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Articles of 2005

Brewster defends against Krasniqi – just in case you didn’t know

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Right from the start, Lamon Brewster’s Hamburg, Germany defense of his WBO heavyweight belt against unknown Luan Krasniqi scheduled for Sept. 28th epitomizes the growing obscurity of the heavyweight championship.

This so-called world heavyweight title fight will not be televised in the United States. You won’t find it on pay-per-view, HBO or Showtime, or even ESPN2. What gives?

Of course the answer lies in the fact that in today’s boxing scene there are four men who have staked out a claim to the title “world” champion.

The various titles have so diluted the limited attention champions garner from the public that this one is relegated to being just about club status for serious media coverage.

WBC titlist Vitali Klitschko, based primarily on his losing, though spirited, effort against Lennox Lewis gets most of the headlines and is considered the true champion by The Ring magazine, the self-appointed harbinger of the purist ethos of boxing.

IBF belt holder Chris Byrd is the longest reigning of the titlists. He even sports a victory over Vitali in a WBO match. That alone, some would suggest, qualifies him for the title above the others. His loss to Wladimir Klitschko and some recent questionable decisions, plus the fact that the 35-year old has fought only once in the last year, make his claim shaky.

John Ruiz, the almost indomitable WBA belt wearer, stretches the boxing public’s patience to the point of breaking for his clutch and grab style. Add to that the loss to Roy Jones and the loss-later-ruled-no contest to James Toney and there are not many people who picture Ruiz as the champ. But for some reason that WBA seems stuck to him – he may be the first champion that cannot be beaten even when he’s beaten.

Recent rumors of a Ruiz defense against Kevin McBride certainly don’t strengthen his claim. Still, he has wins over Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo, and a greatly diminished Evander Holyfield.

And, that leaves us at Lamon Brewster.

The WBO belt, held at times by Vitali Klitschko, Chris Byrd, Wladimir Klitschko and Corrie Sanders, had never proven particularly valuable, until then-belt holder Wladimir began to capture the public’s imagination in what looked like an inevitable climb to the top as heir apparent to Lennox Lewis.

Virtually no one thought of Vitali as a champion when he wore the WBO belt. When he lost it to Chris Byrd, the Michigan southpaw remained almost anonymous.

Wladimir, upon taking the WBO strap from Byrd, steadily gained popularity in the United States through five defenses of the once-obscure trinket. Victories over the likes of Derrick Jefferson and Jameel McCline, aired on HBO, earned him high marks.

That all tumbled down when Klitschko was felled by the South African power-puncher Sanders.

Sanders apparently did not accept that the title was meaningful despite the relative prominence of Klitschko. He dumped the belt and petitioned for a rating with the WBC, promptly losing a one-sided challenge to Wladimir’s brother Vitali.

Of course Wladimir was not finished with the WBO. He was pitted against the little known Brewster in a bout for Sanders’ vacated belt that was to showcase the successful return of the younger Klitschko. Lamon entered the ring in Hamburg, Germany on April 10, 2004 a decided underdog.

After all, he dropped two one-sided decisions to journeymen; one to Cliff Etienne, who would go on to a one-round kayo loss to Mike Tyson, and a stoppage over Nikolai Valuev before returning to prison.

The other loss was to Charles Shufford – a one-time George Foreman imitator in the Will Smith movie “Ali” – but more importantly an easy knockout victim at the hands of young Wladimir.

Following the Shufford bout, he engaged in a five-fight win-streak against the likes of Joe Lenhart and Willie Chapman, fighters with losing records.  He had done nothing to inspire awe in the Klitschko camp. Brewster was to be a fighter with a good win-loss record and only a short stop along Klitschko’s path to superstardom.

The fight Brewster opened much as observers expected. The taller and faster Klitschko pummeled Brewster with both cannons. Brewster took a ferocious whipping for four rounds including a visit to the canvas.

Then came the fifth round and Klitschko’s tank ran dry as Brewster came back to life hurting the exhausted Klitschko as the round closed. Although Klitschko beat the count, he was clearly spent and the fight was stopped as he headed for his corner.

Lamon Brewster had beaten the “heir apparent.” More importantly for him was the fact that some of the luster of the Klitschko name transferred to him and his WBO title now had more meaning than it ever had before.

