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Articles of 2005

Boxing’s Big Fight



“Boxing doesn’t really register anymore, does it? I mean, I see some of the fights on TV. I do sometimes. I can’t say I know who they are though. Where are the great fighters now? Who are they?” So ran one half of a casual conversation this writer had a week ago with “an average sports fan” who classified himself as a guy who “generally likes to see the fights.” The phrase “the fights” almost hovered in the air between us for a second and then vanished back to 1975.

Almost no one uses that phrase any more – except for Larry Merchant, the odd New York literati and yours very truly – much like the term “prizefighters” the almost forgotten perfect descriptor for what pro boxers do. Even the language to partake of a casual boxing conversation gets stultified, an act of accidental retro-speak, these days.

It’s true that boxing is on more channels now than ever; more fights are broadcast in more languages than ever before. We also know mainstream newspapers don’t specifically ‘cover’ boxing now, they publish newswire boxing scandals or court cases involving boxing bad boys – and girls – to the exclusion of describing the week to week, card to card, fight to fight maturation and devolution of the same fighters they give the time of day to only to present as deviant or deranged.

Sure, the pay-per-view superfights and local fighters of momentary interest are, at times, noted somewhere in the recesses of the sports pages; Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver have taken post-fight bows on late night talk shows. Roy Jones made music and athletic marvels, yet no one ever asked him his views on religion or politics. Boxers are not considered socially sentient, lower on the public’s need to know IQ inquiry register then rock stars and TV actors.

Well, you know the rest of that story. We all know what we do not see as pertains to boxers or boxing generally in newspapers and magazines across North America and Europe. The essential transmission of boxing as a sport, business and culture happens due to the Internet and its subject specific ubiquity, its all things for all people at all times informational, virtual totality. Newspaper reporting often feeds of Internet informational platforming of boxing. Otherwise, boxing would hardly register within the data coding of the electric city.

You have to shop for boxing, browse and surveil the net, if you want to keep up with the cutting edge currency of the sport. The broadcasting of boxing looks impressive, but the long-term viability of the sport will have to endure a period of retrenchment. Showtime, the US cable network, having let go longtime production chief Jay Larkin, among other executives, will be going through a reassessment of programming as it relates to boxing coverage.

Showtime’s chief competitor, HBO, itself enters a period of star disenfranchisement. With the ending of the careers of mainstay boxing stars such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones, Felix Trinidad, as well as the final aspirations pending for Oscar De La Hoya, the cable giant’s decade-and-a-half star system has hit a major generational wall.

Of significance has been the, until now, failure of subsequent marquee fighters such as Mosley, Floyd Mayweather, Fernando Vargas, the Klitschko brothers, etc., to provide long term substitute demographic drawing power for HBO’s special events-based programming. Though the jury remains out on what financial effectiveness fighters such as Jermain Taylor and Tarver can have on HBO unit buys, the only noteworthy fighters remaining box at or below lightweight.

The issue of Vitali Klitschko’s sudden retirement signaled for many commentators a crisis of legitimation for the sport’s symbolic head, the heavyweight championship. The division has also been classified as a talent vacuum for almost half a decade, rightly or wrongly. Speculation that promoter Don King’s issue to the boxing community for a “heavyweight championship tournament” could be enabled by HBO platforming a significant number of these fights or indeed paralleled by HBO developing upon the “theme” of Hasim Rahman’s acclamation as WBC champion and subsequent title aspirations, including unification.

Make no mistake about the current situation of the new WBC champion. Rahman, who has filed for bankruptcy protection, is desperate to fight for major purses. The Baltimore native seeking financial stability and a last significant championship run represents the key element in the division. But we also have the resurgence of Wladimir Klitschko — coming off a win over Sam Peter — the ongoing persona of James Toney, and the pivotal happenings with Peter, who, at 25, still has time to improve.

Is Peter to be a force in the division or is he just a strong man of marginal technical accomplish destined to come up short at the top level of the division? Those are the questions and issues taking us into 2006 and HBO is uniquely positioned to cover and in some way orchestrate the “final determination” of the heavyweight title scene largely based on them.

