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Articles of 2004

Glen Johnson – Losing No Longer Possible

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It started out as a comeback, or better yet, an escape from journeyman status. Five non-losing efforts later, Glengoffe Johnson is now in a position where one more win would put him atop the light heavyweight heap. And more importantly, one step ahead of the man he has seemingly followed for the past two years.

When “Gentleman Glen” squares off against consensus light heavyweight champion Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver this Saturday night (HBO World Championship Boxing, 9PM ET/6PM PT live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA), more will be at stake than the IBO light heavyweight championship. Even more than The Ring championship, for that matter. While the winner will undoubtedly be hailed as the best light heavyweight on the planet, many boxing scribes are also looking at this fight to anoint the winner as Fighter of the Year for 2004.

Neither is a scenario Johnson had envisioned becoming a reality even after upsetting Roy Jones in what has been the biggest win of his career, to date.

“Like I pretty much said at the end of the fight in the post-fight interview, I don’t need to be the best, I just want to fight the best,” Johnson told TheSweetScience.com while preparing for the Tarver showdown this weekend. “Fighting Roy was a dream come true for me, but certainly not the end of my dream. I always said that when I retire, I wanted to go out knowing that I faced everyone and tried my hardest. I didn’t think I would beat them all, but I surely wanted to meet them all.”

Certainly a refreshing change from your average fighter, champion or otherwise, who normally sits on the side and waits for one big fight to come along rather than working one’s way toward the top. In fact, Tarver fits the very same mold. It was his decision to rematch Eric Harding that earned him the respect of the boxing community. Here was a fighter who was Roy Jones’ #1 contender in the WBC, and soon to be mandatory challenger in the IBF and WBA as well. Rather than sit on his lead – as Roy had been accused of doing for much of his light heavyweight run to that point – Tarver opted for a rematch with the one man that defeated him in the ring.

The gamble paid off big time, though it required Antonio to rally from behind in order to catch Harding with a perfect shot that would permanently turn the tide in his favor before stopping him in five. Just like that, Tarver went from wasted talent to perennial contender. Never before had a win over a top contender look so good.

That is, until Johnson turned the trick less than a year later. This would be the first of three occasions where Johnson would pull the in-the-ring version of “anything you can do, I can do better.”

After recovering from the Tarver debacle, Harding was looking for a comeback fight, and Johnson was looking for a win. He had been blatantly robbed in his first two bouts of 2003 – a hotly contested split decision loss to Julio Gonzalez on Telefutura, and a draw to undefeated Daniel Judah just six weeks prior to the Harding fight. The Judah fight was so bad that Daniel himself thought that Johnson won. Unfortunately, his opinion didn’t change the fact that Johnson hadn’t won a fight on American soil since the Clinton administration.

Fast forward to fight night in the Bronx, where Johnson and Harding squared off on FoxSports. In typical Johnson form, he sprinted out to an early lead. Only this time, he didn’t ease off the gas, as he arguable won seven of the first nine rounds against a surprisingly lethargic Harding. Eric was able to pick up the pace down the final three rounds, but had fallen too far behind early to catch up, thus dropping a unanimous decision to Johnson. Just ten months after Tarver had dropped and subsequently stopped Harding, Johnson beat the former world title challenger in his very next fight.

“The win was big for me, because it said that I can beat the top fighters. I can beat the same guys that others fight and beat in trying to claim that they are the best. This let me know that I was ready to fight for a world title.”

The world title he had hoped to fight for were the two that Tarver had picked up in scoring a unanimous decision over Montell Griffin just a month prior. In an unprecedented move, the bout was for the vacant WBC AND IBF titles, as they were

the top two contenders for both alphabet organizations. After winning the titles, Tarver remained determined to score a showdown with longtime nemesis Roy Jones. While Tarver sought Roy, Johnson searched for opportunity to build on his newfound momentum.

The IBF would come through, as they announced an elimination bout, where the winner of the proposed November 2003 fight between Johnson and Clinton Woods would square off against the winner of Jones-Tarver I. It wasn’t a title shot, but Glen was happy enough to be in the position where he only needed one more win to get there.

