opponents off balance. He throws in combination, attacks the body, and utilizes slick defense. He can initiate an attack or counter. And, oh by the way, the 28 year old has a good jab, too.

Jeno Tonte is a 26 year old from Kecskemet, Hungary who has won half of his 18 fights. As is the case with many journeymen, Jeno's is a story of two careers. He began 8-2, but has since gone 1-7 losing his last five fights. He's 9-2 in Hungary (including one fight in Slovakia) and 0-7 in the United States. He's 7-1 against opponents with a losing record or debutants, and 2-8 against those with a winning record.

Tonte is not a pushover, however. Though listed as the same height as Alaverdian at 5'5", he has looked taller in the ring, possibly because he fights straight up. He has a loose, awkward style, which is far from technically proficient, but he has power. Eight of his nine victories have come by knockout. He is best when coming forward and controlling center ring as he did in his second fight against Gezo Olah in 2018.

But Tonte has plenty of weaknesses. He has been stopped in seven of his nine losses, including in each of his last five fights. In his last fight, he made it into the fourth round against former world titlist Cristofer Rosales in 2020.

In 2018, Jorge Romero worked Tonte's body effectively.  In the third, he landed a right to the body. Tonte then bent over, hoping the ref would step in, but Samuel Burgos did not. Romero finished the fight shortly after by TKO. The following year against Khalid Twaiti, Jeno showed surprisingly good punch resistance, and even landed a couple of one-twos, before referee Jamil Antoine jumped in with a questionable stoppage in the third.

Tonte sometimes drops his arms to throw shots leaving himself open for a counter over the top. He doesn't do a great job of guarding his body and retreats to the ropes too willingly. But a veteran with eight KOs in nine wins always has a puncher's chance.

This bout is scheduled for six rounds on a Salita Promotions card.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Interview with Yuri Foreman: The Future

Rabbi Yuri Foreman is looking to fight again this spring. The 41-year old former world champion cites his "desire to be on top" as motivation to continue his amazing career. Foreman was gracious enough to take the time to speak with The Jewish Boxing Blog in a wide-ranging interview. This article will focus on his future in the ring. His wife Shoshana Foreman, who serves as his manager, hopes to announce a fight date relatively soon.

While Foreman has had several long layoffs during his twenty-year professional boxing career, he's quick to state, "I never left boxing. I'm always in shape." It's not hard to believe him; Yuri has remained in the same weight class, the junior middleweight division, for his entire career. Yuri even considered trying to move down and make 147 for his next fight!

Foreman always stays active. He doesn't drink, smoke, or do drugs. He closely monitors his running distance and pace. "I run a lot," he says. "I don't really like to run, but it's probably the best exercise to stay in shape. It not only benefits you physically, but it strengthens your mind."

While training for a fight, he focuses on repetition, particularly when shadow boxing and doing bag work. He always uses maximum effort from the start and doesn't ease into any exercise. "Fighters get knocked out in the first round. You have to go hard from the beginning," he says.

These days, many young fighters like to show videos on social media of impressive pad work with their coaches. Foreman says, "Everyone's different. There's not one approach. But Russian trainers told me, 'Don't embrace the pads,' when I was young. It messes up distance. Your perception of distance is very important in boxing." Yuri, who grew up in the Soviet Union, likes doing pad work now though, because it challenges his stamina.

As a boxer who depends on speed, rhythm, and timing, the long layoffs have- rather unexpectedly- not hurt Foreman's comeback performances. He relies on "mobility, movement, and fitness" and since he is always in shape, he doesn't experience the same ring rust as some others have. Though some may see him as an older fighter, he intends to fight the same way as always.

"Money is not driving me," Foreman says of his desire to continue his career. "If money were the issue, I would go do something else." His goal is not to fight once or twice more, but to fight for the title. "I'm always pushing myself. I'm always challenging myself."

The words of his retired coach Joe Grier still echo in his head, "You have to try to be better than you were before. If you try to be the same as you were, it's time to retire."

Clearly, Yuri still has the hunger to succeed in the ring.

Monday, March 21, 2022

David Kaminsky to Return after Lengthy Layoff

Middleweight David Kaminsky is scheduled to return to the ring on May 14 at the Forum in Los Angeles, California, USA. Kaminsky has not fought since the lone loss of his pro career on June 18, 2020.

Kaminsky is a 21 year old Israeli-born resident of California. A southpaw, he is 6-1 with 3 KOs. The slick boxer made his debut in 2018.

