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Articles of 2005

Destination: Camp Klitschko



It is a time-honored boxing tradition. It is as routine and standard as two fighters touching gloves before the bell rings. But this occurs long before the action starts. I am referring to the obligatory press caravan to training camp.

In the 1930s, they traveled to the camps by railroad. By the 1970s, when the trek to Muhammad Ali’s Deer Lake, Pennsylvania training camp was mandatory for every boxing beat writer, the mode of transportation was bus.

On Wednesday, September 14, we departed Manhattan in a black SUV. Intrepid PR man John Cirillo dispatched two of his assistants to make sure the media arrived at Wladimir Klitschko’s training camp at Caesars Resort in the Poconos. One vehicle left from the Big Apple, the other from New Jersey.

President George W. Bush also happened to be in Manhattan, visiting the U.N. the very same morning. This made leaving the city difficult. Roads were closed, some vehicles were rerouted and the traffic, chaotic on a good day, was crawling. Nonetheless, Cirillo’s man Joe, myself, two writers from competing web sites and members of a Russian television crew – plus equipment – departed for the 90-mile journey slightly behind schedule.

The State of Boxing. It doesn’t exactly say much for the state of boxing that we leave the city and not a single newspaper writer (OK, I’m half-newspaper, half-web) is along for the ride. It doesn’t exactly say much for the state of boxing that we are well across the George Washington Bridge before the sport of boxing even enters the conversation.

We talk about baseball’s wild card races, fantasy football teams (this was lost on me because most of my fantasies have nothing to do with football) and what is more exciting, college basketball or the NBA. I’m not quite sure what the Russians were talking about since they slept a lot. And when they were awake, they didn’t speak much English.

Training camp.  Once we arrive at Caesars we are stopped by security. With the threat of terrorism very real in our world, there are varying measures of security now taken at sporting events. At a Stanley Cup playoff game, I’ve witness uniformed SWAT members carrying machine guns. At Yankee Stadium, you nearly have to submit to a search before entering the Hallowed Ground of the Bronx Bombers.

At Caesars, a pleasant woman with a clipboard stops the SUV. She peers in the driver’s side window and asks each one of us to recite our names. We get waived through after each named corresponded with her list. Once, a similar press junket, a Newsday colleague, Mark, who blogs for their sports page, lamented the tedious drill of submitting to security checks.

“Doesn’t anyone realize that a sportswriter would never make good terrorist. All we want to do is get into games for free, eat for free and do as little work as possible. As a group, we are pretty lazy.”

He has a point.

We depart the SUV and are greeted by a sign that reads, “Welcome to the Land of Love.”

The workout. As the city traffic put us slightly behind, Wladimir Klitschko is one round into his perfunctory workout. We enter the gym and trainer Emanuel Steward informs us that Wednesday is usually the fighter’s day off, so the workout will be light. Somehow, on media day, the workout is always light.

Klitschko goes three fairly intense rounds with Steward on the pads. He then hits the speed bag for two rounds and jumps rope for two more rounds. He cools down by doing about 10 minutes of stretching.

Klitschko, who is probably not 6-7, closer to 6-5, is nonetheless a stunning physical specimen. He will weigh in the neighborhood of 245 and looks as if there is not an ounce of fat on his body. If you are a sportswriter, or sports fans, there will always be something exciting about standing five feet away from a world-class athlete as he trains. Klitschko’s physicality dominates the room. All eyes focus on the fighter as veins begin to protrude from his arms. Say what you will about him as a fighter, but the man is in shape.

Steward also informed us that there will be no sparring but added that Klitschko would spar 10 rounds the next day and is closing in on 120 rounds of sparring for the fight. “The most I’ve ever had a fighter spar before a fight.”

And yes, there was lunch. Sandwiches, fruit, chips, soda and bottled water. We in the media are called many things, just don’t call us late to the lunch table.

Training Camp part 2.  Klitschko’s opponent, Samuel Peter, is promoted by Duva Boxing. What does it say about the state of boxing that I didn’t mention the opponent until the 16th paragraph of the story? For the record, Klitschko and Peter will meet on September 24 in Atlantic City. It is an IBF title-fight eliminator. Also on the card, WBO junior welterweight champion Miguel Cotto will defend his title.

