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Articles of 2004

Too Big, Too Old?.



It was just a few years ago that Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson was among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game. This slick southpaw was blessed with blinding speed and quickness, defensively he could disappear right in front of his opponents and he wasn't just a fancy-Dan. The greatest compliment he ever got was that 'he went to the body like a Mexican'. High praise indeed.

Back then he was plying his trade at the Great Western Forum during his run as the IBF flyweight champion. Fast forward a few years later and he's a fighter on the comeback trail performing at the DC Armory in his hometown of Washington D.C. against a Mexican journeyman by the name of Ricardo Medina.

Johnson, would bang away at the hard-nosed Medina for eight rounds in winning a unanimous decision. But it wasn't easy as the bigger Medina hung in there the whole way. But considering that Medina came in with a career mark 27-26-5, it begs the question, is Mark still 'Too Sharp' or simply 'too big' and 'too old'?

It's one thing to get beat by Rafael Marquez at bantamweight, after all Marquez would go on to knockout IBF bantamweight titlist Tim Austin this past February, so there's no shame in losing to him like Johnson did in February of 2002. But it's one thing to go life and death with Medina. Bottom line is that prized thoroughbreds shouldn't go stride for stride with trial-horses. Is it time for Johnson, who's 33, to be taken to the glue factory? Or does he simply need to migrate south to jr. bantamweight?

” It was a great fight,” said Johnson, afterwords.” he was a very tough guy. We had a great showing, it just showed me that this guy- he weighed in at 121, I weighed in at 119 with my clothes on, it just showed that those extra pounds they make a difference but it was a great fight. He was bigger and he was more physical than me. It was a lil' harder fight than I thought.”

So is it clear to him that he should be fighting at 115 pounds?

” Yes,” says Johnson, who won titles at 112 and 115 pounds in the late 90's.” the right fights I can do at 118 but I think the main thing at 115 there are better match-ups for me: Luis Perez, Fernando Montiel, Alex Munoz and of course Eric Morel if he moves up to 115.”

It's interesting, but decades ago Johnson would have been in boxing's no-mans land, since the jr. bantamweight division was really a creation hatched along with the plethora of championships that sprouted in the last 30 years. Back then you were either a flyweight or a bantamweight- it was black or white, no gray area. Does three puny pounds make THAT much of a difference?

” Yes, it really does,” he insisted.” and that's one thing that I always had to convince myself that those couple of pounds really didn't make a difference because in the gym you're working with so many different bigger guys but in a fight it's a totally different thing from the gym and those extra pounds do really make a difference.”

While Johnson may hold his own with DC based jr. welters like Sharmba Mitchell and DeMarcus Corley during sparring sessions, the equation changes once you take off the headgear and start wearing eight-ounce gloves. Hey, how may guys look like Ted Williams during batting practice only to become Mario Mendoza when pitchers start throwing up-and-in and breaking stuff in live action?

Maybe Johnson was effected by his layoff, it had been well over a year since he was knocked out by Marquez or perhaps, even gun-shy.

” I think any fight going in there, the first fight back off of a big loss, just to get the jitters away first is tough,” Johnson explained.” And then say,' Ok, lemme take this first punch, now I know I can do it again' But I felt a lil' rusty but again with this was a physical guy I fought, he wore me down, there was a lot of rasslin', holding and he was so much bigger and stronger, he kinda wore me down.”

But back in his heyday, he fought one tough, rugged Mexican after another. Guys who's record didn't hover around .500, fighters with much better skills and he fought them at the Forum- aka, 'Mexico North' if you're an African-American fighter taking on Latins in Southern California. In the past, he had faced better fighters in tougher circumstances and performed much more proficiently. Could it be that he's simply aged?

” Not as of right now because I didn't really feel the effects of age,” he insisted.” I still feel sharp, I still feel a lot faster but I was fighting a bigger guy. I think right now the main thing is that with the age that I am right now, the main thing is that there's no sitting around, it's time to step on the gas and go forward and I'm looking to go again in August. I think that's where I have to be, with this age you can't take off.”

But what if he steps on the gas pedal and there's an empty tank? That could be the case, he's a veteran of 44 professional bouts- some of them of the grueling variety- and in the past his lifestyle outside the ring wasn't always conducive to longevity. In his younger days he may have burned up his fighting fuel at the rate of a SUV.

It's a shame that Mark Johnson never did get to showcase his skills and shine in front of bigger audiences. Like a great jazz artist who is condemned to perform in underground clubs, his artistry was never truly enjoyed by the masses. Johnson agrees with this notion, to a point.

” I want to say yes on the east coast,” answered Johnson, if his prime was squandered away or ignored.” But on the west coast everyone knew how great I was and everybody knew I was a great fighter. So then everyone knew I was in the top, three or four pound-for-pound. I say,' Hey, I took a lot for granted when I was in the pound-for-pound and I kinda lost it'

” Now, I'm back to the Mark Johnson that I want to be, back to refocus and rededicate my career. But of course yes, when I had the match-ups like the Johnny Tapia's, Danny Romero's or even the Michael Carbajal's or Chiquita Gonzalez's- that would have been the point in my career where nobody can say,' Well, he was a great fighter but he never had the great match-up' I needed those match-ups to make me a greater fighter.”

We may have already seen the best of Mark Johnson. It's too bad not enough people were there to see it.


Joe Calzaghe made another successful defense of his WBO super middleweight title by stopping the hard-punching Byron Mitchell in two rounds this past weekend.

Now, his promoter Frank Warren and Showtime boxing czar Jay Larkin are talking about matching Calzaghe up with the mercurial Bernard Hopkins. I don't know but call me skeptical, Hopkins, the undisputed middleweight champion of the world, seems more adept at breaking up fights than making them. 

It's doubtful that Hopkins, who blew up prospective bouts against Roy Jones and James Toney since downing Felix Trinidad in September of 2001, would agree to a bout with Calzaghe.

Well, he might agree to fight, but actually getting him in the ring, well, that's another story altogether.


Steve Springer of the LA Times reported that Lennox Lewis is a bit peeved about the booing he received after his bout with Vitaly Klitschko and might be hesitant to have the return match with the Ukrainian at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Hey, big fella, grow up. If you didn't show up grossly out of shape and take, first Kirk Johnson and then Klitschko so lightly, maybe you wouldn't have been showered with the boo's and the catcalls that you deserved.

It's funny but wasn't it just a few years ago that Lewis lost his title to Hasim Rahman in South Africa by neglecting his training to work on, among other things, 'Oceans Eleven'.

What's that old saying? Lennox Lewis always repeats himself.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List



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




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




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 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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