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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Look Back: Saoul Mamby

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will present monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

"Gentleman" Glen Johnson, alias the Road Warrior, recently retired from boxing at the age of 43 after nearly 20 years in the ring. The career of Johnson, who won a world championship after a prolonged period of time in the sport, resembles that of "Sweet" Saoul Mamby in many ways. Mamby, also a former world champion, was the ultimate road warrior, traveling all over the world in order to exhibit his classy skills and legendary toughness.

Saoul Mamby was born on June 4, 1947 in Bronx, New York. His mother converted to Judaism when Mamby was four years old and Saoul spent much of his childhood in shul. Mamby later said of his youth, "I would be walking down the street and the kids would pull my yarmulke off my head or grab at my tallis bag." As a result, Mamby got into numerous fights as a youngster. He took up the sport of boxing at the age of 16.

Within a couple of years, he found some success in the amateurs and, by 1968, he was shipped off to Vietnam. "I was in 'Nam for one year, six days, and four hours. Did I see combat? Yeah, enough. And boxing is easier." After he was discharged, he returned to his father's homeland of Jamaica, where he started his professional boxing career. Mamby didn't lose any of his first nine bouts. In his fourteenth fight, he was the aggressor against the talented and undefeated Edwin Viruet, a fight that ended in a draw.

Losses then dotted Mamby's record over the next four and a half years in hallowed places such as Madison Square Garden in New York and Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On May 4, 1976, Mamby took on Roberto Duran. "I survived," Mamby said of that fight. Later that year, Mamby went the distance with another star, Antonio Cervantes.

Saoul was a crafty boxer, who worked off of his jab. He threw punches even more rapidly in a three minute span than a politician can spew lies. And his attacks came from all angles. He was the master of the feint. Mamby was adept at tucking his chin underneath his left shoulder and rolling with his opponent's punches. But if Mamby was hit, he exhibited a chin made of granite. He chose not to represent his Jewishness on his trunks. "I figured I was here to execute my talents, not my religion," he reasoned.

In 1977, Mamby got the opportunity to fight for the WBC light welterweight title against Saesak Muangsurin in the champion's home country of Thailand. Two of the three judges decided that the hometown man had won the fight, denying Mamby his championship. Mamby later credited Muangsurin as being one of the two strongest opponents he's ever faced.

Mamby saw more of the world than the Harlem Globetrotters. He was always the road fighter. He'd take fights on short notice. But Sweet Saoul's preparation couldn't be questioned. "I'm always ready. Whenever I train for a fight I make my opponent out to be as good as possible. I visualize a strong, fast, smart opponent... That way, when the fight comes, if he has those qualities I'm ready. And if he doesn't, I'm ahead of the game."

In 1980, the 5'8" Bronx man with the abnormally long reach was ready when he traveled to Seoul, Korea to fight the WBC 140 pound champion, Sang-Hyun Kim. A straight right on the tail end of a one-two combo put the southpaw Kim down in the 14th round. As Kim was guided back to his corner, the fight was stopped. Mamby collapsed to his knees and his arms jolted into the air. Screeches of joy exploded from his mouth. As would be the case with Glen Johnson, it took Mamby over ten years to become a world champion. "It was a shock to the boxing world that I won," Mamby later explained, "It wasn't a shock to me." He had been trailing on the cards at the time of the stoppage.

Mamby, a poet in addition to a boxer, wrote in part after the fight:
In the fourteenth round we stood toe-to-toe
And I said to myself he must go.
So with a right hand straight to the chin
I knew then and there I was going to win.

The unexpected champion defended his title five times. In that span, he became the only man not named Duran to stop Esteban De Jesus. As with most of Mamby's opponents, De Jesus wore down physically and mentally. Mamby held his foe the way Mozart composed music or Albert Einstein thought. Not only would his holding neutralize the competitor's offense, but it would sap his strength, leaving him susceptible to Mamby's attacks in the later rounds. Jo Kimpuani managed to last until the final bell, but as with De Jesus, he wasn't nearly as crisp as Mamby by the end of the fight.

In 1983, Irish Leroy Haley took Mamby's title away. Haley pressured the champion early and then backed off later. This seemed to confuse Mamby enough to throw him off a bit. Mamby kept his jab active. Saoul was always relaxed in the ring, another reason that allowed him to stay fresh as Haley faded. But Haley held on to take a split decision. In the return bout eight months later, Haley won a close unanimous decision to retain his belt.

