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Articles of 2005

Keeping the Faith with Lamon Brewster

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When I think of Lamon Brewster, I see him demolishing Golota with a series of left hooks in Chicago. When I look at Lamon Brewster, I see one those prime and ready candidates that Vitali Klitschko needs to fight to reestablish credibility. Brewster can be ferocious in the ring – Golota can attest to that – so can Vitali’s bro – but there’s another side to “Relentless” Lamon Brewster. There’s the man outside the ropes.

He too is Lamon Brewster.

The champ was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 5, 1973. He was oldest of four boys. I asked Brewster what it was like growing up in Indy.

“I guess my life for me was typical growing up in the ghetto,” Brewster said. “I grew up, it was just drugs all around me. I’ve been in situations on several occasions where a lotta bullets were flying – for whatever reason – whether I had anything to do with it or just not. You could be at a party and people get to shooting. You could be at a club. Your friends think they have enemies and they get to shooting those enemies. You can be killed in fights with guns. Guns come into play. There’s been so many times in my life where there’s been this type of violence that it was normal to me growing up.”

It’s a miracle Brewster didn’t get lured into the seductions of the street. I asked how he sidestepped that destiny.

“When I got out of school – I got out like 3:30 – I got home about 4:00 on the bus – my trainer was at my door at 5:30 and he wouldn’t take no for an answer,” recalled Brewster. “My coach, my little white coach, took the time every day to come get me and take me to the gym. I owe my life to him. He was an 86-year-old trainer named Bill Brown who used to hobo back in the Depression days with Jack Dempsey. He had 330 fights and he believed in me. He made me believe in me when even I didn’t believe in me.

“Because he opened and closed the gym – we were the first ones in and the last ones out – by the time I came home I was tired. And you’re not about to go run the streets when you’ve been in the gym. How I know that God had a purpose for me was that there were a lotta times during the day when I chose not to go and hang out with my friends and something would happen to them, whether somebody would get killed, somebody would be stabbed, somebody went to jail, somebody got caught with drugs on them. So it was like: Okay, wow, man. This is really keeping me out of trouble.”

For those who haven’t been there and done that, the wonders of the ghetto never cease.

“Everybody I pretty much knew growing up, my real true friends I would say, they dead, or they locked up, or they on drugs – because that’s just the way it is in the ‘hood. We’re victims of our environments. Nobody ain’t trying to get you no job. And when your mother can’t make ends meet, it’s really hard, man. And while she’s sitting there trying to be strong and she’s going down to the unemployment line and things like that, you’re sucked in by the peer pressure. Because your friends decided to sell a little drugs, even though it was against the law, and guess what? He got money and he’s in good and his mother can afford to have a car, you got the lights on, you can afford to eat every night. So it’s really hard, man,” Brewster said. “But I’m not going to judge anybody on what they do. That’s what they do to survive. I’m not saying that it’s right. I just feel like what I can stand for is a positive guy who says: Look, I made it out of the community. I made it out.”

Brewster made it out, but he always revisits Indianapolis – and he can’t believe his eyes.

“The crime is even worse now than it was when I was living there,” he said. “They trying to close the community centers. I learned to box at these community centers. I learned just how to have social skills at these community centers. I really feel I owe my life to these community centers. That’s where everything started for me. Now I come home and some of these community centers are closed down for whatever reason. Where do you think these kids gonna go? There’s a little Lamon Brewster out there who … thank God they had a community center out there when I was a kid.”

Although I wanted to talk boxing, there was no point in dodging the issue of Brewster’s faith. It’s as big a part of his life as the fight game – the two are intertwined in his mind – and Lamon’s not shy about bearing witness.

“I’ve always been into God my whole life,” the WBO heavyweight champion said. “You seldom meet many poor black people who don’t know God. My family’s from the south and most southern people have that deeply rooted Baptist background – which is where I come from, a Baptist background, a southern Mississippi spirituality. I always went to church. I went to bible study. Growing up the only thing you know is what your parents tell you, and they always told me about Jesus, they always told me about God and His Son. And as I got older I learned to call on the Lord in my times of trouble. I mean he delivered me out of a lot.”

