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Articles of 2004

Rocky Graziano: Remembering Da Rock

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Former middleweight champion Rocky Graziano personified Nu Yawk. He was born Thomas Rocca Barbella in a Rivington Street tenement in 1922 and came of age on the Lower East Side. Rocky was a rambunctious kid with a rap sheet by the age of ten. Seemingly born to raise hell, he was a truant, punk, thief and hoodlum before he hit adolescence.

In his autobiography “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” first published in 1954 and turned into a film noir movie about his film noir life two years later, Rocky describes Rocky as only Rocky can: “I was so crooked ya coulda used my arm for a corkscrew. I wasn’t a juvenile delinquent. I was just a kid with an impediment of the reach.”

Rocky wrote about growing up in New York’s slums: “We go from one roach palace to another on Tenth Street and First Avenue. This pad, even though they was supposed to have steam heat, go find it. Here, in the middle of winter, even the janitor banged on the pipes. And if you paid your rent on time, you could be arrested for suspicion of robbery.”

In response to being poor, Barbella hustled reality. “I never stole anything unless it started with ‘A.’ ‘A’ truck. ‘A’ car. ‘A’ payroll.”

Always in and out of trouble, it was Manhattan Island one day/Riker’s Island the next for the recidivist Rocca Barbella. In lieu of a long stretch in the joint, a judge took pity on the repeat offender and forced him into the military. If ever a match was made in hell it was the U.S. Army vs. Da Rock. In no time Rocky was AWOL. In no time Rocky was in the brig.

History was repeating itself and Barbella, as usual, never could do nothing right.

“There was always something I want to say but I never knew how, so I let my fists do the talking for me.”

Rocca Barbella finally saw the light. He loathed following orders and hated khaki and knew the soldier’s life was not for him, so he borrowed another GI’s name – Rocky Graziano – and went absent without leave forever.

“There was still one thing I had to find out for myself. I had to learn that I was only happy when I was fighting.”

Rocky Graziano turned pro on March 31, 1942 in Brooklyn with a second round kayo over Curtis Hightower. Rocky had seven more fights that year, eighteen fights in 1943, and twenty fights in 1944.

“The only time I’m straight about what I’m doing is when I’m in the ring taking punches and giving them.”

Rocky wasn’t a sweet scientist. Nope, not even close. He went for the jugular.

“You can look at my face and you’ll know it’s a tough business.”

Graziano could take a mean punch. He also loved to dish it out. He thought nothing of taking four, five, six shots to land a haymaker of his own.

“I give in to nothing or nobody. Cut me, break my bones, it was all the same.”

Rocky never let his lack of finesse deter him.

“Anybody hurts me gets busted in two and dumped in his own blood.”

Rocky was also, in keeping with a New York tradition, a dirty fighter.

“In a fight it’s the thumb in the eye, the knee in the balls. In pool you cheat on the score. In baseball you rap the base runner sliding in or use your spikes. In poker it’s the marked deck, loaded dice in craps. The important thing is not how you do it,” Graziano wrote. “The important thing is to win.”

His three explosive bouts with Tony Zale – Rocky lost the first in 1946, won the rematch and middleweight title in 1947, and lost the 1948 rubber match – are touchstones in the sweet science of bruising.

“There’s only one way to lick Zale. You gotta kill him.”

Rocky Graziano retired from boxing in 1952 with a 67-10-6 (52 KOs) record and commenced his career in showbiz. He morphed from a granite-chinned pugilist into a solid gold celebrity. He became a TV host and pitchman. He became a bestselling author. He was pals with Presidents and Hollywood stars.

In an amazing turnaround of fortune, Rocky was famous, he was adored, and he was rich.

“You know why I like to hang around millionaires?” he asked. “They never ask you for money.”

Boxing rescued a nowhere man and turned him into something fabulous, and his life, according to Da Rock, was some kinda miracle.

“I once heard a poem with religion in it and there was this line I never forgot: My cup runs over.”

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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