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Articles of 2004

De La Hoya and Hopkins Do A Poor Job Of Pre-Selling Showdown

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The best way for Oscar De la Hoya and Bernard Hopkins to “sell” their upcoming mega-fight would have been to come out and blitzkrieg their respective opponents in true search-and-destroy fashion – surely something in which they've proven to be fully capable of. Then, you see, Top Rank could ride a wave of excitement right into the September 18 date.

But as often is the case in the well-laid plans of boxing promoters, that didn't exactly happen.

Both Hopkins and De la Hoya had carved out reputations for being somewhat fearsome. But both betrayed it on this evening.

They were cautious, doing just enough to win, it seemed, and acting as if all too consciously avoiding the one mistake that might jeopardize the upcoming payday. Were Oscar and Bernard looking ahead? Maybe they were.

Whatever the rationalization, they put forth uninspired performances in front of uninspiring foes. And the question now might be whether fans might be somewhat less than inspired to shell out $50 or more for the inevitable meeting between the two.

This promotion was dubbed “Collision Course”, but at the rate these guys went on Saturday, I'm wondering whether we'd even see a mild fender-bender,

For Hopkins, it's kind of a shame that this opportunity was lost, because he's never been the greatest attraction in the world, and rarely gets to share this big a stage.

As he faced off against Robert Allen, the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden roundly booed at several stages during the fight, at the final bell, and after the decision, reaffirming, I suppose, that the customer is always right.

Up until the eleventh hour, Hopkins had threatened to pull out of the fight, and thus shut down the promotion, because he objected to the Nevada State Athletic Commission appointing Joe Cortez as the referee.

His effort left many wondering whether it may have been better if he had made good on his threat.

Allen was more or less a recycled opponent – he had been stopped by Hopkins in a rematch after their first meeting ended in a bizarre no-contest when referee Mills Lane decided he wanted to be too much a part of the show, and shoved both fighters completely out of the ring.

The Georgia-based middleweight fought well in spots, but not nearly enough, and Hopkins, who calls himself “The Executioner”, evidently received a last-minute call from the Governor, because he neglected to flip the switch.

As for De la Hoya, he decided to engage in one of those “chess matches” with WBO titleholder Felix Sturm, who obliged him entirely. However, De la Hoya is not Bobby Fischer and Sturm isn't Boris Spassky. And at some point midway through the fight, the crowd was wishing that perhaps a REAL chess match might be a better thing to have broken out.

Sturm actually had the look of a pretty decent fighter. He certainly didn't embarrass himself; indeed, he lost by just two points on all three cards (I didn't see it that close). But you had the feeling he was capable of more. Sturm was supposed to be a “champion”, but in the last couple of rounds, he fought less like a guy desperate to hold on to a well-earned title than someone who was happy to survive and make a good showing. I don't know; maybe that's because titles are so easy to come by, and so perhaps we shouldn't get too excited about Oscar's sixth “championship”.

This is the kind of thing that is supposed to “legitimize” De la Hoya as a middleweight, so he can go into the Hopkins fight on a virtual “equal footing” in terms of credentials in this weight division. Ok – he has the skills to beat the Felix Sturms of the world – but for many, it brought out new questions. De la Hoya looked a lot smaller than this guy. So how does he do with Hopkins, who actually came DOWN from light heavyweight to reign for a decade as the world's best 160-pound fighter?

De la Hoya has undoubtedly become boxing's biggest star on merit, but I don't know if he has the kind of ring magic, a la Sugar Ray Leonard or Roberto Duran, to make this kind of a reach – moving up and beating an outstanding and dangerous fighter who is also bigger than he is – a description Hopkins fits.

Hopkins, on the other hand, has shown that he can look somewhat disinterested in one fight and paint a masterpiece in the next – witness the fight against Felix Trinidad.

And you know, Oscar isn't the most impossible guy in the world to hit.

De la Hoya has beaten a lot of fighters – Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Ike Quartey, John John Molina, Hector Camacho, Fernando Vargas, – but in a strange way, he might need the win over Hopkins to take him to that “new level” we often talk about when we refer to the pantheon of all-time greats.

Will the public be more interested, or less, after Saturday?

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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