Forgotten Legends: Oba Carr

By: Steve Gallegos

The legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit, MI has produced it’s share of good fighters and world champions. The Kronk has produced some A-class fighters such as Tommy Hearns, Milton McCrory and Donald Curry, all of which were world champions. There was another A-class fighter to come out of the Kronk who was every bit as as good, however never could quite get to the top of the heap. That fighter was ObaMotor CityCarr.

Carr was a very skillful, exciting boxer-puncher who was a top contender in the welterweight division for most of the 1990’s and he mixed it up with some of the best fighters of his era. Oba Carr was born and raised in Detroit, MI and he began boxing at the age of six. He had a very good amateur pedigree as he compiled an amateur record of 168-8. He turned pro in December of 1989 at age 17, joining Emmanuel Steward’s stable of Kronk fighters. He won his first 32 bouts, 18 by KO. One of his most notable wins in his early career was his 21st fight, which was against former world champion Livingstone Bramble. It was a bout televised on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights and it was a matchup that was chosen by the fans via a telephone poll.

They met on 10/08/91 in front of a huge crowd of 13,000 plus fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, MI. It was the biggest test for Carr at that time and it was a chance to shine against world class opposition in his first main event. In the first round, Carr came out boxing well, using his jab as he was trying to set the pace, however Bramble’s experience would be a factor as he put Carr on the canvas with a right hand a little more than a minute into the first round. It was Carr’s first time being knocked down and he was up almost immediately. Bramble moved in, applied the pressure and would put Carr down again in the first round. It was a flash knockdown and Oba was immediately up on his feet again. Carr remained on the defensive for the remainder of the round to avoid getting knocked down again as the three knockdown rule was in effect.

Oba regained his footing and boxed very well in the second round as he used his jab and avoided dangerous exchanges. Carr began to find his rhythm as he began to land combinations in the third, particularly the right uppercut. The fourth round was much of the same as Carr continued to box well on the outside. In the fifth round, Carr landed a hard left hook that buckled Bramble. Oba began landing hard rights and lefts as he was going for the KO. Bramble however weathered the storm. Carr had thrown everything he had at Bramble and seemed to punch himself out. Bramble would regain his composure in the final 20 seconds of round five and began to land some good shots of his own, causing Carr to hold on.

Round five was one for the time capsule as it was a USA Tuesday Night Fight’s “Remarkable Round” and it was one of the greatest rounds in TNF history. Carr slowed down his attack in the sixth round as he still appeared to be spent from the fifth, however he dug deep and was able to land some good hard combinations to both the body and head. In the seventh, Carr was able to get an extra rest as Brambles corner repaired some loose tape on his gloves which took almost two minutes. Carr was able to box smartly and appeared to have gotten his second wind.

It appeared Bramble’s game plan was to fight in spurts. Bramble would attempt to steal the rounds in the last 30 seconds, however Carr was adapting well, tying Bramble up on the inside while keeping him at bay with his jab. Round eight was much of the same, however Bramble stepped up his attack in the final 10 seconds and appeared to have stolen the round. The last two rounds were close as both men had their moments. As the final bell sounded, it was any man’s fight as the fate was in the judge’s hands. The final result was a close split decision for Oba Carr. It was a very tough fight and a learning experience for the young Carr.

He would win his next 11 bouts and would get his first world title shot against Felix Trinidad. Carr and Trinidad would meet on 12/10/94 in Monterry, Mexico for the IBF Welterweight title. Carr came into the fight very confident, feeling Trinidad was vunerable and taylor made for him. By this time, Carr had had many issues outside the ring with managers and trainers. For this fight, he had the very controversial Carlos “Panama” Lewis in his corner who was banned from working a corner in the U.S. Due to an incident in the 1980’s when he stripped padding from a fighter’s gloves.

In the second round, Carr landed a good, straight right hand that put Trinidad down. It was a solid shot, however Trinidad was up almost immediately. Carr stayed on the outside, using his jab and avoiding exchanges with the very dangerous Trinidad. Carr controlled much of the third round in the same fashion as he used his jab effectively to offset Trinidad as well as making “Tito” miss some big, hard shots. Trinidad started to come on in the fourth round, however Carr remained elusive and rolled with the punches very well while continuing to land his jab. Carr was game as he was able to hang in there with the very hard punching Trinidad, however Trinidad would drop Carr twice in the eighth round; hard shots which caused referee Robert Gonzalez to stop the bout.

