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Articles of 2002

Ayala Might Beat Morales

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I've always got a lot on my mind- of course some would say I don't have anything between the ears, but that's a matter of opinion- and I was just thinking about a few things. Just off the top of my head:

* Paulie Ayala will beat Erik Morales this Saturday night in a thriller. Yup, I'm tabbing Ayala, a three-to-one dog over 'El Terrible'. Why? Well, that's a good question. First, Ayala, is better than people think. I know, I know, he's been on the fortunate end of some Bob Arum-influenced decisions but this is a guy who for the last two or three years has always given respectable performances against world class opposition. Secondly, while Morales is the bigger fighter, tell me the last time that he really starched someone as a featherweight. If you recall, most of his notable knockouts have come as a 122-pounder. Third, guys like the limited In Jin Chi, the ordinary Guty Espadas, the light hitting Wayne McCullough and the ancient Daniel Zaragoza have all been competitive with Morales. And it says right here, that the 2002 version of Ayala is better than any of those above mentioned names. And finally from a stylistic standpoint, Ayala has what it takes to disrupt Morales. Because for all his height and reach advantages that he has, Morales oftentimes does a poor job of establishing distance and lets himself be smothered on the inside. Ayala, is a technically sound fighter, who has a strong set of legs that can close the gap and is a very busy, active fighter who offsets his lack of true punching power with a volume of shots. These are the types of guys that have given Morales trouble in the past. Ayala, may not be the most naturally gifted fighter out there and he seems somewhat limited, but at the end of the day all he does is win. He is the classic overachiever that gets every last ounce out of his talent. And it's those guys, much like a Rocky Marciano, that you find out are the toughest guys to face.

* Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah need to fight immediately. Yes, everyone wants a crack at the undisputed jr. welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu and both Mitchell and Judah would love rematches with the pony-tailed Russian who now makes Australia his home. But based on the hatred and animosity that these two east coast southpaws have for each other, this is the fight I want to see. And these emotions exist with these guys having never faced each other in actual competition. This actually goes back to when the process of unifying this division was taking place. Back in early 2001, Judah was holding the IBF title and Mitchell the WBA version of the crown. During that time both fighters would take turns taking verbal pot shots at each other. At that time it was nothing more than some good, clean, fun posturing from both fighters. But things got taken to another level when Mitchell would have to quit on his stool against Tszyu with a knee injury.

Mitchell, who was despondent over losing his title would begin to get emotional and Judah, who was doing some ringside commentary for Showtime stated, ” C'mon, there's no crying in the ghetto!!!” What's ironic is that when Judah was stopped by Tszyu later in the year, it was Judah who threw a child-like temper tantrum in the ring. Last week on a national conference call to promote his fight against Vince Phillips, Mitchell mocked Judah's reaction. Then after his win over Phillips this past weekend, he had a few choice words for the Brooklyn native. Judah, on various websites would comeback with his response- which included promising to send Mitchell to the grave. In other words what we have here is a great prelude to a promotion that has to be made. And think about it, neither guy is going to get Tszyu in the near future anyway, so why not face each other? In wrestling for years they have had 'loser leaves town' matches where the vanquished grapplers can never set foot in certain regions( or at least until they come up with a new storyline), here we can have the 'loser leaves ghetto' stipulation. The loser of this bout would never be able to set foot in the inner city and must have his personal belongings packed and ready to go to the nearest suburbs where they must live the life of the Huxtables. Hmm, now that I think about it, who would be the loser in that case?

* Who's the game's best pound-for-pound? Think about it, Bernard Hopkins has been on ice, Roy Jones has gone through one mis-mandatory after another, Oscar De La Hoya can make a claim but he hasn't been that active, Tszyu could also make one because of the quality of his recent wins, Vernon Forrest has two big wins over Shane Mosley, but what else? And Mosley is currently on a two fight losing skid. So who makes the strongest claim? How 'bout Marco Antonio Barrera?
Think about it, in the last few years he's has wins over Morales, Naseem Hamed, Enrique Sanchez and most recently a systematic win over Johnny Tapia. He's fought regularly against world-class competition and his continued to hone his style as he matures. No, he's not as exciting as he once was but in making some adjustments to his new, more calculating approach he most likely is extending his career.

