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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Miroslav Kapuler Advances to Quarters in Europeans

Junior middleweight Miroslav Kapuler won his first two fights at the European amateur championships in Belgrade, Serbia run by the EUBC. The EUBC is affiliated with the IBA, who has been banned by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) from running the boxing tournament at the Olympics because of corruption. So this tournament is not an Olympic qualifier. Last year's European Games served as a qualifying tournament instead.

Kapuler, a southpaw who will turn 27 on April 28, is the lone pro boxer from the Israeli contingent. Pro boxers are allowed to fight in amateur tournaments since a rule change in 2016. Kapuler, who also uses the surname Ishchenko, is 3-0 as a pro and last fought for money in 2021. Prospect Yan Zak and Yonatan Arnon, also competed in the tourament for Israel.

Kapuler won his first preliminary bout by unanimous decision over Lithuania's Aleksandr Trofimcuk by boxing beautifully in the pocket: launching intelligent combinations and slipping Tromfimcuk's counters. In the round of 16 the next day, Kapuler completely controlled the contest against Pavel Kaminin, an Estonian from the ethnically Russian eastern city of Narva. Kapuler showed more aggression than usual and loaded up on sledgehammer lefts while Kaminin, who is 2-0 as a pro, mostly held Kapuler as if they were attending a high school dance. Referee Anar Babanli missed an early third round knockdown by Kapuler and then admonished the Israeli for rabbit punching when Kaminin turned his head and scolded Kapuler for arguing that point, but he was fair otherwise.

Heavyweight Yan Zak dominated 2020 Olympian Uladzislau Smiahlikau in the round of 16 by unanimous decision behind his jab and adroit footwork. Smiahlikau suffered a cut by his right eye in the third round. Astonishingly, two judges awarded the Belarussian with a round. In the quarterfinals, Zak faced his rival Loren Alfonso Dominguez of Azerbaijan. A slippery boxer in the Cuban mold, Alfonso fights with his hands down and embarrasses his opponents by making them miss and making them pay from odd angles. He was more serious than usual against Zak and seemed to barely edge the first two rounds. Zak pummeled Alfonso in the third, but three judges incredibly gave the round to Alfonso. Nevertheless, the right man won.

Middleweight Yonatan Arnon was stopped in the last second of his bout by an experienced opponent from Serbia, Almir Memic, in the round of 16. Arnon landed some counters and potshots, but was outclassed by Memic's pressure and looping right. Memic scored three standing eight counts and knocked out his Israeli opponent's mouthpiece several times.  A bit unfairly, the referee stopped the contest with no time left.

Kapuler fights in the quarterfinals against Vasile Cebotari, a Moldovan who is 15-0 as a pro, on Wednesday April 24 in the evening session.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jackson Off Tomorrow’s Card

Lev Jackson had been scheduled to fight Mathusan Mahindas in a junior welterweight bout in Toronto tomorrow. Jackson is now off the card and Mahindas is slated to fight Viacheslav Shulevskyi.

A week and a half ago, Jackson told The Jewish Boxing Blog that the fight was up in the air. He had said that he felt “chunky” weighing 138 pounds for his last fight, so it was surprising to see the fight with Mahindas scheduled for junior welterweight.

The cancellation was surely disappointing for Jackson, who had his heart set on this matchup. Hopefully, Jackson will get a fight soon.

Monday, April 15, 2024

A Lucky Hat and a Right Hand: A Profile of Willie Jackson

A writer once dubbed Willie Jackson "possibly the best club fighter of this or any other century." It was actually an unfair declaration. More than a club fighter, Jackson developed into one of the best boxers in the featherweight and lightweight divisions in the world during the late 1910s and early 1920s.

Oscar Tobinsky was born in New York, New York on July 11, 1897 (see notes). The oldest of Samuel and Ester's seven children, Oscar spent his formative years in the Lower East Side before the family moved to the Bronx. His parents had immigrated to the United States from the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire. Contrary to popular belief, names were not changed at Ellis Island, so the family was responsible for shortening their surname to Tobin.

Oscar Tobin earned $6 a week as an errand boy when he gave up his job to become a professional boxer in 1913. He weighed an anemic 98 pounds for his first fight at the Fairmont Athletic Club where he earned the princely sum of $9 for his effort. Ester objected to her boy fighting, believing Oscar was too frail, so he did his best to hit and not get hit. He assumed the fighting name of Willie Jackson, an ode to an old fighter of his manager Doc Bagley.

Before entering the ring that night, he wore a cap , one that would grow more worn and ragged throughout his career. That lucky cap would see Jackson beat some of the best fighters of his time.

Willie Jackson fought in the old newspaper era, when fights only became official if a fighter won by knockout or lost by disqualification. Otherwise, newsmen rendered their unofficial verdicts in their papers' next edition. Early in his career, Jackson lost one such decision to a world class fighter named Louisiana, a fellow Jew. He beat many good fighters during the first four years of his career, but lost at the top level.

On May 8, 1916, featherweight world champion Johnny Kilbane stopped Jackson in the fifth round of their non-title bout, the only time Jackson was ever stopped until his final two fights. Kilbane would later tell Doc Bagley that Willie possessed "the fastest left of anybody he ever saw, and this includes Benny Leonard." At 5'6", he was rangy for the weight, and possessed quick feet.

Willie continued to fight consistently in New York and Philadelphia when he was matched with Johnny Dundee on January 15, 1917. Dundee, a future two-division world champion, was already a grizzled veteran, one of the best fighters in the world. In the first round, Jackson landed a short right to the chin and Dundee's lights went out for the first time in his lengthy career.

The result shocked the boxing world. Before the knockout, Jackson had yet to register a signature win and he was regarded as speedy and ringwise, but not a puncher. Dundee's chin seemed to be more steel than bone. "I'm so tickled I don't know what to do," Jackson said days later. "I haven't slept since the fight, I'm afraid that if I do I will wake up and find it all a dream."

Former heavyweight champion James J. Corbett wrote a column that August praising Jewish fighters, singling out Jackson at one point. "And then some people say the Hebrews lack courage! The only man who ever knocked out Johnny Dundee was Willie Jackson (Oscar Tobin), a Jewish boy."
A cartoon depicting Jackson knocking out Dundee
Jackson trained at the famed Grupp's Gym at 116th Street and 8th Avenue with Ray Arcel, Benny Valgar, and Benny Leonard. When the owner, Billy Grupp, blamed the Jews for World War I, Leonard led a group to find a new gym in protest. Jackson was one of the fighters who made the switch to the soon-to-be world renowned Stillman's Gym.

Willie had been fighting regularly when he faced Dundee in a rematch that June. Dundee won the newspaper decision, but the pair would fight about a dozen times through the years with Jackson winning more than he lost. In October, writers granted Jackson a newspaper decision victory over future lightweight champion Rocky Kansas.

On November 10, 1917, Jackson married Pauline Sherr. The couple lived on Garrison Avenue in the Bronx, but the marriage wouldn't last.

In 1918, Jackson fought some of the best fighters of all-time. That year he battled Lew Tendler, who is perhaps the best boxer never to win a title. Willie took on Dundee and Kansas multiple times. And he fought the lightweight world champion, Benny Leonard. Leonard won a newspaper decision on a charity card in July but the experience allegedly convinced him never to fight Jackson for the lightweight title.

During a busy 1919, Jackson once again faced Lew Tendler in a memorable bout on August 4. Willie knocked down the rising star twice in the first round. One came from a right that knocked Tendler out cold for five seconds. Tendler's trainer Scoodles Reinfeld tossed a bucket of water on his man, a move that would be grounds for disqualification now but was legal back then. Tendler woke up, and battered Jackson for the remaining five rounds, breaking Willie's nose in the process.
Jackson knocks down Tendler, Shibe Park Philadelphia, Aug. 4, 1919

Jackson beat Dundee again less than a month later. He fought numerous times each year, but never earned a title shot. He fought mostly on the East Coast, though he traveled to Milwaukee in 1920 to fight Richie Mitchell, a top lightweight. Jackson lost the newspaper decision. The next year he fought a fifteen-round draw with Richie's brother Pinky, the future junior welterweight champion. In 1922, he faced a hard-punching Jew named Charley White in a grueling fifteen round bout at Madison Square Garden. White knocked down Jackson twice in the thirteenth and nearly stopped him in the final two rounds.

The year kept getting worse for Willie. In May, his wife sued for divorce alleging cruelty. The split turned hostile over the amount of alimony Jackson should pay, and the issue gained nationwide attention. Pauline claimed Jackson had earned about $400,000 during his career and he owed her $125 a week. Willie argued that he had made less than $100,000 during his career, a third of which went to Bagley. A sympathetic profile of Jackson that year described him as "one of the greatest lightweight money makers." In 1924, the dispute was rendered moot when Pauline remarried.

After the divorce proceedings had ended, Jackson intended to go on an Australian tour, but Bagley wouldn't tag along, and the two had a falling out. Even when Jackson reconsidered and fought close to home, it was too late to repair the relationship.