It was a tough loss for Carr, however he showed courage, heart and resiliency. Carr would bounce back winning his next seven bouts, five by KO and he would once again get a crack at another world title. This time against Ike “Bazooka” Quartey. They met on 10/04/96 at the theater at Madison Square Garden. Carr fought a game, determined fight, however he would once again come up short against the very skilled Quartey as he lost a 12 round majority decision.

Carr would once again bounce back, going 9-0-1 over the next two and a half years which included a decision win over former three-time champion Frankie Randall, which set up the biggest bout of his career; a welterweight title shot against Oscar De La Hoya. The “Golden Boy” was at the top of his game and Carr was supposed to be a tuneup fight for a huge, mega showdown with Felix Trinidad. They met on 05/22/99 in the first main event at the brand new Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV for the WBC Welterweight title. Prior to the bout, Larry Merchant complimented Carr by saying cars need tune ups and that Oba Carr was no tune up.

Carr would once again give a great effort, surviving an early knockdown to give De La Hoya a run for his money before getting caught in the 11th and getting stopped. It was another heartbreaking defeat in a bid for a world title and it would be Carr’s last shot. He would go 6-3 with three KO’s over the next three years before calling it a career in 2002. His record stands at 54-6-1 with 31 KO’s. He was definitely in the class of his Kronk predecessors Hearns, McCrory and Curry. Possessing all the tools to become a world champion, however coming up slightly short of glory.


Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini International Boxing Hall of Fame Candidate

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NEW YORK (Oct. 14, 2014) – Former World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is officially a candidate for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF).
 
Mancini (29-5, 23 KOs), the pride of Youngstown, Ohio, turned professional in 1979 and officially retired from the ring in 1992. From 1982 to 1984, he captured the hearts and minds of boxing fans all over the world, developing into a marquee fighter and household name.
 
“To learn that I am on the ballot for induction into the IBHOF has given me great pride, great excitement and great appreciation for those who think that my career is worthy of induction,” Mancini said. “I am truly humbled by this consideration. I would be honored to share that day with the other recipients, my family, my deceased parents, my city of Youngstown, Ohio and boxing fans worldwide.”
                                                                                     
Mancini won his first 20 pro fights, highlighted by his win over future two-time world champion Jose Luis Ramirez (71-3) by 12-round unanimous decision, setting the stage for his fist world title shot in 1981 against one of the all-time greats, Hall-of-Famer Alexis Arguello (67-5), for his World Boxing Council (WBC) crown. Arguello proved to be too experienced for the then 20-year-old Mancini, who gave his much more experienced opponent trouble early and built a lead on the scorecards in a spectacular fight, before he was stopped in the 14th round.
 
In 1982, Mancini captured the WBA 135-pound title, knocking out defending champion (24-1) Arturo Frias in the opening round, in which Mancini was initially shaken and cut by Frias. The popular Italian-American fighter successfully defended his title four times, in order, against former world champion (35-4) Ernesto Espana (TKO6), (17-1-1) Deuk-Koo Kim (KO14), (30-0-1) Orlando Romero (KO9) and two-time world champion (52-6-1) and IBHOF inductee Bobby Chacon (TKO3).
 
His five career losses were all to world champions: Arguello, Livingstone Bramble (twice), Hector Camacho and Greg Haughen.
 
Today, among several business ventures, Mancini is a consultant and fight analyst for Fight Network, a 24/7 television channel dedicated to complete coverage of combat sports. It airs programs focused on the entire scope of the combat sports genre, including live fights and up-to-the-minute news and analysis for boxing, mixed martial arts, kickboxing, professional wrestling, traditional martial arts, fight news, as well as fight-themed drama series, documentaries and feature films.
 

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“We’re very proud that Ray Mancini is part of our family,” Fight Network president Len Asper (pictured at left with Ray, picture by Emily Harney) said. “All of us at Fight Network congratulate Ray for being a much deserved Hall-of-Fame candidate. Ray will have an increased role as we expand our channel across all media. He’s a class act and we are thrilled Fight Network is one of the platforms through which Ray continues to inspire others and contribute to the boxing world. ”
 
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Fight Network,” Mancini added. “America needs a TV channel that covers boxing around the clock and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”
 
Members of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) vote for IBHOF inductees, based on the candidate’s contributions to the sport of boxing. The Class of 2015 will be announced in December. Mancini, who was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, is one of 20 new names on the IBHOF’s  “Modern” ballot for 2015.
 
