Dan Rafael: Naazim Richardson

BWAA awards: And the nominees are...

December, 15, 2014
Terence Crawford AP Photo/Nati HarnikTerence Crawford, the 2014 ESPN.com fighter of the year, won't be fighting on March 21 as expected.

As if last week wasn’t busy enough in Las Vegas, where I shuttled between the Cosmopolitan and MGM Grand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for coverage of both big shows – I hit both press conferences and weigh-ins and watched the early MGM bouts before going to the Cosmo – there was also a Boxing Writers Association of America meeting on Saturday morning at the MGM.

A few weeks ago in Atlantic City there was also a BWAA meeting for those folks in the organization on the East Coast. At that meeting we did the preliminary ballot for the 2014 awards, which will be handed out at the annual banquet in the spring a night or two before a major fight.

On Saturday we finalized the ballot and here is what the full members will be voting on in the coming weeks. The nominees are:

Sugar Ray Robinson Fighter of the Year: Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin.

Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Fight of the Year: Francisco Rodriguez Jr.-Katsunari Takayama (incredible action-packed strawweight unification), Orlando Salido-Terdsak Kokietgym (interim junior lightweight title bout featuring blazing action and seven combined knockdowns), Lucas Matthysse-John Molina (a back and forth junior welterweight battle featuring five combined knockdowns), Tommy Coyle-Daniel Brizuela (dramatic lightweight slugfest that featured eight combined knockdowns); Terence Crawford-Yuriorkis Gamboa (lightweight title fight that was dramatic and exciting in front of a wild Crawford crowd).

Eddie Futch Trainer of the Year: Abel Sanchez, Freddie Roach, John David Jackson, Naazim Richardson, Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Cus D’Amato Manager of the Year: Egis Klimas, Vadim Kornilov, Al Haymon, Pat Lynch, No award

Sam Taub broadcast award: Marc Payton (retired longtime director of HBO’s boxing broadcasts), Lou DiBella (promoter who spent many years buying the fights for HBO and the creator of “Boxing After Dark”), Seth Abraham (former longtime president of HBO Sports who teamed with DiBella to make HBO into a powerhouse boxing network), Brian Kweder (boxing programmer for ESPN), No award

Bill Crawford award for courage in overcoming adversity: Magomed Abdusalamov, Steve and Livvy Cunningham, Vitali Klitschko, Anthony Dirrell, Kathy Duva

Barney Nagler Long and Meritorious Service award: Michael Buffer (legendary ring announcer), Bob Canobbio (CompuBox founder), Lou DiBella (promoter, former HBO executive), Dr. Margaret Goodman (head of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and former Nevada ringside physician), Jack Hirsch (outgoing longtime BWAA president)

Marvin Kohn Good Guy award: Dan Goossen (promoter, posthumous), Andrey Ryabinsky (Russian promoter who paid for most of Magomed Abdusalamov’s medical expenses), Ken Condon (longtime casino executive in Atlantic City), Don Turner (trainer), Tami Cotel (HBO boxing production coordinator).

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- In Bernard Hopkins’ fourth middleweight title defense, he knocked out John David Jackson in the seventh round in Shreveport, Louisiana. Many years later, long after Jackson retired, he began training fighters and has become one of the sport's elite cornermen. In fact, he worked alongside Naazim Richardson for several fights as an assistant trainer for Hopkins, with whom Jackson developed a good relationship.

Jackson and Hopkins, however, are in opposite corners now. Jackson, a former world titleholder, is the head trainer of light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, who will fight Hopkins to unify their three belts on Saturday night (HBO, 10:45 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

On the one hand, Hopkins knocked out Jackson in a dominant performance years ago, so how can he teach Kovalev how to beat Hopkins? On the other hand, having worked with Hopkins in recent years -- including his upset victories against Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik -- Jackson is well-versed in the nuances of Hopkins’ style and knows his fighting style as well as anyone.

Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), who turns 50 – yes, 50 – in January, doesn’t think Jackson’s presence in Kovalev’s corner will mean a thing.

