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Articles of 2005

Marty Sammon’s Million Dollar Screen Debut

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Longtime boxing official Marty Sammon has squeezed a whole lot of living into his storied life. A San Jose, California stockbroker by day, he has officiated 51 world championship bouts as either a judge or a referee. His boxing work has taken him around the world, to Australia, Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Ireland and England. Although he is often described as “loquacious,” while on those trips he doesn’t just sit around the hotel pool or catch a few rounds of golf. He immerses himself in the area, trying to find out the most esoteric information possible.

A native of Steubenville, Ohio who now lives in Santa Clara, California, Sammon has an uncanny ability to make positive things happen in his life. Last year he added to his already impressive resume of life experiences by landing his very first film role and getting his SAG card in the process. He is listed in the credits as Referee No. 5 in “Million Dollar Baby,” which just garnered the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2004. It also won awards for Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman).

“Working with such a great cast was a tremendous introduction to the film business,” said the eternally optimistic Sammon. “There wasn’t an ounce of pretentiousness on the set. You hear so much negative stuff about Hollywood types. Well, everyone I met was the antithesis of everything I ever heard. It was an absolute joy to be involved in such a great film.”

As things turned out, he and Eastwood had a lot in common. Both went to high school in California’s East Bay, and Sammon says Eastwood was so low-key and down to earth, he felt like he was working with an old friend from the neighborhood. “We realized we had some common ground and really hit it off,” Sammon said.

What surprised Sammon more than anything was the fact of just how regular a guy Eastwood is. He waited on the food line like everyone else, and no one in the crew, Sammon included, seemed the least bit intimidated by his superstar status. “Clint sees himself as a regular guy,” said Sammon. “It’s not often that I’m nervous talking to anyone, but walking onto the set, I admit I was a tad bit nervous. But within minutes I felt as comfortable as I do in a boxing ring.”

Sammon can also not say enough good things about Swank, who he predicts will be a top-flight actress, in the Katharine Hepburn tradition, for decades to come. “The dedication of that woman is amazing,” he said. “She’s always looking to learn, and even  did all of her own stunts. I told her if you get hit in the head you get dizzy and mad, and if you get hit in the body you wince. In her next scene she got hit with a body shot and winced beautifully. She shot me a wink and asked the crew, ‘Did you see how I winced?’ The director [of that scene] said jokingly, ‘It’s called acting, Hilary.’”

Throughout his eventful life, Sammon has always had a way of finding himself in the midst of controversial or historical events. While still a small boy, his family left Steubenville for California when many of the local steel mills closed down.  They envisioned California as a promised land, but were in for a rude awakening. The family moved all of the time to look for work, and by the age of 15 Sammon had gone to 11 schools. Because Sammon had done some boxing back in Steubenville, he was able to fend off adolescent extortionists and developed a reputation as someone not to be messed with.

College boxing was extremely popular in the mid-fifties, so Sammon joined the team at Santa Clara University where he began studying pre-med but earned his degree in finance. In the 1955 Pacific Coast Inter-Collegiate tournament at Sacramento’s storied Memorial Auditorium, his bout with Roger Rouse was described by one local newspaper as the bloodiest bout in that venue’s history.

“The problem was, it was all of my blood,” Sammon joked. Years later, longtime light heavyweight champion Bob Foster, who fought Rouse twice, said Rouse hit him harder than any of his other opponents, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier included.

As a member of the ROTC in college, Sammon was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation. As a member of the 101st Airborne in September 1957, he was dispatched to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce integration into that city’s Central High School. Sammon, who had grown up with people of all creeds and colors, was aghast that so many of his colleagues were not supportive of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. He says he almost came to blows with several of his redneck colleagues, and to this day is touched “by the courage of those children.”

He still keeps in touch with several of those children, including Melba Pattillo Beals, who is now the director of communications at Dominican University in San Rafael, California. She says she calls him every September to “say thank you for saving my life.” At a prayer breakfast last November to benefit the San Jose YMCA, she told the assembled audience that her grandmother had always instilled in her that in tough situations God will send you a guardian angel. “And my guardian angel,” she continued, “was a young paratrooper named Marty Sammon.”

Sammon’s path into professional boxing was also unconventional. He stayed in shape by playing handball at San Quentin State Prison, and eventually agreed to referee matches between the inmates. The inmates had a lot more at stake in the outcome of some of those fights than Sammon realized, and he often had chicken bones (or worse) thrown at him if he inadvertently messed with the over/under by stopping a fight too soon or letting it go too long. “If you could referee a fight in San Quentin, you could referee a fight anywhere,” laughs Sammon.

As a professional judge, Sammon’s biggest fight was probably the first Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley bout, which he scored 115-113 for the Golden Boy. Although criticized for that decision by many people, he cites De La Hoya’s undercounted body punches and stands by his decision 100 percent. From a strictly personal perspective, his most memorable refereeing assignment was the infamous first matchup between former football star Mark Gastineau and Tim “Doc” Anderson in 1992 in San Francisco.  

Rumors abounded that Anderson was going in the tank, so prior to the bout Sammon personally warned both parties that there better not be any monkey business. Anderson wound up beating Gastineau from pillar to post. His victory so enraged his promoter, Rick “Elvis” Parker, it is alleged by Anderson that Parker poisoned him just prior to a rematch. Anderson lost that fight, and was left lying in his own vomit on the dressing room floor. When discovered by a janitor hours later, he was taken to a local hospital where it was suggested that he was poisoned. When Anderson threatened to go to the authorities, Parker promised to kill Anderson’s quadriplegic sister and her two daughters. Things culminated with Anderson shooting Parker dead in 1995. He is now serving a life sentence in a Florida prison.

“I write to Tim regularly, and he writes back,” said Sammon. “I’m pretty much of a law and order guy, but good cell space is being wasted by keeping him in prison. If someone threatened my family the way his was threatened on a regular basis, all bets are off. There were so many mitigating factors that should have been taken into consideration. Even several of the jurors wrote to the judge, expressing exasperation over the drastic sentence. They were going to request leniency, but that decision was taken out of their hands by mandatory sentencing guidelines. It’s a travesty of justice.”

In the days and months ahead, Sammon says the success of his first film will have him on cloud nine. What he doesn’t say, but what is clearly evident from his demeanor, is that every day is a good day for him. He has had no shortage of good fortune in his life, and there’s no reason to think his run of good luck will end any time soon.

“I can honestly say I’m one of the luckiest people I know,” Sammon said. “As long as you never give up on your dreams, good can come out of anything. Hilary Swank said it best. When she accepted her second Academy Award, she recalled the days she was living in a trailer park with nothing more than a dream. Hell, I once lived in a trailer park in Fontana [California], so I could relate to that. The greatest accomplishment in life is to dream big, then set out to make those dreams come true. It’s true in boxing. It’s true in acting. It’s true in anything.”

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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