Mamby's final shot at a world championship came on November 3, 1984 against Bill Costello. Unsurprisingly, the fight took place in Costello's hometown of Kingston, New York. Initially, Haley was supposed to be Costello's opponent, but an injury forced him out less than a week before the fight. CBS suggested Mamby. Costello's manager Mike Jones said, "I don't want Mamby. Styles make fights. Everything Billy has worked for the last five years could go down the drain." Costello's trainer Victor Valle concurred, "Mamby's style is all wrong for Billy."

But the fight was forced down their throats. Mamby used his cagey skills to wear down Costello. But Costello wouldn't relent and despite exhaustion, carried virtually every round. In the 11th, Costello landed an uppercut that would have knocked cold a mere mortal. Blood gushed out of Mamby's mouth. But as Costello put it, "When you hit Mamby, he gets tougher."  He continued, "I hit him [with] about ten good shots that would have knocked most fighters down, and he just kept coming."

Afterwards, Mamby admitted, "My mind told me what to do, but my reflexes just wouldn't do them." He seemed to take the hint his body was offering him. "I'll miss it. I love boxing. Everything passed too soon." He was 37 years old.

But like that woman you just can't do without no matter how much she hurts you, Mamby continued to make his livelihood inside the ropes. He was back in the ring within a year and fought often for the next ten years. Notable fights in that span include a loss to Buddy McGirt and a split in two fights with Glenwood Brown.

After four years off, Mamby returned to the ring in 1998, fighting four more times. He retired at the improbable age of 53. But that wasn't it. Mamby returned to fight in 2008, losing a ten round decision at the age of 60, making him possibly the oldest sanctioned boxer in history. His record is 45-34-6 with 19 KOs. He was KOed once; he was 46 years old at the time. Rest assured, a large number of those 34 losses were dubious hometown decisions for the other guy.

Nowadays, Mamby talks a little slower, but he still hangs around the gym in his native New York, a reminder, as Glen Johnson has been, of a bygone era of tough men in boxing.

Saoul Mamby vs. Esteban De Jesus
July 7, 1980
Bloomington, Minnesota
Metropolitan Sports Center
WBC light welterweight title

Blady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Hauser, Thomas. The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing. 1986.
Malinowski, Scoop. "Saoul Mamby: When I Boxed A Legend... Roberto Duran." Boxing Insider. 2012.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seldin's Right Ends the Fight

Last night, Cletus "the Hebrew Hammer" Seldin connected with a tremendous right hand that sent his opponent, Jonathan Garcia, down in the opening round, stopping the fight. The bout was the fourth in a row for Seldin, who wore his customary purple trunks, held at the Paramount Theatre in Long Island, New York.

Garcia was able to touch an aggressive Cletus with a number of loose slapping punches early, but he exhibited a bad habit of dropping his hands before throwing. That allowed Seldin to nail him with a tight right a minute into the bout. Another right came crashing onto Garcia's face a minute later amid chants from the crowd of "Hammer! Hammer!" Two minutes and ten seconds into the clash, Seldin launched a highlight-quality looping right that stopped things.

The Hebrew Hammer earned his sixth career knockout and second first round stoppage. His record is now 8-0. Garcia fell to 3-3 with 1 KOs.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seldin Has a New Opponent

Cletus Seldin will have a new opponent for tomorrow night's clash in the ring at the Paramount Theatre in Long Island, New York. The new opponent will be Jonathan Garcia, a 19 year old from Puerto Rico. Ronnie Warrior Jr. was the originally-scheduled foe.

Garcia (3-2, 1 KOs) marks Seldin's fifth opponent with a winning record. Seldin (7-0, 5 KOs) is almost seven years older than Garcia. Seldin is the naturally bigger man, a big advantage for someone so strong for his weight. Garcia is a junior welterweight who hit the scales at 142 for this one. Seldin is a welterweight who has weighed as high as 148 pounds and has never been below 143. He weighed in at 144.5 pounds this time.

Seldin has had all seven of his pro fights within the previous 13 months. He last fought in March. Garcia has fought two other undefeated opponents. He's 1-1 in those fights.

This fight is scheduled for six rounds.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brooks and Groenteman Update

Mike "Lefty" Brooks is slated to face Joey Arroyo on August 11 at the Plattduetsche Restaurant in his home county of Long Island, New York. Brooks last fought in May, a fight in which he earned his second career KO.

Brooks (7-0, 2 KOs) will be facing his first opponent with a winning record. Arroyo (3-2-1) will have a two and half inch advantage and two year advantage. But Arroyo hasn't fought since January of 2010, a UD loss to Kermit Gonzalez. The lightweight bout is scheduled for eight rounds. Neither man has fought more than six.