* Juan Manuel Marquez is the best fighter in the world never to hold a major title. Have you ever seen this guy? Call me crazy, but I think if he fights Barrera, he is no worse than a 7-5 underdog and that's it. Yeah, he's that good and that dangerous and that's exactly why he's had problems getting some of the other blue-chip 126-pounders in there with him. It seems that his promoter Bob Arum signed him up for the sole reason of keeping him away from the likes of Morales and some of his other Top Rank stable. But this can guy really box- I think he's the games best counter-puncher in the biz, who possesses great hand-speed, reflexes and timing. All he needs is the opportunity. He dropped the ball a bit when he fought Freddy Norwood in 1999 for the WBA crown but I have a feeling that he won't let that happen again when he takes on the crafty vet Manny Medina in March for the vacant IBF title.

* What can we expect out of Ward-Gatti II? Now, as far as I'm concerned if these two blue collar brawlers can give us half the fight they gave us the first time, I won't complain. But is there any chance they duplicate what they did in April?
Probably not, but you've got to figure that neither guy is really a 'cutie' and that their basic styles never really change from one fight to another. Also, neither guy could get into a bad or boring fight if they tried. I think both guys will go in with gameplans designed to box a bit more and to control the flow of the fight but once they each get hit I think the leather will begin to fly freely. Remember, in life, you are what you are. And both of these warriors are fighters who fight. They don't know any better and we should be thankful for that.

* Has Roy Jones signed the contract to fight John Ruiz yet? Seriously, I keep hearing about how they're still waiting to sign the 'long form contract' for this bout. Guys, this is a boxing contract that is pretty standard for a fight like this, not War and Peace, it can't be THAT long for pete's sake. I mean they're treating this as if they're chiseling out the Ten Commandments on stone tablets or something. Just sign the contract already. That's of course if Roy really wants this fight. And with the IBF denying his request for an exception, he can always back out of the Ruiz fight by saying that he simply cannot let himself be stripped of his hard-earned belts and fight his mandatory challenger Antonio Tarver.

* Holyfield will lose to Byrd. I'm saying it right now, Chris Byrd will box circles around Evander Holyfield and Byrd will make it look easy. I know, I know, like everyone else I've made the mistake of counting out the 'Real Deal' before but I think Byrd has the type of style that will give Holyfield fits. Holyfield is most effective with guy who will stand in front of him and give him counter-punching openings. Byrd, is the antithesis of that, he will circle and jab his way around Holyfield all night and Holyfield at this stage of his career isn't in any mood to chase poeple down. I like Byrd to slap his way to a 12 round decision. But I'll make another prediction, based on the way this fight goes, Evander will say that he will keep going because he really didn't get beat but that he had a guy that was running from him all night.

Articles of 2002

$*%@#!

