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Articles of 2004

A Summer of Discontent for Boxing Fans



As we close the book on August we can look forward to the fall, which means two things: the beginning of football season and the resumption of world class boxing. As a kid I used to love the summer months. And why not? It meant liberation from school and the summer vacation was the most anticipated time of the year – save for the Christmas holiday.

I used to cringe as a youngster when I'd be watching cartoons in early August and I'd see 'back to school' commercials, hawking everything from school supplies to clothes. As the ads came on I would quickly turn the channel as if somehow that would delay the inevitable. But as the days went by in August, you knew what was coming. It was like the IRS, there was no avoiding it.

My how times have changed. Now, while I could do with our without the holiday season, I do feel like a kid waiting for Christmas as I look ahead to the beginning of September. Hey, as you find out that there is no Kris Kringle – and it's you paying for all the gifts that Santa Clause gets credit for – and you don't get the summer off, your perspective changes, I guess.

It's the difference between 12 years old and 32.

The summer months in boxing are usually slow months for the business, this year it seemed it almost slowed to a crawl. And even worse, what was notable was marred by questionable officiating. Like the school kids around the country, it seemed good judgment was also on summer vacation.

It all started on June 5th when Oscar De La Hoya took on Felix Sturm for the WBO middleweight title. This was one-half of a showcase doubleheader which was staged to set up a showdown between 'the Golden Boy' and Bernard Hopkins.

After Hopkins took care of Robert Allen, it was up to De La Hoya to do his part to make the September 18th fight happen. He was taking on the unknown Sturm, who, despite his belt, was nothing more than an opponent brought in to provide a few rounds at middleweight before handing over his belt at the end of the night to add to Oscar's vast collection.

But a funny thing happened – Sturm was under the impression that he was there to actually win and had the gumption to take the fight to De La Hoya. It seemed after 12 surprising rounds that the German had done more than enough to retain his title. But, the reality is that he didn't do nearly enough to disrupt a multi-million dollar event that was already scheduled.

Sturm may have won the fight, but the show – De La Hoya versus Hopkins – had to go on. Sadly, for the game of boxing, it was business as usual.

Then on July 6th we had a fight between Courtney Burton and perennial spoiler Emanuel Augustus. Now, if you've seen this bout, which was televised nationally on ESPN2's Tuesday Night Fights series, it was simply the worst decision this reporter has ever seen. It made Whitaker-Chavez look like the very definition of justice and fair play.

For ten rounds Augustus mastered Burton with a wide array of counter-punching and his patented clowning. No objective arbiter could have possibly given Burton more than a round or two. But here's the problem, Burton was the 'house fighter' which meant that everyone from the referee to the judges would go out of their way to give the decision to Burton, which is precisely what happened.

The referee in question, Dan Kelly, was so inept and biased, you began to wonder if this was incompetence or corruption. Augustus was fighting this night against two opponents in the ring – his opponent and the referee.

When the verdict was announced, ESPN2's announcing crew of Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas were apoplectic. And when Atlas got into a live on-air argument with a member of the local commission, it made for great TV. But it's also the type of episode which in many respects has led to the demise of boxing on television.

Then you had the case of Zahir Raheem who took on Rocky Juarez in his hometown of Houston, Texas as part of a HBO 'Boxing After Dark' triple-header on July 17th. For Raheem, a featherweight out of Philadelphia who represented the United States in the 1996 Olympics, this was a do-or-die fight.

No, it's not like he's nearing the end of his career or lacking in talent. To the contrary, Raheem is a guy who's in the prime of his athletic life, with sharp skills. But in this day and age, he's a guy that other managers and promoters usually look to avoid. He's got a slick style that is difficult to decipher and unfortunately like many other African-American boxers today, he doesn't draw much at the box-office and is therefore a fighter who has problems getting marquee fights.

But it was his good fortune that Juarez's management decided to take the risk and face him on this night. It was everything that Raheem could have asked for, a big fight on the games biggest stage. A win here and he's a player. Lose, and he probably has to start all over.

Raheem boxed smartly, after taking an early knockdown he would regroup to control the tempo for most of the remaining rounds. Juarez, who does not handle movement well, had problems corralling the fleet Raheem. But referee Robert Gonzalez took care of the problem for him.

Time and time again, the ridiculously biased and over-officious Gonzalez would either warn or penalize Raheem for some fouls that could be best described as specious. In addition to taking points away from Raheem, it had to affect him mentally. Hey, boxing is tough enough, it's even tougher when you're facing insurmountable odds.

He knew going in that Main Events – which has Juarez – was promoting this fight in his opponent's hometown. He expected those types of disadvantages. But I really don't think any fighter goes in with the thought that they would be stuck with a referee whose sole intent is to try and disqualify him.

Predictably, Raheem would lose a close decision. And it wasn't so much that Juarez won it, but more so that Gonzalez lost it for him.

As the leaves begin to turn soon, let's hope that the officiating we've seen in the summer months takes a turn for the better, too.

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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