A downtrodden Jackson fought a few novices before battling the cerebral Harry "Kid" Brown, a fellow Jew. Though outweighed by six pounds, Brown beat his once-great opponent by newspaper decision. After two more decision losses, Jackson faced Johnny Sugrue on December 4 in Jersey City. With his old lucky cap perched on his head, Willie waited for Doc Bagley to come through the door for one last fight. For old time's sake. But Doc never came. Willie's effort in the fight was valiant, but at 25 years old, he was washed up. Sugrue stopped him in ten rounds.

Jackson retired, save for an ill-conceived comeback fight in 1924. He didn't gamble and wasn't much of a drinker, but still had no money left. He sold paper and twine and remarried. He and Milly had a son named Jack.

Oscar Tobin died on November 13, 1961 in Kings County Hospital after a brief illness. His legacy, carved out of hundreds of fights, was cemented with a surprisingly concussive short right hand on a winter's day in Philadelphia back in 1917.

Notes: The origin of Jackson's surname from Tobinsky to Tobin was mentioned in Rocap's "Willie Jackson is Coming." At one point, some papers claimed his birthname was Isaac Pomper, but that isn't true. His birthdate is listed as July 11 in his WWI draft registration and July 13 in his WWII draft registration.

Bodner, Allen. When Boxing was a Jewish Sport. Pg. 73.
"Boxer asks Cut in Alimony." New York Times. May 30, 1922. Pg. 2.
Carolan, James S. "Lew Tendler Never Felt First Punch that Floored Him." Evening Public Ledge. Aug. 5, 1919. Pg. 15.
Corbett, James J. "In Corbett's Corner." The Evening Report. Aug. 16, 1917. Pg. 6.
"Lion-Hearted Willie Jackson's Passing is Real Ring Tragedy." Portland Evening Express. Dec. 22, 1922. Pg. 6.
"Oscar Tobin Boxed as Willie Jackson" New York Times. Nov. 14, 1961. Pg. 36.
Ripley, Robert L. "Dundee's Conqueror." The Atlanta Journal. Jan 20, 1917.Pg. 7.
Rocap, William H. "Willie Jackson is Coming." The Houston Post. Jan 28, 1917. Pg. 17.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Gloves and Doves to Feature Hagar Finer

Former world champion Hagar Finer is scheduled to box in an exhibition as part of a Gloves and Doves show on May 9 at the Camden Boxing Club in London, England. Finer held the WIBF super flyweight world title from 2007-2008 and then captured the WIBF bantamweight world title in 2009. After four successful defenses, she retired in 2012.

Finer has made Evgheni Boico's list of the top five Jewish Israeli boxers of all-time and Malissa Smith's list of the top 5 Jewish female boxers in history. The 39 year old currently runs the Finer Boxing and Martial Arts Club in Tel Aviv and has staged numerous boxing exhibition shows in Israel.

Gloves and Doves is the brainchild of former pro boxer Tony Milch, who hopes to spread peace through boxing and to build up the sport in Israel. Gloves and Doves will also host a show Friday, April 26 in Isfiya, Israel.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Duer Ranked by WBC, Could Fight in May

Carolina Duer is two-division world champion and one of the best Jewish female boxers in history. The 45-year old native of Argentina could fight Laura Grzyb in Poland this May although nothing has been officially announced.

Duer, 20-7-2, last fought a year ago when she lost a controversial split decision to Gabriel Bouvier. She hoped to fight Bouvier in a rematch, but the two couldn't come to terms. Duer is currently ranked sixth in the WBC's junior featherweight ratings. She isn't in the top ten in the other alphabet organizations' rankings. BoxRec rates her thirtieth.

Grzyb is a 28 year old from Poland. At 10-0 she is the European junior featherweight champion and rated number four by the WBC and seventh by the IBF. BoxRec lists her at number twelve.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Lev Jackson to Fight Undefeated Mathusan Mahindas

Lev Jackson is scheduled to fight Mathusan Mahindas on April 21 at the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in a junior welterweight contest. The show is promoted by Lee Baxter, who was the promoter for Jackson's debut in 2019.

Jackson, a 31 year old from Richmond in British Columbia, comes in with a record of 3-1-1 with one KO and one no contest. He acknowledges that Mahindas, who is 6-0-1 with 2 KOs, will be the hometown favorite in the fight.

Mahindas, a 28 year old from Scarborough, located on the outskirts of Toronto, will make his fifth appearance in a Toronto-area ring. "No one wants to lose at their house party," Jackson said in an interview with The Jewish Boxing Blog last month. He then paused before adding, "But he's going to lose at his house party."

Jackson noted, "He's got a great record, but he has exclusively fought fly-in Mexicans for his career." Canada recently instituted a law requiring Mexican citizens to obtain a visa to enter Canada, which will force Canadian fighters to take on their co-nationalists as opposed to foreign patsies. Jackson granted, "Credit it to him, before there were any issues with visas, he was willing to take me on."

Mahindas poses a difficult challenge for Jackson. But Lefty Lev is brimming with confidence. "I'm excited. It's going to be a mistake for him [to take this fight] I think. No, I don't think... I know."

He added, "He's definitely underestimating me, and... Good!"

Mahindas graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in finance and works as an insurance underwriter. He's the first professional boxer from the Tamil community and has ties to Sri Lanka. His nickname, the Tiger, is not as innocuous as it first seems. The Tamil Tigers were major participants in the Sri Lankan civil war, which lasted from 1983-2009. The group, who wanted an independent homeland on the island, was labeled a terrorist organization by some countries, including the U.S., because they used suicide bombings on civilians outside of the war zone.

In the ring, Mahindas fights in an Eastern European style: upright and robotic, moving in and out behind the jab, and occasionally throwing the 1-2. He keeps his right hand glued to his chin, which can indicate suspect punch resistance. A year ago, Mahindas was shaken up a few times against wild slugger Arturo Avila. The fight ended in a draw, which was a setback of sorts for Mahindas.

Jackson, a butcher by trade, revealed, "I'm mentally seeing myself as the A-side for this." But he understands that it might be difficult to receive a just decision in the opponent's backyard. "We're not going for decisions," he declared. "I think I have underrated punching power. Keep thinking it's underrated, I hope he walks into something stupid to start."

Mahindas likely won't be careless, because he's a cautious fighter who generally prefers to stay on the outside and utilize his height advantage. In 2022, Jose Alberto Garcia was able to get inside and touch Mahindas. Last September, Mahindas allowed Eduardo Cortes Molina to get inside and then made him pay, bloodying the Mexican's nose. Mathusan isn't a hard puncher, but he's very accurate.

Jackson will want to get to the inside and, if he gets there, his all-action style will cause problems for his opponent. He'll look to time Mahindas's right with overhand lefts. Lev will also hope to target the right side of Mahindas's body, under his elevated right elbow. But don't ignore Lev's right hook, either.

This is a big fight for Jackson. "He's the stepping stone. I'm not," he said. It means a lot that he's fighting a guy from Ontario. Jackson admitted that his native British Columbians are considered "the lowest of the low" in boxing. B.C. boxers have a big rivalry with those from Ontario, but it doesn't go both ways. Boxers from Ontario are focused more on their heated rivalry with Quebecois.

In Ontario and in Mexico, Mahindas has been more active recently than Jackson, but Lev has gone the six round distance twice before. Mathusan hasn't. The matchup has all the makings on an intriguing battle.

"We're both going to be the best the other one has fought so far" Jackson exclaimed, "and that's what is going to make an awesome fight."

Friday, April 5, 2024

The Many Battles of Soldier Bartfield

Soldier Bartfield's opponents could fill up a pretty great all-time top ten list. "Rarely were so many battles of blood and thunder against so many notable fighters credited to one man," wrote Lester Bromberg.

Bartfield fought so many great champions because he didn't actually care who he'd fight. "Never mind whom I gonna fight, what's the poyse?" he once exclaimed, saying the word "purse" with a Yiddish accent.

Bartfield was a Polish Jew born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. He listed his town of birth as Lancyzn and the date as February 15, 1892. Or maybe it was March 15? Eh, it was so long ago who could remember. The area where Bartfield grew up, called Galicia (not to be confused with the region in Spain), had been obtained by the Hapsburg monarchy in the late eighteenth century and wouldn't be returned to Poland until Jacob had immigrated to the United States.

I remember my mom and her mother-in-law, both born in the Bronx and each learning Yiddish as their first language, gently mocking the cadence of Galician Yiddish and laughing about how hard it was to understand. When Jacob arrived on Essex Street on the East Side of New York at the age of 16, he probably wasn't very easily understood either. While in New York, he learned English and spoke it with a thick Yiddish accent.

Initially, Jacob worked in an iron foundry, building his muscles as he raked in $3 a week. He then joined the army where he fought the legendary Pancho Villa.

Not the Filipino flyweight, but the Mexican revolutionary. Bartfield, a first class private, was part of the 11th infantry sent to the Mexican border at the height of the Mexican civil war. "We had a good outfit, and those bandits knew it," Jacob recalled. "Soon as we turned up, they ran like hell."

He had turned pro back in 1911 and fought consistently until 1916 when he spent ten months out of the ring protecting the southern border. In the meantime, Bartfield built up an impressive array of opponents. You can find them all on BoxRec, and many in the Hall of Fame. He fought Benny Leonard, Ted "Kid" Lewis, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, and Jack Britton. But "Soldier" Bartfield didn't just fight these guys once; he fought Lewis six times, Greb five, and Britton on seven occasions.