Kaminsky spent much of the layoff recovering from a serious knee injury. He stayed close to boxing by working and training in the family gym. David also coached famed rapper Blueface in preparation for a celebrity boxing match last July. Kaminsky worked the corner and got involved in a post-fight brawl.

No opponent has been announced as of yet, but the card will be featured on Triller. Check back later with The Jewish Boxing Blog for more information about this bout.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Igor Lazarev Shines in Controversial Loss

Igor Lazarev, who was a smidge above the lightweight limit, lost a highly controversial decision against hometown lightweight prospect Dominik Harwankowski tonight at Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa in Świecie, Poland. Lazarev, who completely controlled the action from the third round onwards, deserved to win.

Harwankowski, a 21 year old from a town an hour's drive from the venue, should not have been declared the winner even if the fight was held in his living room and the judges were his family members or his childhood pet. He took the first round with his snapping jabs and cupping rights.

The second round was the turning point in the fight. Harwankowski landed his quality jab here and there, but Lazarev's defense was slippery. He used tricky upperbody movement to get inside and maul the younger Pole throughout the rest of the bout. He found success with this strategy midway through the second stanza. Lazarev's body assault also began to take shape in the round.

There isn't an ethical way to score any of the next three rounds for Harwankowski. The 35 year old Lazarev boxed the best rounds of his career. He frustrated Harwankowski's smooth boxing from the outside and maneuvered his way in close. Once inside, Lazarev varied his shots beautifully. He smashed the prospect's face with a right uppercut. He landed left hooks to the head and body. A right over the top crashed down on Harwankowski. And Igor's best punch, the right to the body, found a home on the Pole's left side.

Perhaps a judge could've given Hawankowski the fourth round if only left hooks were counted. It was a nice punch for him in the round. Of course, that's not the way boxing is scored. Lazarev dominated with the same shots that helped him carry the third. He also added a little counter right that told Hawankowski, "I can hit you any time I want." While Igor's offense was punishing, his defense remained excellently awkward.

In the fifth round, Lazarev landed a left uppercut and a straight right combination that knocked out Harwankowski's mouthpiece and bloodied his nose. The young fellow spent the rest of the round running. He switched to southpaw a couple of times just to slow the coming onslaught. Lazarev probably should have pressed his attack further, but he didn't want to walk into anything and instead picked his battles. A wide smile exposed the fun he was having teaching the young home fighter a lesson.

The final round was more of the same. Igor was clearly loving it. Harwankowski possessed speed and skill but was too predictable and couldn't fight on the inside. When the final bell rang, Lazarev wore a huge grin. His team had devised a masterful gameplan. His performance was so good, they couldn't take it away from him. Could they?

As referee Krzysztof Bubak, who was very good, held both men's hands, Igor continued to smile. Dominik looked dejected, his face marked up. As the seconds ticked away, Igor became increasingly worried. His smile slowly diminished. Then, the ring announcer revealed the decision. Judges Tomasz Chwoszcz and Arek Malek scored the bout 58-56 or four rounds to two for Hawankowski. Those are horrible scorecards. Eugeniusz Tuszynski, however, outdid them both. His 59-55 card for Hawankowski was shamefully egregious.

The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the fight 59-55 for Lazarev. If the plan was to give the hometown fighter a terrible decision, they could have called it a draw. A unanimous decision victory for the local kid is inexcusable. It begs the question to supervisor and inspector Paulina Pietras, Polski Unia Boks president Jarosław Kołkowski, and the three judges Tomasz Chwoszcz, Arek Malek, and Eugeniusz Tuszynski: Was this terrible decision a matter of incompetence or corruption (niekompetencja lub korupcja)?

Because of the worst decision by far The JBB has witnessed in over twelve years of coverage, Lazarev is now 8-3 with 3 KOs. Hawankowski is laughably 8-0 with two KOs. Lazarev is scheduled to face highly touted prospect Angelo Peña in April. Hopefully, the judging is fairer in Switzerland.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Weights for Lavarev-Harwankowski

Igor Lazarev and Dominik Harwankowski weighed in for their bout scheduled for tomorrow at Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa in Świecie, Poland. Lazarev, a 35 year old from Israel, is 8-2 with 3 KOs. Harwankowski (7-0, 2 KOs) is from a town just an hour's drive from the venue.  He is a 21 year old prospect.

Lazarev weighed in a fraction above the lightweight limit at 135.4 pounds. It is the heaviest of his pro career by a couple of ounces. His weight has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, staying between 131.5 and 135.5 pounds.

