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Articles of 2004

A Boxing What If: Hopkins-LaMotta

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According to The Ring magazine and a few prominent boxing websites, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is the current pound for pound champion of the world. The 39 year old Philadelphian is ranked number1 in the world with a record of 44-2-1, 31 of his wins coming by way of knockout. Hopkins is also the longest reigning title holder in boxing, with 18 consecutive title defenses and counting. Bernard says he has his sights set on 20 title defenses. Then again, about a year ago what Bernard said put him on the front cover of The Ring magazine, with his sights, at that time, set on fighting James Toney at 190 lbs.

If Oscar De La Hoya’s performance against Felix Strum last June is any indication, I don’t doubt Bernard will be one win closer to his goal of 20 title defenses. Looking at “The Executioner’s” past 18 opponents, there’s no telling who number 20 will be. Be that as it may, I thought a matchup with a former middleweight champion would be a good way of finding out where Hopkins stands among the all-time greats. The middleweight I chose to match against Bernard Hopkins is Jake LaMotta.

There are only two similarities between the fighters. First, their backgrounds—both men grew up in rough environments and spent time incarcerated. And second, LaMotta was the first self-managed professional prizefighter, while Hopkins also manages his own career.

Their fighting styles and approach to managing their careers couldn’t be more different. Hopkins, as his own manager, chose to fight a tomato can like Morrade Hakkar to add one more title defense to his resume in March of 2003. Jake LaMotta chose to fight the P4P greatest fighter that ever lived, Sugar Ray Robison, in five non-title fights. After only one win in the five fights, LaMotta chose to put his title on the line against Robinson.

Bernard Hopkins managed his way into a deal that will land him $10 million-plus to fight The Golden Boy later this year on September 18th. As I mentioned earlier, Oscar’s fight in the main event last June convinced most fight fans Bernard has more than a slight edge to win the fight in September. If Hopkins wasn’t so sure of himself in the upcoming September fight, I doubt if he would have chanced De La Hoya as his next opponent.

In his fight with Trinidad, Hopkins proved to the boxing world he is mentally and physically tough in the ring. His TKO win over Felix “Tito” Trinidad in September of 2001 was not only a turning point in Bernard’s career, but a good example of his championship ability as a fighter. According to Compubox numbers, Hopkins landed on average 40% of the 55 total punches he threw per round. Mixing in 23 jabs per round to keep Trinidad at bay, he limited Tito to 27 punches per round, only 11 of which landed.

In LaMotta’s title fight with Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951, “The Bronx Bull” took a barrage of punches from Robinson, but stayed on his feet and kept pushing forward. Standing flat-footed in front of Robinson, Jake took a tremendous beating only to return bone breaking body punches of his own. The 15 round title fight was close. LaMotta won rounds in the middle of the bout, while the judges scored rounds close throughout fight. Robinson was quick on his feet and able to avoid a lot of LaMotta’s punches, only to have LaMotta wrestle Sugar Ray into several clinches. While in a clinch, Jake had no problem holding Robinson, landing open handed blows behind the neck.

It was not beyond LaMotta to do whatever was necessary to win a fight. As far as toughness, they didn’t come any tougher than Jake LaMotta. What he lacked in finesse and ring generalship, he more than made up for with his grit and toughness.

No amount of jabs or power punches Hopkins could throw would possibly intimidate LaMotta. Not only was LaMotta able to absorb a tremendous amount of punches, he could throw power punches with precision accuracy. He was an aggressive fighter with an incredible will to win.

LaMotta fought his first pro fight in 1941 at the age of 19. After approximately 88 fights, he fought his first title fight in June of 1949. Jake LaMotta admitted to taking a dive in desperation to get a title fight. On June 16th , 1949 Jake LaMotta won the middleweight title by beating Marcel Cerdan with a 10th round KO. A rematch with Cerdan was delayed when LaMotta was injured, and Cerdan returned to his home in Casablanca. Returning to the U.S. for his rematch with LaMotta, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash in October of 1949. With a career total of 106 bouts, LaMotta only defended his middleweight title twice.

Along with his six fight series with Robinson, LaMotta fought and beat several world-class fighters, including four fights in seven months against Hall of Famer Fritzie Zivic, with Jake LaMotta losing only once. All five of the LaMotta-Robinson non-title fights were very close, Sugar Ray being saved by the bell on more than one occasion. Jake also fought world class fighters such as Jose Basora, George Kochan and Tommy Bell. Win or lose, LaMotta was always ready and willing for a rematch.

Bernard Hopkins gave three of his opponents a rematch, none of whom held a major title—Antwun Echols, Segundo Mercado and Robert Allen, who Hopkins fought 3 times. The first Allen fight was ruled a no-contest after Hopkins sustained an injury in that bout. There was also a discrepancy in the first Mercado fight according to Hopkins. The fight was for the vacant IBF title and was held in Mercado’s homeland of Ecuador. The fight was scored a draw, and Hopkins was quick to sign for a rematch that was held four months later. Hopkins won the fight and the vacant IBF middleweight title. This was the second time Hopkins fought for a vacant IBF title. The first IBF vacant title bout also marked Bernard’s second loss in his 16 year career. The winner of that first IBF vacant title was Roy Jones Jr.

Historically speaking, rematches have usually defined a great fighter. Even today, we look forward to rematches and the greatest fights that are the second and third fights. Ward-Gatti, Hearns-Leonard, Barrera-Morales and the list goes on.

If a fighter’s greatness can be defined not only by the quality of his opposition, but by the opportunities he gives his opposition, Jake LaMotta defined greatness.

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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