Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing sends his congratulations to the winner and still undefeated heavyweight Magomed "Mago" Abdusalamov (16-0, 16 KOs) after his crushing TKO 2 (1:57) over former world title challenger and long-time top contender Jameel "Big Time" McCline in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday night.
Fighting on the undercard of the Vitali Klitschko vs. Manuel Charr WBC Heavyweight Championship fight, Abdusalamov picked up the vacant WBC United States (USNBC) heavyweight title by dropping and stopping McCline with a single, devastating right hook.
But it wasn't easy.
Known for pulling off surprises throughout his career, McCline was able to catch Abdusalamov with his own powerful right hand early in round one and drop him for a legitimate knockdown.
"McCline put a little scare into us," said a happy Lewkowicz, post-fight. "But Mago handled it very well. He was a little hurt, but he got up, weathered the storm and was in control of the fight by the end of the round. This is heavyweight boxing. He's going to have to be able to come back from big shots like that and now we see he can do it. It was a great test that he passed impressively."
Lewkowicz says the performance against McCline, coupled with his previous strong showings against ever-increasing levels of opponent, should be enough to warrant Abdusalamov's ascension to the upper levels of the division.
"We'll be petitioning to have Mago placed in the top 10 of all the organizations, based on this victory. It's clear he's moving into position for a big fight soon against another top guy, with a title fight not long after that. He did with one punch what a long line of champions and top contenders could not do to Jameel McCline. Mago showed heart and power and determination and there is no doubt now that he belongs among the world's best heavyweights."
Timo Hoffmann faces Steffen Kretschmann and Erkan Teper takes on Gbenga Oloukun in Halle, Germany
Fans of German heavyweight boxing should take a close look at Halle (Saale) this Friday (September 14th) or follow the action live on Eurosport (starting at 21.00h / 9pm Central European time). Ring veteran Timo Hoffmann (aka the „German Oak“) takes on local rival and former amateur standout Steffen Kretschmann in a fight which could easily end the loser’s career. At age 37, it seems to be Hoffmann’s last chance to get himself in position for bigger and more lucrative fights. Kretschmann on the other hand needs a clear victory as well after losing twice to Russian powerhouse Denis Bakhtov and basically disappearing from the heavyweight scene for the last two years.
„Basically, this is a winner takes all fight“, says promoter Ahmet Oner. „Whoever loses in this bout can as well call it a day. Kretschmann was the best and most promising heavyweight prospect we had in Germany for a while but he was exposed by Bakhtov. Steffen just couldn’t handle the public pressure. Hoffmann always had a similar problem, he just couldn’t win the big fights. He fought for the European championship three times in his career and just couldn’t win that belt. Both men know that this is there last chance so I guess it should be a good fight.“
In the second heavyweight clash of the night, WBC Mediterranean champion Erkan Teper defends his belt against hard-hitting Nigerian Gbenga Oloukun. Originally, Teper was scheduled to face fellow German Konstantin Airich but Airich was taken off the card after testing positive for testosterone. Now Oloukun jumps in who actually knocked out Airich live on Eurosport coming in as a late replacement for another opponent two years ago.
„Fighting Oloukun is never a gimme“, says Oner. „Erkan knows that he has to be very focused. He cannot take any chances. There’s a reason why Oloukun calls himself ‚Bang Bang’. He made himself a name pulling some upsets over the last years so this should be another exciting bout.“
The show takes place at the TABEA Bürgerpark in Halle (Saale) where Hoffmann and Kretschmann will meet for a press conference tomorrow (Sept. 11) at 11am. The offciial weigh-in is scheduled for Thursday (Sept. 13) at 17:00h / 5pm at the Neustadt Centrum, a local shopping mall in Halle. Eurosport wlll broadcast the show live on Friday night (Sept. 14th) starting at 21.00h / 9pm.
The professional boxing career of undefeated Bethlehem, PA, welterweight Ronald Cruz is heating up.
Cruz has won all 17 of his pro fights, 12 by knockout, and he captured the vacant WBC Continental Americas Title with a 12-round decision over Prenice Brewer, of Cleveland, OH, in June in the Events Center of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Before that, Cruz was in against increasingly tough opposition and each time he came out on top. Now he's a ranked contender with an eye on a world title fight.
As the stakes rise, Cruz (right) admits to feeling the pressure, especially when fighting at home before the large crowds he attracts. On Sept. 21, Cruz fights for the third time in Bethlehem and he'll be up against the best boxer he's ever faced.
Miami's Antwone Smith (21-4-1, 12 K0s) has been in with a number of good fighters and has only lost to the best of them. The 25-year-old Smith, nicknamed "The Truth", figures to test Cruz and show the boxing world if Cruz is the real thing.
