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November 25, 2014

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Columnist Dean Juipe: HBO leads Naseem Hamed’s bandwagon

It's a plan with at least three steps.

Step 1 is to bring Naseem Hamed to America, lavish some praise on him and allow him to trumpet his own talents -- all in the name of increasing his exposure.

Step 2 is to put him in the ring with this country's leading featherweight and, assuming Hamed wins, use that conquest to verify his ability.

Step 3 is to turn Hamed into a household name, perhaps comparable to Roy Jones or Oscar De La Hoya.

Boxing entrepreneur HBO is driving the Hamed bandwagon and has the outlet through its cable network to make good on its plans. It has already committed $2 million to Hamed for his Friday fight in New York with Kevin Kelley and it has promised him at least that much per fight as long as he continues to win.

However informal, Step 1 has already been achieved in that Hamed has spent the last week in New York blowing his own horn. Step 2, the fight with Kelley, arrives with more than a few risks.

"I've got more knockouts than he has fights," Kelley said, defending his honor at the final prefight press conference. "I think they're jumping the gun with this guy."

If HBO is guilty on that count, Kelley will expose Hamed when they face off at Madison Square Garden in the main event of a card that also includes top-flight super bantamweights Junior Jones and Kennedy McKinney in their own showdown.

Hamed, a British-born Arab, is 28-0 with a noteworthy 26 knockouts. His biggest win came against then-IBF champ Tom Johnson earlier this year in England.

Kelley, a native New Yorker, is 47-1-2 with 32 KOs. A brawler, Kelley's only loss was an unexpected setback in 1995 to the since-forgotten Alejandro Gonzalez.

Hamed is a 3-to-1 favorite in Las Vegas.

"I don't say things I don't mean, and I'm going to knock Kelley out within three rounds," Hamed predicted. "I could have beat him up in England but I wanted to come to his own backyard and bring him down in front of his own crowd, a place he loves. I'm coming to the lion's den so he can't make any excuses after he's knocked out."

Las Vegan Sterling McPherson is among those assisting Hamed as he makes his U.S. debut.

"He's a terrific fighter," McPherson said. "Everything he does is outside the norm and the plans are to bring him to Las Vegas next for a bigger fight with someone like Jones or (Arturo) Gatti.

"But beating Kelley will be tough enough. They sure didn't pick no punk."

Kelley, perhaps indignant despite receiving $500,000 for this fight, agrees.

"He might not get past the first round," Kelley said. "I'm coming right out and going for his mouth. I've been saving up for this and I'm going to hit him with everything I've got."

While HBO will take the winner and promote him extensively, it's obvious the network prefers Hamed.

"We signed him because he's very talented and very popular internationally," HBO's Lou DiBella told the New York Times. "We believe he can become just as popular here."

In the semi-main, Jones and McKinney meet in another fight where animosity has already come into play.

"It won't go three rounds," was one of Jones' more civil comments at the press conference, which prompted McKinney to reply: "You're right -- you've got a glass jaw."

Jones, of New York, is 44-2 with 26 knockouts and has reinvigorated his career with a pair of wins over Marco Antonio Barrera.

McKinney, of Las Vegas, is 32-3-1 and is looking to counter the perception that he's on the decline after a series of tough bouts including one that cost him his IBF championship.

Upcoming events

Bam Promotions goes again Dec. 26 at The Orleans with former light heavyweight champ Montell Griffin back in the main event against Jesus Castaneda. Griffin, 28-1, is coming off a Nov. 29 victory over Vince Durham at the same site, while Castaneda arrives from Mexico with little in the way of credentials and an uncertain record.

Also scheduled: James Crayton, 24-8, vs. an opponent yet to be determined, eight rounds, lightweights; Juwell Castleberry vs. Eddie Castillo, four rounds, lightweights; Sesi Pohahau vs. Willie Chapman, four rounds, heavyweights; and Saul Avelar vs. Sergio Sanchez, four rounds, super bantamweights.