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Walk the dog, stroll through the park, have a picnic at the lake.
There are safer things for IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov to do this month than defend his title against James “Lights Out” Toney.
Barbecue, play softball, fish, visit the zoo. Thank his lucky stars.
Jirov, who lives in California, won’t be fighting Toney on HBO on Jan. 25.
Something to do with his insides.
Ask Toney why Jirov pulled out of their fight and he’ll tell you it was Jirov’s heart that let him down, his backbone that went soft, not his banged-up ribs. Ask Toney and he’ll tell you about heartbreak and lies and revenge and fighting anybody in the universe if it means another title. Jirov claims he suffered the damage while sparring. Maybe. But it’s the fourth time Jirov has found a reason not to fight Toney. How many times you got to be told to go home before you realize the guy doesn’t want to come outside and play? How many times you got to be bit by the same dog before you realize it wants to be left alone? Jirov has more excuses than a politician caught with a hooker on his lap.
In his own eloquent way, Toney recently described how disappointed he was in the cancellation of their title fight on the undercard of the Vernon Forrest – Ricardo Mayorga welterweight title fight.
“The @#%$%*&#@,’’ Toney said after learning of the postponement on Christmas Eve. “Jirov can @&%$#% and then he can @%$#@#$. He’s nothing but a #$%#@#.’’ That said, it doesn’t brighten up the New Year in the Toney household.
“I’m done with it,’’ said Toney, sounding like a guy who finally gets tried of being stood up by the same girl.
As of Dec. 30, there was still no word of an opponent for Toney, though he’s still making regular trips to the gym.
Merry Christmas, James. Have a Happy New Year.
“Bah, humbug,’’ said Toney’s promoter Dan Goossen. “We didn’t have much of a Christmas. I got the news on Christmas Eve. But you just have to bounce back.’’ Funny thing about fighters. Some make excuses, some fight through them. You get the feeling Toney could have cracked five ribs and his right tibia and still climbed into the ring against Jirov.
It raises a lot of questions. What’s Jirov got against fighting? After a busy 2001, he hasn’t fought since last February. How do you hold a title after you’ve gone into retirement? Just who is this guy and why does he like to hide? Is there really a Vassily Jirov out there, or is he a creation of the IBF, a shadowy figure who won the title and decided it was too big a risk to keep defending it? The bottom line is, Toney may be left with a lot of unexpected free time on his hands if they don’t find him another fight, though he knew better than to mark the date on his calendar in ink. There are no promises in boxing. When dealing with a guy like Jirov, all bets are off. But Toney can still hope. The name O’Neil Bell – the WBC’s No. 1 challenger – has been knocked around, and Toney said he doesn’t care what contender or champion he knocks out on Jan. 25. “#@#$%$#,’’ Toney said.
You can say that again.

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Articles of 2002

New Year's Resolutions

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A new year is upon us, which means it's time for new years resolutions. Yeah, never mind that most resolutions are broken, oh, around the third week of January; everybody still makes them.

Here are my resolutions that I'd make for some of the luminaries in the sport of boxing.

* Floyd Mayweather: No more excuses. Anyone else sick of listening to 'the Pretty Boy' whine about what ailments he came into the fight with? Whether it's his fragile hands, a bum shoulder or his squabbles with his promoter Bob Arum, he always has an alibi. Hey Floyd, nobody cares, you get paid plenty to perform and those that buy tickets don't care that you might have a hangnail; they want nothing but the best effort out of you.

Mayweather reminds me of former Los Angeles Dodger slugger Mike Marshall, who's second home seemed to be the disabled list. The bottom line is this guy is lucky to be a boxer where he only has to perform once every 6 months- he simply couldn't handle the rigors of an NBA, NFL or baseball season. Ask any athlete if they are ever 100-percent healthy after the first day of training camp or spring training and they'll laugh at you.

Injuries and ailments are a part of the job, overcoming them is what makes a true professional. Mayweather still hasn't grasped that concept.

* Jim Gray: Respect. I guess this little weasel is whom Aretha Franklin was talking about in her song. Think about it, have you ever seen a guy be so disrespectful to fighters in post-fight interviews like this guy. Don't even mention HBO's Larry Merchant- he isn't afraid to ask the tough questions like a true journalist and he's consistent. Gray looks at boxing as a secondary gig and looks down on boxers in general.

Don't believe me? Just compare and contrast his softball interviews that he does for NBC and the hatchet jobs he does on Showtime.

* Max Kellerman: No more over-hyping New York boxers. Look, I get along and respect Max, but when you look up the term 'East Coast Bias' in Webster's, his picture may be used as the definition of it. From Zab Judah to James Butler and to Tokumbo Olajide, he'll have you enshrined in Canastota if you come out of the Big Apple.

What's worse are the excuses he'll come up with for his New Yorkers when they fall on their faces. Max is great for boxing but he's gotta realize New York hasn't been a player on the boxing scene for at least 20 years.

* Crocodile: A new catchphrase. You know Crocodile, right? He was Mike Tyson's hype-man for all these years…the guy with the menacing shades and the army fatigues who used to scream, “GUERILLA WARFARE” at the top of his lungs over and over again.