Leonard, the legendary lightweight world champion, said of the soldier, "Bartfield hits you with punches you wouldn't expect. You just don't know what to look for. Aside from this, he's very strong, takes a hard punch as well, and keeps pressing you all the time." Jacob knew all the veteran tricks, his chin resembled steel, and he exhibited the endurance of a migrating penguin.

But Bartfield didn't just fight the best. He fought everyone just a smidge below, too. He took on the world middleweight champion  Al McCoy four times, he broke three of Mike Gibbons's ribs, and battled other champions such as Dave Rosenberg, Jimmy Slattery, and Billy Papke, just to name a few. He actually beat some of these guys too, just never for the title.

Soldier had two title shots. In 1919, he lost to Mike O'Dowd for the middleweight crown and to Johnny Wilson the following year. Bartfield faced many of the top contenders in and around his weight as well. But his toughest opponent, he was quoted as saying, "Dey vas all tuff guys. But my tuffest fight vas mit Lockport Jimmy Duffy.

"De punching vasn't so tuff, but dey troo us out of de ring in de sevent' round. Ve didn't get paid. Boy vas dat tuff!" In their 1917 fight, Bartfield was dominating when Duffy and his corner contended that Bartfield had hit him low. Bartfield and his backers were just as adamant it was a legal punch, but he was DQed though Duffy was later accused of acting.

Bartfield's biggest purse was $25,000, but he often made much much less. And in the case of his fight against Lockport Jimmy Duffy, nothin'.

Bartfield was managed by Dan McKetrick and the ingenious Doc Kearns, the man who guided Jack Dempsey's career. Soldier stood a half-inch above 5'8" and was the type of opponent a smart manager would have his boy fight only if he believed he had a real gem. And even then, Bartfield might still win. "I had a punch they couldn't get away from, a left hook," he said. "That I followed up with a right hand."

Even though he didn't move there until the early 1920s, Bartfield became synonymous with Brooklyn. He represented the loveable tough guy who didn't always win, but always gave his best. After at least 220 professional fights, Bartfield finally retired from boxing in 1925. At the age of 33, he was already described as "punchy," suffering the effects of what is now called CTE. "Those who remember me, I thank," he once said. "And those who don't I can't blame. I have trouble remembering, too."

He fought twice more in 1932 and then hung up the gloves for good. After his career, he worked as a ship fitter for the U.S. Navy in Brooklyn's Navy Yard, continuing through the war. He married Sara and they had a son named Horace. Eventually, they split time between Brooklyn ad their farm near Hunter, New York.

When he got older, Bartfield would sit in Brooklyn's Canarsie Park listening to the birds sing and watching the seasons change. Young women would wave to him and make small talk. "You know what the women there call me? 'That nice old Jewish man,'" he explained.

Jacob Bartfield died on October 2, 1970 at Brooklyn State Hospital at the age of 78. The countless wars, in the ring and on the battlefield, had taken their toll. He was ready to find some peace.

Assorted uncited articles located at the Hank Kaplan Archives.
Silver, Mike. Stars in the Ring. 2016. Pgs. 31, 33.
Tranter, Edward. "Sport Topics." The Buffalo Enquirer. Jul. 5, 1927. Pg. 12.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Cletus Seldin Ranked by WBA

After Cletus Seldin secured his seventh consecutive win on March 15, the WBA ranked him number 8 in their welterweight ratings. Seldin is 28-1 with 23 KOs. His last two fights have been at 142.5 pounds.

Seldin has made the most of his opportunities and he should be viewed as a contender, but the alphabet organizations' ratings should be taken with a grain of salt. The WBA actually has two welterweight world champions. The IBF doesn't have a number one or number two contender, but it does rank 3-15. Within the four "major" organizations' top 15, 44 different welterweights are listed. No single welterweight is rated by each of the four organizations.

The best ratings organizations are the Transnational Boxing Rankings and The Ring. Their ratings are quite similar, agreeing on the champion, Terence Crawford, and eight of the ten contenders. But both only include a top ten. Seldin didn't make either list.

BoxRec's ratings are based on a mathematical formula and rank Seldin as the 102nd best junior welterweight, which is preposterously low. BoxRec's rankings are often criticized within the industry. They are less corrupt than the alphabet organizations' rankings, however.

Rgardless of the WBA's rankings, Seldin has established himself as a contender. Hopefully, the 37 year old lands a big fight soon.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Two Jewish Fighters Compete in Ring Masters

Following in the tradition of the defunct New York Golden Gloves, the Ring Masters amateur championships brings together the New York area's best boxers in the unpaid ranks. Two Jewish fighters have made it deep into this year's tournament. Rebecca Goldberg will fight in the finals of the 146 elite division at Madison Square Garden next month. David Malul hopes to join Goldberg at MSG. He fights in the semifinals of the 147 novice class tomorrow (Saturday, March 23) at 4pm on his home turf at John's Boxing Gym in the Bronx.

Goldberg, a 34 year old physician assistant in orthopedic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, is a boxer whose background in soccer helped her develop her style in the ring. She thinks and moves behind an educated jab. The main criticism her trainer, Jose Guzman, gives her is "to be angrier."

Malul is a 21 year old real estate broker from Queens. Always a sports fan, he dreamed of success as an athlete, but needed to find the right sport. At 16, he took up boxing at John's when it was located on Jerome Avenue. He quickly realized that with the right trainers, he could be great, so he enlisted Mike Stellati and Angel Torres to guide his career.

Goldberg started boxing eight or nine years ago as a way to support her friend who wanted to get in better shape for her own wedding. The friend had a GroupOn to Mendez Boxing Gym. "After the wedding, she stopped, I stayed," Goldberg told The Jewish Boxing Blog in a phone interview.

She instantly felt a connection with the sport. "You're never gonna be perfect," she said. "I believe no one's a true boxing master. There's always something to learn, something you can build on." Guzman told Goldberg that she trained like a fighter and pushed her to compete, which only created a greater love for the sport. "When you win, it's the greatest feeling. When you lose, you want to get it back. It's an unbreakable cycle."

While many coaches protect their fighters, Guzman encouraged Goldberg to accept challenges. In her third amateur fight, she took on an opponent with a dozen more bouts of experience. Still with Guzman, but now representing Victory Boxing Club after her old gym became a casualty of the pandemic, this is Goldberg's fourth Ring Masters and she acknowledges, "It's nice being the one with experience now."

This is Malul's first Ring Masters. "Family and Israel fuel me to fight in the ring," he told The Jewish Boxing Blog on the phone as he prepared for Shabbat. David was especially gracious with his time as he is in the process of cutting weight before tomorrow's weigh-in and semifinal bout.

Malul has had a tough draw on the road to the semis. "I've had lots of obstacles, lots of opponents in this tournament." But Ring Masters has given him the opportunity to showcase his talent and support his people, two important motivations.

Goldberg said, "I've been chasing this tournament." Her dream is to compete at the National Golden Gloves, and Ring Masters serves as a qualifying tournament. Last year, she lost in the finals at the Garden. Should she achieve her dream this year, she'll take things as they come.

For Malul, "The sky's the limit." His goal is to turn professional. "First thing's first, I've got to win this tournament." If he can make it to MSG, he aims to win in front of his family, the people he loves.

Though the name has changed, the tradition of Jewish fighters competing and thriving in New York's most glamorous amateur boxing tournament remains the same.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Adventures in B.C. Boxing: An Interview with Lev Jackson

"I'm really confident in my punching power right now, which is something that I think is overlooked out of my abilities," Lev Jackson told me in an extensive interview that began in a backroom of Beyond Boxing, a gym located on Hastings Street in Burnaby, a neighboring suburb of Vancouver, and continued at Quesada Burritos & Tacos amid a smattering of curious customers and employees.

Lev is just the latest Jewish fighter from Vancouver, a legacy that dates back to the first Semitic settler. Leapin' Louis Gold, born in Warsaw, set up a grocery store in Gastown, now a neighborhood inside of Vancouver, in 1872. Drunk ruffians would mock Gold's short stature and his religion, so he retaliated with his signature punch, a leaping uppercut to the chin.

A hundred and fifty years later, Jackson's best punch isn't an uppercut, but a right hook. We started the interview a few minutes before the 31 year old lightweight, as part of his cooldown, went two rounds on the pads with Jimmy Lin, an assistant coach working with Jackson's new head trainer Louis Sargeant. It was only Jackson and Lin's second session together on the pads, so they were still finding their rhythm, but the frightening pop of Jackson's right hook hitting Lin's mitt provided support for Jackson's confidence.

The Beginning
The southpaw was just a kid when he fell in love with boxing. The boxing website Fight News needed a Vancouver correspondent and the precocious Jackson applied. "I wanted to get free tickets and access to boxing." Fortunately, Manny Sobral, an excellent former pro, started West Coast Promotions at the same time.

Sobral staged his shows at River Rock Casino in Richmond, a suburb just south of Vancouver. He gave Jackson access and took care of the young Richmond native. Everything went well for about a year until Fight News asked Lev to cover the Vernon Forest-Carlos Baldomir fight held on July 27, 2007 at the Queen Emerald Casino across the border in Takoma, Washington and televised on HBO.

