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Articles of 2005

Silvio Branco: “I want Fabrice Tiozzo!”

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Silvio Branco is one of the few Italian fighters who has built a reputation abroad. He has fought top opposition in Scotland, England, France, Germany and Argentina. Among his victims are Glencoffe Johnson, Robin Reid, Thomas Tate and Verno Philips. In 17 years as a pro,  His victories brought him the most prestigious awards by Italian Presidents Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, as well as by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: the Golden Collar and the Medal of Honor for Sports Accomplishments.

Currently, Silvio Branco’s record comprises 53 wins (33 by KO), 8 losses and 2 draws. In the light heavyweight rankings, he is rated number two by the WBA, number five by the WBC, number ten by the IBF and number eight by the WBO. His last fight was on June 17, at the famed Palalido in Milan: he gave a boxing lesson to promising youngster Drago Janusevic (who was 8-0), defeating him via 6th round TKO. Right now, The Barbarian is training to fight WBA king Fabrice Tiozzo. He lost the WBA belt, on points, to the Frenchman, but he doesn’t consider that loss a real one. In fact, he doesn’t even consider Tiozzo his toughest opponent. Other fighters, some of them unknown in the United States, gave him many more problems. Let’s discover who they are.

Silvio, who was your toughest opponent?

Verno Philips. He had a big reputation, which made him look dangerous. He had been WBO light middleweight champion, beating twice Puerto Rican Santos Cardona. I saw Verno Philips in action when he faced Gianfranco Rosi in 1995, losing on points (the decision was then changed into a no-contest after Rosi failed a drug test). I thought Philips was very good, but not an outstanding boxer. When we got in the ring, I found out he was very fast in moving and throwing combinations. When he knocked me down in the first round, I couldn’t believe it. I got up, fought at my best and got a unanimous decision: 116-112, 114-113 and 117-112. My victory gained importance three months later, when Verno Philips defeated easily Gianfranco Rosi in their rematch. In 1998, Verno Philips knocked out Julian Jackson and that increased my reputation on the international scene.

What about Glencoffe Johnson?

He was another difficult opponent. I can say that he is a legitimate tough guy. I wasn’t surprised when he defeated Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones. The people who underrated Glencoffe did so because he wasn’t famous. If you don’t have a contract with a major promoter who provides you big fights and who pushes your image with the media, some people may think that you aren’t good. The point is that in boxing what counts is what you can do in the ring; Glencoffe Johnson can do his job better than the most acclaimed champions.

By the way, who would you like to fight?

I want a rematch against WBA champion Fabrice Tiozzo, but I’m ready to face Zsolt Erdei (WBO), Clinton Woods (IBF) and Thomasz Adamek (WBC). I respect them all, but I consider Antonio Tarver better than them. I would love to fight Antonio, anytime. If he wants to fight in his hometown, that’s ok for me.

Do you think that the champions of the major sanctioning bodies are avoiding him?

I don’t think so. They just have to follow the schedule of their organization, if they don’t want to be stripped of the belts. Remember what happened when Antonio Tarver signed to fight Glencoffe Johnson: the WBC and IBF asked them to face other opponents, they refused and were forced to  relinquish the titles. By the way, I don’t believe in the distinction between major and minor sanctioning bodies. It’s the champion who makes an organization important. Nobody cared about the WBO, then Oscar De La Hoya became champion and everybody started considering the WBO title a world title. Today, the WBO is as respected as the WBC, WBA and IBF. Since Antonio Tarver is the IBO champion, that belt is meaningful.

Why do you want so badly a rematch with Fabrice Tiozzo?

Because I never lost to him in the first place! I dominated him for the entire fight. In the 8th round I knocked him down. During the interval, incidentally (or not so), a bucket full of ice and water fell on the ring floor. They had to clean the mat and this gave Tiozzo more time to recover. Besides, the 9th round was short 13 seconds (the tapes prove it). During the 11th round I slipped and the referee started counting. I got up immediately and asked him What are you doing? He told me to shut up. I didn’t pay much importance to the slip because I knew I was winning by a wide margin. I forgot that partisan verdicts are usual in boxing. Two judges ruled in Tiozzo’s favor (114-112), the third one saw it a draw (113-113). I’m not saying that he is not a good boxer; he is an excellent one. He became WBA and WBC light heavyweight champion and WBA cruiserweight champion. Among others, he defeated Mike McCallum, Eric Lucas, Nate Miller and Darius Michalczewski. The next time, I’ll have to knock Tiozzo out.