I've heard that enough and it's about as played out as 'Whoop, there it is' and it's time he came up with a new one. All the great ones can add to their repertoire.

* HBO: Admit they acknowledge the titles. Stop being the Hypocritical Boxing Organization and just stop saying that you don't recognize these organizations. The latest example of their double-talk? Well, for years they dogged John Ruiz and his WBA title, suddenly Roy Jones challenges Ruiz and HBO is hyping this up as some sort of historic challenge of a light heavyweight trying to capture a heavyweight title.
Yeah, the same title they had basically trashed for years.

* Joe Cortez: No more over-officiating. His line is that,' He's firm but he's fair'. I'd argue about that the last couple of years but my biggest gripe with him is that he seems to make himself waaaaay too visible during fights and gets too involved. Nobody is there to watch him and he should just let the fighters fight.
Too often I see these fights with Cortez lose their flow as Cortez continually interrupts the action with his admonishments and warnings. Joe, take a step back and let us watch what we came to see.

* Don Turner: Stop living off of Holyfield-Tyson I- If you ever talk to this guy, he'll talk as though he invented boxing. And his big coup was co-training Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson. 'The Real Deal' upset Tyson and suddenly Turner was being hailed as the new Chappie Blackburn and he became a media darling.

My question is this, did he suddenly teach Holyfield how to fight 35 fights into his career? Also, I contend that my mother and I could work Holyfield's corner and he would whip Tyson everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And ask yourself this, when was the last time he was in the winning corner for a big fight?

* Newspaper writers: Start crediting the Internet. Ok, this is a sore subject with me, but too many times I've seen stories from the major newspaper scribes who amazingly have stories that are eerily similar to stories that I've read on the internet (or that I've written myself) and use quotes that I got in one-on-one interviews and they don't attribute their sources- the internet.

When I take quotes or info from a story I make a point to give credit where it's due. Now, I just wish these guys would do the same.

* Roy Jones: no more hip-hop entrances. Roy, you're a magnificently gifted prizefighter, you can also play just a bit of hoops, but your rhyming skills are that of Shaquille O'Neal. In other words, you're doing street nursery rhymes not Nas.

Please, oh please, stop embarrassing yourself and the sport with your cheesy as nacho's attempt to become a hip-hop performer. His last entrance/performance reminded me of one of those really bad Sir-Mix-Alot videos of the early 90's.

* Panama Lewis: an exit out of the game. You remember Lewis right, the guy who gave Aaron Pryor the mysterious white bottle before the 14th round of his bout against Alexis Arguello, which seemed to give 'the Hawk' a sudden burst of energy that enabled Pryor to brutally KO Arguello. Afterwards, Pryor would skip out on his post-fight drug test.

Then there was the fight with Luis Resto, where he would tamper with his gloves between rounds, and bearing the brunt of this tomfoolery was Billy Collins who's faced was turned into a bloody mess. Collins, in the aftermath of this brutality committed suicide. For this, Lewis was banned permanently from working a corner. But that doesn't mean that he can't go into the gym and train fighters and even attend fights.

The bottom line is simple, this man has no place in the game of boxing and boxing shouldn't tolerate him in any way.

* Cedric Kushner: no more gimmicks. This guy has tried everything from the disastrous 'ThunderBox' to one-day $100,000 heavyweight tournaments- and all have failed miserably.

He can put on a boxing version of 'Survivor' or 'Real World' if he wants but the reality is, boxing fans want good fights and interesting fighters, nothing more, nothing less.

Stop with the shenanigans and stop with the junk.

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Articles of 2002

Dream Fights of 2003

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Hey, we can all dream, right? Isn't it our God-given right as boxing fans to think about fights that should happen – but often times don't?

And not just fights that have the highest profile or the biggest names – because sometimes those fights, like Lewis vs. Tyson – are nothing more than high-profile mismatches. I'm talking about fights that are evenly matched between the game's best and are the most intriguing inside the ring.

