Maryland Boxer Mike Reed Auditions For Top Rank

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by Gautham Nagesh

Waldorf, Md. junior welterweight Mike “Yes Indeed” Reed has taken the hard road to 9-0 (6 KOs).

Since turning professional 15 months ago, Reed has fought without a promoter or manager, and has endured tough match-making to become a local headliner for Keystone Boxing. At a time when most prospects are knocking out creampuffs, the 21-year-old Reed has fought quality opposition, and handled everything thrown at him with aplomb. We’ve been ringside for almost all of those fights to witness his steady improvement, which is why we named him our 2013 Prospect of the Year.

Word of Reed’s talent couldn’t help but escape the beltway, and his name eventually found its way to Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman via Keystone matchmaker Ross Molovinsky. One of the oldest and largest promotional outfits in boxing, Top Rank has built an empire in the Southwest, and rarely signs East Coast talent. But Goodman reportedly decided to give Reed a shot, hence his appearance on the undercard of Glenn Tapia vs. Keenan Collins tomorrow night in Atlantic City.

Reed will take on Alberto Morales of Nicaragua in a six-round battle early in the evening. Even for a prospect as proven as Reed, the fight is a real test. Morales is bigger, having campaigned at welterweight and junior middleweight. He has been in with tougher competition than Reed, and has power to boot. Reached by phone Thursday night, Reed said he’s ready for the challenge, and expects Morales to be in his face all night.

"He’s a pressure fighter and this should be a good fight. I’m not going to have to chase him, or find him," Reed said.

Chael Sonnen Fails Drug Test, Retires On UFC Tonight

Chael Sonnen photo by Josh Hedges for Zuffa LLC

by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

Former UFC middleweight and lightweight contender Chael Sonnen failed his random drug test and is no longer fighting Vitor Belfort at UFC 175.  

For those of you at home, that makes three middleweights in the last month or so who failed drug tests (well Wandy technically just ran away, but you know…) While Sonnen had previously announced that he was going to appeal, on Wednesday night he seemed to change his mind and retired on-air on UFC Tonight.  

Chael tested positive for Anastrozole and Clomiphene, which are not steroids, but rather estrogen blockers. People who know way more about this stuff than I do have said that these are the sort of things you take to transition from Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) usage. There’s also been a claim about Chael having fertility issues, which I don’t really understand. Sometimes it seems like you need an M.D. in juicehead bro-science to cover MMA.

TBRB Rankings Update: Cotto is King, Top Dawg Williams Debuts at 175

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Miguel Cotto photo by Chris Farina for Top Rank

by Gautham Nagesh

As I’ve mentioned here beforeStiff Jab is a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. That means every week I participate in an online forum where a number of impartial boxing writers from around the globe debate on the ranking of the top ten fighters in every weight division.

The ranking proposals, rules, and changes are all transparent and concrete. Our champions are real champions, earned in the ring, not paper champions, produced via favors from sanctioning bodies. We don’t strip titles and we don’t charge sanctioning fees. We simply recognize the best. The boxing world is slowly waking up to this fact, but to help accelerate that process, I’m going to periodically post updates here on changes in our rankings.

The big mover this week is the man you see above, Miguel Cotto aka the new middleweight champion of the world. In just his first fight as a middleweight, Cotto dethroned the hobbled champion Sergio Martinez and forced the Argentine’s corner to stop the fight before the 10th round. As a result, Cotto is now the money man in yet another division, and the prime target for Gennady Golovkin, Peter Quillin, and anyone else at 160 lbs.

Opening Bell: Phil-Jackson Benson Would Like to Thank Al Haymon

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by Gautham Nagesh

It may seem like a regular feature of this column by now, but boxing powerbroker Al Haymon has signed another one of the DMV’s top young fighters. This time it’s super middleweight Phil Jackson-Benson, and the news comes to us courtesy of the irreplaceable Gary “Digital” Williams of Boxing Along the Beltway.

We’ve covered most of Jackson-Benson’s recent fights, and he improved steadily over the course of three bouts in 2013. At age 29, Phil is 13-1 with 12 KOs. He’s definitely heavy-handed, but tends to wear fighters down rather than stopping them with a single blow. Jackson-Benson is big and strong for his weight class, and more than comfortable fighting on the inside, as he showed while beating Maxell Taylor Jr. at Club One Fitness last year.

Stiff Jab Presents: The Fourth Judge Podcast Episode 20

New episode. Same hosts. New jokes. Same tone. New topics. Same dedication to truth and beauty and butts.

Join us as we discuss Derek Fisher, chimichangas, sexy gorillas, Ed O’Bannon and more.

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Miguel Cotto Stops Sergio Martinez

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Photo by Chris Farina for Top Rank

by Sarah Deming

Miguel Cotto made it look easy Saturday night at Madison Square Garden against lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, knocking the aging Argentine down four times en route to a tenth-round TKO. Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) put his people in a party mood, becoming the first Puerto Rican to win a world title in four weight divisions.

