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Articles of 2005

Second-Guessing the Boxing Hall of Fame Selections

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Officials at the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Museum in Canastota, New York recently announced their selections for inclusion into their august environs for 2005. In what has become an annual rite, said selections have met with a fair share of second-guessing, incredulity and otherwise ill-tempered reactions from some in the boxing world.

Not wishing to rock that particular boat, and cognizant of the fact that no one ever wrote a column extolling the judgment of the electors for the IBHOF, I’d like to use a little of TheSweetScience.com’s bandwidth to critique their choices and otherwise break some balls.

Among the living fighters and non-participants being honored are junior middie boss Terry Norris, junior welter champ of the early ‘60s Duilio Loi, featherweight kingpin Barry Mc Guigan, featherweight and super feather champion Bobby Chacon, legendary California matchmaker/promoter Don Fraser and the ubiquitous boxing writer and editor Bert Randolph Sugar.

Some of the most dearly departed in the fistic fraternity have been posthumously selected this year, with featherweight champ of the 1920s Eugene Criqui, old-time bantamweight rulers Joe Lynch and Charles “Bud” Taylor, and middleweight champ Marcel Thil being chosen in the Old-Timer Category. The Non-Participant Category sees boxing manager/boxing film guru Bill Cayton and legendary Filipino promoter Lope Surreal honored, while the Observer Category includes writer Jersey Jones and Boxing News editor Harry Mullan. The Pioneer Category sees Jack Randall, a real crowd-pleasing scrapper from the Roaring ‘20s…well, the Roaring 1820’s, somehow allowed onto the Wall of Fame by electors with w-a-a-y too much time on their hands for research.

Recent selections by the voting bloc, made up of boxing historians, writers and other self-appointed experts have pointed out some serious lapses in standards for inclusion into the IBHOF. Ingemar Johansson, Carlos Palomino, Daniel Zaragoza, Pipino Cuevas and Curtis Cokes have all made it in as of late and, while all were fine fighters in their day, one wonders why they are sharing the same wall space with the likes of ring immortals Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep, Barney Ross or Tony Canzoneri. Should they be accorded the lofty honor of entrance into the repository of ring greatness while others, such as Jeff Smith, Kid Norfolk and (featherweight champion) Davey Moore – just to name three – are continually kicked to the curb?

At first blush it would seem that the selectors weren’t too picky with the living inductees this year. We start with the streaky Terry Norris, who largely made his reputation meeting and beating shot fighters (Ray Leonard, John Mugabi and Donald Curry among them), while avoiding big time bouts with contemporaries such as McLellan, Quartey and a youngish Trinidad, and end with Duilio Loi, who – outstanding 115-3-8 (26 KO’s) record aside – amassed the majority of those wins over scores of Euro-Stiffs during his long, insular career. In between we have Barry McGuigan, whose brief reign as WBA featherweight champ in the mid-1980s became more conspicuous for the truce-inducing effect it had on the Catholic and Protestant fight fans in his native Ireland than for its contribution to boxing history. We save Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon for last, as he represents our only agreement with the voters in this category. Chacon was an all-action, heavy-fisted, face first crowd exciter who made up for his lack of polish with a surfeit of testosterone. His titanic battles with fellow West Coast idols Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Chucho Castillo, Ruben Olivares and “Bazooka” Limon energized the California fight scene and made it possible for “Fabulous Forum” promoter Don Fraser to carpool with him to Canastota this coming June, if he so desires. Besides, how many other pugs have had their names immortalized in song by Warren Zevon (within the lyrics to “Boom Boom Mancini”)?

Look up the word “boxing” in the dictionary and you are quite likely to see a photo of a chapeau-wearing, stogie-puffing Bert Sugar next to it. Sugar has been as much a figure in popular sports and entertainment culture as he has been a creative force in the boxing world. A prolific and supremely entertaining writer who has postulated on any number of sports other than boxing, Sugar is nonetheless the “face” of current day pugilism as a result of his many appearances on television and radio, as well as for his ability to deliver a witty sound bite whenever the occasion calls for it. For instance, who can forget his bon mot regarding Chuck Wepner’s propensity for dispensing claret?