"John David Jackson says he knows everything there is to know about me,” Hopkins said at Thursday’s final prefight news conference at Caesars Atlantic City. “Sergey is the student. I'm not fighting John. But how can a teacher teach with credibility when the teacher has all F's? How can a teacher teach a student to have all A's when he has an F? I guarantee John did not show our fight to Sergey."

Jackson is not a big talker, but he has confidence in his ability to break down Hopkins’ style, regardless of that loss almost two decades ago.

"I warned Bernard's camp a few years ago, don't fight this Kovalev kid,” Jackson said. “I don't know what they told Bernard. But I told them please don't fight this kid. This is business at the end of the day. Bernard can talk about me all night long, but I don't have to get in the ring with him.”

Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs), of Russia, said he has confidence in Jackson, and has had confidence in him for all of their fights together.

“He has the keys to my victory,” Kovalev, 30, said. “I understand that everybody wants to hear what happened in my training camp with John David Jackson, but everything you will see [on Saturday].”

Cunningham still fighting for daughter

October, 14, 2014
CunninghamCourtesy The Cunningham FamilySteve Cunningham has a good reason to fight: his daughter Kennedy.
In April, heavyweight Steve Cunningham gutted out a 10-round decision win against Amir Mansour in a thriller. Cunningham was down twice, Mansour once, and it was a terrific fight.

Cunningham (27-6, 12 KOs), a former cruiserweight titleholder, made no secret of the main reason he was fighting -- to earn money to help pay for expensive medical care for his daughter Kennedy, who has a serious heart ailment and is in need of a transplant.

That is once again the main reason why Cunningham, 38, of Philadelphia, will climb back into the ring to face Natu Visinia, 30, of Lakewood, California, in a 10-round heavyweight main event Saturday night (NBC Sports Network, 9 ET) at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.

Visinia (10-0, 8 KOs) is an unknown. He has never been in a fight scheduled for longer than six rounds and faced only two opponents with winning records (6-1 and 3-1).

"Visinia is a big kid. He's a dangerous kid,” said Naazim Richardson, Cunningham’s trainer. “Steve is a real veteran. He's seen a lot. He responds well in the ring. He has courage and talent, and he is a great ambassador for our sport.

"At the end of the fight, you will see how he neutralizes the big strong guy, and that is what is important."

What also is important is Cunningham’s efforts to raise money for his daughter. While he is fighting in his hometown for the second fight in a row -- after 11 years spent not fighting there -- his daughter and wife, Livvy, are 300 miles away in Pittsburgh so they can be close to Kennedy’s doctors in the event a heart becomes available. Steve stayed at home to care for their two sons, Cruz and Steve Jr.

"With Livvy and Kennedy in Pittsburgh, I miss them dearly," Cunningham said. “But I get paid to do a job, and it needs to get done."

So far, a fund the Cunninghams created has raised more than $25,000 to help with the expenses associated with Kennedy's medical care. She was born with a congenital heart defect.

Richardson joins Team Martinez

September, 14, 2012
LAS VEGAS -- Lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will have another voice of great experience in his corner when he faces titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET, $49.95) at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Naazim Richardson, the longtime trainer of Bernard Hopkins who also worked with Shane Mosley, will be there to assist head trainer Pablo Sarmiento, according to Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez's adviser.

[+] EnlargeNaazim Richardson
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesTrainer and hand-wrap guru Naazim Richardson will assist the corner of Sergio Martinez during his middleweight title bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Richardson primarily will be with Martinez so he can oversee the wrapping of Chavez's hands in the dressing room before the fight, Lewkowicz said.

Richardson, of course, was Mosley's trainer for his welterweight title fight against Antonio Margarito in January 2009. In the dressing before the fight, it was Richardson who did not like how Margarito's hands were wrapped and insisted they be re-wrapped, upon which it was discovered that Margarito had illegal inserts in his hand wraps.

"His role will be to check the wraps and to make sure there is not another Margarito case," Lewkowicz said. "And he will also be in the corner to advise Sarmiento and let him know what he is seeing."

Lewkowicz said Richardson has been in place for about two months, but they did not want to make a formal announcement as they were trying to keep his presence low-key.

"We are happy to have another great set of eyes and another great mind on the Sergio 'Maravila' Martinez team," Lewkowicz said.