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Articles of 2004

Boxing Yearns to Return to the Past



The Hopkins-De La Hoya fight was further proof that following boxing these days is really a yearning to return to the past. It is no different to that Bob Dylan line, “I was born in the wrong time.” Hopkins wearing that pinstriped 30s suit afterwards was announcing the same thing. “I am not of today.” His whole ethic, admirable though it is, aspires to the past. He wistfully said it was a shame Hagler was not still fighting. He was most pleased when Duran described him as being “Like one of the older style fighters.”

So are the rest of us. Calling back to memories of Hagler, Benitez, Duran, Hearns. Forgetting that modern boxing is a Twentieth Century invention that was bound to become appropriated and made mutant by its owners. Imagining a fight like Hopkins-De La Hoya to be a return to the old days. And going back further, past Ali, to when Madison Square Garden was the Mecca of boxing, back in the 30s and 40s and 50s, the Golden Era, when we could have been there, round the corner from Gleason's Gym or the Harding Hotel, perhaps sharing a drink with Damon Runyon or A.J. Liebling before the evening paper's final edition.

Those imaginings of the early days are of course themselves a chimera. Apartheid was existent unless you sold yourself several times over and in the 50s the Mob controlled almost everything in the form of Frankie Carbo and Blinkie Palermo, under the aegis of James J Norris, a rich boy who ran the Garden and had an infantile fascination with gangsters. The true story was brilliantly told in a book by the late boxing writer Barney Nagler called James J. Norris and the Decline of Boxing.

Based on the governmental enquiry that became the Kefauver report, it detailed how Carbo and Palermo used the front of a supposed union, called the Manager’s Guild, to extort money. The legendary trainer Ray Arcel, later of course to handle Duran, was coshed over the head with a lead pipe when he refused to pay up. The book also cast severe doubts over fights such as Marciano v Walcott II, when Walcott took the count on one knee. Such events were brushed under the carpet and Nagler’s book ignored within boxing. Palermo continued to run fighters, including Sonny Liston, from his jail cell.

I happened to be in Vegas soon after Nagler died and watched as boxing’s great and good rose solemnly to salute him as a 10-count was tolled before a title bout. Hypocrisy won by KO that day.

I have no doubt that were something similar to pertain today there would be a similar whitewash from boxing’s monied denizens. That automatically excludes most boxers, naturally. The only difference is that today no one would be surprised. I am not comparing my own limited experience with those of Nagler and Arcel, but I did once persuade a TV company to bankroll a programme investigating aspects of the boxing business and it was not long before the threats and warnings began. A researcher and I were attacked as we left the production office and the researcher had acid thrown in his face. No one was apprehended. Coincidence perhaps.

An interesting sideline to Kefauver was that it sparked the employment of a young lawyer named Bob Arum by the then attorney general Bobby Kennedy. Tasked with investigating boxing, Arum ended up all but taking it over. Talk about stealing the office contacts book! There seems little to recommend Arum, the promoter of Hopkins-De La Hoya. I once saw him in an Atlantic City bar shortly after Michael Olajide had survived 12-rounds with Hearns. Olajide came in and approached Arum. Arum blanked him. Olajide’s time was up. At least Don King started with nothing.

Where does this leave us? With Bernard Hopkins’ pinstripe suit and our attempts to reconcile rancid elements of the present with an idealised view of the past. True, you may have been born in the wrong time. But as any wizened cornerman will tell you: “So, kid, what else is new?”

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List



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




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




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 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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