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Articles of 2004

Popo's A Paper Champion.

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This past weekend Acelino Freitas won the WBO lightweight title with an easy decision over the long-reigning champion Arturo Grigorian by the scores of 115-108 and 116-107 twice.

'Popo' has now won world titles at 130 and 135 pounds and has a sparkling record of 35-0. So he has to be one of the games best fighters pound-for-pound, right? Well, in a word, nowayinhell.( Yeah, that's one word to me). In watching him defeat Grigorian you came away unimpressed by either his skill or his once vaunted power.

Yeah, you could argue that he beat a guy who held a major world title for over seven years and had made 17 successful title defense of that crown. But here in lies the rub, have you seen who this guy was beating in the safe cocoon of Germany under his promotional outfit Universum, that basically controls the WBO?

In his title run, Grigorian had to stave off the likes of Marty Jakubowski, Raul Balbi, David Armstrong, Marco Rudolph, Giorgio Campanella, Oscar Cano, Michael Clark, Sandro Casamonica, Zoltan Kalocsai, Antonio Pitalua, Angel Perez, Aldo Rios, Rocky Martinez, Stefano Zoff and Matt Zegan.

Off those names, only Balbi, Clark and maybe Rios could be considered solid guys. Fighters like Campanella and Martinez are recognizable to boxing fans in the states because they have lost to more recognizable names in the past on network TV.

Like many other WBO champions of the past, Grigorian was with a promoter that was very influential to that sanctioning body( like the above mentioned Universum) and fought in the safe harbor of his home turf for the most part. In other words he was just a smaller, lesser known version of guys like Dariusz Michalczewski, the Klitschko brothers and to a certain extent Joe Calzaghe.

And did we mention that Grigorian is now 36? Nope, it wasn't exactly Roberto Duran or Ike Williams that Freitas was downing to capture his newest trinket. Which continues a trend for Freitas, since beating Joel Casamayor in January of 2002 in a close decision, Freitas has taken an extended victory laps of sorts by taking on the likes of Daniel Attah, Juan Carlos Ramirez and Jorge Barrios in his last three bouts at 130 pounds before beating Grigorian for his latest world title.

Which brings us to a larger issue that has become more and more prevalent in the sport in recent decades. Since the advent of multiple sanctioning bodies and their championships, it's become much easier for lesser talented fighters to call themselves 'champions'. Think about it, back in the era of one undisputed champion, you either had to beat guys like Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson to become the champion, or you were just another contender. Now, with four major organizations( WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO), you can basically cherry pick a title and milk it.

Seriously, how much credit can you give Roy Jones for beating John Ruiz, no matter what the difference in size. But in todays day and age, that win allowed Jones to be called a 'heavyweight champion.' Hell, if you think about it, in todays watered down era of multiple titles, it allowed a mediocre talent like Ruiz to be called a heavyweight champion in the first place. Guys like Ernie Shavers, Jerry Quarry and Ron Lyle, it seems, were born about a quarter of a century too early.

And remember all those heavyweight 'champions' of the 1980's not named Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson? I know you do, so they wont be mentioned here.

So how in the world does this all relate to Freitas? It's simple, if you look at the lightweight division it's clear that Floyd Mayweather is by far and away the best at 135 pounds. For all intents and purposes he is THE champion. But his status as a lightweight is unclear as he might be moving up and vacating his WBC belt. Fine, so there was no way Freitas could fight him even if he wanted to. But just below him are two very tough guys in Jose Luis Castillo and Juan Lazcano-who will be fighting for his belt if Mayweather does indeed vacate the crown. Lazcano just beat the always game Stevie Johnston for the right to box for the vacant belt. Castillo, lost two relatively close fights to Mayweather to earn his ranking, in addition to downing Johnston twice.

Leonard Dorin, will be moving up in weight soon to face Arturo Gatti, but had a grueling bout with then-IBF champion Paul Spadafora last year that was a draw. Javier Jauregui just stopped the dangerous Leavander Johnson for the IBF belt that was vacated by Spadafora. And on top of all them is Mayweather, who more than any other blue-chip prizefighter, had knocked off one top rated and respected challenger after another the past few years.

So in other words, all the best lightweights had been knocking heads and knocking each other for the right to call themselves the best lightweight in the world. What a novel concept.

All of them, save for one notable exception, Arturo Grigorian, who we talked about earlier. So when Freitas, who'd been ducking a rematch with Casamayor and every other credible 130 pound fighter for the past year decided to make his move up and fight for a title, guess who he goes after?

Hey, Ray Charles could see this coming from a mile away. He chose Grigorian, he beats Grigorian and now, tada, he's a champion. And you can bet that a familiar pattern will be taking place- for both Freitas and the WBO- easy title defenses, one after another. After all, doesn't it seem like every other threat at 135 pounds is fighting for other title belts? And isn't that the way Grigorian held his belt for so long?

Having multiple title belts, some argue( and maybe rightfully so) creates opportunities for more fighters to make money and get fights. True, but on the flip side, when this process is abused so much, like it was by Grigorian and Freitas at 130 pounds in his last three title defenses, it has the same effect on boxing as expansion has had on other sports like baseball and basketball- it hurst the overall quality of the game. Like the fourth or fifth starter on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who gets shelled in every start, has no business of being in the major leagues and wouldn't have been 30 years ago. There are plenty of guys with titles that wouldn't have in a by-gone era.

And in todays landscape, where boxing is being squeezed by the networks one way or another, it's imperative that the best fighters of this era fight each other on a regular basis. The bottom line is that Showtime has been waisting plenty of money and the viewers time by showing Freitas' last several bouts. They would have been better served by showing a combination of bouts featuring the above-mentioned lightweights. Those were real fights, not showcases.

But now with Freitas picking up another WBO belt, it seems that he'll be sequestered away from the other world class lightweights. This isn't to castigate all the fighters who currently hold or have held WBO titles in the past, guys like Marco Antonio Barrera and Naseem Hamed have taken on all comers in their divisions.

But they proved that a champion makes the belt, not the other way around. Unless Freitas goes about challenging those other lightweights, he's just another guy with a belt around his waist.

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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