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Articles of 2004

British Boxing's Road to Redemption

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On July 30th Britain's Danny Williams enters the ring to tackle the remains of the Mike Tyson myth carrying more than just the hope of finally fulfilling his undoubted potential. Nope. Williams, alongside Light-Welterweight hope Ricky Hatton and the guardians of his October clash with Vivian Harris, have the added responsibility of saving British boxing from itself too.

All this just three years on from the fanfare that announced terrestrial television's (BBC) return to boxing, inspired by Audley Harrison's Sydney gold medal. Sadly the inspiration didn't last, their much-heralded partnership never delivered as it could and the BBC withdrew last month, the loss of access to this broader audience leaving British boxing reliant on the marginal world of satellite coverage.

And it is this confined existence that threatens the future prosperity of boxing in the UK. For too long the sport has grown fat and stale on inconsequential belts and uncompetitive contests, but the realisation that the sport was or is perilously close to self-suffocation appears to have finally dawned on the sport's 'movers' and 'shakers'.

Fans and writers have been the driving force though, providing a timely reminder that without the fans, hardcore, mainstream or otherwise, the sport is little more than a bygone curiosity. Sure the pressure has been exerted through television networks, but it is the viewing public that shapes their agenda.

However, it is boxing's collective quest for the mainstream fan that the loss of terrestrial television hits hardest, and that quest has become the sport's number one priority. You know mainstream fans; the football guys, the rugby guys, the guy in the bar who used to watch Eubank, Bruno and McGuigan. Those are the fans the sport needs if it is to emerge from its current slumber. But just how does British, and global boxing for that matter, ever win back the casual, mainstream fan? They've been gone a long time after all.

There are perhaps only two solutions.

Firstly, the sport needs to stop selling its soul for short-term money and ditch the litany of meaningless belts it presents as world-class. It serves only to complicate and confuse the title picture. If there are upwards of five world champions at every weight how can the sport expect mainstream fans to keep up and, importantly, be interested?

After all, these peripheral baubles mean nothing to hardcore fans for whom the two fighters and their respective abilities are the only factors that matter. So if the belts mean nothing to hardcore fans and their existence creates a knowledge barrier that simply excludes the mainstream fan and serves to undermine the genuinely talented fighters the UK does have, what purpose do the belts actually have?

Frustratingly, these inconsequential belts promote a lack of competition, but security for their custodians; fighters become comfortable earning good money for minimal risk defending these illicit decorations. The result, the best fighters rarely tackle each other. In fact, when they do it is such a shock they demand prohibitively large purses, often wrecking the fights fans want to see.

Meaningful contests between comparable fighters provide more entertainment and a clearer indication of the true hierarchy at each weight. The fans, through the television networks, have begun to demand these bouts and the promoters and fighters may finally be taking heed. Most notably the clamour for a meaningful contest for Ricky Hatton reached a peak this summer that resulted in the mouth-watering prospect of Hatton v Harris this October.

This is a fight to tell your friends about, two prime, top five Light-Welterweights with pleasing styles going at it for a more legitimate slice of the title. Its genuine fights like this that represent the improved 'product' the terrestrial broadcasters demand to be able to realistically present boxing to the masses. But boxing has to learn this hard lesson and it won't be done with just one fight.

The only other route out of this decline is for the sport to produce a breakout star, a fighter that can capture the public imagination as Naseem Hamed did in the 90's. Without terrestrial television this is harder to do. Hamed, like his predecessors McGuigan, Bruno et al, secured his notoriety and popularity through this broader exposure.

So how can it happen?

Ultimately, it may be the hugely entertaining Hatton or the precociously talented David Haye or perhaps even Britain's sole Olympian Amir Khan, but in the short term the onus is on Danny Williams. Because come July 30th he has a priceless opportunity to beat a man every adult in the UK recognizes and put the sport back into the public consciousness. That kind of profile and recognition simply cannot be bought.

The benefits run much deeper than one heavyweight's career and the £200,000 purse he's rumoured to be receiving. For British boxing to have an active heavyweight with a win over Tyson represents pretty much the perfect 'get out of jail free card.'

In reality the sport probably needs the short term boost of a Williams win AND a long term commitment to meaningful competitive bouts.

But for heavens sake nobody tell Danny we're depending on him. You know how he gets? You don't? Let me guess, you're a football fan, right?

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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