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Articles of 2004

Chris Byrd and John Ruiz – They Just Win

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This past weekend there were two heavyweight championship fights at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two fights on paper shared many of the same parallels. However, in my opinion there was one that was undeniable and stood out above the rest. That was the fact that both defending champions were overachievers, and both challengers were underachievers.

Prior to the first bell, there was one thing that was an absolute certainty in both fights. That was John Ruiz and Chris Byrd weren't going to give their titles away to Andrew Golota and Jameel McCline. If the challengers were going to leave the ring as champions, they'd have to fight and endure some mental and physical fatigue and pressure to accomplish it. And that's something neither challenger had shown they could overcome in previous big fights.

If Jameel McCline had a character transplant with Evander Holyfield Wednesday morning and fought a rematch with Chris Byrd Saturday night, who wins? If you even entertained the thought that Byrd wins again for a tenth of a second, you've wasted a lot of your time watching boxing and need to go back to TV Land reruns.

This past Saturday night McCline, less Holyfield's determination and heart, had Byrd down and hurt, and for the first five rounds was in command. Then a funny thing happened. The fear of losing the title scared the hell out of Byrd. The thought of waking up the next morning without the title was ten times scarier to him than McCline's power and 270 pounds. For Chris Byrd, that's when the fight actually started.

From the very second the fear of losing and not having the title struck Byrd, McCline was forced to raise his game. What worked and was winning for him early no longer was enough. The fact that McCline was bigger, stronger, hit harder, and had the reach meant nothing. As Byrd showed against Ibeabuchi in a losing effort, you have to practically kill him to convince him he can't win.

However, that's not the case with McCline. You don't have to kill him to convince him he can't win. His opponent just has to show that he's willing to go through and do whatever it takes to win and that he won't be denied. When that message is picked up by McCline, it makes him a little uncomfortable and he has not been able to fight through it. That's why he's not a special fighter.  Despite all the physical advantages he holds over Byrd, winning just isn't as urgent to him as it is to Byrd. But you could bet everything you own if he had a character transplant with Holyfield, Byrd couldn't beat him once in ten tries.

Almost the same scenario unfolded in the WBA title fight between defending champ John Ruiz and Andrew Golota. In that fight it was also a given that Ruiz wasn't going to lose the fight by handing it willingly over to Golota. No, for Golota to leave the ring with Ruiz's title, he was going to have to fight him for it.

And like the Byrd-McCline bout, there were some absolutes in this fight as well. Such as Golota being clearly the more skilled fighter and better boxer. Not to mention being a sharper and more accurate puncher with better boxing fundamentals. The only thing Ruiz had over Golota was desire and toughness, and in the end that was the difference. For Golota to walk out of the ring with Ruiz's title, he'd just about have to half kill him. In order for Golota to do that, he'd have to be willing to sacrifice and put himself in the same peril. Something he's never been willing to do in order to win a big fight.

Golota had Ruiz down twice in the second round and was controlling the fight in the early going. And just like Byrd, when Ruiz saw his title and the fight slipping away, it scared him. The fact that Golota could hit him more accurate and harder than he could hit Golota never crossed his mind. All Ruiz knew was that he had to get going and make the fight as rough and nasty as possible and try to convince Golota he wasn't going to win.

Ruiz never stopped trying and forcing the fight, regardless of how bad he looked or what Golota did. Once Golota sensed how determined Ruiz was, his will faded and instead of letting his hands go and nailing a wide open Ruiz as he was coming in, he tightened up and let Ruiz dictate. In a fight that Golota had control of early, once again he came undone and didn't finish. By Golota fighting tentative and not going for it, he left the door open for Ruiz. And that cost him the fight.

Forget about the scoring for a second. The fight was close and many rounds could've gone to either fighter. Why was that? Because Ruiz never stopped trying to win and refused to be denied. As opposed to Golota, who was happy being competitive and keeping it close. Had Golota dug down and fought hard for maybe one or two more rounds, he would be champ today.

When John Ruiz loses, it's to better and more talented fighters. Andrew Golota can do everything in a ring better than John Ruiz can—except win. Golota has never stepped up even for a round in a big fight to give himself a chance to pull it out. John Ruiz is an overachiever who has stepped up and given his all every time out. And that is exactly why he's 5-2-1 in heavyweight title fights and is a two time champ, and Golota is 0-3 in heavyweight title bouts and never held a piece of the title. Ask yourself this question, if Ruiz and Golota had a character transplant Wednesday morning and fought a rematch this Saturday night, who wins?

This past Saturday night the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles were up for grabs. Champions Chris Byrd and John Ruiz have shown that they can get it done and win at the highest level in the heavyweight division, despite giving up size and skill in just about every fight.

I know, Byrd is too small and can't punch, and Ruiz has no skill and is hard to watch. They just win.

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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