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Articles of 2005

Taylor-Hopkins: Encountering Danger



“Boxing is a way of life. But the real thing, the thing that sends it right through you is the moment two strange men seek each other out in that ring. They come together and find out who will succeed and who will fail.” – Floyd Patterson, Former World Heavyweight Champion

Bernard Hopkins made it clear as he spoke to a national Canadian television audience that he absolutely believes he must win his rematch with champion Jermain Taylor by a knockout. “There is no doubt… I must take him out!” His eyes sunken and blackened with what appeared to be fatigue, Hopkins gave the impression of a man bundled inside the kinetic energy of frustration fed by irritation. By comparison Jermain Taylor looked invigorated and youthfully energized, his eyes shifting as if to see the completed vision just beyond viewing, his near future which he trusts will bring him an ultimate victory over the strident figure of the ex-champion Hopkins.

“I’m a lot less nervous than I was, you know, the first time going around. Now it’s a different kind of nervous anyway this kind of nerve. I want to go in here and I want to look good. I want to – I want to make sure all my punches land. I want to make sure every combination I throw hits him,” Taylor admits with assurance.

“I must execute… that’s the key difference… this time I must finish the job; I must execute,” was Hopkins counter. Hopkins’ body slightly lifts out of his seat as he says the word “execute.” Staying in the intensity of the committed moment, that’s what Hopkins has been doing in the run-up to their middleweight rematch showdown. Keeping on message, the verbal reiteration of bringing a definitive ending to brief reign of Jermain Taylor and showing that justice shall be served has kept Hopkins, almost via a hypnotic sense of certitude, grounded within a resolution of purposefulness.

The ex-champion looked almost burdened by the compulsion he bares, the hunger for revenge and the need to again be the middleweight champion. No doubt we are letting literary license and imagery run too far a field; of course, Hopkins encourages the use of descriptors and metaphors and indulgent symbolism himself. He’s made his late career fame out of such self-stylization. He often invokes phrases like “the American Dream” and “the people’s champion” and “I’m street, he’s country” to put himself forward as an iconic figure in his sporting time. We can let pop cultural mediation decide.

One thing we do know is that Hopkins has always been able to channel what we might call negativity and harness it for the purposes of self-interested intention. That’s why he’s been so careful to explain to boxing writers and other journalists how he has always reacted to facing up to rematches. Familiarity with the subject has, in Hopkins’ case, always provided him with ammunition and confidence to better him, to assert his dominating characteristics. Taylor remains unconvinced, almost indifferent to what Hopkins says about their rematch. As in the quote by Patterson above, Taylor seems that he’s already found out what he needed to know about Bernard Hopkins. Having engaged Hopkins, having encountered the man and the myth, Taylor stripped away his sense of unknowing, the inevitable doubt that manifests itself as apprehension.

“He put no fear in my heart,” the champion Taylor tells boxing fans. “All of boxing want to see a fight, a real fight and that’s exactly what I am going to give them… I’ll be a lot more relaxed in the ring.”

Taylor has met Hopkins at ring center; he’s mixed it up with Hopkins and in so doing has now reduced “The Executioner” to “just another fighter” whom he intends to defeat. The challenge of character and facing the unknown that Patterson referred to has already been encountered by Taylor. And in the days leading up to the fight Taylor has looked a man who doesn’t have to indulge in the nervous energy of doubt. That’s a transformation of major significance as he readies to fight Hopkins again. What Hopkins has been trying to seed in the mind of the champion is the notion of doubt as a portent to inadequacy. If Hopkins can internalize the battle, make it a contest of image projection and applied psychology, he believes he can dilute the champion’s fortifying reserves of emotional energy reserves, that natural bounty of the young he can take away that which separates them by the simple fact of chronology. There’s a lesson in how Marvin Hagler made Thomas Hearns wear himself down emotionally in the weeks and day leading up to their classic middleweight showdown.