He delivered Brewster out of a lot, but what he delivered him to was something special.

“I always wanted to be Bruce Lee,” Brewster said, “but they didn’t have martial arts in my community, so I practiced on everything in the house until my mother got fed up with it and said ‘We’re gonna take you down the street and try to get rid of some of this energy you have.’ I was seven years old. So when she took me down the street [to the gym] I saw something I’ve never seen before. I saw the eyes of a whole bunch of men who were inspired to do something in life. As a kid you ain’t inspired to do nothing but drink Kool Aid and watch cartoons, but seeing them muscles, I wanted them muscles too.”

Was that what inspired the champ to become a boxer?

“I think the breaking point was my father,” replied Brewster. “Like any child, you want to impress your father, you want him to love you, you want all your father’s attention. And I was no different. Every time a fight came on television, every last soul in the house would just stop and be in front of that television. Not just everybody. I mean more importantly my father. I wanted my father to give me the same attention he was giving to that television set. The way he was hollering at that fight, I wanted him hollering at me, saying those great things.”

Brewster’s father loved boxing. He had a longstanding connection to the game, some of which he inadvertently passed on to his eldest son.

“My father used to have some boxing gloves,” Brewster remembered, “because he used to box when he was a kid. But he never wanted me to touch them. So every time he was going out the house I used to sneak in a look at those gloves and I used to like wonder: Wow! Why they smell like that? I’ve never smelled that before. It was a combination of like leather and sweat, but it’s something so – I can’t even think of the word – but there’s something so mannish about sweat and leather.

“So as a kid it just kinda got in my bloodstream. And then, a little down the road, my grandmother told me that my grandfather – who I never knew, because he died when my father was young – when my father was born, he held my father and said ‘My son’s going to be a fighter.’ Well, I didn’t know about none of that, but I just found it to be in my blood. It was just something that I felt I couldn’t avoid.”

Brewster believes it’s a good thing the boxing bug bit him when it did.

“It’s good to get a child when he’s young. That’s why it’s so important to always encourage kids,” the heavyweight champion said, “‘cause if a kid get in his mind he can do something, he’s gonna grow into a butterfly. Believe that. But if you don’t give a kid encouragement, he’ll stay a caterpillar. He’ll never morph.”

I wasn’t sure if it was my dumb luck or if Brewster just likes to talk, but I asked about the oft-told tale about how he ended up in California.

“I had just graduated from high school,” he said. “And I remember hearing my cousin say ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. I need someone to help drive back [to LA].’ And before I even knew it I’m in her face: ‘Oh, I’ll help you.’ And then I kinda looked down at myself and looked up at the sky like – ‘What did I just say?’”

The very next day Brewster was on his way to California in a Volvo station wagon with “three bad little kids who listened to Sesame Street all the way there and two nannies that couldn’t even speak English and a cousin that I haven’t seen since she was holding me in Pampers. I had a pair of boxing gloves, a pair of boxing shoes, and about five dollars in my pocket … and now I’m heavyweight champion of the world.”

I asked the champ if that was his first time in Cali.

“I have to be honest with you,” Brewster said. “I didn’t think I was going to California to live. I just thought I was just going to California. I was already pacing the floor trying to figure, ‘What am I going to do with my life? What am I going to do with my life?’ I asked my mother ‘What should I do?’ And it was really at that point my stepfather intervened and said ‘You gotta let him be a man. You can’t keep making decisions for him.’ When he said that, I looked at him like: I can’t believe he said that. Out of all the times in my life I needed somebody to make this life decision, now he’s saying I gotta make it.”

Brewster doesn’t regret the decision he made, with the help of the mother, his stepfather, and the Big Guy upstairs.

“I remember saying to the Lord: Lead me somewhere where I can be successful. Then I decided, hey man, I’m just gonna try this boxing thing. I said I’m gonna try to make it to the Olympics. But I know if I stay in Indiana I won’t make it … So in my mind I had gone to the east coast, I had gone to New York, I had gone to New Jersey – just places where boxing was really something. And I ain’t never heard about boxing on the west coast in my whole life.

