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Sunday, January 26, 2020

No Holds Barred: Maxwell Kalu on the African Warriors Fighting Championship in 2020 


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

We spoke with him by Skype Friday.

The African Warriors Fighting Championship made its debut in 2019 with three events, all in Nigeria, featuring traditional wrestling and Dambe, a style of boxing popular in West Africa.

"It's been a real ride," he said.

"I have to remind myself every now and again that's it's not even been a year. We launched in April, so still less than a year in, but really happy with the progress we've made so far," he explained.

"We ended the year with a bang. We did our biggest event to date, which was 'Coronation of Kings'. That was a real big moment for us, in that the goal of that event was just taking traditional sport in Nigeria to a different level, delivering a new level of event in a different setting, and for us, capturing content of a better quality and producing more of it. The event went really well. We're really happy with how it went.

"Just looking back at 2019, we're really happy with the year. So, so far, so good."

But as a relatively young organization, for the African Warriors Fighting Championship there is still much basic work to be done.

"A big part of what we had to do and what we continue to do is just tell people what we are and what we're doing," he said. "People in the U.K., people in the U.S., they're a world away from Nigeria, they're a world away from Africa. So the starting point really is just building awareness, having people understand that this rich culture of combat sports exists in Africa, and having people understand that African Warriors as an organization is taking it to new heights."

We discussed how 2019 involved a lot of testing of how to run events, the growing response from the African diaspora in the U.K. and the U.S., and the keen interest in both the general media and the combat sports media in many countries.

For 2020, the focus "for now" will still be on Nigeria. An announcement is expected soon on plans for the first event of the year, which will again be in Lagos, Nigeria.

This new year the African Warriors Fighting Championship will be building "a national network of athletes" across Nigeria. We also discussed that there will be more events in 2020 than in 2019, that the quantity and quality will improve, that more videos will be produced and released, some of the challenges of running events in Nigeria, the rulesets for wrestling and Dambe that are used, 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 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:

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

No Holds Barred: Chris Baldwin on Wilder-Fury 2 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with our correspondent Chris Baldwin.

She was at this past Monday's press conference in Los Angeles for the rematch between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs). Their first fight, in Dec. 2018, ended in a controversial split draw, with most observers saying that Fury deserved the win. The rematch is scheduled to take place Feb. 22, 2020, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In the U.S., it will be shown on a pay-per-view being jointly put on by FOX Sports and ESPN.

We spoke with Chris Baldwin by phone Friday.

"This was a really interesting presser. It was way smaller than the last presser, where they actually had a little fight on stage," she said, referring to the press conferences on the media tour for their first fight.

"Fury walked out on the stage as his name was called. No one clapped. That was one of the first things I noticed, and he seemed a bit taken aback by that, because he got no love. But then again, like I said, it was a small, media-only event. There were no fans present like the last time," she continued.

"And then when Wilder walked out, he had the WBC strap across his shoulders, and he did get a little bit of a round of applause. And then they faced off, and that's when the smack-talking began."

We discussed what we learned from this press conference, why this is an important fight for all boxing as well as the heavyweight division, how each fighter might win or lose this fight, the WWE-style bombast from Fury who recently performed in WWE, the poor media analysis of this press conference and the fight itself, the dismal prospects for the pay-per-view, what might be next for other top heavyweights including Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr., and much, much more.

(Photo of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury by Chris Baldwin.)

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:

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Articles in Ringside Seat and Black Belt Are Out Now 


They are both available now! Ringside Seat 9 has my article on the Joshua-Ruiz 2 fight. The Feb.-March 2020 Black Belt has my article on the African Warriors Fighting Championship. For No Holds Barred combat sports journalism, get them both!

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

No Holds Barred: Caradh O'Donovan On Athlete Activism, Moving From Kickboxing To Karate, And The Olympics 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with former kickboxer and current member of the Irish karate team Caradh O'Donovan.

She is also a member of the start-up group of the new international athlete-led movement Global Athlete.

We spoke with her by Skype Thursday.

Previously an amateur kickboxing world and European champion, Caradh O'Donovan recently made the transition to karate, and has become an Irish national karate champion. With karate being included on the program of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she hopes to represent Ireland there.

But her road to qualifying for the Olympics was almost derailed when a split and dispute between two rival governing groups prevented her and other athletes from competing in major karate events. It was then that she and these athletes contacted Global Athlete, who, along with the World Karate Federation, assisted them in finally being allowed to compete in these events.

