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Articles of 2004

Rivera's Getting the Sanctioning Body Blues

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Give credit to Jorge Perez of the Puerto Rican newspaper EL NUEVO DIA for coming up with the earth-shattering news about the Jose Rivera-Thomas Damgaard fight you've all been waiting for. And in case your Spanish is as rusty as mine, fear not: The El Nuevo Dia website facilitates instantaneous translation into plain English. One push of the button and you could have read this yesterday morning:

“The long wait has visos to be done still more long for José Antonio “The Rooster” Rivera.”

“The boricua situated in Masacchusetts, who gained the scepter welter of the AMB al to conquer al German Michael Trabant September 13, 2003, and that then remained “dress and disturbed” when Ricardo Mayorga to weigh seven pounds of more to abort the defense that should do before the Nicaraguan April 17 in New York, now will have to wait for that its obligatory defense before the danish one Thomas Damgaard go to auction, was known yesterday.”

“The office of Mr. King has just to send me a 'fax' to ask me that the fight go to auction,” said Tuesday the Nicaraguan one Renzo Bagnariol, president of the Committee of Championships of the AMB. Rivera is tied promotionally to the company of King, while Damgaard is affiliated to the company of the development danish one Bettina Palle. The auction, according to Bagnariol, would be able to be performed Monday 14 of June in Miami.”

“There we have to Gonzalo López (of the AMB) and we have done you auction previously,” declared Bagnariol. The advantage of Miami is that in the Florida the lawyer resides Michael Marley, representative in America of the interests of Palle. And the company of King is located in Deerfield Beach, also in the Florida.”

There. Doesn't that make you feel better already?

It sure made Steve Tankanow's day.

“Welcome to the world of boxing politics,” sighed Tankanow, who only learned about the WBA purse offer after being directed to the Puerto Rican website yesterday.

Tankanow might look like one of Santa's elves, but he is a fight manager from Worcester, Massachusetts, who operates a one-man stable named Jose Antonio Rivera. Rivera is a 31 year-old journeyman pug from Worcester. He owns a belt from the World Boxing Association which says he is the welterweight champion of the world, although, truth be told, this title doesn't hold much significance to anyone save Rivera, Tankanow, Don King, and now, it appears, Thomas Damgaard.

Damgaard is 34-0, but has, literally, never fought outside his native Denmark. He is promoted by Denmark's Mogens Palle, who has been keeping his head particularly low for the past month since being fingered by Robert Mittelman, who as part of a plea-bargain ratted him out to the Feds, claiming that a few years back he supplied Palle with several fall-down opponents in fixed fights involving heavyweight Brian Nielsen.

To make matters even more bizarre, according to the WBA Palle's authorized United States representative (now that Mittelman has become indisposed) is Boston-bred New York attorney Mike Marley, who in an earlier incarnation served a stretch as Don King's PR flack.

Damgaard's last fight came in February, when won a fifth-round technical decision from Shaka Henry.

Rivera's last scheduled fight was against Ricardo Mayorga at Madison Square Garden. It didn't happen at all.

Mayorga, of course, is the Nicaraguan who took the boxing world more or less by storm a year ago. Already the WBA champion, he beat the previously-undefeated Vernon Forrest (the 2002 'Fighter of the Year' who had scored back-to-back wins over Shane Mosley, at a time when Mosley was widely acclaimed as the world's best pound-for-pound performer), and then whipped Forrest again in a rematch.

Rivera, who is apparently aware of his own limitations, has never given up his day job. He schedules his training sessions around his work hours as a court officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, because, he explained, “boxing won't last forever. I'm a single parent of a ten-year old son, and my job includes benefits and has a good health-care plan.”

Mayorga's 2003 on the world stage arrival made a big splash. A colorful throwback to hell-raising old-school boxers, he was a fun-loving sort who smoked and guzzled beer even when he was in training, and celebrated his victories by lighting up a cigarette in the ring.

With his wins over Forrest, Mayorga was elevated to “super champion” status. This ridiculous ploy enabled the WBA to auction off yet another “world” championship even as it recognized Mayorga's presumably extraterrestrial title.

So last September Rivera, who had moved up in the rankings since enlisting in the promotional stable of Don King, traveled to Germany where he fought somebody named Michel Trabant for the previously nonexistent belt. Trabant was up until then undefeated, but Rivera knocked him down in the second round and posted a unanimous decision.