Despite his best efforts, Lev couldn't finagle his way in. He asked Fight News, "What can you guys do about it if I'm under 21?" They responded, "Well, how old are you?"

That's when the gig was up. "I watched it on tv and I thought it was pretty funny because Baldomir's kids were stuck watching in the production truck. I was like, 'If the fighter's kids can't get in, I had no chance!'"

Lev soon began boxing under the guidance of George Angelomatis, a real life mensch. "He raised a generation and ran a troubled youth program for close to forty years," Jackson explained. Angelomatis was a provincial court judge that coached boxing and served on local commissions in his spare time. Jackson would be his final Canadian amateur champion, a list that includes two Olympians, bronze medalist Dale Walters and the aforementioned Sobral.

Jackson hates to admit that, like every other boxer, he caused trouble as a kid. "All of us are a bit weird, all of us were kind of shitheads, basically. I never heard of a boxer's origin story, 'I was an alter boy.' That doesn't happen." Boxing helped Lev's parents know where he was and that he wasn't causing any more trouble.

Before his passing in 2013, Angelomatis told Jackson, "The biggest knock I can give on you is that you like to fight. You have the skills to box, but for whatever reason, you choose to fight." After one bout, he told Lev, "You got the win. You coulda made it easy, but you like to make it fun."

At the age of 15, Jackson was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract. "In life and in training, it's an obstacle. I would be lying if I said it wasn't," he acknowledged. "But the way some guys think, like I'm soft to the belly. I'm definitely not. I make sure I have a much stronger core and lower body strength. If you're gonna target my body, go right ahead, you're gonna leave yourself open for something to eat."

His amateur career was interrupted when doctors advised him to stop boxing because of the effects of the disease. He deeply missed the sport during the three and half years he was away.

During this period apart from boxing, he spent some time as a professional wrestler. "It's not fake. It's predetermined," he said of the contact sport. "It allowed me to cathartically do something physical. And also, it's a little different; there are no weight classes. Everyone's well over 200 pounds!"

When Jackson got the green light to return to boxing, he had no trouble reacclimating to the sport. "It was more exciting than anything to go back to it," he said. "I always loved it. I never really thought it was going to be the end." He said he had "itchy knuckles" to get back in the ring. Once back, his aim was to turn pro as quickly as possible. "I didn't ever want to look back in twenty years and say I could've, I should've pursued something. I remember thinking, I have to go pro. Even if I suck. Even if I lose three fights and that's that, I can say I gave it a go."

He linked up with friend and former pro Junior Moar during a period which Lev describes as "a year of rebuilding." He had four amateur fights with Coach Moar and won all four of them. "I wanted to go pro right away," Lev said, "but he was like, 'No, let's get your feet wet again.'"

Jackson had 38 amateur fights in all. "I remember I did the full count a couple years ago and it was 38. And then I accidentally realized it was 39, but 38's a better sounding number." So we'll go with 38.

Turning Pro
Jackson won his first pro fight on May 11, 2019 and didn't fight for another two and half years. "It sucked," he declared. "I remember thinking before I went pro, 'I'm gonna bang out the first few fights and get them out of the way. I want to build a record.' I didn't want to be like so many pros, for whatever reason, sitting on 1-0." Then, the combination of the pandemic and "some life stuff" froze his career. He never stopped training, but wouldn't fight again until November 6, 2021.

"I took it on short notice," Jackson recalls of his second fight. "It's one that I'd still like to-" His voice trails off wistfully. The fight against a debutant named Ely Avelar Martinez was called a draw. "You're never going to believe me, but I thought I won! In the most polite way possible, I'd like to get that one back. But that opponent is well beneath me now."Jackson had been scheduled to fight the rematch last December, but the commission wouldn't let Martinez fight in a six-rounder because his record stands at 0-1-1. "When the commission said he can't do six rounds, I think it was their way of telling me to let it go."

In his next fight, Jackson knocked out Herman Cheuk in the second round with an unexpected punch.  "I threw two straight lefts and then I just threw a post hook, one of the ones that's supposed to say, 'Stay there,' so I can get back and get to the other left, and that was the one that did it. Boom! and then the eyes rolled to the back of the head, I'm like [showing surprise] ok, ok."

Three months later, Jackson hoped to "skip the line" when he faced experienced journeyman Mario Victorino Vera, who had an even record against tough competition. Vera held a win over future title contender Christian Medina. "Every time J.Y. [Kim, his head coach at the time] and I would watch that fight," Lev said, "he can't understand how we lost a decision. It was a close fight, but we did well."

Jackson noted, "That dude was tough. It was inexperience [on my part], like when I would land shots and wobble him in that fight, I didn't have the wherewithal to follow up. If I would've had a little bit more experience and was a little sharper, it would've been very clear. Instead, it was a close fight." Jackson says he was hit with about 40 rabbit punches during the bout. Four stitches to the back of his head served as proof.

Though the Vera fight resulted in loss on his record, it gave Lev confidence. "It was a great experience. I knew I could hang at the level against an opponent who has a win against a world ranked guy. There  wasn't really anything between us." Jackson does admit, "It sucked because losses suck." But he would love to fight Vera again.

Jackson next fought an old rival named Elroy Fruto. "I smacked him around in the amateurs. That was when I came back and had the quick four amateur fights. He's a tough kid." Lev explained, "All respect to Elroy, but I went back to the corner after the first round and said, 'This is gonna be way easier than I thought it would be. And all a sudden a headbutt happens. I couldn't see. I've had worse cuts than that, but my vision was blurry and the doctor stopped it.'" It was ruled a no contest.

"I originally came up as a bit of a banger and more of a pressure fighter," Jackson said. "More recently, I adopted a bit more boxing and moving, which paid dividends when I had to fight a guy that was two weight classes bigger than me." Last July, Jackson fought awkward rangy welterweight Luis Prieto. "He did come down to 138, so I appreciate that," said Jackson. "When you hit a guy that size, their weight's going to keep them up."

Jackson recalled, "There was one moment in that where I came out thinking, 'I don't care about the size difference. I'm still going to win this by knockout. This is my hometown. The place I grew up in, Richmond, B.C.' I landed a great shot. Pretty sure it was the first round." Jackson snapped Prieto's head back. Prieto shook it off like it was nothing and walked forward. "Alright, I guess I'm moving this fight," Jackson muttered to himself.

Lev won by majority decision to the shock of the broadcasters covering the contest. I watched the fight on YouTube before meeting Lev and found the commentators' view of it incongruous with what I saw. I rewound the video over a dozen times when I thought I saw Lev land a big shot only to hear the broadcasters compliment Prieto. Even before I could tell Lev what I saw, he brought it up.

"We lost about one round is what we were seeing in the corner." Jackson was frustrated by the unwarranted criticism, but took it as a lesson on how to deal with the reality of being a pro athlete.

Lev has suffered difficult setbacks during his career, particularly dubious decisions. He's a butcher by day and in both of his jobs, he cuts easily. He's currently working on ways to reduce his propensity to cut, swell, and bruise, which are side effects of the anti-inflammatory medication he takes to combat Crohn's disease. "At the end of every fight I will look a little marked up even if I barely get touched," he explained.

Lev is practical about those seemingly unfair decisions. "One school of thought with judging is who would you rather be at the end of the round. And sometimes it's hard when somebody's bleeding. I cut easily. If somebody has a cut and the other guy doesn't, you probably want to be the guy without the cut."

The Future
Jackson has an important fight coming up. It hasn't yet been announced, but he'll be taking a big risk. The fight was signed days before Canada passed new restrictions on Mexican citizens traveling up north, which should change the landscape of Canadian boxing.

Back when Lev worked for Fight News as a kid, he said, "I got to see the more conniving and nasty side of the boxing business from a young age." Specifically, he learned that boxing often has an A-side and a B-side. In Canada, the B-side is often a "fly-in Mexican" or some other foreign national brought in to, hopefully, lose to the hometown fighter.

On February 29, Canada instituted new regulations requiring Mexicans to obtain a visa, which can take weeks to secure. It makes lower-level opponents from Mexico far less attractive options to Canadian promoters. 

"The good news for Canadians if you're looking for fights is expect a phone call." Jackson was offered three different fights in two weeks following the new visa requirement, but he has his heart set on his next fight, which will be on the road.

Though he sees improvement in its infrastructure, Jackson explained that British Columbia is something of an island when it comes to boxing. "A win in B.C. doesn't do much in the rest of Canada. Nobody watches what we're doing out here."

And he knows he'll be the villain in his next fight. When he traveled to a casino just outside of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan for the Vera fight, he learned, "Just being from Vancouver makes you the bad guy. I remember thinking, 'I'm going to be the good guy, I'm from Canada.' As soon as they said, 'From Vancouver, British Columbia,' everyone was like, 'Booo!'"

For Jackson, the future is rooted in the past. He is now working with Louis Sargeant, a former fighter and immigrant from Guyana. He still has a good relationship with past coaches Junior Moar and J.Y. Kim. Sargeant, in fact, fought Moar twice on Manny Sobral shows in Richmond. He's known Lev since Jackson was a just starting out.

