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Articles of 2005

Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermain Taylor and Lou DiBella

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This Saturday night undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (45-2-1 32 KOs) will defend his title against top contender Howard Eastman (40-1 34). Eastman was recently quoted saying he'll stop Hopkins in five rounds. It's probably safe to say Mr. Eastman is coming to fight. Hopkins-Eastman is just an appetizer for what will most likely be one of the biggest fights of 2005.

Fighting before Hopkins on the co-feature being televised by HBO is Jermain Taylor (22-0 16 KOs), who takes on Daniel Edouard (16-0-2 9 KOs). Taylor, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, is promoted by Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment (DBE). Before starting DiBella Entertainment, he was the vice-president of programming for HBO sports and the visionary behind HBO's “Boxing After Dark” series. DiBella also negotiated for Hopkins prior to Hopkins entering Don King's middleweight tournament, resulting in Hopkins earning a career high purse against Felix Trinidad. Hopkins won the tournament when he stopped Trinidad in what was, at the time, the signature fight of his career, becoming the undisputed middleweight champion in September 2001.

The Hopkins/DiBella relationship soured more than two years ago and ultimately ended up in court. In 2002 DiBella filed a defamation law suit against Hopkins after Hopkins claimed DiBella shook him down for $50,000. Hopkins alleged the money was so he could fight on HBO while DiBella was still the vice-president of programming for the network. The issue was resolved when the court ruled in DiBella's favor awarding him $610,000.

In the two plus years since Hopkins and DiBella terminated their relationship as business associates, both have realized tremendous success in boxing. Hopkins has defended his middleweight title five times since stopping Trinidad, and in his last fight he stopped Oscar De La Hoya in the ninth round earning him the biggest purse of his career. Hopkins can stretch his record of consecutive defenses of the middleweight title to 20 with a victory over Eastman, the most by any middleweight champion in boxing history. Making a 20th defense puts Hopkins in very exclusive company, joining Joe Louis (25 title defenses) light flyweight Ricardo Lopez (25 title defenses) and Larry Holmes (20 title defenses).

Since its inception back in May of 2000, DBE has signed many top amateur standouts and world-class fighters. On January 26 of this year, DiBella joined music and entertainment mogul Damon Dash to form Dash/DiBella promotions. The partnership of Dash/DiBella will work as a full service promotional company with an emphasis on promoting and marketing minority athletes. Former Olympian Andre Berto and undefeated New York City prospects Jaidon Codrington and Curtis Stevens were the first three fighters signed by Dash/DiBella promotions. But DiBella's biggest star is middleweight contender Jermain Taylor. Taylor is currently ranked among the top five middleweights in the world by all three of boxing's major sanctioning organizations. And many fight observers believe Taylor will rule the middleweight division after Hopkins.

With Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor fighting on the same card, some of the longest running and most popular soap operas on television couldn't have scripted a more perfect scenario. Only a Hopkins loss to Eastman, or a Taylor loss to Edouard this Saturday night, can alter boxing's version of the perfect storm, resulting in Hopkins defending his title against Taylor. A Hopkins-Taylor showdown brings Hopkins and DiBella full circle, and some may even see it as Hopkins-DiBella II.

Think about the two irresistible forces and egos at play here. In one corner you have a man who was voted by every boxing and sports publication in publication as one of the most powerful and influential people in boxing, who also was a major decision maker at HBO sports. And to anyone who doubts HBO's clout pertaining to professional boxing, you really are a true boxing fan and watch nothing but the fights. HBO determines and dictates what fighters the boxing public gets to see – something that even the sanctioning bodies and most promoters have no control over. Remember, you could train or manage the greatest fighter in the world, but if he doesn't get some sort of television exposure he's not going to be around long . . . because he'll starve to death.

How many people do you think have confronted DiBella during the last decade? I'll bet it's a real short list. The opposite is probably closer to the truth. It would only make business sense to try and stay on the good side of the person who can provide access for your fighter to showcase his skills to the biggest audience possible. And that is not meant to suggest any wrongdoing by anyone. It’s simply a business formality.

I think it's more than safe to assume, in fact I know for a fact, that DiBella has a huge ego. How could he not and still be human? On top of that he was a confidante and advisor to Hopkins. It was just a few years ago that he felt he was pushed by Hopkins to file a defamation suit against him. Do you think Lou DiBella wouldn't just love being in the opposing corner the night Hopkins reign as middleweight champ ended? – Courtesy of the fighter whose career he navigated from the very beginning? He wouldn't be human if he didn't feel that way.

