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Articles of 2004

Glen Johnson deserves to be Fighter of the Year

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A year ago, Glengoffe Johnson ended his year the same way as his previous four; with one win or less in the calendar year and a lot of contempt for boxing judges. Even with a career-reviving win over Eric Harding earlier in the year, Johnson finished the year with a 1-1-2 record (though it could be argued that it should really read 4-0) and having won only three of his past eleven bouts.

The good news was that, despite his last fight ending in a draw, he was still in line for another shot at the vacant IBF Light Heavyweight title. The bad news – he had to once again travel to Clinton Woods’ hometown of Sheffield, England if he wanted to avenge the draw and claim the crown. Having never shied away from a challenge in or out of the ring, Johnson gladly took to the task. This time, he did enough to convince all three judges that being at home just wasn’t good enough for Woods not to lose. In a fight that historically was not meant to go Johnson’s way, he left the ring and England as champion for the first time in his career.

When he returned home to Miami, he found himself overshadowed by two other Florida-based light heavyweights – none other than longtime pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. and his new archrival, Antonio Tarver. Not only was Johnson still considered no better than third best in the division, he was still only the third best light heavyweight in his own state as a result. But that wasn’t why his winning efforts were paid little mind. It was because Jones and Tarver were bracing for a rematch of their own – a rematch to their November 2003 contest, one day after Johnson’s first fight with Woods, no less. In fact, it was before that very fight when Tarver decided to vacate the IBF crown, thus upgrading Johnson-Woods I – and eventually II – from an elimination bout to a vacant title fight.

Seeing as how Jones and Tarver were considered by all to be the top two light heavyweights in the world who fought to near even terms last year, all eyes were focused on their May rematch in Las Vegas. Once Tarver knocked Roy out with a single counter left, nobody cared that Glen Johnson was able to win a world title after 11 years and 51 fights in the paying ranks. Nobody except Roy Jones, that is.

When Jones announced that he’d be looking to explore other options rather than gun straight for a rubber match with Tarver, Johnson’s name entered the mix. But it was only after Fabrice Tiozzo – the current WBA champion – had been “frowned upon” by many as a potential opponent. Regardless, Johnson could care less how he got there. All he knew was that he wasn’t going anywhere, except into the ring for a dream fight and a career-high payday to boot.

All Johnson was supposed to do on that late-September night in Memphis was show up with his IBF strap in tow. Be introduced as the champion, and then allow Roy to do his thing. That’s what many so-called experts throughout the industry figured anyway. Hey, it’s Roy, so it must be a well-calculated “risk”, right? That is apparently what every boxing newspaper writer in the country thought, as not one showed up.

Those among the internet media that decided to come out that night witnessed a piece of history. They watched as Glen sprinted out the gate and swarm a seemingly shell-shocked Roy throughout the fight. Where in most cases skill overcomes will, nothing of the sort would occur this night. Johnson had come too far in his career to blow the biggest opportunity of his life. No, this would be a night where Roy could not turn back the clock and prove that he’s still good enough to rank among today’s best. It would be a night where Roy, who many had figured would have his arm raised in victory for the fiftieth time in his career, would instead end the night flat on his back and completely knocked out. For the first time in five years, it would be a night where Glen Johnson would have his arm raised in victory for the second straight fight.

Had the year ended at that point, many would have considered Antonio Tarver’s previous win over Roy to be the more significant of the two. Such was apparent when, after the fight, the two main names being thrown around for Fighter of the Year were Tarver and Diego Corrales, whose calendar year boasted wins over Joel Casamayor and previously unbeaten two-division titlist Acelino Freitas. Nobody was mentioning Johnson’s name, except to refer to him as “that other guy that knocked out Roy this year.”

But in late October, everyone would soon be mentioning his name. Tarver was mentioning him as the next opponent he faced, even willing to give up his WBC title in order to make the fight happen. Quite fitting, as it was when Tarver gave up his IBF title a year prior that made it possible for Johnson to become a serious player in the division. Though, he would no longer be playing with the IBF. They decided that since he was facing Tarver, and not their mandatory Rico Hoye, that it be best if he were to be stripped of the title. Forget that a Tarver fight would generate far more revenue, and that Hoye was damn lucky to even be given the decision in his IBF elimination bout with Montell Griffin – the IBF decided that the right thing was for Hoye to be fighting for the title next, and that was that. Rather than wait out what would have been at best a modest purse bid, Johnson dumped the belt and opted for the million dollar payday and shot at becoming the division ruler, alphabet hardware notwithstanding.

As a result of the fight being made, many in the industry decided that the winner would be considered Fighter of the Year, or at least be the strongest contender to Corrales for such honors. As with many of his previous bouts, Johnson was written off even before the fight started. For when many had said “the winner”, they had already pre-determined that Tarver would conquer Johnson just as easily as he had the almighty Roy Jones. Some had even gone as far as to say that while Johnson should be commended for overachieving, his luck would simply run out on December 18. He lacked the punch to hurt Tarver, the skills to keep up with him… despite the fight being between the best two fighters in the division, many considered the gap between one and two to be much larger than the 3-1 odds that came with the fight.

But beating the odds was nothing new to Johnson. Not in his life, not in his career, not even in 2004. Very few figured him to leave Sheffield as champion. Even less figured him to give Roy Jones a tough fight, much less knock him out cold. Finally, even less than that expected him to leave Los Angeles and end 2004 having won three in a row. In fact, only two of the twenty-two writers for TheSweetScience.com who offered predictions for the fight had believed Johnson could take a decision. (Guess who was one of those writers.)

After twelve hard fought rounds in perhaps the best light heavyweight fight of the year, Johnson proved those two writers right and disproved many, many scribes around the boxing world wrong. The fight was close enough to where many believed that Tarver in fact deserved the nod. After all, he was the busier of the two and according to CompuBox numbers landed quite a few more punches than did Johnson. But punchstat numbers do not measure a fighter’s heart. They do not always indicate who is dictating the terms of the fight, even if the other fighter is the busier fighter. Two of the three judges did witness as such that night, and as a result Johnson was able to avoid the ugly trend that had preceded him and finally walk away from a close fight with his hand raised in victory. After a career filled with turmoil, Johnson completed 2004 by beating three top-ten fighters, including the division’s two best, and now sits atop the light heavyweight division with endless opportunities lying ahead for 2005.

The only thing left for this year is to determine whether or not he did enough to beat out Chico Corrales, Winky Wright and Jose Luis Castillo, among others, for Fighter of the Year honors. His overall career suggests that he goes down in a disputed decision and is forced to settle for bridesmaid. 2004 suggests that he will no longer allow himself to lose – in the ring and hopefully at the awards table.

For your consideration; Glengoffe Johnson, 2004’s Fighter of the Year.

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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