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Articles of 2005

Tarver-Jones III: History is on the line in Tampa

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No one in boxing in the last 25 years has dominated the ring in the fashion of Roy Jones Jr.

The winner of 23 title fights in four weight divisions, his fights were not simply boxing matches. They were in fact canvases on which the master performed his art.

His public stood aghast at his unique ability to seem as if he were the only fighter in the ring actually fighting. No one came close to his speed, his style, his total mastery of every second of every round.

In his first 49 fights that mastery was complete. Except for a rule infraction against a surely beaten Montell Griffin, he was essentially perfect. To prove his point he battered the very capable Griffin in their rematch capturing a resounding first round knockout. He left no doubt.

He beat the likes of Bernard Hopkins and James Toney, fighters who would later be called great themselves. Virgil Hill and Reggie Johnson were both more than respectable combatants. Hill in fact was a winner of 23 title fights during his career.

Unfortunately for Roy a number of his opponents were so completely dominated that they were viewed as incompetents who did not deserve top rankings.

But, in retrospect most can now agree that it was primarily because he was so far superior to the other fighters in the division that it only seemed as though this was the case.

Consider the list of Roy’s opponents who went on to gain world title fights after losing to Roy; Eric Lucas (super middleweight); Julio Gonzalez (light-heavyweight), Clinton Woods (light-heavyweight); Virgil Hill (cruiserweight); James Toney (cruiserweight); Bernard Hopkins (middleweight); Thulane Malinga (super middleweight); and Jorge Fernando Castro (middleweight). And, that includes only the better-known alphabet titles.

Even John Ruiz, who, after losing his WBA heavyweight belt, would go on to recapture his title after Roy vacated.

Roy’s reign was not without its controversies, however. It was apparent that Roy was in no hurry to dispel the notion by his detractors that he chose to sidestep certain adversaries who may have been in his universe of ability.

During his tenure as light-heavyweight champion Germany’s Dariusz Michalczewski himself amassed an eye-popping 48-0 record including a claim to the world title gained from his win over Virgil Hill that garnered him the IBF and WBA belts in addition to his WBO strap. The win also gave him a claim to the lineal championship in the eyes of some boxing purists.

He was later relinquished the IBF and WBA titles and continued on defending his WBO title. The important fact, however, is that, for reasons known only to the two fighters, they never met.

While most observers would have picked Jones to win had the two met, the situation led some of his critics to question his commitment to being a true champion.

Jones virtually destroyed the idea that he was running from danger with his clear victory over John Ruiz. Although bulked up to 193 pounds, Roy still spotted the defending titlist 32 pounds for their showdown.

Ruiz fought his entire career in the division and had beaten the likes of Evander Holyfield. He was a favorite in some quarters to not only beat Roy, but to put him in the third row of ringside seating.

Roy made the fight seem as effortless as he had many of his light-heavyweight defenses. He snapped punches to Ruiz’s head. He made the bigger man miss with great frequency. His unorthodox, in fact one-of-a-kind, style left Ruiz without answers and without his title. As the final bell rang, Roy was pulling away.

Roy Jones, it seemed could not be beaten.

Enter Antonio Tarver.

A fellow Floridian, Tarver was not unknown to Jones. Some say they fought on even terms in the amateurs. Although there is no way to really know that now, if it was even in part true, it was cause for special notice. No one fought Roy Jones on even terms, ever.

Like Roy, Tarver excelled in the amateur ranks and garnered a spot on an Olympic team. He even captured a Bronze in the 1996 Games.

Note the year, 1996. Roy Jones, despite being a few months younger won a silver in the 1988 Games. He turned pro in 1989, while it would be eight years until Tarver made the jump.

Tarver, as a 29-year-old professional novice in 1997 – and with no gold medal assuring him of early big money backing and important fights – turned pro in relative obscurity. (Consider that the 29-year-old Wladimir Klitschko, with his recent win over Sam Peter, has already competed in 48 fights).

To his credit, Tarver moved into the pro ranks undaunted and with his eye on one opponent, Roy Jones. He campaigned without fanfare in places like the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, even Tunica, Mississippi.

His first big fight created an even bigger deficit than his age and status as a barely known fighter.

Eric Harding dropped him and broke his jaw en route to a convincing 12-round decision and with it a shot at the fabled Roy Jones. Tarver would have to get back in line and regroup.

Solid wins over Reggie Johnson, Harding (by knockout in a rematch), and Montell Griffin set the stage for his long awaited shot. At age 35 he gained his first chance to fight for a world title belt.

After Jones dismantled Ruiz, he found an agitating and agitated Antonio Tarver horning in on his post-fight press conference that was to have been a place for Roy to soak in the glory. Instead, following the taunts of a non-worshipping Tarver, he left angry and determined to return to his light-heavyweight division to clean house.

They met in Las Vegas November 8, 2003, and fans were stunned to witness Roy Jones pressed and pounded for 12 very long rounds. Roy’s face looked as though he had been in a fight – something most fighters take for granted, but not something Roy Jones would ever experience, or so we thought.

Tarver landed combinations often whaling away while Jones stood against the ropes. Jones fought back with all he had but clearly he was puzzled and just as clearly not the dominant destroyer of giants that he was just a few months before against Ruiz.

Jones looked lost and lethargic at times during the fight. He mustered his energy to eek out a majority decision, but in the court of public opinion, Roy Jones had become a mere mortal.

Opinions abound as to what occurred in the first meeting between the two. Some will say that Jones was weakened severely by his 18-pound weight loss required to make the division limit. Of course his age at the time, 35, could suggest that Mother Nature was finally paying a visit to one of her more perfect works.

Of course they were to meet again and his merely human status was confirmed. In just two rounds, Tarver connected with the most pristine left hand ever thrown from the southpaw stance, disconnecting Jones from conscious control of his body, from his title belts, and from the pedestal on which he stood for so long.

It is a very real possibility that Jones simply met an opponent for whom he had no answers. Professional baseball Cy Young winners all have stories of the .220 hitter who could almost always get a hit on them no matter the pitch, no matter the adjustment. Only in this case Antonio Tarver is no .220 hitter – if he were a baseball player his average would be more like .330. Being good and puzzling is a solid combination.

Antonio Tarver may indeed present questions that Roy Jones simply cannot answer. A dispassionate look at their first two meetings today leaves little doubt that Tarver showed a certain something that Jones’ was not able to solve. Whether that magic is permanent is what Tarver-Jones III is really all about.

Saturday in Tampa the two will meet in what could be the last great fight of both of their careers.

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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