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Monday, September 16, 2019

A Bloodied Fury Wins, But More Uncertainty For The Heavyweight Division Looms 


by Eddie Goldman

You hear it all the time, one of those empty boxing cliches that is casually ignored by anyone who has seen a few fights before. Anything can happen in boxing, especially with the big heavyweights, we are assured before each fight. But most of those same fights are the result of careful matchmaking which virtually guarantees who will win, without formally fixing them. Then what is expected and planned for usually happens, with the talking heads extolling the prowess of the all-but-predetermined victor. Already this year we have had blowout wins for Andy Ruiz over Alexander Dimitrenko, Deontay Wilder over Dominic Breazeale, and Tyson Fury over Tom Schwarz.

But it is still somewhat of a sport and not completely scripted like the fake "wrestling". At times, then, the best laid plans of mice and their two-legged cousins, the boxing promoters, go awry. Again just this year, Anthony Joshua was scheduled to fight Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller, who, after an exceptionally nasty press conference at Madison Square Garden, infamously failed three drug tests and was pulled from the fight. His late replacement, the rotund Ruiz, then on June 1, as we know, dispatched an untypically unenthusiastic and bewildered Joshua in seven rounds to capture his collection of heavyweight titles. Their scheduled December 7 rematch was also placed in a novel and highly controversial venue, Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, right outside the capital city of Riyadh -- assuming that the many bombings of that country by those fighting the Saudis in Yemen don't land too close to the Saudi fight site, or that a full-scale war doesn't break out.

This past Saturday, September 14, we had what was supposed to be an easy sparring-like session for Tyson Fury against the unbeaten but little-known Otto Wallin. This was a step in Fury's rehabilitation since his two-and-a-half year hiatus due to drugs, drink, and depression, followed by two warmup bouts and then a tough fight last December with Deontay Wilder, a split draw which most fair and unbought people thought Fury had won. The plan was for Fury to breeze through some rounds here, sing songs in the ring after winning, and have one more gimme fight in December before facing Wilder in a rematch February 22 of next year. Wilder is also said to be facing Luis "King Kong" Ortiz in a rematch sometime in November, or maybe not, as this bout still has not been officially announced just two months out.

The buildup to the Fury-Wallin fight was designed, to a degree, to heighten awareness of Fury in America. It was set in Las Vegas on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, with Fury sporting the colors of the Mexican flag, donning at press events a lucha libre mask like those used by Mexican pro wrestlers, and during his endless ring walk wearing a sombrero, albeit backwards, while live Mexican music was played.

While the intent was to build Fury's American profile, this fight was shown in the U.S. not on the ESPN TV network, but on its newer and far less popular ESPN+ app, which at most only has a few million subscribers in total. This allowed for a field day for people who were posting illegal streams online, even as the ESPN police played whack-a-mole to try to get them taken down while others cropped up like flowers in a spring rain.

Despite all the theatrics before the fight and focus on Fury and his antics, Wallin, who almost exclusively had previously fought in Europe, was not intimidated. In fact, he trains in New York with former world champion Joey Gamache so was not a newbie to the strange ways of the Americans. Sure, he had nothing on his resume to suggest that he would be anything other than an opponent for Fury, and was way short on experience, having had an eight-round fight only last year and never facing even a top ten fighter before. The odds were long in Fury's favor, and sensibly so.

And then the fight started. Opinions are divided on who won the first two relatively uneventful rounds, with a few folks even giving them both to Wallin. Fury was largely inactive, unexpectedly not jabbing or going to the body that much, and giving up his height advantage. But feeling out rounds are common in boxing and often set the stage for the expected winners to cruise to victory or crush their foes.

And then round three commenced. In the final minute of that round, while the ESPN+ announcers were chatting about Deontay Wilder and such, the southpaw Wallin landed a left hand around Fury's right eye, on the eyebrow, and what would soon become a gruesome cut opened up. A little later the announcers finally noticed it, as Fury began pawing at it. A few rounds later Fury suffered yet another cut, this time on the right eyelid.

These cuts would change the entire trajectory of the fight. The sages of the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled that the first and worst cut was caused by a punch, and not a clash of heads. But later when asked on the telecast about it, Fury's trainer Ben Davison said that the cut came from a head clash, meaning that the commission had informed the ESPN announcers of their ruling but not Fury and his corner.