Junior welterweight Barry Groenteman has faced some bad luck in 2012. After coming down on the wrong side of a disputed split decision against Andrea Carbonello in March, two of his subsequent fights were cancelled. Groenteman (7-5-1, 2 KOs) will get a rematch against Carbonello (8-1-1, 1 KO) on October 15 at the Theater Carré in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The bout is planned for ten rounds and is for the Dutch light welterweight belt.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Boxing's Positive Impact

The two videos below are really worth watching. Both show the positivity that can derive from boxing. In the first video, Muslims and Jews from Britiain travel together to watch Amir Khan take on Dmitriy Salita in their 2009 world title clash. The youths bond over boxing and the 1990s television show Saved by the Bell (but mostly boxing). In the second video, Boyd Melson accepts an award for his work in raising funds for stem cell research for spinal cord injuries.

Muslim guy: "Saved by the Bell was good."
Jewish guy: "Saved by the Bell was sick."

About donating his boxing purses to stem cell research, Melson says, "[Dr. Wise Young] said, 'I'm trying to regrow back neurons and you're losing neurons in the process.'"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Finer KOs Opponent

Hagar Shmoulefeld Finer earned her seventh consecutive victory last Saturday with a convincing fourth round stoppage of Austria's Bettina Granasi at the Impact Gym in Munich, Germany. With the win, Finer retained her IBF bantamweight crown.

This signified Finer's fifth defense of the belt. Although she was faced a less-than-heralded opponent (Granasi is now 4-4 with one KO), the win was impressive since Finer hadn't fought since January of 2011. Finer, who weighed 115 pounds (one more than her opponent), moves her mark to 24-7-3. She earned her seventh knockout.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chilemba to Face Erdei in September

Isaac Chilemba is preparing to face the toughest opponent of his career in the person of former two-time world champion Zsolt Erdei at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut on September 29. DiBella Entertainment is putting on the card and the fight could be shown on HBO.

Chilemba (19-1-1, 9 KOs) is a 6'1" 25-year old from Malawi with good wins over Edison Miranda and Maxim Vlasov. He drew with Thomas Oosthuizen in 2010. Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) is a 5'10" 38-year old from Hungary. He was the WBO light heavyweight champion from 2004 until 2009 when he moved up to win a cruiserweight belt against Giacobbe Fragomeni. Erdei promptly moved back down to light heavyweight after that bout.

Chilemba has been far busier of the two men. He defeated Miranda in February and fought three times in 2011. The veteran Erdei fought once in 2011 and once in 2010. Chilemba is the ninth rated light heavyweight according to The Ring. Erdei had been rated by The Ring until he relinquished his spot earlier this month because he hadn't fought for over a year at that point. In fact, Erdei's last fight was a sixth round TKO victory over journeyman Byron Mitchell on June 4, 2011. He had been rated fifth.

The bout is scheduled for ten rounds.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Melson to Fight August 2

Junior middleweight Boyd "Rainmaker" Melson is scheduled to fight on Thursday, August 2 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York. Melson hopes to get back into the win column after an exciting and controversial loss to Delen Parsley in March.

Melson (8-1, 4 KOs), who will fight for the fourth time at Roseland, injured his orbital bone in sparring before a bout scheduled last month. He will donate his purse, as always, to help stem cell research for spinal cord injuries. More information at Justadollarplease.org and Team Fight To Walk which boasts at least 15 boxers among its members, including Parsley.

Melson is scheduled to face Khalik Memminger (6-8-3, 3 KOs). Melson stated, "[Memminger has] been in tough fights and is by far the most experienced professional I have been in the ring with yet. As I do with everything I am passionate about, I have pushed myself hard in camp in preparation for a hard night's work August 2nd." The bout is marked for six rounds.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wohlman Wins Again

Zachary Wohlman outboxed Jose Martell on route to a points victory last night at the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, California. Scores were 40-36 twice and 39-37. Both men weighed 148 pounds for the contest.

Wohlman utilized the jab to control the one-sided affair. Promisingly, he has exhibited improvement in each of his first four fights. With the win, he advances to 4-0 and has one knockout. Martell, a 34 year old from Arizona, falls to 2-3-1.

In addition, here is an interview with Wohlman conducted by Chris Strait. And here's another with Benny Henderson Jr.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emily Klinefelter Update

Emily Klinefelter entered the ring for her tenth professional fight on February 5, 2011 in her hometown of Johnson City, Iowa. Her opponent was Christina Ruiz. The fight ended in the third round when referee Gilbert Richardson reached the count of ten with Klinefelter laying on the floor unresponsive.

