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Articles of 2004

It's Gatti Time Again



This Saturday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, boxing's version of 'the Human Highlight Film' (with all due respect to one Dominique Wilkins) gets back into action when he faces the rugged Leonard Dorin in defense of his WBC junior welterweight title.

But with Gatti, it's never about the opponent or what title belt that's on the line. When 'Thunder' strikes, as a boxing fan, you have to be there.

I think it's safe to say that since the heyday of Mathew Saad Muhammad, Gatti is by far the most consistently exciting fighter in the game.

Since he burst onto the scene by winning his first title against Tracy Harris Patterson in 1995, no fighter has come close to providing the thrills and spills of boxing's E-ticket.

His first defense of the IBF 130-pound title would come against Wilson Rodriguez at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. Against the relatively unknown Rodriguez, Gatti would have to come off the canvas, with his eyes swollen up, to register a come-from-behind knockout in the sixth round. It became an insta-classic on HBO's 'Boxing After Dark' series. Then there was his dramatic stoppage of Rafael Ruelas in 1997, in a fight that Ruelas seemed to have gained control before succumbing to the lethal left hooks of Gatti in round five.

It was these bouts that branded Gatti as 'Must see TV.'

” Arturo Gatti is the drama king of HBO Boxing,” says an admiring Larry Merchant. “Look, Evander Holyfield has given us a lot of tremendous fights, Thomas Hearns was always in some kind of drama, Marco Antonio Barrera's been in some terrific fights, but overall, getting up and coming from behind and all that, nobody has entertained more people than Gatti.”

And get this, his fights are so heart-stopping, so gut-wrenching and downright exciting, that even his losses have added to his legend. Gatti would go zero-for-two against Ivan Robinson. But those back-and-forth affairs were so scintillating, it didn't hurt his marketability one iota. His back to back losses to Robinson in 1998 didn't keep him from making his return to the ring eight months later on HBO.

And if you go back just a bit further, before his two successive fights against Robinson, Gatti lost in another barn-burner to Angel Manfredy, on cuts, earlier that year. Think about it, when was the last time a fighter remained an HBO staple with a reverse hat-trick?

There's HBO fighters, and then there's Arturo Gatti.

” He's one of the few fighters who sort of inoculates himself against defeats,” says Merchant.” You go to see him fight and if he happens to lose, you want to see him fight the next time. There's not too many fighters you can say that about.”

Fast forward to May of 2002 when he took on 'Irish' Mickey Ward in what has to be an early candidate for 'Fight of the Millennium.' Gatti and Ward proved the best combination since peanut butter and jelly. Over 10 brutal rounds, they put on a legendary slug-fest that saw Ward come away with a razor thin split decision.

HBO was so impressed that they would buy the rights to the remaining two fights of the trilogy that would see Gatti win the return bout and the eventual rubber match. This past January he was given a bit of respite by being matched with Gianluca Branco for the vacant WBC 140-pound trinket. It seemed to be HBO's and Main Events’ way of giving him a paid vacation before he gets back to work.

In what was one of his more placid performances, Gatti would out-point Branco over 12 rounds to win his second major belt. Now, he gets back to business with a guy whose style and persistence could make Gatti revert back to his thrilling ways.

” I think the main question here is, how does Dorin handle his punch?” says Merchant, of Saturday nights match-up. “Dorin marches forward with his arms in front of him, if he can handle the punch, if he doesn't get stopped or intimidated early, he's got a pretty good chance of winning the fight.”

Dorin is a tough cookie, while not a huge puncher, he's a guy that throws a huge volume of them and keeps coming forward. Also, while he's more of a natural lightweight- and a small one in stature, at that- he's shown a good chin and won't be intimidated fighting on enemy ground. Last year in Pittsburgh, he faced Paul Spadafora and did more than enough in many observers eyes to win the decision. Instead, he had to settle for an unpopular draw.

It has the making of another Gatti thriller.

But are we asking for a bit too much? Perhaps, it's unfair to expect a 'fight of the year' every time out from him.

” Well,” contemplates Merchant,” he's raised our expectations. It's not that we expect it from him, this is his DNA. This is what he does and so I don't think he can fight any other way.”

And we wouldn't have it any other way.

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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