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Articles of 2005

Can Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Jr. avoid the father-son pitfalls?

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With Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. kicking off his US farewell tour tonight, he has brought son Julio Jr. along for the ride. Junior has endured a frenetic pace in and out of the ring. Entering fight number nineteen in just twenty-one months as a pro, the younger Chavez appears on just about every conceivable card associated with Top Rank and/or Sycuan Ringside Promotions.

Inside the ring, Junior already possesses a rare gift; the ability to throw a high volume of punches with pinpoint accuracy. Some just let their hands go, throwing caution to the wind. Others prefer to employ a more economical route, picking their spots while expending very little energy. Julio Jr. is enjoying the best of both worlds, even if against the best competition the Midwestern fight circuit has to offer.

What counts is that Junior is growing before his father’s eyes. Already disproving the myth that he is just a sideshow attraction milking the family name, Julio Jr. is already threatening to become his own boxing dynasty as he improves in ability and notoriety with each fight.

So far, the father-son relationship within the sport has been solid for the Chavez clan. El Gran Campeon has been content allowing others to handle his son’s career, as he prepares for the final chapter in his own career. Junior is doing his part to uphold the family name, and Senior has been in tip-top physical and fighting shape ever since his May 28 fight with Ivan Robinson was announced some two months ago.

But the question remains: how active of a role will Senior demand once he puts an end to his own legendary career?

Plenty of great fighters have attempted to keep their father or siblings in their corner throughout their career. Some were content with allowing their bloodlines to get them through the front door, though deep down longing for their father’s support. Others wished their fathers would stay out of their business, yet never stop trying to seek their approval.

The most recent father-son relationship to hit the crapper would be that of Felix Trinidad Jr and Sr. Unlike most father-son collaborations, theirs managed to work throughout Tito’s incredible career. Don Felix, a former journeyman featherweight, spent the early portion of Tito’s run limited to training and advising. Beyond the ropes, the younger Trinidad was free to live as he pleased, so long as he lived clean and showed up for training.

That lasted until Don Felix believed that promoter Don King was holding back his son. Taking on a more vocal role in his son’s career, papa Felix had Tito break from King’s stable, in search of marquee fights. The move led to Tito’s HBO debut in late 1995, though it was short-lived. After knocking on Larry Barnes in a co-feature with Pernell Whitaker’s title defense against Jake Rodriguez in Atlantic City in November 1995, Team Trinidad looked to move to the next stage; a super fight with Whitaker and the seven-figure payday to go along with it.

Main Events paused at both. Don Felix did not; he immediately packed his bags and took his son back to King, where a new contract was negotiated. Naturally, King promised the world. Once settled in, Trinidad quickly discovered that the penthouse with an ocean view turned out to be a studio overlooking the back alley.

After another threat to jump ship, the two Don’s once again worked out details. Only this time, Don Felix knew better than to take King’s word at face value. After a pair of 1999 fights on HBO, Papa Felix threatened to pull the plug on a super fight with Oscar de la Hoya unless King kept his cut limited to $2 million of their proposed $10.5 million purse. Through those negotiations would begin the legend of Don Felix, shrewd businessman. Without even threatening to sue, Papa Trinidad got what he wanted; a super fight for his son, and King to accept a hard cap on his take.

Once Tito escaped Vegas with a majority decision in handing Oscar his first career loss, Don Felix would tighten up the reins. Once a fighter who always ran late because he never met an autograph seeker he didn’t satisfy, Tito would no longer enjoy such access to the free world outside the ropes. Public appearances were kept to a minimum, even during down time. Joining a promotion for any given fight was now out of the question. You have questions; Don Felix would answer them for you.

Financially, the shrewd business tactics reaped major benefits. From the de la Hoya fight to the Hopkins fight two years later, Tito would earn $45 million in a span of just six fights. Once limited to Showtime co-features and PPV under cards, five out of Tito’s six fights from September 1999 to September 2001 were PPV headliners.

Technique-wise, Tito suffered. Having now conquered his third weight class, Trinidad fell in love with his two-fisted power. Perhaps for good reason; in winning three titles at two weight classes in a four-fight span, Trinidad scored three knockouts and eleven knockdowns in thirty-four rounds of work. What became ignored during that stretch was the fact that Tito could be easily outboxed when his opponents weren’t busy peeling themselves off of the canvas.

The decline in ring smarts reared its ugly head big time when middleweight ruler Bernard Hopkins wiped the floor with Trinidad in their September 2001 encounter. Tito had no answers for The Executioner, and Don Felix had no worthwhile advice to give his son. All he could do was rescue Tito from a career-worst beating, climbing into the ring upon a twelfth-round knockdown when he realized his son was a beaten man who refused to give up.

After a rehab win at home, Trinidad retired. At the time, it seemed to be for good. But the lure of big money paydays and bright lights prompted arguably the greatest fighter in Puerto Rican boxing history to return to the ring. Again, it was Don Felix starting and confirming the rumors, as rarely an interview involving Tito actually featured Tito. It was Don Felix speaking for his son, or standing in front of his son on the occasion Tito was granted public access.