He would be even happier with last minute news that the fight would be upgraded to world title fight, as Tarver elected to vacate his title the week of the fight. Johnson was elated, though somehow sensed that the timing wasn’t right.

“I guess I still wasn’t used to the judges allowing me to win a fight” Johnson now jokes. “But something told me that I wasn’t leaving Sheffield (Woods’ hometown, where the fight was staged) with a world title, no matter how bad I beat that boy.”

He was right, as many in attendance – again, this is Woods’ hometown – felt that Johnson had done more than enough to pick up the vacant strap. For the third time in four fights in that calendar year, the judges disagreed with the masses, as they declared the bout a draw. In a year where Johnson arguably could have went 4-0 and would have been a strong contender for Fighter of the Year, he instead walked away 1-1-2 – and beltless.

Three months later, Johnson returned to the scene of the crime, determined to prove that he could somehow win a decision in Sheffield. “The decision was simple,” Johnson recalls. “That’s where the most money was at the time, so why not go back. I beat him once, I knew I could beat him again.”

Glen was right, and this time, so were the judges. After twelve dominant rounds, Johnson left England a champion. Once again, ten months after Tarver scored the biggest win of his career, Johnson comes along and follows suit. Only now, Johnson had a world title, while Tarver was coming off of a disputed majority decision loss to Jones and bracing for the rematch.

In May, Tarver landed the left hand heard ‘round the world, knocking Roy Jones out with a single shot to regain his WBC world title, and re-claim his spot atop the light heavyweight division. Even though Johnson at the time was training for a return trip to England with a Joe Calzaghe fight and career payday waiting in the wings, you could almost sense that Glencoffe would come along and find a way to match and possibly top the feat.

Two postponements and a permanent cancellation later, Johnson received the opportunity of a lifetime – only a few states away from home.

“Man, Calzaghe drove me crazy, pulling out of the original date, pushing it back, coming up with another excuse to postpone… I just said forget it. It’s not worth going to England with him and (promoter Frank) Warren playing games. So, when Roy’s people called me up, I told him it was on.”

With Roy looking both to rebound and regain some leverage for a possible rubber match with Tarver, he turned to Johnson in hopes of picking up the IBF title and securing his 50th win. Only Roy “must’ve forgot” that Johnson’s days of divisional steppingstone were long over.

“We knew going in that it was to be just another fight we were supposed to lose. But I trained hard for that fight. I knew that if Tarver could find a way, so could I.”

Nine rounds later, Johnson did just that. Jumping on a seemingly shell-shocked Roy from the opening bell, Johnson fought no worse than on even terms through the first four rounds before taking over for good in the fifth. By the ninth round, everyone was simultaneously stunned and bracing for the inevitable – the permanent demise of Roy. When Johnson landed that final overhand right that put Roy on the canvas for nearly five minutes afterward, Tarver sat in attendance and watched a potential career high payday go flying out the window. He also watched Johnson once again duplicate his best fight just one fight later.

Enough was enough, Tarver decided. So determined to get Johnson in the ring, that he was willing to pass on a $2 million payday that would have came with facing mandatory challenger Paul Briggs, and instead set his sights on the man that managed to match all that Tarver had achieved in the past twenty-four months. He even dumped his WBC belt in the nearest receptacle. And once again, Johnson matched the feat, vacating his IBF title and passing on a mandatory defense against Rico Hoye in a fight that would have paid low six figures, in favor of a seven-figure payday and the final main event on HBO’s 2004 boxing calendar.

“I wish that it could have worked out another way. I was disappointed that the IBF did what they did in taking my title. But in the end, I did what is best for my family. Now, I have to do what’s best for boxing – beat Antonio Tarver. I beat Harding right after he did. I won a world title right after he did. I beat Roy right after he did. I proved that I can do everything he can do. Now, I plan to become the best light heavyweight in the world, one fight after he did.”

The only question remains – if he beats Tarver, would he be willing to fight himself next? That’s the only way he could possibly follow suit. Right?

“I beat myself enough in my career. Some decisions shouldn’t have gone that way, others I simply do what I needed to do to win. So, this would have to be one time where I can’t outdo what Tarver did the fight before. Because I no longer have it in me to lose.”

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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