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Articles of 2005

Floyd Mayweather Jr. – Born to be a Pretty Boy

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“Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. validates the theory of evolution. His father, Floyd, Sr., and his uncles, Jeff and Roger, were talented professional fighters. Roger became a two-time champion in his day and is now in his nephew’s corner, taking the place of Floyd, Sr., who left the corner in 1999 after a fall-out between father and son, teacher and pupil. Sr. and Jr. seem to be reconciled for the moment, but Uncle Roger remains the man in charge. So despite the familial challenges facing Jr., he comes from America’s premiere fighting family and he’s showed every bit of his thoroughbred class. Born and bred to be champion, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, on top of the boxing world.

From the moment Floyd, Jr. was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there was no question as to what his destiny would be. Boxing was streaming through his blood at an early age and it was only a matter of time before the gloves came on.

“When I was in the crib, I was already throwing punches. Then, as I grew, I started throwing punches at various objects, such as doorknobs. I first put on the gloves when I was seven or eight years old,” he remembered.

As a five-time U.S. national amateur champion and the1996 Olympic bronze medalist, Floyd, Jr. always seemed headed for boxing stardom. Now, at the age of 28, he is undoubtedly the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport and has surely surpassed uncles Roger and Jeff, as well as papa Floyd, as the most talented fighter in the family.

If there were any reservations as to the talent Mayweather, Jr. possesses, then they were silenced forever after his dominating performance against New Jersey’s beloved action hero, Arturo Gatti. In capturing the WBC junior welterweight championship, Mayweather, Jr. made his opponent look like an amateur. Gatti was barely able to get a glove on the elusive Mayweather, Jr., and in return he received a brutal beating that forced his corner to stop the fight at the end of the sixth round. Now you understand the reason for his “Pretty Boy” nickname.

As Floyd, Jr. explained, “I got that name not because of my looks, but because when my fights finished, I never came out cut or bruised. My amateur teammates gave me the name.”

If we think of boxing as an art of graceful precision, then Floyd, Jr. is our most prized artist. Not only are his hands lightning fast, ripping off blazing combinations with an accuracy that reminds us of the great Henry Armstrong, but he moves like a cat, bobbing, weaving, turning, twisting, lunging, and circling. He’s as close to perfection as we have in the sport right now, a throwback to the all-time great boxers, even reminding us of Willie Pep and Sugar Ray Robinson with his smoothness. So if you’ve never had a chance to see this kid fight then tune in to HBO on November 19 when he defends his title against Sharmba Mitchell. He’s the total package of blinding speed, deceptive movement, impeccable timing, and knockout power combined with that exceptional ring intelligence that makes great fighters legendary.

Despite his dominance, Floyd, Jr. has had a few forgettable moments in and out of the ring. His closest fight to date was his first encounter with Jose Luis Castillo, the heavy-handed Mexican who’s fresh off a knockout victory over Diego Corrales. Mayweather, Jr. won a disputed unanimous decision in a fight in which he allowed Castillo to press forward and dictate the pace. Afterward, the always-boisterous Pretty Boy blamed his lackluster performance on a shoulder injury suffered on the eve of the fight.

“My last training day, I hurt my rotator cuff in my left shoulder so I wasn’t able to use my jab like I wanted to,” he said. “My left wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be, but I don’t have no excuses. Other champions, when they get hurt, they don’t even show up to the fight. I get hurt, I keep fighting. You got to realize, I beat this guy with a messed-up arm, my arm is messed up. I don’t ever back off or turn down fights.”

Mayweather, Jr.’s other big test came in May of 2004 against former junior welterweight champion Demarcus Corley. He was determined to show the boxing world that he was not just a “Pretty Boy,” but that he could stand in the trenches and trade heavy punches. The brash game plan came dangerously close to backfiring as Corley staggered Mayweather, Jr. in both the third and fourth rounds. Floyd recovered and went on to dominate the rest of the fight, winning a unanimous decision against the gallant Corley. And so despite some media skepticism as to Mayweather, Jr.’s performance in the first half of that fight, his ploy worked in the sense that we’ve now witnessed what happens when he gets caught with a big punch. He just seems to shake off the cobwebs and raise his game to new heights.

After that fight, he said, “I knew coming up, I had to show my power. He landed some good punches, but I was never hurt at all. I’m in tiptop shape, I feel good. I went to 130 and beat the best, I went to 135 and beat the best. Now I’m going to 140.”

It’s hard not to compare Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to the once pound-for-pound legend, Roy Jones, Jr., who seems to now be drifting into retirement after being knocked out by both Tarver and Johnson, followed by another decision loss to Tarver.

