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Articles of 2005

Lamon Aimin’ for Respectability

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It’s not much fun being a heavyweight titlist these days. Long considered the glamour division of boxing, today’s model is hardly appealing. It even lacks the pleasant personality oft served as a consolation prize for those falling short in the looks department.

Those at the top of today’s heavyweight heap can be one of two things: a realist, or an idealist.

Most boxers today are idealists. They fail to see why the public is reluctant to embrace them, and more often than not overestimate their market value.

Regardless of your opinions about WBO heavyweight champion “Relentless” Lamon Brewster, he at least deserves credit for being a realist. So much so that chances are he’ll agree with your opinion about his achievements to date.

“I don’t ever downplay why heavyweights are looked down upon, myself included in that bunch,” admits Lamon, who prepares for his title defense against Andrew Golota this Saturday in Chicago (9:45PM ET/6:45PM PT, live on HBO). “I admit, if I was a boxing fan, I wouldn’t be very impressed either.”

His last two performances left plenty to be desired, but they weren’t lacking in heart.

It was far more will than skill that enabled Lamon to win the WBO title last April. A huge underdog going into his fight with former champ Wladimir Klitschko, Lamon knew his limitations going in – and the best way to work around them.

“The way I beat Klitschko certainly wasn’t the most glamorous way to get the job done,” Brewster admits. “My strategy was simple: I knew he’d try to overwhelm me, so I would let him burn himself out. Simply put, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

From the outside looking in, it appeared as if Brewster barely escaped by the skin of his teeth. Wlad did punch himself out, but not before landing everything but the kitchen sink through five rounds of action. Wlad’s offensive attack resulted in the first knockdown of Brewster’s career, but it wasn’t enough to put him away. As planned, Brewster took Wlad’s best – repeatedly – and jumped on him late in the fifth round. Wlad wound up crashing to the deck, partially due to Lamon’s power, the rest due to exhaustion. He never recovered, slowly staggering to his corner as referee Robert Byrd waved off the bout.

Brewster realized his longtime dream of becoming heavyweight champion. What he didn’t envision was his first defense posing a far greater challenge than that of Klitschko.

“I admit it, I made the mistake of taking on a friend for my first fight,” say Lamon of title challenger Kali Meehan from last September. The mistake in judgment nearly cost Brewster his title. In fact, many who watched the SHOWTIME card that evening thought the split decision verdict should have gone to Meehan. Whether or not Brewster agrees is irrelevant; he knows that the performance left a lot to be desired.

“The biggest mistake I made going into that fight was meeting with Kali beforehand and talking to his kids,” says Brewster about what he considers to be his least impressive win to date. “That just took the hunger out from inside me. I went into that fight not set in the right frame of mind. It took for him to bring the fight to me the way he did before I could finally wake up and do anything. It was just an off night. It was a lackluster performance, and I don’t blame fans one bit for criticizing me afterward.”

Brewster is hoping to change that by bringing a positive vibe back into both his career and the heavyweight division. There is no fear of letting friendship get in the way of his fight with Golota this weekend. They’re not friends (though certainly not bitter enemies). More importantly, Golota has something Brewster craves, name recognition and a newfound respect.

Lamon is anxious to fight in Chicago, where Andrew now lives and trains. Many view it as a hometown disadvantage. Lamon sees it as a homecoming.

“I’m definitely up for this one,” he says. “There’s no chance of feelings getting in the way here. I’ve been away from the Midwest for a while, but my heart will always belong here. Chicago isn’t that far from my old hometown of Indianapolis. Andrew will be bringing his fans from Chicago. I’ll be bringing mine from Indy. Fighting here isn’t as much of a disadvantage as people think. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.”

Lamon also looks forward to revisiting his roots. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Brewster long aspired to be a professional prizefighter. A brilliant amateur, Lamon’s only handicap was location; Indiana is hardly a boxing hotbed.

Wondering when his big break would come, fate would soon step in and lead the way.

“Of all the ways to wind up traveling,” recalls Brewster of his journey to Los Angeles, “the last place in the world I expected it would be at a family reunion. I went to my reunion with some high school friends, having a good time and all. There, one of my relatives wondered how she was getting back to California. Her mom was supposed to take her, but had fell of a ladder and broke her hip earlier in the week.” Brewster shrugged. “I felt bad for her.”

His sympathy led to a spur of the moment decision that would change his life.

“Out of nowhere, I was like ‘Alright, I’ll take you.’ The moment it came out of my mouth, I said to myself, ‘Dang, did I just say I’d take her to California?’ But I said I’d do it, and being from the Midwest, we mean what we say. So I followed through.

“Before we left, I decided to grab my boxing bag, and make it a one-way trip. I figured I had nothing to lose, so let me see what I could get going out there. I got there, people liked what they saw, and I’ve been in Los Angeles ever since.”