It was a Cotto house at Jack Demsey’s. The midtown bar was hosting a viewing of the HBO PPV card to support the Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation, the charity that funds the community gym where I coach. 

Expert consensus was that Sergio Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) would win this fight on size and speed (barring the recurrence of his knee or hand injuries), but the experts could learn a thing or two from the crowd at Jack Demsey’s.

“Who are you picking?” I asked Teddy Atlas.

Benson Henderson Beats Rustam Khabilov by Rear Naked Choke in 4th

by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

Rustam Khabilov looked good at first but Benson Henderson’s experience was a little too much for him tonight. .

In the fourth round Benson landed a right uppercut and a left, jumped on Khabilov’s back and locked up a quick rear naked choke for his first UFC finish, as hard as that is to believe.

Benson looked a little leaner than usual, but still gigantic for the weight class. This was a quality fight on a night of crappy fights and weird stoppages and decisions. 

Khabilov looked impressive at the outset, displaying good grappling and solid striking. Khabilov was able to escape from some tight spots. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with soon, but Henderson proved the better man for now.

Diego Sanchez Wins Worst Decision Ever

by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

I’m only catching up on the UFC right now because I was watching the middleweight championship, but I just wanted to note that Diego Sanchez won the worst decision in the history of MMA over Ross Pearson tonight.  

I really don’t think that’s hyperbole.  For the record, I think the previous worst was Diego’s “win” over Martin Kampmann

I had it 30-27 for Ross, who bloodied Diego as he came forward swinging wildly, as per usual. The judges are apparently just giving out points for whoever moves the most at this point, whether or not anything lands.  

Benson Henderson, who also excels at winning fights by doing things that are impressive to judges rather than actually causing damage, is up next.  

Here are the Fightmetric Stats.

Eddie Gomez Loses, David Grayton, Immanuwel Aleem & Hugo Centeno Jr. Win

Photos by Esther Lin for Showtime

by Gautham Nagesh

Bronx welterweight Eddie Gomez dropped a harsh unanimous decision to Francisco Santana for his first professional loss Friday night on ShoBox from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.

Gomez impressed early and was clearly the more gifted fighter, but Santana staged a rally in the late rounds that won over the judges. We didn’t score the fight, but a draw or a close victory either way would have been justified. Scores of 97-93 and 98-92 for Santana were laughable, while 96-94 from the third judge was fair. 

Gomez was shorter, but his punches were more compact and quicker. Unfortunately, his defense and ring generalship were overlooked in favor of Santana’s higher work rate. To be sure, Gomez took his foot off the gas after dominating the first half of the fight. He has no one but himself to blame for this loss. Santana appeared to rock Gomez in the 6th and 7th rounds, and controlled the latter stages

However, for us Gomez was simply sharper all-around, and able to counter effectively. While Santana had his moments courtesy of some hard charges forward in the later rounds, Gomez looks like the fighter with the brighter future. He showed a good chin, solid defense in the pocket and the ability to land precise shots with power. If he takes a lesson from the loss and comes back ready to fight 12 hard rounds, he could challenge almost any welterweight down the road.

The televised main event saw Oxnard prospect Hugo “the Boss” Centeno Jr. school late substitute Gerardo Ibarra (below) in a matchup of unbeaten 23-year-olds at middleweight. Centeno was too fast, skilled and tall for the doughy Ibarra, who had only a week to prepare for the fight. Centeno looked straight from central casting before and after the fight, with nary a hair out of place by the bout’s end. He won an easy unanimous decision.

Preview: Sergio Martinez vs Miguel Cotto

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Photo by Chris Farina for Top Rank

by Gautham Nagesh

Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan will once again be the center of the boxing universe on Saturday, when middleweight champion Sergio Martinez defends his crown against Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto.

As the champion the Argentine is a deserving favorite, but the New York crowd will undoubtedly be heavily boricua and squarely in Cotto’s corner. This is the kind of fight I would have bought a ticket to see myself, if I hadn’t just returned from an international trip. Instead our senior writer in New York Sarah Deming will handle fight night coverage, while I will be at home hoping neither of these likable champions takes too much damage in the fight.

Danny Kelly, Lamont Roach Jr Win In Boston on FS1

by Gautham Nagesh

Local heavyweight prospect Danny “Smooth” Kelly and lightweight Lamont Roach Jr. of NoXcuse Boxing scored first-round stoppage wins on Thursday at House of Blues in Boston.

Roach won in the evening’s first bout on the un-televised undercard when his opponent Miguel Antonio Rodriguez didn’t answer the bell for the 2nd round, according to Boxing Along the Beltway. We heard the result from the twitter account of Golden Boy, Roach’s promoter which was also the source of the photo below.