Jones, Jr. had maybe the fastest hands of any fighter, and his unorthodox style of movement and creating angles made him unbeatable for many years. The big question that always followed Jones, Jr. throughout his career though was whether or not he could take a big punch? What’s going to happen when he finally gets caught? Well those questions were finally, unmistakably, answered as he suffered two brutal knockouts. For that reason alone, Floyd, Jr. seems to be a step above Roy, Jr.

Of course Pretty Boy wasn’t hesitant to point out why he deserves the recognition as the best fighter in the world.

“How many different weight classes has Bernard (Hopkins) been to? I could have stayed at 130 all day and milked it. I’ll be a four time world champion in four weight classes. There is no way you can put him on the same level as me. If Roy Jones was pound-for-pound, and a pound-for-pound guy beat Bernard Hopkins, but he got knocked out twice, where does that rank me at? You do the homework. You do the math.”

As he was quick to point out after a TKO victory over Phillip Ndou in 2003, “He was a big puncher, but I have granite for a chin.” That solid chin combined with his remarkable boxing skills is the reason why he’s the quintessential fighter in the world today, and rightly deserves comparison to the all-time great fighters of his division.

To beat “Pretty Boy” Floyd would require landing that devastating punch to slow him down long enough to put him away for good and so far that hasn’t happened. It’s hard to imagine him losing a fight in the future unless he steers off course and gets complacent. The only knock on this phenom is that his considerable ego gets in the way of his brilliant talent, allowing him to coast in fights and beat opponents without displaying his best performance. Floyd himself explained before his fight with Arturo Gatti why we don’t see his best all the time.

“To be honest with you, I normally beat guys with my C-game and I don’t have to pull my A or B game out. When I do pull my A-game out you will see Gatti not even land his punches.”

His immense self-confidence that frequently bubbles over into self-righteousness even manifests itself inside the ring at times such as when he gets bored during a fight and pauses on the ropes to chat with Larry Merchant and Co. Still, this is the best fighter in the world, and as long as he continues to back that up with mesmerizing performances as he showed against Gatti, we’ll have to accept his brazen actions as par for the course.

Those who’ve grown tired of Mayweather, Jr.’s self-directed filibustering and trash-talking of opponents are only going to grow more weary as Pretty Boy isn’t about to quiet down until someone proves to him that there’s a better fighter out there in the world.

“You know me, I’m running my mouth a lot and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up. If you don’t shut me up I’m going to keep running my mouth.”

Now at the top of the junior welterweight division, Mayweather, Jr. will defend his WBC title on November 19 against Sharmba Mitchell, the crafty, yet aging southpaw who seems to be on the descent of his career after suffering his second knockout loss to Kostya Tszyu a year ago. Still, Mitchell’s confident that he can be the guy who can silence Pretty Boy. Uncle Roger wasn’t so impressed with the fact that Mitchell’s a two-time former champion who holds a record of 56 wins and 4 losses.

“The record’s big—records don’t mean nothing,” he said. “Ain’t no doubt who the best fighter in the world is. I’m sure even they know that.”

It’s safe to say that the Mayweather contingent isn’t too concerned with Sharmba Mitchell. But when have they ever been concerned with any fighter? In response to how this fight will play out, Roger Mayweather had an easy and definitive answer.

“Can’t call it the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, because it won’t be on Valentine’s Day.”

Barring an upset of epic proportions, Pretty Boy Floyd will be poised to electrify the boxing world by facing-off against the best out there. That includes the likes of Zab Judah, Rickey Hatton, Miguel Cotto and even a middle-of-the-road matchup against middleweight champion Winky Wright. And let’s not forget the “old-timers,” Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya, if of course the “Golden Boy” decides to step back into the glory. Floyd, Jr. has no doubts about his ability to move up and fight at welterweight.

“My daddy was a welterweight. I’ve got his genes so I know I can carry welterweight. There are guys in the welterweight division that are shorter than me. I’ve got the frame to carry the weight.”

The ultimate greatness of Mayweather, Jr. will be measured by how many great champions he beats. A fighter is only as good as the opposition he faces, meaning that Mayweather, Jr. needs great competition to catapult him into that coveted legendary status. After his superhuman performance against Gatti, you could argue that he maybe the next coming of Sugar Ray Robinson. What’s holding him back though is the fact that he hasn’t been consistently tested with all-star caliber opponents as Robinson was in his era. There’s no telling how bright a star “Pretty Boy” can become because his talent seems limitless. Yet, he holds the key to that glorious future, and only he can throw that key away. With that all said the best boxer in the world still needs help from his fellow pugilists to push him to an even greater heights if he ever hopes to gain such mythical status as that of the original Sugar Ray.

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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