“When I was going to California it wasn’t with the true intention on being the champion I am now. I just said, ‘Well, I won everything in Indiana. I’m just gonna take my boxing gloves and see what the competition is like in California.’ And when I got out there my cousin was taking me to some gyms and right away guys saw my talent and they were like, ‘Wow, man, you’re a good fighter,’ and I found myself in a couple of tournaments and I won ‘em right away and I was knocking people out. And the next thing I know, I’ve got the city of Los Angeles behind me.”

LA might have been behind him, but Brewster was still only an amateur.

He told me “I contemplated boxing a lot of times in my life before I turned pro. I didn’t want to turn pro. I didn’t even want to box. I wanted to hang out with my friends, be able to have a life with them. They had all the fun. They had all the girls – regardless of the repercussions of drugs and going to jail. I mean, shoot, I even thought maybe going to jail would be cool, because it’s like people respect you more than a little. But that’s just a ghetto mentality.”

Brewster kayoed the ghetto mentality, got back to work and turned professional on November 8, 1996 against Moses Harris in Las Vegas. Lamon scored a first round kayo … and he kept winning. That win streak came to an end with a unanimous decision loss to Clifford Etienne in Pittsburgh in May 2000. Five months and two fights later, Brewster suffered another UD loss, this time to Charles Shufford. But Lamon Brewster wasn’t done with boxing. Not by a long shot. He won his next five fights, setting up the career-defining bout with Wladimir Klitschko on April 10, 2004 for the vacant WBO title.

“When I came to Los Angeles I started training with Bill Slayton and he became not only my trainer, he became my father,” Brewster insisted. “And when you are coming to a state where nobody knows you, where you have no family, where you have no friends, you reach out for people, you need a mentor, and God brought me Bill Slayton. Bill talked to me like he did his son. He gave me money out of his own pocket so that I could continue to live in California, so that I could eat, so that I could buy shoes to run … He had cancer and had it for a long time and didn’t really tell us about it. Two, three months before I’m getting ready to fight Klitschko, my trainer dies. So basically you clip my wings, but I could still fly.”

The younger Klitschko still had a bit of a reputation in those days, while Lamon Brewster was the opponent, the underdog, the stepping stone – and then his trainer died.

“So now I have to find a trainer. And I’m like blind here, because I’m so used to Bill being everything for me. Well, all of the sudden you got me standing on my own feet without a crutch, and I’m lost. So I get this trainer to work with me, but that’s exactly what he was – he was a trainer – and I didn’t realize that I was already developed, that I was already made. But mentally I had not come into my own. And that’s something my trainer always used to say: ‘When you come into your own, nobody’s ever going to beat you.’ And I didn’t understand what that meant. But when I got this trainer, he wanted to bring in his ego; he wanted to bring in his style of training. But his style of training took away from what my trainer taught me. So you got a guy who is trying to fight for a world title, but is really confused. So, man, it was just a big mess,” Brewster said. “I won by the grace of God.”

Lamon was not at his best that night, but Klitschko was terrible.

Brewster continued: “When I went into that fight, the first thing I did when I came out there with that trainer’s style and [Klitschko] hit me, I was like, well, okay. But then he hit me again and again and again. I was like, ‘Hold up, man, this ain’t working.’ I mean I’m having conversations with myself in the middle of a world title fight. So next thing I know I got back to the corner and when I stood back up I said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna abandon everything, because none of what he’s showing me is gonna work. I’m just gonna go to war with this dude, ‘cause that’s all I can do.’

“So I went out there remembering the tapes of Joe Frazier and Roberto Duran. They put so much pressure on the dudes [they were fighting] that the dudes collapsed. And I knew I could punch. I knew that I could chop a tree down by going to the body. So I let him throw out them punches. Because one thing I did do was I managed to study tapes of Wladimir Klitschko and I noticed that he gets tired in the later rounds. So I was like, ‘I’m gonna make this dude punch. I’m gonna be in his face every second of every round and I’m gonna win this fight.’”

