A first time for everything, a new champ and a war hero that fought for boxers

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My father grew up in the “Golden Age of Boxing” watching bouts featuring fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Joe Lewis and (IMHO) the greatest ever Rocky Marciano.

Dad and I always compare notes on fights. But when I called him Friday night to ask what we had just witnessed, he didn’t even bother with “Hello.”

He answered the phone with, “Now I’ve seen everything.”

Heavyweights Curtis Harper and Efe Ajagba (Nigerian, that’s why the exotic moniker) entered a ring in Minnesota.

Saying that Harper (13-6, 9 KO’s) looked “doughy” is an understatement. He had more spare tires around his waist than the Michelin Man.

Ajagba (6-0, 5 KO’s) pulled off his shirt to reveal a lean, mean, fighting machine…and a set of shoulders that Atlas would have envied.

When the referee called them to the center of the ring to give final instructions, Harper accessed his opponent: Ajagba was 3” taller (it looked more like 6”) and sported a 10” reach advantage.

The ref sent them back to their corners, the bell rang, and Harper immediately stepped through the ropes, trotted to the stairs, and beat a hasty retreat back up the entrance ramp to the dressing room.

Harper reportedly stated that he wasn’t getting paid enough for that.

Dad and I concurred.

***

The main event on a card from Arizona was the contest for the WBO world lightweight title.

Last February, on his fourth try at a world title, Raymundo Beltran dominated Paulus Moses for all 12 rounds to win by unanimous decision.

Beltran’s original (and mandatory) challenger for the first defense of his title had to drop out due to an emergency appendectomy and was replaced with a much tougher usurper in the personage of multi-talented Jose Pedraza.

The action in the opening frame was nonstop and pretty much even.

Pedraza is an orthodox fighter that switches to the southpaw stance when it might benefit…and it did in Round 2.

Fighting as a lefty he whipped in a right hook that connected, and opened a cut over Beltran’s left lamp.

Beltran continued advancing in the early rounds while Pedraza backed away, picked off the punches and countered with some stiff rights.

Into the middle rounds, Pedraza became the aggressor. He moved forward, set the pace, and reopened the cut over Beltran’s eye.

Beltran closed the distance to neutralize his opponent’s reach advantage and did some work to the body to try to slow down Pedraza’s advances.

Most of the exchanges were toe-to-toe in this very entertaining fight, and the give and take remained exciting into the late rounds.

In the last minute or Round 11 Beltran ducked into a left uppercut that put him on his glutes, for the only knockdown of the match.

Pedraza unleashed a flurry in the final seconds of the fight that left Beltran dazed and drained.

Going to the scorecards one judge saw it 112-115 in favor of Pedraza, which seemed to be a proper representation of how close this fight was.

The other two judges scored it 110-117 for Pedraza.

That felt a little heavy, but was still within reason.

***

Senator John McCain’s passing is a sad note in boxing history.

McCain (1936-2018) was a true American hero in every sense of the term and a patriot beyond reproach to anyone with a good heart, or functioning brain.

McCain, a good friend to the sport of boxing and an advocate for fair and consistent judging, introduced the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.

This law protects the rights and welfare of boxers by helping state commissions oversee the sport in an effort to cease the exploitation of boxers and put an end to “fixing” fights and the “rigging” of rankings.

Senator John McCain will be sorely missed by fans of the sweet science, common sense and moral dignity.

God Bless, and our prayers go out to McCain’s family and friends.

Mark Felicetti salutes the passing of a fallen war hero. Reach him at mark@tolucantimes.com.

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