Hawankowski tipped the scales at 134.5 pounds or a half pound below the lightweight limit. Though a tiny bit taller than Lazarev, Hawankowski has weighed as little as 128.5 for a fight last July. His heaviest weight was 135.

This bout is scheduled for six rounds. The Jewish Boxing Blog's preview of the bout can be found
here
.


photo courtesy of Arena Boxing

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Shawn Sarembock to Fight Next Week

Junior middleweight Shawn Michael Sarembock is scheduled to fight Miguel Reyes Gonzalez on Friday, March 25 at the famed Big Punch Arena in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Sarembock brings a perfect record into the match-up.

Sarembock, a 31 years old from Arizona, is 7-0 with 7 KOs. All of his fights have been in Tijuana, and this will be his fourth time in the ring at Big Punch Arena. He has been moved well, fighting opponents with lots of experience but not many wins in recent bouts. Sarembock, who is very poised and steady in the ring, has showed good improvement in each of his fights even as the opposition improves.

Sarembock's opponent this time isn't as experienced as the last two foes, but Reyes has a better record. He's 3-3-2 with 2 KOs and was busy in 2021, fighting four times last year. He drew with 6-0 Sergio Israel Hernandez last July. The 21 year old from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico lost to 7-0 Arnold Gonzalez in November. His last fight was a draw in December against lesser competition.

Sarembock will enjoy a size advantage. Reyes has fought between 137 and 145 pounds while Shawn has weighed in between 145 and 153 pounds. This bout is slated for six rounds at welterweight. Reyes has gone six rounds three times while Sarembock has yet to allow an opponent to finish the fourth.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

David Alaverdian to Fight on April 2

Flyweight David Alaverdian is scheduled to fight in his first six-rounder on April 2 at the Ford Community Center in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. Alaverdian had been scheduled to face Josue "Peñas" Burgueno on March 24 in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. The Tepic card is still slated to go on, but Alaverdian is no longer on the bill.

Alaverdian is 5-0 with 4 KOs. The 28 year old U.S.-based Israeli started his pro boxing career in 2019. If it happens, the April 2 fight will be his first prizefight in the U.S. His previous five fights were in Mexico. His last fight was a second round stoppage victory last October.

Dmitiry Salita's Salita Promotions is the promoter of record for the Michigan event. Salita, a former boxer, was a 35-2 (18 KOs) world title challenger during his pro career which lasted from 2001-2013. His crowded stable of fighters includes two-time gold medalist and world middleweight champion Claressa Shields and heavyweight contenders Otto Wallin and Jarrell Miller.

Alaverdian's opponent has yet to be named.

poster created by Andrey Lashmanov

Saturday, March 12, 2022

A Look Back: Sol "Bagel Boy" Nazerman

Sol Nazerman was born in Detroit, Michigan just after World War II in 1946. A big kid with a striking resemblance to a mustachioed version of former heavyweight title challenger Abe Simon, Nazerman turned pro without any amateur experience. He didn't have a ton of skills, but he punched people out like a pandemic.

Without an amateur standing, Nazerman began his pro career in small out-of-the-way towns across the United States. He fought in Winooski, Vermont; Goodluck, Kentucky; and Pumpkintown, South Carolina; not exactly boxing hotbeds. Nazerman, looking to remove all doubt about his connection to the Jewish people, assumed the nonthreatening nickname of the "Bagel Boy." He also began fighting with a Star of David on his trunks.

It was all a little gimmicky, except Nazerman had serious power in his fists. His opposition wasn't the stiffest, but he knocked them all out. A local newsletter, Michigan Boxing News, chronicled Nazerman's career from its beginning. The 196 pounder was described by one opponent's manager as "the hardest puncher I have seen in 30 years of boxing." Finally, a Jewish heavyweight to get excited about!

On March 10, 1972, Nazerman KOed Battling Young in the first round in Irondequoit, a town in New York just north of Rochester. Irondequoit, which markets itself as "A Town For A Lifetime," fell under the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission and its head Edwin Dooley. Dooley noted that Nazerman had never applied for a boxing license in New York, an unpardonable error.

On March 26, 1974 George Foreman beat five different opponents in one night. That was nothing. Nearly two years earlier, on May 18, 1972, Nazerman scored seven knockouts of seven different opponents, all in the first round as reported by American Boxing News. By that point, Sol was an improbable 40-0 with 40 KOs!

