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Articles of 2004

Danny Williams Hits Vegas and Klitschko

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When most of us on this side of the pond think of British heavyweights we think of Lennox Lewis. But there’s Frank Bruno, who fought Tyson in 1989 and 1996. There’s Henry Cooper, who fought Ali in 1963 and 1966. There’s Don Cockell, who fought Marciano in 1955. There’s Tommy Farr, who fought Joe Louis in 1937.

No one used to think of Danny Williams.

“Dynamite” Danny Williams was born in Brixton, London, England on July 13, 1973. Brixton is to London as Brownsville is to New York, as the Fifth Ward is to Houston, so this Saturday Williams is fighting the heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the WBC crown. It took Klitschko many years to make it to the top. It took Dynamite Danny forever to get this far.

“When I was a little baby, my dad said he had a dream that I was going to be heavyweight champion of the world,” Williams told me. “So he forced me into boxing. I didn’t want to do it, but he made me do it. He was working on the mitts and teaching me how to box and then I finally started to like the sport after a few years. I started in it officially when I was eight years old.”

Williams went 29-6 as an amateur and turned pro in 1994 at the age of twenty-two with a second round TKO. He won his next fifteen fights, twelve of them by knockout. Williams won his first regional title at Bethnal Green in 1998. He followed it up by capturing the British Commonwealth crown with a first round kayo the following year. Williams won and lost that title six times from 1999 to 2003, displaying a big heart, big punch, big chin and big cojones.

After nearly ten years as a pro, with a record of 31-3 (27 KOs), Danny Williams, in the biggest fight of his life, was handpicked by Mike Tyson, who was coming off a year and a half layoff, to be the former champ’s next victim. They met in Louisville, Kentucky on July 30, 2004 and it looked like Danny didn’t have a chance. Although Tyson was past his prime, he was still dangerous, whereas no one knew much about Danny Williams.

“I told everyone going in that I was confident that I could win,” Williams said. “I was in great shape for that fight and had never trained harder. I was chosen as Mike Tyson’s opponent because I had a good record, was big and looked the part. They obviously thought I was going to be knocked out within a few rounds. But for one of the few times in my career, I was actually very relaxed. In the past I was always the favorite and so much was always expected of me. I was always supposed to win. But for the fight with Tyson, nobody gave me a chance and there was no pressure on me at all. I knew the key was to survive his early attack and then take him into the later rounds. I though I would get him in the fifth round. But we did not make it that far.”

Williams got rocked in the first stanza, but fired back and made it through the round.

“He hurt me for a few seconds in the first round but I came back and boxed him smart,” said Williams. “I showed I am a warrior. Once I hurt him, I let go and kept punching and punching. I always thought I could win. Every single round that went by, his punching power seemed to grow less. So I knew I was going to take him out.”

Tyson blew out his knee throwing a punch and Williams dominated round two. In the third he knocked Tyson to the ropes and dropped him to the canvas with a barrage of twenty-six unanswered punches. And nothing has been the same since.

“My life is definitely a lot more hectic,” Williams said. “A five minute walk now takes half an hour because people are shouting out to me in the street or coming up to me and giving me a hug.”

Not only are people shouting and giving him hugs. They are also giving him opportunities.

“Lennox has gone and it looked like there was going to be no one to take over from him. Hopefully I can be that man to take over. The heavyweight division is very poor right now and no one stands out. It is wide open,” said Williams. “That is where I come in and it is there for the taking – big time. After nearly ten years as a professional, I have my chance at a world title. I appreciate the fact that Klitschko is giving me this opportunity. But I am totally focused on bringing the crown back to Britain.”

Danny Williams can’t stand and trade with the Ukrainian. He’ll have to bob and weave, use his speed, play all the angles. Klitschko can punch and is always in shape. Williams will have to use his head. I asked Danny’s trainer, Jim McDonnell, his thoughts on the champion.

“The thing with Vitali is what you see is what you get,” the trainer said. “So it’s a different game plan from the Tyson fight. With Tyson you find one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. You find someone who gives you awesome angles, who gives you fantastic power. With Klitschko he’ll bring the power, he’ll bring the true European standard to the ring, a lot of determination. And that’s it. Danny’s in much better shape than for the Tyson fight. He took the Tyson fight with only five weeks notice. He was looking for an opponent and they made a mistake.”

That mistake landed Tyson on the seat of his pants, whereas Klitschko still looks like the tower of power.

Jim McDonnell had a twinkle in his eye: “It can take two years, as they say in London, to build two towers, and they can be blown away in thirty seconds. That’s what could happen in this fight.”

The trainer got that right. When heavyweights collide anything can happen. Someday someone will derail the Klitschko Express. It might happen a year from now. It might happen Saturday.

Before leaving Danny Williams to his final preparations for the title fight with Vitali, I asked how he hopes to beat the big man when they meet.

“What I need to do to beat Klitschko,” he said, “is hit him more than he hits me.”

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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