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Articles of 2006

Top 25 Heavyweights (As of January 1, 2006)

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Historians may someday look back on 2005 and say that it was the beginning of a shift in dominance from American heavyweights to hungry Eastern Europeans. Despite the retirement of Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, fighters from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Uzbekistan graced our ratings. In fact, had Klitschko retained his title, by year’s end two of the four titlists would have been from former Soviet republics. Russian Nicolay Valuez lifted John Ruiz’s WBA belt and became the tallest and heaviest man to ever be called “champion,” albeit a very fractured alphabet version.

Of course this trend could be a mirage. Hasim Rahman, Chris Byrd and Lamon Brewster are Americans after all and they have the other belts. James Toney was stripped of the WBA belt after testing positive in the post-fight urinalysis after he dominated Ruiz. Minus the steroid failure he would likely still be a belt wearer looking to unify. Further, Calvin Brock has as much talent as anyone in the division and anyone facing him will be hard-pressed to figure out how to get past him.

2006 could add some clarity. By the end of the spring, it is hoped, all of the belt holders will engage in defenses. If Don King and others can pull it off, we may have some semblance of unification by year’s end. He owns partial rights to Valuev, he controls Brewster, he has a (very) loose grip on Byrd, and of course he recently lost rights to Rahman. Who knows what this all means?

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Here are my heavyweight winners of 2005:

Best fight – Wladimir Klitschko vs. Samuel Peter. Many pundits and fans alike wrote off Klitschko following his losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Many also thought the big power of Peter would doom the weak-chinned Ukrainian to a sure KO loss. Klitschko’s boxing skill and physical strength prevailed and he is clearly back in the hunt.

Best Progress – Sultan Ibragimov. Stoppage wins over Lance Whitaker and Zuri Lawrence, as well as three other victories for the year, puts him firmly in the ratings and makes him a potential title challenger this year. Sure Whitaker and Lawrence aren’t exactly Louis and Walcott, but his dominance of both should give the division notice that he’s on the prowl.

Biggest Upset – Danny Williams vs. Audley Harrison. Harrison had the Olympic pedigree, the physical tools, and the undefeated record. Williams was trounced in his WBC challenge against Vitali Klitschko. Harrison figured to have the technical and potentially the power edge. What he didn’t have is the grit that Williams had in abundance – and that’s what counted most.

Most Likely to Succeed – Calvin Brock. This man has real talent. He’s also the kind of guy who could command a big following if he could be seen by the big crowds. Put him on a major network for three or four fights and he would have legions of fans pouring out for PPV fights down the road.

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1. Hasim Rahman, USA– WBC Champion (Last Month #1) James Toney is up next and Rahman will surely be tested. There is money to be made fighting the bevy of eastern Europeans who are suddenly moving to the forefront – but getting past Toney isn’t a given.

2. Lamon Brewster, USA– WBO Champion (Last month #2) Like his cousin Chris Byrd, he awaits a decision on whether his next opponent will be the mandatory Wladimir Klitschko. If the decision is Klitschko it will mean another trip to Germany. Better not let it go to the scorecards Lamon.

3. Wladimir Klitschko, Ukraine(Last month #3) Still waiting word on whether he gets a deserved shot at either Lamon Brewster or Chris Byrd. The fact is he should not have been skipped over by James Toney against Rahman. In any case, he will prove a major hurdle for any of the belt holders and anyone who thinks his weak chin represents an easy victory will be in for a rude awakening.

4. James Toney, USA (Last month #4) With Valuev’s win over Ruiz, suddenly Toney’s overrated win (later ruled a no-contest) against Ruiz doesn’t look like such a major feat. Toney has had flashes of brilliance but he is not definitively a world-beater just yet. Beating Rahman would put him in the lead position among heavyweights. It’s easier said that done.

5. Chris Byrd, USA– IBF Champion (Last month #5) The only money fight possible for him right now is Wladimir Klitschko. Byrd has been most unwilling to step in the ring with Klitschko, perhaps remembering the thrashing he took last time out. If not Klitschko, who knows when he’ll return to the ring? Hopefully he won’t take a year between bouts this time.