"I didn't know anything about them until I got it touch," she said about Global Athlete. "When they asked me to come onboard the start-up group, I was delighted."

What she soon learned was that the kind of governance issues which were plaguing karate in Ireland were far from rare.

"I wouldn't even say it's so much an eye-opener, but I've had a lot of issues," she said. "I struggled with sport over the years. I've always kind of been labeled as a troublemaker, because I would say things that I didn't agree, speak up with things I didn't agree with."

In the past, "I always thought it was just me, I always thought it was just my sport. And I thought, 'Well, maybe it's because we're not really a professional sport and other sports seem to have it all together, because nobody has been saying anything.' So I genuinely thought I was a troublemaker and I'm the only one with issues, because that's what I've been told."

Now as part of the Global Athlete start-up group, it is clear that there are "other issues and it's the same across every sport. So it's kind of nice to know you're not on your own."

But the scope of these problems is daunting.

"Obviously it's not a good thing that there's so many people with issues in sport and there's that kind of dark side." Now working with Global Athlete has given her more power to deal with these kinds of issues, and "I'm happy to be part of that."

We discussed the adjustments in technique and training she has had to make in transitioning from kickboxing to karate; the rules under which she has been competing; her best techniques in karate; dealing with injuries and illness; why this will likely be her only shot at qualifying for and competing in the Olympics; the Olympic qualifying events in karate in which she will be competing; her background in sports management and sports psychology; how ethics in sport are important to her; life as a full-time athlete; and much, much more.

(Photo of Caradh O'Donovan at the 2018 Irish Kenpo Karate Union Open by Noel Bergin.)

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:

Skullz Combat Sports Equipment, creator of the patented Skullz Double-End Bag, is the perfect punching bag for your combat sports training. Skullz Double-End Bags provide a realistic striking target, and help improve speed, distance, and timing skills. Hang it and hit it right out of the box! No pump required. Skullz Combat Sports Equipment - Advancing combat sports equipment for the next generation of fighters. For more information, go to https://instagram.com/skullzcombatsports and https://facebook.com/skullzcombatsports.

Adolphina Studios. Original art prints and handcrafted fine jewelry. For more information, go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdolphinaStudios.

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Monday, December 30, 2019

No Holds Barred: Wilder-Fury 2 -- The Great Gamble 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses the rematch between unbeaten top heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, which is scheduled to take place February 22, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Topics include the significance of this fight, why this is a great gamble for both fighters, what to expect and not expect in this rematch of their controversial December 2018 split draw, the late announcement of this fight, what the future may hold for both fighters depending on the outcome, the prospects for this pay-per-view, 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 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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Monday, December 23, 2019

What Might 2020 Bring for Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Anthony Joshua? 


by Eddie Goldman

I was recently sidelined for a while with a nasty cold which made recording a podcast unrealistic. But during that time I finished up writing a magazine article which will be out very soon.

My analysis of the Dec. 7 Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Jr. rematch will appear in the next issue of Ringside Seat, which will be issue number 9. It is scheduled to be released to subscribers this coming week. You can subscribe to this online magazine at Ringside Seat.

Also coming out very shortly is my article on the African Warriors Fighting Championship, which will be in the Feb./March 2020 edition of Black Belt magazine. I am told this issue is at the printers, so be on the lookout for it as well. You can also subscribe at Black Belt.

So if you are looking for a holiday gift, subscribe to both magazines. They also make perfect gifts for a family which fights!

As we approach 2020, there is still confusion and unclarity about what is next for the top three heavyweights: Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Anthony Joshua.

Predicting who will win heavyweight title fights may not be as hard as predicting when they will happen and which fighters will actually be fighting.

A year ago the heavyweight title agenda for 2019 seemed set in stone. In December 2018, Tyson Fury, who claims to be the lineal champion, and WBC champion Deontay Wilder fought to split draw in Los Angeles. This was a highly controversial verdict, like we seem to have in boxing just about every week. Most viewers thought that Fury had done enough to deserve a win, so a rematch was planned for May 2019. But in Feb. 2019, it was announced that Fury had signed a lucrative five-fight deal with ESPN in the U.S. and to be co-promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank. Wilder's management is Al Haymon's PBC, which put the first fight on Showtime pay-per-view in the U.S. and now puts most of their big fights on Fox and Fox pay-per-view. It would not be easy to get these warring networks with their exclusive deals with fighters to do a joint pay-per-view. It has been possible in rare cases where the fights were tremendous draws, like Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson in 2002 and Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao in 2015, where rival premium networks HBO and Showtime worked together. But by 2019, HBO had killed its boxing program and Showtime's was declining precipitously. The seasoned executives with these then-well-established boxing programs knew the business of boxing well enough to understand that these unusual arrangements would likely benefit everyone. But these ESPN and Fox deals were newer, with each struggling to make them profitable, and Fury and Wilder hardly were draws in the U.S. anywhere near the level that Lewis and Tyson were in 2002 and Mayweather and Pacquiao were in 2015. So the Fury-Wilder rematch was put on hold.

