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Articles of 2005

Wright Decision over Soliman

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – If this was supposed to leave the public clamoring for a Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright showdown, it probably won’t.

It was somehow appropriate that Ronald Wright, an awkward pugilist who has fashioned a career out of making his artistic superiors look bad, should finally get a dose of his own medicine.

The Winkster won a unanimous decision in Saturday night’s WBC middleweight eliminator, but he spent much of the evening being frustrated by Sam Soliman, a 32-year-old Australian who brought a 31-7 record to the bout at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Although Soliman hadn’t lost in over four years in his vagabond career, his No. 1 IBF rating was regarded with some suspicion, and the widespread assumption was that Wright, who had spent the past week decrying Taylor’s intention to take a ‘breather’ fight before hooking up with Winky, was taking something of a breather himself.

That illusion was dispelled at the opening bell. Soliman came roaring out of his corner in a frenetic attack that saw him firing punches at a machinegun pace. Precious few of them were finding their mark, but the display of hyperactivity forced Wright to rethink his game plan, if he had one. He spent so much time covering up to ward off Soliman’s random proliferation of punches that he hadn’t time to throw any of his own.

The Winkster assumed, as did virtually everyone else in the building, that it would be impossible for Soliman to sustain that pace. (By the fourth or fifth round we fully expected the Aussie to come off his stool and fall flat on his face, but Soliman managed to remain the aggressor, albeit not a particularly effective one, for most of the night.)

By the time the third round ended, for instance, Soliman had already missed 111 jabs, but he continued to fire away at what Compubox guro Bob Connobio assures us was double the normal middleweight pace.

It was a tactic, it turned out, ill-conceived to actually win the fight, but if the intent had been to send Winky’s pound-for-pound stock tumbling, it probably accomplished that. By the final bell Soliman had thrown 1260 punches – better than 100 per round – to Wright’s 650. The Winkster, nonetheless, had connected on nearly half of his – he hit Soliman an even 300 times – while Soliman landed just 174, leaving Sam’s connect percentage somewhat below the Mendoza Line.

Although Soliman remained the aggressor for most of the fight, Wright was able to assert command in several stanzas, most notably the tenth, when he caught the Australian with a straight left followed by a hard right hook that badly wobbled him. Soliman, though badly hurt, did battle back in the final minute of the tenth, enough, in our eyes, to avert a two-point round, but not, apparently, in the eyes of Tom Kaczmarek and Duane Ford, who both scored it 10-8.

Soliman was still pumping away at the final bell, and leapt up on the ring rope as if he had adjudged himself the winner. Much of the crowd apparently agreed, but then the allegiance of the audience was suspect, anyway. When ring announcer Michael Buffer had introduced a prominent member of Wright’s posse – Yankees’ outfielder Gary Sheffield – from the ring, 4,682 voices responded in unison, with boos.

“Sam was awkward,” said Wright, stating the obvious. “He came to fight.”

That he had. Soliman’s reputation, which was admittedly not much to begin with, will probably be enhanced more by what took place at the Mohegan Sun than will Wright’s.

On the other hand, in addition to solidifying his position as Taylor’s mandatory challenger, Wright will presumably inherit Soliman’s IBF spot – meaning that he can fight Arthur Abraham, that organization’s newly-crowned champion, if he wants.

Don’t bet on that, but after calling out Taylor yet again (“I want Jermain as soon as possible”), Wright allowed that if Lou DiBella persists in his plan to have the WBC/WBA champion fight a nonthreatening opponent in Little Rock, Winky plans to take an interim fight as well.

“I want to stay active,” said Wright, but probably not as active as he was on this night.

“I thought (Soliman) would run down,” said Wright, “but he was very tough. I give him a lot of credit. He came to win.”

Despite Soliman’s bad aim, the issue appeared closer to us than the judges had it: Kazcmarek scored it 115-112, Ford 117-110, and Melvina Lathan 1115-113. (The Sweet Science scorecard had it even at 114-114.)