6. Calvin Brock, USA (Last month #6) David Tua is out and Zuri Lawrence is in. Lawrence, you may recall, outworked Jameel McCline recently. Still, in 35 fights he has never scored a knockout. Brock better win big – and remain upright throughout.

7. Samuel Peter, Nigeria (Last month #8) He was lackluster against Robert Hawkins on Dec. 5. Sometimes this happens after a big fight. He’ll have to keep winning against above average opposition in order to again position himself as a top contender.

8. Nicolay Valuev, Russia – WBA Champion (Last month #11) The new titlist, with his razor-thin win over John Ruiz, says he is going to fight in the United States next. The controversy in the Ruiz match won’t hurt much here because no one saw it on TV and John Ruiz was not all that popular. Fair or unfair, the big guy will gain more American fans that Ruiz did in no small part due to his massive size. Keeping the title is a matter of whom he chooses to defend it against. He is scheduled to defend in March against an opponent to be announced.

9. Danny Williams, England (Last month #14) His win over Audley Harrison is far more impressive than he will be given credit for in the U.S. Harrison is a skilled fighter and Williams had to show tremendous resourcefulness and fortitude to take the win. He’s making the most of his talent and will undoubtedly reap another major payday against Matt Skelton.

10. John Ruiz, USA (Last month #9) You can almost be guaranteed there will be a protest filed following his loss to Nicolay Valuev. There was lots of talk on the blogs – mostly by folks who did not see the fight – that suggested a bad decision in Germany. It should be noted that there were no German judges for the Berlin-held fight.

11. Monte Barrett, USA (Last month #10) Nothing on the boards. Now is the time to be active as a heavyweight. Multiple titles mean multiple chances for something to come along.

12. Audley Harrison, England (Last month #7) His showdown with Danny Williams could not have been more disappointing. He was not able to take advantage of the slower and limited Williams and instead pooped out at crunch time. He will have to go for broke and challenge top names right now if he is to recover from this. He sure did not leave himself much wiggle room by waiting until the age of 34 to make his big move.

13. David Tua, New Zealand (Last month #12) His match with Brock is now kaput so he’ll venture one more time to Florida to face another opponent to keep busy. No word yet on the name of that opponent.

14. DaVarryl Williamson, USA (Last month #13) With word that Joe Mesi is coming back, you can almost bet that that is the fight Williamson wants. Whether he gets it remains to be seen. He is back in training following elbow surgery.

15. Oleg Maskaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #15) Due to the incoherent rantings (I mean ratings) of the WBC, he is established as the next-in-line challenger to the winner of the Rahman-Toney March contest. Why he would choose to accept this situation without a trip to court is puzzling.

16. Sultan Ibragimov, Russia (Last month #21) The big Russian has to think he is now very much in the mix with a stoppage of Lance Whitaker (and a recent stoppage victory over Zuri Lawrence as well). Add to that the fact that his fellow countryman Nicolay Valuev is the new WBA titlist and you can already see the stars aligning for an all-Russian world title match. Who would’ve believed such a thing was possible????

17. Shannon Briggs, USA (Last month #16) Staying busy is the name of his game and he returns to the ring in Miami in January against Chris Koval. Eventually he’ll get a big shot if he keeps winning on the club tour.

18. Serguei Lyakhovich, Belarus (Last month #17) Returns to action on the Judah-Baldomir undercard January 7th, against a yet to be named opponent. He’s been off for more than a year due to injuries.

19. Ray Austin, USA (Last month #18) He has an opportunity to quickly move into contention for an alphabet belt with a win or two.

20. Matt Skelton, England (Last month #19) An easy winner over John McDermott in defense of his British crown in December. In February he takes the big (English) plunge against the rejuvenated Danny Williams. A win would certainly propel him to a major fight.

21. Ruslan Chagaev, Uzbekistan (Last month #20) He replaces Alexander Dimitrenko against Rob Calloway in January. Calloway has long been a star on the club circuit and this is a solid steppingstone type of fight.