With Sargeant's guidance, Lev Jackson is excited to carry on Vancouver Jews' fighting tradition and face the big fish, just as his forerunner, Leapin' Louis Gold, did a hundred and fifty years ago.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Seldin Starts Strong, Wins Decision

Cletus Seldin defeated Jose Angulo by majority decision tonight at Madison Square Garden Theater. He scored a knockdown in each of the first two rounds before Angulo moved more to get into the fight.

Seldin-Angulo was supposed to open the televised portion of the 360 Promotions card, but it ended up being the third fight of the night. The crowd chanted, “Hamma! Hamma!” before the start of the bout. Cletus, the 37 year old puncher, came out aggressively. He used agile footwork to close the distance and targeted Angulo’s body with rights. The body work set up a monstrous overhand right that sent the 27 year old Ecuadorian to the canvas. The fight looked over, but Angulo courageously got back on his feet.

Seldin continued to target the body in the rest of the round. In the second, he came out with the same strategy, but added an uppercut. A left hook landed high on Angulo’s head for the second knockdown of the fight. The Ecuadorian ran for most of the round as Seldin slung left hooks. He managed to connect with a counter right as Seldin rushed forward with more abandon than before.

Angulo spent the next several rounds straddling the line between running and boxing. He started the third well, and landed a jab shortly before Seldin slipped and fell. Referee David Fields ruled no knockdown. Jose then ran until he found the right uppercut, which would be his most consistent weapon the rest of the way.

The fourth was close as Seldin continued to land rights to the hip in the hopes of slowing down Angulo. Meanwhile, Angulo relied on those right uppercuts and added a left hook to the body late in the round. Seldin trapped Angulo on the ropes a couple times in the fifth and managed to split his guard down the middle.

Angulo started the sixth fast, but the round quickly fell into a similar pattern as the previous one. Angulo was accurate on the move, but threw fewer punches than Seldin, who landed the harder shots.

Angulo had his best round in the seventh when he landed a hard right uppercut and several left hooks to the head. Seldin was never in trouble and finished the round with a good right.

Angulo continued throwing left hooks and right uppercuts in the final round, but he held more than he had previously. There was a long delay from the moment the final bell rang until the scorecards were read.

Seldin won on two judges’ cards 78-72 and 77-73. The third judge preferred Angulo’s movement, giving him five rounds, but with Seldin’s two knockdowns, that card read 75-75. The Jewish Boxing Blog scored it 77-73 for Seldin. He is now 28-1 with 23 KOs while Angulo falls to 16-8 with 9 KOs.
Courtesy of 360 Promotions

After the decision was announced, Cletus took the microphone and proposed in the ring to his girlfriend Jessica, who accepted. Mazel tov to the newly engaged couple!

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Cletus Seldin and Jose Angulo Weigh In

Cletus Seldin and Jose Angulo weighed in ahead of their clash tomorrow at the MSG Theater in New York. Both weighed in a few pounds south of the welterweight division.

Seldin, a 37 year old New Yorker, weighed in at 142.4 pounds. That was the same weight he was for his last fight in October against Patrick Okine. It is well within the Hebrew Hammer’s normal range. With a record of 27-1, Cletus will be hunting his 24th knockout tomorrow.

Angulo, a 27 year old from Ecuador, tipped the scales at 143.6 pounds. He was a lightweight for his second pro fight back in 2016. Since then, Angulo (16-7, 4 KOs) has vacillated between the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions with four exceptions. In 2018, he weighed 152 pounds for two fights. In 2021, he came in at 148 pounds for two others.

Both fighters are in excellent shape for tomorrow’s scheduled eight rounder to be televised on UFC Fight Pass. The Jewish Boxing Blog’s preview of Seldin-Angulo is here.

Courtesy of 360 Promotions

Monday, March 11, 2024

Mor Oknin's Fight Apparently Canceled

Larry Merchant once described boxing as "the theater of the unexpected." Sometimes it's more like the theater of the absurd.

Mor Oknin was scheduled to fight Sunday night at the Ciudad Deportiva Carmen Serdán in Mexico City, Mexico. He had flown all the way from Israel a couple of days ago to fight an opponent who reportedly didn’t show up for the weigh-in. The fight was apparently canceled.

The event promoted by TT Promotions was streamed on Vamos Deportes Boxeo's YouTube channel. Almost two hours into the show, a strange thing occurred. Oknin got into the ring wearing a white robe with a blue Star of David and his customary number 26, also in blue. Tzitzit hung down from the robe. On the back read his surname along with his nickname "The Son of the Lion" and a larger Star of David. His trunks were also white and donned the small blue six-pointed star and his number on the back. His red Reyes gloves jabbed at shadows as he waited for the announcer to introduce him.

The ring announcer declared Rafael "El Leon" Oknin of Israel the winner by technical knockout. The referee raised Oknin's hand as he rapped along with with Ness & Stilla's controversial song Harbu Darbu that blared from the speakers. He took bows in the ring and fist bumped the announcer and the two ring card girls before exiting. But there had been no opponent and no fight.

Before Sunday night, Oknin contended that his professional record is 3-0. BoxRec says it's 1-1. He won his first bout by KO when his opponent injured his hand in 2021. The following year, Oknin undoubtedly fought in February in Mexico. The result is a matter of contention. The commission told BoxRec, Oknin lost by TKO. Oknin claims he won by TKO. BoxRec admits that commissions, particularly in Mexico, sometimes feed the site false results.

Last September, Oknin won when his opponent retired in the corner after the second round. Yet, his fight is not listed on BoxRec. The rest of the event is on the site, although it is listed as taking place on the Tuesday, September 5 when it actually took place on Sunday, September 3.

All that is to say, Mor Oknin is intimately aware of boxing's absurdity.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Benny Nizard Wins Pro Debut

Junior middleweight Benny Nizard won his pro debut by unanimous decision against Avend Yassin at Palais des sports Marcel Cerdan in Levallois-Perret, France. The former French amateur champion displayed impressive ability during his first fight.

Nizard, a southpaw from Paris, slid through the ropes to wild applause. When the bell rang, Yassin, a 33 year old from Ploufragan, started the fight as a southpaw. Nizard flicked a jab for show and smacked an overhand left against Yassin's cheek just as the contest commenced. Yassin quickly turned orthodox and remained that way for the rest of the bout.

Amid raucous chants of "Nizard! Nizard!" Benny continued to use his jab as a distraction in order to land straight, overhand, and looping lefts. When Yassin got too close for comfort on one occasion, Nizard shouldered him to the canvas. Benny slipped one shot and came back with an intelligent left to the body. He later landed a stunning combination while Yassin was trapped in the corner. He finished the round with two lefts, turning with Yassin as the latter tried to get out of dodge.

It was a brilliant opening round of his career.

The pace slowed a bit in the second. With thirty seconds left in the round, the two fighters exchanged shots with Benny getting the better of it. Nizard had the faster hands and threw his punches with more conviction, which convinced Yassin to avoid a firefight and keep his hands home.

Nizard introduced his right hook in the third round. Yassin was trapped in the corner when a big overhand left crashed into face. The skilled Parisian finished one combination with a left to the body, later landed a check right hook and quickly got out of harm's way, and finished the round alternating between the head and body with that back hand.

The beginning of the fourth round looked like much of the same. Nizard snapped back Yassin's head early and then touched him with lefts up and down to set up his right hook. But Yassin not only showed courage and toughness, he refused to quit. A hard right to Benny's body encouraged Avend to press forward with a body attack. Nizard ended the fight strong though. He connected with a short counter left and finished with a harmless jab that set up a damaging straight left.

Nizard has clearly been taught well by trainer Mike Cohen. Benny disguised his offense with deceptive upper body movement and has a creative variety of combinations for such a young fighter. Defensively, he kept his head off the line effectively. But it's important to keep expectations reasonable and give Benny time to develop.

At times he lunged in when throwing his left from the outside and was slow to bring that hand back after launching it. Against a better opponent, the southpaw would be susceptible to the counter right. Beginning midway through the third round, he kept his hands down in spots because he felt confident of victory, but perhaps he should have kept his foot on the accelerator .

Any minor criticism aside, it was a magnificent debut. The Jewish Boxing Blog scored the fight the same as all three judges, 40-36 for Nizard, who weighed 159 pounds. He's now 1-0. Yassin, who was 153.5, falls to 1-1-1.

Nizard (left) and Yassin

Friday, March 8, 2024

Joshua Feldman Wins by TKO

Joshua Feldman made short work of Sibusiso "The Killer" Muteleni today at Box Camp Booysens in Johannesburg, South Africa. Feldman scored the stoppage victory a minute and 26 seconds into the second round.

Muteleni weighed in at just 140.3 pounds for the junior middleweight contest. At the weigh-in, he indicated that he didn't want to fight, but his coaches convinced him to through with the contest. Muteleni was forced to gain four pounds yesterday and weigh in again before the fight was allowed to proceed.

To Muteleni's credit, he got into the ring and though he was mostly in survival mode, he connected with a few counter rights. But they had no effect on Feldman. From the outset, the 19 year old southpaw from Cape Town went after Muteleni. He craved a knockout and mostly threw whipping right hooks and pinpoint straight lefts.

