Brooklyn Style on Full Display as Jacobs and “Big Baby” Miller Prepare for Barclays Center Showcase

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Brooklyn boxing is more than just the sport. It’s the hang, the swag, the way you wear your trunks. It’s “Bed-Stuy, do or die!” and “Brownsville. Never ran, never will!” It’s the hip hop, and it used to be the jazz.

“Brooklyn style is a style of pressure and power,” says trainer Andre Rozier. “Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Zab Judah: All these guys had the ability to kayo you.”

His middleweight Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs (33-2-0, 29 KOs) looks to flex that power for his hometown fans and get one step closer to regaining his world title when he battles undefeated Polish prospect Maciej Sulecki (26-0-0, 10 KOs) in a twelve-round main event at Barclays Center, live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Opening the HBO telecast is Jacobs’ fellow Brooklynite, undefeated heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs) in a twelve-round clash with former world title challenger Johann “The Reptile” Duhaupas (37-4-0, 24 KOs).

Billed as “Straight Outta Brooklyn,” UK promoter Eddie Hearn’s second fight card in the USA showcases emerging talent from the borough that has become the heartbeat of New York boxing. Why come all the way across the pond? To scope out Brooklyn for heavyweight king Anthony Joshua’s coming out party.

Hearn says, “We’re already in talks with Brett Yormark at the Barclay Center to bring Anthony Joshua to New York for his US debut, and to come and do it against Jerrell Miller would be perfect for us.”

Yet despite its cachet, Brooklyn has lacked a male titleholder since Jacobs lost his middleweight crown last March to Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. A breakout performance on April 28 by either Jacobs or Miller could herald an end to the drought.

A big, slick, powerful switch-hitter, Jacobs is currently ranked in the top three by all the major sanctioning bodies. If he gets past Sulecki, his people hope for a shot to rematch GGG or a big-money date with Canelo Alvarez. Also in the mix are British world title holder Billy Joe Saunders, or perhaps even Jermell Charlo, with whom Danny exchanged some fun backstage trash talk after Wilder-Ortiz.

Meanwhile, GGG and Canelo are embroiled in a telenovela of their own. The two kings of the middleweight division were set for a May rematch of their disputed draw until Canelo twice tested positive for the controlled substance clenbuterol. While GGG and trainer Abel Sanchez mocked Canelo’s “tainted meat” excuse, the Nevada Commission handed Canelo a six-month suspension, ending on August 17.

Vanes Martirosyan now steps in as a last-minute replacement to face GGG at the StubHub on May 5, and the GGG-Canelo rematch gets pushed back to September.

Where does that leave Danny Jacobs?

“I’m just gonna continue to climb this ladder of success,” Jacobs says. “I believe in my mind that I am the best middleweight in the world, and now it’s about proving it.”

No stranger to comebacks, Jacobs earned his nickname “The Miracle Man” after recovering from bone cancer in 2012. He also weathered an early crossroads loss against Dmitry Pirog that would have ended a weaker fighter’s career.

“You’re looking at a guy who got a second chance,” Jacobs says. “Not only in life but in boxing.”

Some observers, especially in Brooklyn, felt Jacobs deserved the nod against GGG last March. Certainly Jacobs’ stock rose after his fierce stand, which put an end to GGG’s 23-bout knockout streak and – by making Golovkin look vulnerable to a strong, mobile boxer – perhaps laid the foundation for the Canelo draw.

Jacobs came back to trounce previously unbeaten Luis Arias last November, but he was disappointed not to get the knockout.

“Danny wants to get back to his roots and stop Sulecki,” trainer Andre Rozier said. “Pressure, pressure, and more pressure. Undeniably, vicious pressure will reap the rewards of a kayo in this fight.”

A tough, rangy fighter, the 28-year-old Sulecki trains out of Florida and is ranked #4 by the WBO and #5 by the WBA. He scored an impressive knockout over Hugo Centeno, Jr in 2016 but looked hittable in his most recent outing, squeaking by Germany’s Jack Culcay.

“Sulecki is going to bring a fight,” Jacobs cautions. “Don’t sleep on him.”

While Jacobs looks to make a statement against a relatively unknown foe, Brooklyn’s Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller – ranked No. 3 in the world by the WBA, IBF, and WBO – will try to distinguish himself against a veteran contender.

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Frenchman Johann “The Reptile” Duhaupas, 31, is a durable big man, ranked in the top ten by both the WBA and the WBC. He took a fight with Povetkin on a day’s notice and got stopped in five. He took a beating from Deontay Wilder, but he just kept coming, enduring 11 punishing rounds. Wilder later told talk show hosts Desus and Mero that Duhaupas was the toughest opponent of his career.

“Yeah, he’s a tough guy,” says Big Baby. “He’s good at taking butt whoopings. So April 28 he’s gonna take another butt whooping, and on to the next.”

It is a Wednesday afternoon at Atlas Cops and Kids in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Big Baby is about to spar. The fight is two weeks away and he weighs 307 pounds. His legs look like tree trunks, but his background as a professional kickboxer has given him exceptional mobility, and he skips rope like a flyweight as house music blares through the gym.