The significance of this, of course, is what the verdict would have been if the fight had to be stopped because of the cuts. If a fight is stopped by a cut from a punch, it is a TKO victory for the fighter who threw the punch over the cut fighter, regardless of the scores at that point. But if it is stopped because of a cut caused by a head clash or another foul, then the scorecards come into play if the fight has gone past four rounds, in most jurisdictions. The partial round is scored and the winner is whoever is ahead on the cards. If fewer than four rounds had been completed, then it is a no decision and nobody wins or loses, except of course the fans and gamblers who lose.

Fury was able to soldier on, but for a few rounds looked rather listless. In the sixth round, with Fury's blood flowing more freely all over his face, Wallin, and referee Tony Weeks, the round was halted midway for the ringside doctor to check the cuts. After a brief visit, the doctor told the referee that the fight could continue, and it did. At this point, the scorecards were all over the place, but some had the determined underdog Wallin even with Fury or even ahead on points.

Suddenly with round seven Fury began to unleash his hands. Though he was still fighting a bit stooped over as he often does, he realized that this was no gimme fight and he had to change his gameplan to do his best impression of what a slugfest would look like. Fury would dominate rounds seven through 11, although he failed to drop Wallin.

The cuts were still grotesque, though, as ESPN curiously avoided showing a camera angle which displayed Fury's very bloody right side. Wallin rallied in the final round, but for most observers it was too late for him to capture a decision win.

The final tallies were of course mostly way too wide in favor of the house fighter and money maker Fury, who won unanimously by scores of 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112, with only the latter one resembling what happened in the ring.

While Fury performed his act in the in-ring, post-fight interview, calling out the "bum" and "big dosser" Wilder, he did admit the cuts played a major role. He said that for the majority of the fight he could not see out of the left eye, although it was around the right one where he was cut and the blood drenched that side of his face. He probably meant to say the right eye, but even if it was an inadvertent slip after an unexpectedly tough 12-round fight, he never told the referee or any official that his vision was impaired at all. Had he done so, the fight would very likely have been stopped, as is more or less protocol.

Fury did not attend the post-fight press conference, as he was in the hospital getting a reported 47 stitches from a plastic surgeon. His trainer Ben Davison, called "Dan" by promoter Bob Arum, was though, and he admitted the same thing as Fury had. After the fight Davison was quoted as saying, "Obviously he was struggling to see, but he had to make it look like he wasn't struggling to see."

Of course, it is debatable whether or not the cuts should have led to this fight being stopped. Fury saw well enough to dominate the second half of the fight. While hideous in appearance, the main cut was on the brow, and may have looked worse than it actually was as the blood and sweat mixed as they dripped down Fury's face. And this is big stakes, professional heavyweight boxing. But the lack of sustained interest by the ringside doctors in checking the cuts and Fury's ability to see is worth noting.

Also after the fight, John Fury, Tyson's father and former trainer, ripped into his current trainer Davison and the preparation for this fight. The elder Fury was watching on the BT Sport Box Office broadcast in the U.K., since he is barred from entering the U.S. following a 2011 conviction for gouging another man's eye out and serving four years in prison for it. John Fury said his son looked weak as a kitten, looked out of shape and weight-drained, had no snap on his punches and no movement or timing, and was very lucky to emerge with a win. He implied that this was the result of major problems in the training camp for this fight, again only three months after the Tom Schwarz two-round blowout. And he called for his son to fire Ben Davison. Some of this may be professional jealousy between trainers, but even these charges, however exaggerated, have grains of truth.

So now what? Clearly scratched is any plan for Fury to fight another tuneup in December before facing Wilder on February 22. While his promoters assured the world that Fury will be all healed up and ready to train for this rematch with Wilder, no one should be surprised if the cuts or other problems cause this fight to be postponed again. It was originally planned for this past May, but right before signing for this fight Fury signed a lucrative deal with ESPN and Top Rank as his co-promoter, reported to be for about $100 million, and instead scheduled a series of these tuneups rather than facing Wilder next after their December 2018 battle. Now with his face all chopped up, another delay would hardly shock anyone. And that doesn't even take into account the unwieldy plan of having the rematch shown in the U.S. as a joint pay-per-view of rival networks ESPN and Fox.