Respected newspapers began to take notice, and the Bagel Boy gained notoriety. One mainstream boxing magazine ranked him as one of their top ten heavyweights in the world. A fight against heavyweight champion Joe Frazier didn't fall outside the realm of possibilities. And then tragedy struck.

On June 29, 1972, Sol "Bagel Boy" Nazerman died. An automobile accident, a Mack truck to be exact, was the cause of death. The life of the most promising Jewish heavyweight in history had sadly been cut short.

***

Except, it hadn't.

Sol "Bagel Boy" Nazerman hadn't died, because he'd never lived. He was merely a product of Elliott Harvith's imagination. Harvith published the underground Michigan Boxing News, which he renamed  American Boxing News in April of 1972. 

Michigan Boxing News and its successor weren't to be taken seriously. Consisting of low-budget newsletters, Harvith often made fun of fighters, real or imagined.

The editor looked to expose just how easy it was to beef up a fighter's record and to advocate for more regulation in boxing.  He also, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the overly trusting- or lazy- nature of the boxing media.

Nazerman wasn't the only Jewish fighter Harvith invented. Moshe Joseph Gottlieb was another. Nazerman even supposedly fought a certain 244-pounder named "Big Boy" Cohen. Harvith's newsletters were crude in every sense of the word and a bit silly, but they often possessed an important underlying message.

Today, fighters' records are computerized, so they are less likely to be falsified. It's also harder to fight under assumed names than it used to be. But boxing's deregulation in the United States still causes problems.

A fighter can be suspended for health reasons in one jurisdiction and still fight in another within the county. The quality of officiating varies wildly from state to state. Different countries have different rules entirely not only during the match, but in the run-up to the fight as well.

Havith's hoax is now a mere footnote in history of boxing, but it touched on significant issues in boxing, ones that still exist in some form or fashion today.


Sources
Harvith, Elliott. "Nazerman Streaks Along." Michigan Boxing News. Issue 13, February 1972. Pg. 1.
Levin, Dan . "Guardian of the Garbage." Sports Illustrated. June 17, 1974.
Mullan, Harry. "Hearn pays for his vision." The Independent. Aug 6, 1995. Pg. 8.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Former World Champion Robert Cohen Passes: A Life Well Lived

Robert Cohen died on Wednesday, March 2, at the age of 91. Cohen held the French, European, and world bantamweight championships during his professional career, which spanned the 1950s.

"One of my heroes," recalls Jewish boxing expert Ron Schneck, who alerted The Jewish Boxing Blog of Cohen's passing. "In his prime, he was an absolute terror in the ring."

Robert Cohen was born in Bone, Algeria, which was a French colony at the time, on November 15, 1930. "There was no trouble between the Jewish community and the Arabs in my town, Bone. We all mixed and there were no problems," Robert told The Jewish Chronicle in 2012. "But I was short and all the bigger boys used to pick on me. That made me aggressive, and I began boxing. "

When Algeria fell under the authority of Vichy France in 1940, Cohen and his fellow Jewish countrymen lost their citizenship. Countless anti-Jewish laws were passed during the war years. But the Cohens were lucky; the family survived the Holocaust intact.

Cohen was a successful amateur in Algeria, but moved to France for his pro career. His first 14 fights and 25 of his first 26 fights took place in France, mostly in Paris. In that time, Cohen lost only once.

Standing a couple inches above five feet, Cohen had a come-forward buzzsaw style in the ring. He often cuffed with an open hand, but his best punch was a tight left hook on the inside. He was always willing to fight through injuries.

On November 6, 1953, Cohen won the French bantamweight title with a fifteen-round points victory over Maurice Sandeyron. On February 27, 1954, Cohen captured the European bantamweight crown by flooring John Kelly of Northern Ireland five times in the second round. The sixth knockdown, coming in the third, would end the fight.

On September 19, Robert challenged Chamroen Songkitrat for the vacant world bantamweight title after the previous champion chose to retire rather than face Cohen. In Songkitrat's home country of Thailand, Cohen won a bruising split decision.

"The French saw me as 'the little Algerian'. When I won the French title I became 'the little French boy from Algeria'. When I won the world title, they adopted me completely," Cohen told The JC.

Cohen's world title reign bordered on the bizarre. He retained the belt after his first defense ended in a draw. Many felt Cohen deserved the victory against the South African challenger, Willie Toweel, in Johannesburg. Robert suffered a broken jaw in a car accident. He was TKOed in a non-title bout against fellow countryman, Cherif Hamia. Cohen ultimately lost the title to Mario D'Agata in a rematch in 1956. With the win, D'Agata became the first deaf world champion.

