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Articles of 2005

“Irish” Pat Lawlor Won’t Quit

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This week’s feature on “Irish” Pat Lawlor of San Francisco, California, is the second profile of a colorful Irish or Irish-American boxer to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. The 41-year-old Lawlor, who turned pro in October 1987, recently embarked on an ill-advised comeback after a nearly three year hiatus from the ring. Although he began his career with 12 straight wins, his record now stands at an unenviable 23-16-1 (7 KOs). Always known for his candor, wit, and outspokenness, there is no question that Lawlor always has, and always will, march to the sound of his own drummer.

Lawlor is much too intelligent to not know that his best days are behind him and they are not coming back. A few years ago he published a heart wrenching poem that described his rise from the relative poverty in San Francisco’s Sunset District to personally lead a fistic renaissance in the City by the Bay, to his downward spiral into the role of a well-traveled, but always lovable, and extremely quotable, loser. The poem began:

Sometimes I think it’s a lowdown shame
The way I try to hang in this rough, crazy game
My body is aching
My hands and feet are sore
I’m getting really tired of pulling myself off the floor

That was only the beginning, and the dirge-like poem didn’t get any more positive by its end. Back in 1990-91, Lawlor had beaten legendary champions Wilfred Benitez and Roberto Duran in consecutive bouts, but not much had gone his way since then. By 2000 he was clinging to those victories as proof positive that he was still a viable opponent for any up and comer who wanted an established name on his resume.

In many ways his victories over those Hall of Fame champions was more of a curse than a blessing. Once he beat them, he outgrew his San Francisco roots, where he regularly drew more than 8,000 fans to the Civic Auditorium, and started losing with aplomb all over the world. Among the champions, contenders and prospects who beat him were John David Jackson in San Francisco, Terry Norris in Las Vegas, Hector Camacho in Mississippi, Dana Rosenblatt in Connecticut, Joe Calzaghe in Wales, Duran in a 2000 rematch in Panama, Rudy Markussen in Denmark, Jurgen Brahmer in Germany, Vinny Paz in Rhode Island, and Bryant Brannon in Philadelphia. Lawlor finally retired, presumably for good, in June 2002, after being stopped in two rounds by undefeated Librado Andrade in Ontario, California.

“I had enough,” Lawlor said then. “I feel like a whore being put out by a pimp. My body’s being put through the ringer. I’m a fighter, I always will be, but enough is enough.”

Not surprisingly, enough was not enough, and Lawlor, who turned pro as a welterweight, was back in the ring at The Shark Tank in San Jose on February 3, 2005. Weighing a career-high 195 pounds, he huffed and puffed his way to a four round draw with previously undefeated Paul Vasquez, who was 3-0 going into the bout.

Although Lawlor hasn’t shed any pounds since then, he has a plan that he is determined to put into action. Because he has fought opponents who held titles in every weight class from super featherweight (Camacho) to super middleweight (Calzaghe), he is certain he will set some kind of record if he fights Evander Holyfield, who began his career as a light heavyweight and held the cruiserweight title before becoming a multi-term heavyweight champion.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and closed mouths don’t get fed,” explained Lawlor. “This is a win-win fight for Holyfield. I was a light puncher at the lighter weights, and I’m still a light puncher. Holyfield has to believe I can’t hurt him. So he gets, in his mind, an easy victory, and I get to make history.”

Lawlor’s plan doesn’t stop there. Believing that he could be competitive, if not victorious over Holyfield, he would like to parlay that bout into a match with none other than Mike Tyson. “There’s no way I’m going to beat Mike Tyson, even I know that,” said Lawlor. “Holyfield’s an old slow guy, so maybe I’d have a chance with a little preparation. But I’d love the opportunity to throw some leather on Tyson. That would have even more historical significance.”

Lawlor’s girlfriend, Taina Steinberg, whom he also calls his best friend, wholeheartedly disagrees with Lawlor’s plans, but knows that she has little power to stop him from doing anything he puts his mind to.

“At one time Pat was young and in great shape,” she said. “Now he’s not. I don’t want him to fight, and he knows that. I was very happy when he was inactive the past few years. All you hear is stories of fighters who didn’t stop when they should have. Now he’s chasing this record. Who cares if he fights all these fighters from different divisions? In the grand scheme of things, is it really important?”

To Lawlor, it most certainly is. Like so many other fighters on the flip side of 40, he doesn’t have a lot of other options. For a while he was a Teamster who set up staging areas at conventions, but that job slipped through his fingers. Then he conducted property inspections, snapping photos for title companies. Now he plans on becoming a pest control specialist, and is preparing for the 157 question licensing exam. Not surprisingly, however, he just can’t get boxing out of his system.

Believe it or not, Lawlor’s reputation as a fighter was actually once eclipsed by his outspokenness on unrelated matters, both small and large. Back in his glory days he used his immense popularity to run for mayor of  the ultra-liberal San Francisco on an arch-conservative, anti-gay platform. He vowed to return the city to its blue-collar, workingman roots. Utilizing the slogan, “If you’re mad as hell and want to holler, put in your vote for Irish Pat Lawlor,” the neophyte politician was a walking, talking sound byte machine.

The press initially embraced the idiosyncratic candidate, but Lawlor says they turned on him like rabid dogs when his campaign started to pick up stream. They were frightened off, he says, by the immense grassroots support he was generating. “I got disgusted with the press after that, and rarely read newspapers these days,” he explained. “There was a point where, for several years, I wouldn’t read them all.”

When asked about the recent controversy involving San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, who was allowing gay marriages in defiance of federal law, Lawlor called him “a closet homo” and described the same-sex marriage issue as “annoying.” He said he also has to stop with the “Jew jokes and the queer jokes,” because he has no hatred in his heart, and the modern version of himself is a lot mellower than the younger.

“All I want to do is set this record, get my pest control license, and live and let live,” he said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to see me fight. My ten-year-old daughter Sarah (from a previous relationship) is always asking me about Alzheimer’s, so someone’s talking to her. I want to leave something for her. Even if it’s not money, at least it could be some kind of legacy.”

Lawlor will be working the phones this week, trying to line up the fight with Holyfield. Whether or not he is successful is anyone’s guess. Amazingly, as erratic and delusional as many of his ideas sound, he is actually no less quirky than he was a decade ago. Lawlor will always be an iconoclast who refuses to see things through anyone’s eyes but his own.

When it was suggested that he might be better off forgoing Holyfield and spending more time preparing for his pest control licensing exam, his answer was vintage Irish Pat. “Rats, roaches and termites aren’t going anywhere,” he said. “They’ll always be around, even long after Holyfield and Tyson are gone.”

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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