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Articles of 2004

Kostya Tszyu still a man on a mission

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My colleague Steve Kim tells us that Sharmba Mitchell has been active, contesting 5 fights in 22 months, while world jr. welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu has been out of action, plagued successively by Achilles tendon and rotator cuff injuries. In boxing readiness comes from engaging in actual fights, not sparring sessions. So, logic dictates an actively engaged top level fighter takes out an atrophied, formidably skilled champion.

And he may be right.

Then again, there are other variables central to understanding this contest of jr. welterweight stars. No question that Mitchell feels himself the top boxer in the division. A rangy, quick handed, moving target purist, brimming with competitive based confidence, Mitchell believes he’s finally come to the point of securing an authentic world championship, not just a title belt; for Tszyu is the consensus champion at 140.

Since their February, 2001 rugby-light seven rounds, Mitchell’s performance standard in that fight has improved. Some ring scribes have gone so far as to suggest that take away the collapsible knee, Mitchell might well have settled this melancholic tryst in Mandalay Bay back in 2001. Tszyu, the other guy in the ring that night, has heard this comment off and on for years and cannot for the life of him understand where people get this idea.

He won’t readily admit it, but, that’s one of the reasons he’s keen to get Mitchell back in the ring. Only the subject of Zab Judah bites at the champ more than Mitchell.

Clearly, Mitchell has topped up his sparring sessions this time out, having put in fire-fighting rounds with Steve Forbes and “Sugar” Shane Mosley. His left knee fully functioning, his counter punching agility on the counter should – he believes – hold out this time against an onrushing (yet older) Tszyu.

Well, Tszyu may be 35, but that only makes him one year older than Mitchell. The Tszyu camp like to refer to the youthfulness of his father and the ‘good genetics’ the men in his family enjoy. And despite the 22 months out of the ring, Tszyu really may have benefited from his enforced absence, not to mention that Tszyu only fought one fight in 2002 – a masterpiece against the threatening Ben Tackie – the year before he dismissed Jesse James Leigh in January, 2003. With 32 total pro outings, it’s not like Tszyu suffers from chronic states of ring rust. He’s a periodic fighter and always has been during is pro career. Battling some frustration and at times boredom, Tszyu never lost the desire or the professional commitment to box again.

He’s always been grounded and game, able to prioritize and refocus like a Carlos Monzon or Felix Trinidad.

In fact, during his ‘absentia’ Tszyu has kept a close eye on ‘his’ division, from Sydney, Australia. A sensitive and proud man, Tszyu has not appreciated Mitchell’s comments characterizing his injuries as “suspect” or “excuses” and his attitude to fighting a rematch, as something the pony-tailed one wanted to avoid. The gentleman prizefighter in Tszyu takes these ‘trash talking’ jabs very seriously and very distastefully. He files away perceived slights to his character; and he uses it as fuel to train.

Frankly, Team Tszyu don’t believe that Mitchell has the overall physical strength to keep Tszyu off balance or at bay for the limit of a twelve round exchange of best practices. Taking into account his long lay off, Tszyu has worked overtime on how he intends to cover the ring, stressing his ring coverage and the analytical geometry of the fight to come.

If anyone is motivated to win this fight, you might want to consider that Tszyu has not had the best fortune with his ring earnings over the last 4 years. Managerial squabbles and some short ended promotional ventures have drained Tszyu’s retirement resources. Thus, the concerted pressure that Team Tszyu have put in lobbying Jay Larkin at Showtime for a pay per view vehicle to cap his career. To get to that long awaited bonus pay off mega-bout, Tszyu knows he has to trash Mitchell first.

Ripping up Mitchell feels like a guilty pleasure in the making for the champ.

The basic career math for Kostya Tszyu comes down to the number three. Hopefully, within the triangulation of money, belts and historical fights, Tszyu can justify himself, once and for all, before retiring. Suddenly, history has become a buzz word. Hopkins, De La Hoya, Trinidad, Tarver and certainly Tszyu have all become conscious of everlasting life after boxing, halls of fame, video archiving, record books and the inestimable marking of indelible memory for their generation of fans.

A meticulous planner, Tszyu knows that Mitchell doesn’t represent just another outing. He knows to beat Mitchell in a definitive manner sets the table for what he hopes are fights against Cory Spinks, or Arturo Gatti or Diego Corrales; you fill in the rest of the best as proxy ballots.

All Tszyu wants is his last, best, chance to make a statement. In the way he did against Zab Judah, when it seemed 4/5 of boxing writers were calling that one for Judah.

Tszyu knows most of the US press are looking favorably on Mitchell; they think Tszyu’s a fizzled, if not a spent, force. Time, injury and Mitchell’s ability to hit and move will be making that abundantly clear on November 6, in Phoenix. Or so goes the emerging consensus.

All Team Tszyu can do is keep to their game plan and have their guy at his best. They really do think that Tszyu has more than enough of his best ‘stuff’ to take Mitchell from off that rhetorical high horse they see him being hoisted onto.

Anyway, they love pretension in their opponents, false bravado and can’t miss attitudes of self-importance. Helps the kids from down under play to their strength as underdogs, who come on late, destroying dreams of grandeur of kings in the making.

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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