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Articles of 2004

The Business of Boxing was the Real Winner

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It was quite a scene this past weekend at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York when Felix Trinidad made a triumphant return to the squared circle, where he stopped the game Ricardo Mayorga in eight exciting stanzas. A crowd of over 17,000 rabid, partisan Puerto Ricans cheered every move of their beloved national hero. With his win, Trinidad is right in the thick of things in the deep well of talent that resides between 154 and 160 pounds.

His record now stands at 42-1 and he adds another ex-champion to his roster of fallen foes. And while his hand was raised by referee Steve Smoger, it was really the business and the game of boxing that won on this fall night.

It hasn't been a kind year to boxing icons in 2004. Since the month of May, we've seen standouts like Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones( twice) go down to defeat. And make no doubt about it, these weren't just losses to prizefighters, but a crippling blow to the economy of this industry.

A network executive once told me one of the wisest things ever told to me. In explaining what professional boxing is all about, he stated, “Boxing, is show business, dressed up as a sport.”

Silly me, back then as a young, naive and impressionable young scribe, I thought it was about the fights and the fighters. And in its barest essence, it still is. Boxing is the most basic and most savage of sports. Nothing can test a man’s will and character like getting in between the ropes to face someone who wants to tear your head off.

But what really drives the engine of this vehicle is the big, marquee events. The ones that that the general public will talk about at the water cooler, the fight that will be talked about on sports talk radio, the one that actually gets a few column inches across the sports pages of America.

And for the past generation, that meant fights that involved boxers named De La Hoya, Tyson and Jones. And if boxing was showbiz, then these last couple of months were akin to having Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Matt Damon going Greta Garbo on us.

It's hard to do showbiz without stars. Every movie needs a leading man, and for awhile boxing’s brightest lights had gone the way of Ben Affleck.

The stark reality is that in today’s game, with dates and budgets shrinking on both HBO and Showtime, the overall coverage of boxing shrinking and boxing continuing to fade in the consciousness of the general public, boxing is driven by transcendent stars and the marquee pay-per-view events.

So into the breach stepped Trinidad, who had more than just the hopes and dreams of his country on his slender – yet powerful – shoulders, but the whole pay-per-view industry. Yeah, guys like Winky Wright and Shane Mosley might be great guys and quality fighters, but there's a reason why they fight on cable and why guys like Trinidad are a pay-per-view franchise.

And if 'Tito' would have gone down to the heavy hands of the Nicaraguan wild man, then the pay-per-view landscape would have been as barren as the Mojave Desert.

But this is where Don King came into the mix. Say what you will about the ubiquitous promoter, you can call him many things, but unwise and foolish isn't one of them. He knew that with a Trinidad win, he and his fighter would be the last man standing at the box office.

In what turned out to be a brilliantly choreographed move, King tabbed the quotable and marketable Mayorga to be Trinidad's foil. This would play in Peoria, as they used to say. A battle between two hard-punching and entertaining Latins in the Big Apple.

But King and his court also knew that Mayorga was really a welterweight – who unlike Trinidad, had no big fight experience or success at 160-pounds – and one that was a wild and unrefined fighter, who threw his punches every which way but straight.

This was exactly who the casting call had in mind for Trinidad’s return.

He was built to order for the Puerto Rican superstar. And as soon as Trinidad found out that his legs were still steady and that Mayorga was willing to stand in front of him – sometimes with his hands down by his waist, daring him to hit him with his lethal left hook – the fight, which began as competitive and compelling, soon became as one-sided as kids banging away at a piñata at a birthday party.

As the rounds passed, the two classes of fighters became more and more apparent. While Mayorga fought with passion and emotion, Trinidad fought with precision and power.

Eventually, Mayorga's heart could only take him into the eight round. But as the supporting actor he had done his part. He provided a few headlines, created a buzz and then eventually deferred to the star.

Trinidad is back, bigger than ever – and he couldn't have come at a better time.

It looks like boxing is still in business.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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