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.

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abc launches social reader

You may, or may not have heard, but this week we launched our first social reader app for Facebook.

The app, which draws in content from ABC Science, comes from a desire to share our content in a more ‘social’ way, and could be followed by more apps using the best content from other areas, if the audience likes it (excuse the pun).

In a post on the new ABC Corporate blog, Innovation’s Senior Networks Producer Andrew Blackshire (@skillmcgill) discusses why we have taken the ‘softly, softly’ approach to frictionless sharing, and hints at where we might take things next.

Check out the social reader and send us a tweet, and let us know what you think.

Watch on www.stiffjab.com

Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier got into a fight during their media day. Uncle Dana is probably going to act pissed, but this is going to make the fight really easy to promote. 

Manny Pacquiao Beats Tim Bradley In Rematch

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Photo by Chris Farina for Top Rank

by Gautham Nagesh

If there were any doubts about whether Manny Pacquiao is a superior fighter than Tim Bradley Jr., the Filipino welterweight put them to bed on Saturday night in Las Vegas on HBO Pay Per View.

The Pacman overcame a spirited early effort from Bradley to win a convincing decision at the MGM Grand, avenging his controversial loss in their first bout last year. This time there could be no debate: Bradley threw everything he had against Pacquiao in the early rounds, but Pacman took it all and kept coming.

Bradley landed a number of crashing rights early in the fight, but it was Pacquiao’s dynamite left hand that ruled the evening, as it has so many times before. Pacquiao’s speed and effortless power were the difference in the end. Bradley left his sizable heart into the ring, but he simply did not have the talent to match Pacquiao.

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Slideshow: Boxing At Harlem Children’s Festival

Photos by Debi Cornwall

2012 U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne, Bronx junior middleweight prospect Eddie Gomez and other Golden Boy fighters stopped by the Harlem Children’s Festival on Saturday to take photos, sign autographs and introduce some youngsters to the Sweet Science.

Our Sarah Deming was on hand with Atlas Cops & Kids Boxing to spread both the sport and their anti-gun violence message. Her friend, the clearly talented photographer Debi Cornwall, was gracious enough to let us publish her photo essay on the event above.

Sarah will bring you ringside coverage of the card from Best Buy Theater headlined by Danny Jacobs vs. Giovanni Lorenzo at middleweight tomorrow (Monday) night. Full bout sheet here.

Canelo Stops Alfredo Angulo In The 10th Round

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Photos by Tom Casino for Showtime

by Gautham Nagesh

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez dominated Alfredo Angulo on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, scoring a 10th-round stoppage in the Showtime Pay Per View main event. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in an stopped the fight after Canelo landed a particularly vicious left uppercut on Angulo, drawing a furious reaction from both the crowd and “el Perro”.

Until that point it had been a masterful performance from Alvarez, who was the better boxer and puncher on this night. We had thought Angulo’s rugged style and strength might present problems for Canelo, but el Perro was strangely listless and never appeared to pose much of a threat.

Canelo, on the other hand, was sharp and aggressive from the opening bell. He brought the fight to Angulo right away, and barely let up on the pressure over ten rounds. If there was any doubt about Canelo’s position near the top of the junior middleweight division, he showed tonight that he remains one of the sport’s premium fighters.

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Preview: Floyd Mayweather vs Marcos Maidana 2

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by Gautham Nagesh

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—Last night during an epic run at the 2-5 No Limit game at the MGM Grand, I noticed the top chip on my green stack still read “Mayweather Cotto 2012”. It felt apt.

The Strip had the feel of a Big Fight weekend last night, but just barely. Even the hundreds of women in skintight dresses snaking through the lobby in the absurd line for Hakkasan seemed like they were just going through the motions. On flights, at the weigh-in, and in the casinos, the crowd seemed dutiful, as if they were doing as they were told.

The energy that pulsed here last autumn during Mayweather-Alvarez is just not there. This fight and its result is a foregone conclusion, and most of us are just here to bear witness to a footnote to boxing history. Tonight could be one of the last moments where the world’s eye will be trained on the Sweet Science.

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Photo by Esther Lin for Showtime

Of the two men in the main event, Marcos Maidana has everything to gain and nothing to lose. He has an opportunity to shock the world, and etch his name in history the way Buster Douglas and Boise State have before. He is a formidable underdog, but it would be foolish to underestimate him.

