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Articles of 2005

Clemency for Tim “Doc” Anderson

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On May 16, 1996, after a jury trial in the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange County, Florida, onetime journeyman heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson, who had fought the likes of George Foreman and Larry Holmes in compiling a 27-16-1 (13 KOs) record, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Anderson never denied shooting his former promoter, the 6’4”, 343-pound Rick Parker – who was generally regarded in boxing circles, and beyond, as being disreputable, corrupt and dangerous – nine times in Room 250 of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Orlando on April 28, 1995. But his reasons for doing so have raised an array of questions related to his being found guilty of such a serious offense.

At least two jurors have publicly expressed outrage over the fact that they were never told that mandatory sentencing guidelines would keep Anderson in prison forever. If they had known that, they said, their verdict would have been altogether different.

“Immediately after reaching our verdict, another unanimous decision was made,” wrote jury foreman Vincent Runfola in a letter to the Judge Richard Conrad. “We were all going to write you a letter during the pre-sentence investigation requesting leniency for Mr. Anderson. We now know that we never had that chance. Most of the jury members walked out of the courtroom feeling blindsided and misled.”

“Once we agreed on the verdict, many of us cried and silence filled the room for what seemed like an eternity,” wrote juror Felicia Walters. “It was then that we all decided to write you a letter, prior to Mr. Anderson’s sentencing, to request leniency. At the time, we had no idea that upon returning to the courtroom that Mr. Anderson would be sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. Most of us left that evening feeling shocked and misled.”

Anderson is currently serving his sentence at the Hardee Correctional Facility in Bowling Green, Florida. Although imprisoned now for over a decade, he has made the best of a bad situation and refuses to have his always buoyant personality stymied by such an unpleasant predicament.

“He’s just amazing,” said Anderson’s father George, a retired Chicago city administrator who now lives about two hours from the prison. “Many times when family members visit, we’ll be depressed. But after spending a few hours with Tim, we all feel better. He is very adaptable and always upbeat and happy, regardless of his circumstances. He’s always been like that.”

Besides his immediate family, which includes a quadriplegic sister who is integral to the case, Anderson has some other unlikely allies. The most compelling is Parker’s half-sister, Diane McVey of Orlando, who visits him regularly and professes her love for him. Her support of Anderson throughout the entire ordeal has resulted in her being ostracized by many of her family members, but she has steadfastly refused to turn her back on him.

“Over the years there were so many people who might have wanted Rick dead,” said McVey. “He wasn’t a very nice person, and took advantage of a lot of people. I’m not surprised someone killed him. I’m just surprised that Tim did.”

Although all of Anderson’s appeals have been exhausted, Marcia Silvers, a Miami appeals attorney who was referred to Anderson’s case by prominent Florida defense lawyer Roy Black, is working pro bono to get either executive clemency granted by Governor Jeb Bush or a retrial based on newly discovered evidence. While she admits that it is an uphill battle, she is holding out hope that others will also realize what she perceives to be the injustice of Anderson’s incarceration.

“There are a lot of inmates who deserve to be in jail a lot more than Tim Anderson does,” she said. “The facts of this case are so unique, and Tim has the support of so many solid citizens. Several jurors have stated that they would not have convicted Tim of such a serious crime if they knew he’d be sentenced to life in prison.”

Moreover, she adds, “There are the mitigating factors of the alleged poisoning. This case just doesn’t add up to premeditated murder. I firmly believe that this act was committed in the heat of the moment, which amounts to, at most, second degree murder, but most likely manslaughter. I work on a lot of high-profile murder cases, for lots of money. I’m not even being paid for my expenses in this case. The reasons are simple: I feel an injustice was done, and that Tim was more of a victim in this case than Rick Parker.”

From all accounts, the 46-year-old Anderson is an unlikely killer. He grew up in a solid two-parent, four-child home in Chicago. A standout athlete as a youngster, no one could ever have imagined that he was afflicted with Crohn’s disease, which causes incessant diarrhea. Although outwardly he was a child that others looked up to, he often had to wear a diaper up until he was eight or nine years old.

This secret was shared with his mother, to whom he was very close. When she died of a lung disease when Anderson was still a teenager, he was devastated. Anderson is the first to admit that that his childhood malady, coupled with his mother’s love and understanding, as well as her untimely death, made him a lot more sensitive than he would have liked.

Engaging in sports was Anderson’s great equalizer, and he was equally adept on the pitching mound as he was with his fists and his feet. After some teenage success in kickboxing, as well as an abundance of high school honors for baseball, he was selected, in 1981, to play minor league baseball for the Chicago Cubs’ Class A farm team in Boca Raton, Florida.

Always a fitness fanatic, he began training at a local boxing gym, and also moonlighted as a bouncer at the Agora Ballroom, where he met Jim Murphy, a fellow bouncer who was into holistic healing.

