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Articles of 2004

Kostya Tszyu: To Remain a King

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Twelve weeks ago trainer Johnny Lewis began the process of evaluating his most prized fighter, world jr. welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu. Frankly, Lewis and Tszyu himself were apprehensive, with the long rigors of a championship training camp beginning. How would the Russia-Australian’s body hold up, given his recent fragility, major injuries to his Achilles heal followed by a rotator cuff shoulder injury in February, preparing once again, for Sharmba Mitchell. And here was Tszyu, 35 years-old, trying to adapt and align his mind and physique to thresholds of pain and endurance. He’d been telling friends in Australia he was anxious to get back and it had seemed like forever since he’d been in a boxing ring.

Trainers, no less the wise sage of Australian boxing Lewis, instinctively want to keep their fighters busy, training to fight, fighting, resting to energize, training to fight. For Tszyu and Lewis this imperative of commitment has been defined by 12 week cycles. Beginning a training camp, for the preparatory phase – weeks one and two – Tszyu utilizes the world famous Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. No family, no friends, no distractions, Tszyu takes this time to put his body through an Olympic level testing and general fitness assessment regiment.

This time the primary concern for Tszyu and Lewis was getting the maximum amount of over all fitness training completed, while testing the fighter’s tolerance for injury. Late September in Canberra proved to be an assuaging renewal for Team Tszyu. When Kostya, 30-1 (24), returned to Sydney, to begin the boxing phase of his camp, most of the team’s apprehensions had turned to anticipation. Though one operative question lingered: does a veteran fighter, having been forced out of his routine, return refreshed or does inactivity translate into inevitable atrophy? How much Kostya Tszyu was left? Getting back into daily sparring in October, at the Tszyu Boxing Academy in the Rockdale area of Sydney, normalcy returned, the days passing without major incident. Seeing Kostya’s overall effectiveness return, his strength and cardio capacity ratio restituted in short order, was the signal to Lewis that his guy Tszyu really was up for a return match with the speedster Sharmba Mitchell.

For eight weeks Tszyu worked out in Rockdale, each day completing three sessions, on a six day per week cycle. Up for running and sprints by 6:30am, Tszyu fastidiously applied himself to his cardio conditioning phase of training camp. After a morning breakfast and nap, Tszyu was back into the gym at 11a.m. until 1p.m., doing his calisthenics, eye-hand tennis ball co-ordination drill, heavy bag and mitt drills, before taking to the ring for sparring. More than the generation of power or tactical planning, Tszyu has always been particular to practice his technique, the micro-motor skills that make up every foundational gesture to do with movement, punching, defensive posturing, any and all kinetics to do with prize fighting.

By scheduling his weight training phase from 4 p.m. until about 6 p.m., Tszyu finds his earlier sparring sessions are much more exacting, his technical abilities more precise and powerful. Lifting weights later means his body is required to maximize his base strength, simulating the taxing nature of physically demanding late round championship fighting.

For his last two weeks of training, Tszyu goes to the fight site for physical acclimation and mental orientation. Few fighters are as completely detail orientated as Kostya Tszyu; he may play the searching, punishing hitter in the ring, but he’s a methodological high performance athlete, attentive to all the variables of his profession. The work rate and intensity at this camp, preparing for Mitchell, 55-3 (30), has been high. Kostya Tszyu really doesn’t like Sharmba Mitchell’s dismissive trash talking public persona; yet, with every rhetorical jab that has come Tszyu’s way, it’s all been fuel to the fire. Mitchell told the press that Tszyu was fat, his heart not really into boxing any longer.

All that kind of tired, pseudo head game jibing did was push Tszyu back to the heavy bag, made him surge over the last quarter mile of running.

The best evidence of work ethic takes form and substance as the physique of a fighter near to fight time. And Tszyu has been below most of his target weights, lighter with some two weeks to go for the Mitchell rematch than he’s been since his MGM Grand showdown with Zab Judah, in November 2001. His sparring with Aussie middleweight Sam Soliman proved to camp watchers that Tszyu had lost none of his vaulted punching power and as importantly, retained his strength when working on the inside.

Perhaps, Tszyu will look rusted and suddenly limited in Phoenix. Perhaps, the tolls of physical dedication will catch up on Kostya Tszyu just in time for Mitchell to make his boasts of an impending title reign a reality. But Kostya Tszyu has done his homework, having braved the demands of a training camp many twenty-five year-olds would have struggled to bare. At least he’s reconstituted his best efforts heading in; one can believe that Tszyu will leave nothing in the tank, forcing the resourceful and inventive Mitchell to fight a masterpiece of ring geometrics to stave off Tszyu’s pressurizing attack style.

Kostya Tszyu really does want to fight again; he’s missed the sporting business of professional boxing that has defined his existence. He’s missed being an active fighter, the champion of the jr. welterweight division, his division. Being on the sidelines, made to accept the insecurities of an aging athlete’s body, has forced Tszyu into reevaluation and even a dogmatic realism on just what the future could hold for him. Suddenly, the horizon line of his career has receded toward him; the vagaries of time a poignant barometer for everything he’s taken to heart. This workaholic by nature and nurture has quietly reinvented himself along the lines of his prime self. And that is what he and trainer Johnny Lewis believe they still see in Kostya Tszyu inside the squared ring.

There are still major hurtles to clear beyond Mitchell, such as a dream match up with Arturo Gatti, HBO vs. Showtime notwithstanding. There is a fight with Cory Spinks and a chance to have been a unified champion of both jr. welterweight and welterweight. History and its telling assessments strike close to the consciousness of the veteran champion Tszyu. Then there’s the option of taking down a name fighter from the ranks of the talented just below his weight division. Diego Corrales is a name that has been bandied about by Showtime executives as fitting that particular bill.

Either way, any way, you want to look at the last career options of Kostya Tszyu, the little man with the pony tail wants to cash out the investment that his sterling career victories have made manifold. Kostya Tszyu wants to go out with a bang, earning a king’s ransom, dramatically giving closure to a career he’s built brick by brick. He’s told Jay Larkin at Showtime he expects the platforming and profits of a Pay Per View mega-outing before he retires. No wonder he’s been so mechanically proficient, rededicating himself to the enterprise of being marginally better, of being more than the estimation of a champion’s career?

For Tszyu, boxing remains a process of rethinking, retooling, always progressing from the fundamentals working outward, making meticulous and reflexive the actions of necessity.

Johnny Lewis and his charge may loath the necessity of having to fight Sharmba Mitchell again, but they do not fear nor dread that responsibility. It’s just about time to shut this guy up, they are fond of saying in camp, since he seems to be unable to even act as if he understood the idea of basic respect. And though there are a few finalizing epic encounters to come, they believe, for Kostya Tszyu, first things are indeed first.

The business at hand – boxing decrees – determines what your future really can look like, regardless of your championship or contenders’ or novices’ standing. And Tszyu covers all his bases; that’s just the way he’s made.

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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