Disaster had struck. A blood clot had formed in her brain. Things seemed dire. She was brought to the hospital and things were tenuous for a while.

But Emily has fully recovered according to The Gazette. She is no longer allowed box- which means she'll never get the desired rematch against the only woman to best her in the ring- because of a titanium plate in her head. But she now coaches boxing and works as a full time CPA.

It has been a remarkable comeback for the 28 year old. Best wishes to her and her family.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Carolina Duer vs. Corina Carlescu

July 6, 2012
Club Universitario
Buenos Aires, Argentina
WBO super flyweight championship

Duer: purple trunks
Carlescu: black trunks

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Carolina Duer Keeps Rolling

Carolina Duer earned her fourth straight stoppage and her tenth consecutive win in her fifth defense of the WBO super flyweight belt last night. She stopped Corina Carlescu in the fifth round at Club Universitario in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The hometown crowd sang at full throat, urging on their champion, until the fight began and the place fell eerily quiet. Duer began working behind the jab, but quickly dispensed with that strategy to fire punishing left hooks to the body and head. Her flowing hair whipped with the force of her shots. Carlescu relentlessly came forward, but did little else besides absorbing punches in that opening stanza.

In the corner, Duer needed a hairstylist more than a cutman. Her hair was wrapped in a tight bun to avoid it from blinding her when she stopped her movement, planted, and attacked Carlescu. For Carlescu's part, throughout the fight, she seemed to gradually heat up like an old car on a cold morning until disaster struck in third.

In that round, Duer put a stunned Carlescu down with a left hook. To Carlsecu's credit, and speaking to her courage, she rose and continued to come forward. In fact, she probably deserved the fourth as her right hand seemed to become friendlier with Duer's face.

But the fifth round was another story entirely. Duer rocked the Romanian early with a frightening overhand right 30 seconds into the round. After throwing pot shots for about a minute, the champion began jumping in, landing devastating combinations, and jumping out, only to repeat immediately thereafter. Once she realized the win was within reach, Duer ran through the finish line, not pausing to give Carlescu a chance. The referee, Gustavo Tomas, stepped in to wave off the fight with 23 seconds left in the fifth.

After her fifth knockout, Duer moves to 12-3. Carlescu tumbles to 8-5-1 with five KOs.

In other women's boxing news, Hagar Finer is scheduled to defend her WIBF bantamweight belt on Saturday, July 14 at the Impact Gym in Munich, Germany. Finer hasn't fought since a split decision victory in January of 2011. No opponent has been named as of yet

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seldin to Face Warrior

Welterweight Cletus Seldin is scheduled to battle Ronnie Warrior Jr. on Saturday, July 28 at the Paramount Theatre in Long Island, New York. The bout is penciled in for six rounds.

Seldin's first year as a professional has been a productive one. He's won his first seven fights and stopped five of them inside the distance. Seldin has been effective because he's been aggressive. He prefers to come forward while winging power punches at his opponent. Seldin is also incredibly strong.

His first year has been an intriguing one to follow for boxing fans. There was the wild fight against Clarence Booth that looked like a wrestling match at times. There was also a fight against Rashad Bogar that started inauspiciously for Seldin and ended with a dominating victory and Bogar claiming that Seldin's gloves smelled fishy. Turns out his gloves only smelled like Bogar's bruised face.

Ronnie Warrior (13-6-1, 4 KOs), a southpaw, signifies a step up for Seldin. Warrior is a capable journeyman who went the full eight rounds with Dmitriy Salita in April of 2011. The 35 year old, who has an amazing eight no contests on his record, first turned pro in 1998. The Oklahoma native has lost his last four fights, all to solid competition who combined for a record of 67-2-3 at the time Warrior competed against them.

But Warrior's last win came in 2007. In his last fight, which took place last December, he was put down three times and stopped against Azael Cosio. Seldin has fought twice in 2012, both knockout victories.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Duer Looks to Continue Reign

Carolina Raquel Duer is scheduled to make her fifth defense of the WBO super flyweight title. Her opponent will be Corina Carlescu and the fight will be held at Club Universitario in Duer's hometown of  Buenos Aires, Argentina this Friday, July 6.

Duer (11-3, 4 KOs) is currently on a nine fight win streak that dates back to 2008. Before the streak began, she had a losing record, but has turned her career around to become a world champion.

Carlescu (8-4-1, 5 KOs) is from Romania. She has stopped her two previous opponents and has never been KOed. Carlescu weighed 105.25 pounds for her last fight. She will be moving up nearly ten pounds in weight for this one.

The title contest is marked for ten two-minute rounds.