Instead, in 2019, Fury fought the unheralded opponents Tom Schwarz and then Otto Wallin. While on June 15 he demolished Schwarz in two rounds, his fight with Wallin on Sept. 14 took a dangerous turn as he was cut above his right eye in the third round. Fury managed to win a unanimous decision with Wallin unexpectedly going the distance. Plastic surgery followed for Fury, but by October Fury was back in a ring, of sorts, for an angle in the WWE, and performed in one of their shows in Saudi Arabia. That was his 2019.

For Wilder, he used the delay in the Fury rematch to fulfill his obligation to face his WBC mandatory challenger. That was Dominic Breazeale. After failed negotiations to fight on DAZN, Wilder returned to Showtime, reportedly with an improved deal. Wilder fought Breazeale on May 18, the date originally pencilled in for Fury-Wilder 2, and Wilder knocked him out in the first round. Next for Wilder was a rematch with Luis "King Kong" Ortiz on Nov. 23. For the first six rounds of this fight, Ortiz, who was in better shape than in their first fight in March 2018, outboxed Wilder. But in the seventh round, all it took was one punch from Wilder to knock out Ortiz. Supposedly Wilder would return to action just three months later, on Feb. 22, 2020, for the Fury rematch, which would reportedly be a joint ESPN-Fox pay-per-view in the U.S.

One month has now passed since Wilder's knockout of Ortiz, with Feb. 22 now being just two months away. As of this writing, on Sunday, Dec. 22, there has been no official announcement that Fury-Wilder 2 is taking place on that date. There have been no press tours announced, none of the usual canned training camp publicity issued, and no set schedule when all this will be finalized. And we have a couple of holiday weeks coming up where lots of things normally slow down.

There was one interesting discussion of note that did just take place about Fury-Wilder 2, although it took a bit of digging to come up with it.

On Saturday's BT Sport boxing telecast, after the main event of heavyweight prospect Daniel Dubois blowing out Kyotaro Fujimoto in the second round, Fury's co-promoter Frank Warren was asked about the Fury-Wilder rematch. And thanks to BT Sport for posting this on their Twitter page. Warren said that this fight will "definitely" take place on Feb. 22 and will "definitely" be announced this coming week. Next the announcer spoke with Tyson Fury's father, John Fury, who served four years in prison for gouging a man's eye out, and because of that criminal record is banned from coming to the U.S., even to see his son fight. John Fury said Tyson flew out on Wednesday to Las Vegas to train. But then he said that "the only way this fight won't take place is Wilder don't want it." The announcer quizzed him on that comment, but John Fury tried to clarify it by saying "this fight is most definitely happening, 100 percent" and his remark was merely "a figure of speech really." Whether this indicates problems in staging this fight on Feb. 22, or is just the type of common bad or confusing choice of words that happens during a live and unscripted interview, remains to be seen. We certainly should find out quite soon, as the clock is ticking.

Also curiously, that same night in the U.S. PBC had a live telecast on Fox. There were three entertaining fights and an interview with Errol Spence Jr., who is recovering from an auto accident. Spence said he plans to return to the ring in May or June. The main event saw Jermell Charlo recapture his WBC 154-pound belt by knocking out the fighter he had lost it to last year, Tony Harrison, in the 11th round. Charlo's twin brother Jermall, who fights at middleweight, was also interviewed, and he said he would return in May. It was a good, three-hour show.

But while many of PBC's upcoming fights were discussed on this show, nowhere seen or mentioned was Deontay Wilder or his rematch with Tyson Fury. So, this weekend before Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a PBC mouse, to come down our chimney for Fury-Wilder 2 to be announced. (That, I promise, is the last of mangling poetry for me, at least this year.)