People forget that boxing – the most physical of sports – has a mental component too.

“So what happened was I got into the fight with Wladimir Klitschko and no matter what he threw,” Brewster said, “I just wasn’t going to let it deter me from winning that fight. So when I saw him getting tired I hit with a shot and when he couldn’t respond I knew I was going to knock him out, because I’m probably the hardest puncher in the division. A lot of people don’t know that, because before Wladimir Klitschko I used to just box people and then take them out, as opposed to just go out there and show how hard I can really punch. It’s like getting them drunk and then mugging them.”

Brewster got Klitschko drunk and then mugged him, before walking off with the WBO heavyweight title. His first defense of the crown, against his former sparring partner Kali Meehan, was also a bout that Brewster barely won.

“When I fought Kali I fought a guy who helped me get ready for Wladimir Klitschko, and he was a really nice guy, he was a true gentleman, one of the nicest guys that I’ve ever had the opportunity to train with. We talked and he gave me just all kinds of tips on how to fight a tall guy. So me and Kali stayed in touch. But then they turn around and here I’m fighting this guy. So I was like, ‘how do you fight somebody that you have bonded with?’ So it was like really difficult,” Brewster said. “I go to camp, and I train, and I don’t see this guy for a couple of months. I was fine until I got there. But when I saw Kali his two kids was with him and as soon as they saw me they ran up and put their arms around me and, man, I psychologically melted.

“And I got into the fight with Kali and I started throwing punches at this guy and I hit him with a good shot and hurt him … and I thought about his kids! – and that really made me hesitate to really try to destroy this guy.” The champion paused. “I don’t blame you for doubting me. If I was a fan, if I wasn’t Lamon Brewster and just knew of Lamon Brewster from those two fights, I would say the exact same thing: ‘Hey, man, that Brewster – I don’t know, man. I don’t think he’s gonna beat Golota. I think he’s a bum.’ I would just have something probably negative to say, just being a true fan.”

Brewster has proven that he’s no bum. In this era of splintered titles and lowered expectations, he’s one of the heavyweight champions of the world. I asked his about his fellow champs, and the challenges they pose, starting with IBF champion Chris Byrd.

“Chris is very, very fast. He throws a lot of punches. He’s very elusive. A fight with Chris is a fight where you have to do one of two things. Either you have to be prepared to fight him every second of every round or you have to be prepared to box him, because to stand in front of Byrd and just try to hit him with big shots – like every other dinosaur heavyweight has done – is pointless. He’s proven that,” said Brewster with a laugh.

What about John Ruiz?

“He has a very awkward style. He’s a strong guy. He’s a determined guy. And when you fight someone who’s awkward, strong and determined, they’re always going to give you a hard fight, no matter who they are,” Brewster said. “But the thing with John Ruiz is that he’s never ever fought anybody to this day – with maybe, and I say maybe, the exception of David Tua – who punches as hard as I do. And you can have all those skills and be awkward, but, man, when somebody can punch that hard to where you’re body breaks down, your mind takes over your body and goes into that defensive mode, because you don’t want to die, you don’t want to get killed. I think that would definitely change his whole tactic. When you start getting hit so hard that it hurts even when you’re in the corner, you change real quick about whether or not you want to be in the ring with that person.”

And, even though he’s on hiatus or sabbatical or sick leave or whatever from active duty, I had to ask Brewster about Vitali Klitschko, the presumptive man to beat in the heavyweight division.

“Vitali Klitschko is a good fighter. He’s an awkward fighter, because he fights the European style, which a lot of Americans are not used to. But, thank God, because of my international experience in the amateurs both fighting tall guys and European styles, to me, Vitali Klitschko is a tree; and with any tree, you can’t hit it once and think it’s gonna fall. But if you just continue to chop, continue to chop … well, then the tree will fall. It’s a proven fact that a tall guy cannot outlast a smaller guy in a dogfight. I mean you cannot think for a second that a Great Dane will ever beat a pit bull in a dogfight. It would never happen.

