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Articles of 2005

Hatton Stops Tszyu in Stunner

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Many said that a Ricky Hatton win over Kostya Tszyu on June 4, 2005 could only happen once in a blue moon. Hatton’s ring entrance provided the blue moon, and Ricky provided the rest in the ring, as his swarming style and never ending work rate forced the long-reigning champion to retire on his stool after eleven completed rounds. His efforts earned him the IBF junior welterweight division, silencing millions of doubters in the process

Hatton promised a “subtle swarm” in the weeks leading up to the fight, which began at 2AM Manchester time, enabling the stateside fans to catch the action live on SHOWTIME. He stayed true to his word, landing shots from the outside and staying pinned to Tszyu’s chest to prevent the champ from getting off. While Tszyu had his share of success in several rounds, Hatton’s tactic for the most partworked. As the fight wore on, Hatton was the fresher and busier fighter. Tszyu was more accurate with his counter shots, but was forced to work much harder than he ever has in his thirteen-year career.

The early going suggested an ugly fight, with a lot of clinching going on in the opening round. Hatton was successful with his left hook early, but also mixed in a little too much roughhousing for referee Dave Parris’ liking. Parris warned Hatton early for hitting behind the head, as a rabbit punch landed for Hatton in one of many clinches.

After dealing with two rounds of Hatton’s smothering attack, Tszyu began to gauge his right hand in round three. Hatton continued to swarm, but was landing less as Tszyu found success with counter shots. Tszyu began working the body, looking to slow down the challenger nine years his junior. It didn’t work, as Hatton went right back to his high-octane rate in the fourth. Tszyu’s best moments were met with counter shots to the body, and looping rights which set up double left hooks downstairs and upstairs. After being warned for hitting on the break, Tszyu was caught with a short right hand by Hatton toward the end of the fourth. For the first time in his career, Kostya was down on the cards at the end of four rounds, and he began sensing that perhaps it just wouldn’t be his night.

“I was hurt early, and tired and exhausted as the fight went on,” revealed an ever-humble Tszyu at fight’s end. “I had a great training camp, and was in the best shape of my life. But something was wrong.”

Not to the sold-out crowd of 22,000. They cheered every move made by their hometown hero, and booed anything associated with Tszyu. They even booed the Australian National Anthem in the lone classless act of the evening. They otherwise remained civil throughout, and erupted at the start and end of every round.

Ricky gave them plenty of reason to cheer in the fifth round, his best of the evening to that point. In a bit of role reversal, Hatton was timing Tszyu’s shots and landing counters of his own throughout the round. He also enjoyed much success with a leaping left hook from the outside, which allowed him to work his way back inside. Such was Hatton’s game plan throughout, as he had no desire to become yet another Tszyu victim.

“Kostya has knocked out plenty of people who have given him the space to get off,” said Hatton, revealing what he was studying for months, and as late as the minutes before he began his walk to the ring. “Sharmba Mitchell, the great Zab Judah – they gave him just enough space to get wasted. My plan for months was to not allow him to get off, and I executed.”

That he did, but not before being forced to survive a Tszyu rally midway through. As Hatton showed signs of fatigue for the first time, Tszyu was dialing in with his right hand. Hatton still charged forward as he did all night, but was getting sloppy and missing far more than was the case earlier in the fight. Tszyu appeared to turn the tide big time toward round’s end. A big right hand landed for the champ, as did a debilitating body shot that crumpled Hatton to the canvas. The referee waved off the knockdown, ruling the shot a low blow. Replays showed that the shot was borderline and could be called either way. Regardless, Tszyu appeared to be very much back in the fight after seven completed rounds. He was ahead on two of the three unofficial ringside scorers selected by US-based network SHOWTIME, who carried the broadcast on this side of the Atlantic.