He liked it so much he finished out his amateur career, which soared to new heights. Brewster made it all the way to the Olympic Trials, before dropping a decision to eventual 1996 U.S. Olympian Nate Jones. He returned for the Olympic Challenges, where he was forced to settle for the silver as he dropped a decision to DaVaryll Williamson in the finals.

Turning pro soon thereafter, Brewster was an instant hit. He stopped his first eleven opponents, and rattled off twenty-three straight wins to start his career. He was so hot that the now defunct HBO series “KO Nation” scouted him out to appear in their inaugural episode.

Unfortunately, Lamon was anything but relentless the afternoon he fought Cliff Ettiene. He was humbled and dropped a very one-sided decision. His first loss was soon followed by his second loss, dropping a decision to Charles Shufford six months later. After starting out 23-0, Brewster was now one for his last three.

Beaten but not broken, Brewster kept his faith in the Lord and his fists. He traveled the low road back to contender status, still believing he’d fight for a world title one day.

“One thing I was always taught at an early age,” says Brewster, “is a simple quote in regard to patience: He who is patient shall eventually prosper.”

Prosper he did. A five fight win streak included a victory over Nate Jones to avenge a loss from the Olympic Trials. All five wins during the run came by knockout, before being named the WBO mandatory challenger. When Corrie Sanders gave up his belt in favor of a WBC title challenge, Brewster’s patience paid off big time. In he went against Klitschko, and the rest is history. Though so far, he prefers it to be the past, with the best yet to come.

“I know I have a lot more to offer this sport than what I’ve given so far,” says Lamon, who plans to start with an impressive showing in Chicago. “I know that people don’t believe in me just yet, and I don’t blame them.”

Nor does he blame the oddsmakers, who have him as a 12-5 underdog as of press time. But hey; it’s not the first time he played that role in a world title fight.

“I’m pretty sure the odds were greater that I would beat Klitschko.”

That is is true. But most will point to what it took for Lamon to prevail. Perhaps it can repeat in Chicago. Golota may have better stamina, but is certainly far less mentally stable. Combine that with Brewster’s inhuman ability to absorb punishment, and it’s not a stretch to suggest that Brewster once again beats the odds.

Lamon agrees, though not necessarily with the strategy.

“I don’t want to psyche myself up and automatically assume that he’ll fall apart. The problem with that is – what’s the plan if that doesn’t happen? Then I’d be sitting around without a backup plan, and eventually without my title. I know THAT is not happening, so instead I train as if he fights his A-game. If I trained any other way, I might as well just give him the title right now.”

Golota brought his A-game to his last two fights, and his career came back from the dead as a result. Many believe that Golota was robbed in his fights with Chris Byrd (a draw last April) and John Ruiz (points loss in November) last year. Such logic would mean that this fight would rightfully be for the WBA, IBF and WBO title. It would certainly help clear up the heavyweight picture, though Brewster believes that everyone just needs to offer more reason for fans to pay attention.

“What’s happening here is that there are too many different groups looking at one picture, and not all seeing the same thing,” suggests Brewster. “When Lewis was champ, there was only one person to turn to, and he wasn’t popular in the least bit.

“Now, yes you have four different champs. But with Vitali, he brings in the European fanbase, all claiming he’s the best. With Ruiz, you got the Latinos and East Coast cats claiming he’s the best. With Chris and me, we bring in the brothers, especially from the Midwest and our adopted homes (Las Vegas and Los Angeles, respectively) cutting for us. So, yes, the heavyweight picture is a bit muddy. But there’s also intrigue involved as a result. But what we need to do is get together and help clear it all up.”

What the division needs is a personality to turn to. Vitali is perceived as the leader, but has yet to connect with mainstream America the way many had optimistically – and prematurely – figured. More fans seem to loathe Ruiz than they do love him. As long as Byrd is feuding with King and fighting once or twice a year, he remains anonymous.

That leaves Lamon with a problem. In an era where trash talk and all forms of disrespect are celebrated, Brewster finds himself without much support in looking to offer a positive role model, in and out of the ring.

“The weird thing about sports, is that everything is the opposite. Bad is viewed upon as good, and being good is viewed as a weakness. It’s crazy today. But I pay it no mind. I was raised to be humble, and always exude class. Just be where you’re from. I try to bring class to this game, and pay my respects for those who paved the way before us. Boxing has enough controversy as it is. The more negativity brought to the sport, the more people will want to shut it down. Our pioneers worked too hard to keep the sport alive. That’s all I’m looking to do, and I’m not done yet.”

For his efforts, all Lamon asks is that you wait before writing him off.

“I know that my fights in 2004 left a lot to be desired. I know I could have done more, especially against Meehan. What I ask is that you don’t judge me just yet. I just won the title, just got my foot in the door. I may not make a lot of noise, because I’d rather speak in the ring, with my actions. Maybe that’s viewed as being weak, but I call it being myself. And I know that being myself will eventually get me to where I want to be.”

In the end, the meek shall inherit the earth. Or as Lamon would put it, the nice guy finishes first.

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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