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Articles of 2005

Antonio Tarver: Life is Unfair



Life is often counterintuitive. Today, corporate chiefs reap massively disproportionate rewards through golden parachute clauses even if they ruin the financial lives of stockholders. Moreover, their hardworking, loyal employees sometimes get the shaft in surprise layoffs and unfunded pensions. It’s the survival of the fittest, and even the most disciplined and focused get the short end of the stick despite doing everything they’re asked to accomplish. If you’re on the labor side of the equation in Corporate America, you’re at a structural disadvantage. A stable, honest job can be hard to find and hard to keep. Today, college age children are often urged to pursue solid computer science degrees with starting salaries of $60,000. If they work hard and make the right contacts, they should reap what they sow. Unfortunately, in an age of increased outsourcing and globalization, multi-billionaire Microsoft moguls Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer now heavily recruit talent from foreign countries. Another brilliant and controversial multi-billionaire, Oracle chief Lawrence Ellison, has openly admitted that recruiting efforts for software talent are focused outside of the United States more than ever as well. A lot of those good paying software jobs have been shipped to India. In today’s corporate world, Johnny got outsourced before he even graduated.

Life is unfair.

Similarly, but infinitely more brutal, being on the labor side of the equation, boxing often carries unnecessarily complex ramifications and connotations. The life of being the managed instead of the manager is raft with more pitfalls than triumphs in boxing. Promoters and managers walk away with significant chunks of money, and the fighter often doesn’t know how much they’re making in the process. Many boxers end up on the skids wondering not what opponent hit them, but how their money and health deteriorated so fast.

Since late 2003, Antonio Tarver has emerged upon the boxing scene in a refreshing an unprecedented way. In his first fight with Roy Jones, he took Jones to places he’d never been before. Roy had to dig deep not only to win, but to survive. Many boxing people, including Antonio, thought Jones didn’t win. Most didn’t expect Tarver to be a big challenge for Jones in the first place, either. Jones was riding the crest of the wave off of his win over John Ruiz, and Tarver just seemed to be another notch in the belt as Jones was beginning to plan and execute the risk and rewards of closing out his career. To see Roy Jones bite down on his mouthpiece and gut out the final rounds of a tough war was something boxing fans wanted to see for a while. Montell Griffin was giving Roy a very difficult time in March 1997 before Roy gained control of the bout, but was eventually disqualified. A few months later, Roy erased all doubts about his status and dominance in their rematch when he destroyed Griffin in one brutal round. Most boxing pundits, including myself, thought Roy would be better prepared for the Tarver rematch, and “The Magic Man” would magically disappear early in the fight just as Griffin did.

We were wrong.

Antonio Tarver’s one punch KO of Roy Jones on May 15, 2004 was one of the most significant events and accomplishments by any boxer in this decade. No controversy, no excuses, or post-fight urinalysis issues. Simply put, Roy Jones got clocked. I was in disbelief, and watched the KO several times into the wee hours of May 16. I hadn’t watched an upset KO repeatedly into the early morning hours since George Foreman’s right hand landed on Michael Moorer almost ten years before. The end was so abrupt and complete, it was hard to fathom. Roy Jones’ market value popped like a dot com balloon, and Tarver’s market value increased like Apple Computer when the iPod hit the shelves.

In boxing, however, success is often a quarterly phenomenon. If you don’t plan and execute consistently, fans will sell you out just like stockholders will sell their stock when they don’t think they’re investing in a sure thing. Tarver hit it big with his win over Jones, but his market value plummeted during a year when he should’ve garnered Fighter of the Year honors because he didn’t continue to cultivate his skills or keep an eye on the competition. Tarver, despite possessing superb one punch knockout power, was unexpectedly out-hustled in a controversial decision to then-journeyman Glencoffe Johnson on December 18, 2004.

Not surprisingly, when Tarver lost to Johnson, many automatically questioned the authenticity of this win over Jones. Johnson, a journeyman with a 41-9-2 record at the time of their first bout, was able to starch Jones as well, and Tarver’s biggest career win was devalued accordingly. Boxer’s reap what they sow if they’re lucky. Antonio was not only devalued by fans, but was reportedly having financial problems as well. The Magic Man was back on square one.

In the months following Tarver’s controversial loss to Johnson, he was uncharacteristically quiet. Some interpreted Tarver’s silence as that of a man who was not only a one hit wonder, but also as a fighter who was exposed as an insignificant belt-holder who couldn’t deal with luck and success. In reality, Tarver was on a mission of redemption. He was able to secure a rematch with Johnson, and went to work like a true pro.

When he stepped into the ring in Memphis on June 18, he was a more focused and better prepared fighter than the Tarver we saw a week before Christmas last year. I scored the rematch 117-111. I also felt as though Antonio might’ve been able to stop the concrete-jawed and iron-willed Johnson if he would’ve sat down on his punches more and applied quantity instead of quality. Regardless of the nature of the win, Antonio’s stock should’ve been rejuvenated. But, ironically, Antonio’s market value and leverage aren’t what they should be, and his prospects for the future are both unnecessarily complex and tricky.

First, Tarver-Johnson 2 wasn’t deemed worthy of pay-per-view status. It turned out to be a good action fight, but the outcome was definitive. Many fans don’t think the outcome of a rubber match would be much different. Therefore, Tarver’s search for a high yield opportunity in his division appears fleeting. To make matters worse, Roy Jones’ market value is at an all-time low, so securing a meaningful rubber match with Roy is virtually out of the question. Roy is a businessman first and a fighter second, and the risks and rewards associated with facing Tarver again don’t fit into the mindset of Roy Jones, regardless of any rhetoric we might hear from Tarver’s fellow Floridian. The light heavyweight division is currently as anemic in talent as the middleweight division was just one year ago. Options are limited.

Speaking of middleweights, if Bernard Hopkins gets by Jermain Taylor in a few weeks, I actually don’t believe Bernard will pursue a mega-bout with Tarver. Antonio is a huge light heavyweight, and I think Bernard was rooting loudly for Glencoffe Johnson on June 18, if he was considering a move up to 175 to close out his astonishing and circuitous journey from ex-convict to all-time great middleweight champion.

On a different note, even though Antonio is a big light heavyweight, moving up in weight appears to possess diluted options as well. A bout with cruiserweight king Jean-Marc Mormeck would be interesting only to hardcore fans, and few would watch it. A move to heavyweight probably carries more risks than rewards.

Antonio Tarver has done everything that’s been asked of him. He’s beaten every fighter he’s ever faced. He’s clearly and sometimes dramatically avenged his three career defeats. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. After his rematch win over Johnson, boxing fans weren’t discussing how he would do against Foster, Conn, Moore or Spinks. Like other boxing writers, I believe if he would’ve knocked Johnson cold like he did Jones in their rematch, his place in light heavyweight boxing history and contemporary marketability would’ve been more compelling. Instead, he merely did what odds makers expected him to do: Avenge a defeat.

Antonio Tarver is at a strange fork in the road that shouldn’t exist. His choices should be simple, and he should reap significant dividends. In the next few months, Tarver and his team will have to do some creative and innovative marketing to land a big payday and a signature win before the ubiquitous reality of Father Time looms like the Grim Reaper. Otherwise, he’ll go down in history as just another belt-holder in a lost era, and a fighter who never captured the imagination of the boxing historians and the buying public.

Boxing, like life, is unfair.

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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