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Articles of 2005

The Life and Rhymes of Don Majeski

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The first piece of real estate Don Majeski ever bought was a gravesite at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Astoria, Queens. It cost him $2,000, quite a bit of money, but at least he could stop worrying about where he would be buried.

Fatalists are rampant in boxing, and Majeski, a man who greets disaster with a brush of his hand, is a cynic in a business full of cliff-jumpers. In boxing, the glass really is half empty.

“You hear all these horror stories about great old guys in boxing who died broke and had to be buried by someone else,” Majeski said. “At least now I’ll be able to bury myself.”

Don Majeski is a fight agent. Fight agents are a tenuous group who come in many shapes and sizes. Take Johnny Bos, who dresses in fur coats, wears enough chains to be considered a direct relative of Mr. T, and is so good at making fights it has allowed him to scratch out a living in boxing.

Majeski is a bit different from Bos. Majeski works with fighters by choosing their opponents, pushing them politically with the sanctioning bodies, and selling their television rights to cable networks. He also cuts deals in all-night diners at five in the morning, flies around the country on impulse because it means closing a deal, and he has been hired by everyone from Don King to Butch Lewis. Along the way, he has blown a few million dollar deals, had his electricity shut off because of unpaid bills, and rebounded to become ubiquitous in a business that eats people and spits them back out into 9 to 5s.

As a sign of his success, he recently bought a house in College Point, Queens, which for a traveling salesman like Majeski is the same as being handed the keys to the city.

“In this game, you never wake up secure,” he said. “It’s like being an actor – no matter how successful you are, the poverty line is right there,” he said, pointing to a spot just below his chin. “This is not a structured business. You’re living by the seat of your pants. You’re always hustling, trying to come up with an idea of how to make money.”

Majeski wakes to go to work when most people are picking up their lunch tabs. The first thing he does is make calls to his contacts around the world. Those calls lead to more calls and soon he is picking up clients at the airport and crashing important meetings. The day is an endless game of solving problems, chasing deals and having dinners that seem to bisect with the morning after. His clients include the promoter Wilfred Sauerland, InterBox, a Canadian based company, and Gym Promotions, a German outfit and all their fighters.

“You get a call from a promoter from Canada who wants you to buy ringside tickets for someone,” he said. “Then you get a call from a promoter in France saying: ‘You know, we filed for this income tax return on this fighter who fought here two years ago and we never got these back. Can you follow up on this for us?’ Then somebody calls you up saying: ‘We’re looking for information on the original Joe Walcott.’ Then you look up something for them. Things just pop up and you react.”

Majeski, an almost scholarly-looking nebbish, defies the image of the cigar-chomping street hustler who makes his living strong-arming and greasing the right people. That’s an outdated stereotype gleamed from the 1950s. Majeski, 52, is slightly built and boyish and can sit back and talk about almost anything, from the theater to zoology to politics. His speech is a rapid cadence of hops and skips, almost breathless in its delivery. If he was in politics (Washington politics) he could filibuster for hours.

According to people who know him, Majeski is an expert at lobbying sanctioning bodies on behalf of fighters. When Oliver McCall defeated Lennox Lewis to win the WBC heavyweight championship in 1994, Majeski went to the WBC and convinced its president, Jose Sulaiman, to let Lewis fight an eliminator bout against Lionel Butler for the opportunity to challenge McCall again. Lewis TKOed Butler and beat McCall and Majeski cut a deal with Lewis that gave him a percentage of his earnings every time he fought.

“If I had one person to turn to as a source of information in boxing, Don Majeski would be that person,” said Greg Juckett, the editor of Boxing Digest, which Majeski has written for on occasion. “There are guys who know boxing history, and there are guys who know up-to-the-minute stuff about what is going on. Don is a cutting-edge boxing guy. He knows all the current movers and shakers, all the people in the European and Canadian boxing scene. He simply knows everyone.”

Majeski grew up in Elmhurst, Queens in the early 1960s. At first, the ever curious Majeski had designs on becoming a zoologist, but that changed when he saw Muhammad Ali defeat Sonny Liston in 1964. Everything became background noise after that.

“I would say to my teacher in high school, ‘I want to become a boxing promoter. Can you teach me?’” asked Majeski. “They didn’t know what to say. I wrote an essay on [former heavyweight champion] Ezzard Charles on my algebra Regents exam because I knew nothing about algebra. But I knew a lot about Ezzard Charles.”

Majeski got his start, if you can call it that, selling fight programs outside Madison Square Garden in the mid ’60s. By the time he was in high school, he was working for Burt Sugar, who had just taken over Boxing Illustrated in 1970.

Majeski swept the floors and wrote the obituaries. He spoke a little Spanish, so Sugar made him his Latin American correspondent, flying him all over the world to cover fights. With his mother working for the airlines, Majeski flew for free, and it was on these trips that he began making the contacts that would set the stage for his career in boxing.

“I said, ‘This is for me. I’m in this business for the duration.' That was the epiphany for me.”

Majeski was hanging out at nightclubs with fight manager friends while he was a student at Queens College. He switched to Hostos Community College where he took a job as a cashier at a café across the street from Yankee Stadium. His first week there, a newspaper offered him a plane ticket to cover Ali-Foreman in Zaire; Majeski told his boss the café business would have to wait and off he went to Africa. It was the closest he ever came to holding down a traditional job.

Majeski has worked in New Mexico and Australia for Don King and Butch Lewis. He has been to the old Madison Square Garden on 49th Street and to Gleason’s Gym when it was in the Bronx. He has traveled to Nat Fleisher’s office at Ring Magazine and to Teddy Brenner’s office in the Garden. He has observed firsthand how boxing has changed from a loosely organize social club to a fairly conventionally run business.

“They were remnants of an old era,” Majeski said of how it used to be in boxing. “I would go to Gleason’s and someone would say: ‘Hey Don, what are you doing, nothing?’ Then go write a press release and handle this club fight.’”

Now, he says, the people who run boxing have law degrees and doctorates and accents that don’t quite fit in this proletariat sport. They are television executives who rush to work so they can check their stock quotes. It’s a world Majeski has adapted to but one he wishes was more like the old days.

“When I have an early meeting and I get down into the subway, and I look at all the people fighting and killing themselves to get on a train, so they can get to an office ten minutes late, so their boss can rake the hell out of them and dock their salary – if I had to do that for forty years, I would be a dead man.”

At least he has the gravesite in Astoria.

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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