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Articles of 2005

Jose Luis Castillo and Julio Diaz Discuss March 5th Tilt

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A pair of potentially explosive match-ups will be shown during SHOWTIME’s Free Preview Weekend when two-time time World Boxing Council (WBC) Champion Jose Luis Castillo (51-6-1, 45 KOs) takes on former International Boxing Federation (IBF) titleholder Julio “The Kidd’’ Diaz (30-2, 22 KOs) and undefeated Jeff Lacy (18-0, 14 KOs) risks his IBF super middleweight crown against once-beaten Rubin “Mr. Hollywood’’ Williams (26-1, 15 KOs) on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Saturday, March 5.

Jose Luis Castillo and Julio Diaz discuss the matchup

Question: Julio, you have wanted to fight Jose Luis Castillo for a long time. You finally got a shot at a world title in your last fight, won it and then gave it up voluntarily so you could get this fight with Castillo. Tell us about that and how training is going?

Diaz: This is very exciting for me. I think it is a great motivation just because I already gave up my title, which I worked very hard for, just to get this fight. I have got to make it be worth something and I have got to come through. That is pretty much what is getting me going and it is going to be very hard for Castillo to bring me down because I had to invest a lot. He will not step over me so easily. I will put up a fight. This is going to be a very great fight because I am always a good show and I am up for a good fight.

Question: Julio, were you and Castillo tentatively scheduled to fight once or twice before?

Diaz: Yes, something like a couple of years ago. But unfortunately, it did not go as planned. I think the fight fell through due to an injury that he had or something like that.

Question: Julio, how difficult was it for you to give up your title?

Diaz: It was difficult in the beginning, but after I analyzed everything I just started to look ahead. I wanted to go for something bigger and better and it just seems that these days titles do not really do much.

Question: Julio, what is your strategy for this fight?

Diaz: I think one of the best ways to beat Castillo is staying away from danger and being very intelligent in the ring.

Question: Do you have a prediction? Do you think it will go the distance?

Diaz: I think that we are both very hungry for this and it will be a great war and I do not think I have the patience for it to go the distance and I do not think he does either.

Question: Julio, you have not fought since May 2004. Do you think that will affect you?

Diaz: No, I was scheduled to fight about two or three times already and so I was actually getting ready for each of those fights. So throughout that whole period of time I have been working hard, getting all my sparring done and I have been in the gym.

Question: Was defeating Courtney Brown a big turning point in your career?

Diaz: That built confidence in me and made me stronger. Brown was a big, strong lightweight. The way I ended that fight motivated me a lot more, so when I fought Javier Jáuregui he just seemed like a small guy. That is the reason that I am not getting intimidated by an oversized lightweight like Castillo. I know what I have to do and I have been a fighter who has been raised from the beginning with big fighters. I am a pretty solid lightweight right now.

Question: Jose, what are your thoughts going into this fight?

Castillo: I have been training real hard and am really looking forward to it. I think it will be a great fight.

Question: Where are you training now and how long have you been training?

Castillo: I have been up here five weeks now. I am up in the mountains of Mexico City.

Question: Jose, is your intelligence in the ring God-given or does much of it come from the training you have received from Lee Espinoza?

Diaz: I think it has been 50/50. Since I was a kid, when I started my amateur career, I just had that natural talent that Lee saw in me and he just improved it.

Question: Julio, did the people Sycuan encourage you to give up your IBF title?

Diaz: No, it was a big decision that they respected and they pretty much left it to me. This is something that I wanted and I did it and everybody supported me.

Question: What kind of adjustments are you going to make against an opponent as physically strong as Jose Luis?

Diaz: I have been getting ready to be physically strong and rugged in the ring. No matter what I have to do, I will succeed because we are walking in with a plan A, plan B and plan C.

Question: Jose Luis, do you think you will have trouble making the 135?

Castillo: Yeah, it is always tough for me to make 135, but over the last two fights for some reason, it has been a lot easier to make and I hope this time it will go the same way.

Question: Julio, do you think it is a better that you are fighting Castillo now and not a couple years ago?

Diaz: I have had a lot of fights. I have had ups and downs and I have had good, hard fights. Even in the gym, we have learned so much with this time that it has only made me better. In the beginning I was just a young prospect with a lot of heart and a lot of will to win every fight. But when it comes down to a hard fight like Castillo, you just need a lot more than that. I think you need the experience and the maturity in the ring to pull out a tough fight like that. And I think I am a lot more prepared now than I was before.

Question: Jose, can you compare Diaz to any other boxer you have fought?

Castillo: I do not think I have fought anyone quite like Julio. Stevie Johnston and Joel Casamayor had an awkward style and were very difficult to fight sometimes. Julio is more of a guy that wants to fight that likes to engage me. He is fast and he is quick, so we do have to worry about that.

Question: Jose, considering the fact that the winner of this fight may fight Diego Corrales, do you think there is a danger that you will underestimate or take Julio Diaz lightly?

Castillo: I know how important these fights are for what I want to do in the future. I know that before I can think about Corrales, before I can think about Kostya Tszyu, before I can think about anything, I have to beat Diaz and that is all I am thinking about right now.

Question: Julio, what is the key to this fight?

Diaz: I think the key is to give Castillo a lot of respect, the most respect I can, and that is the main key. I cannot walk in there and get in over my head or be cocky, trying to underestimate him. I have built him into this huge monster and I have to walk in there very alert and very cautious and I cannot fall asleep for a second in there because I know the experience he has and I know the kind of fighter he is.

Question: Jose, have you done anything differently in this training camp?

Castillo: Basically, we are trying to work on speed, getting up to speed, making sure that we engage Julio as much as we can.

Question: Jose, do you have a prediction for the fight? Do you think it will go the 12 rounds or you get a knockout?

Castillo: Unlike the fight with Juan Lazcano, I think there is a possibility I could knock him out because we will be more engaged and there will be more punching. I think there is a possibility that the fight will end before the 12 rounds.

Question: Julio, what is your reaction to Castillo’s prediction of a knockout?

Diaz: I understand his point of view and that is the same thing I said. It is going to be two power punchers who come to fight and that is pretty much what will end up happening. I do not see it going 12 rounds because, just like he said, I am a fighter who will make a good fight. There are fights like he just had with Casamayor. Castillo had a good point that they do not give a good fight and they do not let you give a good fight, so you cannot look good in a fight. And I think with me and Castillo, the two styles match. That is pretty much what I am looking to do, just give a great fight and win the fight, but in a nice manner which people will be happy and will talk about it for years to come.

Question: Were there any major changes you had to make in training camp in preparing for this fight as opposed to the original plans for Levander Johnson?

Diaz: We just automatically switched sparring partners and that was a big change. Then the physical training. We had to train a lot harder for a strong bull that is going to come at you more than Levander Johnson

Question: Jose Luis, this is the second time in a row you were supposed to be fighting Chico. You may be fighting him in May should you get past Julio. Does it bother you that you have to go through Lazcano, then Casamayor, now Julio Diaz just in order to get to Chico?

Castillo: The most important thing for me is to fight the big fights. This fight is just as big as Corrales. I know Corrales is a little bigger than this fight, but to me, these are big fights and important fights. People are getting to know me. As far as I am concerned, I am fine with it. If we fight in May, that is fine.

Closing Comments

Castillo: I hope to see all of you out on the fight on March 5 and I suspect that it will be a great fight.

Diaz: Hopefully, everybody can make it that day and that both fighters can reach that day safely and that our fight turns out to be what everybody is expecting – a great fight and a safe fight. Hopefully, both fighters can walk home and continue with our careers and may the best man win.

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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