Feldman treated Muteleni's power with zero respect, walking towards his lighter foe with impunity. During the second round, Feldman landed with yet another right hook and Muteleni fell back into the corner. Feldman caught him with an uppercut before Muteleni crumpled to the canvas. He rose nine and a half seconds after falling. Referee Riaan Van Rensburg saw Muteleni did not want to continue and wisely waved off the fight.

In the build up, Feldman pleaded with Muteleni to bring his "A" game. Instead, Sibusiso should pick a new game or at least a new nickname, as he posed virtually no threat. In addition, coming in so drastically underweight was unprofessional. While the fight didn't help the skilled Feldman much, he did sit down on his punches at times, which was something he had been working on in camp. It paid off with his first knockout. He's now 3-0. Muteleni falls to 0-2.

courtesy of Boxing5's IG page

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Josh Feldman Makes Weight, Opponent Comes in Low

Joshua Feldman is scheduled to fight Sibusiso Muteleni tomorrow at Box Camp Booysens in Johannesburg, South Africa. The fight, however, is now in jeopardy as Muteleni  came in considerably underweight at today's weigh-in.

Feldman, a 19 year old from Cape Town, came in under the junior middleweight limit at 153.8 pounds. Josh is 2-0 and has now weighed between 153 and 154 pounds for all of his fights.

Muteleni also came in under the junior middleweight limit, but he was significantly under. He tipped the scales at 140.3, a satisfying bowel movement away from making the junior welterweight limit, two divisions below the contracted weight. Muteleni had come in at 149.3 pounds for his lone pro fight last May. He's either nine pounds lighter this time around, or his weight from the first fight was embellished.

When an official read off Muteleni's weight today as 63.65 KGs, the event's mc announced "63..." as a question. When the official reread the weight, the mc actually commented that it was way low. During the stare down, Josh remained composed, but a glint of confusion and frustration was evident.

Thirteen and half pounds is far too great a difference at this weight for the fight to take place. On top of the weight disparity, Feldman also enjoys a significant talent advantage, which can create a dangerous situation.

Update: The Jewish Boxing Blog has learned Muteleni weighed in again and was 144.5 pounds this time. As of now, the fight is still on.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Yonatan Landman Scores a KO in Ghana

Flyweight Yonatan Landman defeated Simon Tackie by knockout 1:10 into the second round at Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra, Ghana today. Platinum Punch Promotions and Box Office Sports Promotions co-promoted the event held on the eve of Ghana's Independence Day.

Landman, a 19 year old from Kiryat in Israel, started the fight aggressively behind his jab and left hook. He pressed Tackie, forcing the native of Accra back to the ropes on several occasions in the first round. Landman had some trouble finding the range early and allowed himself to fall into clinches on a few occasions.

A minute into the contest, Tackie fell in a heap from an apparent short left hook. It seemed the Ghanaian would be counted out, but he showed resilience in getting up and continuing to fight. Landman's lefts set up a right to the body that put Tackie down again at the end of the round. That first stanza ran several seconds long, but neither man did any more damage.

Yonatan's jabs and left hooks in the second round set up another right to the body, which scored another knockdown. Eschewing the guiding principal of nonviolence espoused by Ghana's founding father, Kwame Nkrumah, Tackie responded by throwing a wild ill-intentioned combination. It would prove to be his undoing. A short counter left hook floored Simon, who laid prostrate on his face for the ten-second count. He got up a few seconds later and appeared relatively ok, if decidedly defeated.

After the fight was stopped, Landman was living the highlife as promoter and popular boxer Prince Patel picked him up in celebration. Yonatan is now 2-0 with two KOs. BoxRec attributes an extra loss to Tackie who is now 0-3.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Sagiv Ismailov Steps Away from Boxing

Sagiv Ismailov has decided to put his boxing career on hold, The Jewish Boxing Blog has learned. Ismailov, a 21 year old, is planning to get married this year and is on route to accept a position in law enforcement.

Ismailov is 7-0 with 2 KOs. He scored quick stoppage victories in his first two fights in 2020. After a 21-month layoff, he faced fellow Jewish boxer Nikita Basin, scoring a first round knockdown, but fading late. Last year, Sagiv fought four times and showed dramatic improvement.

In February, he won an ugly fight against a tall southpaw. He showed good variety in his offense in May. In November, under difficult conditions, Ismailov won by decision behind the jab. The next month, Sagiv displayed superior defense and threw clever combinations. With his IDF commitment finished last August, he seemed ready to devote himself to his boxing career. But life has a way of changing one's plans.

Ismailov was scheduled to fight in Spain on March 23. It would have been the seventh different country in which he has fought during his pro career. His fights took place in Albania, Turkey, Israel, Estonia, Germany, and Moldova. But with a new career on the horizon, Ismailov won't have enough time to adequately train.

Ismailov's coach, Evgheni Boico, now intends to move to Spain to help build up the boxing scene in Valencia. It's a sad loss for Israeli boxing. Boico is an outstanding coach who promoted the last two professional events in Israel. And Sagiv was one of the best young prospects based in the country and the furthest along in his pro career.

The Jewish Boxing Blog wishes Sagiv all the best.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Mor Oknin to Fight on March 10 in Mexico City

Flyweight Mor Oknin is scheduled to fight on March 10 at the Ciudad Deportiva Carmen Serdán in Mexico City, Mexico. This fight is promoted by TT Boxing Promotions and will be Oknin's fourth fight in Mexico.

Oknin is from Netanya, Israel. BoxRec lists his record as 1-1, but he says it's 3-0 with 3 KOs. BoxRec only lists results given to them by the presiding commission, which Oknin says gave him an undeserved loss when he actually won back in 2022. His last fight, a stoppage victory after the third round on September 3, is not listed on BoxRec.

Oknin, a cancer survivor, works at his family's furniture store and offers personalized training sessions when not in training himself. He recently got in some work with former Olympian Yacov Shmuel, now a coach.

No opponent has yet been named.

Oknin is featured in the top row, second from the left.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Josh Feldman's All In

"Even if I don't have a fight, I can't stop training," Josh Feldman told SA Boxing Talk ahead of his March 8 bout against Sibusiso Muteleni at Box Camp Booysens in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Right now, I feel I'm in the best shape."

The Cape Town native said he is all-in. "I'm taking this so seriously. I just care about training, watching film, and sleeping. I believe I'm going to be the best in the country soon."

Because of his commitment to training, Feldman has had no problem making the junior middleweight limit. "I don't have to cut a lot of weight. I feel strong. I definitely think I'll stay at this weight for maybe the next couple years." He told The Jewish Boxing Blog, "When I'm not in camp, I walk around at about 76 kg [about 167 pounds]." Two weeks from his third pro fight, he said he's now 162 lbs.

Feldman began his camp at home in Cape Town where he trains at Blood, Sweat, and Tears Boxing Gym. "My coaches in Cape Town at Blood, Sweat, and Tears worked me so hard," he told SA Boxing Talk's Hayden Jones. To The JBB, he added, "In Cape Town, I got some good sparring with a fighter named Dylan Prosser." A 24 year old, Prosser is a 3-0 pro.

Feldman's camp then shifted to Johannesburg where he trains at Colin Nathan's Hot Box Gym. "In Johannesburg, I'm sparring with a variety of people." He named a tough, young road warrior named Simnikiwe Bongco (4-4) and undefeated four-year pro Cayden Truter (7-0) as fighters who have given him good work. His usual main sparring partner, Almighty Creed Moyo, is missing this camp due to an injury.

The 19-year old is ready for his next opponent, Sibusiso Muteleni. "Actually, I saw a short video of his first fight," he told Jones. "He looks pretty basic, but looks like he might have a bit of fundamentals. But nothing I can't deal with. So, I'm really excited. I hope he shows up with his 'A' game. I'm ready for a hard fight."

For this camp, Feldman has been working on fine-tuning his skills and sitting down on his punches to generate more power. "I feel like I'm very fit, so I just want to properly hone my skills. I've learned to sit down on my punches more. It's really different than the amateurs."

His coaches helped him realize after his first fight last October that he need a change in style now that he's a prizefighter. "You're not just trying to outpoint the guy and land more punches, but you're trying to do damage. So when I'm working the bag, hitting the pads, sparring, I'm trying to properly sit down and pick my shots rather than throw more shots and not do any damage."

Feldman is anxious to stay active. "I would fight every week if I could," he joked. "I'd like to fight four or five times [this year] realistically." That activity will lead to longer fights, something Feldman craves.

"I feel like I'm starting to get very comfortable in the ring. I'm excited for the fights when they start getting six, eight rounds. I feel like I'm going to do better, because later into the fight I'm going to start adjusting, getting more comfortable, and that's when I fight the best," he said in the SA Boxing Talk interview.

"I'm a very skilled fighter, technical, so late into the fight, once I've found my range and I've gotten used to where punches are coming from from the opponent, I'm going to start then using my skills and picking him off, and eventually get a stoppage late."