“I didn’t like how I felt last time being so light,” Big Baby says.

He tried to impress everyone by slimming down to 289 for his fight last November. He looked good in his trunks and stopped Mariusz Wach in the ninth, but he felt fatigued and weaker. He likes the way his punches pop when he’s big. He likes feeling that he can’t be moved.

“He’s looking fast,” says trainer Aureliano Sosa. “He’s looking strong. He’s hitting harder. I told him, don’t even worry about the weight. Just be in shape to go hard rounds.”

Sosa sees Duhaupas as a slightly better version of Wach: “He’s a little faster, but nothing that would oppose Big Baby. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this.”

Big Baby gets in the ring and spars two easy rounds against a light heavyweight. Then he gets in with a tubby, undefeated heavyweight named Adam Kownacki. The two have been sparring since they were 15.

All the youngsters gather around to watch Big Baby and Adam. They go ten brutal but gentlemanlike rounds. Big Baby’s punch output is astonishing, and he gets in some hellacious body shots. At the end, he collapses onto a stool, drenched in sweat but still nodding his head in time to the beat.

“The music is the most important thing,” Big Baby says. “It helps me get my rhythm.”

PODCAST Ep 246: Jacobs-Sulecki Preview

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney review the latest news in the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez saga, then they preview Saturday night’s World Championship Boxing card featuring Daniel Jacobs vs. Maciej Sulecki and Jarrell Miller vs. Johann Duhaupas.

HBO Boxing Insiders Receive Honors From BWAA

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

On Tuesday, April 17 the Boxing Writers Association of America announced its 2017 Bernie Award winners, with the HBO Boxing Insider staff receiving top honors for their contributions to Inside HBO Boxing and From The Vault.

Eric Raskin earned first place in the Boxing Investigative Reporting category for his story, "Unrealized: The Story of Ike Ibeabuchi, the Great Lost Heavyweight." The oral history is also available as a podcast. 

Kieran Mulvaney was recognized in two categories. His article "The Last Boxing Days of Miguel Cotto," which went inside the legendary fighter's camp as he prepared for his farewell fight against Sadam Ali, won third place in the Boxing Feature (over 1,500 words). The fight story from the heavyweight championship at Wembley Arena in London, "Joshua Is the New King As Valiant Klitschko Goes Out On His Shield,"  also won third place, in the category of Boxing Event Coverage.

Gordon Marino received an Honorable Mention  in the category of Event Coverage for his Inside HBO Boxing piece, The X’s and O’s of Canelo-GGG. Additionally, HBO Boxing Insider Springs Toledo received numerous awards for work that appeared in a variety of publications.

HBO Boxing photographer Ed Mulholland received an honorable mention for his entry in the BWAA's Action category of their photo contest, which appears at the top of this article.

Congratulations to all the honorees.

Golovkin Looks to Make History in Fight Against Martirosyan

 Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Over the years, the spotlight has shone on many different aspects of the boxing career of Gennady Golovkin. The string of knockouts (23 in a row between Amar Amari staying on his feet for all eight rounds on June 21, 2008 and Daniel Jacobs going the championship distance on March 18, 2017). The pulsating “Seven Nation Army” ring walks. The tight relationship with trainer Abel Sanchez. The unabashed and enthusiastic adoption by the Kazakh-born middleweight of a “Mexican Style” of fighting and the ready embrace of a Mexican fan base that at times has even favored him over its own natural-born boxers.

Almost lost amid all the hype and fury is the fact that, steadily but surely, Golovkin has been accumulating a growing number of middleweight title defenses. Counting his 2010 first-round knockout of Milton Nunez to claim an interim alphabet strap as his first world title win, he has since made 19 successful defenses – one short of the record, set by Bernard Hopkins between 1995 and 2005. 

Golovkin now has a chance to equal Hopkins’ record, when he puts his numerous belts, and his status as the number one middleweight in the world, on the line against Vanes Martirosyan at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on May 5 (HBO World Championship Boxing, 11PM ET). It will be Golovkin’s second fight at StubHub, where a record crowd for boxing at the venue watched him stop Marco Antonio Rubio in 2014.

Martirosyan, eagle-eyed fans will notice, was not the original planned opponent for Golovkin; nor was the StubHub the initially planned location. But after Canelo Alvarez — with whom Golovkin fought to a disputed draw at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas last September and with whom he was slated to contest a rematch at the same venue — faced suspension after testing positive for trace amounts of clenbuterol, Golovkin needed to find a new foe. Enter Martirosyan, born in Armenia and resident in Glendale, California, a two-time world title challenger at junior middleweight, who owns wins over the likes of Saul Roman, Ishe Smith and, like Golovkin, Kassim Ouma. 

Martirosyan knows full well that few, if any, observers expect his challenge of Golovkin to be any more successful than those of, for example, Dominic Wade (knocked out in two rounds in 2016), Kell Brook (stopped in five later that same year) or at best Martin Murray, who survived into the eleventh round in Monaco in 2015. But he is defiant and confident in his ability to stop Golovkin’s record pursuit in its tracks in what would surely be an upset for the ages.