A comeback fight against human punching bag Ricardo Mayorga offered the illusion that Trinidad reverted back to the boxer-puncher of the mid-nineties. But one fight later, slick southpaw Winky Wright would once again bring forth the truth; a technically sound boxer owns Trinidad all night every night.

After twelve rounds and a mere fifty-eight punches landed, Trinidad contemplated retirement, though left the window open for a rematch with Wright, as per the rematch clause in their contract. That window was slammed shut when Papa Felix decided that he was forever done as a trainer, that he had nothing left to offer his son or the sport.

Many would argue that Tito would be better off without his father, who long ago seemed to take him as far as he could skills-wise. Instead, Tito honored his own word that he would start with his father and end with his father. Whether or not he could bounce back from the loss was now irrelevant; Don Felix sealed his son’s fate the moment he announced his own retirement.

One son who refused to be shackled by his father’s handcuffs would be Roy Jones Jr. Easily the most physically gifted fighter of the past thirty years, Jones rode a wave of momentum and sympathy in his dominance in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. Having served on the business end of the worst decision in Olympic Boxing history, Roy settled for a bronze medal and the Val Baker Most Outstanding Boxer award at the games before turning pro.

The world knew the truth; Jones deserved the gold. NBC agreed, as they signed the teenage phenomenon to an exclusive deal in the beginning of his career. All they asked was that Jones progressively fought a respectable level of competition on his rise to the top.

Roy Jones Sr. had other ideas. He decided that his son would take no risks on his run to the top. Perhaps it was payback for being robbed in Seoul, South Korea. Perhaps he lost confidence in his son’s ability to impress all the people all the time. Whatever the case, his caution-at-every-turn approach led to NBC telling the Jones clan to take a hike, as they terminated the contract.

The incident would not be the first between the two Roy’s, as things never got better. Having already made far more of a name for himself than his father could ever dream of during a failed attempt at a pro career, Roy grew increasingly impatient with his father’s approach to his son’s career. They disagreed on everything from opponent selection to how to handle southpaws (despite the fact that Roy had yet to face on as a pro at that point).

Eventually, the younger Jones realized that in order to maximize his incredible potential, he would have to find a way to ditch his Dad without straining their relationship. He was forced to settle for one out of two. He broke free from his father, but wound up enjoying the prime years of his legendary career alone. The move allowed Roy to become his own boss, as he started up Square Ring, Inc. once he conquered the middleweight and super middleweight divisions. He was also forced to become his own teacher, as it took years for he and his father to eventually reconcile.

Shane and Jack Mosley went in the opposite direction. As long as Shane was a fighter, his father was always in his corner. Sure, Shane visited other gyms and learned from other trainers. But come fight night, it was one voice, one familiar face always in his corner.

As he tore through the lightweight division, very few doubted Jack’s credentials. So impressive was his run, that many in the boxing industry believed “power-boxing” to be the wave of the future. Jack even parlayed his son’s success into a Trainer of the Year award at one point.

But once Shane started losing, Jack’s credibility would be questioned at every turn. What else do you have to offer once power-boxing fails? Very little, as Shane went over two years without registering a win during once stretch. In fact, his lone win between July 2001 and November 2004 came via controversial fashion in a rematch with Oscar de la Hoya.

Shane refused to believe it was due to his father’s lack of worthwhile advice. But once Winky Wright dominated him in their March 2003 undisputed junior middleweight showdown, Shane knew that a change was necessary. Jack understood, at least in public. Behind the scenes, many believed that Shane’s wife was pulling the strings, adding a new twist to the family boxing business angle.

Whatever the case, Shane would enter the Wright rematch in November of that year with a different trainer in his corner for the first time in his twelve-year career. In was Joe Goossen, though the results weren’t much different. Shane dropped a majority decision, though offering a far better performance than in the first fight. What was also apparent was the upgrade in advice offered between rounds; Goossen never shied away from letting Shane know when to pick it up, and also knew how to compliment Shane without allowing to settle for good enough.

Oddly enough, Shane decided that further change was necessary. Geography was offered as the reason for the supposedly amicable split. Shane preferred Big Bear, while Goossen liked his fighters to train in his Van Nuys (CA)-based boot camp. Shane moved on, but not back to Jack. Despite the fact that Jack was active as a trainer (having recently served in the corner for Paul Briggs’ failed light heavyweight title attempt versus Tomasz Adamek), Shane opted for a new face; former middleweight titlist John David Jackson. So far in 2005, Shane has as many wins as he earned in the last three years with his father in his corner.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. so far has eighteen wins. The difference between him and all of the aforementioned is that his father does not appear in his corner between rounds. Yes, Julio Senior can be seen by his son’s side during promotional tours, and even accompanying his son into the ring. But well before the bell rings, Senior is already out of the picture. Shortly before his son climbs those three steps up, Chavez exits stage left to his ringside seat.

For the moment, he lends his name and face to the party in allowing his son additional exposure. Let’s hope once his own career finally comes to an end, Julio Sr. continues to accept such a role. Julio Sr. is already a huge part of boxing history in a career that will forever be remembered.

Here’s to hoping it’s not the only part of boxing history he does not ignore.

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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