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Articles of 2005

Chavez vs. Randall: The Judges Get One Right

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Special to TheSweetScience.com, from the Pat Putnam Classic Series, this article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated.

Julio Cesar Chavez was always a favorite of mine, a no-nonsense warrior unencumbered by clemency, an assassin who looked with distain upon pickpockets, a man who always knew when it was time to put down the hammer and pick up a drink. He was a Don King fighter, which is not always a bad thing. He was a friend of Jose Sulaiman; that, too, was not a bad thing. With benefactors like that in his corner, Chavez knew always that the three guys being led into the arena by guide dogs were the judges. Most often, Chavez did not need any help, but King and Sulaiman are cautious souls. But then there was the time when the Mexican fighter and the American promoter had a falling out over money, and King called his pudgy buddy in Mexico City and . . .

LAS VEGAS, January 1994—-Julio Cesar Chavez, en route to becoming Mexico’s favorite whine, lost another fight, this time in Las Vegas, and this time, finally, two of the three judges scored it right. As promoter Don King said as he climbed past his battered champion to get into the ring at the MGM Grand Hotel to hear how the officials had scored last Saturday night’s WBC super welterweight title fight: “Not this time, Julio.”

“Screw you, Don King,” countered Chavez, just missing old Frightened Hair with a sweeping backhand. Across the way, referee Richard Steele, who had penalized Chavez twice for low blows, and 32 year old Frankie Randall, who had floored the frustrated champion in the 11th round, watched the falling out with curious stares.

“We have a split decision,” said ring announcer Jimmy Lennon.

“Oh, Lord,” groaned a front row spectator. “Pernell Whitaker beat Chavez eight out of 12 rounds and he at least got a mandatory draw. I guess poor Frankie isn’t even going to get that.”

But time and justice (and a temporary falling out with King) had finally caught up with the 31 year old unbeaten superstar from Culiacan, Mexico, although Abraham Chavarria, one of the three judges and a Mexican, tried valiantly to lift Chavez’s record to 90 0 1. But unlike the WBC bandit judges who robbed Whitaker in San Antonio last September, Chavarria was left this time to swing alone.

Chavarria scored it for Chavez, 114 113. But then, that came as no surprise. Just before the fight started, the Mexican judge leaned forward in his seat, caught Chavez’s eye, and gave him a thumbs up signal. For Chavarria, it was not a matter of judging who had won, but of Chavez by how many.

Fortunately, judges Chuck Giampa of Nevada (116 111) and Angel Luis Guzman of Puerto Rico (114 113), who scored it for Randall, paid more attention to the actual fight, which was a successive series of violent waves broken only by the two points Chavez lost for low blows and the crisp right hand Randall used to drop the champion for a five count in the 11th round.

Chavez’s greatest strength has always been his incredible will; his attacks are relentless, ceasing only when the other man, his own will wrecked, surrenders. But as had Whitaker, Randall rode out the fury of each storm, and then counter attacked with a fury surely as equal, and at times even more violent. From the third round on, during the rare moments of peace, Chavez would stare at Randall, seemingly bemused, as though asking: “Hey, buddy, don’t you know who I am? You aren’t supposed to do this to me.”

But Chavez has become used to dining on people like Jaime Balboa and Jorge Melian and Othoniel Lopez; fifty of his 89 victims went to the wall in Mexico. It is suspected that a substantial number of the 89 arrived at their fights in the cab they drove for a living. Most of the other losers came during Chavez’s reign as a lightweight, where he was savagely superb. But now he fights at 140 pounds, and the years and the wars have sent in the cruel accountants, and his body is slowly making payments.

“And don’t forget me,” said Whitaker from his home in Norfolk Sunday as he prepared to watch the Super Bowl. A non boxing fan, the WBC welterweight champion had skipped the SET pay per view fight telecast. “But I’m not surprised. I took a lot out of Chavez. I think Randall should at least credit me with an assist.”

A gifted athlete in his own right, Randall has been fighting since he was nine. From his start as a 69 pounder, he won 220 or 236 amateur fights, was a five time Golden Glove champion and a six time junior Olympic champion. Since he began fighting for a paycheck, he won 48 of 51 fights with one draw. Two of his victories came over former world champions, Fred Pendleton and Edwin Rosario, two others over top contenders Sammy Fuentes and Rodolfo Aguilar. “I like what I do and I think I am very good at it,” he says simply.

On a 17 victory streak going in as a 15 1 underdog against Chavez, his rising star had been briefly interrupted by a prison term in 1989 and 1990. “As a favor for a friend I got him some cocaine,” he says. “It was a one time deal but I got caught in the middle of a sting and I paid for it. I regret it but I’ve lived through it and I’ve shown I’m not that kind of person.”

While his will was failing to break Randall, or to even make him bend, Chavez was also having problems with his hooks landing well below the belt line. He is notorious for hitting low, a crime usually unpunished, but this time Steele said he would have none of it. After repeated warnings, the referee took a point away in the seventh round.

Another point was deducted in the 11th round. This one proved too costly for Chavez to overcome. That was the round that Randall met one of the champion’s assaults with a perfect right hand to the chin and dropped him. It was the first time Chavez had ever been knocked off his feet.

Up at the count of five, the champion took the mandatory count of eight. With less than 15 seconds remaining in the round, he rode out Randall’s last furious burst. On one card, Guzman’s, the low blow and knockdown added up to a 10 7 round for Randall; on the other two it was 10 8. The three-point swing made the difference in Guzman’s final scoring and swung the split decision over to Randall.

“Richard Steele is a dirty bleep,” Chavez screamed in Spanish after the decision was announced. “The low blow in the 11th round never even landed. I had been hitting him with those shots all night. I’ve very upset with Steele. He’s a bleeper. I’m going to take him to the commission.”

Upset by Chavez’s tirade, Steele would say only: “Look at the tapes of the fight. I believe you will see all of the low blows.”

Chavez charged that the officials—at least the two who voted against him—were unduly swayed by the knockdown. “It was only one fall. Sugar Ray Leonard fell down. Muhammad Ali fell down. And they still won. How can you lose a fight because of one fall? It is not right. I respect Randall but he only won three rounds. I won and I am still the champion. I demand a rematch immediately.” And on and on, in Spanish, of course.

Never one to pass up a lucrative promotion, King had the Chavez Randall rematch made a half hour after the first fight was over. King already had a Chavez Meldrick Taylor rematch signed for May 7 at the MGM Grand. As he is fond of saying, King once more went where the wild goose flew; he simply crossed out Taylor’s name, wrote in Randall’s. Sorry, Meldrick. Figures to be negotiated, of course.

Told the news, Chavez managed a wry smile. There was a cut on the bridge of his nose; Randall’s fists had made his face look like five miles of Mexican roads. Then the crybaby took the $1.2 million he had earned and went home to Culican, where his relatives, friends and neighbors were bellied up to the bar waiting for him to buy.

Officially his record is now 89 ONE 1. Sometimes the judges get one right.

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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