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Articles of 2004

Why Hopkins Is The Perfect Fight For De La Hoya

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In the last 25 years, there have been exactly two non heavyweight fighters who were heavyweights at the box office, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya. The career's of Leonard and De La Hoya have many similarities. They were both Olympic Gold Medalist and media darlings. They both had crossover appeal, which enabled them to become a huge draw. And both Ray and Oscar have won title's in multiple weight classes. Another thing they share is that their career paths were mapped out, and ran like a fortune 500 company. In most of their big fights, they usually had the leverage. And it was assumed that they always got the benefit of the doubt from the fight judges.

Much has been said recently that the upcoming Hopkins-De La Hoya Middleweight Championship bout has many parallels to the Hagler-Leonard title fight back in April of 1987. That is definitely a fair comparison. In the Hagler-Leonard fight, Leonard was coming off a 35 month layoff. Hagler was the defending Middleweight Champ, who had just made his 12th successful title defense in the last six and a half years. Leonard fought as a Welterweight in his last fight, and was moving up to Middleweight.

Sugar Ray was one month shy of turning 31. He had already established himself as an all-time great fighter. A fight between Hagler and Leonard had been discussed off and on since 1982 when Leonard retired the first time due to a detached retina. When Leonard decided to challenge Hagler, he was in a no lose situation. He was coming off a long layoff, he wasn't taking any tune up fights, and he was moving up in weight. And on top of all that, Hagler was at the very least considered no worse than the third best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Another thing Leonard was aware of was that Hagler had a very tough fight in his last outing against John “The Beast” Mugabi. Just maybe Ray sensed that if there ever was a right time to challenge Hagler, it was then. As long as Leonard didn't get killed or embarrass himself against Hagler, he had nothing to lose. However, if he won, it would be considered a monumental feat.

When Hagler and Leonard finally met, Leonard went on to win a very close controversial decision. The victory over Hagler is the signature win of Leonard's career, and it can never be taken away from him. Regardless of who you thought won, the fight was extremely close and Leonard is immortalized because of it.

I see De La Hoya in almost the same situation as Leonard was. As long as De La Hoya doesn't get destroyed by Hopkins, he can't lose. Much has been made of Oscar accepting a fight with Hopkins. Why I don't know, De La Hoya has always fought the best fighters. However, when you really think about it, what other option did De La Hoya have? And who else could he fight and make 30 million dollars, who he at least has a chance to upset.

No doubt De La Hoya's career is winding down. He has made more money than he'll ever spend. Finishing his career versus Hopkins makes all the sense in the world. Who was out there for him to fight? A third fight with Mosley certainly wasn't going to put 30 million in his pocket. Plus, Shane is a tough match up for him. Winky Wright isn't a big draw, and beating him wouldn't pave his way to immortality. Mayorga just lost to Spinks. Vernon Forrest is no draw or big accomplishment. And Trinidad is no where close to being ready for De La Hoya after his two year hiatus. No doubt Hopkins was the only fight that could pay him huge money, and provide him a chance to enhance his legacy.

Here's the plan. De La Hoya fights Felix Strum for the WBO Middleweight title. He'll most likely beat Strum which will give him his sixth title. Hopefully the rugged Robert Allen will give Hopkins a tough fight, and add some unwanted miles to Bernard's 39 year old body. Basically, De La Hoya had no choice but to accept a fight with Hopkins, because there wasn't any other mega fight out there for him.

Granted, De La Hoya has been more than willing to fight all the World's top fighters, but at this stage of his career, a fight with Hopkins makes the most sense for more than a few reasons. First of all, Hopkins is 39 years old and will only be months shy of turning 40. As much as I have raved over Hopkins being able to retain so much of his ability so late in his career, he could become an old man overnight without any warning. I'm not saying this is why De La Hoya agreed to the fight, or that Hopkins will erode significantly in the next 10 months, but the possibility cannot be discounted.

From a style standpoint, De La Hoya has a better chance to survive and go the distance than Felix Trinidad did. Tito's style was all wrong for Bernard. By taking the fight to Hopkins, Trinidad was set up to be takin apart. That doesn't apply to De La Hoya. What will work in Oscar's favor is, Hopkins is not a catch and kill fighter. He applies measured pressure. This will make it a little easier for De La Hoya to box, instead of having to fight. At least in the early going. Another thing is De La Hoya will be moving and up on his toes regardless of how Bernard fights. By De La Hoya moving, it will take longer for Hopkins to break him down.

This leads me to think that although De La Hoya won't win, he won't get demolished either. This is the best fight De La Hoya could've accepted at this stage of his career. I really don't think we'll see him fight again after Hopkins, regardless of the outcome. He has a chance to possibly cement his legacy versus an all-time great who just may not be at the top of his game. All these factors make this the ideal fight for De La Hoya. As long as Hopkins doesn't destroy him, it's a win-win for De La Hoya.

Writers Note

In recent columns I've compared the career's of Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya. I want to make two things clear. When I rate Leonard and De La Hoya, I rate them as Welterweight's. I believe that's the weight where they were the most legit and natural. I know De La Hoya won titles at 130, 135, and 140. However, I believe when he fought at 130 & 135 he beat his opponents on the scales. The weigh ins for many of those title bouts were two and three days before the fights. Which means he was at 130 or 135 for all of two seconds, which gave him a tremendous advantage. When the fights took place, De La Hoya weighed up to 10 or 12 pounds more than his opponents. No way De La Hoya and Jorge Paez are the same size! I believe this was all pre-planned to help enhance De La Hoya's legacy. In reality, he was much bigger than Chavez also. Chavez was a natural jr. lightweight. And this is not being disrespectful of De La Hoya one bit. I give him his props and recognize his ring accomplishments. Oh, Leonard wasn't above doing the same thing. He won the light heavyweight title by forcing the champ Donny Lalonde to suck down to 168. Which no doubt weakened him and helped Leonard.

Lastly, I want to make it perfectly clear. In my opinion, Sugar Ray Leonard would've beat De La Hoya seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Too me, Leonard is a level above De La Hoya as a fighter. I have no doubt that Ray at his best would have defeated every fighter De La Hoya ever fought. I can't say the same about De La Hoya. I have serious doubts if he would have got by Duran of 1980. And I'd bet my life that Hearns of 1981, and Hagler of 1987 both would have stopped him. In my opinion, Leonard was the second best Welterweight of all time. Ranking only behind Sugar Ray Robinson. As outstanding as De La Hoya has been, I'm not sure he cracks the top ten Welterweights in history. Possibly, but definitely not a given.

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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