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Articles of 2004

Boxing History Suggests De La Hoya Could Upset Hopkins

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Oscar De La Hoya has an uphill battle come Sept. 18. For the first time in his career, he'll be an underdog, and he's expected to be at a significant size and power disadvantage when he steps in the ring with middleweight king Bernard Hopkins – the ruler of the division since 1995.

And while a “Golden Boy” victory is unlikely, it is certainly not impossible. Since 1980, the boxing world has seen its share of shockers. Here's a list of the biggest upsets of the last quarter century.

10. Kirkland Laing W 10 Roberto Duran (1982): Granted, this was not the Duran who dominated the lightweight division in the 1970s, or even the inspired “Manos de Piedra” who worked over Sugar Ray Leonard and, later, Iran Barkley. No, this was the lazy, bored Duran who would have rather been playing his bongo drums than swapping punches. Laing was brought in as an opponent to help Duran get his groove back. Instead, Laing dominated a listless legend. He started out tentative, and became bold as the fight wore on, connecting with big right hands. Laing won a unanimous decision, seemingly ruining Duran's career. But the amazing Panamanian would come back twice more, completing an extraordinary career.

9. Azumah Nelson KO 8 Jeff Fenech (1992): Eight months earlier, Australia's multi-champion Fenech had been the victim of one of the worst draws in featherweight history. He had dominated Nelson with a ferocious two-fisted attack that may have been the highlight of a glorious career. But he was shafted, and so the rematch was made for Fenech's native Australia – where 90,000 strong showed up in support of the hometown hero. Nelson, though, was the man to reassert his greatness in the WBC featherweight title fight by executing a perfect jab-and-move gameplan. It started with a left-right hand in the first round that dropped Fenech, and Nelson proceeded to destroy him in shocking fashion. It may have been the prime performance of “The Professor's” career.

8. Vince Phillips KO 9 Kostya Tszyu (1997): Going in, Tszyu was the unbeaten hotshot of boxing – a fighter expected to be the face of the junior welterweight and welterweight division for the next era. Not to mention, he had a multi-million dollar showdown with Oscar De La Hoya hanging in the balance. But Phillips, who had been knocked out by Ike Quartey the previous year, destroyed the De La Hoya possibilities – and Tszyu's aura of invincibility – with a draining assault in one of the year's best fights. The pair battled on even terms most of the way, but Phillips' superior strength and chin proved the difference. A devastating combination trapped Tszyu in a corner and left him out on his feet, prompting referee Benji Estevez to save him. In a word, it was unbelievable. Phillips never quite capitalized on the win, while Tszyu rebounded and hasn't lost since.

7. Hasim Rahman KO 5 Lennox Lewis (2001): Lewis was considered pretty much unbeatable in light of a weak heavyweight division. He had just boxed David Tua silly and destroyed both Michael Grant and Frans Botha. Naturally, though, he became lackadaisical in his dominance, and didn't take a tough-but-limited challenge like Rahman seriously. And who would blame him? “The Rock” had come off the floor to beat Corrie Sanders the previous year, and didn't appear to be capable of competing with a guy of Lewis's size and ability. But Rahman rocked Lewis with right hands continually, and set a pace that wore down the undertrained champion. Then, boom! One right hand ended Lewis's reign. He'd pay Rahman back seven months later.

6. Vernon Forrest W 12 Shane Mosley (2002): Mosley was regarded as the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, when he stepped in the ring with old nemesis Forrest in defense of the WBC welterweight title. The pair was familiar with one another: Forrest had beaten Mosley in the amateurs, and “Sugar Shane” vowed revenge. Most of the boxing world figured Mosley would get it with relative ease, since he was in the prime of his career and looking more invincible by the fight. But Forrest had the book on Mosley, and utilized his height and reach – dropping Mosley twice in a shocking second round. It was easy for “Viper” from there, as he pecked away at a wounded Mosley. The decision was a formality. The rematch was six months later, and Forrest repeated the decision win.

5. Evander Holyfield KO 11 Mike Tyson (1996): Going in, this WBA heavyweight championship mirrored the 1974 George Foreman-Muhammad Ali fight. Like Foreman, Tyson was thought to be a monster who could not be slayed. Yes, he had been knocked out by Buster Douglas six years earlier, but that was considered an aberration. Since that time, and after a three year prison sentence, he had regained the merciless form that dominated the division in the late 1980s. Holyfield, like Ali, was thought to be washed up and, quite possibly, a health risk. But Holyfield stood up to Tyson's bully tactics, swapped punches with him fearlessly, and wore him down with body shots. By the end, Tyson was a stumbling, incoherent ex-champion who had been bested by a superior fighter. The rematch seven months later was similar, which is why Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield's ear in frustration.

