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Articles of 2004

Jack Johnson: A Boxing Pioneer

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On December 26, 1908 Jack Johnson defeated Tommy Burns to become the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. Even though Johnson was the obvious contender to fight Burns for the title, he was constantly denied his chance to fight because of his race. Johnson, who was affectionately known as Lil’ Arthur, literally followed Burns around the world, taunting him at ringside until finally in Sydney, Australia Burns agreed to give Johnson his chance for the heavyweight championship.

Promoter Snowy Baker guaranteed Burns $30,000 to fight Johnson at Rushcutter’s Bay, in Sydney. The sum of money Baker offered Burns to fight was the largest offered to any fighter up to that time.  Johnson gave Burns a shellacking that day in Australia. Finally after fourteen rounds, the police stepped in and stopped the bout. From that day on Johnson became a wanted man, as promoter’s world-wide looked for the “Great White Hope” to de-thrown the new black heavyweight champion of the world.

Jack Johnson’s fight with Burns marked his sixty-seventh professional fight. Born in Galveston, Texas to a former slave on March 31, 1878, it marked a time in U.S. history when it was illegal for blacks to walk down the same side of the street as white people. All odds seemed to be stacked against Johnson. It was also a time when black athletes were forbidden to compete with white athletes.

Johnson had remarkable ring skills—he learned in part by fighting in “Battle Royals” in which several black men were thrown in a ring to fight with the last man standing declared the winner. Having gone unbeaten the first few years of his career, the first fight Johnson lost was a 3rd round knockout by west coast champion Joe, “The California Terror” Choynski. Since boxing was illegal at the time, both men were jailed. While in jail Choynski showed Johnson the finer points of boxing: ring stance, balance, combination punching and the art of feinting.

From that point on, Jack Johnson, now known as the “Galveston Giant,” seemed unstoppable. Following his victory in Australia, the now legendary black heavyweight fought Victor McLaglen the movie actor, Philadelphia Jack O’ Brien and Al Kaufman, winning each of those fights easily followed by a second round knockout of the legendary Bob Fitzsimmons. Than came the historic fight with middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel in Colma, California.

Before the fight a deal was agreed on by both fighters whereby there would be no knockdowns in the fight. At the start of round twelve, Ketchel saw an opening and landed a shot, dropping the unsuspecting heavyweight. Johnson, clearly angry about the incident, quickly jumped up and landed a left uppercut to the jaw of Ketchel, sending him to the canvas for the count.

Following that fight, promoters began searching the world for a Caucasian to de-thrown the black heavyweight. Johnson’s escapades and marriages to white woman turned the public in this country against him. It wasn’t long until Johnson was charged with violating the Mann Act—a law prohibiting black men from transporting white women across state lines. The conviction landed Johnson in Leavenworth Prison for one year. Upon release from prison, Johnson decided to call Europe home and later South America.  Promoters continued searching for a Caucasian fighter to stop Johnson’s reign as the heavyweight champion.

It took a lot of persuading on the part of several friends, including the famous author Jack London, but retired former heavyweight champion Jim Jefferies was talked into returning to the ring to de-thrown heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.

Having been retired for six years, the undefeated former heavyweight champion had ballooned up in weight to 314 pounds. He clearly had his work cut out for him, but Jefferies stuck to a strict regiment of training and lost 110 pounds to get ready for the fight.

Jefferies even sparred with Joe Choynski in preparation for the fight. Choynski showed Jefferies some of the moves he used to knockout Johnson in three rounds and hold the undefeated Jefferies to a 20 round draw. Several people showed up right before the fight to help encourage Jefferies in his quest to de-thrown the heavyweight champ.

Well wishers included James J. Corbett and John L. Sullivan ending an eighteen year feud between Sullivan and Jefferies as they posed for pre-fight photos together.
Promoter Tex Rickard had an arena specially built for the occasion in Reno, Nevada. It was the first time in pugilistic history an arena was built specifically for a prize fight. The fight took place on July the 4th 1910 with more than an astounding 16,000 people in attendance. During the fight some 1500 die-hard fight fans crashed the gate to see the fight.

Unable to find a referee for the fight, Rickard even asked President William Taft to referee the fight. When Taft declined, Rickard took on the task of referee for the first time in his life.

Many rumors circulated throughout the crowd, among them were reports that a sniper was in the crowd and if Jefferies didn’t take out the champ the sniper would.

As the 45 round fight began, the temperature in the ring was a suffocating 110 degrees.

Right before the fight Johnson was told Jefferies was too strong to hold or tie into a clinch. Johnson not only tied Jefferies up during the fight, he also pinned the former champion’s arms behind his back to wear him down. The heat took its toll on both men. Finally in the 15th round Jefferies was knocked down for the first time in his career. By the third knockdown in the round, Rickard stopped the fight, with Johnson winning his second title defense.

Johnson made an astonishing $60,000 for the fight and a total of $120,000 with money from the filming of the fight. Jim Jefferies made $40,000 for the fight and an amazing $70,000 for signing with Rickard. Later the film of the fight was banned in the U.S., having caused race riots. 37 deaths were attributed to those riots.

The fight would mark the end of Jefferies boxing career for good.

Johnson went on to defend his title for a third time against Jim Flynn exactly two years  later, on July 4th, 1912. Jack Johnson won the fight with a 9th round knockout of Flynn, but his legal battles were far from over. Johnson was once again arrested, this time for violating the “White Slave Traffic Act.” He was convicted and sentenced the following year to a term of one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $1000.

While he was still out on an appeal, Johnson fled the U.S. to live in Europe, South America and Mexico. Johnson managed to hold on to his championship with a title defense in Paris. Finally losing his title to Jess Willard in Havana, Johnson returned to the U.S. in 1920. Turning himself in to authorities, Johnson served out his time in prison and went on fighting exhibitions until retiring from boxing in 1945.

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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