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Articles of 2005

Moore vs. Durelle 2: The Night Sugar Ray Robinson Got Lucky

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Tonight on HBO, Antonio Tarver and Glencoffe Johnson square off once again to determine who is the best 175-pound fighter in the world. The first fight was a tough ebb and flow battle, and equally tough to score. I’m glad both put the alphabets to the side where they belong, and I’m glad they’re stepping up to the plate again. The stakes for this battle are higher than the first fight. The winner will likely take on Bernard Hopkins if Hopkins can get by Jermain Taylor on July 16, or engage in another bout with Roy Jones.

Both possibilities equal significant box office appeal, but I believe a proposed bout with Hopkins is far more intriguing and lucrative. Jones is coming off back-to-back KO losses to both men, and his stock in the eyes of the boxing public has plummeted. Conversely, a middleweight champion like Hopkins stepping directly up to 175 to challenge the best light heavyweight champion in the world is quite rare. Hopkins is also a rarity. He is 40 years old and currently considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by most experts.

Realistically, these are tricky and treacherous waters for even the inordinately bright and resourceful Hopkins. Bernard has been a nonconformist gambler throughout much of his career, and this gamble might prove to be as volatile as a North Philly dice game. Historically, middleweight champions typically don’t do well against light heavyweight champions. Additionally, Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler remained at 160 for their entire careers instead of testing the waters against Foster and Spinks, respectively. The odds just don’t look appealing at first glance. Tarver is a huge light heavyweight with one punch knockout power. Johnson is the more preferred opponent than Tarver, but he is more seasoned, stronger, and better than he was when he was TKO’d by Hopkins at 160 pounds eight years ago.

To complicate matters, Bernard fought at 177 pounds in his first professional loss. After his first loss, he took time off, regrouped, and hooked up with Bouie Fisher. He gradually melted down to middleweight after he and Fisher determined that light heavyweight and super middleweight weren’t the optimal weight classes for The Executioner.

It’s a tough endeavor from multiple perspectives. As Bernard has hinted recently, perhaps rematching the depleted Jones might be the better route.

In 1952, Sugar Ray Robinson stepped up to challenge light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim. Maxim was a solid light heavyweight champion, but not one of the best in history. Robinson outboxed Maxim in the searing heat, and appeared to be on his way to a 15 round unanimous decision. Unfortunately, Robinson didn’t pace himself well, and suffered from heat prostration during the bout. He couldn’t answer the bell for the fourteenth round. Robinson was far ahead on all cards at the time of the stoppage. The tallies read 10-3, 9-3-1 and 7-3-3.

Robinson retired after the bout, but returned to the ring in 1955. He won the middleweight championship three more times before the end of his career, but never challenged for the light heavyweight championship again. What many don’t know is that Robinson actually came close to challenging for the light heavyweight title in 1959, but the contracts never got signed to make it happen. Perhaps subconsciously, Robinson knew 175 was a bridge too far.

In 1958, Archie Moore and Yvon Durelle engaged in one of the greatest fights of all time. In my opinion, Moore vs. Durelle 1 is the standard by which great fights are measured. By contemporary standards, the fight would’ve ended in the first round. Durelle brutally deposited Moore on the deck three times in the first round and had him in deep and dire straights.

In the following rounds, Moore used all of his tricks, traps and experience to work his way back into the fight, but teetered on the brink of defeat once again when Durelle put him down for the fourth time in the fifth round. Moore weathered the onslaught, and gradually established control when he put Durelle down for the first time in the seventh round.

Moore mixed up his attack and used more angles to daze and dumbfound the battered Durelle in the following rounds. After suffering successive knockdowns, Durelle took a ten-count in the eleventh round. In total, eight knockdowns occurred in the fight. The bout defined brutality, skill and will. Archie later called it his finest hour. Boxing writers agreed. The middle-aged Moore was named Fighter of the Year and was awarded the Edward J. Neil Trophy.

Regardless of the outcome, although the younger Durelle was on the losing end of the war, the physical toll might prove to be more taxing on the older Moore. A rematch was a natural, but it almost didn’t happen.

After the first Durelle fight, Sugar Ray Robinson invited Archie Moore and his wife, Joan, to his house for dinner. The two had been friendly over the years, but Archie had a premonition that there was more to the dinner invitation than meets the eye. Archie had heard rumors around town that Sugar Ray wanted to fight him. In Moore’s autobiography, Any Boy Can: The Archie Moore Story, the Ol’ Mongoose described his meeting with Robinson.

After dinner, Sugar Ray asked to speak with Archie in private, and the men convened in a separate room. Archie knew this wasn’t a simple and friendly after dinner chat. As the two men departed, Archie addressed Sugar Ray as Walker, because he knew that penetrated Sugar Ray’s psyche just as much as Ali was perturbed when opponents referred to him as Clay. Archie cut to the chase and asked Ray what was on his mind.