How do we consider then the irony that it was Hopkins who’s looked slightly frayed this week? Taylor puts it clearly, “I’m the champion now; he’s got all the stuff in his head because I have all the belts now.” It’s an interesting notion of transference. For months Hopkins has denied the validity of the middleweight belts and that Taylor usurpation of them only proves how vacuous his standing is. But the new middleweight champion stands his ground then changes the course of the preflight war of words by saying, “I’m going to have to work every round and now I know that… I feel like Bernard has no power, he has no speed. He’s just looking for a way out. And I’m going to give it to him!”

So we must infer that Taylor has been listening, at least to some of Hopkins’ ranting rhetoric about being denied his just due, victimized for being a career long critic of “the system” as he calls it in Oliver Stone terms. But Taylor listens to bantering Bernard and hears rationalization and excuses. Where is the calmed assurance of knowing, the deep unspoken belief in the obvious? Probably, the champion is applying traits he fancies he would show were he in Hopkins’ situation. Still, when the champion says he believes that Hopkins, warrior extraordinaire and divisional menace is “looking for a way out” we cannot help but take notice.

Does Taylor really believe that with the right amount of applied pressure it will be the bully in Bernard that will come to the surface and not the avenging spirit of Philadelphia maulers past? No Mas! No Mas? Astoundingly that one very contentious line of quote passed earlier this week – until now – almost innocuously, not so much as raising a comparison to Duran and Leonard. Was it just a passing phrase, an exaggeration on the part of a fighter feeling the movement toward the absolute prime of his career? If the truth can be ascertained, it appears that Taylor’s self-belief is more deeply founded, his confidence more essentially grounded in the total belief he’s now the force in the middleweight division. Naturally enough Hopkins radiates his own sense of missionary conviction, though there’s a strained willfulness where once there was brazen certitude. Are we splitting semantic hairs merely for the sake of doing so or have we defined variance, the generational cleaving from one dominating persona to the next figure of the middleweight high command?

We restate to make our case transparent. Championship boxing has been Bernard Hopkins’ life as it is becoming Jermain Taylor’s way of life. How essential the mantle and recognition of being a world champion is to both fighters. Between them remains only the issue of their personal vanquishing of the other, the figure in the mirror, haunting them, shadowing them. Since his July 16th loss to Taylor, Hopkins has effectively denied the factual basis which has rendered him and labeled him a former world champion. Each day “The Executioner” lives out the personal conviction envisioning him bringing himself back to ‘his’ championship, though stating all the while – as if by common report – his status as “the People’s Champion”; Bernard will always be Bernard.

The former heir apparent and now middleweight champion Taylor has done his best to embody the championship, his final stewardship, of course, still all for the making. Rhetorically unsophisticated, shy by natural temperament and as well mannered as a diplomat, Taylor’s public face has matured over the four and a half months since his title win. Speaking with something like reticent assertiveness – charmingly contradictory – Taylor declares his intention to “leave no doubts this time” and effectively silence Hopkins on the matter of their rivalry for good. He’s not about symbolism or self-aggrandizement or the insulting invective, not this middleweight champion. He’s never even thought about an all-time middleweight dream opponent for himself; he’s just dealing with his own near future, the responsibilities he feels to his loved ones, his fans and his sense of himself as a champion. Jermain Taylor has his feet on the ground; he dug in, ready to rumble, intent on laying some serious heat on the old man he once had nothing but respect for.

But you cannot engage, let alone beat, Bernard Hopkins without throwing out the rule book, getting down to the basics and taking it to him, right where he lives. That’s what it means to fight Bernard Hopkins. For all the disciplined applications of technique necessary to match up with Battling Bernard, you have to fight it out. In the end, the man that beats Hopkins, the guy that banishes Hopkins from the middleweight thrown for good will have to subdue and destroy him as a predatory force, a relentless survivor of all-out championship fighting. There’s nothing neat and analytical to be done with Hopkins raging at you; even as he boxes, he’ll find moments to hold and hit and go low and butt and forearm and generally break the rhythm and eventually the mind and heart of the man who dares to better him.

In the end, victory for Taylor can only be about vanquishing, winning about annihilating, because masterful threats of mere excellence Hopkins counters with ease, eats it for lunch. Just how basic can Taylor get? If Hopkins is ‘street’ then Taylor will have to leave him for lost, deep in the woods.

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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