Two additional main attractions on the card, televised live by the NBC Sports Network Fight Night series, include: Charles Whittaker, of the Cayman Islands, vs. Gabriel Rosado, of Philadelphia, PA, 12 rounds, IBF junior middleweight eliminator; Sergey Kovalev, of Chelyabinsk, Russia, vs. Lionell Thompson, of Buffalo, NY, 10 rounds, light-heavyweights.
"Watching his fights," Cruz said about Smith, "I think he brings a lot of weapons to the ring. More so than other fighters I've faced. But I feel ready for this and think I'll be able to prove a point with this fight."
Cruz wants to show the world that he is ready to step up into the big-time, but perhaps more than anyone, the tough self-critic wants to prove it to himself.
"I feel like I've learned a lot from my last two fights," Cruz said. I went 10 rounds with Allen Conyers (in February) and I went 12 with Brewer. I think now that I should have been able to stop both. With that said, I feel like I'm a lot better fighter now than I was in my last fight."
That last fight against Brewer in June haunts Cruz. He won it comfortably, but he wanted to make a statement to the large crowd that had bought tickets at a record clip and filled the 2,000-seat Sands Events Center for its first boxing event. The card that night also featured popular Philly fighter Gabriel Rosado, and both their fights were broadcast live as part of the NBC Sports Network Fight Night boxing series. But make no mistake about it, the crowd was there to see Ronald Cruz.
Cruz looked good in the fight and seemed to be on his way to a KO, but Brewer (below right) proved to be survivor and lasted the distance. Cruz felt he disappointed his hometown fans.
"I wasn't very happy with it," Cruz said of his performance. "I know I'm very capable of doing a lot better than that. The atmosphere played into it. That was all part of the added pressure. Fighting in front of the crowd, fighting in TV, fighting for a title, it was a lot of pressure."
He's determined to get it right against Smith.
"When I go in there this time, it should be like it's nothing new," Cruz said. It should be a walk in the park this time."
Even though Smith looks like his hardest match so far, Cruz feels that their styles will mesh well for him.
"Smith likes to fight on the inside," Cruz said. "He's a pretty good inside fighter. So am I. It should be a pretty exciting fight. I'm a natural body puncher. That's always part of the game plan. Work the body. I think that always works."
As Cruz talks about waging an inside war, his mood lightens. He seems relaxed. He can see it.
"I don't know what he's going to come with," Cruz said about Smith. "I don't know if he's going to try to box and use angles on me of if he's going to try to sit down in the pocket with me. I know when the fight gets heated up, he's going to end up fighting in the inside with me. I think I'm stronger than him on the inside."
Cruz’ trainer, Lemuel "Indio" Rodriguez, is confident, given how hard his fighter has been working at the Allentown Boxing Club.
"He's going to look sharp for this fight,” Rodriguez said. “We used to be in the gym at 6. Now we're in the gym at 5 because he's motivated. We’re ready for the fight."
Cruz knows that he needs to continue winning to keep the momentum going.
"I look at it now and see I'm No. 11 in the IBF, and No. 10 in the WBC and you know, I'm really close. Like I said, I'm looking to make a statement with this fight. Not only show the people that I can hang with these top fighters in the world, but also show my people, my promoters, that I'm ready for the world-class fighters out there. And hopefully get a title fight sometime soon."
Rodriguez: "Ronald Cruz was born to be a champion. He's ready. We wait for the time to come and for the phone call. He's ready. We never say 'no' to any challenge."
To see him now, you'd never think that Cruz was anything but the mature adult he embodies at this moment. But like many young guys, the streets once called for his attention. He had his days in those streets, but that time is passed. Today, he's married and a father and completely focused on his career.
However, those streets have taken their toll. Ronald's brother, Raymond Cruz, died of a drug overdose in 2001. Today he fights for his deceased brother, whose birthday falls on the day after Ronald's fight with Smith.
"We called him Jay," Cruz said. "His birthday is actually Sept. 22. So it's just the joy of giving him a present on his birthday. To win that night--and a big win."
Rodriguez: "Fighting in his hometown is a beautiful thing. He's a kid that passed through a lot. And to see a kid like him, the way he used to be when he was younger, the things he used to do when he was in the street. Now he's doing great, and he can show people how beautiful God is with the kids who want to change their lives. So what better place could he show all the young guys."
Although he's coping with added pressure these days, and doing his best to handle it gracefully, Cruz isn't afraid to take on the extra stress of being a role model to those young kids.
"I welcome it," Cruz said. "My mentality is not to be out there partying and doing all the other stuff. (I'm) just living my life right, and healthy, and focused on my career. What's better role model than just being focused on what you want to do?"
Against Antwone Smith, Cruz will be fighting for those kids, his brother, his demanding fan base and his future in the boxing game, but he seems to be taking it all in stride.