Are you sure he’ll grant you a rematch?

I was supposed to fight him later this month. I went to Paris to train with Jean-Marc Mormeck, when I was told that Tiozzo will make a defense against Paul Murdoch on December 5. I don’t understand what makes Paul Murdoch the number one contender.

Let’s talk about your fights in Germany.

I don’t complain about the losses to Thomas Ulrich (11th round ko) and Sven Ottke (on points), but I’m mad about the loss against Stipe Drews. I was scheduled to face Thomas Ulrich, who pulled out of the fight a few hours earlier. They told me he was sick and that Drews was willing to replace him. I didn’t know anything about Drews. After 12 hard rounds, the judges ruled in his favor: 115-114, 116-112 and 117-111. I would like to know the reasons for giving Drews four and six points. Looking at the match, I realized that Stipe Drews is just a good boxer. With the proper training, I would have beaten him. You know, some people don’t understand the importance of training. For the sparring sessions, you choose a partner who has a style similar to your opponent’s style. You memorize the way he moves and what you have to do to win the fight. If your opponent changes, all the work you did in the gym isn’t useful anymore. If I defeated easily a respected super middleweight like Robin Reid, it’s because I studied the right strategy. We fought in Scotland, on

June 24, 2000. The judges recognized my superiority: 118-109, 117-110 and 115-111.

You also fought in Argentina.

Yes, in Buenos Aires, in 1994. My opponent was Miguel Angel Arroyo, who had a record of 62 wins, 10 losses and 5 draws. The WBC international middleweight title was on the line. Most of the 18,000 fans were supporting Arroyo. I was pleased to see many green/white/red flags; many Argentineans are of Italian ancestry and they rooted for me. The fight was much tougher than I expected; Arroyo was one helluva fighter. That’s why I’m very proud of my victory. Like I said before, sometimes boxers who are not much publicized turn out to be the most dangerous ones. Mehdi Sahnoune is another example. I beat him for the WBA world light heavyweight title on October 10, 2003. He had a record of 24-0, but nobody knew him out of France. Last October 22, he was hired by German promoters to face Zsolt Erdei who won by 12th round TKO. Sahnoune could have won the match; on two scorecards he was just one point behind Erdei.

Talking about unknown good fighters, Agostino Cardamone was a nightmare for you.

Yes, he beat me three times. The second one, I was winning on points when he got me with a big hook to the jaw: 10th round KO. Agostino Cardamone was one of the best middleweights of his era.  Between 1989 and 1999 he won the Italian and European titles. He lost to Julian Jackson for the vacant WBC belt: 2nd round TKO. He became WBU champion against me and closed his career with a record of 33 wins and 3 losses. It’s a shame that, even in Italy, nobody remembers him. I want the readers of The Sweet Science to know that in Italy there are plenty of good fighters. If they got an opportunity against a big American star, they would made quite an impression. I’ll never forget when Giorgio Campanella knocked down Oscar De La Hoya in the first round, with a hook to the chin. If he got him one inch higher, the Golden Boy would have been put to sleep. For the record, De La Hoya got up and knocked down Campanella in the second and third rounds forcing the Italian’s cornermen to throw in the towel. That was May 27, 1994.

Silvio Branco

Alias: The Barbarian

Birthplace: Civitavecchia, Italy. This town is close to Rome.

Division: Light Heavyweight

Age: 39

Born: August 26, 1966

Stance: Orthodox

Height: 184

Manager: OPI 2000 Salvatore Cherchi

Trainer: Franco Cherchi

Record: 53 Wins (33 by KO), 8 Losses and 2 Draws

Middleweight Titles: Italian Champion, WBC International Champion, IBF Intercontinental Champion, WBU World Champion.Super Middleweight Title: WBU World Champion.

Light Heavyweight Titles: WBA and IBF Intercontinental Champion, WBA World Champion.

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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