“Chuck starts bleeding somewhere between ‘Oh say’ and ‘can you see’,” Sugar wrote of the Bayonne Bleeder. Priceless.

Don Fraser was the distaff coast’s latter day Teddy Brenner and Harry Markson rolled up into one. Of course, having guys like the aforementioned Lopez, Chacon, Castillo, et al. at his disposal made for some decent bouts in Cali. Knowing when and with whom to match them is what allows him his rightful place in Canastota.

Among the posthumous honorees, Eugene Criqui stands out as much for his personal courage as for his ring acumen. A decorated French war hero of WWI, Criqui had half of his jaw shot off and then replaced with a jerry-rigged, wire and metal contraption sewn under his skin and muscle. He miraculously resumed his successful ring career upon the end of hostilities, eventually knocking out longtime featherweight ruler Johnny Kilbane to gain the 126-pound diadem. He held it less than two months before losing it to Johnny Dundee – no slouch, by the way – but met a bunch of good European fighters of the first quarter of the 20th century, usually walking away with a “W”.

By the time former bantamweight champ Joe Lynch called it quits – following a pair of insipid draws against Pal Moore in 1926, the “Blond Terror from Terra Haute” – Charles “Bud” Taylor, was just starting his upwards trajectory in the bantam ranks, handing a pre-championship Jimmy McLarnin a ten round loss in Vernon, California. He would go on to lift the vacant N.B.A. (yes, there were alphabet titles even back then) bantam title from Tony Canzoneri the next year. It can be argued that the Canzoneri win represented the apogee of Taylor’s career, as he went 11-13 from 1928 until his retirement in 1931. As for the New York City-born Lynch, he and every other lighter weight fighter enjoyed perhaps the most halcyon of eras in the early to mid-part of the century. Neighborhood and ethnic rivalries abounded in New York, Philadelphia, Harford, Boston and all points north, south and west. Lynch, a spindly though freakishly strong 118-pounder, took the title from Pete Herman in 1920. He held for less than a year before Herman reacquired the bauble. Lynch took it off of Herman’s eventual conqueror, Johnny Buff, in 1922 and defended it only one time – against Midget Smith later that year – before losing it for the last time against Abe Goldstein in 1924. Both Lynch and Taylor were big time boys back in the ‘20s, but HOFers? No way.

Some eleven years after his business partner, Jimmy Jacobs, was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, and a year and a half after his own passing, Bill Cayton finally gets the call to Canastota. Aside from the fact that he single-handedly bankrolled and facilitated the preservation of the filmed history of boxing, co-managed fighters such as Wilfred Benitez, Edwin Rosario, Tommy Morrison and Omar Sheika, and re-wrote the book on creating and marketing a fighter with his stewardship of Mike Tyson, Bill Cayton deserved enshrinement in somebody’s Hall of Fame for his bare-knuckles-tough, though scrupulously honest business acumen. His Big Fights, Inc. boxing film and video library was a veritable monopoly, and represented over 90% of all of the available moving images of the sport extant in the world. He created lucrative marketing opportunities and negotiated television and video rights contracts for Tyson that were heretofore unknown within the sport. Finally, a major oversight corrected by the electors.

I grew up reading old RING magazines, so naturally I was familiar with Jersey Jones’ work. Mostly, he flakked for a number of New York/New Jersey metropolitan area pugs, and had a proprietary interest in some of them. For this fact alone I do not think he merits inclusion into the HOF.

Harry Mullan was one of boxing’s treasures. The longtime editor of the estimable Boxing News, Mullan was the punch fraternity’s Man For All Seasons, authoring a score of entertaining boxing tomes as well as performing as a ringside commentator for numerous television, closed circuit and radio broadcasts of British and international fights. Mullan passed away in 1999, and was yet another victim of the HOF’s finger-twiddling on voting in deserving candidates.

Regardless of my feelings on this year’s selections – or non-selections as the case may be – wild horses could not keep me from being in Canastota this coming June. I’ll be the one wearing a t-shirt bearing the likeness of my own, personal dark horse candidate for future Hall of Fame inclusion, the incomparable Don Elbaum.

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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