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Articles of 2005

A Silver Lining in the Blue Horizon

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Robert Hawkins and “Fast” Eddie Chambers touched gloves and immediately fell into a clinch at the start of the 12th round, an unfortunate way for a night of good, clean boxing to end.

The heavyweights in the main event were tired, but after the entertaining scraps that had preceded them at this tidy, five-fight card at Philadelphia’s Blue Horizon on September 9, it was a badly chosen gesture to send the fans home with.

The show at the Blue Horizon was organized and uncomplicated, consisting of a knowledgeable fight crowd; a stripped down arena absent of the usual clutter associated with boxing; and a female promoter in Vernoca L. Michael who, in addition to handing out tickets, also sold T-shirts, manned the concession stand and cleaned the bathrooms when she couldn’t take it anymore.

This was boxing at its humblest. Even the celebrities in attendance – Hasim Rahman and cruiserweight Steve Cunningham – were dressed in regular street clothes instead of flashy outfits.

Chambers, a young heavyweight from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, who has fought at the Blue Horizon in all but nine of his fights, won a workmanlike unanimous decision over the 35-year-old Hawkins (20-4, 7 KOs). When the decision was announced, Chambers (24-0, 13 KOs) reacted to three scores of 115-112 by dropping his head in shame. Not even flooring Hawkins with a body shot in the eighth round could make Chambers feel good about his performance.

“I gave up too many rounds at the end of the fight,” he said as he draped the IBU and Pennsylvania State heavyweight belts over his shoulder. “I know now that I have to work a lot harder if I want to look better. I can learn a lot from this fight.”

If there was a theme for the night, it was that boxers were plying their trade and moving on. The Blue Horizon is like a finishing school for young fighters trying to climb the ladder of success. Chambers, with his fast hands and pleasing style, is trying to become a viable heavyweight in a lackluster division. He has already beaten some of the familiar trial horses in Ross Puritty, Louis Monaco and Craig Tomlinson, and it may be time for Michael, one of the few female promoters in the sport, who has poured $3.5 million into the building that houses the Blue Horizon, which she bought in 1994, to check the 23-year-old against some of the division’s gatekeepers, whoever that may be.

In the first bout of the night, Adbou Adboubacar, a 34-year-old heavyweight from Brooklyn, was knocked out by Mark “Oaktree” Brown in his pro debut. Brown landed a wild right-hand, which he dialed in from a different area code, and the referee stopped the fight at 1:10 of the last round of the scheduled four-round bout when Adboubacar struggled to get up.

Brown (2-0, 1 KO) flexed his muscles for the crowd and yelled into the balcony at a vocal cheering section who followed him from his hometown of Dover, Delaware.

At the age of 37, Brown reacted as if he had just won a heavyweight championship. After years of thinking about becoming a boxer, Brown had the look of a man who had just discovered that he could be. 

“I’m a baby in this game,” he guffawed to the reporters after the fight. “But I’m taking baby steps. I just made my pro debut two weeks ago. This is always what I dreamed boxing would be. Now my dreams are coming true. Give me some time and I can do something in this game. With my power, I can knock anyone out.”

As Brown pressed the flesh in a hallway leading to his dressing room, Adboubacar was getting a tongue-lashing from his trainer, Roosevelt Farrell, as another fighter, Larry Brothers, warmed up with his back turned. Adboubacar spent most of the fight backing up and absorbing punishment along the ropes, and Farrell, a no-nonsense trainer who scoffs at excuses and speaks bluntly, was unhappy with what transpired.

“Al Gavin had a theory why fighters back up,” Farrell said, referencing the celebrated cutman who died last year. “It’s because they want to get out of the ring. He just wasn’t aggressive in there, and his defense wasn’t there. He wanted to throw one punch at a time. This is a fight he should have won.”

After the show, Adboubacar, 34, dressed in a yellow and blue sweat suit, was waiting with Farrell to speak to Michael about a discrepancy in what they were paid.

Apparently, Adboubacar was erroneously deducted $40 from his paycheck for his physical, and they were reimbursed for the mix-up later. Instead of staying in a hotel that night, they drove back to Brooklyn, slowly wading through the sparse highway traffic. The conversation was slow and downbeat, but Farrell didn’t like the idea of staying in a hotel where he would have been unable to sleep.

