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Articles of 2005

Nicolino Locche: The Best 140 Pound Technician in History



At the moment, the junior welterweight division is the toughest and most talent-laden division in boxing. During the month of June, all four 140 pound belt holders are scheduled to defend their titles. On June 4, Kostya Tszyu faces Ricky Hatton in Manchester, England for the IBF version of the crown. On June 11, Miguel Cotto defends the WBO belt at Madison Square Garden against former amateur nemesis Muhammad Abdullaev. On June 25, Arturo Gatti defends the WBC belt in Atlantic City against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Vivian Harris will also be defending the WBA title against Carlos Maussa on the undercard of Gatti-Mayweather.

Last year, Aaron Pryor complained to me that one of the problems in the division was that the best weren’t fighting the best. I certainly agreed with his assessment at the time. However, in 2005 we seem to be moving in the right direction, and it seems possible that we’ll find out who the best 140 pound fighter in the world is sometime during 2006.

On most pound-for-pound lists, Floyd Mayweather Jr. occupies the number two slot behind Bernard Hopkins. Mayweather may not currently hold a belt at 140 pounds, but he is the best pure technician in the ring today. He possesses blinding hand and foot speed, and is difficult to tag cleanly even when he’s standing in the danger zone directly in front of his opponent.

When the dust clears, many believe he’ll emerge as the true champion at 140. If Floyd is successful against Gatti, and ultimately emerges as the undisputed champion at 140 pounds, boxing historians will certainly rank him amongst the absolute elite in junior welterweight history because he fought during an era when 140 pounds was considered the toughest division in boxing. It is indeed a tall task and a much tougher endeavor than he faced at 130 and 135 pounds.

Mayweather would agree with that assessment. Nevertheless, despite the fact that he should be considered among history’s elite at 140 if he prevails, he still won’t be the best pure technician in junior welterweight history. To find the most elusive technician in 140 pound history you have to go all the way to Argentina. That seems a little strange, because Argentina is known for tough, macho brawlers like Bonavena, Firpo and Galindez. Monzon was a master at 160 pounds, but he was a standup boxer puncher; not a defensive phantom. The sweetest sweet scientist at 140 pounds in boxing history is Nicolino “El Intocable” Locche.

Nicolino Locche was born on September 2, 1939 in Tunuyan, Mendoza, Argentina. He turned professional in 1958 after a 122 bout amateur career where he only lost five fights. Like many great South American fighters, Locche was inordinately active early in his career. He started as a lightweight and labored long and hard while making his bones against rough competition. In his twenty-sixth pro fight, Locche won the Argentine lightweight title in 1961 with a 12-round decision over 90-bout veteran Jaime Gine.

Just five years into his career in 1963, Locche sported a record of 38-1-7 and a startling 432 rounds of ring activity when he won the South American lightweight title from Sebastio Nascimento in Buenos Aires. Locche lost the South American lightweight title via a twelve round decision to Abel Laudonio in 1964, but regained the title from Laudinio the following year. Locche vacated the South American title in 1966, and began competing as a junior welterweight.

Just before vacating the South American lightweight title, Locche fought to a ten-round draw with the great Carlos Ortiz at Luna Park in Buenos Aires in April 1966. After the Ortiz draw, Locche won a stunning 28 consecutive bouts before battling to an eight-round draw with Anibal Di Lella in October 1968.

Two months after the draw with Di Lella, Locche was granted a title shot against WBA light welterweight champion Takeshi Fuji. Despite rarely fighting outside of South America, Locche was completely unperturbed by fighting on Fuji’s home turf of Tokyo, Japan.

