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Articles of 2005

A Smashing Debut and A Dreadful Debut

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A pair of fighters made their professional debuts on September 15. While one was well-received, the other had a nightmarish performance that had the New York State Athletic Commission buzzing about whether to suspend him.

Although they had never met before, Jason Thompson and Mike Ruiz will be forever linked because of a punch that was thrown after their junior middleweight bout at the Huntington Townhouse in Huntington, New York.

Their match was one-sided. Thompson dropped Ruiz with a right hand in the first round and finished him in the second with a left hook that prompted the physician at ringside to ask the referee to stop the fight at 2:53 of the second round. Enraged that the fight was stopped, Ruiz threw a punch at Thompson when Thompson walked over to shake his hand.

While the crowd booed, Thompson and Ruiz were restrained from attacking one another by their trainers. Thompson regained control and was pacing up and down the ring as Ruiz made a series of obscene gestures to the crowd before he left.

Back in the dressing room, which consisted of a large curtain separating the opposing boxers, both fighters were livid, Thompson over getting sucker-punched and Ruiz because the fight was stopped.

While Thompson, who is from Brooklyn, undid his gloves, Renson DeLosantos, Ruiz’s trainer, walked over and offered an apology.

“He didn’t know what he was doing,” he said to Thompson. “He was just upset; he didn’t mean to do it. He’s a nice kid. He was just upset over what happened. I’m going to ask him to apologize for what he did.”

DeLosantos disappeared behind the curtain and reappeared with Ruiz, who was still wearing his boxing shorts and seemed to be hiding under his curly black hair.

“He’s come to say he was sorry,” DeLosantos said as he held onto Ruiz’s side, sort of pulling him toward Thompson. Rogelio Jackson, Thompson’s trainer stood near Thompson, as did a couple of friends who had come to see Thompson fight.

Appearing somber with tears in eyes but staring at the floor, Ruiz extended his hand and Thompson took it. The handshake was quicker than the wink of an eye, and Ruiz was behind the curtain just as fleetingly. The odd reconciliation quieted Thompson’s celebration for a moment until Ron Katz, a matchmaker who has worked for Sugar Ray Leonard Promotions and currently is the director of boxing for Northeast Promotions walked over.

“It’s obvious that he has a good amateur pedigree,” he said. “I liked how he put his punches together. He’s certainly on the road to becoming a prospect. I was here scouting another fighter, but here I am talking to him.”

Then Pete Brodsky, the show’s matchmaker came over and heaped more praise on him.

“Stop talking to my fighter,” he joked. Brodsky said he might put Thompson on an upcoming show in October.

For a fighter who turned pro in virtual anonymity, Thompson received a lot of attention for his first fight. He spent 8 years in the amateurs where he was known for his steel chin and heavy hands, and for fighting anyone, anytime.

He fought as heavy at 178 pounds, and he has probably fought every highly regarded fighter in New York City, from Joe Greene, who stopped his opponent in the third round on the same Huntington show, to Danny Jacobs, Julian Townsend and Leon Hines. Thompson turned pro without the assistance of a promoter or manager.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even expect the fight to go like this,” he said. “I knew that I was in super shape, and I was prepared to throw a lot of punches – I was prepared to go six rounds if I had to – I didn’t think it would go this  well.”

Losing in the pros is far more devastating than losing in the amateurs, so the New York State Athletic Commission chairman, Ron Scott Stevens, was charitable with Ruiz, giving him a sixty-day suspension because of the stoppage but letting the illegal punch  go unpunished.

“He shook hands with the other fighter, and I thought he suffered enough by losing his debut and getting booed by the crowd,” he said. “Ruiz spoke to the other kid in the dressing room and apologized. He’s been warned that if anything like this happens again he will be in serious trouble. He’s on a short leash right now with the commission.”

Stevens initially thought the punch after the fight missed its mark. When told it actually grazed the side of Thompson’s face, Stevens expressed surprise but kept to his earlier decision.

Nonetheless, Thompson is troubled by the commission’s handling of the situation.