“I know we weren’t going to win a decision,” Farrell said. “Did you see all the fans he brought down? I told Adbou after the third round that we needed a knockout to win since we had lost every round, but he came out like did the previous three rounds, laying on the ropes instead of moving around and boxing him. There’s a saying: Desire is what brings you into the gym, but a lack of desire is what can take you out. He didn’t want it that night.”

Farrell has been down this road before. He has made the drive down the New Jersey Turnpike to the Blue Horizon three times this year, often coming in as the opponent.

“It was a long drive home,” he said by telephone the next day. “I was up all night thinking about the fight. He should have beaten this guy. This guy who he fought was the kind of fighter where you just wind him up and send him forward throwing punches. He didn’t have any real boxing ability. He wasn’t a devastating puncher.”

The episode was particularly disconcerting because Adboubacar claimed to have over a hundred amateur fights in Niger, West Africa, where he is from, and the journey to his first fight was a long one. Adboubacar arrived in Brooklyn seven years ago to start fighting professionally, but his medical examination from the New York State Athletic Commission revealed that he had Hepatitis B. He then spent nearly a decade locating a doctor and a remedy for the illness. Seeing him languish in the gym, Farrell, a trainer at Gleason’s, took him under his wing and found a doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan where Adboubacar was treated and given a clean bill of health by the NYSAC last year.

“We knew we weren’t going to win a decision,” he said. “Not with the crowd the other guy brought in.”

In the best and most controversial fight of the night, Ricardo Rosa, a stubborn, fireplug from New Jersey was stopped by Steven Chambers Upshur, Eddie’s brother, at 1:27 of the second round of a lightweight six round bout. Chambers was knocked down by a left-right combination midway through the first round, but Upshur (10-1-1, 4 KOs) rallied to end the round.

Before the second round began, a fan leaned over and told his friend within earshot of press row: “If Rosa gets in trouble they’re going to stop the fight. The other guy is the house fighter.” Seconds later the bout was stopped when Rosa was trapped in the corner absorbing punches. It was apparent to almost everyone that the referee didn’t give Rosa (2-2, 1 KO) enough time to fire back. After the fight, the show’s matchmaker, Don Elbaum, went to Rosa’s dressing room and told him that he had basically been fleeced.

For Rosa’s manager, Jose Rosario, it was the second time that night that one of his fighters had been the victim of questionable decision. William “Bobcat” Boggs, a welterweight from Philadelphia, was awarded a majority decision over Eberto Medina (1-1, 1 KO) in Boggs’ debut. The crowd booed the decision and serenaded Medina with cheers as he left the ring. Rosa, their manager, was pragmatic about the ending of both bouts.

“I understand that this is a business,” he said. “But he (Rosa) wasn’t hurt. If the referee should have stopped the fight it should have been in the first round when the other guy was taking a lot of shots. It was a hometown decision. I don’t know if I want to come back here again. I’m going to have to think about twice about coming here next time.”

About his fight, Rosa said: “He didn’t hurt me. I felt fine. I was just waiting for him to stop punching, so I could come back with something. I feel bad, angry right now with what happened.”

Edward Lee Cullmer, a middleweight from Philadelphia, also had cause to be angry after he thoroughly out-boxed Larry Brothers only to have the bout end in a no-contest at 31 seconds of the second round. The ringside physician ruled that an angry cut on Brothers’ forehead was too serious to continue, and the bout ended unceremoniously with Brothers (6-15-3, 4 KOs) turning his back on Cullmer in the middle of the round and walking to his corner. The doctor, in violation of the rules, allowed Brothers’ corner to work on the cut during a stop in the action in the first round, but Cullmer was diplomatic about seeing his record remain at 6-1 (3 KOs).

“It is what it is,” Cullmer said. “There was no question that I was getting the better of the fight, but I don’t think the headbutts were intentional. We were both coming in to throw punches. I’m just upset that the referee let his corner work on the cut. They’re not supposed to be allowed to do that.”

Cullmer was fighting for the second time since his original trainer, Monte Carter from the James Schuler Memorial Gym in Philadelphia, died from heart complications January of last year.

“That was tough,” he said. “I know fighters change trainers like underwear, but when he died, just stepping back into the ring wasn’t easy.”

Articles of 2005

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

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

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

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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