The following night, Dec. 27, Arizona Charlie's presents a six-bout card that will headline with super bantamweights Max Gomez and Manuel Arellano. Gomez is 16-9-1 and Arellano is 15-5.

Also scheduled: Roberto Alvarez, 21-2, vs. Julio Luna, 13-8-1, 10 rounds, flyweights; Jamal Harris, 2-1-2, vs. George Rodriguez, 3-4-1, six rounds, super middleweights; Danny Jevic, 1-1, vs. Juan Soriano, 2-1, four rounds, light heavyweights; Noel Barron, pro debut, vs. Paul Blea, pro debut, four rounds, welterweights; and a women's bout between Valery Troike and an opponent yet to be determined.

Passings

Local Golden Gloves franchise operator Hal Miller was laid to rest Tuesday after passing away last week at the age of 72.

Also passing away was former lightweight world champion Paddy DeMarco, 74, a Las Vegas resident since 1966. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in a Salt Lake City nursing home.

The Veterans Boxing Association of Las Vegas paid for DeMarco's cremation.

DeMarco, who worked as a pit boss at Caesars Palace for a while, became a world champion March 5, 1954, when he decisioned Jimmy Carter in New York's Madison Square Garden. The "Brooklyn Billygoat," as he was known, lost the title in a rematch with Carter Nov. 17, 1954, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. DeMarco came into the latter bout with a virus as well as an elbow injury, and lost by 15th-round technical knockout.

Weekend update

Here's a rundown on each of the local fighters who were in action out of town last weekend:

Vince Phillips, 38-3, battered Freddie Pendelton with hard body shots and put him down four times before their IBF junior welter title fight in Miami was halted in the 10th round;

Johnny Tapia, who recently purchased a home here, improved to 42-0-2 with a decision win over hard-headed Andy Agosto on that same Miami card;

Freddie Norwood, 28-0-1, roughed up late replacement Benito Rodriguez in Tijuana, Mexico, before taking a TKO-6;

Jimmy Thunder, 32-9, was beaten by undefeated heavyweight Chris Byrd in Ledyard, Conn., as the fight was stopped in the ninth round. Byrd scared ringside observers following the bout when he complained of dehydration and had to be taken to a hospital.

Holyfield-Lewis

Despite a pronouncement last week that the deadline for negotiations for an Evander Holyfield vs. Lennox Lewis fight had all but come and gone, discussions continue.

"If it isn't done this week I'd say the fight isn't happening," said promoter Dino Duva, adding that he was pleased to see the deadline extended.

The proposed date for the heavyweight unification bout is April 25 and Las Vegas would be the host city.

Among the conflicts: the HBO vs. Showtime rivalry, as HBO has Lewis and Showtime has Holyfield; and the fact the participants may be asking for more money than the fight can generate.

Quick hits

Promoter Don King and heavyweight Mike Tyson are funding a turkey giveaway for Southern Nevada residents Monday at 1 p.m. at the Doolittle Community Center. This is the 11th year of the program. ... Former heavyweight champ Gerrie Coetzee was questioned by police in South Africa regarding a Tuesday shooting there that left a man who had threatened Coetzee wounded. Coetzee, 44, was the WBA champ in 1983-84. ... Las Vegas welterweight Leroy Owens, 14-20, takes on fringe contender Jan Bergman, 34-1, Saturday in Coachella, Calif. ... Local junior middleweight Julian Jackson, 55-4, has taken a Jan. 23 bout in Mississippi with Verno Phillips, 29-8-1. ... Yory Boy Campas, hot off a win over Raul Marquez, makes a quick defense of his newly won IBF junior middleweight title when he meets Anthony Stephens March 23 in Connecticut. ... The vacant WBC light heavyweight title will be resolved Feb. 8 in Germany when Michael Nunn steps in with Graziano Rocchigiani.

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