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Articles of 2005

Pete Ranzany – Sacramento’s Boxing Franchise



In the late seventies, before the Sacramento Kings joined the National Basketball Association, and before television networks like HBO and Showtime were in the business of creating superstars, welterweight Pete Ranzany was that city’s sole sports entity. Campaigning from 1973-83, Ranzany was a perennial contender who fought 57 of his 69 bouts in Sacramento, 55 of them at the Memorial Auditorium. In compiling a record of 59-8-2 (38 KOs), he never embarrassed himself or his hometown, even against the likes of such legendary champions as Sugar Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez and Pipino Cuevas. Ranzany was all action all the time, and his local popularity was akin to the esteem in which Joe Mesi is held today in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.

“I loved fighting in Sacramento,” said Ranzany, now 52 and a 16-year correctional peace officer (prison guard) at the maximum security California State Prison at Sacramento, which was formerly known as Folsom Prison. “It was my town. The fans were really good to me. When I won, the whole city won. When I lost, I felt like I let the whole city down.”

Before more than 17,000 fans in September 1978, Ranzany challenged Cuevas for the WBA title in Hughes Stadium. His trainers, Joey Lopes and Herman Carter, had devised an intricate battle plan where the usually offensive-minded Ranzany would take Cuevas into the later rounds before going for the knockout. All went well in the first round, when Ranzany boxed the ears off the square-jawed, murderous-punching Mexican champion.

“Cuevas was a great, great puncher, but he couldn’t box a lick,” explained Ranzany. “I couldn’t do anything wrong in the first round. After I buckled his knees I went back to my corner and told Herman Carter, ‘I’m gonna be champ. I’m gonna punish him the next round.’”

“Boy, do what you trained to,” implored Carter. “And as he was telling me this I’m listening to all these thousands of people screaming ‘Pete, Pete, Pete.’ The next thing I remember is asking what happened. I later learned that he knocked me down twice, and the fight was stopped in the second round.”

Ranzany didn’t lick his wounds for long. He rebounded with five consecutive victories, and even won the NABF title from Clyde Gray of Canada. However, in his first defense of that title, he was stopped by Leonard in the fourth round after getting hit with nearly 30 unanswered punches. Even his career high $75,000 purse did little to offset his disappointment. “Leonard was just awesome,” said Ranzany. “I had already lost a close decision to him in the amateurs, so I thought I knew what to expect. But he had gotten so much better.”

Immediately after the fight, Ranzany was still groggy but remembered how touched he was when one of his previous opponents, Rudy Barro, came to his dressing room cradling his infant son to congratulate him on his knockout victory. When Ranzany attempted to congratulate Leonard, the new champion’s dressing room door was slammed in his face. Minutes later, Ranzany was being hustled to the post-fight press conference when his girlfriend Rose, who is now his wife, halted the procession. “Being the puppy dog that I was, I’m on my way,” recalled Ranzany. “But Rose stepped in and said, ‘Oh, no. No interviews.’”

Rose insisted he be taken to the hospital. While no physical injuries were incurred, Ranzany was emotionally devastated. “Nobody ever stressed me out like Leonard,” explained Ranzany. “He knocked the crap out of me, and he scared the crap out of me.” Leonard later told him that he would have let him last longer if he wasn’t trying so hard to win.

Again the resilient Ranzany rebounded with five wins and a draw, before losing a 10-round decision to Wilfred Benitez in Sacramento. “Benitez was the best pure boxer I ever faced,” said Ranzany. “It was like he had radar. Cuevas was the best puncher by far, and Leonard was the best all-around fighter. He could do it all.”

It is unfair to only remember Ranzany for his high-profile losses to three Hall of Fame champions. He did beat former lightweight champion Sean O’Grady, top contender Randy Shields (with whom he also fought a draw), and previously undefeated prospects Adolfo Viruet and Bruce Finch. The Viruet fight was so exciting, fans threw more than $300 in coins into the ring.

Ranzany, who still lives in Sacramento, grew up poor in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. His father, who was of Italian descent, deserted the family early on, forcing his mother Theda, who was of German and Irish stock, to clean houses to support her five children. Ranzany was extremely sensitive and had no propensity for fighting, but was in awe of the attention a local amateur sensation named “Sweet” Pete Peterson was garnering. Four months after he began training at Tommy O’Leary’s Gym, Ranzany engaged in his first bout.