Floyd Mayweather is foolish in many respects, but inside the ring, he is the sage of his pugilistic generation. There are many faults one can find with Floyd, chief among them his sordid relationship with domestic violence, but one cannot accuse him of taking his profession lightly.

These are the last days of big-time boxing, and they will happen on Showtime and at the MGM Grand. Floyd Mayweather will be the star, and in truth, the opponent hardly matters. Maidana has a puncher’s chance, but only that. If this fight goes the full 12 rounds, or Maidana fails to connect on the perfect overhand right, expect fans to cash in those Mayweather betting slips, which pay a paltry 7 to 1.

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Floyd Mayweather Makes It Look Easy Against Robert Guerrero

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Photo by Tom Casino for Showtime

by Gautham Nagesh

Welterweight Floyd “Money” Mayweather cemented his status as boxing’s pound-for-pound king by picking apart Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero on Showtime Pay Per View in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Floyd looked supremely comfortable against the overmatched Guerrero, who becomes the 44th notch on Mayweather’s unblemished record. Mayweather was landing his straight right hand from the outset, and made Guerrero look foolish at points. Guerrero’s heart and effort can’t be questioned, but he was simply not on the same level as the superlative Mayweather, who somehow impressed despite being the heavy favorite.

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Claressa Shields & Tiara Brown Win Titles At Nationals

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Marlen Esparza. Photos by Raquel Ruiz.

by Sarah Deming

SPOKANE, Wash.—“Grandfather Creator, it makes us happy and it lifts our hearts to see these young warriors.”

The Kalispel Elder’s blessing set the right tone for the last session of the 2014 USA Boxing National Championships. These young warriors do indeed lift our hearts, even though we get a little tired by tournament’s end. All the late nights in the disco were probably not the best idea, but it is hard to resist dancing with Raquel Ruiz.

Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza wasn’t worried about her flyweight final against fellow Texan Virginia Fuchs.

“Ginny can’t handle upper body movement,” said Esparza. “All you have to do is break from the waist.”

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Franchon Crews (left) and Claressa Shields (right)

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R.I.P. Omar Henry 1987-2013

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by Gautham Nagesh

Junior middleweight prospect Omar Henry passed away Friday in Chicago from gall bladder cancer. He was 25.

Born in Chicago and raised in Houston, Henry was a decorated amateur with a promising future in the 154-lb weight class. Henry boasted a record of 12-0-1 with 9 KOs and was slated to be the headliner on ShoBox last November, when his illness was first discovered. He posted a message to his Facebook account on January 9th expressing his hope that he would live to see his 26th birthday on February 8th.

"To all my friends and loyal fans I want to inform you all that I am fighting the fight of my life against a disease known as gallbladder cancer," Henry posted to Facebook on Sunday. "While I’m in this current state I am fighting with my family by my side and I will not go down for the count."

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Dusty Harrison vs Michael Balasi March 7 on ESPN

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by Anna John

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Members of the press studied the candied bacon and chicken wings from Founding Farmers, just across Pennsylvania Avenue. P.R. pros confidently wove through the small crowd, shaking hands and offering guests Starbucks coffee.

At the front of a glass conference room here in Northwest D.C., 2012 Stiff Jab Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison stood silently, uncharacteristically alone. Dusty used the time to collect his thoughts before addressing the reporters who had gathered to hear about his next bout against Michael Balasi (10-3, 7 KOs) on March 7th in San Diego on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.

If there was one overarching theme from today’s press conference, it’s that DUSTY LOVES THE DMV. I’m surprised there aren’t already shirts bearing that slogan, printed and circulating among the thousands of local fight fans who are down for Dusty. From All-In Entertainment President Jeff Fried to Dusty’s father Buddy Harrison to the young boxer himself, every person who spoke wanted to emphasize that Dusty’s favorite aspect of being a local star is the “local”, not the “star”.

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Anderson Silva Clowns Around, Gets Knocked Out By Chris Weidman

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by Dr. Octagon, J.D. 

The sky fell on Saturday night in Las Vegas for one of the biggest stars of mixed martial arts. Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in Las Vegas, handing the Brazilian middleweight champion his first loss in the UFC.