How about in the other corner? There's probably a Lou DiBella in every skyscraper in New York City, but Hopkins also has a massive ego. How many men have been called undisputed middleweight champion of the world in the last hundred years? Hopkins is not only a legitimate world champion, he's also defended the middleweight title more times successfully than any other fighter who has held the crown. Fighters named Fitzsimmons, Ketchel, Greb, Robinson, Monzon and Hagler didn't hold the title as long or defend it as many times as Bernard Hopkins. I haven't the slightest doubt in the world that Hopkins would relish giving DiBella a beating through Jermain Taylor. And he probably couldn't dream of a better way to retire from boxing.

Hopkins-Taylor is a mega fight without the added Hopkins/DiBella soap opera. Hopkins is a middleweight for the ages, and what's not to like about Jermain Taylor as a fighter? Both fighters bring a lot to the ring in terms of skill and ability.

Hopkins is at his best fighting as a counterpuncher when his opponent goes to him. He is, however, a rare fighter in that he can also be effective pushing the fight and fighting inside. He has shown he can adapt to any style and usually doesn't allow his opponents to fight their fight. He also has a concrete chin, knows every trick in the book, and has won championship fights boxing his opponents and brawling with them. Taylor is a boxer-puncher and understands the importance of a good jab. He uses his jab to set up his combinations and to dictate the tempo and terms of the fight. Taylor also throws a very powerful right uppercut on the inside and is very strong physically. It's easy to see why he is viewed as the future of the middleweight division.

In his last fight two months ago, Taylor won a lopsided decision over former champ William Joppy, who was only a shell of the fighter that handed Howard Eastman his only loss back in November of 2001. Immediately after Taylor beat Joppy, DiBella said in no uncertain terms that Jermain is ready to fight any middleweight in the world, including Felix Trinidad and Bernard Hopkins.

And Hopkins hasn't been shy about mentioning Taylor. In the media Hopkins has been critical of Taylor's fights and has gone out of his way to point out mistakes he said he has seen Taylor make. And when this was pointed out to Taylor at the press conference announcing his fight with Edouard as the co-feature to the Hopkins-Eastman world title fight, Taylor fired back that he “would stand ringside for Hopkins’ fight and yell out any mistakes Hopkins is making. I'm going to be right there beside the ring. I want to see what he does and every mistake he makes.”

There’s no need to guess why Taylor is fighting beneath the Hopkins-Eastman bout.

His trainer Patrick Burns and promoter Lou DiBella think the time is right and Taylor can end Hopkins ten year reign as middleweight champ. They know having Taylor and Hopkins fight back to back on the same card will draw comparisons between them and stimulate the fight. Not to mention HBO starting the Hopkins-Taylor drumbeat to kickoff their broadcast. I can see it now: Jim Lampley projecting how a Hopkins-Taylor fight would be the passing of the torch regarding middleweight supremacy from one generation to another.

Hopkins has every reason in the world to want to punish Taylor. Taylor is a former Olympian and has had the benefit of million dollar marketing and promotion companies overseeing his entire career, along with having shrewd businessmen providing him the access to fight in front of millions of people on a major cable television network . . .  something Hopkins didn't realize until he was middleweight champion for three or four years.

Hopkins is in a “can't lose” situation. By the time he and Taylor fight he'll be almost 41-years-old. If he lost a close fight against Taylor after a 10-year reign as middleweight champ and after having made 20 consecutive title defenses, it won't effect his historical standing a bit. Only his pride would be hurt. But he may earn the biggest purse of his career against Taylor, which will help some. And if he beats Taylor, something he may be favored to do, he's also beating DiBella, which will make the taste of victory that much sweeter.

Hopkins hasn't forgotten about $610,000 from the lawsuit DiBella won against him. I'll bet there isn't anything Hopkins would love to do more than give DiBella's superstar, Jermain Taylor, a beating in the ring – while DiBella sits ringside watching the fight – a beating which Taylor carries with him for the rest of his days.

DiBella, being politically correct, said it best at the January 13 press conference: “It's the present and the future of the middleweight division. Jermain has to be thrilled to fight underneath Hopkins, who is a future first ballot Hall of Famer.”

A first ballot Hall of Famer that DiBella and Taylor hope Mother Nature and Father Time may have trapped against the ropes.

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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