Wilder's plans also appear to be in flux. We have been told for months that his next fight will be a rematch with Luis "King Kong" Ortiz. This is also a potentially dangerous fight against the aging Ortiz, who almost stopped Wilder in their first encounter last year. Even if Wilder wins, as we saw with the victorious Fury, heavyweights cut and get cut, creating chaos for long-term scheduling of fights. Whatever factors have led to the delay in formally announcing this fight, perhaps involving once again rival TV networks like Showtime and Fox, now there is yet one more reason not to have it at all. Ironically, though, a delay for Fury-Wilder 2 could actually improve the chances of it occurring, since if it takes place in November there will be more than three months for Wilder to return to face Fury. But it also was mentioned on the BBC that there were whispers this week in Las Vegas that Wilder-Ortiz 2 will not take place at all, so we shall see.

As a standalone fight, the Fury-Wallin fight was indeed dramatic and compelling. It made for entertaining viewing for the fans whether in the arena or watching on TV or via streams. Wallin certainly proved he had been severely underrated, and quite likely earned himself some more big fights and paydays. All night the fight was the top trending topic on Twitter in the U.S., although it has not been revealed how many people actually saw it legally in the U.S. on ESPN+.

But the reported attendance at Las Vegas' 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena was only 8,249, and we have seen before that these early and unofficial numbers have been inflated by the promoters. That same Saturday night, a larger crowd of 17,760 saw the Detroit Tigers, last place in the American League Central, defeat the Baltimore Orioles, last place in the American League East, by a score of 8-4 in 12 innings, and each already with 100 or more losses.

With the winning teams in baseball still in heated races to get to the playoffs and World Series in October, and with the NFL and college football gobbling up the sports TV ratings in America, what is next in the top tier of boxing's heavyweight division is unclear, unsettled, and unknown. The promoters and fighters are trying to fill this void by intensifying their trash talk about one another, but those are not the kind of fights the fans pay for.

With all this chaos and uncertainty, the goal of crowning an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world is as remote as ever. The promoters and networks will declare with straight faces that all their fights are great. But an historical opportunity to have one world heavyweight champion is slipping away, and as it does, so might the interest of the paying public.

(Photo of Tyson Fury by Mikey Williams/Top Rank.)

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Wrestling Dream (Updated) 


[Note: I first posted this piece on my Patreon page, which I will no longer be updating, on July 3 of this year. Since then, I have found out that the African Warriors Fighting Championship is featuring traditional wrestling from Nigeria on its program. This form of wrestling is very similar to the traditional wrestling of other parts of Africa, including laamb in Senegal, which the original article mentions. The next event of the African Warriors Fighting Championship takes place Saturday, September 14, in Lagos, Nigeria. But the main point still stands, that a World Festival of Wrestling is needed to boost the sport worldwide, and that this remains "A Wrestling Dream".]

by Eddie Goldman

There doesn't seem to be a way to control the content of your dreams, as much as we would like to be able to do so. But while awake we can write about what we would prefer be in them.

Consider for a moment the sport of wrestling, the world's oldest. Many of us have dreamt for years of the re-establishment of some sort of real professional wrestling. There have been numerous failed attempts at this, foiled mainly by the lack of expertise in sports management and marketing by those, especially from the U.S., who have blundered their way to rather quick collapse of these efforts.

So how can we have have a revived real professional wrestling, who will run it, and where will it come from?

It certainly won't be from the leadership of international wresting.

Since almost being axed from the Olympic Program five years ago, it has managed to retain its place there. However, it is still a self-inflicted victim of incomprehensible and ever-changing rules, repeated allegations of match-fixing, and a leadership with at least one character who has been barred from entering the U.S. for decades on allegations of being a major criminal. Olympic wrestling is beautiful, but it is run by ugly people, and under these circumstances destined to remain rather anonymous.

Nor will it come from those currently running the bulk of American wrestling.