Of course, this fight still could take place Feb. 22 and be announced this week. But that will give the organizers just two months to hype it, a time period which includes these two weeks of holidays and vacation for many, a possible impeachment trial, U.S. presidential primaries, and the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. There was a similar delay in early 2019 in announcing the rematch which had been slated for May. Whether or not anything as major as Fury signing with ESPN is holding this announcement up, valuable time has been lost, especially if the plans remain to put this on as a pay-per-view in the U.S. Neither fighter has drawn particularly well on the outmoded pay-per-views they have been on, and now two rival networks are being asked to jointly produce this one. Fury-Wilder 1 reportedly got only about 325,000 pay-per-view buys on Showtime, and Wilder-Ortiz 2 reportedly got in the range of 200,000 or so pay-per-view buys on Fox. Whether or not this sad reality is causing the network suits to hesitate going ahead with this joint pay-per-view is also unclear. But we shall see.

For Anthony Joshua, his 2019 was just as unpredictable, and his agenda for 2020 fuzzy as well.

After Joshua defeated Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin in 2018, his next fight was supposed to be a mega-show in the U.K. at Wembley Stadium in April. But Joshua was now aligned with DAZN, and their suits wanted him to fight in the U.S. next. In Feb. 2019, a June 1 date with the loquacious Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller was announced for Madison Square Garden. That, as you most assuredly know, was upended when it was revealed in April that Miller had failed three drug tests. Rather than cancelling the Garden show, especially since Joshua had not fought since the previous September, a replacement for Miller was found. And as you also most assuredly know, that replacement was Andy Ruiz Jr., who pulled the upset of the year by stopping Joshua in seven rounds and capturing his WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight belts.

Joshua had an immediate rematch clause with Ruiz, which he exercised, postponing plans for him to face his IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev. Again, as you most assuredly know, the Joshua-Ruiz rematch took place December 7 in Saudi Arabia, with Joshua recapturing these heavyweight belts with a clearcut unanimous decision victory.

Now Joshua had to attend to his mandatories, and here, as often happens in boxing, it once again got complicated.

Pulev was supposed to fight Joshua in October 2017, but pulled out with an injury. He returned in October 2018 with a lackluster decision win over Hughie Fury, a cousin of Tyson Fury. Next for Pulev was a knockout win in March of 2019 over Bogdan Dinu. But after that fight, Pulev was seen during a video interview forcibly kissing female reporter Jennifer Ravalo on the lips. The California State Athletic Commission suspended Pulev's license and ordered him to attend sexual harassment prevention classes. Pulev's license was restored in July, and in November he defeated Rydell Booker, a 38-year-old journeyman who did not fight between 2004 and 2018 due to being in prison for over a decade. But Pulev's long status as the IBF heavyweight mandatory remained, and after Joshua regained his belts, the IBF ordered Joshua to fight Pulev next.

If only it were that simple.

The day before the IBF ordered Joshua to fight Pulev, the WBO ordered Joshua to fight their own mandatory, Oleksandr Usyk. Usyk, an unbeaten former undisputed cruiserweight champ, had only made his heavyweight debut in October, defeating another 38-year-old journeyman, Chazz Witherspoon. Somehow this earned him the WBO's mandatory spot at heavyweight.

But now Joshua was ordered by two separate sanctioning bodies to face two different opponents, or, presumably, be stripped of that belt. Assuming that Joshua would not fight both on the same night, this is a dilemma for Joshua, who just won his belts back and has long desired to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has been vocal in asking these sanctioning bodies to come up with an order in which Joshua can face all these mandatories, and thus not be stripped of any of these belts. Such a move would not only be logical, but also in the petty self-interest of these sanctioning bodies, which collect fees based on what the fighters get in each fight.

If the WBO strips Joshua, a potential fight between, say, Usyk and WBO number two contender Joseph Parker would bring in only a fraction of what Joshua vs. Usyk would. Likewise, a fight between Pulev and IBF number three Adam Kownacki (the IBF number two ranking is vacant) would also hardly break any records.

Of course, either body could bend or break their own rules if Joshua were stripped, and have their mandatories face someone who was more notable, such as Tyson Fury, who was the IBF's number six before the Joshua-Ruiz rematch. Pulev and Fury are both co-promoted by Top Rank, so it would be an easy fight to make. And the WBO could dip down further into their ratings and have Usyk fight for their belt against their number four, a fellow named Andy Ruiz Jr.