Hatton regained his form in the eighth, and save for a few Tszyu moments here and there, the 26-year-old seemed to take over for good. Hatton’s subtle swarm began to get the best of Tszyu, who pushed the challenger to the ground at one point in the eighth round. Kostya rallied back in the ninth in looking to keep up with his younger foe. His greatest success was to the body, though a series of shots late in the round strayed low. Referee Dave Parris warned Tszyu for the infraction before action resumed. Showing he was not to be intimidated, Hatton responded with a vicious left hook well below the belt. The shot forced Tszyu to his knees, and drew a warning from Parris, who threatened to take a point for the next foul. After a brief meeting in center ring, action resumed and Hatton landed a right just before the bell.

Tszyu started out strong to start the tenth, but consecutive leaping left hooks would turn things back in Ricky’s favor. Proving many critics wrong, Hatton actually became stronger – and the effective aggressor – as the fight wore on. Along with Hatton’s nonstop work rate, Tszyu was also forced to contend with a mouse under his left eye and apparent fatigue setting in. Tszyu was still scoring with his counter right, but now Hatton was responding with forceful combos in driving the champ to the ropes throughout the frame. As was the case in nearly every round, Hatton finished strong, again landing a right to end the round.

After eating a right hand to start the eleventh, Hatton charged forward and landed right hands of his own. Tszyu was forced to the ropes, and was running out of answers. Hatton’s speed and body work were far too much for Tszyu’s counters, as he seemed to put the icing on the cake with the fight heading into the final round as far as the cards were concerned. His corner would not allow him to coast, though.

“You can’t stop now, Ricky! BOX, BOX, BOX!”

Hatton never had the chance to carry out the instructions. While his corner was looking to end strong, a dejected Tszyu sat in the opposite corner as lead trainer Johnny Lewis shouted over his assistant, “You gotta stop it. No more … no more … no more.”

Referee Dave Parris respected Lewis’ wishes and waved the bout off prior to the start of the twelfth and final round. Hatton leaped off of his stool, before falling to the canvas flat on his back to the delight of the crowd. After celebrating with his parents at ringside, the winner and new champion grabbed the ring mic and thanked his fans for years of undying support.

“I always said I was number one,” exclaimed a thrilled yet humbled Hatton. “You the fans deserve this as much as me. There is only one word I can use for your support: legendary.”

The word could also describe Hatton’s performance, as he far exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. So brilliant were his efforts throughout, that he held a commanding lead on the cards at the time of the stoppage. Judge Don Ackerman had it 107-102, while Manuel Malitxalar had it two rounds closer at 105-104. Judge Alfred Asaro had it 106-103, same as TheSweetScience. Such was the second time in a decade Asaro participated in a huge upset in the UK; he served as third man for the brutally tragic war between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan in their February 1995 encounter in London.

It was the first time that Hatton fought in a fight of this magnitude. He never questioned his chances of pulling it off; all he wanted was the chance to do so.

“I’m just so humbled by what I achieved tonight. I knew I was ready for this step up,” insisted Hatton afterward. “I knew I was ready for this level. I’m only 26 and am starting to peak. It was the perfect time to catch him.”

He caught him at the right time, as Tszyu left the door open for a possible retirement.

“Right now, it’s just emotions, so I don’t want to answer,” said Tszyu when Showtime’s Al Bernstein posed the question. “I want to go home, rest, and then come back with a cool mind and answer that question. Tonight, I had no answers for Hatton. I thought I was three or four points behind at the end. Johnny (Lewis) suggested I stop the fight, and asked me if I wanted to continue. I offered no response, and he made the decision for me. I didn’t complain afterward, and won’t. (Hatton) worked very hard for this; he deserved the win. I offered my help to him for the future. I want to help the good guys.”

He can start with himself. If Tszyu does in fact retire, he can go out knowing his place in boxing history. He ranks as one of the greatest junior welterweights of all time. Some consider him the greatest; all consider him to be one of the classiest acts in the sport of boxing. Hatton also exuded class and took the time to honor Tszyu as a legend.

“If I can be half the champion that Kostya Tszyu was,” Hatton said, “then I will have a great career.”

It began tonight, with one of the greatest moments in British boxing history.

As has been the case all year, another great boxing moment was brought to you by SHOWTIME, along with Sky TV. The show was promoted by Frank Warren’s Sports Network and Vlad Warton’s Millennium Events.

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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