College wrestling in the U.S. actually outdraws international wrestling both on TV and in arenas, but also is a relatively small sport with limited regional popularity. While it has potential to grow, it is under the thumb of the NCAA, which has little interest, i.e., earns greater revenue from a few bigger sports, in expanding it. Plus, many of the people running American wrestling are completely hidebound and take decades to catch up to changes in society, if they ever do. And outside the U.S., the American folkstyle wrestling practiced in colleges and schools in the U.S. basically doesn't exist. So college wrestling is more or less stuck in the NCAA mud.

There are a few types of wrestling which show potential to be part of fulfilling this dream.

First is catch wrestling. This was the style, where you win by pin or submission, that was used a century ago when real professional wrestling (to the degree that it was indeed real then) was a major spectator sport. Since the total devolution of pro wrestling into a non-sport spectacle, no one has succeeded in re-establishing it as real sport on any sizeable and viable scale. Even today, there are fewer catch tournaments than there were just a few years ago, and very few people involved in it have even bothered to learn how professional sports are run today, despite there being hundreds of sports management programs in colleges and universities.

But while catch wrestling is floundering, and perhaps at one of its lowest points in a decade, many of the people involved in it remain active in it and other combat sports. The talent is out there, but no one has harnessed it. And if organized properly, this style of wrestling has a track record of appealing to fans.

Another appealing style is sumo. In Japan, it is still a popular professional sport, but the officials running it there have shown no inclination to expand it internationally. And sumo in Japan has also been rocked by scandal after scandal.

Sumo remains, however, a form of wrestling that is very easy to understand. The matches are usually quick and the rules pretty clear. It is also a visually appealing sport, one that would work well in this video age and even for those watching on smartphones, whose screen sizes expand with each new crop of models.

There have also been some attempts at organizing pro sumo leagues internationally, and even TV execs have been friendly to such an effort. Bad planning, however, such as relying on costly world tours with little guaranteed attendance, hobbled and eventually ruined these. But again, the untapped potential still exists for sumo.

Next is Shuai Jiao, or the main traditional form of Chinese wrestling. In China, the Great Firewall and lack of international media and marketing expertise have largely kept this sport out of the eyes of the wrestling and sports worlds outside its borders. But reports from China indicate that in many areas it and other styles of traditional wrestling are professional sports with avid followings. Its emphasis on throws also means that it is pretty easy to understand once it is introduced to people, and it is also visually appealing.

Then there is laamb. This is another traditional form of wrestling whose greatest popularity is in Senegal. It is a major professional sport there, although in recent years it has added striking to the rules. But the wrestling part is also easy to understand and not dissimilar from sumo. Laamb's stars are major sports figures in West Africa. It is yet another type of wrestling with untapped potential.

Now, how to utilize this potential?

There are several ways. One is to borrow from the ideas already in use at many events featuring different types of sports.

The World Combat Games, held in 2010 and 2013, featured many styles of combat sports, but was destroyed by political in-fighting in the corrupt Olympic movement, although it is supposed to return in 2021 in Kazakhstan, However, this event is still tied to this Olympic movement and its dodgy international federations, so this will not provide the answer.

Instead, outside of and independently of the Olympic movement, a World Festival of Wrestling featuring these styles should be organized. It can feature these four and perhaps other styles of wrestling. In order to succeed, it needs not only enough money as a key ingredient, but the establishment of a proper organization run by vetted people who are skilled in international sports management, media, and marketing, and have proven their worth in the past. Then there can be national and international video and streaming deals, and some type of tour.

Another alternative is to use the style vs. style angle that jump-started the revival of MMA in the early 1990s. Which style of wrestling is the strongest? Have events where a ruleset is used that is fair to various styles but easy for fans to understand. Have matches pitting top wrestlers from different styles against one another. Use different rules in different matches if need be, as was done long ago at events involving catch wrestling and grappling. Be flexible, but be fair and honest.

Now, where will all these good people come from to organize all this, especially when there have been so many flops and disasters in reviving real professional wrestling?

I did tell you at the start that I was writing about what we would like in dreams. And a dream it does remain, until at least someone comes along to make it a reality.

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Monday, September 09, 2019

No Holds Barred: Bob Carson on Ruiz-Joshua 2 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Bob Carson. We attended this past Thursday's Ruiz-Joshua 2 press conference in New York, and had a lengthy discussion right after it about the fight itself, the media, the controversy about staging the fight in Saudi Arabia, and much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available at Apple Podcasts.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.