Mayorga had already signed for a big-money fight with Mosley last December when he controversially lost to Leon Spinks' son Corey in Atlantic City. Corey Spinks had previously owned the International Boxing Federation title, and by acquiring Mayorga's two belts HE suddenly became a 'super champion.'

King then matched Rivera and Mayorga on the undercard of his April 17 John Ruiz-Fres Oquendo/Chris Byrd-Andrew Golota heavyweight doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, with Rivera's 'championship' in the offing, thus setting the stage for this cautionary tale of boxing politics.

Clearly, though he promoted both participants, King was banking on Mayorga winning a 'title' that might provide leverage to vault him back into the spotlight, but Rivera would be handsomely compensated for putting his dubious championship at risk. His scheduled $250,000 purse was approximately ten times his largest previous payday.

All went well until the weigh-in the day before the fight. At 146 ½ pounds, Rivera safely made the welterweight limit, but Mayorga nearly broke the scale when he came in nearly seven pounds heavy.

Consternation ensued. Under WBA rules Mayorga could have been allowed two hours to shed the excess six and a half pounds, but that alternative was obviously futile. The Rivera camp finally agreed that if Mayorga lost TWO pounds by nightfall, the bout could proceed as a non-title fight, but evening came and went without Mayorga returning to the scale.

Negotiations continued through the next morning. King so desperately wanted Mayorga on the pay-per-view telecast that he offered to pay Rivera his scheduled quarter-million dollar purse to go through with the fight, in which he would have retained his “championship,” win or lose.

Tankanow rightly pointed out that his fighter might be exposed to grave peril by fighting an opponent so much larger. But the danger was apparently not so great that Tankarow wouldn't have allowed Rivera to fight for $300,000. When King refused to budge on this point, the title bout was “postponed” and the promoter found another opponent (Philadelphian Eric Mitchell, who was already penciled in to fight in one of the supporting bouts) for Mayorga.

From King's standpoint this was a sensible alternative, since at least a few thousand customers might have purchased the heavyweight telecast specifically to see Mayorga, while Rivera couldn't have been responsible for more than a dozen buys.

With Rivera, who had done nothing wrong, watching from the audience, then, Mayorga posted an easy ten-round decision over Mitchell, though several hundred Rivera supporters who had traveled to New York to cheer their man on waved placards decrying the perceived injustice. Chants of “Bullshit!” and “We Want Rivera!” punctuated the air throughout Mayorga's fight.

Rivera wasn't present – he was back on the job in the Worcester court — when the New York State Athletic Commission was asked to act as honest broker in arbitrating the dispute. In a Solomonic decree, Chairman Ron Scott Stevens recommended that someone — nominally Mayorga, although in all likelihood the sum probably came from King's coffers — should pay Rivera $50,000 for his trouble.

“I wouldn't say we were satisfied,” said Tankanow, “but the deck was stacked against us. We settled, but we didn't feel we were fairly treated.”

Rivera still had his title AND his job, and in the end, he collected his largest career purse for sitting in the stands with his son while he watched some other guy fight.

The problem with this solution was that the WBA was out a sanctioning fee, a circumstance LOS BANDIDOS quickly took steps to correct by notifying Rivera that he had 90 days from April 17 to defend against Damgaard.

“The clock started ticking on April 17,” said Tankanow. “We've got six weeks to go and we haven't even started NEGOTIATING yet. I didn't even know about this purse bid thing until you told me about it. We haven't had any contact with the WBA, and there's been no contact from Don King or from Dana Jamison – even though the WBA claims THEY contacted King.”

Word of the June 14 purse bid already has Tankanow concerned.

“Who's gonna bid?” he asked. “King? The Danes? Obviously it's better for them if the fight is over there, but the minimum bid is supposed to be $150,000, and Jose's supposed to get 75 per cent of that. Would Damgaard fight for 25 per cent of the minimum? I doubt it.

“And there's also the matter of OUR minimum,” pointed out Tankanow. “According to our contract with King, Jose is supposed to get at least $200,000 for a title defense. Does a purse bid override that? I don't even know. I guess I'll have to check the fine print. All I know is Jose is training for a fight, but we don't know when and we don't know where.”

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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