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Articles of 2005

Cory Spinks’ Historic Homecoming

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In addition to winning Olympic Gold in 1976, “Neon” Leon Spinks made boxing history by winning the world heavyweight title in only his eighth pro fight. It didn’t hurt that the title-winning effort came against the most famous fighter in the history of the sport, the one and only Muhammad Ali.

In addition to winning Olympic Gold in 1976, Michael “The Spinks Jinx” Spinks made boxing history by becoming the first world light heavyweight champion to successfully move up and capture the world heavyweight title. Not only did doing so make history, but the win actually prevented another form of history from occurring, with long reigning champion Larry Holmes looking to become only the second heavyweight champion ever to register a record of 49-0 had he won.

For undisputed welterweight king Cory “The Next Generation” Spinks, there is no Olympic medal, or even Olympic experience, to speak of. At 5’9 ½” and 147 pounds, it remains extremely unlikely that he will ever campaign as a heavyweight, much less make history in the division as did his father (Leon) and uncle (Michael).

But in making his fourth welterweight title defense this Saturday night (vs. Zab “Super” Judah, February 5, live from the Savvis Center on SHOWTIME, 9PM ET/PT), Cory will receive an honor neither his father nor uncle were able to experience: participating in a world title fight in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

“It’s an absolute honor to be defending my world title in my own backyard,” Spinks (34-2, 10KO) had told TheSweetScience.com when he initially received word of his then pending rematch with Zab Judah, whom Cory had bested in their April 2004 encounter. “I keep waiting for the media to give me my full respect, but to know that all of my people back home appreciate me is good enough for the moment.”

Appreciation has become an understatement, as a sold out Savvis Center has already been announced for the first world championship card in 2005 for SHOWTIME. With more than 22,000 fans coming out to support their hometown hero, Spinks finally gets to experience the feel of participating in a superfight – something he believes is long overdue in his career.

“I won’t lie. When I first heard that Oscar (de la Hoya) and (Shane) Mosley were dropping back down to welterweight, I said to myself ‘Why do they have me fighting Zab again, with fights like that out there?’ But now I know that it was the right way to go. Get this win out the way with Zab, and then I can make myself even more appealing for when the superfights finally start rolling my way.”

Getting Zab out the way is easier said than done. Cory learned that the hard way, even with the impressive, albeit close, points win over Brooklyn’s finest last April. Having sprinted out to a three round lead, Spinks found himself in a dogfight midway through, and eventually on the canvas late in the fight. Many insisted that had Zab been afforded another thirty seconds, he would have lifted the crown. But as far as Cory is concerned, Zab actually already had twelve rounds to turn that trick and is none too concerned about the additional twelve he is granting.

“If there’s one thing that drives me crazy in hearing about the first fight, it’s the so-called experts insisting that I was lucky to escape with my titles. Man, Zab dropped me at the end of the fight. I got a little too careless and paid the price for a second. What many don’t seem to want to remember are the prior eleven rounds. Obviously I did something right during the rest of the fight, because I still won even with the last round knockdown. But cats in the media are acting like they got cheated or something. I fight everyone, so if they say I need to do this again in order to prove myself, then it ain’t no thing.”

Being able to do his thing in his own backyard is definitely the biggest break in a career filled with struggles and frustration. In his fourteenth pro fight, those who tuned into ESPN on that Sunday night in mid-December witnessed the first of two losses for young Cory. The loss – a narrow split decision – came against then-rising contender Antonio Diaz, though many scoring the bout from the confines of their living room couch considered it a hometown decision for Diaz more so than a loss for Spinks.

Never one to let one bad situation keep him down, Spinks dusted himself off and returned to his winning ways in tearing off sixteen straight. Most of the wins came against “usual suspect” type of opponents, though an impressive points win over Larry Marks on national TV put him in position for a world title shot. By the time he was ready to fight for the title, success and fame were not quite ready to come along for the ride. When then-champion Vernon Forrest passed on a mandatory defense and gave up his crown for a shot at WBC champion Shane Mosley, Spinks found himself updating his passport and heading overseas in facing Michelle Piccirillo in Italy for the vacant title.