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Saturday, September 07, 2019

No Holds Barred: Devin Haney, Manny Robles, Eddie Hearn, Joe Markowski, Ruiz-Joshua 2 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with lightweight contender Devin Haney, heavyweight champ Andy Ruiz's trainer Manny Robles, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, and DAZN executive Joe Markowski.

On September 13 at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) will fight Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) for what is now being billed as the WBC interim lightweight title. The 20-year-old Haney is regarded by many as one of the rising stars of boxing. For the 25-year-old Abdullaev, this will be his first fight outside of his home country of Russia. This is the main event of a card which will be shown live on DAZN in the U.S. and on Sky Sports in the U.K.

We spoke with Devin Haney on a media conference call last month about what to expect in this fight.

On September 5, the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua 2 media tour landed in New York. This fight will take place December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. It is a rematch of their June 1 fight in New York, where Joshua was stopped in seven rounds and lost his heavyweight belts to Ruiz.

As usual, little substance came out of the questions and interviews conducted at this press conference by the largely obsequious and obedient shills and triflers who make up boxing's dwindling media corps. That is not the case here.

At this press conference, we spoke with Joe Markowski, DAZN EVP North America, about the continuing negotiations for worldwide rights to show the Ruiz-Joshua 2 fight on December 7 from Saudi Arabia. As of this recording, DAZN will show it in the U.S. and is trying to get rights for all countries where DAZN operates. He also said the host broadcaster will not be Sky Sports, which is showing this as a pay-per-view in the U.K. The host broadcaster will be "a group attached to the Saudi Arabian government," he said. And we discussed future plans for DAZN, including an announcement expected shortly about the next fight for Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

Next we spoke with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. Little has been explained about the governance for this fight. Hearn said the lead body is the heretofore unknown Saudi Arabia boxing commission. Asked who is on this body, all he would say is, "Who is on it? A group of representatives that have been on it since its inception." Hearn said that this body started operating with the World Boxing Super Series card in September 2018 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, headlined by the Callum Smith-George Groves super middleweight final. But before this statement, there has been no known record of this body's existence on the record keeping site BoxRec. Hearn did add that representatives from the British Boxing Board of Control and from an American commission selected by the Ruiz camp would also be overseeing this fight. And we also discussed issues like the rules and officials for the fight.

Manny Robles, who is Andy Ruiz's trainer, is preparing his fighter to try to defend his newly won heavyweight belts. We discussed what happened in the first fight, what adjustments both Ruiz and Joshua are likely to make in the rematch, how he sees this fight going, and more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Is This The Year African Martial Arts And Combat Sports Explode Onto The World Stage? 

It was in Africa that the martial arts and combat sports originated. And it was Africa that gave these to the world. The tomb paintings of wrestlers and martial artists in the Ancient Egyptian cemetery site now called Beni Hasan from over 4000 years ago are perhaps the most famous surviving illustrations of this history.


For as many millennia as human civilization has existed and developed, African martial arts and combat sports have continued to be taught, practiced, and handed down from generation to generation.

Yet today, owing mainly to the systems of colonialism and imperialism and their all-around subjugation of the African continent, the African martial arts and combat sports have not achieved the worldwide notoriety and recognition that Asian martial arts have had for over a century. Outside Africa, mainly just serious martial arts and combat sports aficionados are even aware of their existence.

That, however, may be beginning to change.

Earlier this year in April, the first event of the African Warriors Fighting Championship (http://africanwarriorsfc.com) was held in the village of Eha Amufu in Enugu state in southeastern Nigeria. This village is known as one of the centers of Nigerian traditional wrestling, which was one of the two sports contested in this debut event. The other sport was Dambe, a traditional form of boxing popular in West Africa where the back hand is wrapped and used for striking while the front hand is used for defense, along with kicks and sweeps being allowed.
(https://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/taking-african-combat-sports-village-world)


While the name African Warriors Fighting Championship may sound similar to those of various mixed martial arts promotions, its plans, according to founder and CEO Maxwell Kalu, who is of Nigerian heritage and based in London, are quite unique.