Because Peter is promoted by Duva boxing, Lou Duva was on hand. He will likely work Peter’s corner on fight night. Always one of the best quotes in boxing, the presence of Duva reminds one of the training camps of yesteryear. He tells a great story about how, as a young man, he would visit as many camps as possible in a single day.

“I used to caddy at the Preakness Hills Country Club in Wayne, New Jersey,” said Duva. “I used to go up there around 6:30, 7:00 in the morning to grab a double. A double means two bags. Two players playing. They were usually doctors or lawyers getting an early round of golf in.

“From there, as soon as I got done, about 11 o’clock, I would go out on the highway and hitch-hike up to Pompton Lakes, to Doc Beard’s camp, to see Joe Louis train. He used to get done probably around 1:00 or 1:30. I got to know all the newspaper guys like, Al Buck, Jim Cannon, Lester Bromberg. Then what they would do, they would all journey up to Greenwood Lake to see Rocky Marciano up there. I used to know Rocky. Then when Rocky got done, I’d hitch another ride with one of the newspaper guys and go up to Cabin in the Sky and see Sugar Ray Robinson. He usually trained around 4:00, 4:30. By the time I got done, I used to get home around 9:00 at night.

“That’s how I learned my craft. It’s not so much the fighters; I learned it from the newspaper guys, I learned it from the trainers. To sit down and listen to the stories of the managers and of the newspaper guys who covered up in New Bedford, or down in Elizabeth or in Newark. That’s how I learned it was all about promoting.”

Training Camp part 3. As Klitschko performed his stretching routine, Steward gathers the Kronk crew – trainer James Ali Bashir and two fighters (I know this because all four are wearing the standard yellow Kronk t-shirts) step onto the makeshift basketball court near the gym and begin shooting hoops. Suffice it to say that the pride of Detroit boxing is not a threat to the Detroit Pistons. Barely a shot is made. However, the Kronk crew might want to suit up the next time the Pistons play the Pacers.

The best of the bunch, heavyweight Malik Scott, drains a few long-range jumpers.

Questions and Answers. Finally, Klitschko holds court with the media. He says all the right things. He insists he is extremely confident. He says he is in a great shape (this does not appear to be a fib). He says he is comfortable with Steward and considers him a friend. He says he is glad that he went through his setbacks because it has made him more focused and made him appreciate boxing more. He complimented Peter, particularly his strength.

Here are the two best things he said. He recalled a fight commentator criticizing him once. “The commentator, he says, this guy (Wladimir) got no chin at all. Unfortunately for that commentator, two fights in a row, he lost by KO. He was very successful this guy, this commentator.”

He was speaking of Roy Jones.

Then, when asked what he learned about the setbacks in his career, he said: “From nothing to everything is a long way. But from everything to nothing is one step.”

Parting shot. On the way out, Ali Bashir spoke with reporters and related a tale of his boxing days. He said he fought in the New York Golden Gloves against a fighter named Christy Elliott. “This guy was a pretty good fighter. He became a good pro. And I’m fighting him in the semifinals. And it’s going well and I’m feeling great about the fight. Later on, I’m eating dinner back in Newark with my mom and my brother. And I’m feeling good because now I’m in the finals. My brother looked at me and said, ‘Are you OK?’ And I was like, yeah, I’m great. Then he said. ‘You lost the fight.’ I got knocked out in the second round and don’t remember a thing about it.”

(For the record, Elliott fought for Ireland in the 1972 Olympics. As a pro, he was managed by Duva and once drew with future 175-pound champ Mike Rossman. He also lost a 10-round decision to TSS boxing analyst, my father, Bobby Cassidy. I was 12 years old and ringside for that one.)

A cautionary tale. Steward said we (the media) have made a monster out of Samuel Peter. “He’s a 10-month sensation.” He says we’ve over hyped him and at the same time dismissed Klitschko too soon. Don’t forget, he warned, that Wladimir decisioned Chris Byrd and knocked out Monte Barrett, Jameel McCline and Ray Mercer. Their common opponent – Charles Shufford — was knocked out by Klitschko with one punch in six rounds. Peter looked less than stellar in scoring a 10-round decision against Shufford.

Food for thought. Exactly what we reporters love.

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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