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Articles of 2004

The Boxing Don: King Features Syndicate

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You gotta hand it to Don King. Like Old Man River, he just keeps rolling along. Month after month, year after year, decade after decade he delivers the goods, such as those goods are, in spite of a dwindling talent pool, in spite of everything. Much of what ails boxing can be laid at Don King’s feet, but the scarcity of big boys who can box is not one of them.

Men have been saying forever that whoever controls the heavyweight division controls boxing. Don King heard that long ago and took those words to heart. From the moment he first hit boxing in the early 1970s, King thought big, dreamed big, and signed big. Everybody from Ali, Frazier and Foreman to Rahman, Ruiz and Holyfield has fought for Don King. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always profitable.

King’s latest installment of the heavyweight championship boxing spectacle came to Madison Square Garden in New York City last Saturday. Called Rendezvous with Destiny: Battle for Supremacy, it might as well have been called Rendezvous with Redundancy: Battle for Mendacity. King assembled some of the best heavyweights on the planet, and some certifiable retreads, for a series of four twelve-round bouts, two of which were for titles.

The festivities got underway with Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield (38-8-2 25 KOs) vs. Larry “The Legend” Donald (42-3-2 24 KOs) in a non-title bout. Holyfield needs no introduction. He is the former four-time world heavyweight champion, a future hall of famer, one of the all-time greats. Holyfield is boxing’s ultimate overachiever, whereas Donald is boxing’s ultimate underachiever, so there was some poetic justice in making this fight. It more or less looked okay on paper. On canvas it was another story.

Expectations were low going into the bout and the fight lived down to expectations. Larry Donald was Larry Donald, a fine boxer devoid of killer instinct, and Holyfield was less than a shadow of his former self. Donald came into the fight with a game plan and, kudos to his trainer Colin Morgan, he executed it with precision. But Holyfield is too far gone these days to compete at the highest level, to compete at the level of a refurbished Larry Donald.

Watching Holyfield fight these days is less about boxing than it is about vanity and denial. Holyfield is now losing to top-20 fighters. Top-30 and top-40 fighters might be next. The acute boxer’s intelligence that served him so well in the ring for so many years has been kayoed by his body’s refusal to perform. Holyfield has been mugged by many men in many fights and he has been pounded by the passage of time, but Evander always fought back. Those days, however, are no more.

On Saturday night Holyfield ate jabs like he was a starving man dying of hunger. There’s no spring left in his legs, no lateral movement, he can barely bob and weave. And his arsenal – the great jab and textbook left hook – is gone for good. All that remains is Holyfield’s stubborn southern toughness and unvanquished warrior soul. The judges gave it to Larry Donald after twelve. Holyfield didn’t win a round.

The second big bout of the night featured Hasim “The Rock” Rahman (40-5-1 3 KOs) against Kali “Checkmate” Meehan (29-3 23 KOs). Rahman is the former heavyweight champ who kayoed Lennox Lewis with one punch in 2001 to win the title. That was a glorious night for Rahman. His second glorious night was at the Garden on Saturday, where he demolished Kali Meehan.

Meehan is a former bouncer, garbage collector and sparring partner who recently catapulted to prominence when he put some hurt on WBO champ Lamon Brewster. Brewster may have eked out the decision to go along with his broken jaw that night, but Kali Meehan was the star. He was gutsy. He was a bruiser. He was white and he could box. Meehan did such a fine job busting up Brewster that he earned himself a shot at Hasim Rahman.

Rahman and his trainer Thell Torrance got The Rock hard and ready to roll for the WBA mandatory against Meehan. Rahman fought smart and he fought dangerous at the opening bell. Meehan was cautious, on the defensive, trying to avoid Rahman’s rushes by jabbing and stepping to the side. It almost looked like Checkmate came to New York to play some chess at Madison Square Garden, but boxing is Rahman’s game. He drew first blood from Meehan’s nose in round two and had Meehan wobbling on the robes at the bell. Rahman took complete charge in round three. His superb conditioning and explosive ways etched an epitaph on Meehan’s face. Checkmate’s corner threw in the towel at the end of the fourth. Hasim Rahman is back.