“If I had known that the kid was going to get off with nothing, I would have swung and tried to hit him and whipped his a**,” he said. “The handshake he gave me wasn’t sincere because I know his corner put him up to it. The corner said he was going to come over and apologize – whatever. He came over and gave me a little bullsh** handshake. I can’t believe that he’s not going to be punished. Regardless if the punch landed or not, just the attempt alone should get him suspended.”

He added, “I thought that if I didn’t attack him back it would be a better look for me as far as being the bigger man. I don’t like what he did because he makes the whole situation ugly, makes the sport of boxing look ugly.”

Thompson is an entertainer in the ring; he throws punches that inflict punishment but are also artful in design. To listen to Thompson describe the way he set up the knockdown  in the first round is to indulge in the joy of accomplishing something exquisite.

“The set-up was beautiful,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t realize what I did, though; they didn’t notice it. If you look at the tape, I was popping him with the jab to his body. Right before the knockdown, he’s feeling those body punches, then he tried to move and I was cutting off the ring on him. I threw a jab to the body that wasn’t forceful; it was more like a diversion to make him look for the shot for  the body. Then I came up top with the right hand and knocked him down. It was beautiful.”

Thompson entered the ring wearing a blue and red robe that fluttered as he hopped up the steps to face the crowd. The robe – a vanishing piece of attire in boxing as more and more fighters are outfitted in snappy looking jackets – was unbuckled, allowing his torso to show. Stalking around the ring with a nasty expression on his face, he looked raw and primordial in the same way that Jake LaMotta did when he wore his trademark leopard skin robe into the ring, as though he had just rolled out of bed at dawn and was pissed off needing to take out the garbage.

“My stuff is old-fashioned,” he said. “The modern stuff is cool, but I like the old-school stuff more.”

Ruiz, on the other hand, entered the ring wearing gaudy sunglasses encrusted with diamonds on the side. He had on white and blue shorts with the Puerto Rican flag across the front, and he didn’t remove his sunglasses until he met in the center of the  ring for the pre-fight instructions.

From the opening bell, it was apparent that Thompson was the stronger and more skilled than Ruiz, who is only 19. While Ruiz, a Golden Gloves winner in 2003, was throwing sweeping, hard shots, Thompson was peppering him to the body, making him fight backward. A headbutt midway through the first round stopped the action; referee Steve Willis checked for blood, of which there was none, and the fight proceeded. Ruiz rose from the knockdown quickly, but in the second round, a heavy left hand clipped the top of his head, causing his legs to do that bizarre dance fighters do when they are hurt.

Thompson took his time, slowly putting his punches together when the doctor stepped up to stop the fight. Ruiz appeared to be ok, but it was apparent it was not going to end well for him because Thompson was gearing up for another assault.

“I was upset when they stopped it,” Ruiz said after the fight. “I was really upset. I don’t know where my mind was at. I was thinking about what happened, and I felt really bad. That was my first debut. The reason I came to this country was to become a world champion. I’ve watched the tape of the fight like ten times, and I can’t believe they stopped it.”

Ruiz left Puerto Rico two years ago to pursue a boxing career in the United States. DeLosantos, his trainer and manager at the Hempstead Boxing Club, realized he had the chops to make it in boxing because whenever Ruiz would get hurt in sparring, DeLosantos noted that he would always come back as if nothing had happened. A lot was riding on his debut. DeLosantos was hoping to catch the eye of a promoter at the show.  

“He was hurt from a punch, but so was the other kid,” DeLosantos said. “The doctor should have given him a chance to recover. I saw Mike after the stoppage and he was ok. I don’t know why they stopped the fight. Mike wasn’t cut; he wasn’t bleeding. The fight was stopped 30 seconds after the punch landed.”

There is no disagreement over what happened next. Thompson celebrated the win, jumping up and down and went over to shake Ruiz’s hand when Ruiz, still fuming over what happened, and who was actually being held back by his trainer even before he threw the punch, uncorked a left hand that glanced off Thompson’s face.

“I was trying to calm him down,” DeLosantos said. “Mike had tears in his eyes he was so upset. You have to understand: the kid was looking to get signed by a promoter. This was a big opportunity for him.”

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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