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Articles of 2005

A Conversation with Nino Benvenuti



Nino Benvenuti is one of the greatest Italian fighters in history. As an amateur he won a gold medal during the 1960 Olympics in the welterweight division. From 1961 to 1971 he compiled a professional record of 82 wins (35 by KO), 7 losses and 1 draw. He won the Italian and European middleweight titles and became world champion in the light middleweight and middleweight divisions. No need to specify that he wore the WBA and WBC belts, because in that era there were only two organizations and to be considered a real world champion a fighter had to win both titles.

Nino also fought the biggest stars of his day and beat most of them. He was never afraid to go to his opponent’s hometown, even if that meant risking his title. He produced memorable performances in the United States, Germany, Canada, Croatia, South Korea and Monte Carlo. Among his most famous opponents were Denny Moyer and Juan Carlos Duran (both beaten on points after 10 rounds), Sandro Mazzinghi ( KOed in six rounds, later beaten on points in 15), Don Fullmer (beaten twice on points), Emile Griffith (2 wins and 1 loss), Doyle Baird (a draw), Dick Tiger (a loss by unanimous decision), Tom Bethea (1 loss by TKO, later avenged by a KO win) and Carlos Monzon (who twice beat him before the limit).

Even 34 years after he decided to hang up the gloves, Nino remains very popular in Italy. Teenagers who weren’t born when he was champion ask him for autographs and treat him like a star. Not many of today’s boxers receive the same attention. Of course, being technical commentator for the Italian television helps keep his name in the news, but that alone doesn’t explain his popularity. So let’s ask him.

Mr. Benvenuti, I saw you at a fitness festival and you attracted more people than any other boxer. How do you explain that?

I think that my original fans have to be credited for that. When I fought, there were as much as 20,000 people at the sports complex in Rome. They talked about me to their sons, keeping my popularity intact. Besides, Italian television broadcasts images of my most famous fights and that helps too. A couple of days ago, I went to a fitness gym. They had a boxing program and I asked to see the room with the ring and the heavy bags. All of a sudden, all the fighters surrounded me and asked me to get a photo with them.

Let’s talk about your career. Who was your toughest opponent?

I would say Carlos Monzon, because he KOed me twice (in the 12th and 3rd rounds). I couldn’t believe it when I lost to him for the first time because I didn’t think much about Monzon. He had a decent record, but never defeated anybody famous. Besides, he had never produced an impressive performance. I think that Monzon surprised even himself: he had the opportunity to change his life for the better and did his best. He knew he was facing a real champion and this pushed him to a point he never reached before. In boxing, your performance changes according to the stature of your opponent. When I trained to fight Ki Soo Kim, for example, I wasn’t so focused like when I trained for Emile Griffith. Who the hell was this Kim? I supposed to knock him out fast. What happened was one of the most shameful pages in boxing history.

Tell us about that.

I dominated Ki Soo Kim, knocking him down during the 14th round. He got up and made it until the end of the round. During the interval, somebody approached the ring and broke one of the columns where the ropes were tied. They needed more than fifteen minutes to repair the column. When the 15th round began Ki Soo Kim had enough energy to last three more minutes. That was their purpose. Anyway, they couldn’t even get a unanimous decision for their man: one of the judges gave the victory to me. I never lost to him in the first place! If the match was held anywhere else, I would have got a unanimous decision by a wide margin of points. Unfortunately, we were fighting in Seoul. That was June 25, 1966. I lost my WBA and WBC light middleweight belts.

Going back to Monzon, how do you explain the second defeat?

I wasn’t motivated anymore. In boxing, you must have hunger of money and titles. I was rich and had been world champion fighting everywhere. That’s also part of the reason why Monzon beat me: he had the ambition that I didn’t have anymore. In the 1990s, I went many times to Argentina because I had a relationship with a woman who worked at the Argentinean Embassy in Rome. During my trips to Buenos Aires, I took the opportunity to visit Carlos Monzon in jail (he was there for throwing his wife out the window). I can say that he really enjoyed my visit and asked me to come back, which I did.

What other fighter gave you a hard time?

