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Oubaali TKOs Villanueva in Kazakhstan but There’s a Bigger Back Story

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  • Oubaali TKOs Villanueva in Kazakhstan but There’s a Bigger Back Story

    Click image for larger version  Name:	D-zmG1YW4AA15u5.jpg Views:	1 Size:	81.6 KB ID:	13536

    By Arne K. Lang

    Two-time Olympian Nordine Oubaali successfully defended his WBC world bantamweight title today (July 6) with a TKO over Arthur Villanueva who bowed out after six rounds. The bout, staged at an ice hockey arena in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, was live-streamed in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico on ESPN+, a Saturday morning nosh for dedicated boxing enthusiasts.

    Although a world title was at stake, future boxing historians will likely accord the match little more than a footnote. However, the show, which was hitched to a holiday (Kazakhstan’s first President’s Day), may come to be remembered as a watershed event in the sporting history of that nation.

    This was not Kazakhstan’s first foray into pro boxing. Kazakhstan’s first great champion, Vasiliy Jirov, made the third defense of his world cruiserweight title against Puerto Rico’s overmatched Alex Gonzalez at Almaty in 2001. The country’s most renowned fighter, Gennadiy Golovkin, fought here in Nur-Sultan (then known as Astana) in 2010 against Nilson Julio Tapia, an obscure fighter from Columbia. But these were one-offs. Neither Jirov -- who began his pro career in Las Vegas, won his world title in Biloxi, Mississippi, and retired to Arizona -- nor Golovkin, ever fought here again.

    Today’s show was meant to send a message: To wit, talented Kazakhstani boxers can henceforth achieve their dreams without shipping out to a foreign land once they turn pro. The wholesale exportation of Kazakhstan’s top boxers has ran its course.

    “The days of Kazakh fighters having to leave their homeland in search of glory and depriving their fans of joining them on the journey will end with this event. We are here to build something lasting,” said Ahmed A. Seddiqi, the Central Asia regional manager for MTK Global, who noted that since 1996, when Kazakhstan fielded its first Olympic boxing team, the nation of approximately 18.3 million people has won an astounding 22 Olympic medals (seven gold).

    MTK Global bills itself as the world’s foremost boxer management company. It claims to have more than 100 boxers under contract, including such notables as Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders, Carl Frampton, and Michael Conlan. The company has a working arrangement with Top Rank (Bob Arum), through which it can distribute its content on ESPN platforms.

    MTK Global has a seamy history, one that provides great fodder for investigative reporters drawn to explore the business side of boxing. Originally called MGM (no relation to the casino conglomerate; the initials stood for Macklin Gym Marbella), the company was founded in 2012 by former British and European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin, a former three-time world title challenger. Macklin’s gym, located in the Marbella community of Costa del Sol on the southern coast of Spain, was the company’s original brick-and-mortar asset, the forerunner of what are now 10 MTK Global gyms around the world.

    The scuttlebutt was that Macklin, who remains on the company’s board, was merely a front and that the true owner of MGM was the infamous Irish drug lord Christy Kinahan whose son, Daniel Kinahan, was close friends with the fighter. Sandra Vaughan, the current CEO of MTK Global, has been identified in the papers as the ex-partner of convicted drug dealer Kevin Kelly, said to have been a member of the Kinahan cartel.

    The name change from MGM to MTK Global came after a sensational shoot-out during a weigh-in at Dublin’s Regency Hotel during which a Kinahan associate was shot dead and two of his cohorts were wounded. The brazen Feb. 6, 2016, incident was characterized as a gangland turf war. Prior to the killing, a relative of Kinahan’s chief rival was murdered in Marbella. The Kinahans, father and son, are said to be currently on the lam in Dubai where MTK Global is now headquartered.

    Since the Regency Hotel firefight, the company has made great strides, both in terms of becoming a major player in boxing and in terms of sanitizing its image. In October of last year, the company hired Bob Yalen as its president. Yalen, who was headed toward a career in nuclear engineering before he was bitten by the boxing bug, was known as a man of unimpeachable integrity during his tenures with NBC, ABC, and ESPN. In 1993, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America with the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting. (The history of MGM/MTK Global reminds this reporter of the history of gambling in Las Vegas.)

    - - -

    Prior to today, Nordine Oubaali (pictured holding the WBC belt) was last seen in the ring on Jan. 19 of this year when he copped the vacant WBC title with a unanimous decision over former amateur rival Rau’shee Warren on the undercard of Pacquaio-Broner. Although there were no knockdowns, it was a strong performance by the French-Algerian southpaw who was the aggressor and dominated the later rounds.

    Today he had an easier assignment against Villanueva, a 30-year-old Filipino who had come up short in two previous stabs at a world title, succumbing to McJoe Arroyo and Zolani Tete. Oubaali (16-0, 11 KOs) was in control from the outset and dished out a lot of punishment before Villanueva (32-4-1) was all in. A knockdown midway through round six signaled that the end was near.

    Oubaali vs. Villanueva was actually the co-feature, preceding the 10-round junior welterweight match between Kazakhstan’s Zhankosh Turarov and Argentina’s Mauro Maximiliano Godoy. It was a virtual walkover for the undefeated Turarov (24-0, 17 KOs) who dismissed Godoy (31-5-1) on the third frame.

    A 10-year-pro, the well-traveled 28-year-old Turarov has had a curious career. He has fought extensively in the Dominican Republic and was most recently domiciled with his more highly regarded countryman Kanat Islam in southern Florida. Islam was in action yesterday (Friday, July 5) in Kazakhstan’s former capital city of Almaty where he pushed his record to 26-0 (21) with a first round stoppage of Julio De Jesus.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Quakes are very scary, especially when your daughter lives in LA.


    • #3
      MTK gained a lot of exposure for their company and fighters early on when they live streamed many of their early shows on YouTube. Before they began doing this, the only way to catch many of these overseas cards were via some sort of illegal stream. They used to publicize (and still to to some regard though many of their shows will now be available in the US on ESPN+) these "free" streams to US fans on social media and the response was incredible. The presentation was fantastic too (something some other promoters, namely Golden Boy, should take not of) and I am certain many took notice of the success MTK had in being one of the pioneers in the streaming of the sport to a more global audience.

      As for the card itself, I wondered before the show just how did Arthur Villanueva gain a ranking to "earn" a title shot. He was coming off a draw in his prior outing to an 11-5 fighter and before that a TKO loss to Luis Nery. That said, Oubaali took care of business in what was a one sided fight as expected and will hopefully move on next to face a much more credible foe. Rumor has it he may be facing the brother of a monster...

      I really like Turarov. He has plenty of skill and natural talent. Well balanced inside the ring and an excellent natural counterpuncher with plenty of athleticism. Keep an eye on him, needs to stay much more active but can be a serious player at 140.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Kid Blast View Post
        Quakes are very scary, especially when your daughter lives in LA.
        Yeah they certainly can be. Is everything okay with her?


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Yes, thankfully. She texted me and said "there's a whole lot of shaking going on." LMAO