Mancini favorably compares to 2013 IBHOF inductee, the late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, in terms of their exciting, blood-and guts style of fighting, proven ability to spike television ratings and ticket sales, and especially their fan-friendly personalities. They both had compelling out-of-ring story-lines. Mancini’s intertwined with his father, Lenny Mancini, who was considered a world champion prospect. An injury suffered in World War II, however, prevented Lenny from fulfilling his potential. Their relationship, as well as how Ray dealt with depression resulting from the Kim tragedy, in which Kim died four days after his fight with Mancini from a brain injury, were featured in the acclaimed documentary, “The Good Son: The life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini.”

Forgotten Legends: Rafael Ruelas

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By: Steve Gallegos

In today’s world or boxing, it’s common to see pairs of siblings. We have the Peterson brothers: Lamont and Anthony, the Charlos: Jermell and Jermall, the Magdalenos: Diego and Jesse and the greatest pair of brothers in the history of boxing: The Brothers Klitschko. Perhaps the most successful pair of brothers behind the Klitschko’s are the Ruelas brothers: Rafael and Gabriel.

Rafael Ruelas was a tall, lengthy fighter who loved to come forward and put on the pressure while making for some very exciting fights. Ruelas was born in Jalisco, Mexico and raised in Southern California. One day he and his older brother Gabriel were out selling candy door to door when they came across Goossen’s Gym which led to both brothers deciding to take up boxing. Under the tutelage of the great boxing trainer Joe Goosen, Ruelas turned pro in 1989, winning his first 27 fights, 21 by KO before suffering his first setback.

His first taste of defeat came on a technicality from his corner when he faced journeyman Mario Gutierrez in July of 1991. Ruelas suffered a flash knockdown in the second and instead of paying attention to the referee’s count, he paid attention to his corner’s which was one second off, causing Ruelas to be counted out. He shook the loss off well and won his next 12 bouts, setting up a world title shot against IBF lightweight champion Freddie Pendleton.

They met on 02/19/94 in front of a huge, pro-Ruelas crowd at the Great Western Forum in Englewood, CA. Ruelas, who was known as a slow starter, was dropped twice in the first round; however he shook it off well. The fight was an all action war in which Ruelas put constant pressure on the champion, landing hard shots to the body and head. The end result was a unanimous decison victory for Ruelas. The Ruelas family had it’s 1st world champion.

Seven months later, his brother Gabriel would win his own world title by beating Jesse James Leija. Ruelas would make the first defense of his title with an eighth round TKO over Billy Schwer on 01/28/95. This would setup a mega fight unification with WBO lightweight champion, “The Golden Boy”, Oscar De La Hoya.

They met on 05/06/95 at the famous outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV. De La Hoya took advantage of Ruelas’ habit of starting slow by jumping on Ruelas early. In the second round, De La Hoya landed a flush left hook that put Ruelas down. He was able to get up; however he was badly dazed and De La Hoya would drop him again before Richard Steele stopped the bout. De La Hoya stated in the post fight interview that he had to knockout Ruelas out early, otherwise Rafael would apply the pressure and beat him over the course of 12 rounds.

1995 would provide another setback for Ruelas as he dropped a unanimous decison to George Scott five months later. He was able to bounce back well though. On 04/30/96 he co-headlined a USA Tuesday Night Fight card in San Antonio, TX alongside Jr Bantamweight champion Johnny Tapia. He would score an impressive first round KO of Tomas Barrientes in which he knocked Barrientes out of the ring. He would follow up this performance with an impressive unanimous decison over former world champion Livingstone Bramble four months later. He would win his next six bouts from 1996-1998 all by KO before facing Kostya Tszyu in a title eliminator on 08/15/98.

The experienced Ruelas was overmatched by the younger, harder hitting Tszyu. He lost via ninth round TKO. He would fight once more in 1999 before calling it a career. His record as a professional stands at 53-4 with 42 KO’s. Today Ruelas is a licensed stockbroker and real estate agent. While the Ruelas brothers’ reign as world champions was a short one, it was definitely one of the more successful brother duo’s in boxing history, leaving behind many great memories for boxing fans to talk about. The Ruelas brothers aren’t in the international Boxing Hall of Fame as of yet and hopefully they will one day be inducted together, amongst the other boxing greats in Canastota.

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Photo Credit: Manny Millan/SI

(Ruelas Brothers. Rafael-Left, Gabriel-Right)

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