Cohen was a religiously observant Jew who kept kosher wherever he traveled despite fighting in ten different countries during his pro career. Before his fights he prayed in synagogues regardless of where in the world he was. His last bout came in 1959, a decision loss in what was then called Northern Rhodesia.

"Cohen was maybe the best of all the really good Jewish fighters who came out of North Africa after World War II," Schneck believes.

After his career, Robert briefly lived in Belgium and the Congo before spending most of his post-boxing life in Capetown, South Africa in the textile business. At 91, he was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, living former world champion at the time of his death.

"He was a real mensch all of his days," Schneck says. "No higher praise in my humble estimation."


Sources
Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers' Hall of Fame. 1988.
Silver, Mike. Stars in the Ring. 2016.
"When a Cohen was the World Champion Boxer." The Jewish Chronicle. February 16, 2012. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Alaverdian to Face Burgueno This Month

David Alaverdian is scheduled to face Josue "Peñas" Burgueno on March 24 at Palenque de la Feria in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. This is a step-up fight for both men and should be a good one.

Alaverdian (5-0, 4 KOs) is a 28 year old from Nahariya, Israel and is based in Nevada, USA. His pro career began in December of 2019. Alaverdian is supremely skilled. Trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr., David's hands are so quick, they become a blur. He switches stances, changes angles, and throws combinations. Alaverdian scores his KOs with body blows. His defense is slick; he primarily slips oncoming fire or uses footwork to get out of the way, which allows him to counter effectively.

Burgueno, (5-1, 4 KOs) is a 22 year old from Tepic. This will be his sixth fight in his hometown and third in the same venue; the other one was not too far way, just north in the same state. His career has featured more fits and starts than most. He lost his debut as a 16 year old by split decision at minimumweight. He took nearly three years off but then had four fights in 13 months despite the pandemic. He followed up with a year layoff.

Peñas has fought as a flyweight or super flyweight following his debut. He has only fought one opponent with a winning record, Gabriel Loranca, on October 31, 2020. Loranca was 4-1 at the time though he is now 4-6-1. Burgueno used smart pressure and a high work-rate, both to the head and body, to bloody and bruise Loranca on route to a fifth round TKO victory.

Though he left himself open for return fire at times, Josue did not walk in face-first against Loranca. He occasionally jabbed his way in, but mostly glided in behind a high guard. He was strong at 115 pounds. While defense was not his primary concern, he avoided shots by moving his feet. He'll want to try to pressure and rough up Alaverdian to negate the Israeli's skill and speed advantages.

If Burgueno can maintain the pressure, Alaverdian could be in for a tough battle. But the Mexican tends to come straight forward. It worked against Loranca who allowed himself to get backed into corners and then mostly covered up during Burgueno's assaults. In this fight, straight forward pressure will expose Peñas to Alaverdian's creative offensive attacks.

This bout is Alaverdian's first scheduled six-rounder. Burgueno has had two, but only made it as far as the fifth round once, which was in the Loranca fight.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Hammering Henry the Hustling Hebrew: A Look at Henry Nissen

“I was always happiest when I was helping people rather than bashing them," Henry Nissen, the former British Empire flyweight champion, once said.

Born Henry Nissenbaum in the shadow of the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen, Germany on January 15, 1948 to Simche and Sonia, Henry was one of five children, including his twin Leon. Simche and Sonia were both Holocaust survivors who met after the war. Simche was a tailor from Poland, and Sonia hailed from a town just north of Odessa, which is currently in Ukraine.

Not much is known about either parent's experiences during the Holocaust. They chose not to reveal the horrors they had witnessed. Sonia, who also spent time in Siberia, suffered greatly from the trauma she endured. Her mental health struggles shaped Henry's childhood.

The family moved to Melbourne, Australia at the suggestion of Simche's uncle when Henry and Leon were babies. The family's name was shortened to Nissen and Simche became Sam. Sam worked long hours as Sonia's emotional issues periodically resurfaced. The children spent time in homes for Jewish kids when their parents were unable to care for them.

The Nissen twins, who were always small for their age, often found themselves the victims of bullies. So they took up boxing under the tutelage of Mick and Peter Read. Henry and Leon worked hard at their new sport and possessed natural talent. They shot up the Australian amateur ranks. Leon became the 1970 Australian amateur flyweight champion, but after a controversial decision loss in Israel, he moved on from the sport. Henry continued boxing and turned professional.

