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Articles of 2005

Fifteen Rounds Reexamined



The blogs were clogged following the Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor fight July 16th. The debates raged as to the scoring of round 12, the inactivity of Hopkins in the first half (and more) of the fight, or how Taylor faded down the stretch.

But one question raised in the debates was particularly intriguing: What would have happened had the bout been for 15 rounds instead of 12?

Many used the argument that Hopkins was getting stronger, while Taylor was losing steam as the bell rang for the close of the 12th and final round.

Of course we will never know about rounds 13, 14, and 15 with the names Hopkins and Taylor attached.

Once a fixture of world championship fights, 15-rounders were the great separator between the champions and the masses wanting to be champions. To compete well over the 15 round route meant dedication in training and a strong will. It was an unforgiving distance for those either ill-equipped or unprepared.

Why were title fights hastily changed in the early 1980s to 12 rounds?

We have to look back to the age of live fights on network television to see why championship fights moved from the more demanding distance.

It started as a quick fix response to the death of Korean lightweight Deuk-Koo Kim following his 14th round knockout loss to then-WBA champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini on November 13, 1982 in a fight telecast nationally.

The bout was a vicious struggle. The resolute Mancini had in front of him an equally tough, but limited, foe in Deuk-Koo Kim.

Neither of the two fighters were noted for exceptional firepower; indeed Kim was largely unknown outside his home country of Korea.

Mancini had built a reputation for toughness, stamina, and the ability to throw a high volume of punches.

As the fight progressed, Mancini established a clear lead. In fact, a review of the scorecards indicated that he had built an insurmountable tally going into the 14th round.

Despite this, Mancini had his hands full. Kim pressed and answered back often. The fans at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace were repeatedly on their feet as the two men fought in the trenches. Neither fighter gave an inch.

In the 14th, Kim was dazed by a Mancini barrage and sagged to the canvas. Mancini and the crowd were ecstatic. Kim, however, never fully regained consciousness.

Four days after the bout, Kim died of injuries sustained in the bout.

In an endeavor to appear proactive, the WBC (not the organization sanctioning this bout) almost immediately issued a statement saying that WBC world title bouts would be set for 12 rounds.

In the heavyweight division, for example, the first 12 round title bout under the new rules was the Larry Holmes-Lucien Rodriguez match for the WBC title on March 27, 1983.

It marked the first time since Gene Tunney had successfully defended his title against former champion Jack Dempsey in a 10-rounder, Sept. 22, 1927, that a heavyweight title fight was scheduled for less than 15 rounds.

Tunney’s final defense of his title before retiring, an 11th round knockout of Tom Heeney, July 26, 1928, was scheduled for 15 rounds.

In fact, all heavyweight title matches with the exception of the scheduled 20-rounder between Joe Louis and Abe Simon match on March 21, 1941, which ended in a 13th round knockout win for Louis, were scheduled for 15 until the Holmes-Rodriguez bout.

And, not incidentally, no champion or challenger had ever died as the result of injuries received in a heavyweight world title fight.

The WBA and IBF maintained 15 round title bouts for short period, but, feeling pressure from a variety of sources, ultimately switched to 12-rounders as well.

Previously, 12 round bouts were normally for titles such as the NABF and various other less-than-world championship belts.

Perhaps the most famous non-12 or 15 round heavyweight title bouts were the two matches between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. Both matches were scheduled 10-rounders.

Prior to Jack Dempsey’s reign, bouts went for a variety of distances. Jack Johnson, for example, lost his championship in the 26th round of a scheduled 45 rounds against Jess Willard.

Johnson also defended his title in scheduled 10 and 20 round bouts.

So what was the magic in settling on a 15-rounder as the championship distance? The answer lies in the viewing of the Johnson-Willard fight, and the Tunney-Dempsey fights.

It is clear that two well-conditioned and experienced fighters can compete at a high level for 15 rounds’ witness great struggles like Marciano-Walcott I, Ali-Frazier I and Holmes-Norton. (And, if the heavyweights can do it, then the lighter weight fighters can as well).

Fights past 15 rounds were essentially fights to the finish. Fighters and trainers strategized accordingly. There was more mauling, fewer combinations, and a lot more standing around in the hopes the opponent would make a mistake.

Shorter title fights, such as the Tunney-Dempsey series, though designed to help the aging champion see the final bell, ended unsatisfactorily.

Although Tunney-Dempsey II will always be remembered as the “Long Count” bout, the 10 round limit allowed Dempsey to finish on his feet (and for those who forget, he was dropped and nearly out of it in the final round). Tunney, as it turned out, was the actual beneficiary because he was able to move quickly for the entire fight.

No medical or other scientific reporting was conducted or sought before the change from 15 to 12 rounds. It was simply decreed that the 12 round distance was somehow safer – and indeed the network TV crisis created by the death passed. Network coverage resumed.

To this day, searches for literature that demonstrates a marked improvement in the safety of fighters at the 12 round championship level reveal zilch.

What did the change really accomplish? No one can say for sure.

I suggest that the shorter distance has quite possibly been in part responsible for older fighters giving it one more go and a greater number of bad decisions (i.e. decisions that would have been rendered meaningless by a stoppage).

Extraordinary champions of the era preceding the change in the title distance, with some notable exceptions, had one thing in common – exceptional stamina. They separated themselves from the rest of the field.

Which brings us back to Hopkins and Taylor. For numerous reasons, no one can reasonably conclude what the result would have been had their bout been a 15 round affair.

First, Hopkins, though the most experienced champion of his era, having engaged in 24 world title bouts, has never fought a 15 round bout. That’s no knock on him; it is simply the state-of-the-art. Of course Taylor has not been past 12 rounds either.

The point is, we have no historical reference for judging either man over the 15 round distance. But most would, I think, tend to believe that Hopkins would have fared well in the old 15 round world. Indeed, just look at him between rounds in a fight and it almost appears that he never even takes a deep breath.

More importantly, however, it is reasonable to conclude that both fighters would have fought differently in a longer fight. It simply cannot be known how each of the fighters would have engaged early or late in a fight with the knowledge that the bout was for 15 long rounds. Their strategies could have resulted in a wildly different result.

Although it is difficult to know how it would have changed the Hopkins-Taylor outcome, it is clear that great champions and contenders alike would have a greater chance to prove their mettle over the longer distance. They would also distinguish themselves from the titlists that populate the alphabets today.

Boxing champions stand out as being among the best-conditioned and fiercest athletes in the world. The 15 round limit – never proven less safe than any other limit – proved itself a significant test for many decades. Now is the time for its return.

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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