In an interview on No Holds Barred, he stated, "There's such a rich culture of them, and rather than be the sort of poor African cousin of the UFC, of ONE, or of Cage Warriors, or whatever, I'd thought, I'd love to do something totally, totally different that really speaks to the uniqueness of Africa, starting with Nigeria, and really plays to our strengths."
(https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/nhbnews/episodes/2019-08-30T01_53_40-07_00)

After this debut event in April, their next event, called "The Battle for Lagos", is scheduled for September 14 at the Jalisco Stadium, Oshodi, Lagos. A third, larger event is also planned for December in Lagos. If all goes well, future plans include expanding throughout Africa and other parts of the world, and getting TV and streaming distribution.


But it is not only in Africa that these martial arts and combat sports are gaining in influence and popularity. Particularly in the African diaspora in the U.S., and also among the broader martial arts and combat sports community, interest in them is growing and flourishing.

One example of this is the renewed interest in the fighting system known as 52 Blocks. This uses boxing and other techniques in large part for defense in street fights rather than for sport in the ring. 52 Blocks is a loose and ever-changing system that has been handed down for countless generations, primarily among African-Americans, and is taught and practiced differently in different locales and by different trainers.

What each variation of 52 Blocks has in common, however, is its African origin.

As Harlem-based martial artist and instructor Mahaliel Bethea AKA Professor Mo said in a recent cover story in Black Belt magazine, "Most masters of 52 Blocks will tell you that it's a martial art from Africa."
(https://blackbeltmag.com/arts/western-european-arts/professor-mo-everything-to-know-about-52-blocks)


Besides Professor Mo, who is returning home this week from Ghana's "Year of Return" events, many others are training people in 52 Blocks.

On September 8 in Atlanta, Georgia, veteran martial artists Balogun Ojetade of the African Martial Arts Institute and 52 Blocks trainer Wise Morrow will be holding "A Day With The Masters" focusing on 52 Blocks and African martial arts.
(https://www.facebook.com/events/362721771095731)


Another trainer, Lyte Burly, has also conducted numerous 52 Blocks seminars across the U.S., and holds regular training sessions in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park and elsewhere. He is also a boxing trainer. On YouTube, he regularly posts short videos demonstrating these techniques.
(https://www.youtube.com/user/52blocksinfo/featured)

Besides many other practitioners of 52 Blocks, many people are studying and exploring the history of African martial arts. On the weekend of May 17 of this year in Austin, Texas, the Council of HAMAA, the Historical African Martial Arts Association, held its first gathering "to celebrate Historical African Martial Arts". According to their web site, the "HAMA community gathered in solidarity to feast, study, and compete in the first ever HAMAA Tournament of Champions."
(https://hamaassociation.wordpress.com/media/hamaa-the-gathering-2019)


While a new generation is moving forward with the African martial arts and combat sports, some veteran African-American martial artists of earlier generations are still active. Founded in that turbulent year of 1969, the Black Karate Federation recently commemorated its 50th anniversary, with some members continuing to train younger people.
(https://www.facebook.com/Brotherhoodofthebkf)


All these developments are occurring while there is a vacuum forming in the martial arts and combat sports worlds. For example, the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has become politicized as it uses white nationalism and racism as marketing tools to secure its primarily white, cultish fan base. Instead of penalizing athletes who have publicly made all sorts of racist, white supremacist, misogynist, anti-working class, and anti-LGBTQ remarks and statements, as almost all legitimate sports organizations do, UFC's management has encouraged and rewarded people who have done this, like Chael Sonnen, Conor McGregor, and Colby Covington.
("The UFC Has A Race Problem")

By importing the "good guy vs. bad guy" schtick of the fake wrestling groups, and even going as far as making a propaganda video praising Donald Trump, UFC is alienating many people who have been part of the martial arts and combat sports worlds.

In contrast, both in Africa and among African-Americans, learning the martial arts and combat sports has been seen as part of the overall freedom struggles.

For example, Malcolm X famously said on March 29, 1964, at New York's Audubon Ballroom, "If you're interested in freedom, you need some judo, you need some karate, you need all the things that will help you fight for freedom."
(http://www.vlib.us/amdocs/texts/malcolmx0364.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blvoRFIPwM8)


And with these freedom struggles reviving in the 21st century, so is interest in the African martial arts and combat sports.