The main event started out predictably: Silva was treating Weidman like Demian Maia. Anderson danced around, dropping his hands and taunting Weidman. It cost him in the second round, when Weidman found home with a left hook for a knockdown, then pounced on Silva to put a nail in the coffin.

Anderson’s ridiculous antics finally caught up to him. Weidman, who refused to renegotiate his contract prior to this bout, was getting paid $48,000 for this fight including the win bonus. He is going to have serious negotiating power going forward. Weidman’s gamble paid off, and vindicated all the people who were predicting him to win.

That being said, it’s sort of a shame that we didn’t see what would have happened if Anderson took this fight seriously. I’m shocked. It’s going to take a while to process this, but it really opens up the possibilities in the middleweight division.  

UFC 168: Anderson Silva Loses By Freak Broken Leg TKO

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by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman now owns two flukey wins against the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva.  

Once again, Weidman won the first round handily at UFC 168 in Las Vegas on Saturday, landing a punch on the ear before controlling Silva on the ground. Any hope Silva would quickly avenge his previous knockout loss to Weidman soon vanished.

In the second round, Silva threw a leg kick, Weidman checked it and Silva’s leg snapped in half around Weidman’s leg. Which is why the photograph above looks like some sort of claymation or Photoshop. The former champ doubled over in pain and it was immediately apparent that something was not right. The replay almost made me barf.  

This injury has only been seen in the Octagon once, when it happened to Corey Hill. It is a major injury for the 38-year-old former champ, and one has to wonder whether he’ll ever be back in the Octagon. Zuffa LLC, which owns The UFC later released a statement detailing Silva’s treatment.

"Following Saturday evening’s UFC 168 main event, former champion Anderson Silva was taken to a local Las Vegas hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a broken left leg. The successful surgery, performed by Dr. Steven Sanders, the UFC’s Orthopedic Surgeon, inserted an intramedullary rod into Anderson’s left tibia. The broken fibula was stabilized and does not require a separate surgery. Anderson will remain in the hospital for a short while, but no additional surgery is scheduled at this time. Recovery time for such injuries may vary between three and six months," the statement read.

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Johny Hendricks Beats Robbie Lawler, Wins UFC Welterweight Title

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by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

Johny Hendricks threw caution to the wind at UFC 171 on Saturday night and basically stood directly in front of Robbie Lawler for five rounds in their fight for the vacant UFC welterweight title.  

We were rooting for Johny because he got robbed against former champ Georges St. Pierre in his last fight. Against Lawler, Johny won the first two rounds, while Robbie won the third and fourth, busting up Johny’s face really badly.  

The fight was pretty clearly up for grabs in the fifth round. Johny had a little more gas in the tank, as Robbie looked winded. After landing some punches, Hendricks scored a crucial takedown. Robbie looked up at the clock and appeared ticked off, as if he knew he had lost.

The judges all had it 48-47 for Hendricks, which was the correct score. Great fight, congrats to the new champ.

Top Rank & Golden Boy Sign Multi-Fight Deal Around Mayweather-Pacquiao

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Photo by Ethan Miller for Getty Images

by Gautham Nagesh 

A tumultuous month for boxing was punctuated late Sunday night, when promoters Bob Arum of Top Rank and Oscar de la Hoya of Golden Boy announced an end to years of hostilities.

The pair will collaborate on a series of cards in the coming months matching their top fighters in every division. The cards will take place at major stadiums and coliseums throughout the country. The first show will feature Top Rank cash cow Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at Cowboys Stadium on Cinco de Mayo; the last wil be headlined by the long-awaited showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather at the Superdome in New Orleans in August.

Most stunning is the news the shows will air not on Pay Per View, but over broadcast television to maximize the potential audience. Several networks have already begun bidding on the rights; the promoters are also counting on strong revenue from both tickets and advertising.

"We know it’s a risk, but we’re confident that if we put out the best product, the fans will come back to boxing," Arum told reporters at a press conference in New York.

"We’re trying to look beyond the short-term in hopes of growing the sport’s overall audience," added de la Hoya.

