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Articles of 2005

Dave Jaco Remembers Boxing

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A few months ago former journeyman heavyweight David Jaco was holding court at the Oasis Bar in Sarasota, Florida, one town over from Bradenton, where he has resided for the past 19 years. Even though he is 6’6” tall and weighs about 250 pounds, from a distance he looks more like a gangly, loose-limbed basketball player than a former boxer. Still ruggedly handsome at the age of 50, Jaco is a world-class raconteur whose incessant laughter and effervescent personality always draw people to his midst – on this occasion, a short, drunk, well-muscled man was obviously upset with all of the attention Jaco was garnering. As the brooding man sat drinking alone, Jaco was surrounded by friends, some of whom he had met just minutes before, and all of whom were reveling in the free-spirited Jaco’s stories of a life well lived.

“Hey big guy, I bet I can kick your bleeping ass,” the man screamed at Jaco. As all heads turned toward the aggressor, Jaco gazed into the man’s eyes with his megawatt German, Swiss, American Indian and English smile, and politely asked what the hubbub was about. As the man mumbled some more pejoratives, Jaco took matters into his own meaty hands.

“I said ‘You’re probably right,’” Jaco laughingly recounted. “Of everyone in this bar, you’re probably the only guy that can whip my ass. But please don’t.”

The protagonist lost his steam and quickly retreated. Jaco went back to doing what he does best, which is having a good time. “It takes a better man to walk away from bullshit,” he explained. “It wouldn’t have done me or anyone else any good to put that guy in his place.”

One can only wonder if that man ever realized how lucky he was that Jaco is so mild-mannered. A quarter of a century earlier, with no boxing experience whatsoever, Jaco utilized his rocket of a right hand to often knock out four men a night in Toughman competitions in and around his native Toledo, Ohio. Moreover, he is a veteran of 50 professional fights who, between 1981-94, had fought throughout the United States and in such diverse locales as China, Brazil, Denmark, Hungary, England, Germany, South Africa and Cameroon against such championship caliber opponents and top contenders as Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Buster Douglas, Tony Tucker, Oliver McCall, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, Mike Weaver, Alex Stewart, Alexander Zolkin, Bert Cooper, David Bey, Jose Ribalta, Elijah Tillery and Adilson Rodriguez.

“If I had been able to train properly, I could have been a lot more than a palooka,” said Jaco, who’s final ring tally was 24-25-1 (19 KOs). “I wasn’t just fighting. I was working, and also raising my two boys on my own. My record might not be great, but I always went down swinging, not running.”

Jaco only started boxing at the age of 24, when he was laid off from Interlaken Steel in his hometown. Like so many of his friends, he began working there straight out of high school and just assumed he’d be employed there for the next 40 years. After getting swept up in massive layoffs in 1979, Jaco, who by then had a wife and twin sons, Aaron and Adam, found himself in dire straits.

At the time the Toughman craze was sweeping the nation and Jaco, who was a natural athlete, was lured by the opportunity for quick money. Before long he developed such a fearsome reputation on the Midwest circuit that no one would fight him. His Toughman promoter, Art Dore, turned him pro in 1991, and Jaco won his first 12 fights, 10 by knockout. In his next bout Dore foolishly matched him with Carl “The Truth” Williams, a sensational amateur who was 10-0 as a pro. The much more experienced Williams stopped Jaco in the very first round.

“Williams was in the prime of his life,” said Jaco. “I was still learning. I shouldn’t have been fighting him, but didn’t know any better. He caught me in the body, and then an uppercut flattened me out. When the fight was stopped between rounds, I remember thinking, ‘What kind of shit is that? If you’re gonna stop the fight, stop it when I’m fighting, not resting.”

A few fights later, Jaco scored a seventh round TKO over previously unbeaten sensation Donovan (Razor) Ruddock in Canada, but the writing was on the wall. Jaco quickly became relegated to the role of an opponent, losing to Pierre Coetzer in South Africa, Tony Tucker in Monte Carlo, and a young, rampaging Mike Tyson in Albany, New York, in January 1986.

“I got a call a few days before to fight Kid Dynamite (Tyson) for $5000,” said Jaco. “I said ‘Hell, yeah’ because that was a lot of money to me.” All Jaco remembers of the fight is Tyson firing punches from all directions. “I got up from a knockdown and the ref was waving the fight over. I asked what he was doing, and I reminded him of the three knockdown rule. He said I just used all my knockdowns up. I thought I only went down twice.”

Jaco’s fight against Tyson was his most critical, for more than the obvious reasons. He arrived in Albany penniless, but took his earnings to Florida where he fought gamely to win custody of his sons from his troubled wife. He managed to do so and has never looked back.

