Happy holidays, I hope you are all enjoying the season somewhere warmer than Michigan.
First, I wanted to thank all of you for everything you have contributed to Stiff Jab, not just this year, but since our founding in 2010. The site began as just a Tumblr account I started when I got into boxing writing. While I learned a great deal by contributing to excellent sites like BoxingScene and The Queensberry Rules, it soon became clear that I needed to start my own outlet to pursue my particular vision of covering the sport, focusing on fights and fighters far from the lights of TV.
Since founding the site, the hardest part has always been finding writers who meet our high standards. The result of those efforts is our staff, who I consider the smartest and most talented group of writers in the fight game. The only reason our small site, which publishes infrequently, is read, credentialed and recognized by the biggest networks and promoters in the sport is because of the high quality of coverage they provide.
Some highlights from 2013:
Genaro Gamez Photo by Sue Jaye Johnson
by Sarah Deming
SPOKANE, Wash.—On the fourth day of competition at the U.S. National Boxing Championships, all three rings were active with 83 semi- and quarterfinal bouts.
There was too much going on to take a break for lunch or dinner, but Raquel plied me with strawberries and at some point Sue materialized with hummus and rice crisps. Contrary to popular assumption, writing is not a solo sport.
Elite bantam Stephen Fulton, Jr. of Philadelphia put on a boxing clinic that left Tacoma’s Jerrell Babour holding for dear life. Fulton’s ring intelligence put me in mind of Bernard Hopkins, so I asked if he thought there was a Philly boxing style.
“We’re aggressive,” he said. “We have a lot of heart. We can take punches and we can give them. We really want to win. I love Philly.”
Mighty New York Metro celebrated big wins for Christopher Galeano, Jayquran Hazel, Earl Newman, Jr., Bertha Aracil, and Christina Cruz, who lost her contacts in the first round and still pulled out the win.
It was a good day for DC. Gary Antonio Russell stopped Nchatxu Vang of St. Paul so fast, I missed it. Meanwhile, DC’s two-time Junior Olympic champion Malik Jackson dominated former Ringside champ Zoo Vang. The Vangs are teammates but unrelated. Both are hoping to be the first Mung world champ.
by Gautham Nagesh
PUNTA CANA, D.R.—Hola, fight fans. I’m writing from the balcony of my hotel in the Dominican Republic, where I’m recharging after a long year of covering a host of controversial topics from SOPA to cybersecurity. Somewhere in between, we found time to cover over 20 fight cards live from ringside and dozens more via the airwaves in 2012, bringing you the in-depth coverage that has helped us cross 1,000 posts and 50,000 followers on Tumblr this month.
You’ve probably noticed that things have been quiet here recently, mostly a product of our busy schedules and the looming threat of burnout. It’s been over two years since we launched the site, and I’m incredibly proud of what Doc Octagon, Trey, Anna, Kid Moe, and the rest of our team have accomplished. We’re now widely read by experts in boxing and MMA, and have been linked to by everyone from The Washington Post to The Queensberry Rules. But more work remains.
A week in the Caribbean should recharge my batteries and enable the site’s ongoing expansion, so we can bring you more updates, interviews, and new additions in the coming months. But first, it’s time for us to take a stand on the problems in boxing and mixed martial arts as we see them.
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—It started almost 20 years ago in a storage room at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School in Northwest Washington. A friend told Barry Hunter the school had set aside a small space for boxing. Hunter, a carpenter by trade, agreed to pitch in, dug out his old equipment, and headed over to share his lifelong passion: the Sweet Science.
"I didn’t go to stay, I went to help a little bit." said an emotional Hunter on Thursday at Bald Eagle Recreation Center in Ward 8. But once he met the kids and saw their need, he couldn’t walk away.
"The ride I got on, I couldn’t get off."
So Hunter stayed to teach the kids boxing, and more than anything, to show them that someone cared. There have been plenty of ups and downs since, from training world champions and amateur stars, to skipping a national tournament and using the funds raised to pay for a kid’s funeral.
But few days could be better than today, when the District of Columbia finally repaid Barry Hunter by opening the new Dr. Arnold McKnight Boxing Annex. The magnificent 6,600-sq. ft. facility is attached to the Bald Eagle Rec Center, one of the original homes of Hunter’s acclaimed Headbangers Boxing Program, which has produced 100 national amateur championships, two professional world titlists, and saved countless young men and women from the wrong path.
by Gautham Nagesh
Heavyweight boxer Seth Mitchell is not a great interview.
Don’t get me wrong, Mitchell is one of the most gracious and accessible people, let alone athletes, I have had the privilege to interview. The rising heavyweight contender goes out of his way to make himself available to media and his fans. He’s polite, thoughtful, intelligent, erudite, humble, and conducts himself exactly how you would want your son or brother to act if they should ever find themselves on the cusp of fame, fortune, and athletic glory.
Which means he avoids boasting, preening, denigrating his opponents, making outlandish predictions or foolishly giving away his strategy or focus in the gym. Every time we speak, which has been fairly often recently, our conversations follow a pattern: Mitchell updates us on his training, talks about staying humble in the face of his rising fame, and expresses respect for his upcoming opponent (in this case, Detroit’s Johnathon Banks).
Case in point: “I’m prepared to go a hard 12 rounds. I’m expecting the best Johnathon Banks there is,” Mitchell told Stiff Jab earlier this month. “He’s coming to take away my zero, and I definitely want to protect [it].”