Feldman exudes a quiet confidence. When asked about stablemate Sive Nontshinga, who just regained the IBF light flyweight world title last Friday, Josh's eyes lit up. He said of Nontshinga's inspirational win, "It's amazing to see, because he just trains so hard. You see how skillful he is in sparring and training. I knew he would do it, but it's great to see it actually happen."

Feldman has the mindset to reach his goals one day. "I'm not getting worn out by the sport. I'm just getting hungrier."

When asked about opponents down the road, Feldman responded, "Roark Knapp is the main guy. In the next couple years, I'd definitely love to fight him if he's still active. He's an inspiration to someone like me to see him climb the ladder."

He has a message, not just for Knapp, but for all potential opponents, "Catch me now, because I'm just getting better."

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Benny Nizard to Make Pro Debut

Junior middleweight Benny Nizard is scheduled to make his professional debut on March 9 at Palais des sports Marcel Cerdan in Levallois-Perret, France. He will face Avend Yassin, a 33 year old with a 1-0-1 record.

Nizard is a 19 year old from Paris. The two-time French amateur champion is the son of Stephane Nizard, a popular boxer in Paris during the 1990s. Benny had his first amateur fight at 15 years old and has fought out of Maccabi Paris under the tutelage of Michael Cohen.

After winning the French amateur title late last year, he has been living in Israel the past couple of months. A southpaw, Benny won't have to cut much weight to make the junior middleweight limit. He typically walks around between 160 and 165 pounds.

Yassin is a tough opponent for Benny's pro debut. Born in Iraq, he took up boxing in 2013 in France. Yassin is from Ploufragan and trained at the nearby Plérin Boxing Club. A veteran of 45 amateur bouts, he currently owns a couple of men's hair salons in addition to his boxing exploits.

On September 29 last year, Yassin fought fellow debutant Dylan Coquillant to a draw in a four-rounder. On December 9, he beat Miguel Dumail by majority decision.

Nizard-Yassin will be promoted by Y12 Boxing and is scheduled for four rounds.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

In His Brother's Shadow: A Profile of Joey Silver

Joey Silver was a popular fighter in San Francisco during the 1920s, but he never reached the heights of his older brother Jack. Though Joey was considered a good prospect, a three-year hiatus quelled his career's momentum. After a brief comeback, he retired at the tender age of 25.

Joseph Silverstein was born in the Portola district of San Francisco, California in 1907. The seventh of eight children born to Morris and Molly, he was three and half years younger than the sixth child, Jacob. Jacob, who would go by Jack, entered the Navy where he learned to box. He turned pro in 1922 and he became extremely popular in San Francisco.

Younger brother Joey hoped to follow in Jack's footsteps. He even shortened his surname to Silver, just as Jack had done. Joey turned professional on January 22, 1926 at Dreamland Rink in San Francisco. Jack had headlined at Dreamland countless times over the past few years.

Turning Pro
Joey Silver won his first bout unimpressively but stole the show in his second against Jack Colotta in February. Joey was caught flush four or five times, but he just shook his head, smiled, and fired back. The crowd loved it. Quickly, Joey built up a good record, albeit against inexperienced opponents and mediocre journeymen. By 1927, the press began calling him "promising." In May and June of that year, Silver faced Pete Meyers in a controversial trilogy.

Joey had been friends with Meyers, who grew up in the nearby Potrero neighborhood. On May 24, referee Benny Wagner raised the arms of both fighters after a tough six-round battle. Once the fans realized Wagner had called it a draw, most "hollered themselves hoarse at the referee. They thought Silver won." On June 7, Meyers was given the decision by an unnamed referee in a six-rounder. The San Francisco Bulletin felt Meyers's hand was raised "for no reason if the fight were judged on execution." It was only Joey's second loss in twenty pro fights.

Silver finally earned his revenge on June 21 over the "Potrero Pole." Benny Wagner gave the verdict to Silver after the ten-rounder. Three years later, Wagner and fellow referee Toby Irwin went public with allegations against Tom Laird of the San Francisco News, claiming the sports editor had tried to influence their decisions in certain matches, including Silver-Meyers.

"Meyers is a swell fellow. Get his hands up tonight," Laird allegedly told Wagner before the third fight. "I'm interested. You'll be taken care of." Publicly, Wagner only mentioned the third fight; the one he called for Silver. If Laird had pressured Wagner before the third fight, it's hard to imagine he didn't do so before the earlier fights as well. Apparently, nothing came of it as Laird was celebrated upon reaching his thirteenth anniversary at the paper in 1941.

After two more wins, Silver beat the Hawaiian champ Johnny Priston when the latter broke his hand in the fourth round. Two weeks later, in September of 1927, Toby Irwin disqualified Silver for a low blow in the second round against Billy Adams. "Billy Adams missed his vocation," wrote Alex X. McCausland. "He should have been an actor, not a fighter." It amounted to another frustrating loss for the man known mostly as "Jack's brother."

Facing the Best
Silver next fought the reigning Olympic featherweight champion and future two-time welterweight world champion, Jackie Fields. It would be Joey's toughest test. Fields had knocked out his brother Jack the previous year. The fight against Joey was almost nixed at the last moment. The headliner, welterweight world champion Joe Dundee, wouldn't fight until he received his guarantee in cash before the fight. The promoter asked if Fields could fill in for Dundee and fight in the main event, but Fields's manager was opposed to the last minute change. With all the commotion, the fight was delayed a couple of hours.

Silver had some good moments in his biggest fight. He hurt Fields twice during the ten rounds, but Fields opened up a cut over Joey's left eye and split his lip. Fields won seven of the rounds in a fight that was overshadowed by the Dundee affair. After snatching revenge from Billy Adams, Silver closed out the year by facing the other toughest opponent of his career.

Hyman Gold fought under the name Oakland Jimmy Duffy. He had amassed a hundred wins in his career by the time he faced Silver late in 1927. Duffy came in overweight, six and half pounds heavier than Silver for their bout in Oakland. Duffy outboxed Joey to win by decision, but he was later suspended for missing weight so badly.

By 1928, Silver was considered a rising young welterweight. He didn't pack a powerful punch nor was he the nimblest boxer. Joey's popularity was due to his gameness. On March 14, he fought Jimmy Evans. Silver was the favorite, but Evans whipped him. Joey didn't fight again for five months, and when he did, he lost twice. Then, he retired.

Two Retirements
Even in retirement, his brother stole the headlines. Jack and Joey retired together, which earned Jack top billing. A desire to make a steady income was the reason given for their retirement. But it was likely more. Their mother had died that year. And Joey's year in the ring had been exasperating; ridiculous decisions and a spate of losses likely contributed to his impulse to do something else.

In his time away from the ring, Joey drove a truck, worked as a clerk, and became a patrolman. Failing to settle on a career, he came back to boxing in 1931 and gave a good account of himself in a draw against veteran George Brazelton. Joey scored three wins before the comeback fizzled.

Early in 1932, Silver retired again, this time for good. He felt he couldn't get the big names into the ring. "What's the use of remaining in the racket," he wondered. "Every time I try to get 'em into the ring with me they play the duck." He finished with a record of 25-10-4 with 9 KOs.

By 1935, Joey moved to Reno, Nevada and worked as a dealer at the dangerous Bank Club Casino. At some point before 1940, he married Catherine, a New Yorker who had moved to San Francisco. He spent some time serving as a judge for amateur boxing tournaments. In 1944, he was working as an electrician in a local war plant. After the war, he returned to his job as a dealer at the casino.

In 1962, Joey got into a car accident. On February 2, he tragically died of his injuries caused by the wreck. Survived by his wife and three children, his obituary described him as "a prominent San Francisco boxer in the 20's and a brother of Jack Silver, well known referee." Jack Silver's brother was 55 years old.

Baum. A.T. "Irwin, Wagner Aver Approach Made by Same Newspaperman." The San Francisco Examiner. Sep. 11, 1930. Pg. 21.
"Evans Winner over Joey Silver in Ring." Los Angeles Times. Mar. 15, 1928. Pg. B1.
"Joey Silver Dies at Age 55." The San Francisco Examiner. Feb. 4, 1962.
"Joey Silver Vows He Will Whip Meyers." San Francisco Bulletin. Jun 20, 1927. Pg. 12.
McCausland, Alec X. "Adams Declared Victor on Foul over Silver." The San Francisco Examiner. Oct. 1, 1927. Pg. 30.
"Sports Notables Fete Tom Laird, S.F. Sports Writer for 30 Years." The Fresno Bee. Feb. 11, 1941.
“Title Bout is Flop." Los Angeles Times. Nov. 4, 1927. Pg. 1.
U.S. Censuses from 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Yonatan Landman to Face Simon Tackie in Ghana

Flyweight Yonatan Landman is scheduled to face Simon Tackie on March 5 at the famed Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra, Ghana.

Landman is a 19 year old from Kiryat, Israel. He won his pro debut on January 31 when he stopped Agayev Gasim in the first round in Baku, Azerbaijan. Fellow Israeli flyweight David Alaverdian has been training with Landman for some time and has noticed improvement. "He gets better and stronger every year," David noted.