Hearn, though, is still publicly and presumably privately lobbying for Joshua to be able to fight these mandatories one at a time and keep all his belts if he wins both fights. There may be a lot more to this behind the scenes, such as the marketability of Joshua vs. Pulev and Joshua vs. Usyk. It is likely Joshua returns to the U.K. in 2020, especially since he did not fight in his home country at all in 2019. Saudi Arabia has also expressed interest in bringing Joshua back, and they are raring to spend those petrodollars to make their country a world capital of sports. DAZN, which has largely built its subscriber base in the U.S. among boxing fans, would also want Joshua to return to the U.S. so his fight would take place on a late Saturday night in the U.S., rather than the afternoon U.S. time when they are held in the U.K. or Saudi Arabia. These types of considerations will play a far more decisive role in determining the next fights for Joshua.

So 2020 could still see Fury and Wilder fight two times in the U.S. on pay-per-view, and Joshua fight one mandatory after another. But 2019 did not go as planned for either of these three, and nothing guarantees it will go smoothly for them in 2020. If anything, boxing is more likely to move in an erratic direction in 2020, as all the sniveling warring fiefdoms plot against one another, often unaware that they are on a self-destructive path. In addition, what does take place in the fights themselves could alter whatever plans are made, such as a loss like Joshua had to Ruiz or an injury. And if the sanctioning bodies refuse to work together, and Joshua does get stripped of one of his belts even before he fights next, the result would be a further fragmentation of all these heavyweight titles. Heavyweight title unification will then become even farther away then it is now, all to the detriment of the fighters and fans.

It will take a lot of effort for anyone who manages to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world to rise to the level of popularity as undisputed heavyweight champions of old had achieved. Joshua has the most international appeal, but he is also the only one of these elite three to lose a fight by stoppage.

Will the action outside the ring stifle the action inside the ring in the heavyweight division, or will it finally facilitate a title unification? We shall soon find out, but if it does not go as you wish, let the lords of boxing know. Just don't be disappointed when they do what they want anyway.

(Photo of Anthony Joshua by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing. Photo of Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury by Esther Lin/Showtime.)

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Articles in Ringside Seat and Black Belt Out Soon 


Coming out very shortly: Ringside Seat 9 with my article on Joshua-Ruiz 2, and the Feb./March 2020 issue of Black Belt with my article on the African Warriors Fighting Championship. Subscribe to each -- the perfect gifts for a family which fights!

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Ruiz-Joshua 2 Predictions from the No Holds Barred All-Stars 


by Eddie Goldman

It looks like we will indeed have a heavyweight title fight this Saturday.

Both Andy Ruiz Jr. of the U.S. and Anthony Joshua of the U.K. have arrived in Saudi Arabia for their December 7 rematch and have started their fight week activities.

On June 1 of this year, Ruiz defeated Joshua by seventh-round TKO after Joshua had been dropped four times. Ruiz thus captured the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight belts, and handed Joshua his first loss as a pro. Now the rematch is upon us, placed controversially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While Ruiz's victory was considered a major upset at the time and Joshua is still a betting favorite for the rematch, this is a fight for which a rational argument can be made for either fighter to win, and either by knockout or decision. There are still many unanswered questions as to why Ruiz was able to pull off this upset, and of course whether or not he can defeat Joshua again.

To preview this fight, I've asked several people with whom I regularly communicate about the combat sports -- the No Holds Barred All-Stars -- to make their predictions for this fight.

As the old line goes, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. But we shall try.


Charles Farrell, noted boxing writer and former fight fixer:

"I'm usually happy to make predictions, but I'm stumped this time. Too many things are going on that are happening outside the view of all but a few. I am no longer as sure about how good Joshua was as I had been (I didn't listen to his detractors). I think Ruiz is pretty much exactly the fighter I thought he was (and I thought he was good, even before the first fight, but not in any way special). I still believe that what happened the first time around was that Joshua, certain he was on the verge of scoring a kayo, didn't recognize that he was being hit with good shots even after one of them essentially knocked him out. He fought the rest of the fight unconscious. So maybe what happened was an anomaly. Maybe Joshua doesn't have a good chin. Maybe Ruiz has his number. Maybe things are going business-wise that will temper what happens in the fight. Maybe Ruiz likes being rich too much, and will come in under-prepared. Maybe Joshua's refusal to get a technically sound trainer will cost him again. Or maybe he just knocks Ruiz out and things revert to normal. That's too many maybes for me. No prediction."

