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Articles of 2004

Tonight’s Fights – A ton of fun or heavyweight implosion

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“Negative publicity is still publicity, so long as they spell my name right.”

Nobody has paid greater homage to that old saying than legendary promoter Don King. And why not? After all, it’s not very difficult to spell King.

What is difficult, however, is identifying one among today’s heavyweights..

The theme for the big fight card tonight is “Rendezvous with Destiny: Battle for Supremacy.” Certainly a more flattering title than the initial choice of “Struggle for Supremacy”, though not necessarily more befitting. After all, of the four televised heavyweight fights scheduled (which amounts to nearly one ton of heavyweight pounds in the same arena), no fewer than five of the eight combatants are looking at what should be their last shot at the big time.

That King is forced to recycle the past in order to offer a future should alone spell disaster for the division. But as only Don can do it, he somehow always finds a way to make it all work.

For instance, everyone had dismissed his April 17 Garden party as a joke of a card that would only further embarrass a sport that is already among the most often ridiculed. Yet nobody – not even the 15,000+ that were in attendance that night – figured that current IBF champion Chris Byrd (37-2-1, 20KO) and Andrew Golota would wind up participating in one of the best fights of 2004, and in fact one of the most thrilling heavyweight contests in recent memory.

In fact, nobody believed that Golota (38-4-1-1NC, 31KO) could ever again contend for any portion of the heavyweight title, or anywhere close to the top level. Not after all of the in-the-ring meltdowns he has suffered in the past eight years. Perhaps it was fool’s gold, as Don King himself had even marketed the fight as a promoter giving a down-and-out Caucasian heavyweight one last shot at the big time. Whatever the case, the same fighter who managed to twice foul out against Riddick Bowe, and collapse under pressure against Lennox Lewis, Michael Grant and Mike Tyson somehow managed to turn the clock back – way back – and fight Byrd to a draw, a decision many felt should have gone Golota’s way.

Nor did anyone believe that once the going got tough, that Byrd would not get going, but instead stare tough dead in the eye and on many occasions, give back every bit as good as he took. While we’re at it, they also didn’t believe that he would go ahead and fight longtime friend Jameel McCline (31-3-3, 19KO) just to prove that he’s willing to take on any and all comers. The decision was a painful one, as not only are Chris and Jameel good friends, but their wives have often served as each other’s babysitter. Not to mention that Byrd had also threatened to take King to court over money he and his lawyer insisted they were contractually entitled to. When he had every chance to walk and take the easy way out, Chris instead took on two tough fights that most would avoid at all costs; a battle with King inside the courtroom, and a battle against a close friend inside the ring.

That same close friend in McCline was also all but written off shortly after his freeze-up two years ago against Wladimir Klitschko. Since then, Jameel has gone 3-0, with all three opponents (Charles Shufford, previously undefeated Cedric Boswell, and Wayne Llewelyn) failing to make it to the final bell.

Having been named the #1 contender by the IBF, but not its mandatory, King decided to play hardball with McCline for the sake of satisfying his own agenda. Rather than granting Jameel a title shot, as King would expect a champion to do should his own fighter benefit from a similar ranking, he instead offered Jameel $100,000 – and asked for options on his career should he defeat Byrd. McCline said no – though in more words, none too fit for print – and took a ShoBox fight against Llewelyn two nights before watching Golota take his place.

Shortly after the fight, McCline was now named mandatory challenger by the IBF. Such being the case, King could no longer demand options on his career. What he did demand, however, was that McCline accept the same monetary offer he was presented the first time.

Nobody expected McCline to agree to a fight for a piece of the heavyweight title under those terms. After all, $100,000 for a heavyweight title fight would be the lowest sum in some fifty years that a fighter in a similar position has accepted. But McCline realized that you rarely get a second chance in life, much less a second chance at a second chance. So, he accepted the offer – and waited two months for the drama between Byrd and King to play out before all matters were finalized.

Never in a million years – or at least eight plus, when HBO aired “Night of the Young Heavyweights” in March 1996 – would anyone believe that one day, John Ruiz (40-5-1, 28KO) would be a two-time heavyweight titlist and rank among the best three fighters in the division. Say what you want about King’s uncanny knack for positioning his fighters to be in the right place (ranked in the top two spots among most alphabet rankings) at the right time; the fighter still has to go out and actually win the fight. And save for a points loss to former pound for pound king Roy Jones, Jr. in March 2003, Ruiz manages to keep on doing just that. It’s not pretty. In fact, many a fight involving “The Quietman” features far more clutching in the ring and booing and hissing in the stands more so than anything else.