For Landman, this contest is about the experience of fighting in Ghana. His opponent, Simon Tackie (0-2), won't put up much resistance. In his 2021 debut against the wonderfully named Marvellous Dodoo, Tackie spent the first round covering up while standing in front of Dodoo, absorbing the winless fighter's random slapping swings. To Tackie's credit, he changed strategy in the second, holding on for dear life as if Dodoo was a mountainous cliff and the sport of boxing was a 1,000-foot drop. Tackie lost a point for holding in the third, spent twenty seconds on the canvas after a slip, and retired after the round.

BoxRec claims Tackie then gained 30 pounds and fought six days later, losing to Gabriel Coffie. If it sounds unbelievable, it's because it is. Though Tackie was listed as the opponent, it was actually Emanuel Allotey who fought Coffie. Poor Simon, credited with a loss in a fight in which he didn't even participate.

A year ago, Tackie fought Daniel Otoo, another winless foe. Simon was relatively better than in his debut, landing a jab and a left hook in the first round, but he kept his gloves around his forehead and held his elbows out wide. In the second, Otoo battered Tackie from corner to corner smashing a well-placed overhand right in between.

After the round, Tackie's trainer spent a little over a minute trying to convince him to go get knocked out. Too often in boxing, fighters are labeled as quitters when they show good sense. Tackie won the argument, and the fight was stopped. What he lacks in heart, he more than makes up for in sanity. He'd likely make a better lawyer than fighter. Tackie's best quality as a boxer is the courage he shows to get in the ring.

This bout is scheduled for four rounds.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Review of Smash Hit

Smash Hit: Race, Crime, and Culture in Boxing Films
By David Curcio
Armin Lear Press, 2023

In Smash Hit, David Curcio expertly plays the roles of film critic, boxing historian, and cultural commentator. His immense knowledge of film, boxing, and American culture coupled with the way he weaves them all together in almost every one of the twenty chapters (each about one film) is an astonishing achievement. While this book would fit comfortably in a college or graduate level curriculum, it can be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history of cinema or boxing.

Of the five movies discussed that I've seen (it should be noted I'm the antithesis of a cinephile), Curcio provides perfect analysis for four of them. Not only do I agree with his interpretations of those films, but they go beyond what I had considered. The other fifteen chapters are just as informative, and the writing is excellent.

The chapter on Rocky III is the only one in which I disagree with Curcio's view.  He writes, "Adrian is relegated to an ancillary character, once again struck dumb and keeping the film firmly rooted in the male realm." But this ignores the scene on the beach where Adrian delivers a fiery speech to reignite Rocky's passion for boxing after he has decided to quit the sport. It's the moment Adrian breaks out of her shell and forces Rocky to face the harsh truth of his fear. "How did you get to be so strong?" Rocky asks her when the shouting is done. "I live with a fighter," Adrian's replies. Overly ambitious, the context provided in the Rocky III chapter doesn't flow as seamlessly as in all the others. Instead, it reads more like a series of tangential asides.

The only other section that isn't top notch is about Gentleman Jim and only because of a few minor factual errors, mostly involving dates, such as Jim Corbett's career being placed in the 1880s instead of the 1890s (dates for Ali-Frazier I & Lewis-Tyson also have typos). In that chapter, Curcio discusses a Corbett foe, Joe Choynski, one of many Jewish boxers, actors, and characters covered.

Tons of Jewish history is present here. Curcio delves into the story of actor John Garfield and other Jews who were blacklisted or targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Edward G, Robinson is just another of the many Jewish actors mentioned. There are great anecdotes such as when Mushy Callahan doubled for Errol Flynn during the boxing scenes in Gentleman Jim. Barney Ross is the subject of a couple of the movies covered. So is Max Baer. And who could forget Rocky's trainer Mickey Goldmill? Those are just some of the Jews featured in these pages.

In Smash Hit, Curcio shows he is a writer of the highest quality. There is no one better suited to cover the blend of boxing and film and, any disagreements aside, the book is executed brilliantly. Whether or not you've seen any of the movies featured in Smash Hit, it's definitely worth reading.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Sagiv Ismailov to Fight Fran Verdeguer

Sagiv Ismailov is scheduled to fight Francisco Verdeguer on March 23 at Centro Deportivo Boxing Unitres in Picanya, Spain. Ismailov has been active lately, fighting four times last year, but he faces a tougher test this time.

Ismailov (7-0, 2 KOs) is a 21 year old resident of Ashdod, Israel who has shown a lot of improvement in his last three fights. He's turning into an adept defensive fighter with a smart and creative offense. He showed a lot of dimensions in his last fight on December 23 against Evghenii Shabazov. That fight was Sagiv's first six-rounder and he finished strong.

Verdeguer is a 5'11" 30 year old from Albal, Spain. He's essentially had two different pro careers. He went 1-3 from 2012-2014 before he spent nearly eight years away from the ring. After winning his debut in 2012, Verdeguer dominated Ivan Salcines in the first round of their fight back in 2013, pounding away at his opponent's body and putting combinations together. But Verdeguer never saw Salcines's short left hook. By the time he woke up, the fight was over.

Verdeguer, now donning an array of face tattoos including a giant cross on his left cheek, decided to reignite his career after the birth of his child. In his first fight back, he faced 10-2 David Loy. In the fourth round, Loy tackled Verdeguer over the ropes in frustration. Verdeguer fell on the ring apron while Loy landed on the floor. The fight continued, and Verdeguer pulled off the upset by split decision. He has lost his last three, but his opponents were a combined 12-0 when he faced them.

The Spaniard's record is an unimpressive 2-6, but that's misleading. A former Spanish junior amateur champion, he is rated as the fifth best light heavyweight in Spain, according to Espabox. He's ranked above several fighters with better records because of the strength of his opposition. After falling to Jose Antonio Traicovich by decision in 2022, Martin Foru knocked him out with a left hook in the second round at York Hall in London.

Last fight, he faced Cyrano Lorenzo on March 4, 2023. Because Verdeguer kept his left low, Lorenzo landed some early right leads. Verdeguer adjusted, but his hands weren't fast enough to compete with Lorenzo. He tried to parry with his right, but it was often too slow. He landed some sneaky punches and the occasional combination, however.

Verdeguer has some advantages over Ismailov. He's naturally the bigger man. While Ismailov has never weighed in over 170 pounds, Verdeguer has fought as heavy as a cruiserweight. The Spaniard has faced the tougher opposition and he lands thudding punches and is a willing body puncher. The fight will also be in his home country.

Ismailov cannot take this opponent likely. He'll want to use his hand and foot speed advantages. Verdeguer doesn't show much foot movement, so Ismailov should box early and only stay in the pocket when the fight is under control. The left hook could be the ticket to knockout. It's the punch responsible for Verdeguer's two KO losses.

This fight is scheduled to be in the super middleweight division according to BoxRec. It's slated for six rounds.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Josh Feldman to Face Sibusiso Muteleni Amid BSA Turmoil

Junior middleweight Joshua Feldman is scheduled to face Sibusiso Muteleni on March 8 at Box Camp Booysens in Johannesburg, South Africa. Boxing in the country, however, has grinded to a virtual standstill due to legal issues.

Zizi Kodwa, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture in South Africa, completely replaced the board of Boxing South Africa (BSA) last November. BSA regulates the sport in the country. The new board took over on December 12. The day after, it repealed the suspension of Operations Director, Mandla Ntlanganiso.

The National Professional Boxing Promoters Association sued Minister Kodwa, arguing that the NPBPA hadn't been consulted before the board was replaced, which violated the law. As a result of the lawsuit, the new board has since ceased to function. The old board's term ran out on December 11, so there is currently no active commission in the country. South African boxers cannot fight abroad either since BSA is responsible for granting them approval to do so.

Boxing5 Promotions head Larry Wainstein, who promotes Feldman, criticized the NPBPA. He said in an interview with SA Boxing Talk, "They represent maybe twenty promoters in the country. They don't represent all the promoters. They don't represent the boxers. There are 705 registered licensed boxers. There must be countrywide- and I'm guessing because I've asked for the number and nobody can even tell me the number- fifty promoters." Wainstein then suggested the NPBPA was the tail wagging the dog.

Promoter Rodney Berman postponed his March 9 show and expressed frustration with the impasse. "This state of flux makes it impossible to go ahead as planned," he said.

Jackie Brice, another promoter, has canceled his proposed March 16. He fumed to Ink Sport, "The National Professional Boxing Promoters Association is killing boxing in this country." Bruce recently resigned from the association.

Wainstein intends to go ahead with his March 8 card, or "tournament" as shows are called in South Africa. He has asked Minister Kodwa to appoint an interim board so that boxing can continue while the legal process runs its course.

It is in this context that Feldman (2-0), a 19 year old southpaw from Cape Town, prepares for his third professional fight. His opponent, Muteleni, is from Guateng. He lost his lone pro fight on May 28 last year to Douniama Gislain by first round KO. Muteleni threw a few jabs, but mostly walked in behind a high guard and paid the price. He was knocked down twice. After the second knockdown, he stayed on a knee for the count.

Hopefully, Feldman and his fellow South African boxers will be allowed to fight soon. "They're complaining about the minister never followed procedure. Ok, he never followed procedure," Wainstein acknowledged before asking, "Must all the other people be held to ransom because the [NPBPA] want to be seen as putting their people in place?

For the sake of South African boxing, let's hope not.