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Articles of 2005

Tarver Outworks Johnson to Regain Light Heavyweight Crown in Classic Sequel

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The rematch lived up to their classic encounter, as Antonio Tarver and Glengoffe Johnson gave the rabid crowd at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN plenty to cheer about throughout their twelve round battle. In the end, Tarver lived up to his reputation for getting it right in rematches, He outfought Johnson over twelve grueling rounds to earn a unanimous decision and second run as light heavyweight champion.

The first round suggested that the rematch would fall far short of expectations, but turned out to be the lone round featuring little action. Johnson started out in the first thirty seconds with the same swarming style he displayed in the first fight. It was the only action offered through the first half of the round, which played out as a posing contest. Tarver found the range with his straight left, and dropped enough on Johnson to take an otherwise uneventful round

The second round – and the rest of the fight – proved to be the complete opposite. The frame offered plenty of two-way action throughout. Johnson started out strong, working his way inside. Tarver used his straight left to keep Johnson on the outside and on the defensive. Johnson turned the tide midway through the round before Tarver closed the round strong. Unlike the first fight, Tarver was putting away rounds early rather than play catch-up late.

The action did not slow down in round three, a round that allowed Johnson right back into the fight. Tarver was still effective with his straight left, as well as his uppercut, but unlike the first two rounds, Johnson did not remain on the defensive. He instead responded every time with flurries, which caused Tarver to stop punching. The same occurred through the fourth round, only Tarver enjoyed much more success in the first half of the round to take it, which was the general consensus among those in press row. Despite the strong start, Tarver could not keep the pressure on throughout. Johnson conceded the round, but snatched the momentum with a big flurry toward at the bell.

The reigning light heavyweight champ carried it over into the fifth round, with a digging body attack and relentless pressure. For the first time in the fight, Johnson was landing the heavier blows. Tarver made sure to change that in the sixth round, though not before absorbing more punishment to the body early. Antonio took Johnson’s best, and began dialing in with his power toward the second half of the round.

Momentum once again shifted in the seventh. Johnson stalked Tarver throughout the round, with Tarver offering little more than a jab while spending the entire frame in retreat. If his reaction in between rounds was any indication, it was due to exhaustion. Tarver returned to his corner at the end of the seventh round huffing and puffing. Johnson didn’t give him a moment to breathe in the eighth, drawing ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd of 12,123 with his nonstop pressure.

Tarver looked to will his way back into the fight in the ninth round. Still visibly winded, Tarver elected to stand his ground and sit down on his punches more. Johnson steadily charged forward, but Tarver made him pay with left hand shots. The two traded shots in what appeared to be the closest round of the fight, though Team Tarver knew the momentum was shifting their way.

“I told Antonio that Glen was hurt far more than he was letting on,” said McGirt at the post-fight press conference. “Every time Glen fought back, it was because he was hurt. I give him all the credit in the world. He’s a tough son of a gun. I just kept telling Antonio to stay on his a**, that it was the only way he’d walk out with a win.”

More of the same transpired in the tenth. Tarver was far busier in the frame than had been the case since the early going, but Johnson was right there with him every step of the way. The two fought inside a phone booth for the entire round, but Tarver was able to rally with a late flurry. It was enough to draw chants of “Tarver, Tarver” at round’s end.

“Hearing the cheers in the crowd late in the fight made me feel good,” admitted Tarver. “Most of the crowd was pulling for Johnson early, and pulling for me late. It pumped me up when I needed the lift the most.”

Looking to put the fight away, Tarver came out gunning once the fight entered the championship rounds. He nearly punched himself out, as Johnson ate it all and rallied right back. Refusing to back down, Tarver came right back with heavy artillery of his own. This time, he did run out of gas. Johnson turned the tide in his favor big time, with Tarver forced to hold on several occasions. Johnson failed to land that one final shot to put him away, but did enough to bring the Memphis crowd back on his side heading into the final round.

Tarver started the twelfth with a big flurry, but spent the rest of the round clinching any time Johnson worked his way inside. It was a smart move on the part of Tarver, who was clearly out of gas. The fans didn’t appreciate the strategy too much, but it wound up working perfectly for Antonio, who literally held on to his lead until the bell ending the bout.

The judges were unanimous, with David Hudson and John Rubin scoring it 116-112. Rocky Young had it a round closer at 115-113. Scorecards were all over the place in press row, though most seemed to lean toward the winner and now two-time consensus light heavyweight champion. Both were classy in assessing the twelve round war.

“I really had to bite down and do it all to put on a performance like this,” admitted Tarver, now 23-3 (18 KOs). “I was in much better shape for this fight. Glen is real tough; he is a pit-bull and I had to tame him tonight. We had two great fights and can have a third one – for more money, HBO!”

One of the classiest personalities in the sport, Johnson (42-10-2, 28 KOs) was congratulatory in defeat, his first in six fights. 

“I have no excuses,” said 2004’s Fighter of the Year. “He ducked under every time I set myself, and I had to readjust myself. If HBO liked the fight, I am willing to go again. He was the better man tonight.”

