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Articles of 2005

Analyzing Trinidad-Wright, with a Bit of “Body Shots” Thrown In for Good Measure

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I had the opportunity to see both Felix Trinidad and Winky Wright very early in their careers. In fact, I called some of their early fights for television. In Trinidad's case I was a bit distracted because on both broadcasts I did with him, he was appearing as part of a much bigger event. The first time was in June of 1991, when heavyweight Jorge Luis Gonzalez, a Cuban defector, was making his pro debut. Gonzalez's maiden voyage carried with it quite a bit of hype, as he had been a Pan Am Games champion, beating Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis on consecutive nights, and the fight was being held in Miami. He drew a huge crowd for that bout, which was kind of rare for Miami. Trinidad fought Manuel Salas, who he dispatched in five rounds, but it didn't make a vivid impression on me.

Trinidad fought another prelim in Miami in October of '91. This time the main event featured Eusebio Pedroza making a comeback after five years off, so again, that's where all the focus was. I know that Trinidad brought a heavy reputation with him out of Puerto Rico, and the show's promoters told me to keep an eye on him. But the fact that he took out a pedestrian opponent named Lorenzo Bouie within one round didn't give me much time to make an evaluation.

As for Wright, he was one of a number of fighters being brought along by a Tampa-based promoter named Phil Alessi. He had come to St. Petersburg from Washington, DC, where he had put together a decorated amateur career, and because Alessi wasn't particularly interested taking risks with his fighters, Wright's slate of opponents in his first fifteen fights was somewhat less than ordinary. He outclassed these guys, of course, but he wasn't blowing too many of them away, and wasn't blowing away the audience either. Against people like Stedroy Bolus, Rocky Fabrizzio, Lennell Strohman and, yes, the same Lorenzo Bouie Trinidad took out in one round just three months later (Wright won a dull six-round decision), he simply needed to look better. And I wasn't shy about saying so during the Prime Network broadcasts on which Wright appeared. I thought Wright was being lazy, considering his level of talent, and I actually liked another welterweight that was coming up at the same time – John Coward – a little better (Coward ruined his career with drug use after compiling an 18-0-1 record).

That didn't sit well with Dan Birmingham, who trained Winky then and who still trains him today. I suppose he thought that since Sunshine Network, which was producing the fights (distributed by Prime Network) had an output deal with Alessi Promotions, the telecasts should be in some way an arm of the promotion. I say I “suppose” he thought that because he never really confronted me face-to-face about it. One day I showed up at the weigh-in for a fight we were televising and was immediately pulled aside, one at a time, by no less than seven different people, all of whom told me that Birmingham had complained to everybody he could find – the promoter, the matchmaker, a few managers, my broadcast partner, and the network people – about the way I was talking about his fighter during the telecasts. I wasn't spewing the correct “company line.” He felt it didn't sound good that I was being “critical” and that I should be “promoting” Alessi's fighters, particularly the Alessi fighter that was trained by one Dan Birmingham.

All of these people told me Birmingham was trying to get me removed from the broadcast team. All of them took credit for helping me “save” my job. By the time I got to the seventh person, I was looking over at Birmingham, who was standing against the wall, and said, “You know, that's funny. I've now been here all this time and he hasn't approached ME about it.”

This whole thing came as a big surprise and a bigger disappointment, since I had been friendly with Birmingham, going back to when I was first working in boxing on a full-time basis and he was doing roofing jobs during the day, and then training amateurs at night. I was also a little annoyed at this point. If I had a job that had to be “saved' over something as stupid as this, I didn't want it. So I went to the only person who really mattered – the producer of the telecast – and asked him what was going on. All he told me, basically, was, who the hell is Dan Birmingham and where in the world did a guy he never met before get the nerve to think he could control what came out of a color commentator's mouth?

End of story.

For the record, no one took Birmingham's side on the issue – not the promoter, not the matchmaker, not the other handlers, not the television people. Not anybody. And again, for the record, if Birmingham had a problem, he has, to this day, still never confronted me about it.

But Dan showed us who the hell he was after all, didn't he? He's got himself a world champion, featured in a “mega” fight, and just this past week he won a “Trainer of the Year” award from a group of voters who may or may not have forgotten who Buddy McGirt is.

Incidentally, as for my early criticism of Winky Wright, I still stand by it.

Of course, only a fool would contend that Wright hasn't made monster progress since those first dozen or so fights. He's worked his way up the hard way, and deserves to be in this position. Naturally, Trinidad has progressed a great deal as well; after all, I actually notice him now. The question is: who's progressed the most?