Chris Jackson-Baldwin, Fight Fit LA, Boxing/MMA conditioning coach:

"If Andy doesn't knock Joshua clean out then he is coming back to Cali with a fat paycheck and zero belts. But I don't see Joshua losing this fight."

Steve Nelson, founder of Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation (USWF) promotion, and retired wrestler, MMA fighter, and shootfighter:

"I really like Andy as a competitor. I wish his management never let him take a fight in Saudi Arabia. Ho could write his own ticket here, I don't understand it. They want him to drop that belt. I hope he gets all the money promised to him."

Bob Carson, host of Carson's Corner podcast:

"The recent weight loss of Ruiz is suggestive of someone who is in the zone mentally. I'm not sure if Joshua has rekindled the fire he once had, although it is impossible to tell. I believe Ruiz wins this fight via eighth round TKO."

Eddie Goldman, No Holds Barred:

"While there remain numerous unanswered questions about their first fight, with perhaps the answers being unknowable for most of us at this time, there is one thing that seems certain: The Ruiz-Joshua rematch will take place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with makeshift regulation and governance. Yes, apparently neutral and experienced officials have been chosen for it and the drug-testing is being done by VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which is the world's best such body. But funny things happen all the time in boxing in places with established commissions and regulatory bodies, almost always to the benefit of the house fighter. On this show, the house fighter is Anthony Joshua. So I expect Joshua to regain his belts one way or another, either deservedly so or not."

(Photos of Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.)

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

No Holds Barred: Rob Koehler of Global Athlete on Athletes' Rights, Including Athletes in Decision-Making, and Russian Doping Scandal 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete.

A former World Anti-Doping Agency deputy director general, Rob Koehler is leading this "international athlete-led movement that will inspire and lead positive change in world sport, and collectively address the balance of power between athletes and administrators," according to its web site.

We spoke with him by phone Monday.

While he agreed that Global Athlete is an advocacy organization, he noted that it is developing into much more than that in collectively dealing with athletes' problems and fighting for their rights.

"When they have problems, when they have issues, we either help them from behind, or we join together in terms of making statements and pushing things. We've provided legal support. We've provided assistance in so many different areas, that right now it's advocacy. But we see in the future that being a collective group to stand together on issues collectively that are one hundred percent athlete-supported and athlete-driven, we'll start to make change," he said.

Yet there still is enormous resistance from the powers-that-be in world sport to these efforts.

"One of the things that, it's mind-boggling to me, and I still cannot understand," he continued, "why sport governance and sporting organizations do not see the benefit in bringing athletes along with them and together as a collective to try to make sport stronger, safer. And when you have collective athlete engagement and collective bargaining, you end up with growing the sport, not limiting it."

Most of the focus of Global Athlete now is on the rights of athletes in the Olympic movement. But there are also major popular movements and mass sentiment in many places around the world against those areas hosting the Olympics and other mega-events. One way of addressing that, he said, is to guarantee that the athletes are part of the process that goes into deciding just what the Olympics and these major events do.

"If athletes were a part of the decision-making and were a part of shaping what the Olympics should look like in the future, or in a World Cup, you all of a sudden have brand recognition, so you've attached your own brand to that brand when you become part of it. And when you become part of something and you want to see it in a better spot, you're going to be held accountable for it," he said.

"Money has overshadowed what the Olympic brand used to be," he said. What is needed is "a new type of approach and a new type of Olympics that meets all those, that addresses the criticisms that are out there."

The latest chapter in the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal involves Russian authorities providing doctored and fabricated data and evidence about the findings of the Moscow laboratory's doping test results to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He said he and Global Athlete would support a "ban of Russia at the Olympics, to try to bring about some institutional change in the country. Because if the leaders of the sports can continue to manipulate and manage things and not have any dire consequences when they go to the Games, when are we going to see change inside?"

We also discussed how the funding they receive from the FairSport foundation is not attached to Global Athlete's decision-making, how Global Athlete has helped athletes in sports including karate and weightlifting, the development of alternative organizations outside the Olympic movement such as the International Swimming League, the plans of Global Athlete for the future, and much, much more.

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

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Monday, November 25, 2019

No Holds Barred: Is One-Punch Wilder One Step Closer To Heavyweight Unification? 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman discusses this past Saturday's rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Luis "King Kong" Ortiz, won by Wilder with a one-punch knockout near the end of round seven. The topics include what this all says about Wilder, what his future may be, how this affects the future of the heavyweight division and the quest to establish an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, and much more.

(Photo of Wilder and Ortiz by Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.)

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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