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Juan Manuel Marquez KOs Manny Pacquiao

by Gautham Nagesh

Juan Manuel Marquez knocked welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao out cold with a right hand on Saturday night in the 6th round of the fourth edition of their rivalry at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

The emphatic win by Marquez terminates Pacquiao’s decade-long run atop the sport, and avenges the Mexican junior welterweight champion’s two losses in their three previous fights. Marquez also fulfilled his vow to finish the fight by knockout, therefore avoiding the possibility of another controversial decision favoring the Filipino fan favorite.

Marquez scored his first knockdown against Pacquiao in the 3rd round, after a cautious start had him down two rounds on our card. A looping right connected squarely with Pacquiao’s chin and sent the Filipino down, though he sprang up and fought back gamely for the rest of the round. Pacquiao steadied himself in the 4th and came back to score a knockdown of his own in the 5th with a lead left hand. The punch sent JMM off-balance, and the Mexican was forced to touch a glove to the canvas to steady himself.

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R.I.P. Jim Finley 1929-2014: Finley’s Boxing Gym Owner Was One Of A Kind

 

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Photo by Joel Richardson for The Washington Post

 by Aaron Tallent special to Stiff Jab

Let’s face it: the Fight Game walks the fine line between goodness and corruption.

The good is that young men have an opportunity to learn discipline they would often not find elsewhere. For that to work, the people providing the chance need to have their heart in the right place. They need to be people like Jim Finley. Sadly, we have already forgotten just how special Finley and his boxing gym truly were.

Finley, who died of congestive heart failure on January 28, ran the legendary Finley’s Boxing Gym from 1960 to 2001. The gym was over his auto repair shop on 518 10th Street, which sat in an alley running between 9th and 10th Streets in Northeast D.C. So low key was the gym that I lived at the entrance of that alley for two years after it closed, yet had no idea it ever existed. 

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Sylvester Stallone Says New Rocky Movie On The Way

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Sylvester Stallone photo via The Guardian

by Anna John

This weekend in London, lucky fans were treated to “An Evening with Sylvester Stallone”. The boxing Hall of Famer and superstar of the Rocky- and Rambo-franchises sat down for a 90-minute conversation with his host, Jonathan Ross, at the London Palladium.

Stallone was candid and self-aware during the event, and admitted that Rocky’s success changed him— but not in a good way. Stallone told Ross that almost 40 years ago, he was “insufferable” and he thought he was “an authority on everything” back then:

"I read some of the interviews I gave now and wish I could go back and punch myself in the face,"

One of Stallone’s anecdotes about Rocky was quite surprising:

Stallone revealed he had been offered up to $300,000 - “a million dollars today” - to let the film be made with another lead. The Italian-American said it had been a “crossroads moment” in his life, but that he knew he would have “hated” himself had he not stuck to his guns.

Stallone is so indelibly associated with the film that it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing the humble debt collector who wanted to be heavyweight champion of the world. Rocky won three Oscars before spawning five sequels.

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UFC Recap: Matt Brown Defeats Erick Silva by TKO in Best Fight Ever

by Dr. Octagon, J.D.

Erick Silva crumpled Matt Brown in the first round with a vicious body kick just above the belt-line, then got his back and was threatening with a nasty neck crank.  

Somehow, Matt Brown got up and proceeded to put the most savage beating on Erick that I’ve ever seen, to win the round on our card. The second round was all Brown, who looked like he was trying to set a record for most head strikes in a round. Can’t wait to see fightmetric.

The third round was more of the same. Give Silva some credit, the kid took a shitload of punishment, but Matt Brown showed an inhuman amount of toughness and cardio. Amazing fight. Matt Brown is so fucking hard. 

Update: Silva was taken out on a stretcher. We hope he is alright.  

In the co-main, Costa Philippou got back on track, starching Lorenz Larkin in the first round.  

Detroit Superstar Daron Cruickshank made short work of Roufusport product Erik Koch with a left head-kick in the first round. 

Neil Magny won a unanimous decision over Tim “Dirty Bird” Means.

Soa Palelei thankfully finished the fight early with some slick groundwork against South African judoka Ruan Potts, managing to avoid the submissions and get into full mount where he ended it with ground and pound.  

Chris Cariaso defeated Louis Smolka with a unanimous decision. 

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