“I left a blizzard in Toledo and arrived in Florida where it was 75 degrees,” said Jaco. “I immediately tracked down my kids and took them for a few months. I was feeding them, taking them to the beach to play football and swim. I was being their father, which was more important to me than anything.”

“When I first met Dave, the only thing he was concerned about was his kids,” said local Florida promoter Allan Hill. “He lived, breathed and would have died to get custody of those kids. He’s got the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.”

Years later, he experienced even more joy from the Tyson fight. Because he felt that he was short-changed by the promoter, he snatched both pairs of right hand gloves used in the bout and donated them to the Florida chapter of Project Rainbow, a national charity for terminally ill children. Unbeknownst to Jaco, his new friend Hill had bought them with the intention of giving them back encased in glass at some special time in the future. He recently did so at Jaco’s 50th birthday party. “It was one of the best presents I ever got,” said Jaco. “There are no words to describe what that meant to me.”

Jaco’s nominal record doesn’t begin to describe what a good fighter he genuinely was. What he managed to achieve with relatively no effort—like going the distance with Douglas and McCall—is extraordinary. Jaco took the fight with McCall just weeks after McCall was rumored to have dropped Tyson in a sparring session.

Hill, who was his cornerman for that fight, still marvels at Jaco’s nonchalance. “I’ve known Dave a long time and he’s the most easygoing guy I ever met,” said Hill. “McCall had been a sparring partner of Tyson’s, and rumor was he knocked Tyson down in the gym. None of that meant anything to Dave. Forty-five minutes before the fight, he said he was hungry. I told him to wait to eat until later, that we were fighting this killer in less than an hour. Did he listen? Of course not! He ate two hot dogs and drank two large cokes.”

“With relish, onions, mustard and ketchup,” added Jaco. “I was down about three times, but at one point I hit McCall with a right hand – my money shot – square in the face. Later, his trainer, Beau Williford, told me his eyes were kissing.”

Then there was the night in Bakersfield, California, in December 1988 when Foreman hit Jaco in the center of the back as he turned away from a punch. He thought his spinal column was crushed because the pain was so excruciating. “George is a nice guy, but a dirty fighter,” said Jaco. “After he hit me in the back, I felt my only chance was to punch with him. But who can punch with George and get away with it? He got me on the ropes, but my head felt like a tennis ball getting whacked around.”

The losses aside, Jaco beat a Florida-based Swedish Olympian named Haaken Brock, who was being groomed for stardom by none other than Angelo Dundee. He also blasted out a previously unbeaten Germany-based African named Michael (Big Boy) Simwelu in one round in Düsseldorf in March 1988. Afterwards he celebrated at a local bar, where he was encouraged to go on stage and sing a few songs.

“I drank about a bottle and a half of vodka, and thought I was crooning the crowd,” he recalled. “While I was singing, I took a fall and took the band out with me. My head was spinning so bad that I vomited about seven or eight times. Somehow I made it back to my hotel, but slept through my departure time for my flight home.”

While living in Florida, where Jaco was first employed as an appliance delivery man but now transports sickly patients to medical facilities, he was very active in his sons’ lives. He guided them both to numerous amateur titles, and while a series of injuries precluded Adam from turning pro, Aaron is a red-hot light heavyweight with a 13-0 (4 KOs) record. He has become a major draw in the Tampa area, where he regularly sells out the A La Carte Event Pavilion.

“My boy can fight, and he’s a lot more dedicated than I was,” said Jaco, who purposely stays out of his son’s boxing business, because he thinks that more often than not father/son boxing relationships have negative ramifications. “Down the road I see him making his name by beating someone like Antonio Tarver [who also hails from Florida]. My boy can fight, and he sure can sell out an arena.”

Although Jaco incurred 97 stitches, a broken cheekbone, two broken noses and numerous fractured ribs during his whirlwind career, he is very happy with the way things turned out. He and his second wife, Wynnah, have four beautiful daughters, Kaleigh, Brittany, Madison and Sydney, who range in age from 6 to11, and he coaches amateur boxers three times a week at the Manatee County Police Athletic League. For a guy that never got any breaks during his boxing career, he’s living a good life now.

“I got my ass kicked, but I kicked some ass, too,” Jaco said. “But I have a great wife, great kids, a great job and a new home. I never went to college, but made it through the school of hard knocks. You can’t judge a person by the color of their skin, their nationality, amount of education, or the size of the bank account. The best way to judge a man’s character is by the size of their heart. I’m not bragging or anything, but what I lacked in skill I more than made up for with heart. I’m very proud of that.”

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

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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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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