But ever since Ruiz became the first – and to date, only – Latino in boxing history to win a portion of the heavyweight crown, Evander Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Hasim Rahman and Fres Oquendo have all failed to prove the claim from many skeptics that John Ruiz is a fraud, or even a bum. Most of those who cite such claims turn to his nineteen second blitzing at the hands of former title challenger David Tua nearly nine years on the aforementioned HBO telecast as their proof. But all that night proved, much like a Don King card such as this one, is to expect the unexpected. Many figured that after that night, Tua and Golota were heading on a collision course. Only nobody figured that they’d collide in opposite directions on separate tracks.

Nobody that night ever expected to hear the name John Ruiz again; at least not on the top level. But eight plus years, fifteen wins and two titles later, John Ruiz is now headlining his third pay-per-view event.

The first pay-per-view event that Ruiz played in the main event was against former four time and then-WBA heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (38-7-2, 25KO). Nobody expected him to still be fighting in 2004, least of all in what boils down to a loser-leaves-town match versus Larry Donald (41-3-2, 24KO) in the very same arena where he made his pro debut twenty years earlier, almost to the day. Hell, nobody expected him to fight past 1994, when he was forced to temporarily retire after being diagnosed with a heart ailment shortly after his title-losing effort to Michael Moorer. Nor did they expect him to go on to thrice regain at least a piece of the heavyweight title.

Today, very few even expect him to get past Larry Donald, himself having long ago been removed from anyone’s expectations of being a player in the heavyweight division. Donald offers a glossy record, but unfortunately, is best known for falling short at the top level. His biggest win to date was when he pulled off a minor upset over aged yet then-still dangerous former two-time champion Tim Witherspoon (one of the few retreads who is NOT appearing on this card). However, Witherspoon had gone on to lose four straight after that, while Donald basically bided his time high among the WBA rankings before dropping a decision to then-undefeated Kirk Johnson. Kirk would go on to lose to Ruiz, four months before Donald was stopped for the first time in his career, at the hands of current WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.

Should Donald defeat Holyfield, he would undoubtedly resurface among the rankings of an alphabet organization or two. Somehow, Hasim Rahman (39-5-1,32KO) has never left any of the rankings, despite having only started to return to the win column for the first time since winning the heavyweight crown from Lennox Lewis in April 2001. Since then, Rahman lost his title to Lewis via KO in a rematch seven months later, and dropped a technical decision to Holyfield in June 2002 when the mother of all lumps formed on – and almost through – his forehead, thus halting action after seven rounds.

That fight was a WBA title eliminator, though somehow Holyfield wound up fighting for the IBF title six months later against Byrd, the same title for which Rahman would face David Tua in an elimination bout, much like their first fight in December 1998. Much like the first fight, Rahman would outfight Tua, only to fall victim to a controversial verdict. In the first fight, it was a questionable stoppage, which came thirty-five seconds into the tenth round, one round after Rahman was caught with a shot after the bell, only to not be granted any additional time to recover other than the one-minute rest period.

This time, the controversy lied within the scoring. Most in the arena saw Rahman winning, as did Bill Clancy, who scored eight of twelve rounds for “The Rock.” Unfortunately for Rahman, that score was overruled by one judge who somehow had Tua winning eight rounds, and the third judge who saw things even, thus resulting in a split decision draw.

But as long as Don King would have a say, Rahman would still get a title shot. Which is exactly what occurred in December 2003, when the WBA insisted that Rahman and Ruiz fight for their interim title. Having failed to win his prior three bouts yet still somehow getting a title shot, many expected a resurrection to occur. Instead, Rahman fought the same lazy type of fight that has infamously marked his once-promising career, and he wound up dropping a unanimous decision to Ruiz in one of the ugliest title fights in recent memory.

Having now gone three years without a win, Rahman took the slow road back, fighting once a month against opponents barely worthy of the term tune-up. After four wins of such nature, he’s participating in yet another title elimination bout, this against Kali “Checkmate” Meehan (29-2, 23KO). Meehan is yet another heavyweight whom nobody expected to be one fight away from ONCE AGAIN fighting for a world title. Nor was he expected to ever be competitive against WBO champion Lamon Brewster, much less do well enough to win the fight and the title, which is what many contend should have been the case.

Instead, Brewster was awarded the split decision, though Meehan – who had, in fact, sparred with Brewster to help him prepare for his title winning effort against Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year – was rewarded with a second chance by getting the call to fight Rahman in a bout where the winner becomes the mandatory challenger to both WBO champ Brewster the winner of the WBA title fight between Ruiz and Golota.

Regardless of who wins tonight, it is all but guaranteed that by some time next spring, the same collection of heavyweights will once again be fighting each other, quite possibly once again in the very same arena. And once again, people will be talking about the sorry state of affairs that is the heavyweight division.

But so long as they are talking, King will keep bringing them back. After all, negative publicity is still publicity.

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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