Kelly appeared as the swing bout on the Fox Sports 1 telecast and looked good in his national TV debut. With opponent Eric Newell against the ropes, Kelly landed a chopping right hand that dropped Newell and left him unable to beat the count. Kelly took some time to establish enough distance to land his punches, but once he did he made short work of Newell. At only 22 years old, Kelly has the time and tools to become an exciting heavyweight. 

The Night BHop & Big Daddy Bowe Brought Boxing to RFK Stadium

by Aaron Tallent Special to Stiff Jab

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bernard Hopkins’ dominating win over Beibut Shumenov at D.C. Armory on April 19th was proof that Washington has re-emerged as a first-rate fight town. Almost 7,000 fans crowded the Armory to see Hopkins confirm his place as the top contender to light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. The rise of Lamont Peterson is what brought the TV networks back to the nation’s capital, but BHop was first out-of-town fighter to headline here in almost a decade.

The irony is that Hopkins was there the last time D.C. hosted a huge fight when he faced Roy Jones Jr. in 1993 at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (RFK) Stadium, just a stone’s throw away from the Armory. The story of that debacle is much less about Hopkins and Jones than it is about Riddick Bowe and his manager, Rock Newman.

Entering 1993, Bowe was flying high. He won the heavyweight title from Evander Holyfield in November 1992 and was building a mansion in Fort Washington, Md., a suburb of the District. That allowed him to be near Newman, a graduate of Howard University who lived in Washington. The D.C. boxing community had already embraced “Big Daddy,” and a lucrative deal with HBO was in the offing, provided Bowe keep winning.

Opening Bell: Al Haymon Signs D.C. Boxer David “Day Day” Grayton

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Photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com

by Gautham Nagesh

We’ve been sitting on this one for a couple weeks, but now the contracts are signed and the ink is dry. Top talent wrangler Al Haymon has snapped up another local boxing prospect whom you first learned about from us: welterweight David “Day Day” Grayton IV of Northeast D.C.

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Day Day is scheduled to fight German Valdez Friday night in Indio, Calif. on the undercard of the latest episode of ShoBox, which also features middleweight Hugo Centeno and Bronx welterweight Eddie Gomez. I profiled Day Day last year for The Washington Post, so I’m even more familiar with his story than most: 

Stiff Jab Presents: The Fourth Judge Podcast Episode 19

This week we erroneously celebrate our “twentieth” episode, wonder what would happen if Donald Sterling tried to attend an NBA game, and try to figure out how many cows we’ve eaten in our pathetic, miserable lives.

Join us!

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R.I.P. Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

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Maya Angelou dances with the late poet Amiri Baraka at Langston Hughes’ 89th birthday celebration in 1991. Photo by Chester Higgins Jr. for the New York Times.

by Gautham Nagesh

HYDERABAD, India—It has been a while since I last wrote here, my apologies.

I could offer the standard excuses, but there’s really just one reason: I landed my dream job last year, and it has left me no time for anything else. The past month in particular has been an unrelenting stream of news, leaving every other part of my life neglected. This vacation and the chance to rest and recharge couldn’t have come at a better time.

I have always struggled to describe what we do here at Stiff Jab. Put simply, we write about fighting, and try to find beauty in what is clearly an ugly spectacle, designed to appeal to our basest instincts. Whether it’s Sarah documenting the trials of women trying to break into a man’s world, or me simply bearing witness to battles fought by fighters that will never reach the limelight, we try to capture how the heat of battle brings out the best in these men and women, who enter the ring almost naked and depart completely exposed, in victory or defeat.

Fighters are remarkable human beings. Fighters drag themselves from meager conditions with little more than their hands and years of sweat. It is a long, lonely road, and almost none of them find success. Even those that reach the top must spent years toiling anonymously, placing full faith in their discipline and natural gifts and hoping it’s enough to secure their future. And even for the best, their moment is almost always just that; a glorious instant in time, followed by a slow descent back to where they started.

Of course, a few select champions manage to defy all that. They somehow along the way become more than just a sack of meat and bones, but something much larger, a testament to the incredible potential of the human spirit. They inspire us, and expand our vision of what life can hold for all of us. They make us believe in ourselves, and in abilities we never knew we had. 

By any measure, Maya Angelou was a fighter and a champion. Her grandness was such that it cannot be encapsulated by mere titles like poet or author. Maya Angelou was much more. She was living proof that no matter how many times a woman has been knocked down to the canvas, no matter how deeply the odds are stacked against her, she retains a puncher’s chance.

Ms. Angelou rose from a background defined by crippling racism, trauma, and displacement, yet somehow managed to spend her life showing all of us just how much life can be jammed into 86 years. She fought proudly in the ring for over five decades, refusing to capitulate no matter what. If the outpouring of grief and love today is any indication, her arms should be raised in victory for eternity.