The co-main feature at the Garden spotlighted IBF champion Chris Byrd (37-2-1 20 KOs) defending his title against Jameel “Big Time” McCline (31-4-3 19 KOs). Despite the disparity in height, weight and strength between the two men, despite the fact that they are friends, this was the fight of the night. Byrd is the champ and on the downside of his career, while McCline is still contending, so this seemed like Jameel’s best and last chance to win the heavyweight title. Too bad he was fighting a master boxer named Chris Byrd.

Byrd is one of the most hated heavyweight champs in history. Even though he has held the crown for several years and fought everyone willing to get it on, he is despised by most fans, because he doesn’t stand and trade, because he has the skills to not stand and trade, which some folks find boring. But since the game is called Boxing, and is not called Knockout, we can assume Byrd knows what he is doing.

Byrd and McCline had a feeling out period in the first. Then Jameel went Byrd hunting. McCline caught the champ in the second and knocked him to the deck. Byrd beat the count and survived the round. The challenger chased Byrd, confident that his superior firepower would do the trick, which it did whenever he landed. The first third of the fight belonged to McCline.

Byrd turned it up in the middle rounds and peppered McCline’s face with combinations. There was nothing Jameel could do but try to catch the elusive Byrd, which has been hard for almost everyone he fought, no less than for a giant like McCline.

Although he was rocked in the tenth round, the last third of the fight was all Chris Byrd. McCline was focused and resilient, at the top of his game, but he was too slow, too inexperienced, too one-dimensional, his boxing skills inferior to those of Chris Byrd. It went to the judges after twelve competitive rounds. Byrd beat McCline by a split decision.

The main event of the evening was a WBA championship fight between John “The Quiet Man” Ruiz (40-4-1 28 KOs) defending his title against the challenger Andrew Golota (34-5-1 31 KOs). Those who have seen Ruiz fight before knew what to expect going in. When Ruiz wins, he wins ugly. When he loses, he loses ugly. Although he has been a titleholder for many years, he is a graceless brawler who will do whatever it takes to win. He is one part tough guy and all-around grappler, the champ who causes the Marquis of Queensberry to spin in his grave along with his stupid rules.

Andrew Golota took this bout after the rematch with Byrd could not be made. Golota knew this was going to be a foul-filled fight which could push him to the edge, so he thought ahead and prepared for the worst. Ruiz came out at the opening bell and quickly established the fight’s punch-clinch-punch-clinch pattern. Although Golota has the better boxing skills, he allowed Ruiz to get off first, before he tied up the Pole for some dirty inside fighting. Golota didn’t seem to mind. He joined in the fouling. Rabbit punches were thrown. As were blows thrown after the bell.

There were some highlights to the bout. Golota dropped Ruiz early and followed it up with a shove to the canvas and shot behind the head. Cornermen jumped into the ring at inopportune times and understandably cursed the ref. Ruiz cut Golota above the eye with a left hook late in round nine. Golota floored Ruiz in the tenth. It was Golota’s fight to lose, but lose it he didn’t. It just wasn’t his night. After twelve unsightly rounds, the judges robbed Golota and gave the decision to Ruiz.

At the end of a long evening of fights chockfull of few surprises, the big winners were Chris Byrd and Hasim Rahman – with a nod going to Jameel McCline and Larry Donald – and of course the promoter Don King. When asked if he would let any of his titleholders fight each other to unify the titles, King replied, “Yes, they’ll fight anybody. That’s what it’s all about. You can fight any one of them. You got Lamon Brewster. You got Chris Byrd. And you got the fight with Danny and the other guy, although Rahman is the mandatory, so Rahman will be fighting the other guy. I’ll allow any of them to fight for the title. That’s what it’s really about, getting one undisputed champion. That’s the mission that we are on, to have one undisputed champion. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Only time will tell if King lets one of his champs fight the other guy, even though that’s what it’s really about.

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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