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Articles of 2005

The Hallowed Halls

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“I'm gonna live forever
Baby remember my name
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember” – Irene Cara

There are a few perks that go along with being a boxing writer: The ring card girls may give you the time of day because they think you're someone important due to your close proximity to the ring. Occasionally you get free parking at the event (but usually not). And you get to cast a ballot for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

About a year ago, I wrote about my disappointment that the IBHOF more closely resembles a college bar rather than an exclusive club as far as who they let in. I want the Hall to be like those clubs with the velvet rope and the stylish bouncer with the earpiece, who picks and chooses who is beautiful enough to enter. You know, the one where you're standing on line thinking, “I can't believe they let that guy in. I'm just as good as he is.”  But you know that, no, you're really not. Just because you have an ID that says you're of age doesn't mean you gain automatic entry. Last year's diatribe, When Pretty Good is Good Enough, can be read here.

This year, I've been working on trying to be a more positive, cheerful person. I've engaged in some deep breathing relaxation techniques, visualizing letting all of the negative energy escape through my pores. When I find myself in my usual sullen patterns I say, “That was the old Marc. I'm glad I don't do that anymore.” Besides, if I write the column before the results are released, I'll be less likely to act like a crybaby and hurl insults at people and an institution that I genuinely respect.

This year's ballot for the “Moderns” category contained forty-five candidates, with a few changes from last year. The four inductees from last year: Bobby Chacon, Duilio Loi, Barry McGuigan and Terry Norris are obviously off the ballot. They were replaced by Georgie Abrams, Michael Carbajal, Humberto Gonzalez and Edwin Rosario. I voted for two of these four, plus five others. Voters are allowed to select up to 10 boxers. This year three will be elected.

So if you've read this far, I'm sure by now you're waiting with baited breath to see who was good enough to get through my velvet ropes.

Michael Carbajal – 1988 Olympic sliver medalist. He was the IBF junior flyweight champ from 1990-1994, defending the crown eight times. In 1992, he captured the WBC baubles via a seventh-round knockout over Humberto Gonzalez. Carbajal climbed off the deck twice to win the fight. He lost both titles to Gonzalez in 1994 on a split decision and then in a rematch dropped a majority decision nine months later. Carbajal went on a seven-fight win streak (six by KO) and recaptured the IBF junior fly championship in 1996 by decisioning Melchor Cob Castro. He lost his title for good to Mauricio Pastrana in 1997. Carbajal won the last four fights of his career. His last was an impressive 11th round TKO over Jorge Arce, still at the Jr. Flyweight limit. His Hall of Fame career ended at 49-4 (33)

Carbajal was one of the greats and I'll be shocked if his plaque doesn't join the other ring immortals in Canastota next June.

Humberto Gonzalez – “Chiquita” won the WBC junior flyweight title in 1989, defending it five times (including three times in three months) before being upset by Rolando Pascua in 1990. Gonzalez regained the title from Melchor Cob Castro in 1991 and defended it four times the following year. He lost it in the first of his thrilling three-bout series with Carbajal. He regained the crown in the rematch (W 12) and had three more successful defenses, including the rubber match over the American (W 12), before being stopped by Saman Sorjaturong in 1995. He finished with a 43-3 (31) record, including 15-3 (9) in world title fights.

It's difficult for boxers in the lower weights to get recognition. Considering that the Hall of Fame (in all sports, not just boxing) is somewhat of a popularity contest, Gonzalez may have difficulty getting in, despite his lofty credentials. Although he was upset twice, he also beat one of the all time greats twice and defeated other very good boxers of his era.

Here is what I wrote last year about the following four fighters who once again received my vote:

The IBHOF is clearly biased towards American and European fighters. Since most of the writers who vote are from North America and Europe, it makes sense that they'll vote for the guys they see on a regular basis. It's tough to analyze an Asian fighter's credentials when he never ventures out of his region.

However, I believe these boxers deserve our attention and study as to whether they belong in the hallowed halls next to the Joe Louises and Fred Apostolis of the boxing world.

Yoko Gushiken fought exclusively in Japan, yet held the WBA featherweight title for five years, compiling a 23-1 record during his career.

Brian Mitchell never took on any all time greats, but he retained his super featherweight title for five years and retired as champion. He lost just once in 49 bouts. That's dominance.

Masao Ohba fought only once outside of Japan, a ninth-round KO victory in San Antonio, Texas, before he won the title. He started boxing professionally two weeks after his 15th birthday. When Ohba, 35-2-1, died in a car wreck at the age of 23, he had been the WBA flyweight champ for more than two years.

When it comes to Myung-Woo Yuh I can only wonder, what's a brother got to do to get into the Hall of Fame? He held the WBA junior flyweight title for six years, defended it 18 times and then recaptured it from the guy who beat him in the very next fight. Yuh retired after making one defense of his second reign with a ledger that read: 38-1 (14).

Lastly, I was surprised as I found myself making a check mark next to the name Lloyd Marshall. The light heavyweight known as “Black Dynamite” put together a record of 75-24-4 (34). Marshall never fought for the championship due to the politics of the era and frozen titles during World War II. Marshall holds victories over legendary Hall of Famers including Jake LaMotta, Ezzard Charles and Charlie Burley. Other notables who suffered defeats at the hands of Marshall include Freddie Mills, Holman Williams, Ken Overlin, Joey Maxim and Anton Christoforidis.

Marshall is not the kind of pick that I usually make, but I found it hard to ignore the first class names on his resume. Had he received a shot at the title, I have a feeling his name would be much more recognizable today.

I'd guess that of the above-mentioned boxers, only Carbajal will be enshrined in Canastota next year. As long as the voters are being more selective, that will be fine with me. Just please don't put Tommy Farr in there with him.

Jabs

* I was crucified the last time I said Jermain Taylor was unimpressive in his win against Bernard Hopkins. This time I'll just say that for all of his gifts, Taylor seems to fade badly at the end. I wonder what would happen if an opponent is able to give him a few rounds of hell earlier in a fight. Would he have enough left later on to finish the job?

* I like almost all sports. I'm a huge baseball fan and love football too. I watched the Taylor vs. Hopkins fight with a few industry insiders. I can say without a doubt that seeing a big fight, with people who really know what they're talking about, is hands down the most fun I can have as a spectator of any sporting event.

* Please, Don King and Bob Arum, make the Zab Judah vs. Floyd Mayweather fight happen. I can't think of another fight (including Castillo vs. Corrales III) that I would like to see more.

* Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Ed Schuyler wrote on this site that the late Pat Putnam belongs there as well. I couldn't agree more and I think it will happen.

Until next time, obey my commands and protect yourself at all times.

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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