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Articles of 2004

Attaching The G-Word To Klitschko

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This past weekend WBC heavyweight Champ Vitali Klitschko made the first defense of the title he  won eight months ago when he stopped Corrie Sanders in the eighth round. In a methodical and dominant performance, Klitschko dropped Mike Tyson conqueror Danny Williams four times before stopping him in the eighth round.

Last summer Williams scored one of the biggest upsets of the year in boxing when he toppled former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in the fourth round. Against Klitschko, Williams was never in the fight and took a one-sided beating for eight rounds. During the fight Klitschko completely out-fought and out-thought Williams. And like Lennox Lewis learned to do later in his career, Klitschko is utilizing his size and reach more effectively in each fight. In his last two fights against Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams, Klitschko was in control whether he was moving forward attacking, or stepping back and countering.

Vitali Klitschko has emerged as the fighter to beat in today's pedestrian heavyweight division. Right now I think he is the most formidable heavyweight in boxing. I'm sure for many of his fans and loyal followers that's not high enough praise. Probably anything short of referring to him as an all-time great would be seen as a slight. But in reality, Klitschko has not achieved greatness, nor is he a great fighter, yet.  And I would vehemently question the boxing intellect or agenda of anyone who thinks he is.

However, that is exactly what is being said among some boxing writers and fans. And unfortunately it's not the first time a champion in the infancy of his title tenure will prematurely be validated  an all-time great. The last fighter anointed great before he achieved it was Mike Tyson. And Tyson looked more unbeatable than Klitschko on the way up. Sure, Tyson was a great fighter, but the greatness he actually attained isn't close to what it was talked about  at one time.

Had Mike Tyson retired after beating Michael Spinks at 21, he would've wrongly gone down as one of the three or four greatest heavyweight champs in history. And that's a perfect example why it's best to wait until a fighter's career has heard its last bell before attempting to place him historically. In the NFL, players have to be retired for five years before they're eligible to be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame. Not a bad policy, in my opinion.

I was amazed at the time when some actually fathomed Tyson the greatest heavyweight ever after he defeated Michael Spinks. Twenty months after fighting Spinks, Tyson became the youngest ex-heavyweight champ in history when at age 23, and in his prime, he was knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas. Of course many afford Tyson every excuse in the world after a loss, but that's just what they are, excuses

As his career progressed, Tyson's lack of character, never coming back to win a single fight he was losing, identified him as much as his hand speed and power. He was also convincingly defeated by the two great heavyweights of his era. And he can't even use age as an excuse since he's four years younger than Evander Holyfield, and one year younger than Lennox Lewis. Not to mention he was better protected than both Holyfield and Lewis, who fought every top fighter in the division, something that cannot be said about Tyson.

Now Vitali Klitschko is having expectations placed on him that he will probably never meet. Who could? What I can't figure out is why a meaningful segment of the boxing community have to start attaching the G-word to his name? The word great is thrown around way too much today, and it's starting to lose some of its meaning.

Vitali Klitschko is an outstanding fighter and is starting to ignite a little interest in the heavyweight division. And maybe when he retires he'll be remembered as one of the greats. However, he's not there yet! And it is conveniently forgotten by some that two fighters have already defeated him. That's not saying they were better, just that they beat him. Sometimes the truth can be construed as harsh, but the truth is the two best fighters he's been in the ring with, IBF heavyweight champ Chris Byrd and former champ Lennox Lewis, both appear in the loss column of his record.

It's also true that he was leading in the fight against Chris Byrd when he injured his rotator cuff. He was also ahead in the scoring against Lennox Lewis when the fight was stopped due to a severely cut left eye – which was the result of a punch landed by Lewis. The fact is, Klitschko went into the ring with two fighters and he wasn't able to finish the fight. That's boxing.

The problem with rating Klitschko an all-time great after just one title defense is twofold. What if he happens to lose, or is stopped in one of his upcoming title defenses in the next couple years?  Sure, it doesn't look very likely now, but it's not a given that he'll go undefeated either. To me, Klitschko doesn't look as unbeatable as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman or Mike Tyson did before they fought Cassius Clay, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, and Buster Douglas.

Would the assessment that Vitali Klitschko of 2004 could have defeated George Foreman and Larry Holmes go up in smoke if he was upset by Hasim Rahman in 2005? Another problem with prematurely rating Klitschko historically is no one can say for certain when he was in his prime or at his best. Again, a fighter should be retired or close to retirement in order to accurately rank him historically.

Arguing who was greater or who would've won between two great fighters in the same division from different eras is a boxing tradition. Over the last three or four years I've written about 9 or 10 What IF articles. However, I have a rule that I adhere to before writing the article. That is I must know for a fact when both fighters were at their best so I can evaluate them fairly. Recently I was asked to write a What IF Marvin Hagler versus Bernard Hopkins for a boxing magazine. Although Hopkins is still active, he's past his prime and on the down side. And I know when and what he fought like at his best, just as I know what Hagler looked and fought like during his peak.

Here it is less than a week after Klitschko's first title defense, a title he won just eight months ago, and far too many writers have started writing about hypothetical match ups between Klitschko and other past heavyweight greats? Not only is that absurd, it's not fair to place those type expectations on Vitali, and it's insulting to the past greats he's being measured against.

How could anyone, even as joke, try to historically rank a fighter who has been a title holder for eight months and 2-1 in world title fights. Does beating Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders, and Danny Williams justify him being matched against Jim Jefferies, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, and Lennox Lewis?

What amazes me is that a majority of those who have already seen enough from Vitali Klitschko to anoint him among the greatest of the great heavyweight champions, couldn't have been more wrong about the last fighter they viewed as a future great.  For the better part of the last eight years, the most astute and knowledgeable Klitschko followers have been telling anyone who would listen that Wladimir Klitschko was the better fighter and had the better future? And this wasn't speculation, it was an opinion derived by adamantly chronicling both fighters for eight years. And despite having a 50/50 shot to be right, they were wrong. Now they say in absolute terms that the likes of Louis, Ali, Foreman, and Holmes, just to name a few, wouldn't have been able to handle Vitali? I find tremendous fault with that.

At this time WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko would be favored over any other heavyweight in the world. But just as it doesn't mean the fighters who defeated him are necessarily better than he is, it's likewise not a given that he would defeat every other heavyweight in the world because he would be favored to.

The old saying is, of course, “as goes the heavyweight division so goes boxing.” Maybe the heavyweight division now has a fighter who can carry the baton, transcending the Tyson, Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis eras and who will usher in the Klitschko era. And maybe in the year 2014 he'll be mentioned among the greatest of the greats. But that's not the case at this time. Klitschko is providing a good reason to watch and follow the heavyweight division. And if he does go onto be one of the greats, I'll be the first one starting the fights, arguments, and debates regarding who he could or couldn't have beat.

It was just a little over 10 years ago that Lennox Lewis was knocked out by Oliver McCall and lost his title. If someone said to me the next day Lennox Lewis would not only be remembered as an all-time great, but he would retire from boxing winning more heavyweight title bouts than any other heavyweight champion in history, other than Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes, I no doubt would've turned to them and said, “you're out of your mind!”

This past February Lennox Lewis retired as heavyweight champion. And today he is regarded as an all-time great. On top of that, Lewis ranks fourth all-time in number of heavyweight title bouts won. Only Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes have won more.

Is Vitali Klitschko an all-time great at this time? No. Can he retire and be remembered as an all-time great? Only a fool would say no, and I'm not a fool.  Just as a majority of the great fighters before him had to wait before they were lauded great, I'll hold Vitali to the same standard.

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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