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Articles of 2005

Giovanni Parisi: “I want the Euro Crown”

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The Italian fighters who won the Olympic gold medal, won a legitimate professional world championship, attracted thousands of paying customers at the sports complex and drew big TV ratings can be counted on one hand. One of them is Giovanni Parisi. In 1988, he won the Olympic gold medal in the featherweight division. Professionally, he fought 45 times compiling a record of 40 wins (28 by KO), 4 losses and 1 draw. He became WBO lightweight and super lightweight champion, facing quality opponents like the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. In Milan, probably the most difficult Italian city for a promoter, he packed the Palalido twice (back then it had a capacity of 4,000 people; since then it seats 3,000) and attracted over 5,000 fans at the Forum. His fights also drew big ratings on television. On February 11, 2003 his victory over Miguel Angel Pena scored 1,741,000 spectators (a share of 14.38%) on Italia 1 (one of the networks owned by Mediaset, the company of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi). It has to be noticed that Italia 1 broadcasted four major events promoted by Salvatore Cherchi in 2003. After that, boxing disappeared from Italia 1. It came back on March 12, 2005: when Giovanni Parisi defeated Louis Mimoune in Milan. When a popular champion fights, boxing gets on major channels even in a soccer-addicted country like Italy. On December 20, Giovanni Parisi will be back in the ring for an eight round fight to be held in Bergamo, north of Milan. His opponent has yet to be announced. Let’s discover why, at the age of 38, he choose to put on the gloves again.

Giovanni, will this be your final match?

No way. It will be the first of a series of fights. I already have a fight planned with the Opi 2000 promotional company, another fight for January 2006, and a European title match for May or June 2006. I will fight only in the welterweight division. It’s the best one for me. You know, since I turned professional I had problems with my weight. In the early years, I could make the lightweight limit. My first major title was the Italian lightweight title. I know that many boxers don’t consider the national championship a major one, but it’s just their opinion. Personally, I think that those intercontinental and international belts are just trophies. I never wanted to fight for them, because I considered it a waste of time. As a matter of fact, I directly aimed to the WBO lightweight title. On September 25, 1992 I defeated Javier Altamirano (whose record was 39-3-3) by 10th round TKO. Going back to the weight issue, as the years progressed it became impossible to make the lightweight limit and I choose to compete in the upper division. In the last few years, I had problems even with the super lightweight limit.

Talking about the WBO lightweight title, why did you abandon it?

I never did. I was stripped of the belt. Anyway, I’m proud of my title reign. I have an interesting story about my defense against Micheal Ayers, who I beat by unanimous decision on April 16, 1993. The original idea was to put me in the ring with Eusebio Pedroza, who had lost to Mauro Gutierrez on November 1992 (it turned out to be Pedroza’s last match). I told the promoter that Pedroza was 40 years old and beating him wouldn’t have been such a good publicity. So, the promoter found Micheal Ayers who was 28 years old, had a record of 13-0 and was considered a future star. About 8,000 fans packed the Palaeur in Rome. I won easily: 118-109, 118-110 and 119-108. In the following years Micheal Ayers became British and IBO lightweight champion. He retired in 2003 with a record of 31-5-1. My final defense of the WBO belt was against former IBF featherweight champion Antonio Rivera. It was September 24, 2003. I got another unanimous decision win. After that, I signed with Don King. I stayed with him until 1995.

How do you judge your American experience?

It started the right way. In 1994, I fought three times in Las Vegas getting three wins against journeyman Mike Bryan (1st round TKO),  good prospect Richie Hess (2nd round KO), and former IBF lightweight champion Freddie Pendleton (on points). The last victory, maybe, harmed me because some people in the business started considering me dangerous and didn’t want to put their fighters against me. Anyway, I didn’t want to fight anybody but the best. That’s the main reason why I signed with Don King. In a situation where four men can claim to be world champions, the only way to be the undisputed one is to defeat the best of them. In my division, that man was Julio Cesar Chavez. I was told many times that my fight with Chavez was close, but never happened. So, I went to Don King’s office in Florida and spoke with Carl King. We had a discussion and I was so angry that I called my lawyer. Sometime later, Don King called me and said that my fight against Chavez was almost made. I flew back to Florida, talked to Don and we signed the contract. I had 40 days to train. I spent the first 20 days in Italy, the last ones in Las Vegas. You won’t believe it, but I had a hard time finding good sparring partners. Finally, I got two guys who wanted $500 each and I had to pay them with my own money. I’m not looking for excuses, but I was used to prepare my major fights within 90 days.