The door, thus, is open fairly wide for the African martial arts and combat sports to step through and explode in popularity. But even with all the compelling stories briefly outlined above, one would have to hunt through a series of Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, and similar pages just to find and process them.

What is needed, then, are major media projects to tell these stories to a wide international audience. If done well enough, such media can help the African martial arts and combat sports burst into the general public's consciousness. The dramatized martial arts films of the 1970s played a major role in popularizing Chinese martial arts, so media today has the potential to popularize African martial arts and combat sports with a new generation.

So is this the year in which African martial arts and combat sports take their rightful, prominent place on the world stage? At minimum, they have already taken major steps in that direction. It is up to all of those who study, support, teach, and practice the African martial arts and combat sports to work to continue and assist this ongoing process.

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No More Patreon For Me 


While I was at the Ruiz-Joshua 2 press conference earlier today, I started getting messages from people who tried to read my latest article on Patreon called "Is This The Year African Martial Arts And Combat Sports Explode Onto The World Stage?" Several people wrote me that Patreon was charging money to read what is a free article. I still don't know what happened, whether the problem was with their app or maybe I messed up the settings, but it is all supposed to be free on my page there. In any case, I will repost the article here on my blog. I will also stop using Patreon. It is a waste of time. Thanks, Eddie

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Is This The Year African Martial Arts And Combat Sports Explode Onto The World Stage? 


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Is This The Year African Martial Arts And Combat Sports Explode Onto The World Stage?


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Friday, August 30, 2019

No Holds Barred: Maxwell Kalu on African Warriors Fighting Championship 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Maxwell Kalu, founder and CEO of the African Warriors Fighting Championship.

The African Warriors Fighting Championship is Africa's first multidisciplinary fighting organization.

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the African Warriors Fighting Championship showcases warriors competing in indigenous African styles of combat sports such as Dambe, which is a form of boxing popular in West Africa, and traditional wrestling.

After a debut event in April, their next event, called "The Battle for Lagos", is scheduled for September 14 at the Jalisco Stadium, Oshodi, Lagos. A third event is also planned for December.

We spoke with Maxwell Kalu by Skype Thursday.

After speaking with many people already involved in the combat sports in Nigeria, rather than trying to import MMA, Nigeria's indigenous sports like wrestling and Dambe "are here already," he said.

"There's such a rich culture of them, and rather than be the sort of poor African cousin of the UFC, of ONE, or of Cage Warriors, or whatever, I'd thought, I'd love to do something totally, totally different that really speaks to the uniqueness of Africa, starting with Nigeria, and really plays to our strengths," he said.

With hundreds of athletes already competing in Dambe and wrestling, the decision was made to showcase these athletes and styles.

We discussed how his background in the combat sports and Nigerian heritage influenced him getting involved in this, the large amount of talented athletes already competing in these traditional combat sports in Nigeria, and how Nigeria plays a key role in Africa in terms of culture and media.

Also we discussed the rules for Dambe, which allows punching with one hand, the back hand, which is wrapped, and kicks and sweeps. A knockdown ends the round in these three-round fights. For wrestling, a round ends when someone's back touches the ground from a takedown or throw, also in three-round matches. All the competition takes place on sand.

The African Warriors Fighting Championship is working with the Traditional Sports Federations in Nigeria and in Lagos State to regulate their events.

We also discussed the plans for the upcoming events in Lagos, their critical use of social media, the growing interest in this group by international media, how they are working to the point where anyone can watch their events live, and much, much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

No Holds Barred: Ruiz, Joshua, Fury, Wilder, and the Unfinished Quest for Heavyweight Unification 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses the major heavyweight fights which may or may not take place by the end of this year, and the dimming prospects for there being a heavyweight title unification any time soon.

The self-proclaimed lineal champion, Tyson Fury, is slated to fight Sept. 14 against little-known Otto Wallin. Unified WBA-IBF-WBO champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua are scheduled to have their rematch Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia. And WBC champion Deontay Wilder may or may not be rematching Luis "King Kong" Ortiz before the year ends. Where this all leads and these fights' accompanying controversies are analyzed, with enhancements by a few select audio clips.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Ruiz-Joshua 2: Assholery in Arabia 


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Ruiz-Joshua 2: Assholery in Arabia

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Friday, August 02, 2019

No Holds Barred: The Legacy of the World Sumo Challenge 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman reposts what was the first preview show of No Holds Barred, and featured interviews about and from the World Sumo Challenge.

