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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Battle Not ‘The Fight of the Century’

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Tonight in New York City, boxing's most recognized and famous venue will host not one, but two world heavyweight championship fights. I guess that means there will be two world heavyweight champions in the Garden defending their world titles. And I thought there was only one world?

I can only speak for myself, but when I hear of Madison Square Garden, I automatically associate it with being the host of the world heavyweight championship. There have actually been four different Gardens since 1879. The second edition of the Garden was the first to host a heavyweight title bout, but only three took place there in the 35 years it was in business.

It's the third and fourth venues that are really linked to heavyweight history. The third Garden hosted eight of Joe Louis' title defenses between 1938 and 1947. And it was also the venue where Muhammad Ali made his last title defense against Zora Folley in March of 1967 before being exiled for 43 months for refusing induction into the United States Army.

“Smokin” Joe Frazier opened the current Garden, the fourth, in March of 1968 when he stopped Buster Mathis in 11 rounds. Three years later Frazier won his fifth straight title bout at the Garden. On Monday night March 8th 1971, Madison Square Garden was the venue where the “Fight Of The Century,” aka Frazier vs. Ali took place. The first fight between Ali and Frazier is without a doubt the biggest and most celebrated fight in boxing history. Not only did Frazier hand Ali the first defeat of his career that night, he won the biggest fight and sporting event of the nineteenth Century.

Tonight, the same Garden that hosted “Fight Of The Century,” hosts “Battle For Supremacy.” In the title bouts, John Ruiz will defend his WBA title versus top contender Andrew Golota, and Chris Byrd defends his IBF title against Jameel McCline. In addition, there will be four heavyweight bouts featuring three former champs, (Holyfield, Rahman, McCall) and three fighters hoping to position themselves for a title shot (Barrett, Beck, Meehan).

Three of the four fights leading up to the two title bouts look very competitive on paper. What makes this card some what intriguing is that the fights are not setups and could go either way. Larry Donald, Holyfield's opponent, has been fighting pro since 1993 and is 41-3-2. However, every time he was one win away from a title shot, he lost. At 37, this is definitely his last chance to position himself for a title shot. Holyfield still dreams of becoming undisputed heavyweight champ again. But at age 42 and having gone 2-4-2 in his last eight fights, Holyfield is not a serious title threat. Holyfield could lose to anybody at this time, and Donald has never been in a better spot to possibly get that elusive title shot. 

Hasim Rahman lost to WBA champ John Ruiz in his last shot at the title. His opponent, Kali Meehan lost to WBO champ Lamon Brewster in his only title shot. Another fight that could go either way. However, Meehan should be better based off the experience he gained during his fight with Brewster. Oliver McCall probably is the biggest favorite on the card. He is most likely too hard and seasoned for Davarryl Williamson. It's doubtful he can hurt McCall, despite being a pretty good puncher. McCall can win by knockout or decision, but he should win.

The two title bouts almost mirror each other. Chris Byrd has held the IBF heavyweight title since December of 2002. On top of that he's defeated Vitali Klitschko, the current WBC heavyweight champ and the fighter considered at the top of the heavyweight food chain. In August of 2002 he took the bullets out of possibly the biggest gun in the division, David Tua, winning a one sided decision. Four month's later he made Evander Holyfield look older than his 40 years while out-boxing him and capturing the vacant IBF title.

His opponent Jameel McCline is 6'7″ and weighs 270 pounds. However, he doesn't always fight like a big man and has shown that he can be overwhelmed in the big spot. But he does have some ability and since Byrd is not a puncher, I can see McCline fighting with a sense of urgency. And Byrd has had trouble against the bigger heavyweight's he fought. Even in the fights he won against them, he was never really in command. Byrd has a ton of experience, and is very loose and cunning in the ring. Not to mention that he is strong willed and has a huge heart that makes up for what he gives away physically. McCline has the size to cause Byrd all kind of trouble. This fight is no walkover for Byrd and the size disparity makes it a compelling matchup.

John Ruiz is a two time WBA heavyweight champ and is 4-2-1 in title bouts. However, he gets admonished for what he can't do. But never gets praise for all that he has accomplished without being close to the most talented heavyweight in the division. And, like with Byrd, there is a faction of boxing fans that can't wait to see him lose the title.

He's not a knockout artist, nor is he a very good boxer. Ruiz is a mauler who leads with his chin sometimes. He pushes, grabs, holds, and takes his opponents out of their game most of the time. By the time the round ends, his opponents are frustrated and annoyed, and he's landed the only one or two clean punches in the round that the judges remember.

Andrew Golota, Ruiz's opponent, is getting his second title shot in two fights. Golota is the opposite of Ruiz, in that he has underachieved and has yet to claim a piece of the heavyweight title. On paper, Golota should handle Ruiz. He's strong and throws tight three and four punch combinations. Golota is also a good boxer and can punch with either hand, not to mention he can also fight on the inside.

Where Golota pails in comparison to Ruiz is in the character department. Ruiz never gets discouraged and is willing to fight and do whatever is needed to win. Opposed to Golota, who has quit in the middle of fights he was winning, or came undone when facing the pressure of fighting the world's most dangerous heavyweights.

Basically, Ruiz vs. Golota is a contest between Ruiz's grit and determination against Golota's skill and ability. It's very easy to envision Ruiz's toughness overwhelming Golota and reducing his skill to a non factor. On the other hand it's not hard to envision Golota's power and superior ability being too much for Ruiz to overcome if Golota can hit him at will. That's what makes it a very interesting fight with the end coming in any one of a slew of different scenarios.

Holyfield vs Donald ? Either Donald gets his first title shot and saves Holyfield from himself, or Donald proves again that he isn't a money fighter and we are tormented by Evander for at least one more fight.

Rahman vs. Meehan ? Either Rahman continues in his quest for another title shot, and will be rewarded for fighting and remaining active, or Meehan will become a legitimate contender and is that much better from the experience of already being in a tough title bout.

McCall vs. Williamson ? Either McCall is in line for another decent pay day, or Williamson is in line for another decent pay day. 

Byrd vs. McCline ? Either Byrd was telling the truth on his conference call saying he couldn't get up for his last couple fights. And he must be regarded as no worse than the third best heavyweight in the world. Or, McCline fights like he wants to be the heavyweight champ and his size was just too much for Byrd.

Ruiz vs. Golota ? Either Ruiz out toughs Golota and retires him. Only for it to be reasoned by some the next day that Golota was a dog, and Ruiz didn't win, Golota lost. Or, Golota finally in his last shot wins a piece of the title that some always thought he could. Leading some fight observers to say the following day, ” I told you Ruiz was no good and would end up losing the title.”

The “Battle For Supremacy”, no, it's not “The Fight Of The Century,” but four of the five fights are interesting match ups and should be competitive and worth checking out ?

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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