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Articles of 2005

Felix Trinidad Turns 32 Today: Still a Boxing Superstar

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Middleweight contender Felix Trinidad turns 32 today. For the Trinidad faithful, his ring return on October 2, 2004 – after a 29 month retirement – against the garrulous, chain smoking ring iconoclast Ricardo Mayorga had the air inside Madison Square Garden crackling with celebratory anticipation. For all eight of the contested rounds against “El Matador” the smiling, punching machine from Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, had his rabid faithful dancing in the aisles of MSG. Almost to a person, they were inwardly transfixed with curiosity, praying, outwardly their bodies twisting rhythmically, palms wet, as wonderment turned to excitement, in seeing that ‘their guy’ had, indeed, retained that venomous punching fluidity and stalking aggressiveness that had made him one of thee knockout specialists of his generation.

Honesty tinged with humility, ardent professionalism projected, manifest talent honed and sportsmanship ever honoured were characteristics embodied and projected via Trinidad’s sense of Puerto Rican ‘nationalist’ responsibility to act and live heroically. Always heartily translating his belt winning victories as public thanks to his followers, his manifest persona elevated Trinidad to the status of beloved, an all but extinct stratification in the post-Ali era.

Felix Trinidad has never had to Americanize himself to become a boxing pay per view star across the North American mass media sports networking market. For more than a decade, he’s been a fighter ‘of his people’, and yet a ring warrior who transcends Hispanic-only demographic loyalties, happily communicating in Spanish to the English-only speaking fans. He’s never needed to spit on a flag or shout profanely at press conferences or emasculate referees and judges, preach to the choir about vast promotional conspiracies or castigate himself as a bi-polarized victim managing only public self-sacrificial therapy to embarrassed sports writers. There’s nothing of Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike Tyson, et al. about Felix Trinidad. The man’s cool and engaging. Even his all too human marital failings – deceit and adultery – become, in hindsight, a soap opera imploded, having become a personal disaster resolved over time, partially redeemed by defeat overcome.

Coming out of his corner in October, facing the rushing power gesticulations of Ricardo Mayorga was considered a big risk for a comeback fight. And frankly, the quality and precision of his boxing, after so long a lay off, shocked many fight fans and pundits alike. His balance was superb. The classic tendency of aging greats to punch wider to create power hitting arches, never materialized. Right hand detonations came down the middle, as the left hooks scored in tight circular patterns with that reflexive counter motion of his absolute prime. But the true tale of Trinidad’s future was to be seen below his waistband. At 160 pounds, Felix Trinidad’s foot movement had lightened from the flatfooted, straight lined searching shuffle that Bernard Hopkins had so effectively evaded. By the fifth round, it was almost worth a shake of the head to consider how many boxing pundits had prognosticated the always awkward yet physically intimidating Mayorga was exactly the wrong kind of fighter for Trinidad to make his ring return against. Why fight a bulling, lunging fighter with a granite chin, who had a habit of pounding out heavy favourites in title fights?

The simple answer was that Mayorga, though a potential terror, was always there to be hit and had been his entire career. What fighter who stands before Trinidad and dares a firefight could possibly withstand Trinidad’s hall of fame offensive flourishes? Well, not Mayorga, let’s put it that way. He did appear rested and resolute. Finding his rhythm took about two and a half minutes, and not the two or three fights some suggested as a reasonable time frame. And how Trinidad enjoyed the fighting, the give and take of battle, especially in knowing he still had the ability to dominate a world class, though confused, opponent.

If boxing is largely bereft of big ticket issues heading into this boxing year, one certain tonic will be if Trinidad is able to sustain his Mayorga fight performance level. And as in the selection of Mayorga, many are currently questioning Team Trinidad’s approval of “Winky” Wright as Trinidad’s April, HBO opponent. Of course, Wright’s promoter Gary Shaw and even HBO executives are fully behind the match. HBO seeing it as a reward and meritorious advance given Wright’s double salting of “Sugar” Shane Mosley, in 2004. At first glance the critical, neutral observer might caution Team Trinidad for making this particular bout. If they don’t view Felix as needing ‘developmental outings’ then why engage Mr. Wright, with no world belts and plenty of logistical headaches ensured? The southpaw Wright, who employs quick fisted counter measures effectively, fights ambitiously over the tough rounds and engages well from angles, having the kind of neutralizing offense that might stylistically short-circuit Trinidad’s long range power hitting.

Then again one must consider that Wright has been catching more leather in his last few outings and that his strength quotient has been largely measured against jr. middleweights and former welterweights. If the same can be said of ex-welterweight and jr. middleweight champion Trinidad, at least his raw hitting power and up tempo volume hitting would represent a major step up in trauma tolerance for the now thirty-three year-old Ronald Wright. We defer back to the maxim earlier implied: if Trinidad can hit a target for a sustained period, who can withstand him?

Last time out – November 20 – Winky hooked back up with Shane Mosley for their rematch only to produce a less than expected performance. We can’t give all the credit to Mosley’s trainer, Joe Goossen. Clearly, there was less dominating Wright in the fight, in other words, less dominating fight in Wright. Team Trinidad take the stand that if they can’t vanquish Wright, then the two pillars at middleweight, champion Bernard Hopkins and heir apparent Jermaine Taylor are beyond his powers. And they would be – are – correct.

So there is more method to Team Trinidad than their statement from last fall: “we only want big fights.” True, they do. But they are plotting a progressive campaign back to the top of the middleweight ranks. Clearly, getting Trinidad an ‘A’ level test before taking on Bernard Hopkins has become a cornerstone objective, Wright and his team’s understandable negotiating ploys not at all withstanding. In the light of logical preparedness Wright might be the prefect opponent. Artful in his ring craft, a defusing fighter who tends to wear down opponents’ offensive thrusts, while hitting with quick, stinging combinations, all the while maintaining a physical first inside game. Sound familiar, in aggregate, to any other significant Trinidad opponent of this century?

Bouie Fisher freely admitted to this reporter before Trinidad-Hopkins in September of 2001, that Trinidad had liabilities when either suddenly forced backward or when not allowed to set to punch. Keep Trinidad turning and having to reset his feet and he becomes a target for straight counter punches. Hopkins formula was as simple as a sentence by Hemingway. Having had almost four years to find an answer to Hopkins’ ruggedly applied basic ring geometry has been – one presumes – a quiet obsession for Don Felix and his talented son. What other fight ultimately matters to the historical record Felix Trinidad will leave to the sport of boxing?

Of course, taking on Jermaine Taylor before solving the enigma of Hopkins’ elementary effectiveness would probably be professional suicide. Mainly because Taylor’s probably the real bully on the middleweight block now and not Hopkins. More on that for another time. But at least Team Trinidad are aware of the Taylor threat; and they haven’t made too many missteps so far. So, look for Team Trinidad to offer up his banner in making the challenge to Hopkins for the end of 2005, if not slightly sooner. As far as HBO are concerned it’s one of two or three fights that MUST happen this calender year. And who could imagine the pride of Philadelphia’s boxing gyms walking away from the man he forged his late career reputation on? Not to mention all that money!

All in all, 2005 should be a year Felix Trinidad and his loyal fans will never forget, no matter how they plan things, no matter what titles belts Don King arranges, no matter how, or upon whom, the ultimate punches land.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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