“I fought an [American] Indian kid who threw a lot of wild punches before I knocked him cold,” recalled Ranzany. “All the fighters were sharing the same dressing room, and I saw him crying with his father after the fight. I was devastated and said this is not for me. I was ready to quit, but then I walked outside and all these people started asking for my autograph. From that moment on, I was hooked.”

Ranzany went on to have a stellar amateur career, and even represented the U.S. Army from 1970-73. He beat future professional champion Carlos Palomino at the 1972 Olympic Trials, but lost to eventual gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales in the finals.

He remembers getting a real education into boxing nuances while competing in the national AAU championships in Boston.

“After I won my first fight, people in Boston made such a big deal about me being Italian,” he recalled. “I was even getting pats on the back from the wagon vendors who were selling calzones on the street. In Sacramento you were white, black or Mexican, so I never thought much of being Italian. But it was sure a big deal there. Then some Italian guys beat up a black guy who came into their neighborhood, and I didn’t feel comfortable separating myself from other people anymore.”

When discharged from the Army, Ranzany debated whether to turn pro in Los Angeles or attend college to study social work in Sacramento. The late Victor Swezey, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, convinced him to stay at home and do both. While attending college, where he eventually earned an associate’s degree in social science, ten businessmen used the first three letters of Ranzany’s name and his hometown to form Ransac, a corporation that sponsored his career. “It was like owning a piece of a horse,” jokes Ranzany.

Ranzany never won a world title, but is remembered fondly by all who had the pleasure of attending any of his fights. “I was never much of a boxing fan, but even I got caught up in the excitement and went to many of Pete’s fights,” said Richard Schiveley, a lifelong resident of Sacramento. “Back then we had no professional sports teams in town. He was it. And boy, was he popular. Every one of his fights was a major event.”

While beating O’Grady in October 1982, Ranzany suffered a serious eye injury caused by an accidental thumb. He was wise enough to retire two fights later, after losing a decision in Italy to local hero Nino LaRocca, who was 54-0 at the time. Several years later, Sal Lopez, a onetime opponent and brother of former champion Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, also of Sacramento, convinced Ranzany to become a prison guard. Ranzany had thought about becoming a social worker, but was disturbed by tales of abused and molested children. He also considered the California Highway Patrol, but didn’t like the idea of having to tell people a family member had been killed in a car crash.

When first assigned to Folsom Prison, he guarded Angelo Buono who, along with his cousin Kenny Bianchi, were known as the Hillside Stranglers. Buono used his Italian surname to ingratiate himself with Ranzany, and constantly told him how he was railroaded by the criminal justice system. Ranzany took it all in stride, but was shocked when Buono approached him after seeing him talking, in a professional capacity, to a female medical technician.

“He got this crazy look on his face and started calling women all sorts of names, and telling me you couldn’t trust them,” said Ranzany. “It was a real eye-opener. He couldn’t help but show his true colors. That made things very clear to me.”

Ranzany also ran the prison’s then-lauded boxing program, but soon grew disgruntled by the lethargy of the participants. “Most of them didn’t like the discipline,” he explained. “[When] I made them spar once a week, I went from 50 fighters to 16 overnight. In the movies, inmates are usually really tough. But after working with the team for a year, I bet my sister could have beaten many of the fighters if they didn’t have a knife or a gun.”

Ranzany couldn’t help but recall the words of advice he had once received from a close friend, former Sacramento police chief Jack Hearns. “He said if you work with losers all the time, you’ll start to feel like a loser,” said Ranzany. “He said a prison guard’s job was actually much harder than a cop’s job. Both are dealing with negativity all the time, but cops are not fighting crime every minute. Prison guards are dealing with criminals everyday. And cops get a chance to see positive results once in a while. Prison guards don’t.”

Thankfully, Ranzany never gave into the negativism that is so pervasive in such a challenging vocation. He has immense loyalty to his colleagues, and loves the camaraderie they share because of the inherent dangers of the job. Although Ranzany never became a world champion, the way he sees it he still came out on top.

“I think I always did everything for the right reasons,” he explained. “I never fought for money. I fought to be champ. When I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I quit. For years people tried to lure me out of retirement with all sorts of offers, but I knew what was best for me. I walked away and have never looked back.”

Articles of 2005

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



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

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




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



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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