Luis Manuel Rodriguez. I faced him on November 22, 1969. The match was held in Rome and I was WBA and WBC middleweight champion. Rodriguez was one helluva fighter. I knew he was tough, but not that tough. He kept moving and throwing combinations like he had a turbo pushing him. At the 11th round, I was exhausted and he kept the rhythm very high. I asked myself if I could last four more rounds. All of a sudden, I hit him with a big left hook and he went down for the final count. I thought I got lucky. In Italy, they say that good luck helps the brave ones.

In the United States, you are remembered for your trilogy with Emile Griffith.

He was another difficult opponent, but I knew it from the beginning. I knew that he had beaten the very best, so I trained harder than ever before. I also knew that a win against such a great champion would have granted me big pay checks. What I didn’t understand was that beating Emile I could have made big money outside the ring.

What do you mean?

That I was asked to star in commercials. I was contacted shortly after my first victory. They gave me a plane ticket to Hollywood, to film a few scenes they wanted to show to the executives of the biggest companies. My first wife wanted to go back to Italy; my manager didn’t try to convince me to move to California and I declined the offer. Now I realize I missed a big opportunity. In my era nobody had a team of lawyers, marketing specialists, press agents who made them understand the value of communication or how to make money outside the ring. I never had a doctor who advised me about eating correctly. All I knew was that pasta and meat gave me strength and made me feel good, so I always ate those things. Today, they call it Mediterranean diet. My first experience outside boxing was a western movie: Vivi o preferibilmente morti (Wanted: alive or preferably dead). My partner was Giuliano Gemma, the biggest Italian movie star of that time. It was 1969. The director was Duccio Tessari, a master of spaghetti westerns. With such a team, the movie turned out to be a huge financial success. I don’t remember if it was number one or number two at the Italian box-office. Later, it was sold to Germany and other European countries. You know, I was so popular that paparazzi shot me photos while I was walking in the street or dining at a restaurant. That’s why some journalists wrote that I never trained. Those guys didn’t know that I woke up at 5.00 o’clock a.m. and ran for miles … then I spent hours in the gym. Only after having completed my training session, I went for a walk downtown.

You said that today’s fighters know more than you did. Is that also true if we talk about training?

Honestly, I’m convinced that modern fighters train better than the ones of my time. Of course, an advanced training program doesn’t guarantee success in the ring. In general, I think that everybody should build the kind of physique that makes him feel good.

What would you advise to a promising fighter?

I would tell him to be selective. If I was fighting today, I would go after the Italian championship and later the European title. After making a few defenses of the Euro belt, I would go after the WBA or WBC titles. The history of those two organizations gives their titles the status of world titles. Today, too many fighters don’t consider the Italian belt worthy. I want to say to these guys: You are doing a big mistake. The Italian title is only one, there’s only one champion in every weight division. Same story for the Euro belt. Those intercontinental, international and minor world titles mean nothing! I was proud to be Italian champion. There’s a famous photo of me jumping with my arms raised in victory and a big smile on my face. It was shot one second after I became European middleweight champion. I knew that was a huge step forward for my career. I knew that I really was the best in my own continent. Winning a minor belt doesn’t make a fighter the best in anything.

One final question: I read that you traveled to India, some years ago. Why?

I was in a very special moment of my life. I felt that I had to give something back to the world, because I received so much. Since I was always touched by people who were sick with leprosy (I met one of them in Isola d’Istria, when I was a kid), I decided to go to India and work in a hospital helping people who had leprosy. I spent three months there. It helped my soul.

Nino Benvenuti

Birth Name: Giovanni Benvenuti

Birthplace: Isola d´Istria, when it was part of Italy; today, it belongs to Croatia

Division: Light Middleweight and Middleweight

Born: April 26, 1938

Stance: Orthodox

Height: 180 cm.

Manager: Bruno Amaduzzi

Trainer: Libero Golinelli

Record: 82 Wins (35 by KO), 7 Losses and 1 Draw.

Light Middleweight Titles: WBA and WBC World Champion

Middleweight Titles: Italian Champion, European Champion, WBA and WBC World Champion

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

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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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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