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Articles of 2004

Random Ringside Thoughts from De La Hoya – Hopkins

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This past weekend I was in Las Vegas to cover the big fight between Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand. It was quite a scene as usual in 'Sin City' for the big fight. The hotel was buzzing throughout the weekend with anticipation and activity. There was a menagerie of personalities and characters hanging around the cracks and crevices of the hotel. You could just tell that Hopkins-De La Hoya was a big one, the excitement was palpable throughout the city. You could just feel it.

Unfortunately, the event itself didn't match the hype. The first bout on the pay-per-view contest took all of 33 seconds when Kofi Jantuah starched Marco Antonio Rubio with a single left hook. While the punch was breathtaking—and scary, at the same time—the problem was that it caused the rest of the card to be put out of kilter.

After a short delay, a swing bout was quickly ushered into the arena. It was a rather dull affair that was followed by another protracted lull in the action. And really nothing is worse than covering a card where nothing is happening. Finally, Juan Manuel Marquez would come out to face Orlando Salido in defense of his featherweight titles.

Marquez is one of my favorite prizefighters, but he fought like a guy who was coming off a big fight and he had the expected letdown in winning a dull 12 round decision.

Then came the longest intermission of all before the main event. Part of the crescendo of a big fight is the calm before the storm. You get to catch your breath a bit and then brace yourself for the fight. But in this instance, with the long gaps in action, this had the feel of a World Series game that had been delayed by rain for a few hours. Yeah, you were excited to be there, but you just wanted the game to be played at that point.

The fight itself was a tactical affair. Which is another way of saying 'boring.' It certainly didn't have the drama of Sugar Ray Leonard- Marvin Hagler, to which this fight was compared ad nauseam. Hopkins after a relatively slow start would build momentum and stop De La Hoya with a well-placed left hook to the liver of De La Hoya in round nine.

The result of the fight didn't surprise most folks, but the sight of De La Hoya writhing in pain was memorable. It represented the first time that 'the Golden Boy' had been stopped. It was a quick and startling end to a mostly desultory night.

There are some nights that are memorable and live with you forever. This, unfortunately, was not one of them. It was more or less a day at the office. But it did give me plenty of time to think about a few things.

Like ….


OSCAR IS NO QUITTER

Oscar is no quitter. I've heard that some are skeptical of just how much pain he was in after taking that punch from Hopkins in round nine. I gotta say, this is rather insulting to De La Hoya. Oscar, for all his faults, has always been a tough competitor who would never quit or lay down.

He has never remotely been close to being stopped and his own pride would never allow such an action. And if you've seen him try to act, trust me, he's no thespian.

He's always had a solid chin, but he got hit with a perfect body shot. Anyone that has ever laced on a pair of gloves will tell you just how helpless—and painful—an experience that is.

Oscar is tough, in fact, I think he has more toughness than natural talent. People for so many years always thought he was gifted as a boxer but questioned his fortitude. In my opinion, it should have been the other way around all this time.


BOUIE FISHER IS A GREAT TRAINER

Bouie Fisher is a great trainer. Hey, while other guys try to pimp themselves and work the corners of any fighter that comes around, all Fisher has done is develop and cultivate the talents of one of the best middleweights that has ever stepped into the ring.

Now, don't get me wrong, he's had a great thoroughbred to ride, but Fisher, has been a great jockey in his own right. If you've seen 'the Executioner' throughout the years, you've seen him transform himself from a raw puncher to a clinical technician. If you've ever seen Hopkins and Fisher work together in the gym—and I've been fortunate to have done so in the past—you can just see the chemistry between the two.

What I think has hurt Fisher in the pundits’ eyes is twofold. One, he has basically devoted all his time and efforts to one fighter. On numerous occasions Fisher has turned away other boxers to concentrate on Hopkins. And if a fighter only fights once or twice a year like Hopkins has in the past, it's hard for any trainer to get exposure.

Speaking of exposure, unlike many others trainers whose best attribute is self-promotion, Fisher is a quiet sort, who just goes to work each day, confidently and wisely.

His legacy may be hurt by not working with a whole squadron of champions like others have, but if it's tied to Hopkins, it's not a bad legacy at all.


THE CROWDS AT SMALLER FIGHTS

I like the crowds at smaller fights. Not that there was anything wrong with the folks on Saturday night, but I've noticed that the bigger the fight is, the less 'real' boxing fans you get. Once a fight becomes an event, the 'average Joe' becomes priced out of the event.

Which means the crowds come later and later towards the main event, there's less enthusiasm for the undercard fights and, in general, the crowds are less knowledgeable across the board.

Case in point was the show in late July that featured Erik Morales- Carlos Hernandez. Now, that was a 'boxing crowd' at the MGM Grand. Everyone was in their seats long before the main event and they were intently watching throughout the night. These people were here because they were boxing enthusiasts, not because it was the place to be.

It's the difference between going to a Clipper game as opposed to a Laker contest at the Staples Center.


THE SOUVENIR PROGRAMS

$30 is waaaaaaaay too much for a program. Usually, for a fight of this magnitude I sometimes pick up a souvenir like a program or a poster. As I was walking towards the arena I walked past one of the kiosks that was selling fight paraphernalia. As I walked towards the stand I saw a sign that read: 'Programs, $30'

I was absolutely stunned. Now, I know all about inflation and stuff like that. When I first started covering fights in the mid-90's, programs topped out at 10 bones. In recent years they run about 20 bucks. If you've ever flipped through one of these, there's not that much information inside them. There's a few puff pieces (of which I've written a few in the past) and a bunch of glossy photos.

Sorry, I'll pay up to $20 for a program, but at 30 bucks, that thing better come with a signed pair of gloves from both participants.

But y'know what, I can't say they were overpriced. All weekend those things, along with everything else associated with the promotion, were selling like hotcakes.

So what do I know?

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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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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