Connect with us

Articles of 2005

Lucia Rijker vs. Christy Martin: The Long Road to Nowhere

Published

on

Saturday night was supposed to be somewhat of a breakthrough for women’s boxing. The long-awaited showdown between Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker was to headline a Showtime-PPV card in Las Vegas. Instead, Rijker suffered an injury which postponed the bout, if not scrapping it altogether.

The significance of the bout was that it was the first which would feature two fighters in their natural weight class. The past few years have offered “superfights,” but in name only, with one of the contestants forced to skip a few divisions.

Christy Martin moved up three weight classes to face Laila Ali at a catch weight of 162 pounds two years ago. The result was a massacre; the much bigger Ali walking through the fleshy Martin in scoring a fourth round stoppage.

That previous winter, Martin was on the favorable end of a catch weight fight. This time it was featherweight ornament Mia St. John who agreed to skip three weight classes in order to make the PPV fight happen. To her credit, St. John put up a much better fight than expected, surprisingly extending Martin the distance in dropping a decision.

The common denominator in all of the fights has been Martin, which was why it was so important for this fight with Rijker to finally happen. True, she is as much to blame as anyone else for the fight having long been a mythical matchup. But she is also to be thanked for whatever notoriety women’s boxing has gained over the years.

It was over nine years ago that “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. The shot was taken shortly after her grueling points win over Deidra Gogerty in March 1996. The main event was Mike Tyson’s title winning efforts in a rematch of Frank Bruno, but the heart, blood and toughness displayed by the ladies nearly stole the show that evening.

The fact that Sports Illustrated paid any attention at all was significant in its own right. By that time, SI’s coverage of the sweet science was limited, and rarely flattering. Martin making the cover served as a much needed boost in the mainstream market for boxing overall, but specifically women’s boxing.

All she needed was a rival.

She wouldn’t find one amongst Don King’s never-ending stable; at least not one who stood a chance of beating her. The name Andrea DeShong was often mentioned, though often in the form of a question. She was the only fighter to have defeated Martin in the ring at the time. She was also retired since 1990, and was 34 years old by the time the boxing world became familiar with Martin.

King lured her out of retirement, in hopes of turning spare change into a worthwhile investment. The plan was to build up her record as well as anticipation for a rubber match with Martin. DeShong made a difficult plan even more complicated by dropping a decision in her first fight back. She eventually received her fight with Martin – after going 4-3-1 in her comeback, and agreeing to fight her on a mere two weeks notice.

Approximately two hours before the bite heard ‘round the world would occur, Martin-DeShong III opened up the June 1997 Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson II pay-per-view show. Martin overcame some early rough spots to take over and eventually stop DeShong in seven. The bout developed into such a mismatch that Martin actually stopped her on the strength of four jabs.

The fight was the last time that Martin would be the object of affection for fight crowds. A disputed decision win over Isra Girgrah two months later in Madison Square Garden was met with a chorus of boos. Girgrah was dropped early, but finished strong enough to offer the perception that she was the victor.

Despite the win, Martin was seen less frequently in the coming years. Perhaps it was Tyson’s eighteen month suspension which limited her opportunities. Whatever the case, her future fights were limited to the non-televised portion of Don King marathon cards. Martin was no longer in demand; it was time for a fresh face to emerge.

Rival promoter Bob Arum believed he had found the answer. Former kickboxing champion Lucia Rijker turned pro five days after Martin’s bloody brawl with Gogerty. Seven fights into her pro career, Lucia received the breakthrough of a lifetime. Arum added her to Oscar De La Hoya’s pay-per-view fight with Hector Camacho in September 1997.

The timing was perfect – her opponent was Andrea DeShong, three months removed from her seventh round stoppage loss to Martin. Rijker wound up stopping DeShong in three. More impressive than her performance was her Adonis-like physique. Women’s boxing was considered somewhat of a novelty, with fans commenting more on the ladies’ looks than their hooks. With Rijker, it was still about looks, though not in a fashion sense. Her body chiseled and technique sound, Rijker LOOKED like a fighter women’s boxing could rally around in the march to respectability.

All she needed was a rival.

With Martin and Rijker both campaigning as junior welterweights, it only seemed natural that the two would eventually clash.

Guess again.

Martin, her popularity already waning, did nothing to improve her Q rating in deflecting questions regarding Rijker. When the media and fans began to ponder a matchup between the two, Martin never offered a direct answer. She instead insisted that someone “check Lucia’s pants to confirm that she’s a woman” and also accused her of steroid use. Perhaps it was just Martin’s way of getting under Rijker’s skin. Most interpreted it as Christy deliberately avoiding her.

Whatever luster remained on such a fight was removed when Martin dropped a decision to Sumya Anani late in 1998. Oddly enough, Christy’s loss seemed to have a greater effect on Rijker’s career that it did to her own. Without a rival to attach her name to, there was no longer interest in a woman who could actually fight. The slots Rijker would normally land among Top Rank pay-per-view cards were filled by Mia St. John. The former Playboy model-turned boxer was the perfect complement to Eric “Butterbean” Esch as opening novelty acts for future Top Rank pay-per-view shows.

