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Articles of 2004

Zale and Graziano – Boxing's Greatest Trilogy

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Rocky Graziano grew up the product of a tough, slum district in New York City known as “Alphabet City,” the lower eastside of Manhattan. As an impoverished, delinquent Italian kid, Graziano managed to beat the odds that were clearly stacked against him. After a stint in reform school, Rocky joined the Metropolitan AAU boxing tournament in New York. Graziano was a replacement for another fighter and ended up winning the tournament. It was his first experience in organized boxing and would lead to a magnificent career in and out of the ring.

Tony Zale was born and grew up in the Midwest steel town of Gary, Indiana. Raised in a middle-class family, Tony and his brothers were involved in amateur boxing when he graduated from high school. Tony worked in the steel mills as a day job only long enough to support himself while compiling an amateur record of 87-8. Not wanting to spend the rest of his life laboring in the steel mills, Zale turned pro in 1934.

Zale and Graziano were not only from completely different backgrounds, Zale was nine years older than Graziano and turned pro 8 years earlier. It was in 1945 that Rocky Graziano made a name for himself, having fought six fights that year, winning each fight by KO or TKO, all but two fights lasting four rounds or less.

Tony Zale had just returned home from World War II, resuming his ring career in 1946. Zale fought six fights that year. From January to May he won all the fights by KO, and none of the fights lasted more than five rounds.

The three fight war between Zale and Graziano started in 1946. Zale held the title when he was challenged by Graziano for the first time in New York. The two Hall-of-Fame fighters met in front of a crowd of 39,827 at Yankee Stadium on September 27, 1946. It was the first fight in what would go down in boxing history as the best three fight battle of the century. Actually, the first fight of the three was considered by Ring's International Ratings Panel as one of the four greatest fights of all time.

Graziano was at the height of his career at the time, with 32 knockouts to his credit. He was ready to add one more knockout to his record; instead, Rocky suffered the first knockout loss of his 83 fight professional career. Zale knocked Rocky down in the first round. In the third round, Graziano sent Zale through the ropes. Zale recovered quickly from the knockdown. Later, on the verge of defeat and ready to collapse, Zale managed to drop Graziano once with a body shot. Then Zale caught Graziano with a left hook, again dropping him in the 6th round. This time Rocky stayed down for the count and Zale retained the middleweight crown.

Several years later, Graziano and Zale made an appearance on a TV talk show to discuss the fight. Upon viewing a tape of the sixth round, Graziano recalled, “After that body shot that knocked me down I was out on my feet, the referee should have stopped the fight than, I didn't even know where I was.”

It was also noted by ringside observers of the fight, “Zale was so battered from the punches of Graziano, by the end of the fifth, he mistook his opponent's corner for his own. Fans yelled for referee Rudy Goldstein to stop the fight, but the veteran official allowed the fight to continue.” The fight was a classic, one of the most brutal in ring history, and a rematch was tentatively scheduled for Madison Square Garden.

Because of a problem with the District Attorney in New York over a supposed bribe in which Graziano was implicated for a tune-up fight with a journeyman fighter, the New York fight with Zale was called off. A Grand Jury later tossed out the allegations due to lack of evidence. The New York State Athletic Commission pulled Graziano's license to fight in New York just the same.

A rematch was held a year later, July 16, 1947, at the Chicago Stadium, where a new paid admissions record was set for an indoor fight–$422,918. The spectators in Chicago were treated to one of the greatest middleweight championship fights ever fought. Rocky Graziano won the middleweight championship belt by a 6th round TKO over Tony Zale. It was said the two fighters ripped each other apart until the referee stopped the bout in the sixth round, when Graziano landed a barrage of punches to Zale as he went down against the ropes. Rocky later wrote in his book, “This was no boxing match. It was a war, and if there wasn't a referee, one of the two of us would have wound up dead.”

Rocky Graziano held the middleweight belt for a year. The rubber match was held in Newark, New Jersey on June 10, 1948. Zale knocked Graziano out in three rounds to reclaim the title. Highlights of the fight proved it to be as vicious as the first two fights.

In all, the three fights showcased the two great fighters' styles and abilities. What Graziano lacked as a clever boxer, he more than made up for with his punching power and ability to absorb a tremendous amount of punishment while waiting for his chance for the knockout punch. Graziano's punching power was exemplified in his record of 52 knockouts in 83 fights.

Tony Zale went on to fight once more in his Hall-of-Fame career that spanned from 1934 to 1948. Graziano went on fighting until 1952, though he never again was in “A War” like the three he fought with Tony Zale.

After retirement, Graziano turned to a very successful career in television and the movies. Somebody Up There Likes Me, a movie about his rise to fistic fame, earned Rocky more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Both men were inducted into The International Boxing Hall-of-Fame in 1991.

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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