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Articles of 2004

Benny Leonard – An All Time Great

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For more than a century the lightweight division has been home to some of the most exciting fighters in the sport of boxing. From the late 1800’s to the present time, 135 pound fighters have been at the top of boxing experts pound for pound list. Not unlike the other weight classes, there are the two styles of lightweights — brawlers, those possessing devastating punching power, and the technical fighters. The technical boxers are specialist at throwing combinations, bobbing and weaving to avoid being hit, expert at the art of feinting, and exceptionally fast on their feet.

When one man is able to combine the two, it always makes for an explosive fighter.
By far, the most explosive of all the lightweights was Benny Leonard. Leonard was known to go toe to toe with the sluggers, while being able to outbox the best of the technical fighters as well. Having fought over two hundred fights, he lost only four by knockout: once on a foul, once after he made an ill-advised comeback long past his prime and twice early in his career when he was learning the wisdom of the ring. During the eight years he held the lightweight championship, Leonard outclassed the best the division had to offer.

Born Benjamin Leiner on 4/18/1896 in New York City, he was known as “The Ghetto Wizard.” Like so many boxers from New York, Benny learned to fight on the tough streets of the Lower East Side. Turning pro in 1911 at the young age of 15, Leonard lost his first fight when he was knocked out in the third round. A fast learner, by 1915 Benny was already climbing his way up the lightweight ranks. He possessed lightening speed, scientific boxing skills, and could punch with the best sluggers of his time.

Benny Leonard possessed many assets as a professional prize fighter, probably none greater than his ability to bounce back after a brutal knockdown and regain control of the fight. Three times Leonard narrowly escaped being KOed. The first was a title defense against Charley White on July 5, 1920 in Benton, Harbor, Michigan. In the fight Leonard was hit with a devastating left hook that sent him over the ropes and out of the ring. Leonard was dazed when he climbed back in, but his crafty ring generalship staved off the imminent disaster. Leonard was quick to regain his composure, the fight ending in a 9th round KO in favor of Leonard to retain the lightweight title.

Six months later Richie Mitchell came close to knocking Leonard out. It happened on January 14, 1921 in Madison Square Garden. Mitchell dropped Leonard in the opening round of the fight, leaving Benny groggy and unsteady, barely able to make it to the closing bell of the round. With his unique ability to recover quickly from a tough round within sixty seconds, Leonard came out throwing a barrage of punches, putting Mitchell on the canvas three times. Confirming his dominance in the ring, Leonard retained the title with a 6th round KO.

The third time, on July 27, 1922 Lew Tendler came close to scoring a KO against Leonard in a no-decision fight in Jersey City. A month later, Tendler and Leonard met again, this time in a title fight in New York City, with Benny winning a 15 round decision to retain the lightweight title.

On June 26, 1922, Leonard challenged Jack Britton for the welterweight title. In the thirteenth round, Leonard dropped Britton with a body shot. Actually, Britton took a knee for an eight count, protesting to referee Patsy Haley that he was hit with a low blow. In an unusual set of circumstances, Leonard hit Britton while he was down. Leonard was disqualified adding one of five L’s to his record. It was later said that Leonard had no desire to win the welterweight title, but was only looking for a draw.

Whether or not Leonard was just testing himself at the welterweight division remains a mystery. One fact that is crystal clear, the lightweight division was in the public eye and that’s where some of the most exciting fighters of that era were. The overall thrill of the lightweight fighters drew the attention of the public. That attention ushered in big gates. World famous promoter “Tex” Richard put together lightweight fights that saw record breaking gates of $200,000 and more.

It was not unusual for lightweight fighters such as Jimmy McLarnin, Barney Ross, Beau Jack, Ike Williams, along with Benny Leonard, to be guaranteed purses of $50,000 and higher, along with $2,000 for signing and $500.00 for expenses. The lightweight fighters were looked at as the supermen of the ring. During that era it was the lightweights, not heavyweights, that drew the record breaking crowds.

Among all the great lightweights, Benny Leonard stood apart as the greatest of all time. Benny Leonard was also considered the greatest single name in Jewish sports history. Jewish pride and the accomplishments of Leonard ran parallel with the reputation of Leonard the sports star.

Benny Leonard passed away on April 18, 1947, the way he would have chosen to die, in the ring. While refereeing a minor bout in dusty, smoky St. Nicholas Arena in New York, Benny collapsed. A few minutes later he was dead, at the age of 51, of a hemorrhage of the brain. Leonard had often said, “I’ll be in boxing until I breathe my last breath.”

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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