Sugar Ray abruptly but politely asked Archie if he wanted to fight him. In the form of a savvy, true counterpuncher, Moore “nonchalantly” replied that he “wouldn’t mind.”

As many know, Sugar Ray Robinson made Oscar De La Hoya look like Mahatma Gandhi at the negotiating table. From the beginning of the negotiation process with Moore, Sugar Ray put himself in charge of the financial details, and attempted to dictate terms to Ageless Archie. Specifically, Robinson and Moore would each be guaranteed $500,000, and they would be fighting exclusively for Archie’s light heavyweight title. Archie realized he couldn’t melt down to 160 pounds, and didn’t see a problem with the bout being for his title only. However, he knew there was more behind the details with the proposed guarantee of $500,000.

Moore proved to be a better negotiating opponent than Robinson realized. Moore inquired about theater television incentives, and Ray quickly stated, “That’s included in the half million you get.”

Moore instantly replied, “I understand that. The price is right, Ray. But inasmuch as we can’t walk away with that half-million each, why don’t we work out a deal with those people where we could invest $250,000 of our purse in the theater television? This would set us up economically for life.”

Robinson was emphatic and unyielding. His reply was visceral and unequivocal. “They won’t do it!. They won’t do it!”

The negotiation ended there. Moore felt something was wrong, and detailed his thoughts in retrospect.

“Well, I was surprised that Ray could answer my question before he had even discussed it with his people. How did he know what they would or wouldn’t do? This was the first time it had been proposed to him, and he tells me flat-out that they wouldn’t go for it. Well, I didn’t like that, so I accepted an offer of $250,000 to fight a rematch with Durelle instead of waiting around on Robinson. This kind of made Ray mad, but if he would have at least talked to the theater-television people about this and given them my proposition, I would have gone for the deal even if they had refused. I just didn’t like the idea of his flat refusal to even approach them with my proposition. And so that is why I never fought Sugar Ray, and I’m sorry about that because I think that we could have made boxing history. I felt sure that I could have beaten him, and he probably felt the same way about me, and that’s the way he should have felt. If he had taken up my suggestion and the television people had gone for my idea, we both could have been rich men today. But anyway, I still like Sugar Ray Robinson. I think he’s a great guy and a great boxer.”

On August 12, 1959 Archie Moore met Durelle in their rematch in Montreal. Moore deemed their first fight his finest hour, and it’s hard to dispute his assertion considering that he overcame extreme adversity in a historic battle. Truthfully, I don’t believe this was the best Archie Moore we ever saw.

The Archie Moore who met Durelle in the rematch was a better and sharper version of the Ol’ Mongoose than we saw in his self-proclaimed finest hour. His reflexes, timing, defense and tactics were far superior to his previous performance against the rugged, hard-punching Canadian. To this day, I haven’t seen a tape of Moore looking better than in his rematch with Durelle. He simply blew Durelle out of the water. He was in complete control from the opening bell, and blasted Durelle to the canvas several times in the third round to end the bout. His hand speed was that of man twenty years younger, but coupled with the ring knowledge of an old-time trainer.  In short, it was a mind-boggling display of ring artistry.

If Sugar Ray Robinson would’ve met Archie Moore in 1959, I strongly believe he would’ve been knocked out. I don’t believe Moore would’ve gotten to Robinson as early as he did Durelle. I believe Archie would’ve set some traps, lured Robinson into a false sense of security, and knocked him out in the mid-to-late rounds. Moore’s punching power and craftiness would’ve been too much.

Even though he was in his mid-forties, Archie exhibited less wear and tear than Sugar Ray in 1959. Robinson was 39 years old and coming off his two epic battles with Carmen Basilio. After the Basilio wars, he was never really the same. He scored a second round knockout over hapless Paul Young in 1959, and then lost his middleweight title to Paul Pender in 1960. He lost a rematch with Pender later that year, and drew with Gene Fullmer in his next fight. Fullmer successfully defended his title against Robinson again on March 4, 1961. Robinson never challenged for a title again.

In my opinion, Sugar Ray Robinson was lucky he allowed negotiations with Moore to break down, because his second shot at the light heavyweight title would’ve proven to be more disastrous than his first foray with Maxim. As stated above, Robinson retired for a few years after losing to Maxim. I believe the Archie Moore who destroyed Yvon Durelle in their rematch would’ve retired Sugar Ray Robinson for good. 

If Bernard Hopkins prevails over Jermain Taylor next month, it is a given that negotiations with the winner of Johnson vs. Tarver 2 will be contentious. Bernard is known for being difficult at the negotiating table, and with Oscar De La Hoya at his side, Bernard’s proposed take will probably be bigger than what he collected for his 19th defense against De La Hoya last year. Before Bernard starts planning his negotiating attack with Oscar, both should study boxing history first. Even the great Sugar Ray Robinson came up short both against a middle tier champion like Joey Maxim. He also came up short at the negotiating table with Archie Moore.

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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