Connect with us

Articles of 2005

Arkansas’ Superhero Ends Executioner’s Reign

Published

on

In the latest pugilistic battle between good versus evil, that being Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor versus Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, the popular Hollywood ending featuring the hero conquering the menace came shockingly to fruition in front of 11, 922 spectators inside the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. But just like all the comic book tales that have captivated their audiences on the big screen such as Spiderman, Superman, and Batman, the menace always seems to come back stronger the second time, posing an even greater challenge to our beloved superhero.

In this case “The Executioner,” the aging yet youthful undisputed middleweight champion, making his record 21st defense of his crown, lost a narrow split-decision to his younger counterpart “Bad Intentions,” causing pandemonium amongst the thousands of Arkansas faithful who came to see their hero emerge victorious. The sequel to this battle, already planned for later this year, will surely bring out the best in the 40-year-old Hopkins, the self-proclaimed bad man, who is as determined to play the role of the “evil” character as he is to stamp his legacy as the greatest middleweight ever to lace up the gloves and to go out as a champion.

After dismantling both Felix Trinidad and his new business partner in Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya, with relative ease, Hopkins was supremely confident that he would win and show the younger Taylor that youth is overrated. He accomplished part of his prophecy, finishing the fight strong and showing a greater endurance than the man 14 years his junior. Ironically, Hopkins’ record-setting reign of the middleweight division came to a surprising end when Taylor was awarded the controversial split-decision.

When the decision was announced, Hopkins was in disbelief as his archenemy, Lou DiBella, lifted and kissed Taylor in triumph. DiBella, who won a $610, 000 libel award against Hopkins in 2003 and had an appeal upheld, felt vindicated by Taylor’s victory.  “With respect to me and Bernard, I feel an ugly chapter of my life is over. I feel freed. I beat him in court. Jermain beat him in the ring.”

But did he?  As it turned out statistically, the fight could easily have been declared a draw, considering the fact that judge Duane Ford scored the 12th round for Taylor, with both other judges scoring the round for the champion (Ford scored the fight 115-113 for Taylor).  Hopkins clearly won the final round, pressing the fight and using his aggression to put Taylor on the defensive. (Hopkins has since filed an appeal to the Nevada State Athletic Commission based on judge Duane Ford scoring the 12th round for Taylor, which has since been denied.). As Taylor later admitted, “I may have started out too strong and got winded down the stretch.” Hopkins’ promise that by the end of their fight Saturday night he would look 26 and Jermain Taylor would look 40 did in fact come true. And Taylor knew it.

HBO commentator Larry Merchant picked up on the sullenness of the new champion.  Instead of celebrating in triumph as DiBella and the rest of his corner were doing, Taylor seemed subdued with a look of slight disappointment in his eyes. He realized just as we did that if the fight had gone any further there would’ve been no question as to who the better fighter was. The younger man was supposed to outlast his older foe, but the reality was that Hopkins ran out of time and Taylor survived to barely hold on to the biggest fight of his life. “I should have cut the ring off a lot more,” he said. “I should have thrown a lot more body shots.”

The record of title defenses is over but Hopkins clearly is not.  After overcoming the brutal streets of Philadelphia, five years in Graterford State Prison, numerous contractual lawsuits, and an unbreakable will to continually go against the boxing grain and do things his way, Bernard Hopkins has no problem stepping back into the ring to avenge his loss to Taylor. “I’m a big boy. I can go home tonight and be comfortable because I know I won the fight.  This was not like when I fought Roy Jones and I knew I lost. This is the case where I know I won and they gave it to the other guy,” Hopkins said. “I will certainly take the rematch because it's already in the contract.”

Acting more like a professor examining his pupil’s mistakes than a fighter who just lost his middleweight crown and a shot at Joe Louis’s all-time record for title defenses, Hopkins spoke to his PPV audience after the fight about what the new champion did wrong: “Jermain made a lot of mistakes. He left his hands down. He threw wide punches and I countered him every time. I backed him up more than he backed me up. The judges saw something different.”