Henry made his pro debut on June 9, 1970. After defeating two opponents with winning records, Nissen fought a fifteen-rounder for the Australian flyweight championship in his third fight. The champ, Harry Hayes, was 18-1 heading into the fight. His lone loss had come in his previous bout against the British Empire (now known as Commonwealth) champion, John McCluskey. Nissen easily outpointed Hayes to capture the belt.

Nissen was a come-forward type of fighter. Though he was tough and relentless, several people who saw him fight said he always fought clean and was a gentleman in the ring. Nissen didn't possess knockout power, but he did own an iron chin, which is a recipe for fights lasting the distance. Over 83% of his fights went to the scorecards.

After three ten-rounders with lesser opponents, Nissen won the rematch against Hayes on the cards in 1971. One fight later, the Hustling Hebrew, who was 8-0 at the time, faced McClusky on August 5, 1971 in Melbourne for the British Empire flyweight title. Nissen pressured the Scot on route to an impressive eighth round stoppage victory, his first professional KO.

After two more wins, including his second career KO, Nissen faced former European flyweight champion, Fernando Atzori. The Italian had not been a paper champion. He held the belt for six years while defending the title often. He had defeated McClusky three times, twice in defense of the European title. Atzori boasted a record of 38-3-1 when he met Nissen on August 14, 1972 in Melbourne.

Nissen won the ten-round affair on points to become one of the top rated flyweights in the world. He was offered a chance to fight for the world flyweight championship.

Contradictory clichés suggest "Fortune favors the bold" and "Good things come to those who wait," but rarely do clichés actually offer useful life advice. The always humble Nissen felt he wasn't yet ready to battle a world champion. As it turned out, Henry made the wrong choice. At least in the short term.

On March 13, 1974, 15-0 Hammering Henry took a tune-up fight against Big Jim West. West, a former Australian flyweight champion, did not sport a sterling record. His 30-10-6 mark represented that of a savvy veteran. Nissen scored a knockdown in the fourth, but he was bleeding badly from a cut that he believes was caused by a headbutt. Henry was hurt bad but felt he had the advantage.

"I'll never forget that moment, the towel flying towards me, the flag of defeat," Henry recalled years later. "I was angry. I wanted to hide. I wanted to make it right. I wanted a rematch. Quick."

It didn't happen. Instead, West lost to Brian Roberts in a bantamweight bout. Two months later, Nissen beat Roberts. On July 18, Nissen got his chance at revenge against West in a non-title bout.

"We gave the crowd ten action-packed rounds," Henry remembered. "We went at each other like maniacs. We gave them their money's worth. They were hungry for blood, and we didn't let them down." A bit ruefully, Nissen added, "I should've boxed him, not just slogged him." West, who came in overweight, won by decision.

This would turn out to be Nissen's last professional fight. He continued to train and traveled to Great Britain and Italy in search of opportunities but none came. He finished 16-2 with 2 KOs as a prizefighter. In 18 fights, he fought 161 rounds or an astonishing average of nine rounds a bout.

In the long run, perhaps it was better for the world that Henry never became champion. He may have chosen a different post-boxing path, and the world would have been poorer for it. Initially, he and his twin Leon set up a clothing store that did well. Then, Henry found his true calling in life.

In many ways, Henry reminds me of my mom. Both became social workers later in life. Both are the children of Holocaust survivors. They both exude positivity, and their presence brings smiles to people's faces. There are some differences though. Nissen is 74 years old; my mother is- at least according to her- much much younger. She's 72. Henry stands just over five feet tall, a giant compared to my mom.

"As long as we're alive, we're going to be learning," Henry philosophizes. As a social worker, Nissen has spent his days in court advocating for those down on their luck, drug addicts and the like. He has been an ear for those in search of a friend. He has absorbed punches intended for an abused wife and punched back when necessary. He has helped countless people who would have otherwise been confined to the streets or prisons of Melbourne. Perhaps, missing that opportunity to fight for the world title and the losses to Big Jim West were for the best.

At first, Nissen was paid to be a social worker. Now, he's does it as a volunteer. He works on Melbourne's docks to earn an income. As always, Henry has a sanguine look at life. He considers himself "a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist... I claim to be part of everyone. The world is my family." Henry Nissen is a mensch.


Sources
Jackson, Russell. "Henry Nissen: from boxing hero to champion of Melbourne's most vulnerable."
The Michael Kuzilny Show. "Success, Happiness and kindness Henry Nissen." May 8, 2020. The Guardian. Dec. 23, 2016.
Zable, Arnold. The Fighter. 2016.