22. Juan Carlos Gomez, Cuba (living in Germany) (Last month #22) Reports are in the Gomez failed a drug test following his win over Oliver McCall. He’s looking at a possible ban in Germany if the reports prove true.

23. Luan Krasniqi, Germany(Last month #23) He’s set to return in March on the undercard of Arthur Abraham’s next main event. We’ll see if he has any juice left.

24. Zuri Lawrence, USA (Last month #24) He gets to capitalize on his recent win over Jameel McCline by taking on top-ten resident Calvin Brock.

25. Jameel McCline, USA (Last month #25) The big guy has been busy lately, though with mixed results. He’ll have to maintain a torrid schedule – and win repeatedly – if he is to return to the top ten.

Others on the fringes in no particular order:

Tye Fields, USAAnother really big man in the division at 6’9” and about 270. We can’t read too much into his recent win over a terribly faded Bruce Seldon but he’s worth watching.

Joe Mesi, USA– Who would’ve suspected that Mesi would get mentioned again? Through some courtroom maneuvering he may actually get to return to the ring despite his past medical woes. No ranking, though, until he reenters the ring and scores some meaningful wins.

Dominick Guinn, USA– Hopefully 2006 will be the year when this talented prospect gets his act together.

Lance Whitaker, USA– You won’t see his name here next month. His 7 round stoppage loss to Sultan Ibragimov puts the big guy way at the end of the line. Coupled with his KO loss to Luan Krasniqi in 2005, we have to suspect the big fade has set in.

Alexander Dimitrenko, Ukraine – He pulled out of a January date with Rob Calloway for unknown reasons.

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

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Samuel Peter claims he has dynamites in my two hands?

Heavyweight contenders Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter and James Lights Out? Toney get it on a second time this Saturday from the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. (Showtime).

The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out’s lights out for good.

I have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, and I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?

Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute which forced the WBC’s hand into mandating Saturday’s rematch.

Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country’s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.

Peter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.?

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Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

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There are claims that boxing is dying. Hogwash. The heavyweight division isn’t the only division in boxing and 2007 promises to be a banner year in boxing; especially for boxers hailing from Asia.

While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia

1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.

2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?

3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.

4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.

5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.

6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.

7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.

8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.

9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.

10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.

Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pound for Pound:

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2

Jr. Lightweight

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9

Featherweight

Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4

Bantamweight

Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan) #2
Veeraphol Sahaprom (Japan) #3
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand) #6
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Thailand) #10

Jr. Bantamweight

Nobuo Nashiro (Japan) #1
Katsushige Kawashima (Japan) #7
Pramuansak Phosuwan (Thailand) #10

Flyweight

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1

Minimumweight

Yukata Naiida (Japan) #2
Eagle Kyowa (Japan/Thai) #4
Katsunari Takayama (Japan) #5
Rodel Mayol (Philippines) #7

Boxing in Thailand

There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.

The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.

Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
2) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
3) Somsak Sithchatchawal
4) Wandee Singwancha
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha
6) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
7) Veeraphol Sahaprom
8) Pramuansak Phosuwan
9) Terdsak Jandaeng
10) Oleydong Sithamerchai

Current Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand

2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.

3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.

4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.

5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent.
6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite.
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.

9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.

10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.

Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.

In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.

Honorable Mention: Wethya Sakmuangklang, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Devid Lookmahanak, Nethra Sasiprapa, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym

Thai Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: #1 Flyweight
Pramuansak Phosuwan: #10 Jr. Bantamweight
Veeraphol Sahaprom: #3 Bantamweight
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin: #6 Bantamweight
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym: #10 Bantamweight
Somsak Sithchatchawal: #3 Jr. Featherweight
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9 Lightweight

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Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

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LAS VEGAS—UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “Iceman” Liddell’s fists proved too much for Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz who was stopped in the third round before a sold out crowd at the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday.

The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.

Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.

“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”

Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.

“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.

Ortiz was gracious in defeat.

“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”

Other bouts

Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.

“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”

Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.

Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.

Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.

Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.

Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.

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