I see Wright having a hard time winning this fight. Both he and Trinidad have moved up in weight, but Felix has been at it a little longer. And Winky doesn't pack a whole bunch of KO power, which I think is what someone needs to have to keep Trinidad off him, at least to prevent him from firing shots with impunity. Wright is not a dancer. Sure, I think some movement is in his game plan, but it's not as if he is going to be traveling about the ring enough to frustrate Trinidad, as Oscar De la Hoya did for so many rounds. The truth is that Wright is most comfortable standing in front of his opponent and using good defense and countering to his advantage.

But Trinidad has the ability to punch through all that.

He's also economical with his punches, a wee bit like Joe Louis was. He couldn't make a dent in a more natural middleweight standout like Bernard Hopkins, but he can certainly deal out some punishment to a fighter – even one as good as Winky Wright – who is moving up in weight. How's Winky's chin at 160 pounds?

There are obviously prices all over the internet on the exact outcome. At Diamond Sports International (DSI) you can get Trinidad at +180 to win by decision, and +195 to win inside the distance. Wright is +210 to capture a decision and +650 to score a win by KO, TKO or disqualification. At Pinnacle Sports, Trinidad is +235 to notch a win before the final bell and +195 to win a decision, while Wright is +595 and +310, respectively, for the same results.

As of this morning, the best prices I was able to find on Trinidad were -167 at Intertops, -182 at SportsInteraction, -197 at Pinnacle, and -200 at DSI. At some of the other sportsbooks, Trinidad action which has moved the price a bit; for example, Trinidad is -227 at William Hill and -225 at Ladbrokes, SportingOdds, BlueSQ.com and BetInternet.com. That's not the case everywhere. In a Don King press release, Robert Walker, the sports book manager at the MGM/Mirage in Las Vegas, said, “I made Trinidad minus 150. All the early money has been on Trinidad. In the last two or three days, all the money has come in on Winky Wright and the number is now minus 170 on Trinidad and plus 150 on Wright. There is a lot of sentiment for Winky Wright in this fight.  The fight was at 2-1 at one time.” Walker also said his establishment has at least a few six-figure bets on the fight.

Wright is getting a price of +182 at Pinnacle, with +180 at Olympic Sports and +175 at SportingOdds and SportingBet.com. Most of what else is out there is in the +160 to +170 range.

Round betting is available at a limited number of outlets. BetDirect has Trinidad at 40-1 to knock out Wright in the first round, and 20-1 to win each of the Rounds 4-10. Wright is 66-1 to stop Trinidad in each round from 5-11. He's 100-1 to win in the first round and 80-1 in the second, third and fourth. StanJames.com has Winky at 66-1 for the fifth-round knockout, but just 50-1 for all rounds from 5 to 11. Tito is 33-1 for a first-round win, down to 16-1 for Rounds 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

The over/under is solidly at 11.5 rounds, which essentially offers the proposition as to whether the fight will go the distance or not. The over is the favorite, with a high of -172 at Bet365 and a low (at least among those books we surveyed) of -135 at Olympic Sports. You can get a takeback on the under of +137 at Pinnacle and +135 at 5Dimes.

In explaining why the over/under figure is that high, Walker says, “I think they will go the distance in this fight. These guys don’t go down.”

Well, maybe down, but probably not out. That's why perhaps the figure of +195 for Trinidad to win a decision is the route that brings the most value. And the 40-1 prices on a knockout in Rounds 1 and 2 (available at Victor Chandler) are an interesting indulgence, just to take a shot.

Zab Judah defends his welterweight title against Cosme Rivera on the undercard. Judah is a very decisive favorite; Victor Chandler and William Hill are both offering -909 on him, with a takeback of +800 available at Olympic Sports, DSI and SportsInteraction. Wagering on Judah at SportsInteraction wouldn't be advisable, though – you'd have to lay 100-1.

The over/under for Judah-Rivera is 10.5 rounds. At Bet365 the over is favored to the tune of -125/-116 (that's not a typo; you have to lay a price either way). But at DSI the under is a favorite (-125, with -105 on the over).

Action is being offered on undercard fights as well. At Olympic Sports, which customarily carries a lot of boxing lines, Victor Burgos (-350) is favored over Will Grigsby (+280) in an IBF junior flyweight title fight; Michael Clark is a -120/+100 choice over Sirimongkol Singwangcha  in lightweight action (seems Olympic is following Pinnacle to some extent in tightening up the lines); Junior featherweight Danny Romero (-415) gets a clear nod over Alex Baba (+355), and Randy Griffin is a slight (-115/-105) favorite over Mohammad Said in a super middleweight fight.

For the fantasy sportsbook game at Wannamakeabet.com, I compiled an over/under of 122,000 pay-per-view buys on this fight (-125 on the over, +115 on the under). We'll see if Winky can win the fight AND the fans.

(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to promote the violation of any state or federal laws. Odds posted were current as of early Saturday morning. Numbers naturally are subject to change, so check first with each individual sportsbook.)

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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