Brewster did little to enhance the worth of the title in his first defense, capturing a razor-thin 12 round decision over top 20-ish Kali Meehan Sept. 4, 2004. Many thought his reign would rapidly come to an end.

He was pitted against the enigmatic Andrew Golota, May 21, 2005. Golota was a man who, in successive fights, fought to a questionable draw with Chris Byrd for the IBF title and another question decision loss to John Ruiz – many at ringside had Golota winning both matches.

Based on his effort against Meehan, Brewster entered the ring once again as the underdog. Ignoring the odds, Brewster blasted Golota in the opening round, sending him to the deck three times and forcing a stoppage less than one minute into the fight.

Almost simultaneously Krasniqi was earning his title shot fighting in a far away place against a far different class of opponents.

Only a few Americans know the 34-year transplanted Kosovar. Some may remember him as an Olympian. Some may have seen his recent victory over Lance Whitaker May 28, 2005. To date it is his only victory over anyone who was ever close to being an upper tier heavyweight.

His bout with Whitaker was billed as being a WBO eliminator. Krasniqi was vaulted into the eliminator based on his draw with Timo Hoffmann Dec. 4, 2004 in a European title fight. One can only speculate as to how a draw with a journeyman suddenly makes one a top contender.

Before that his only opponent of note was Sinan Samil Sam whom he beat by majority decision to gain the European title Feb. 14, 2004.

He enters his bout with Brewster with only one loss, an on-the-stool stoppage at the hands of Przemyslaw Saleta on July 20, 2002. In 2003 he avenged the loss by stopping Saleta in one round. Some readers may recall that Saleta was recently belted out in four rounds by 40-year-old Oliver McCall.

From the snippets of tape and memories of his bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta games, one can see that Krasniqi has skills but only modest power – despite being the first man to stop Whitaker.

Little is known about his chin because of the limited opposition he’s faced. He simply hasn’t met a top puncher.

In fact one could say that he has not yet actually faced a top ten fighter. Whitaker was once close to the top ten but each time he tinkered near the top he suffered setbacks in key bouts with Lou Savarese and Jameel McCline.

At a shade over 6’3” he will have a two-inch height advantage over Brewster. The fighters, who fought a week apart in their last bouts, were only one-pound apart in weight, with Krasniqi coming in at 225 against Whitaker and Brewster tipping the scales at 224 against Golota.

The real difference between the two will likely be in power. Brewster crushed the bigger, ostensibly stronger Golota. He also watched Wladimir Klitschko overtake the latest power-hitting sensation Samuel Peter, knowing full well that he was able to stop Klitschko. His confidence could not be at a higher level.

Brewster may, however, find fighting in Germany disconcerting. He undoubtedly realizes that many debatable decisions have given many fighters real hesitancy about fighting there. An attempt to overcompensate by pushing for an early knockout could prove disastrous should the bout go into the later rounds.

Krasniqi, despite his Olympic experience, has likely never faced the power Brewster has shown of late. As a 34-year-old fighter his ability to make the necessary adjustments in the most high-pressure fight of his life is a major question mark.

Of course U.S. viewers won’t see any of it and win or lose Krasniqi will remain a mystery. The fight will be broadcast on the German network ZDF.

Hopefully the winner decides to face one of the other belt holders to end the nonsense of the four-belt title. A true champion can emerge whose fights will be seen far and wide and not simply as a highlight reel or internet posting.

My prediction?

Krasniqi will face a buzz saw for the first time in his life. The lackluster opponents he’s faced in Germany will not have prepared him well enough for the charging Brewster. Krasiniqi’s chance lies in taking this fight long and keeping Brewster at bay.

For his part, Brewster has not been particularly difficult to reach. He must get under Krasniqi and stick to him throughout the contest. If he attempts an outside boxing match he could jeopardize his belt.

My bet is Brewster will do what he does best and put the heat on early and often.  Krasniqi may prove able to keep Brewster off for a time but the power will tell in the end. Lamon Brewster will punish Krasniqi and pull him out of his game. The wilting Krasniqi will finish the fight on the seat of his pants. Brewster by knockout in round 8.

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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