This event originally took place October 22, 2005, at Madison Square Garden, and was shown on tape delay on ESPN2 that December. The original No Holds Barred show on this event was posted on December 27, 2005.

This new edition of No Holds Barred adds at the beginning of the show commentary on why this venture failed and the still-unmet need for the formation of a real professional wrestling circuit of some kind.

The original World Sumo Challenge event will be replayed in August by ESPN as part of their "The Ocho" series, on the ESPN app and also via your service provider's On Demand feature, we are told by an ESPN representative.

A highlight video of the World Sumo Challenge can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmv4xm8d72w.

Here is the original and quite optimistic description from the December 2005 No Holds Barred show on the World Sumo Challenge:

Here are the people with whom we spoke:

Former yokozuna Musashimaru, who served as a color commentator and analyst on the ESPN2 telecast.

Veteran boxing trainer Tommy Gallagher, who was also working with this event.

Ken Podziba, head of the New York City Sports Commission, which assisted this event.

Noah Goldman, president and CEO of Big Boy Productions, which produced and promoted the event.

Yoshisada Yonezuka, a vice president of the International Sumo Federation and longtime judo coach, who acted as a sumo technical advisor for the event. [Note: Sadly he passed away in 2014.]

We also spoke with two of the participants, sumo wrestlers Ronny Allman of Norway and Sydney Carty of the Netherlands.

In addition, at the Mayhem On Mulberry 5 muay Thai event held the night before the live sumo show, we caught up with two judo legends, Teimoc Jonston-Ono and Mike Swain. We discussed the sumo event, with which they both were attending, as well as judo, mixed martial arts, muay Thai, and the combat sports in general.

Also at the muay Thai event, we caught up with two of the fighters that night, Brian Robertson, who won a decision over Marcus Antebi, and Willow Chanthavong, who lost a decision to Liz Linstrom.

As we mentioned during this special preview show, the World Sumo Challenge was highly organized, got tremendous mainstream media attention, and was very well received by the fans at Madison Square Garden. The telecast had excellent production values and the tournament format was well explained both at the live event and on TV. Plus, sumo is fairly easy for casual fans to understand, and the action on the mat was usually non-stop and had the mainly American crowd cheering throughout the tournament.

The major and perhaps only shortcoming was its inconsistency in educating the fans as to who the athletes were. For example, Torsten Scheibler, the 438.5-pound wrestler from Germany, had recently won the gold medal at the world championships in Japan. Yet he was upset in the first round by Sydney Carty, a mere 328.5 pounds. Yet this was only noted briefly after the match by Musashimaru, with Scheibler's credentials going almost unnoticed, and the huge sports story of this first-round upset not being emphasized.

Also, the event's first champion was Mitshuhiko Fukao, a 5'10", 411.5-pound wrestler from Japan. Little was known about Fukao before the event and less reported about him afterwards. There was no post-match interview with Fukao, who had become a crowd favorite, or a post-event press conference. Even though an interview with Fukao would have had to have been conducted in Japanese, there were numerous people who could have done the translating right there. Thus, Fukao is their first champion and will defend his title without much more information even to this date being provided about him.

Nonetheless, the World Sumo Challenge has to be considered overall a major success. A new professional combat sport is being born, and that is good news. Others in the combat sports world can learn a lot from how this event was organized and conducted.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link does not work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is available at Google Play Music.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

You can also listen to No Holds Barred via Stitcher through iOS or Android devices or on the web here.

The PodOmatic Podcast Player app is available for free, both for Android at Google Play, and for iOS on the App Store.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is sponsored by:

The Catch Wrestling Alliance, resurrecting and promoting the sport of authentic catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The Catch Wrestling Alliance provides tournaments, seminars, and training as well as education about catch wrestling. Join the movement and keep real wrestling alive. For more information, go to CatchWrestlingAlliance.com.

Skullz Double-End Bags, the perfect bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve timing, distance, and hand and eye coordination. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. For more information, go to SkullzDeBags.com.

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