What about the fight?

We fought on April 8, 1995 for the WBC super lightweight title. Julio Cesar Chavez turned out to be a good opponent, but not as tough as I expected. I must recognize that he won clearly, but the scorecards were outrageous: 120-107 and 118-109 (twice). He won, but with a three or four point margin. We were in Las Vegas, in front of a pro-Chavez crowd, so I understand the reasons for those ridiculous scorecards. You know, my experience in the United States made me grow up professionally. Before signing with Don King, I was focused on fighting. When Don King started talking to me about promotional activity, sponsors, television networks, I understood how much money centers around boxing and how I could take advantage of it. For example, Don told me that he wasn’t getting any money from Italian television and sponsors, so I was not profitable for him (he had to pay me anyway). When I came back to Italy, I wanted to be part of the team which decided my career. I wanted to have a word on the opponent, the venue, the networks involved and every other aspect of the business. It’s the same thing today. I don’t have money problems; I fight only for the pleasure of it and I want to do it at the highest level. So, it’s just a natural that I participate in the decision process.

Was Don King the most important person in your career?

No way. I had three managers. From 1989 to 1993 I fought for Renzo Spagnoli. From 1993 to 1995 I was managed by Don King. Since 1995 I’ve been with the Opi 2000 company. The most important persons for my career have been Salvatore Cherchi and his partner Andrea Locatelli.

Are you aiming to the world welterweight title?

The welterweight title always attracted me because I would like to be the first Italian to win the world championship in three divisions. That’s why I accepted to face WBO welterweight champion Daniel Santos, on July 29, 2000. We battled in Reggio Calabria, a coin toss from Sicily, and he KOed me during the 4th round. I have no excuses. I didn’t train properly.

What about Carlos “Bolillo” Gonzalez? According to many journalists, he was your toughest opponent.

They think so because I had a hard time with him, twice. On June 20, 1996 we fought to a draw: 114-112 for me, 114-112 for him and 114-114. On May 29, 1998 I played Roberto Duran with him saying No mas during the 9th round. I just wasn’t motivated anymore. In fact, I announced my retirement. After one year, my love for boxing brought me back to the ring. I fought twice in 1999, once in 2000 and retired again. I got back in action three years later, beating Miguel Angel Pena. That match proved that you don’t need a fake title to excite the crowd: eight action-packed rounds between good fighters are enough. Getting back to Carlos Gonzalez, he is a great fighter. He is still active and his record comprises 55 wins (46 by KO), 8 losses and 1 draw. Before meeting me, he had won the WBO super lightweight title and defended it four times.

One final question: how much has winning the Olympic gold medal helped your pro career?

It depends on your point of view. My win at the Seoul Olympics brought me a total of 80,000,000 Lire from the national Olympic committee (CONI) and the national boxing commission (FPI). Today it would be 41,316 Euros ($48,339). Back in 1988 it was good money, but it cannot be compared to the millions of dollars that the gold medal brought to Oscar De La Hoya. In the United States, boxing can turn a man into a multimillionaire.  

Giovanni Parisi

Birthplace: Vibo Valentia, Italy. This town is in the Calabria region.

Date: December 2, 1967

Stance: Orthodox

Height: 173 cm

Division: Welterweight

As an amateur: Olympic gold medal, in 1998

Professional Record: 40 wins (28 KOs), 4 losses and 1 draw

Italian lightweight champion (1991)

WBO world lightweight champion (from September 25, 1992 to September 24, 1993)

WBO world super lightweight champion (from March 9, 1996 to May 29, 1998)

He won the title against Sammy Fuentes (8th round TKO) and successfully defended it against Carlos Gonzalez  (a draw), Sergio Rey Revilla (4th round KO), Harold Miller (8th round TKO), Nigel Wenton (8th round TKO) and Jose Manuel Berdonces (on points). He lost it against Carlos Gonzalez (9th round retirement).

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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