Both were fantastic, and well-deserving of a lucrative rubber match. Tarver left the door open for a trilogy – be it against Johnson, or against Roy Jones, who was at ringside serving as color commentator. Tarver let Roy know of his plans and of the new light heavyweight picture.

“Everyone kept insisting that my knockout over Roy was a fluke,” said Tarver in revealing what he told Roy at fight’s end. “I told Roy, ‘Look, I went to war with this cat on December 18. I went to war again exactly six months later. Glen Johnson is a damn good fighter. His knockout over you was no fluke, nor was mine. Glen is that good, and tonight I proved to be a little bit better. Right now, it’s my division.’”

And on this Father’s Day weekend, he earned the right to be called The Big Daddy of the division.

In the co-feature, Ike Quartey rallied strong in the final round to pull out a razor thin unanimous decision over former junior middleweight titlist Verno Phillips. The two fighters are only separated by two days in age, and wound up separated by a single point when all was said and done in a wild junior middleweight fight.

After a slow start, Ike came back stronger in round two, drawing a reaction from the crowd in dropping a big right hand. Phillips’ mouthpiece came out shortly thereafter. When referee Randy Phillips called time, Quartey seemed to lose any momentum he had, as Phillips dominated the rest of the round. He carried it over into the beginning of the third before Quartey finally was able to land combinations, Phillips remained the busier of the two, but Quartey’s power made the difference for the first time in the fight.

The momentum shifted Quartey’s way, as he was able to work his way inside. Phillips’ activity level dropped, and Ike’s picked up, landing several big right hands throughout the round. The output level seemed to take a bit out of Quartey, as he slowed down in the fifth. Phillips looked to capitalize, but appeared a bit gassed himself, as he was wild with overhand rights. Quartey was able to land enough power shots to win the round.

Rounds six through eight became a reversal in roles. Quartey continuously walked down Phillips with the heavier artillery and higher output, while Phillips slowed and was reduced to one shot at a time. The closest Verno offered in competitive action during that stretch was when he and Ike exchanged pushdowns in the eighth round. By rounds end, it was clear that Phillips needed to land something big to win the fight.

He managed that midway through the ninth round, as a big left hook sent Quartey crashing to the deck. The Ghanaian arose midway through the count, but was on wobbly legs. Phillips could not finish him, though. Instead, he allowed Quartey back into the fight, as Ike nearly brought the round back to 10-9 with heavy shots in Phillips’ corner. Verno took it and gave back plenty in return. A huge flurry toward the end of the round sent Quartey to the canvas for a second time. However, referee Randy Phillips blew the call, ruling it a slip.

The oversight turned out to be the difference on the scorecards, though Phillips didn’t help his cause in conceding the final round to Quartey. Phillips was effective in spurts, but Quartey landed the much heavier blows throughout the round. He ended the fight with a huge flurry along the ropes, in effect putting the icing on the cake.

Judges Gerald Deming (95-94), Bruce Foster (95-94) and Alex McCallum (96-93) all scored the bout for Quartey, though a second knockdown call in the ninth round would have resulted in a majority draw. Instead, Quartey earns his second win into his comeback and his first significant win in over eight years. He improves to 36-2-1 (30 KOs). Phillips falls to 38-10-1 (20 KOs).

The two bouts were carried by HBO’s World Championship Boxing series. The card was promoted by Goossen-Tutor Promotions, in association with Star Boxing, Prize Fight Promotions, DiBella Entertainment and Banner Promotions.

Undercard results: 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward (4-0, 2 KOs) scored a third round stoppage over Ben Aragon (4-3-1, 4 KOs). Ward boxed smartly in the opening round, and wobbled Aragon late in the second. A right-left combo had Aragon out on his feet, prompting the referee to stop the contest at 0:59 into the third … Ann Wolfe (20-1, 17 KOs) teed off on familiar foe Marsha Valley (10-11-4, 4 KOs), stopping her at 1:17 into the sixth round. Wolfe won every second of the fight before scoring a pair of knockdowns in the sixth, the second forcing the referee to stop the mismatch. Wolfe previously twice stopped Valley in 2002 (TKO10, TKO6) … Former lightweight titlist Lakva Sim (20-4-1, 17 KOs) stopped divisional trialhorse Shawn Simmons (26-14-1, 16 KOs) 1:15 into round two … Vinny Maddalone stopped hopelessly overmatched Dennis McKinney in the third round of their heavyweight contest … Anthony Peterson (9-0, 6 KOs) stopped previously unbeaten Anthony Middlebrooks (3-1, 3 KOs) twenty-six seconds into the fight. His brother Lamont Peterson (11-0, 6 KOs) needed a few more rounds, as he took out John Frazier in four rounds. Lamont scored two knockdowns in the opening round before stopping him three rounds later … Donnell Wiggins stopped overmatched Norman Johnson at 1:19 into round three. Wiggins scored two knockdowns en route to the stoppage … Rayonta Whitfield remained unbeaten, stopping local featherweightTerrance Roy (6-13) 2:40 into the third round … Murfreesboro (TN) heavyweight Adam Richards opened the show with a first rounds stoppage over Covington (TN) journeyman Tyrone Muex (10-24-3, 3 KOs).

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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