The two actually squared off in 2000, though unofficially. Martin was preparing for a fight with Belinda Laracuente on the undercard of a March 2000 pay-per-view card. Four days before the fight, she and Lucia found themselves at the LA Boxing Club, where spectators had gathered to witness an open workout held by then-WBA super welterweight champion David Reid. He was facing Felix Trinidad in the main event, but on that day all talks would be about Martin and Rijker.

How the two came to blows depends on who you ask. Martin insisted that she was sucker-punched by Rijker shortly after completing an interview and looking to exit the gym. Others suggest that Rijker said something to Martin on the way out, which prompted Christy to shove her and thus lead to the scuffle.

As Don King has often said through the years, “Negative publicity is still publicity.” The incident wasn’t pretty, but it was effective; once again, people cared about women’s boxing, or at least the thought of the two perceived best fighters squaring off against each other.

The only problem now – Rijker was no longer fighting. While Martin’s career was surviving beneath Felix Trinidad-headlined pay-per-view shows, Lucia remained on the sidelines. Her last pro fight – a third round stoppage of Diana Dutra in August 1999 – came with a bloody nose and busted eardrum. She backed out of a fight scheduled for later that year, and her scuffle with Martin was her only fight between August 1999 and February 2002.

Martin rattled off six wins after her run-in with Rijker, but very few seemed to notice. A November 2001 decision over Lisa Holywene was followed by a year-long hiatus, though nobody seemed to notice.

Rijker did. She staged a comeback three months later, though it almost didn’t happen. It took three tries to secure Lucia an opponent – 9-26-1 Carla Witherspoon, who took the fight on eight days notice after one opponent went AWOL and a second one turned up pregnant. Rijker stopped her in four, but also stopped fighting for another sixteen months.

Her exit was met with Martin’s return when Christy squared off against St. John in December 2002. Six months later, Rijker was back in the ring, though also once again faced with bad luck. Her bout with Jane Couch was scheduled to appear on a pay-per-view telecast headlined by Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in separate bouts. Tyson wound up pulling out of the card, which forced  the show to downgrade from PPV to regular HBO. Such meant Rijker’s fight would only be witnessed by those who arrived at the Staples Center early enough to catch the undercard.

Two months after Rijker pitched a shutout against Jane Couch, Martin found herself in the best available superfight women’s boxing could scrape together – a fight against undefeated Laila Ali. Christy moved up three weight classes and still conceded three pounds to Ali, who came down from super middleweight. The fight was about as competitive during as it was taken seriously beforehand, which is to say not at all. The mismatch remains the only time in her sixteen year career that Martin was stopped, as she took a ten-count in the fourth round.

Rijker would resurface in 2004. She scored a decision win in her native Amsterdam, though her return to the ring was not what the mainstream audience was buzzing about. Toward the end of the year, she graced the silver screen, playing the role of villain in the Academy Award winning feature “Million Dollar Baby.”

The box office and Oscar success of the movie prompted Bob Arum to search for the perfect encore. It led to the unthinkable; Martin and Rijker signing contracts to finally throw down the gauntlet – this time in the ring.

Playing on the movie’s title, the theme for the fight was “Million Dollar Lady.” Both fighters were guaranteed a purse of $250,000, with Arum offering an additional $750,000 to the victor, who would become the first fighter in women’s boxing history to earn $1,000,000 for a single fight.

Both appeared on numerous talk shows, and also held a national conference call weeks before the fight. Even the timing seemed to be perfect, with “Million Dollar Baby” released on DVD less than three weeks before the fight was scheduled to go down (July 30). Things were going smooth; almost too smooth.

Suddenly, the inevitable occurred: an injury forces the fight to be postponed.

The first sign of Armageddon was the cancellation of the highly anticipated flyweight scrap between long-reigning WBC champ Pongsaklek Wongjongkam and thrill-a-minute mandatory challenger Jorge Arce. The bout was to serve as co-feature, and lend instant credibility to those who viewed the card as a gimmick. When Wongjongkam declined on a first time trip to the States, Arce was offered Angel Priolo as a replacement.

When Rijker went down with a torn Achilles tendon, no replacement would be offered. The card, which reportedly suffered a great deal at the ticket booth, was announced as “postponed for a later date.” That later date would figure to be no sooner than 2006, regardless of how long it takes for Rijker to heal.

The best thing would be to cancel the fight, and the idea of it, altogether. Public interest dried up a long time ago, and not even an attempted piggybacking of Hollywood’s contribution to the sport raised eyebrows. By the time Rijker heals, the momentum will have once again been squandered. People will have already discovered that MDB was far more Hollywood than it was a realistic portrayal of the sport.

They have already discovered that the chances of this fight ever happening is just as fictitious.

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

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

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

Trending