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Articles of 2004

Pryor-Arguello Memorable In More Ways Than One

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It's probably incomprehensible to younger boxing fans and followers that back in 1982 no pro fighter had ever won world titles in four different weight divisions. But Alexis Arguello was about to give it a try, as he prepared for a November 12 bout against the young, undefeated, and, in the minds of some, untested Aaron Pryor, who held the WBA championship at 140 pounds.

An interesting fight was anticipated, though I would venture to say that few fans expected the match that was to come. And for me, it provided perhaps the most indelible memories of my early years of involvement around boxing.

That's because Miami, which had not played host to many fights of world significance for some time, was chosen as the site for this mega-bout, something that in a sense, was actually quite appropriate, given the fact that Arguello lived in nearby Coral Gables and had a strong appeal among the Latin community in the area.

I was 21 years old, and was publishing a small boxing newsletter at the time, zipping around from fight to fight like a lot of aspiring internet writers are doing now. As such, I was able to wangle a press credential for the event.

I also had two general admission tickets for the fight, which were situated in the “peanut heaven” section of the Orange Bowl. I was set to go to the fight with Brad Jacobs, who some of you now know as the advisor to WBA heavyweight champ Roy Jones. At the last minute my girlfriend decided she wanted to go, so I left them with the tickets and took off to join the rest of the “press”.

They wound up with a much better view of things than I did.

Because of my “status” in the media, I was situated in, or perhaps to put it more accurately, relegated to, the auxiliary press area, which was nowhere near ringside, but instead in the Orange Bowl press box, which was probably closer to Key West than it was to Pryor or Arguello.

There was a sprinkling of press up there; mostly people who represented so-called “secondary” outlets – weekly newspapers, small radio stations, even smaller boxing magazines, some international people, and me. They were all stationed toward the entrance of the press box, seated in front of the press counter.

All the way at the other end, I noticed a small TV set, hung up in the corner. On it, they were showing the HBO feed of the broadcast. I sat down in front of it, all by my lonesome.

This was not really meaningful at the outset, because even those guys in the press box who could not see the action clearly from such a distance were able to watch on two giant video screens on each end of the stadium. I was the only one watching the small screen on the far end. And as it turns out, I may have been the only one in the stadium, at least as far as I've ever known, who was actually listening to the audio component of the telecast – something that became significant, since I would have been one of the few people in the entire building (including the television crew) who was able to fully witness one of the more controversial moments in recent championship history.

Pryor's trainer, Panama Lewis, had been asking for a certain “bottle” in between some of the rounds, which Pryor drank, presumably to the exception of pure water. Before the 14th round, he said those words – clearly – that will be remembered by many people forever – “Give me the other bottle. The one I mixed”, he told his assistant. I remember wondering just what the hell was in that bottle. All I know is that Pryor sprung out of his corner in the 14th, with what seemed like renewed vigor, and laid a frightful beating on Arguello, thus ending one of the more brutal fights in recent memory.

Most of the “cognoscenti” who were at the Orange Bowl that night did not even bother to watch the walkout fight, which featured a “washed up” Roberto Duran laboring to a decision over Jimmy Batten; instead, they departed for one of the several post-fight parties at hotels around the area.

When I got to one of those gatherings, I sought out some of the boxing people I knew and told them about some of the strange things I had heard in Pryor's corner. Nobody seemed to know what the hell I was talking about. The video screens in the stadium, to my recollection, had muted the sound.

I don't really know what was recorded in all the newspaper accounts after the fight, but over the course of the next few days, of course, the “mystery bottle” was a big issue. A few things contributed to that – one is that the next day, Deu Koo Kim suffered the injuries in his bout with Ray Mancini that would kill him a few days later. The way Arguello had been knocked out had a lot of people worried. And the feeling was that if Pryor was using some kind of artificial stimulant, it would be something that would haunt everybody forever.

A lot of people had questions, naturally, but there were very few satisfactory answers. Lewis' subsequent explanation was that he had put together a carbonated mix with water because Pryor had been having some problems with diarrhea that may have been the result of a stomach virus or something. If that's the case, the solution he used would be relatively benign, except for some alleged commission rules that disallowed anything but water.

But no one was ever going to know for sure, and primarily, it traces back to the way commissions were set up in Florida at the time. You see, back in 1982, the state of Florida did not in fact have a boxing commission. Each municipality was authorized to set up its own commission as it was needed. Miami Beach had an active commission, because there were a reasonable number of shows at the Convention Center and other locations along the beach. But the city of Miami, where the Orange Bowl is located, did not have a commission.

So one had to be established, rather late in the game, and to paraphrase words of the late Paddy Chayefsky, “its debut was not auspicatory”. At a hearing that was held to address the issue of the “mystery bottle” in the Pryor-Arguello fight, it was revealed that the Miami Boxing Commission had only taken urine samples of the fighters before the fight, and not afterward. Why? Well, it was simple, though it took the responsible parties quite a while to admit this – they only brought two vials with them. It didn't occur to them to take samples after the fight. Among other things, the commission had also forgotten to bring a bell (though one was eventually hunted down that night).

Neither fighter was ever really the same again after that fateful evening. Sure, they fought a rematch, in September of 1983, and this time Pryor had to get off the deck to score a 10th-round TKO, but the fight was not as thrilling or fast-paced as their first meeting.

Pryor moved to Miami full-time, became involved in drug use, fought twice more, retired, then came back in Fort Lauderdale with a TKO loss to Bobby Joe Young in August of 1987. That was his only professional defeat. He ended his career in 1990, amid controversy because of eye injuries, fighting in Oklahoma, a non-commission state at the time, with a win against Roger Choate, who had all of four pro fights on his record.

Arguello made a couple of different comebacks in search of his elusive fourth world title, but never got there. His last fight was in January of 1995, losing to the late journeyman Scott Walker. His personal problems over the years have been somewhat well-documented.

The Miami Boxing Commission made a few cameo appearances, but drifted away with the formation of the statewide commission in 1984.

Seven months after the Pryor-Arguello fight, Panama Lewis received a lifetime ban from boxing by the New York State Athletic Commission for his role in doctoring the gloves of Luis Resto before a fight with Billy Collins, leaving the previously undefeated Collins with ring injuries that were completely unnecessary (Collins fell into depression and later died in a one-car accident). Lewis still works in gyms around New York and elsewhere, but doesn't work any corners.

And to this day, the “mystery bottle” remains a just that – a mystery, at least as far as conspiracy theorists are concerned. And you know what? That's okay with me.

'Cause I heard it all first.

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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