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Articles of 2004

King Rules Heavyweight Boxing Past and Present



SPECIAL to from Pat Putnam. From the Pat Putnam Classic Series, this article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated.

One of the secrets of Don King’s success is his ability to wedge a pod of round heavyweights into a square hole. A glaring example of this porcine phenomenon was the King pay-per-view card Nov. 13 at Madison Square Garden, when tonnage took top billing over talent. Another was…

March 1992
New York  

It is the unbending rule of marital disputes and heavyweight championship contests that it takes two to fight. Anything else is shadow boxing, which may be pleasant for a beleaguered spouse but makes for a boring fist fight. “No problem,” said Don King as the gates of an Indiana prison slammed shut on Mike Tyson, “if I don't have the champion, it will be one of my guys coming out of the other corner.”

Quietly, King began to gather his whales. They didn't have to be proficient, just breathing. Ratings were no problem. For Jose Sulaiman, King's WBC lap dog, it only took a phone call. For the right price, the WBA would rank Mother Theresa. Bob Lee's IBF is cut from the same checkered cloth. Now, it is fight one of King's vassals or fight no one.

“I got a call from King six months ago,” Rock Newman, Riddick Bowe's manager, said Friday. “He offered me a half interest in Oliver McCall and Tony Tucker for half of Riddick. I asked him why he didn't just try to sell me the bridge over the East River in New York. He told me to make an offer.

Two weeks from today, around 1:30 a.m. in the east, McCall fights WBC champion Lennox Lewis at Wembley Arena. Because the fight is a mandatory, Lewis had no choice, fight Tyson's ex-sparring partner or be defrocked. After McCall, there is Tucker, everybody's No. 2, who lost a 12-round decision to Lewis last  year. He will move up automatically as the mandatory challenger should McCall lose.

Tucker, of course, richly deserves to be ranked second. Since Lewis decisioned him in Las Vegas, he has defeated three unknowns named Graves, Stephens and Coffee. Larry, Moe and Curly. None of that fettered trio stumbled beyond the second round.

“When I turned King down,” said Newman, “he told me Riddick would be dropped out of the rankings and that he'd never get another title shot. Then he made it happen.”

In the latest IBF ratings, Bowe, the former heavyweight champion Lewis has agreed to fight after McCall, was rated No. 5, behind McCall, Tucker, Bruce Seldon (whom Bowe knocked out in one round in 1991), and Joe Hipp, as tough as any, not as good as your sister. When Newman telephoned Lee to complain, the IBF president told him to call King.

“Lee told me that if I made a deal with King, he'd put Bowe ahead of everybody else. No. l,” said Newman. “What's so sickening about King, is how he tries to steal and manipulate in the name of blackness. That is more sickening to me than whatever his other financial transgressions might be. He is totally devoid of ethnic integrity. That outrages me.”

Others on Newman’s hate list are Billy The Kid, Willie Sutton and Al Capone.

The other alphabet bandits, the WBC and the WBA, blandly ignore Bowe. The WBC does rank four of King's has-beens and ex-sparring partners in the top six, including the top three, and half of the top 12. The WBA, in open shamelessness, ranks King's minions in its top five places, with a full half-dozen among the top 12.

One such is 5th-ranked Franz Botha, the most dreadful heavyweight to come out of country renowned for dreadful heavyweights, South Africa.

Fortunately for the British fans, McCall is the best of King's lot, as it should be considering the $2 million plus King charged to supply him. At the moment, McCall thinks his share of all that money is $1 million, but then he hasn't been paid yet, has he? King's expenses, the ones he sucks from a fighter's purse, are legendary.

For this one, King ordered McCall to camp a month early, although by the time he arrives in London tomorrow, he should be so travel weary he may be unable to fight. His training odyssey opened in Las Vegas 10 weeks ago. Then he was moved to Detroit, before being relocated to train with Julio Cesar Chavez outside of Mexico City. The last anyone heard of him, King had moved his training camp to Tijuana, on the Mexican west coast just south of San Diego.

“I thought we were going to Tahiti,” said a bemused Jimmy Adams, McCall's manager of record.

“The whole thing is a joke,” says Richie Giachetti, the trainer King replaced with portly Greg Page and Manny Steward. “They put him in camp because you have to watch him 24 hours a day. King is hiding him, but when Manny goes off to train Chavez, Oliver is going to take off. What is Page going to teach him? How to eat? But I'll say this: if Oliver fights the way I taught him, he'll beat Lewis. He has the tools; he just has to use them the right way. If he hasn't been fooling around.”

A strong and awkward mauler with a big punch and an extraordinary chin, McCall's greatest weakness is his sparring partner mentality, which shaped his five defeats. Sparring partners are accustomed to fighting the boss; if they make him angry, they go home. They do not fight to win, only to sharpen the other man's tools. After three or four rounds, they hope someone will call time, so they may take the rest of the day off.
“The difference between him and me,” says former champion Larry Holmes, who once toiled as a sparring partner, “is that I did it to learn while he did it as a job. Look at his career and at mine. He just wanted to get paid and he lost and lost and lost. I won and won and won. He could get lucky with Lewis, but he's not that great a fighter. But then, I don't think Lewis is so great either. But Lewis has been champion awhile, so he has that going for himself.”

For this one, King turned to Steward, who trained Evander Holyfield to reclaim the title from Bowe. After one look, Steward introduced McCall to the basics, a discipline he had managed to ignore during his nine-year career. Steward added crispness to his punches.

“Because he was a sparring partner, he never took boxing seriously,” said Steward. “He told me about the fight he lost to Buster Douglas, just before Douglas knocked out Tyson. He didn't take it seriously; didn't train seriously. He was out partying and drinking, not worrying about having a fight. He was getting paid as a sparring partner and he just felt lucky to be on the undercard for another payday. He knows what might have been if he had beaten Douglas. He is taking this one very seriously.

When Steward trained Michael Moorer, before he became the WBA and IBF champion, he was offered a fight with McCall. He turned it down. “Not now,” he said then, “not ever.”

“I'll tell you this,” said the veteran trainer, “he is not the kind of guy I would want Lennox to fight if I were training Lennox. Remember, he's never been knocked down or cut, and he is the first guy ever to knock Tyson off his feet.”

For sparring with Tyson, McCall was paid $2,000 a week. Others fighters were not so generous, and there were times when paydays were far apart for a married man with a growing family. In 1988, the 6'2″, 230-pound heavyweight, then in his fourth year as a professional fighter, apparently found other work; he pleaded no contest to two counts of burglaries in Wisconsin.

Racine County Judge Jon Skow sentenced him to 60 days in the county jail and five-years probation. There is a plus side to that: it did give him something in common with King. Now for the next few weeks over tea and crumpets, the pair can discuss something other than the London weather.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List



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




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




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 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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