By turning it into a high-speed chase, Soliman at least had the effect of waking up the crowd; half had been lulled into sleep as eight of the nine bouts on Gary Shaw’s card went the distance.

Carlos De Leon Jr., the son of the old cruiserweight champion, escaped with a draw in his six-rounder against Illinois journeyman Ted Muller. Three judges split three ways on the issue, with Don Trella scoring 58-56 for De Leon (13-1-2), Steve Epstein favoring Muller (16-5-2) by a 59-55 margin, and Glenn Feldman deeming it even at 57-57. (The Sweet Science thinks Epstein had it right.)

In a scheduled six-rounder that was abbreviated to four after it had commenced, Canadian cruiserweight Anthony Russell (11-1-1) decisioned William Bailey (4-8-1), while former light-heavyweight contender Rico Hoye hammered out an uninspired decision over Derrick Whitley of Holyoke, Mass. Hoye, of Detroit, improved to 19-1, while Whitley slipped back under .500 again, falling to 23-24-3.

The curtain raiser saw veteran Sherman “Tank” Williams (27-10-2) outpoint Mississippi journeyman Willie Perryman (9-10) in a battle of roly-poly heavyweights by scores of 99-91 (twice) and 98-92. In other early bouts New York junior middleweight Jose

Rodriguez (3-0) decisioned Philadelphian Anthony Abrams and Wright stablemate Akinyemi Laleye (3-0) won a split decision over Louis Robinson (2-1-1) in a lively light-heavyweight 4-rounder. Laleye, a Nigerian currently training in St. Petersburg under Dan Birmingham, prevailed by winning 39-37 on the cards of both Epstein and Feldman, while the third judge, Frank Lombardi, saw it for Robinson by a 39-38 margin.

A pair of local favorites both won their undercard bouts, to the delight of the sparsish crowd of 4,682. Hartford featherweight Mikey-Mike Oliver (11-0) easily outpointed his Mexican opponent Gilberto Bolanos (10-10-1), despite having a point deducted (for excessive holding) by referee Ricky Gonzalez in the third.

And Tony Grano, a 25-year-old plumber from Hebron, Conn., who turned pro after winning last year’s USA Boxing heavyweight championship in Colorado Springs, won his second bout in as many pro fights when he knocked out Tim Gulley (0-2) of Akron, Ohio. Grano allowed the acrobatic Gulley to cavort about the ring for a minute or so before methodically walking him and fetching his opponent a right hand to the body that left him writhing in agony as referee Dick Flaherty counted him out at 1:18 of the first.

MOHEGAN SUN ARENA

UNCASVILLE, CONN.

DEC. 10, 2005

MIDDLEWEIGHTS:

Ronald (Winky) Wright, 159½, St. Petersburg, Fla. dec. Sam Soliman, 159, Melbourne, Australia (12) (WBC title eliminator)

HEAVYWEIGHTS:

Sherman Williams, 259, Vero Beach, Fla. dec. Willie Perryman, 275, Clarksdale, Miss. (10)

Tony Grano, 212, Hebron, Conn. KO’d Tim Gulley, 202, Akron, Ohio (1)

CRUISERWEIGHTS:

Rico Hoye, 180, Detroit dec. Derrick Whitley, 178½, Holyoke, Mass. (6)

Anthony Russell, 177, Kitchener, Ontario dec. William Bailey, 182, Chesapeake, Va. (4)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS:

Akinyemi Laleye, 173, Lagos, Nigeria dec. Louis Robinson, 174, Philadelphia (4)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS:

Carlos DeLeon Jr., Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico drew with Ted Muller, 168, Moline, Ill. (6)

JUNIOR MIDDLES:

Jose Rodriguez, 150, New York dec. Anthony Abrams, 151, Philadelphia (4)

FEATHERWEIGHTS:

Mike Oliver, 123, Hartford dec. Gilberto Bolanos, 124, Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico (4)

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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