Here are some fights I'd pay to see in the upcoming year; full well knowing that most of these fights are pipe dreams as the business end of the sport would bog these fights down quickly. But hey, we can dream right?

* Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Erik Morales or Marco Antonio Barrera: Name me another fighter that has never won a world title belt that is better than Marquez? You can't and this guys been ducked and dodged long enough. On February 1st he takes on Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title and it says here that he should face one of the game's best known 126-pounders, either Morales or Barrera. Marquez is a master boxer with great counter-punching skills and his hand-speed would give either one of his Mexican compatriots fits. There are some in the industry who have been saying for a while that Marquez is already the game's premiere featherweight; I'm not inclined to disagree that strongly.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: With Barrera, not good, as Ricardo Maldonado sees no real upside in this match-up and would most likely take an easier fight on HBO for about the same amount of money he could make facing Marquez.

With Morales, the logistics are much less complicated. Both of them are promoted by Bob Arum and there is some talk that they could face each other in May if a Morales-Barrera III isn't made.

* Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones: Not only because it's a match-up of two of the very premiere fighters in the world, but Hopkins needs to resume his career with some meaningful fights and Jones should be fighting guys like 'the Executioner' instead of participating in novelty acts like his proposed bout with John Ruiz.

And don't think for one minute that this would be a blowout. Jones couldn't blowout a green Hopkins in 1993 and won't be able to do it now. Hopkins, unlike most of Jones' opponents, isn't in total awe of Pensacola's finest.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not good, Sharon and Arafat will find a common ground regarding the Middle East before these two proud and stubborn men find one in contract negotiations.

* Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vernon Forrest: For fans of pure boxing and strategy this is a fight that can't be missed. Both men have strong jabs and match-up well physically. 'The Golden Boy' has the better left hook and 'The Viper' has a more effective right hand. Between these two well-schooled boxers you can expect a tense and tight boxing match with subtle momentum swings round by round.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: For 2003, not very good because it looks like Oscar will be fighting once in the upcoming year – a September rematch against Shane Mosley – and Bob Arum has stated that Forrest simply brings nothing to the table promotionally. This can be interpreted as another way of saying that he's not Latin, too dangerous or just another black fighter who can't sell a ticket. The bottom line seems to be that unless Forrest raises his profile in the upcoming years, De La Hoya will be facing guys that make economic sense.

* Floyd Mayweather vs. Kostya Tszyu: This would be a face off of the sport's premier lightweight against the game's best jr. welterweight. 'The Pretty Boy' would bring speed, quickness and boxing ability to the dance. While Tszyu would bring a decided edge in strength, size and punching power. They say styles make fights and you have two contrasting ones here.

CHANCES OF HAPPENING?: Not likely. This is for a couple of reasons. First, Vlad Wharton who promotes Tszyu, is seemingly deathly afraid to take any risks with Tszyu, who's basically his cash cow. Secondly, Mayweather got a reality check from his two bouts with Jose Luis Castillo, who at 135 pounds was able to muscle him throughout their 24 rounds they fought in 2002. And Tszyu is faster, sharper and just as strong as Castillo. I'm not sure Mayweather is in any rush to make the move up to 140-pounds.

* Lennox Lewis vs. Wladimir Klitschko: The industry is always better off when there is action in the heavyweight division. So why even mess around by having Lewis take on 'the other' Klitschko or knock out Tyson again; getting right in there with the man most pundits are claiming is the heir to his throne in Wlad Klitschko?

The time is now, Lewis is getting up there in age and really doesn't have that much left in his gas tank anyway and it would be prudent for him to face Klitschko now before he gets any better. Remember, that's the tact they took in facing Michael Grant when they did – but it has to be noted that Klitschko is much better than Grant.

Lewis would have the advantages in experience and savvy, but for one of the few times in his career he would be facing a disadvantage in size and perhaps power. The two best big men on the planet squaring off, what else could you ask for?

CHANCES OF HAPPENING: Actually pretty good, since Lewis himself has stated his plans to take on both Klitschkos in between his rematch with Tyson. But with Don King now making a full court press to garner the services of Lewis, who knows what direction he goes to now.

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