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Articles of 2004

Raise a Glass for Boxer Valentine Golding

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Valentine Golding was never going to be world middleweight champion. He was a good amateur and professional boxer, however, making a mark in the London ABA championships and, as a pro, always capable of springing an upset against virtually anyone courtesy of his concussive right hand.

The Golding right cross was the stuff of legend for a time in London amateur circles after it claimed a long-forgotten victim in sensational style at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, the Mecca of East End boxing. Such was the effect of the punch that people routinely said it was the only real-life re-run of the scene in Raging Bull when Jake LaMotta parks the nose of the handsome Tony Janiro on the other side of his face and a spectator comments: “He ain’t pretty no more.”

I say all this because just last week I heard that Val – he was never addressed as Valentine – had died some three years ago in very unfortunate circumstances. He was only in his 30s. I knew him well for several years. He was in the same stable as a boxer I represented, Colin ‘Sweet C’ McMillan, who won a version of the world featherweight title. They were both trained by a friend of mine named Howard Rainey, an ex-heavyweight who doubled as a rather impressive autodidact philosopher in the classical fight-game mould.

Howard supervised his fighters’ roadwork on the running track at Battersea Park, South London. Being only a mile from Chelsea, over the river, the track sometimes attracted celebrities as well as Howard’s motley crew. There were a couple of actors and also Morrissey, the singer from The Smiths, who based an entire album called ‘Boxers’ on his observations of Howard and his men in the park. Blithely unaware of Morrissey’s million-strong fan base, all Howard would say was: “Nice fella, that Morrissey.”

Val was the closest to Colin in the group that trudged round the track in the mornings, always led by Colin, a fine runner. Sometimes I would give my smoke-filled lungs a spin along with them. Then I would join Howard – a heavy smoker if one sporting a whistle – in the grassy centre for a cigarette. Colin would come up and say: “I can’t believe you two.”

In a never-to-be repeated performance I once beat Val in a 100-metre dash. Colin reprimanded Val: “We’re supposed to be professional athletes, Val. Tsch, for Jon to beat you…”

That is to give a wrong impression of Val’s fitness and attitude. He was a fighter, not a runner. No one tried harder. He lived for boxing, and indeed for Colin. Once, sitting on the grass after running, he said to me: “I’ll never be a champion, Jon.”

“Of course you will, Val,” I lied. A justifiable lie, though, I feel.

“No I won’t,” Val said. “Colin’s special. I’m not.”

We stuck together as a team throughout Colin’s career. As well as running together, we showered together, went to the gym together and ate together at Caesar’s American restaurant on Waterloo Road after the weigh-ins on the days of the fights. On the night Colin won the world title Val was caught cold and knocked out in one round by a so-so boxer named Kevin Sheeran. There had been talk of a bout with Steve Collins beforehand. It was a bad blow for Val’s career but despite it he could not have been more pleased about Colin’s victory. His favourite film was ‘Homeboy’ starring Mickey Rourke as a fighter. I can’t tell you how many times Val told me the plot of that film or re-enacted parts of it. I remember one day at a gym in Wapping that we briefly used, and that was all he did, all afternoon.

For all these intimacies Val remained something of a man of mystery. He was always impeccably dressed and was known for living very cleanly. I didn’t know if he was married or had a job or where he got his money from, and he didn’t volunteer the information. All I knew was he lived in Croydon. I don’t think Colin or Howard knew much, if any, more. Val was a private man. He was just there when he was with us and then he was gone. I never asked. Why should he have answered? There are a lot of people like that in boxing.

The last time I spoke to him was on the phone about six years ago. I was inviting him to the launch of a book in which he featured. He said he would come but didn’t turn up. He sounded the same Val. After that Colin lost contact with him. Val stopped boxing and disappeared, apparently. But he still phoned Howard intermittently, and it was from Howard that I found out. I had lost contact with Howard for a few years. He and Colin went to Val’s funeral but didn’t know where to find me. Like Val I had disappeared. I suppose that is the cruellest test of life, to find yourself disappearing and then come back. There is so much luck involved, and Val didn’t have it.

Howard and Colin told me what happened. Val met someone and they had a kid, a boy. Then the boy was run over and killed. Val went to pieces. He died alone, from an overdose. I don’t know of what. Some say it was heroin, others that it was something to do with steroids. I don’t want to know, or rake over it. The last time Val talked to Howard he was in despair. Howard invited him to come and stay and Val said he would, but he didn’t turn up again.

I was walking down Waterloo Road the other day and saw that Caesars had gone. So has Val. I was going to go on the wagon after Christmas but am making one exception. Cheers, Val. I am so very sorry. And this one’s for you.

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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