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Articles of 2004

This is Why We Love Boxing

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There are a lot of things you could say about the sport of boxing. And not all of it good, mind you. It's corrupt; it's become fractured, marginalized and watered down. And you won't get much of an argument from me.

But at it's best, there's absolutely, positively, nothing like 'the sweet science'. When it done right, with honor and dignity, this sport stands as tall as any other.

And that's what happened this past weekend in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay when Cory Spinks defended his undisputed welterweight crown against Zab Judah, and Lamon Brewster took on Wladimir Klitschko for the vacant WBO heavyweight belt.

By no means was this a super fight, one that held the interest of not only the boxing aficionado but the general public. This was strictly a fight card aimed at the hard-core fan. And even then, it was a tough sell. Spinks-Judah, a match-up of quicksilver southpaws, had all the ingredients of being a stinker. You see, putting two left-handers in the ring at one time is like putting J-Lo and Ben Affleck in a movie together; it’s a recipe for disaster.

The main event of the night was billed as a 'title' fight but let's be real, it was certainly far from being a true heavyweight championship fight. What is going on now is a mad scramble for positioning in this division that was left with a huge vacuum once Lennox Lewis decided to call it a day. It was also hard to get too excited about this face off because Brewster was coming into the bout a 10-1 underdog.

Brewster, in his two step-up fights against Clifford Etienne and Charles Shufford, had failed miserably. Klitschko, despite his shocking knockout loss to Corrie Sanders last March, was still highly regarded in many circles and held just about every single physical advantage coming in. Also, while Klitschko was afforded the opportunity to work out some kinks in two tune-up fights, Brewster had sat as idle as a car without an engine for more than a year.

But for some reason, I decided to dip into my own pocket (which trust me, folks, doesn't happen a lot) to pay round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, making both the departure and return within hours of each other, to see this fight.

Why? Y'know I really don't know to be honest with you. If there was one concrete thing I could point to, it was that Brewster is among the first prizefighters that I ever really covered and got to know well. This may have been his last shot at glory. I was curious to see how he would respond to both that and the death of his trainer/mentor Bill Slayton, who had passed away this past October due to cancer.

Also, as part of the working press, I am credentialed. So I figured hey, if I spend about $125 on a plane ticket (which I did through Orbitz), and I get a press pass, I'm still getting a great deal. The vantage point I'm given is worth at least a $500 ticket.

When I arrived at the hotel, there was no buzz. In fact, you could have put up a beehive in the middle of the casino and there still wouldn't have been a buzz. But you never know what could happen, which is why I'm here.

After a long delay in between the last untelevised bout and the beginning of the HBO broadcast, we finally see Spinks and Judah do their thing. From up close you marvel at both the speed, quickness and reflexes of both guys. It's hard not to notice their furrowed brows, revealing just how hard each fighter was concentrating on each other, trying to decipher each others difficult style.

Spinks takes control early, using his natural size and long right jab, he wins the early rounds on boxing and ring generalship. No, it's not Ward-Gatti, but it's not Derrick Gainer multiplied by 2 either. If you can enjoy the craft of boxing and it nuances, it's somewhat entertaining. You see feints, slipping, movement and shoulder rolls. Again, it doesn't leave the crowd roaring in appreciation, but from up close, you see what the craft of boxing is all about.

But when these two do engage in some back and forth flurries, your breath is taken away for a second. Spinks has good hand speed but is in many ways punching underwater compared to his foe, who seems to be going in hyper-speed. But (and this is where the craftsmanship comes in) it's Spinks who is more technically sound and precise, and therefore wins the fight.

In the 11th, with the fight getting close, Spinks would send Judah down to the canvas with a counter left as Judah was pulling out. The victory, it seemed, was sealed. But not so fast, you don't get to bring in Mariano Rivera in this sport. Spinks seemed to be cruising his way to a decision and running out the clock in the 12th, when without a half-minute to go in the fight, a blistering over-hand left would catch Spinks square and send him reeling to the canvas.

Judah's trip to the canvas was a 'flash' knockdown; this was anything but. Spinks was dazed and wobbly as he staggered up, but all he had to do was survive the last 20 seconds or so. Judah jumped all over him. Spinks, using only his instincts, would stand upright and try to fend off Judah.

The bell sounds.

It would be too little, too late for Judah. Spinks would win via unanimous decision. The fight had a steady pace for 10 rounds and finished with a flourish. It was the perfect appetizer to the main course of Klitschko-Brewster.

As both heavyweights entered the ring, it was almost as if they were in different weight classes. Brewster, is a solid heavyweight at 6'2, 225 pounds, but is dwarfed by the super heavyweight features of Klitschko, who goes about 6'5 with a chiseled 245 on his frame.

Early on it looks like a mismatch. Brewster, outside of landing the occasional hard left, would be walking in a line of fire from the rapid 1-2 combinations of Klitschko. I thought coming in, that Brewster had the proverbial 'punchers chance'; but to have that, you have to be able to get in reach and not eat so much leather.

In the fourth, Brewster would be sent to the canvas when a big, sharp right hand would buzz Brewster right on the chin. It looked like the end was near for the underdog.

But remember, there's a reason why we love this game.

Brewster would survive the last 45 seconds of the frame, helped in part by his take-down of Klitschko that left both men on the canvas.

The bell sounds to start the fifth, and conventional wisdom would state that the end was near for Brewster. It turned out it was the exact opposite. As Klitschko shot out a few jab-right hand combinations, you got the sense that Brewster had steadied himself and would perhaps make a late charge. Instead, he would land a big left hook on Klitschko's chin, and then another one which had the big Ukrainian reeling against the ropes. Referee Robert Byrd would rule that a knockdown since he felt that the ropes were propping up Klitschko.

But as the mandatory eight was rendered, it was clear that Klitschko had hit 'E'. He was flat out of gas, thanks in part to some hard body shots landed by Brewster and even more so, because Brewster was able to take much more than he was able to give. This was something that Klitschko was not capable of doing.

The crowd at this point was going bonkers. Perhaps because they were pulling for the underdog and the Cinderella story, or maybe because they had bet on Brewster at steep odds.

Klitschko tried desperately to tie up Brewster, but as the round ended, Klitschko would flop to the canvas in exhaustion. The round was over, Brewster was already in his corner, Klitschko was still trying in vain to walk over to his. But as he staggered on his two feet, Byrd would call off the fight.

The crowd grew even louder in their hysteria. I looked over to my right and saw the family and supporters of Brewster celebrating, beside themselves. On press row, grizzled vets of the fight scene are excited, stunned by what they've seen.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, I see Brewster and his trainer, Shadeed Suluki, (two Slayton protege's) embracing in the center of the ring. I don't think they could even comprehend what they had just accomplished.

Me? I was excited too (and happy for Lamon). Not that I was cheering for him on press row, that's a no-no. But I can't lie; I'm glad he did it… and as you see him on his knees praying, you have to feel good about what just happened.

Yeah, that's why we love this game.

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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