As with the Diaz fight, Spinks appeared to do enough over the course of the twelve round bout to take the crown, but apparently not enough to persuade the judges to score against the house fighter. Despite the decision being a unanimous one, the IBF ordered an elimination bout between Spinks and longtime spoiler Rafael Pineda, with the winner to face Piccirillo. Spinks survived the best that the hard punching Pineda had to offer, but was forced to settle for a technical decision when a clash of heads caused a cut severe enough to prevent Cory from being able to continue past the seventh round. Despite the win, Spinks was forced to the sidelines for the rest of the year, in waiting for his skin to heal and for someone to stage the rematch.

Legendary promoter Don King had flirted with the idea of bringing the rematch to the states and staging it beneath the Roy Jones-John Ruiz PPV card in March 2003. The month held up, but not the date. Nor was King successful in keeping the cards on this side of the Atlantic, as Cory was once again forced to travel to Italy in fighting for a world title he believed was his. This time, he left no doubt, giving the Italian a boxing lesson throughout in taking a decisive unanimous decision. Finally, he joined his father and uncle in attaching the Spinks name to a world title. But what was still missing was the respect and notoriety.

Both were supposed to come in his next fight, an undisputed unification showdown with boxing wild man Ricardo Mayorga. “El Matador” was a 3-1 favorite to jinx Spinks in Atlantic City, in fact the very same town where Michael was blasted out in one by Mike Tyson in what was at the time one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history. But Cory would last a lot longer than ninety seconds, and in fact once again beat the odds, as he gave Mayorga a boxing lesson throughout. Suspect scoring nearly ruined the superior effort, as Cory was forced to settle for a surprisingly close majority decision, even with two points deducted from Ricardo’s scorecard for repeated fouls.

With Mayorga heading into the fight as the leading contender for Fighter of the Year, Spinks figured that the win would allow him to catch the wave of popularity that Mayorga was riding at the time. Instead, he seemed to become more despised, as if he killed the sport by proving that skill beats will every time out. Nor did it help his case any when he was forced to climb off of the canvas last April in barely out-lasting and out-pointing Judah. But as the saying goes, that which does not kill you only makes you stronger. The way that Team Spinks sees it, Zab made a big mistake in allowing Spinks to live and fight another day, even if far too many are trying to kill his chances.

“Zab acts like he found gold when he knocked me down. I got relaxed, and he caught me with a good shot. That started all of this controversy. People have gotten off of the canvas before to win a fight. Hell, cats don’t even seem to want to recall that Zab himself was knocked down the round before. Zab damn sure don’t, because he’s acting like all he gotta do is start this fight the way he finished the first one and he’s the new champ. But what he don’t realize is that by not finishing the job then, he blew his golden opportunity. I never make the same mistake twice. I stepped it up against Piccirillo the second time, and I’m going to step it up and all over Zab this time around.”

Cory’s longtime trainer and manager, Kevin Cunningham, definitely agrees.

“All this nonsense about Cory being lucky – look, it’s no different than the (stuff) he has heard his entire career. Zab (messed) up by not finishing the job. And it’s not that he started too late – it’s that it took him twelve rounds to finally figure Cory out, if you want to call it that. Yet they act like as long as you pay a dollar, you gonna win the lotto every time out. That’s all I heard from them – “we gonna knock Cory out. I dropped him last time, I’m stopping him this time.” Shit, I hope they got more of a game plan than thinking one punch will do the trick. If that’s their plan, then I’m going to have an easy night in telling Cory what to do.”

Spinks knows that matters won’t be that simple, though he does anticipate a win and a springboard for bigger and better things.

“Like I said before, if beating Zab AGAIN earns me whatever respect that I have yet to receive, then that’s fine. I’m looking for big things to go down in 2005. Let me get rid of Zab, then give me at least one big fight after that. I know I deserve it.”

As a packed Savvis Center will tell you, 22,000 St. Lunatics certainly agree.

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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