Fitting that pupil persona, Taylor admitted that he gained some valuable boxing knowledge in fighting Hopkins. “I learned so much in the fight. I can’t wait for the rematch.”

And a rematch we will have.  CompuBox statistics showed that the fight was almost even with Taylor being credited with landing 86 of 453 punches (19 percent), while Hopkins landed 96 of 326 (27 percent). Considering Duane Ford’s controversial scoring of the 12th round (if he had scored it for Hopkins the fight would’ve been declared a draw) and the fact that Hopkins landed more punches at a higher connect percentage, there is no doubt a rematch is warranted. Taylor himself is calling for a rematch, seemingly eager to show the world his developing skills and that this nail-biting decision was no fluke. Can the student beat the teacher again or will experience and Hopkins’ soon to be 41-year-old legs carry him back to the throne that he has ruled for 12 years? That’s the question we can’t wait to have answered.

From the opening bell through round eight, “The Executioner” was like a sharp, calculating tool failing to execute the job it’s designed to do. A drill spinning in air instead of heading into its target, Hopkins was feinting and moving and looking youthful – except for the fact that he was barely punching. This great “plan” of his turned out to cost him dearly as he was unable to make up the deficit. He insists he did enough to win and that he hurt Taylor badly on two different occasions in the late rounds, yet his “plan” tempted fate and two of the judges who decided his fate were obviously not overly impressed.

Hopkins was quick to defend his mystifying performance in which he squandered away a lead in the first half of the fight by allowing Taylor to dominate with his jab and control the bout, only to come back with a vengeance in rounds nine through twelve with an aggressive onslaught. “I felt like I won the fight,” Hopkins said. “I baited him in and I was able to use my strategy and counter him. It was easy to hit him when he was coming in. That was my plan.”  Despite the controversial scoring in the fight, Hopkins’ indestructible ego finally got in the way of his historic run of consecutive middleweight defenses.

And his ego continues to expand in the wake of his loss to Taylor. Many fighters in the history of boxing could’ve argued at one time or another that they didn’t deserve to lose a close decision, yet how many of those fighters actually filed an appeal to make their point? Boxing athletic commissions around the country would be overwhelmed with appeals if every fighter had the freedom and ego-driven mindset to challenge a judge’s scorecard. But Bernard Hopkins is different. He does things his way because he can.

Taylor reacted to Hopkins’ formal protest of judge Duane Ford’s scoring of the 12th round to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Association by telling the former champion to face reality. “Stop crying. Take your loss like a man. I am the middleweight champion of the world. Deal with it.”

Hopkins is dealing with it in the only way he knows how and that’s to fight the odds. Marc Ratner, the Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director, said that he’d never heard of an appeal overturning the results of a fight. Nevada’s boxing rules state that the invalidation of a result is only warranted based on score miscalculation, improper adherence to rules, or collusion. Hopkins will likely have to win back his middleweight crown in the ring rather than in the court of appeals. He won’t fight for the title again until at least December because of the 11 stitches Taylor received from an accidental headbutt in round five. Fast forward to that December night, on the eve of his 41st birthday, and we may witness the final farewell of not only one of the greatest middleweights of all-time, but also THE most difficult fighter to deal with of all-time. For Hopkins, it’s “My way” or “No way.”

Hopkins’ way Saturday night was to play the role of the master poker player giving away chips to his prized student because he thought he was that much better. The reality was that he wasn’t. Even the greatest of poker players won’t be able to overcome a deficit if they provide too large a handicap. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, this boxing master fell victim to his ever-growing ego, and contributed his own demise, and he has no one to fault but himself. In boxing, leaving a close fight of this magnitude in the hands of the judges is like flipping a coin, and in this case Jermain Taylor won the toss.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

Published

on

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)

Continue Reading

Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

Published

on

By

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

Continue Reading

Trending