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Articles of 2004

Kostya Tszyu is Back Better than Ever

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Kostya Tszyu had not fought competitively for 22 months.  You never would have known it.

Looking as sharp and as strong and powerful as ever, the Australian superstar called “Thunder From Down Under” pummeled perennial contender and arch-rival Sharmba Mitchell, dropping him four times on the way to registering a third-round technical knockout in this, a rematch of their February 3, 2001 war.

Their initial encounter was won by Tszyu on a seventh-round TKO.  It ended when Mitchell, who came into the fight with a painful injury to his left knee, was forced to retire due to the worsening of that injury, making mobility—even standing—virtually impossible.  Up until that point, the fight had been extremely close, with both fighters giving and taking tremendous punishment.  When the leg injury began affecting Mitchell’s fight, when it became too much for his corner to watch, they all decided Mitchell’s night was over.  They figured there would be another night.  They began looking toward a rematch.  But that rematch would have to wait.  And wait.

Victories over Oktay Urkal (W 12), Zab Judah (TKO 2), Ben Tackie (W 12) and Jesse James Leija followed for Tszyu over the next 23 months.  But then came a series of physical ailments—the most serious being surgery on his left shoulder—and legal hassles which kept Tszyu on the shelf for nearly two years.  During the long layoff, Tszyu contemplated retirement.

The thoughts of retirement didn’t last long.  While Tszyu worked out, strengthening his surgically-repaired left shoulder, he also watched the tape of his fight against Mitchell.  He watched it over and over.

“I learned a lot from watching it,” said Tszyu, who is now 31-1-1 (25 KO’s).  “I studied a lot.  I wrote things down.  I got smarter.”

He obviously did his homework well.  In this fight, which took place in Glendale, Arizona, Tszyu fought without the slightest trace of ring rust.  He was overpowering and sharpshooter accurate.  That’s an unstoppable combination for any fighter, and even more so for someone who had been away for so long.

Although Mitchell, now 55-4 (31 KO’s) tried to set the pace with speed and movement, Tszyu would have none of it and went right after him.  By the end of the round, everyone knew that Mitchell would not be able to keep the champion off of him for long.

An accidental clash of heads in the first round left Tszyu with a vertical gash over his left eyebrow, but, as always, Tszyu was unfazed by the butt.

“This is a rough business,” he said.  “These things happen.”

With one minute gone in round two, a crisp right to the head staggered Mitchell.  Moments later, a combination sent him down.

“I knew I had him then,” said Tszyu.  “All I had to do was take my time.”

Mitchell took some heavy punishment before round two ended, then was dropped in the first 30-seconds of round three by another right.  He fought back gamely, then ran into a combination which dropped him again.  When he went down a third time in the round with 30-seconds remaining, the stoppage was automatic for referee Raul Caiz, Sr.

When the bout ended, the two fighters had nothing but praise for the other.

“Tszyu is a great champion,” said Mitchell.

“He is a warrior,” Tszyu said of Mitchell.

With this warrior easily dispatched, there are other warriors—most notably Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Vivian Harris, Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti—anxiously awaiting their turn.

With his advancing age (35), you’d think that Tszyu would be slowing down, at least a little bit.  Judging by the way he looked against Mitchell, he may have found the “Fountain of Youth” during his 22-month layoff.


PUNCHES IN BUNCHES: 
Don’t know if you caught it, but Jim Gray did a great job in interviewing Mike Tyson at the Tszyu-Mitchell fight.  Tyson also did a great job in the interview.  Gone was the anger “Catskill Thunder” has shown in recent years.  There was no “I’m gonna’ eat his children” attitude or anything even resembling that Tyson.  I was stunned to see the smiling heavyweight I knew back in his days as a contender in the mid-1980’s.  When Gray asked Tyson about his financial problems, Tyson merely shrugged them off saying, “I’ll be okay.  Hey, I’m Mike Tyson.  I always seem to find a way.”  When asked about the knee he injured in his loss against Danny Williams, Tyson admitted “I’ve been bad…I haven’t been doing the rehab on it that my doctor wants.”  He even joked about his doctor beating him up if he didn’t start to rehab and strengthen the knee soon.  It was good to see him in that frame of mind…Don’t know about rehab, but promoter Gary Shaw had better start doing some pushups, as in pushing himself away from the table.  Has he ever met a meal he hasn’t devoured?…Zab Judah trying his best to talk his way into a rematch against Tszyu.  You may recall the wild ending to their first fight, on November 3, 2001.  In that one, Judah was down twice, courtesy of Tszyu’s devastating right.  Upon arising from the second knockdown, he staggered like a drunk coming out of a bar at 3:00 a.m., prompting referee Jay Nady to stop their bout in round two.  Judah proceeded to go wild, throwing a stool across the ring and placing a fist under the chin of Nady before police and security pulled him off of the veteran ref.  For his actions, the Nevada State Athletic Commission fined Judah $75,000 and suspended him six months.  Since then, Judah has successfully gotten under the skin of Tszyu.  Now that Tszyu is back, you can expect Judah to be one of the names considered as a 2005 opponent for “Thunder from Down Under.”…Before Judah does any more fighting, however, he must first battle Uncle Sam, who has come down on him for some apparent unpaid taxes.  Judah also faces a lawsuit from a Long Island businessman who did $35,000 worth of electrical work and installation on Judah’s Hummer, only to watch Judah’s check bounce around like his head did against Tszyu…While on legal issues, the Supreme Court upheld a Third District Court ruling on former IBF Founder/President Bob Lee’s conviction on tax evasion, money laundering and racketeering.  Lee was acquitted of taking bribes to fix the ratings.  The Supreme Court made their ruling without issuing any statement.  Lee is serving a 22-month sentence…You’ve got to applaude promoter Sugar Ray Leonard.  While many promoters still reject the idea of putting female boxers on their cards, Sugar Ray loves adding them to his promotions.  His next card, on November 18 in San Jose, California, will feature 2-0 junior welterweight Molly McConnell.  The talented Ms. McConnell is managed by Jackie Kallen…Former heavyweight king Riddick Bowe will be back in action again on November 27 in Louisville, KY, when he faces Kenny Craven at the Louisville Gardens.  This will be Bowe’s second comeback fight.  In his last outing, on September 26, he easily dispatched of Marcus Rhode.  Part of the proceeds from the Bowe-Craven bout will benefit former heavyweight champ Greg Page, who was severely injured in a March 2001 bout…Congratulations to promoter Joe DeGuardia, who landed excellent light heavyweight title fight between Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, the two men who combined on two punches to possibly end the career of Roy Jones, Jr…Mark your calendar for December 11.  On that night, Mike Tyson’s latest conqueror, Danny Williams, will face Vitali Klitschko at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.  Both are supremely confident and their scheduled 12-rounder should provide plenty of action for as long as the fight lasts (You know this one cannot possibly go the full 12!!!!)…Sorry to hear about the passing of welterweight legend Jimmy McLarnin at the age of 96.  More on him in my next column.  He was a champion both in and out of the ring.

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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