4. Lloyd Honeyghan KO 6 Donald Curry (1986): Most weren't even sure how to pronounce Honeyghan's name when he challenged pound-for-pound king Curry for the undisputed welterweight title. The skinny on him was that he was tough, but few figured he'd have the skills and determination to upset a fighter of “The Cobra's” skills. Afterall, Curry was a perfect fighting machine – one who threw economical, powerful, timely punches while displaying an airtight defense. But, like Holyfield against Tyson 10 years later, Honeyghan showed no fear of Curry's reputation – and took the fight to the champion. He cut Curry, hurt him with a right hand early on, and never allowed Curry to set himself or recover from punches. The fight was stopped on cuts, and Curry went from boxing’s next superstar to a major disappointment virtually overnight. Honeyghan reigned for three years. The pair never fought a rematch.

3. Michael Spinks W 15 Larry Holmes (1985): No light heavyweight champion had ever defeated a heavyweight champion going into this fight for Holmes' IBF crown. Not Billy Conn. Not Bob Foster. Not Archie Moore. So Spinks was up against a wall to be sure. Meanwhile, the 48-0 Holmes was in the midst of pursuing Rocky Marciano's undefeated record of 49-0. So King dubbed it “A September to Remember”, because, barring a draw, history would be made one way or the other. Spinks was the one who made it with a smart, jab-and-move attack that baffled the aging champion. Spinks unleashed his punches in bunches, threw Holmes' timing off with unpredictable side-to-side movement and used his fresh legs to escape the counters. It won him a decision on this night, and another decision in the rematch seven months later.

2. Sugar Ray Leonard W 12 Marvin Hagler (1987): Hagler was the Bernard Hopkins of his day. He had made multi defenses of his middleweight title, cleaned out the 160-pound division and established himself as a superstar with a vicious knockout of Thomas Hearns two years prior. He was considered the best fighter in boxing. Leonard, meanwhile, hadn't fought but once in five years – that an uninspiring, up-off-the-floor 9th-round knockout of journeyman Kevin Howard. He had also never fought at middleweight – and Sugar Ray was installed as a solid underdog. But a rejuvenated Leonard displayed the speed and quickness of his welterweight prime, and executed a flawless gameplan of movement and mind games. He stayed on his toes throughout, and when Hagler closed in, he'd flurry out. Leonard won a close, controversial split decision that cemented his status as the fighter of the 80s. Hagler never fought again.

1. Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson (1990): The granddaddy of all upsets, everyone remembers the aura that Tyson carried into the ring with him like the towel draped around his shoulders. At the time, Tyson was a terror – the T-Rex of the boxing world with no competition in sight. He had blown away 10 title challengers, and he was two years removed from one of the more ferocious knockouts in boxing history: The 91-second demolition of Michael Spinks. After a so-so defense against Frank Bruno, Tyson had reestablished himself with another quickie KO of Carl “The Truth” Williams – considered one of the last few bonafide threats remaining. The only real challenge remaining was former cruiserweight king Evander Holyfield, who Tyson signed to fight in June 1990. To stay sharp and build up the gate for the multi-million dollar Holyfield showdown, however, “Iron Mike” signed to fight journeyman James “Buster” Douglas in February 1990. It wasn't considered so much a championship fight as a glorified sparring session. Douglas had some nice skills – especially a rocket jab – but regularly displayed a serious lack of heart. So, the thinking was that when the going got tough, Buster would fold along the dotted lines.

Douglas entered the Tokyo ring a whopping 42-1 underdog, and most Las Vegas oddsmakers didn't even bother to post it. But Douglas was inspired by his mother, who had died in the weeks leading up to the fight. And when he entered the ring, it was obvious this was not the same Douglas who quit against Tony Tucker in 1987. Slim and trim, he stuck his jab in Tyson's face from the get-go, never allowing the champion to get inside to land his big bombs. He mixed in right hands and left hooks and, soon enough, a welt developed under Tyson's eye. More rounds went by, and Douglas continued to dominate – helped along by a Tyson corner that wasn't qualified to work a three-rounder between a pair of novice amateurs. By round eight, Tyson seemed to be wilting, while Douglas was gaining in strength. Then, boom! A sudden Tyson right uppercut sent Douglas to the deck. But Buster, displaying a grit he never showed before and never showed again, got up, survived the round, and continued his domination of the “Baddest Man on the Planet”. He punished Tyson in round 9, and by round 10 the champ was done. Douglas connected with the uppercut of the century, followed by a mean left-right that sent Tyson to the deck, staring at the ceiling. A dazed Tyson tried to find his feet while simultaneously pawing for his mouthpiece, and was counted out.

Douglas had done it, and HBO's Jim Lampley – as shocked as the rest of us – put the shocking proceedings in order: “Say it now, gentlemen: James “Buster” Douglas, heavyweight champion of the world.”

Matthew Aguilar may be reached at maguilarnew@yahoo.com

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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