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Articles of 2004

Jameel McCline Believes It’s His Time

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Jameel “Big Time” McCline is fighting for the heavyweight title against Chris Byrd at Madison Square Garden tonight. McCline is a 265-pound, 6'6″ prizefighter with a 31-3-3 (19 KOs) record. Now that Lennox is retired and a group of less than stellar heavyweights named Klitschko, Ruiz and Brewster wear championship belts, it looks like McCline is as alive a body, and as skilled a fighter, as anyone in the division.

McCline is trained by an old-time New York fight guy named Jimmy Glenn. Glenn ran the Times Square Gym for many years and he has seen and done it all. He has a sixth sense for fistic talent, having devoted his life to developing fighters, so I caught up with him where he was training McCline and asked him to tell me about Jameel.

“He’s in real good shape and we’re ready for the big boys,” Glenn said. “Jameel is still learning. He’s still learning the trade. Peoples learn. If you’re in the gym every day, you learn something every day.”

McCline got a late start and is a work-in-progress. I asked Jimmy Glenn if there is any difference between training a grown man to fight versus training a kid.

“As long as he gives you respect and does what you want he learns,” the trainer said. “I’m looking to make Jameel a champ. Right now he’s probably the best heavyweight in the whole world people don’t know about. He’s a complete fighter. Every fight he ever had he learns from. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s always in shape. He pushes himself. He wants to be advanced. He’s right in the mix. We’re ready for our title shot. He’s one of the best heavyweights in the world, but he wants to be the best.”

I spoke with Jameel after his workout. He was wiping his forehead with a cotton towel and I mentioned that it looks like he’s working hard.

“Yeah,” McCline replied. “The frustration you see is called the perfection disease. I want everything right. And when it doesn’t go right – just like a disease – it infects everything. It infects the rest of the process.”

McCline started boxing at the age of twenty-six. Now he is thirty-three. The disadvantages of beginning when he did are obvious. The advantages are less so.

“That’s one of the things that sets me apart from the guys at the top,” said McCline. “Everyone else has wear and tear. I’m talking about guys at my level. I’m not talking about the Dominick Guinns and Joe Mesi-type guys. I’m talking about guys at my level, like Tua and Rahman. Those guys gotta lotta fights under them. They’re beat up.”

Big Time McCline was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Port Jefferson, and by all accounts he had a troubled youth.

“A wild and crazy kid always looking to live on the edge,” McCline said. “That was me then and that’s me now.”

Being a wild and crazy kid landed Jameel in the joint.

“I know. I know,” he repeated. “I already went through that. No more.”

To his credit – and to the credit to the fight game – McCline turned things around.

“I kinda feel blessed, because it was ten years ago I was let go,” he said. “Ten years ago I came home from prison. Ten years ago – and here I am: a completely different life. So I’m happy with what I’ve done, how I’ve done it, and how fast I’ve done it.”

From the outside looking in, that seems like a militant transition.

“The transition was very simple for me. It was either sink or swim,” said the top-ten contender. “And unbeknownst to me, my makeup refused to sink. So here we are today. It was something that pretty much happened subconsciously. It just grew in me and I just started working hard. The fact that I worked hard and chose to swim was, now that I look back on it, something that built inside of me. It was something that I had to be taught how to do and learn how to do it. I had to learn how to wanna be something.”

I asked McCline about his first gym and trainer when he got out of jail.

“The very first gym I worked in was Kevin Rooney’s gym in Catskill,” said McCline. “He was the first man I worked with. I remember lying to him about my experience.”

Lying about one’s experience is something many of us have done, but there’s a transparency to boxing which makes deceit difficult. Rooney is an experienced trainer. I wondered if he asked Jameel to shadowbox.

“He did, but I pulled it off,” McCline said. “There were some people willing to put money into me even before I got out of prison. And at the time Don Turner worked for them. Don Turner came to see me while I was still in prison, and things started to take off from there.”

Don Turner, who was Evander Holyfield’s trainer for many years, is well-known in boxing circles.

“At the time, Rooney was even more renowned,” McCline pointed out, “because it was still ‘93, which was still not too far from Tyson.”

After exactly one amateur fight, McCline turned pro and scored a first round knockout against Brian Nix in Rochester, New York. “I figured I was Godzilla,” McCline said. But that monster feeling was not to last. In his next outing, a month later, McCline suffered his first loss by getting KOed in one by Gary Bell. The career of Jameel McCline was underway.

Because of McCline’s late start, on the job training was a necessity. He fought twice in 1995, four times in 1996, four times in 1997, ten times in 1998, three times in 1999, and five times in 2000. In 2001 McCline beat King Ipitan, Al Cole, Michael Grant and Lance Whitaker. The next year he decisioned Shannon Briggs at the Garden, setting up the big fight with Vladimir Klitschko in Las Vegas.

The Klitschko fight at the Mandalay Bay on December 7, 2002 was a turning point in McCline’s career. It was his biggest fight against his biggest name opponent, but McCline fell prey to the Klitschko hype and froze in the ring. His breathing was labored. He wouldn’t let his hands go. He couldn’t get no respect.

That was a big loss for Big Time. People questioned his skills. People questioned his trainer. People questioned his heart. But McCline ignored his critics and returned to the gym. He stopped Charles Shufford and Cedric Boswell in 2003 and defeated Wayne Llewelyn this year.

McCline is exactly where he wants to be at this exact moment and is ready for the fight at the Garden. He has been refining what he knows, educating his instincts, adding nuance to his arsenal.

“It’s adding different angles to the punches, the uppercut off the hook, the hook off the uppercut, the uppercut off the jab. Things like that. Not your basic 1-2-3, 1-2-3. I want to do more than that,” said McCline, “because I am more than that.”

Before leaving McCline, I asked what we should expect when he fights his friend Chris Byrd on Saturday.

“As far as friendship goes, I really dig Chris’ family, but he’s got what I want and I’m gonna get it,” McCline said. “He’s gonna hurt me, just like I’m gonna hurt him. Once you step in there, there are no friends. This is a business. This is talking care of your family. This is putting food on the table. Without this, I am nothing, I want nothing, and I know nothing else. This is it.”

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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