“I gave Tim an herbal mix for his problems, and the results came quickly,” said Murphy laughingly. “Tim was so proud; he even called me into the bathroom to show me what he did. When he’d go to the beach, he would put suntan lotion on himself, then spend five minutes in one position, move his body a few degrees for another five minutes, and on and on. He was a wonderful guy, so innocent and naïve with a quirky personality and a witty sense of humor.”

The management of Anderson’s baseball team was not happy with his boxing, and forced him to choose between the two. Having grown hooked on the sweet science, he chose to pursue that sport full time as a professional.

From the day he turned pro, in June 1983, Anderson was an enigma. He had dyed blond hair, a buff body, wore garish attire, was a vegetarian, and had studied kiniesology (muscular movement), which earned him the nickname Doc.

The rough and rugged former title challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb, with whom Anderson often trained, once commented: “I know you can fight because the way you dress you’d embarrass the Puerto Ricans and the faggots.”

One person who did not approve of Anderson fighting was his sister Erin, who was rendered quadriplegic at the age of 16 in a 1976 diving accident. Those feelings were only exacerbated years later when her brother hooked up with Parker, whom he met in California. Parker, who was admittedly determined to become the white Don King, was amassing a fortune by assembling disenfranchised youngsters to go door to door across the country selling a cleaning concoction called Sun-Sensational.

His half-sister Diane was involved in the business, and even had her own territories until her brother cheated her out of her earnings. In many cases, said McVey, the salespeople would knock on the door of a prospective customer, purposely drop some dirt on the carpet, and then show how easy it was to clean with the cleaning compound.

“Tim isn’t stupid, but he trusted a lot of people he shouldn’t trust,” said Erin. “Parker was very flashy and addicted to drugs, which couldn’t have been more different than Tim. I don’t think Tim was ever high on anything, except life and exercise.”

Saying Parker was flashy is an understatement. He was a born conman who could talk the chrome off a bumper. McVey says that he displayed great entrepreneurial zeal as early as ten-years-old when they were growing up in both Missouri and Lakeland, Florida. Parker, she says, would contract to cut the lawns of neighbors for a certain price, and then hire children even younger than him to do the work at less than half the price. Many times, he refused to pay them at all.

Anderson bought into Parker’s hyperbole, and agreed to not only fight for him but also act as his bodyguard. His $750 a week paycheck, he was told, was being held in escrow for him. According to Anderson, things were moving along fine until he learned that Parker had a fierce cocaine habit. Anderson had such an aversion to drugs, he wouldn’t even take pain killers prescribed to him when Larry Holmes broke two of his ribs in 1991.

While in Fort Myers, Florida, for a 1990 match, Parker had made plans for Anderson to give several anti-drug speeches at local schools. When they arrived at one location in separate limousines, Anderson opened Parker’s door and saw him inhaling a mountain of cocaine. Outraged, he demanded the $150,000 he believed he was owed to him by Parker and went off on his own. In the coming months he made no secret of his plan to write a book on boxing to be called “Liars, Cheats and Whores.”

Anderson, who was once 9-1 as a pro, had limited success as a free agent. In the meantime, Parker took over the promotional reins of Mark Gastineau, a former football star with a long history of drug abuse and erratic behavior. Supposedly Parker had a handshake agreement for Gastineau to fight George Foreman for millions at Madison Square Garden if he could somehow get the lumbering former gridiron great to 12-0. Many of the setups Parker had arranged for Gastineau would eventually be splashed across the news and onto the television show “60 Minutes” under the guise of a federal probe called the “Dirty Gloves Investigation.”

According to Anderson, Parker contacted him and promised him the money he owed him, plus interest, if he took a dive against Gastineau. Their fight was to be televised from San Francisco on “USA’s Tuesday Night Fights” in June 1992. Referee Marty Sammon said talk of a fix was rife, and he warned both boxers beforehand that there better be no monkey business.

“I told them if there was anything suspicious, they weren’t getting paid,” said Sammon. “Anderson then went out and beat the crap out of Gastineau. It was no contest: man against boy.”

“I never saw my brother so mad,” said McVey, who was watching the fight on television. “I knew there’d be trouble. His nostrils were flaring.”

Anderson never made the big score he was promised, but six months later agreed to a rematch with Gastineau, this time in Oklahoma City, where there was no state commission. Anderson says he was once again asked to take a dive, but chose not to. He also says he was forced to wait in the ring for 45 minutes until Gastineau arrived. It was then, he believes, that he was given tainted water. Although no official video was taken of the rematch, Silvers was recently informed that a video taken by a spectator has surfaced that might support some of Anderson’s contentions.

By the third round Anderson was lightheaded, nauseous and hallucinatory. Unable to defend himself, he was stopped in the sixth round. The referee later testified at the trial that he never saw Anderson get hit with a solid punch. Carried into the dressing room, Anderson was found there hours later by the janitor, lying in his own vomit. Taken to a local hospital, a doctor suggested he was drugged but could not offer ironclad proof. Anderson went back to Florida to live with Murphy, a broken man.