At least that will be the fictional front, the virtual sales job to be aired for the next year plus. Yes, boxing fans do want to see what will finally happen if Hopkins actually decides to fight Taylor – and not pose and preen and attempt to simulate a victory in December. Truly, we all are waiting to see how the Barrera, Morales, Pacquiao and Marquez soap opera will finally turn out. We do caution ourselves knowing that soap operas do not tie up all the loose ends or come to finite resolutions; they tend to just pop and vanish in the air of expectation and seduction.

But the situation in the heavyweight division, constantly referred to as chaos, actually presents broadcasters, no less promoters, with a kind of collage in the making, multiple facets waiting to be fitted into dramatic presentation. Don King will take his initiative as far as he can and HBO will likely negotiate upon that theme.

As fans we should remember that it is certainly not beyond the realm possibility that sometime in the spring or summer of 2006 Vitali Klitschko will reemerge to challenge for the heavyweight thrown which injury and circumstantial diffidence has shed him of. Team Rahman will be looking toward an optional defense before any WBC mandated fights, no matter the fallout. Though that’s not a certainty, Rahman has clearly illustrated his willingness to fight the fights that matter to his career, his pocketbook and to the fans of the sport. May that trend continue!

There’s a quieter, more forceful determination about “The Rock” in the last year and boxing fans are praying that his resolve to take on the best fighters in the division was part of a personal renewal and not just a passing expedient. We will know within weeks just how he defines his professional resolve, with a matchup against Wladimir Klitschko early in 2006 having been green lighted by Rahman’s management and HBO. No doubt, such a fight, if it is made, represents the groundwork for what we can speculate will be a superfight between Rahman and Vitali Klitschko upon the older brother’s return in the spring of 2006.

Like myth, speculation often has an elementary basis in facts. Rahman’s manager Steve Nelson admitted in the summer that a fight with Wladimir Klitschko, in the right circumstances, has been part of Team Rahman’s short list for sometime now. The right circumstances having been confirmed upon them, it’s hard to see how HBO would not be favoring such a fight given the obvious implications beyond. So as John Ruiz and Chris Byrd attempt pseudo-free agency, Toney represents the most money either is likely to make if they are determined to remain outside of Don King’s heavyweight box-off.

That will make for legal dramatics over the next year perhaps comparable to the fights we are likely to see. Nevertheless, Toney and his promotional team at Goossen-Tudor are positioned to move wherever free agency can take them. Toney being one of the division’s key commodities of choice on the cable networks short list of must have heavyweight combatants.

What of the New York/New Jersey axis vs. Las Vegas pertaining to the issue of media maximization; perhaps, we shouldn’t say versus. Let’s just say that a reinvigorated heavyweight division might be well staged in New York, or at least climaxed in New York, as King’s middleweight box-off between Keith Holmes, William Joppy, Felix Trinidad and Hopkins was resolved at Madison Square Garden.

Of course, boxing needs more than a viable heavyweight division. It needs the recasting of boxing stars, a process of marketed visibility that is at present voided. But boxing must present the image of excitement and possibility, glamorous danger as sporting excellence, packaged as martial artfulness.

If it relies only on stealth and methods for survival it’s shot. For championship boxing must look big and act important, more important that it is and more central to the sporting culture of North American than it can be. For boxing is a specialty event of self-defining drama, participants trained and combat ready for a global spectacle interphase, pitting the good guy vs. the bad guy, the champion against the challenger, dueling masters with intrigue suspected, undo influence the untold story, heroism the state of mind and fan’s fanaticism.

Boxing used to have a diamond sparkle to it, red lights and black eyes, senate hearings and pinstriped suits only adding to the romanticism of human struggle, glaring lights upon rosined canvas, where the blood of desperation ran, unyielding performance ringed and ruled that sent nobodies to the veritable stars. So boxing doesn’t look like that anymore. Many of us cannot remember when boxing was king anyway.

But it doesn’t matter. It has to keep appearances – corporate and administrative – for appearances sake, for the sake of its very survival. If we foolishly believe that within capitalism, you have to expand to survive, then boxing’s got a fighting chance. Because boxing knows all about looking larger than life and selling itself over and over again, just to make a buck, rolling the dice every chance it gets.

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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