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Articles of 2005

Lou Benson, Harry Jeffra, Steamed Shrimp



It was with great delight that I received a letter from onetime journeyman heavyweight Lou Benson Jr. of Baltimore on October 17. Although the 48-year-old Benson, who compiled a 17-11-2 (8 KOs) record during a career that lasted from 1975-92, was very proud about being inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004, he wasn’t writing about himself.

Even though he joined the likes of such fistic greats as Joe Gans, Harry Jeffra, and Vincent and Joe Dundee, he wasn’t aggrandizing his enshrinement or tooting his own horn. Instead, he was urging boxing writers to correct what he perceived as an injustice by voting to induct Jeffra into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, in 2006.

“Surely you are aware of some of his fistic accomplishments, such as beating the great Sixto Escobar to win the world bantamweight title in 1937,” wrote Benson. “In perhaps the heyday of the sport, Harry defeated Joey Archibald in 1940 to win the world featherweight title. Please look closely at Harry Jeffra’s record and career, and rightfully vote for his induction.”

Benson’s interest in Jeffra has as much to do with personal reasons as it does with Jeffra’s professional accomplishments. As a teenager, Benson used to accompany his father, Lou Sr., to meetings of the Veteran Boxer’s Association’s Ring 108, of which Jeffra was a member. Lou Sr. was a professional heavyweight who amassed a record of 12-6 (7 KOs) while campaigning from 1952-55.

“I was headed for trouble at that time, and boxing saved my life,” said Benson, whose father died of a massive heart attack at age 44 when he was just 18 years old and a veteran of two pro fights.

“As a young amateur and professional fighter I could always count on a word of advice, praise or critique from Harry, which went a long way in my mind. Not only was Harry a respected ex-world champion, he was also a gentleman. Meeting him was the thrill of a lifetime.”

Boxing straightened out Benson so much, he went on to not only have a somewhat successful pro career, he also served as a Baltimore city sheriff for 20 years. Truth be told, he only moonlighted as a professional boxer.

At 5’11” tall he began his career as a light heavyweight, but quickly evolved into a heavyweight and fought a who’s who of notable prospects, contenders, and even one future world champion. He says he dropped future light heavyweight titlist Dwight Muhummad Qawi at Baltimore’s Civic Center in June 1978 before losing a six-round decision. For any non-believers, he insists that he has a copy of the fight on Super 8 film.

“That was the toughest six-round fight I ever had,” said Benson. “He was a tough son of a gun, but back then there were ten light heavyweights who would be champions today.”

Besides tangling with a slew of undefeated heavyweight prospects like Carl “The Truth” Williams, James Broad, Chris McDonald and Lee Canalito, Benson also mixed it up with the murderous punching Jeff Sims, cross-town rival George Chaplin in a bout for the Maryland State Title, Englishman John Louis Gardner in England, and knockout artist Marcelo Victor Figueroa of Argentina in France.

While he lost to most of them, he did battle McDonald, who had upset James Broad at the 1980 Olympic Trials, to a hard-fought, eight-round draw on the undercard of a Tony Ayala Jr. fight in San Antonio August 1981. The bout was showcased on NBC’s Sportsworld.

“McDonald was a helluva fighter,” said Benson. “He was one of NBC’s Tomorrow’s Champions. He cut my eye, but I busted him up pretty good too. It was a nip and tuck fight.”

His biggest career disappointment was getting stopped by Chaplin in the ninth round in Baltimore in June 1983. If he won, Benson had been promised a $75,000 bout against Gerry Cooney. Because Benson was a self-described working stiff, that amount of money seemed like a fortune to him. Considering the fact that his career high purse was the $7,500 he earned against Chaplin, that would have been an appropriate assessment at the time.

One of his only laments is his fourth-round disqualification loss to Sims in the winner’s hometown of Miami Beach in January 1984. Benson said that Sims hit him so hard with an overhand right in the second round, he was forced to clinch to survive.

“Sims was a tiger who could punch like hell,” explained Benson. “I was seeing double after he hit me. Hell, I was seeing double for three days afterwards. The referee acted like I was trying to cheat, but I was doing what I had to do until my head cleared and my vision returned.”

Benson once accepted a bout against Mike Tyson, but much to his chagrin it never came to fruition. It was at a point of Iron Mike’s career where he was having trouble finding opponents who weren’t terrified of him. Benson was offered $25,000 on a Monday to fight Tyson on a Friday.

What most people don’t realize is that he and Tyson had a little bit of history. In March 1983, a few years before Tyson even turned pro, he and his mentor Cus D’Amato visited Benson’s dressing room after he lost what describes as a hometown decision to Marty Capasso in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“Cus told me he knew how I felt, that the same thing had happened to Floyd Patterson when he fought Joey Maxim in Cleveland,” recalled Benson. “Mike was with him and he was very gracious.”

Years later, in 1991, while Tyson was incarcerated for rape in Indiana, Benson embarked on a comeback after a six-year hiatus from the ring. A local writer lobbied hard for Benson to get a match with Tyson inside the prison walls. Unfortunately those plans were scuttled by prison officials.

Sadly, eight years later, Benson would find himself behind bars after trying to help out a friend in need. The friend, a welterweight who had fought professionally in the late fifties and sixties, was on lifetime parole for a homicide. He had been supportive of Benson throughout his career, so Benson, who by virtue of being involved in boxing says he knew no shortage of sleazy people, did not feel ethically challenged by associating with him.

The ex-pug, who was down and out and living above a dive bar, got into some more legal trouble in the late nineties. Rather than risk having his parole revoked, he offered up Benson, who authorities had long suspected of associating with local bookmakers and gangsters.

“The FBI had the guy call me and say people were trying to break into his house and kill him – and that he was in fear for his life,” recalled Benson. “He said he had a gun, but no bullets. He asked me for some bullets, and me being the fool that I am, I gave them to him.”

After being arrested, Benson resigned from the sheriff’s department and wound up serving a year in federal prison. “I’m probably the only guy that ever went to jail for giving someone a few bullets,” he said. “But I realize what I did was wrong. It was a stupid thing to do.”

Benson now manages a bar that is owned by his wife Rachel, to whom he has been married since 1990. Benson says the Dew Drop Inn, which is located in Baltimore County, serves the best steamed shrimp in the area. It is also home to several pool playing leagues that are drawn there by the three on-premise tables.

Benson works the evening shift and is home soon after the 2 AM closing time, which gives him time to spend with his family, which includes two children from a previous marriage and the two children that he and Rachel have together. Twenty-year-old Parker, his only son, would be a great fighter, says Benson, “if only he was a little bit more disciplined.”

Benson, who keeps his weight at about 205 pounds by speed-walking each morning, offers no excuses for either his limited success as a fighter or his transgressions with the law.

Unlike so many other ex-fighters, he doesn’t say that mismanagement or the lack of opportunity prevented him from becoming all that he could be. It is obvious that Benson knows who he is and is honest enough, with himself and others, warts and all, to hold his head high.

“I had as much opportunity as a lot of other guys,” said the refreshingly candid Benson. “I mostly managed myself, and I accepted all those fights in other people’s hometowns. I wasn’t the only guy doing that. Some guys did that and became champions. I take my hat off to them.

“The way I look at it, I went out a winner,” he adds. “I had a colorful career. I never won a title, never made a million dollars, but I fought on ESPN and on European television. I have a lot of memories, and most of them are good.”

(The Dew Drop Inn is located at 12301 Philadelphia Road in Baltimore County. The phone number is 410-538-3126. Benson, a master storyteller, holds court there nightly. Don’t forget to order the steamed shrimp.)

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

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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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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