“He was never the same,” said Murphy. “He couldn’t get out of bed. And when he did, he would bump into things. He had vertigo, and all these doctors tried to pinpoint his problem, but couldn’t find anything.”

Anderson retained high profile Miami lawyer Ellis Rubin to sue Parker, as well as the fight venue in Oklahoma. Shortly afterwards he was attacked and seriously injured by two masked, bat-wielding men. They showed him a photograph of his sister Erin, as well as her two small daughters, and told him to stop making trouble.

Believing he was dying, but determined to learn what was used to change his life so dramatically, Anderson used McVey to contact her brother under the pretense of paying him for an interview to be used in his book.

When the meeting was set for an Orlando hotel room, it was Murphy who insisted that Anderson go there with a gun. Murphy had listened in on numerous phone conversations where Parker threatened Anderson and his family, so he accompanied him to a gun store where Anderson purchased a .38 caliber revolver. On the day before the fateful meeting, Anderson told a friend, who was never called to testify at his trial, that he was determined to find out what toxins were used to poison him.

Anderson, who never told McVey about the gun, drove to meet Parker accompanied by both her and Parker’s 14-year-old son Chris, who had not seen his father for years. After a few minutes of getting reacquainted, Parker asked his sister and son to leave the room so he and Anderson could talk business.

Anderson says he demanded to know what drugs were used to poison him, but Parker disavowed any knowledge. Desperate, Anderson says he pointed the gun at Parker, but still got the same answer. Satisfied with the response, he put the gun by his side. At that time, says Anderson, Parker told him, “For that stunt you just pulled, your sister Erin is dead.”

The next thing I remember, said Anderson, is “rolling him over and counting the bullets. “I counted eight. He was sideways and I rolled him on his back. I counted the bullets in his thigh, his groin.”

Immediately afterwards, Anderson sat on the bed and said “‘Forgive me Lord,” and tried to take his own life. Much to his chagrin, the gun jammed. He then went to the front desk, told the clerk what happened, and calmly waited for the police to arrive. Later, while being questioned by detectives without the benefit of counsel, he told them he wanted no trial; just a quick date with the electric chair. He was obviously a man in great physical and emotional turmoil.

When news of his arrest circulated throughout the boxing community, no one was all that surprised that Parker was killed. But those who knew Anderson were shaken to their cores.

“There is nothing in Tim to suggest he’d be capable of something like this, without a lot of provocation,” said his father. “If he felt his sister was threatened, that would be enough. Not just for him, but for anybody.”

Erin was devastated, not just by her brother’s actions and the ramifications, but by what role she inadvertently played in the whole sordid saga. “I never heard about the threats until Rick was dead,” she said. “I wished he had told me earlier. There’s no way on earth my brother would kill someone. At first I was angry at him. It’s just so hurtful that he’s not in our lives anymore.”

Oddly enough, he still is in their lives. Erin regularly takes her two teenage daughters, Kialey and Paige, to visit their uncle in prison. “He is a great person and a great uncle,” said Kialey. “I remember him waking up early and cooking us breakfast. He was always making us eat healthy. I have memories of him cutting up kiwis.”

Both girls say that their uncle’s dissertations on healthful living can often be annoying, but they know his heart is in the right place. While best known for writing annoyingly short notes to family members, he once wrote his nieces a long letter espousing the benefits of using a juicing machine. He also warns them of the pitfalls associated with dating certain types of boys.

Whether or not Anderson ever sees daylight again is anyone’s guess. However, there are still so many unanswered questions that are worthy of explanation.

Why did Murphy, or so many others who could have supported Anderson’s contentions, not testify at length at the trial, if at all? Why did Anderson’s public defenders not at least offer the possibility of temporary insanity? Why did his legal counsel feel it was prudent to go for all or nothing in a murder case that called for, at the very least, a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole?

Moreover, if the case was premeditated, as the state asserted, why did Anderson travel to the hotel with witnesses? Why did he not have an escape plan? Why did he tell the hotel desk clerk what he had done, and then wait calmly for the police?

According to Murphy the reasons are simple. He concedes that the Anderson he knows might be a killer, but he is in no way a murderer. However, Florida is a tough law and order state, so the prosecution was hell-bent on convicting a high profile client, regardless of the circumstances.

While Murphy believes some punishment might have been warranted, knowing his best friend will die in prison, barring a legal miracle by Silvers, is especially painful for him. He, and others, wholeheartedly believe that by granting clemency, Governor Bush, a strong proponent of the death penalty, would show he has a heart while not putting the community at any risk.

Anderson, he insists, was a tortured soul who truly believed he was close to death. Moreover, the fear of his sister and her children being killed was always at the forefront of his mind.

Asked if he could think of a less likely killer than Anderson, the burly Murphy took a moment to think about it before answering.

“Mother Teresa,” he finally answered as his eyes filled with tears.

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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