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Articles of 2004

Chasing Boxing History

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In our time, when a boxing champion's reign revolves around devalued title belts, fought within weight limit sub-categorizations for the sake of television programming validation, moving up into ever higher divisions to acquire more and more hard-ware, equates to a common business practice, common principle for greatness. And just as the mission of professional boxers is the acquisition of 'serious' money, so the athletic ego – the engine of fistic ambition – desires distinction, singularity and the glorification of being a unique athletic entity.

Not that champion boxers are anything like mainstream sporting figures, in 2004. That assertion notwithstanding, there are a select few who defy the imperative for weight escalation, such as Bernard Hopkins or even debatably, Joe Calzaghe. Those names are exceptions, exceptional holdouts, staying put at one weight for the duration of their careers, rooted to a classical notion of optimization, their stoic belief of 'ideal weight' a counterpoint against the marketing logic of risk-ward extremism.

Simply put, Hopkins and trainer Bouie Fischer determined, in 1992, the ideal body configuration and weight for Bernard Hopkins to compete as a professional boxer to be 160. Over the course of moving from his development phase, rebounding from his 1993 loss to Roy Jones in his first title quest, through a distinguished IBF title reign, Team Hopkins settled on a rigorous cardio based regiment to keep the 6' 1″ Hopkins cut down to the 160 pound margin. Needless to say, only the work ethic of a Bernard Hopkins could maintain such a body configuration at 39; we note this, as we also tip our hat to his technical and stylistic brilliance.

Hopkins, having determined his place for exhibiting his 'best practices', literally outlasted his generation of middleweights from William Joppy to Keith Holmes and, significantly, Roy Jones and James Toney, waits for future competition to emerge from lower orders, those locked into the ethic of 'moving up' in weight to determine their historical signification. In a sense, the mental rationalization was to look for more title belts, worlds to conquer, intersecting with pay per view level rivals and yet the point of compromise was optimization. Fighting thus becomes an act of rationalization, and increasingly, self-proscribed mitigation, with one’s athletic motor capacities devalued, in place of compensating defaults. Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones and Ray Robinson absorbing punishment to tie George Foreman or dissuade Antonio Tarver or find a miracle against Paul Pender.

This is a contentious issue, fighters being most susceptible to either the belief that they can reconfigure their bodies for any reasonable re-categorization i.e. Morales, Barrera, De La Hoya, Jones, Lewis, etc or re-constitute their bodies for extreme career retooling –  Holyfield, Paz, Toney, Mosley, etc.

There are subtleties to understand, points of rationalization to be addressed. Take the emaciated figure of Erik Morales at 122 or super bantamweight. Youthful and driven enough to dry out his body to limit of competent dehydration, in order to maximize his height-strength ratio – his 5' 8″ body essentially devoid of a subcutaneous fat layering – Morales ably played the big little man, when besting formidable foes from Junior Jones and Wayne McCullough to Marco Antonio Barrera.

The tortuous art of scaling down to be 'massive' fighting at an artificially low weight is achieved by diet targeting and controlled dehydration strictures. “El Terrible” went on to win titles at featherweight and jr. lightweight, the names of foes defeated a remarkable cross section of the best of a generation. His early career of forced minimization has garnered the native of Tijuana, Mexico a spot among the legends of his generation and perhaps of all time. And one might well argue that the stratification of the 'traditional' eight weight categories has served to facilitate the demarcating of Morales, not just his talented fists.

Perhaps, we are judging the great Morales harshly, for one can also assert that had he chosen to stake out the featherweight division from the inception of his career, his career ledger would, in all likelihood, have read nearly the same as it does currently. As well,  and more bluntly, James Toney effectively ate his way out of middle and super-middleweight to the ionosphere of a Klitschko ruled heavyweight division. By this reckoning James Toney and Vinnie Paz share the x-treme award for self-manipulation and body morphing for the purposes of defying the boundaries of even the ethic of weight escalation. Yes, Toney does have Mickey Walker as his pseudo forerunner. But we have strained credulity enough already.

The ethic for 'moving up to define greatness' is so ingrained today that by common report or skeptical retort, Hopkins himself – though peerless at 160 – has also been the subject of criticism for not having chosen to take on the belt holders at 168 or 175, during his decade of eminence. Just as some revisionist history has begun (in earnest?) on the choices make by superstar Roy Jones Jr. Did Jones tailor his career opponents listing, fighting mandatories simply to maximize his HBO money and be able to freelance as a hoopster? Of course!

And of course we are teasing to point out Jones' penchant for trading off and speculating on his future as greatness personified. Thus the elemental rub against Jones; did he fight and challenge himself to the full measure of his manifest talent? Most agree he did not; he chose not to do so. He sought the maximization of monetary gain while establishing the dominance of his presentation as a singular boxing genius. Which most all agree he was! But it was in the fabrication of his quests at multiple weights, avoiding the deep contenders fields at middleweight and super-middleweight at the start and middle of his career ascendancy that becomes thee basis point for skeptical debate upon the subject of Roy Jones Jr., consensus boxing genius.

Again, we can assert, Jones did nothing more than extend the custom and practice of most championship level fighters, save for the excessive and exclusionary selection process to do with much of his title defenses. Title defenses, we also remember, that had Roy Jones as the promoter, agent and fighter (titlist) and his opponent a subcontractor to Jones.

Shane Mosley's bulking up to maximize his strength-speed ratio did secure him a pair of career wins over Oscar De La Hoya. Seeking popular and professional redress for having been mired in the obscurity, his transfer from lightweight to welterweight justified itself as a financial win-fall and mega-fight victory. Just as De La Hoya was to find out against Bernard Hopkins, sometimes the destination of historical import is a bridge too far.

Mosley found out just how difficult being welterweight champion could be against Vernon Forrest, and this year jr. middleweight champion against “Winky” Wright. Securing the pay days become pay offs from the perspective of realizing historical singularity. One only has to consider Shane Mosley as a career campaigner at 140 up to 147, taking the brunt and best of Arturo Gatti, Micky Ward, Kostya Tszyu, Floyd Mayweather and then with impetuous necessity Cory Spinks, Vernon Forrest or Oscar De La Hoya twice, at 147. Think of how different would have been his health – one’s true wealth – his legacy, his realization of historical merit.

Yes, perhaps it's a necessary illusion of the age, this notion that history will laud only those who have collected multiple belts, paying any and all prices. Is there a reasonable middle ground between the over elaborations of Roy Jones' “I” business trade offs, Shane Mosley's musclebound fool-(all)heartiness and the Teutonic stance of Bernard Hopkins?

Better to pretend there's a middle ground, where reason and risk can make the distinctions between opportunity and fatalism. Right? If everyone who's more than moderately competent can nab a “world title” then how far off can “history” really be? Can't these guys see right in front of them?

Too bad more smart people in boxing don't play more chess. You know, so either fighters or their trusted aids can figure out the truest end game, with history and security realized. There must be an easy formula, right?

History isn't what it used to be anyway. Being historically significant is as overrated as you can get these days. Or for that matter, can't they get that in their agreements with HBO and Showtime. All they have to say is, “this fight is one for the ages.”

How hard can that be?

It's not like history is something to be heeded, more like put upon.

Or is that imposed upon?

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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