Over nine one-sided rounds, Locche feinted, slipped and counterpunched the aggressive Fuji into submission. Locche’s performance against Fuji was the most unique display of pure ring generalship in junior welterweight history. Locche rarely utilized lateral movement during the bout, and used immaculate economy of motion and upper body movement to slip Fuji’s power shots while landing left hooks, right hands and uppercuts of his own. At times Fuji was visibly frustrated and befuddled, and roughly backed Locche into the ropes and corners with hopes of stifling Locche’s masterful counters. Much to his chagrin, Fuji’s could only strike air, as Locche ducked, pivoted, and countered Fuji silly at close quarters.

After the ninth round, Fuji’s corner called a halt to the action, and Locche won his first world title. I never saw Floyd Mayweather Jr. or James Toney do it better. More importantly, I never saw Wilfred Benitez do it with such classical, textbook mastery.

At the time Locche unseated Fuji as the WBA titleholder, “El Intocable” had an unconscionable 989 rounds of ring activity and a record of 90-2-14.

Over the next four years, Locche successfully defended his title five times, and was undefeated in eleven non-title bouts. Locche’s most notable defense was against the young, fresh, hard-punching Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes in 1971. Locche clearly outpointed the future Hall of Famer over 15 rounds.

Locche ultimately lost his title to Alfonso “Peppermint” Fraser on a 15 round decision in March 1972. Frazer lost the title to Cervantes later that year on a tenth round knockout.

Locche attempted to regain the title from Cervantes on March 17, 1973 in Maracay, Venezuela. Locche was 33 years old with over 1,000 rounds of ring activity under his belt. He was balding and battle scarred. Albeit far past his prime, Locche used all his tricks to neutralize and frustrate the great Cervantes during much of their bout. At times Locche would stand directly in front Kid Pambele with his hands at his sides and easily slip razor sharp four and five punch combinations from the 27-year-old champion. Steadfast and patient, Cervantes kept pecking away, opened a cut early in the bout, and methodically gained control as the ring worn Locche began to tire. After the ninth round, the cut was deemed too severe for Nicolino to continue, and Locche suffered the first stoppage loss of his 127 bout career.

After the fight was stopped, Locche passionately pleaded for the bout to continue. Cervantes was definitely in control at the time of the stoppage, but Locche was unhurt and never in serious trouble. In tears, Nicolino had to be restrained by his cornermen as he refused to accept defeat.

Locche was inactive for two years after his loss to Cervantes. He was never able to secure another title shot for the remainder of his career. Amazingly, from August 1975 through August 1976, Locche closed his career on a seven bout winning streak. His final record was a stunning 117-4-14 (14 KOs).

To understand Locche’s greatness, one must realize that Locche was a defensive savant with no punching power. Even great Hall of Fame fighters like Joe Brown, Carlos Ortiz and Ismael Laguna couldn’t get the better of him, even though Nicolino wasn’t an offensive threat. As mentioned above, Locche battled Ortiz to a draw in 1966. Locche won a ten-round decision over Brown in 1963. Locche and Laguna fought to a draw in 1965.

Locche exemplified the true art and craft of boxing. He could find subtle angles to pile up points despite not being naturally gifted with unusual hand and foot speed. More interestingly, by the end of Locche’s 18-year career, he had compiled over 1,300 rounds of ring activity, but was a known chain smoker. Locche was an anomalous fighter like Willie Pep who made it look easy against the best. Like Pep, Locche was able to compete at the elite level over multiple decades because he mastered the fundamentals of the game and possessed abnormal ring intelligence. In my opinion, Pep and Locche are the two top defensive fighters in boxing history.

Locche was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. Obviously, Locche’s induction was long overdue. Perhaps one of the reasons for Locche’s delayed induction was because he was a South American fighter who rarely ventured to foreign locales, and thus wasn’t given the proper exposure over the course of his long and distinguished career.

Locche currently resides in Argentina. Due to years of chain-smoking, Locche has experienced cardiac and respiratory problems over the last decade. In 2004, Locche was in the intensive care unit of an Argentine hospital, but reportedly has stabilized over the past year. Tobacco has proven to be the only opponent he couldn’t evade.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More



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

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights




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



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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