“I've been training my ass off.  I’m sparring, I’m on weight,” Martirosyan recently told the Los Angeles Times. “When they asked me if I'd take this fight, I said yes. I didn’t ask about money at all. It’s a good show for L.A. Cinco De Mayo. Armenians will pack the place. I have a lot of Mexican fans.  I do believe in my heart I’m going to beat (Golovkin) because he's never fought someone with my style.”

Golovkin, similarly, is treating Martirosyan’s challenge with full focus.

“Vanes Martirosyan is now the most important fight of my career. He has my respect and I am training hard to defend my titles against him,” he said. “I am happy to be back on HBO and fighting at StubHub Center because they have great boxing fans. I will give my fans another big drama show.” 

“Gennady has had such a terrific training camp in Big Bear. It wouldn’t be fair to him to let it go to waste just because Canelo was being punished,” added Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer.

“Gennady is going to light up Cinco De Mayo as only a true Mexican-style fighter can.  I can't wait to unleash him.”

Gennady Golovkin Is Back in Action on May 5 Against Vanes Martirosyan

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Undefeated world middleweight champion and boxing superstar Gennady "GGG" Golovkin  is retruning to the ring. On Saturday, May 5, Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), from Karaganda, Kazakhstan goes up against Vanes "The Nightmare" Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), from Glendale, California. The fight will headline a world championship card which will take place at StubHub Center, in Carson, California.  It's the first time Golovkin has fought in Southern California in over two years, dating back to April 23, 2016, when he knocked out undefeated contender Dominic Wade. Golovkin vs. Martirosyan will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 11 PM ET/PT.  

The fight marks Golovkin's first non-pay-per-view fight since 2016 — a fifth-round TKO victory of then-undefeated world champion Kell Brook. It will also be his 20th consecutive and record-tying middleweight title defense.

PODCAST Ep 245: GGG-Canelo 2 Drama

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney dive into all of the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez drama from the past several weeks, asking and answering five key questions about what has happened and what's still to come.

PODCAST Ep 244: Andre The Giant With Brian Campbell and Bill Apter

The HBO Boxing Podcast takes a detour into the world of pro wrestling, as HBO Boxing Insider Eric Raskin talks with CBS Sports' Brian Campbell and 1Wrestling.com's Bill Apter about the legend and legacy of Andre The Giant. Andre The Giant airs April 10 at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO.

Rey Vargas vs. Azat Hovhannisyan added to Sadam Ali vs. Liam Smith Undercard

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

VERONA, NY. (April 5, 2018): Rey Vargas (31-0, 22 KOs), the undefeated world champion of Mexico City, Mexico, will make the third defense of his WBC Super Bantamweight world title against explosive Armenian contender Azat “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan (14-2, 11 KOs) in the 12-round co-main event to Sadam "World Kid" Ali and Liam “Beefy” Smith for the WBO Junior Middleweight World Championship on Saturday, May 12 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. The doubleheader will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
 
Vargas is a 27-year-old world champion who brings a considerable height and reach advantage to every fight, which he has used to defeat all of his previous opponents. In February 2017, Vargas traveled to the United Kingdom to defeat Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight Title. For that fight, Vargas enlisted the help of Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, who has been training him ever since. Vargas then defended the title against Ronny Rios and Oscar “El Jaguar” Negrete, and he’ll look to make his third defense against yet another tough contender in Hovhannisyan.
 
“I’m ready to make the third defense of my world title in what will be the next step of a historic career,” said Rey Vargas. “I’ve faced the best contenders since becoming world champion, and May 12 will not be the exception. Hovhannisyan is explosive and fast, but I will be prepared to win in exciting fashion to show that I’m the best super bantamweight in the world.”
 
Hovhannisyan is a fiery contender who has worked hard for his title opportunity. In September 2017, the 29-year-old fought with an injured right hand across 10 rounds of grueling action to win the vacant WBC Continental Americas Super Bantamweight Title on the undercard of Linares vs. Campbell. Hovhannisyan then returned in March for his most impressive victory yet, a sixth-round technical knockout win against former world title challenger Ronny Rios. After defeating a common opponent of Vargas via a more impressive manner, Hovhannisyan will look to use his quick and aggressive style to earn his first world title.
 
“This is the most important fight of my career,” said Azat Hovhannisyan. “I’ve prepared for this fight my entire life. Vargas is a great champion and this will be a hard fight, but I will do anything it takes to win this title.”
 
“Both of these world championship fights on May 12 will provide action from the opening bell,” said Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya. “Rey Vargas is the man to beat in the 122-pound division, and Azat Hovhanniysan has put in the work to potentially dethrone him.”
 
“Promociones del Pueblo and Golden Boy Promotions are dedicated to making great fights like this one,” said Oswaldo Kuchle, President of Promociones del Pueblo. “Rey Vargas has all the tools to walk away with the victory and will remove all doubts regarding his position as the best fighter in the 122-pound division.”
  
Ali vs. Smith is a 12-round fight for the WBO Junior Middleweight World Championship presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Frank Warren. The doubleheader takes place Saturday, May 12 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.

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