“I’ll tell you one thing about Vitali. It’s no knock on him, but he has a Ph.D., and in the back of his mind he got that Ph.D. because he felt like somewhere along the line if boxing don’t work out he can go do something else. Well, I’m gonna make it such a fight where he gonna think about everything but boxing. He gonna think about trying to stay alive. Because this is what I got. I don’t have a Ph.D. I don’t have nothing. I got a school of hard knocks certificate.”

Brewster is such a levelheaded, good-natured, quintessentially nice guy, I wondered how he reconciled these qualities with the search-and-destroy mission that is boxing.

“First thing I want to say is God told the Israelites, ‘I’m going to give you the land of milk and honey.’ But he also told them that they have to go to war to get that land. So I’m not expecting to step in the ring and the guy’s just going to lay down. That isn’t going to happen,” Brewster maintained. “But God has given me the opportunity to get to the land of milk and honey, so that every time I win that’s a bigger payday and I can better take care of my kids, better take care of my wife, you know, better take care of my whole family. So for me it’s no different than him saying to the Israelites, ‘Hey, I’m giving you the land of milk and honey, but you gotta go take it.’ That tells me in order for me to live, to eat, somebody has to lose, and the only way I can do it is to defeat the guy I’m fighting. So it’s pretty much that type of deal.

“As far as being a fighter, it’s just a physical thing. I don’t hate that guy. I don’t want to kill that guy. But that guy’s standing in the way of my kids starving – and man I come from nothing. And I’m gonna let that guy beat me and go back to nothing? I’m gonna go back to not having heat, going back to boiling water so I can take a bath, just so somebody else can profit? I’m not gonna do that, man. Because if God had given me another talent, if he had given me a gift where maybe I could sing or maybe be a Wall Street broker, well then that’s what I would’ve did. But he didn’t give me that role. He gave me this role to be a fighter, to be a warrior, so I’m gonna use that to take care of my family, because I’ve seen my mother cry, I’ve seen my wife cry, and I don’t want to go buy my kids the cheapest shoes because that’s all I can afford and they’re going to have flat feet like their daddy. No, I don’t want that for them.”

Everything circles back, as things inevitably do, to the formative years of Brewster’s life.

“I used to wear two pair of sweat pants the whole year with like three shirts. On dress up day I dressed bummy just to be rebellious because I knew I couldn’t afford that stuff. I’m not gonna let my kids go that way. So if it means me getting in there knocking this man out who knows the dangers of being a fighter, then that’s what I have to do. That’s what I have to do to live. That’s what I have to do to be a father. I’m sure a lion when he’s protecting his pride, he doesn’t want just to kill, but he’s gonna defend his pride. And me defending my pride is to say, ‘I’m trying to get to the land of milk and honey and you’re in my way.’ Like Golota. He was in my way. I don’t have no bad feelings toward him. I wish him the best in his life, but he was standing in my way, he was trying to steal something from me, he’s trying to steal something that since I was seven, since I was a little boy, I’ve been working hard for. I’m not going to let no man take that from me.”

Before closing my interview with the champ, I asked Brewster if he had a message for his fans.

“My message for the fans,” he said, “is that you can do anything in the world you want to do, no matter what it is you want to do, because I did it. I’m the world champion because I believed in myself, because I had faith in God, and that to me is the single most important thing. The thing I try to get across to people is: Look, I’m the guy down the street. I’m the guy who when your parents were buying you sneakers, I was thinking about maybe I could go to Goodwill and get some and clean ‘em up. So if I can make it, anybody – and I mean that – anybody can make it, but you have to believe in yourself. Nobody else is going to believe in you. You gotta believe in yourself. You gotta have confidence. You gotta have courage. Even if you’re scared to death you can do it. I went into fights when I was a kid when I was scared to death, but when I started throwing them punches, it dawned on me – hey, I can do it. And so I grew confident and was able to win fights against guys I didn’t think that I could beat. But because I started believing in myself, I could do it. I hope they put that on my headstone: If you believe in yourself you can do it.

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

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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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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