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Articles of 2006

The Case of Joe Mesi: Legality, Ethics and Self Determinism (Part I)

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Joe Mesi will, in all likelihood, be returning to the professional punch for pay ranks in 2006.

For some, the return of the popular Buffalo, New York based heavyweight contender is justice finally served, the predicates of his medical suspension identified by the Nevada State Athletic Commission – the March 2004 MRI revelation of the fighter having suffered at least two subdural hematomas following his decision win over Vassiliy Jirov – no longer part of the fighter’s current ana

Others point to Mesi’s return fostering a dangerous precedent within the boxing world, namely fighters finding ways – even legal ones – to circumvent suspension based on manifest injuries suffered in the ring such as, though not exclusive to, bleeding on the brain, a condition once held to be a career ending threshold for a professional boxer.

As far as he was aware, NSAC Executive Director Marc Ratner believes Mesi’s legal petition to allow for him to move past his medical suspension and be free to apply for re-licensing as a professional fighter is a first. “It’s unprecedented for a fighter who’s suffered a subdural hematoma to be licensed again to fight.”

Of course, that is not to imply that all fighters who have suffered subdural hematomas have retired from the ring. It’s that fighters found to have suffered the trauma – having been diagnosed, with the malady made public to a licensing board – have not traditionally been allowed to fight again, notwithstanding that in boxing a statement made as a definitive, even in good faith, is essentially hyperbole. Mesi himself, seeking to break down the notion of definitive action into relativism observes, “you have to go case by case… this isn’t a black and white issue… each case, each person is different.” And here we run into a central axis for debate. Until Mesi's successful court challenge reversing what amounted to be a lifetime ban, suffering a subdural hematoma was thee threshold for effectively ending a fighter's professional career.

Once a fighter had been diagnosed to have suffered such an injury the implication of governance, the rationalizing implication, was seen as commonsensical, a given. The consequential nature of affliction meant the fighter in question was ‘prone’ to such injury, having already endured the trauma. So one’s medical history stood as a barometer defining one’s predisposition to such injury and all the weight of inferred probability seemed to confirm such belief.

And this is where the reality of disclosure and the tradition of no look/never tell intersect to form webs of contradictions and rationalizations. Of course, boxing and the limits of medical protection is sometimes characterized by contradictions and rationalizations. No one would ever assert that all fighters who have suffered subdural hematoma, be they acute, subacute or chronic, have retired from the sport. Most never knew of the phenomena, given the detection technology of medical resonance imagining and other diagnostic technologies are fairly recent inventions, compared with the total history of boxing. Even within the age of the current technological methodologies, most fighters do not have the finances to test themselves regularly; the Mesi case opens up waves of possible ramifications for boxing with respect to implied ethical practice: more on that later.

Can the sport, via its oversight bodies, in fact, protect itself as an entertainment platform and sporting activity if fighters can loophole themselves around sanctions? Is the right of the individual to pursue his own self-interest the trump card in this debate? Can oversight bodies act out preventative sanctions, if bounded by legal frameworks, to the infringement of individual liberties and the expectation of fair practice, while seeming to acknowledge due process? Yes, the issues are manifest, complex and perhaps represent the greatest debate in the sport for a generation.

The medical panel of the Nevada Athletic Commission voted in April, 2005 for a continuance of Mesi’s medical suspension, which was supported by the full voting body in June. The ruling prompted Mesi’s legal team to file a motion of appeal to the State of Nevada's 8th District Court. Because Nevada had suspended Mesi, due to Congressional law under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000, the ruling of the Nevada State Athletic Commission meant a national suspension within the United States, since all states uphold the disciplinary strictures of other states’ jurisdictions.

Mesi and his legal team also challenged the right (procedure) of the commission which shared (divulged) private medical information pertaining to Mesi with the media and outside entities, as part of the process of defining and defending their imposed medical suspension of the fighter. We should note that a medical suspension following the detection of a subdural hematoma is not disputed as a necessary safeguard procedure by Mesi, his legal team or anyone else in and around boxing. The question comes down to the legal boundaries of a commission or oversight committee with respect of suspending a fighter who has suffered such a condition, if after a reasonable interval the manifest signs and symptoms of the trauma have disappeared. As a governmental body charged with regulating the practice and parameters of the sport, can commissions (we include tribal bodies as well) act in a preventative way to safeguard the sport as a generalizing principle of ‘what’s in the best interest of the sport’; that too enters into the debate now that Team Mesi have navigated beyond the strictures of regulatory oversight and due caution, as is their legal right, as adjudicated in December.

For the undefeated Mesi, his position was that he’d been effectively barred from competition and the right to exercise his profession long after the need for a medical suspension was warranted. Thus, we come across the debate as to susceptibility. Since the summer of 2004, the concern for those that wish Mesi would stay inactive stems from the anecdotal and generalized fear that since he’s suffered this kind of brain bleeding he’s a walking time bomb. This remains the apprehension even with the disclosure in December of 2005 that currently Mesi is physically fit to box according to his doctors and numerous CAT scans he’s undergone.

“I took all the tests out there. I have said this before… all the requirements have been met. I'm healthy now… what more can I say?” was Mesi’s cryptic response to those that remain concerned for him.

The fight that put Mesi down almost for the count was a rugged affair with Vassiliy Jirov on March 13, 2004 at the Mandalay Bay. The rounds were heated and the exchanges withering. We note at this juncture that statistically speaking – and here we are relying on a Japanese study – most hematomas occur during 10 round fights. Mesi, boxing well for much of the contest, was dropped by a Jirov uppercut in the 10th round. He was up and soon down again, though he regained enough composure to hear the last bell, on his feet after taking a battering, and the judges scoring that had him taking a unanimous decision. But as we all know, the trauma was only beginning and Mesi hasn’t fought since.

Having suffered a diagnosed hematoma, pooling of the blood lying beneath the outer covering of the brain, the dura, and the brain’s surface, doesn’t equate to inordinate susceptibility according to the doctor’s retained by Mesi. Nor was their testimony to that effect substantially refuted by the NSAC and the doctors on its board at the time. Team Mesi’s legal argument came down to the fighter now being no more at risk of subdural hematoma than any other fighter.

The semantics of susceptibility and predisposition cannot be linked to the Mesi case as a defining element, that too was implied in the findings, as issued in the opinion of Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon’s ruling, which noted, that since Mesi’s license had elapsed December 31 of 2004, the state regulating body had no authority to medically suspend Mesi in the state of Nevada.

The principle testimony of Dr. Robert Cantu, respected neurosurgeon from Massachusetts, Dr. Stephen Olvey and Dr. Julian Bailes, who consults for the NFL Players Association on head injuries, was determinative. According to their research and experience, Joe Mesi was no more likely to again suffer injury than any other fighter. That testimony was not effectively challenged.

We must remember the ‘political’ context of the Mesi suspension, as a tangential element for consideration. The boxing haven and Mecca of Nevada, reeling from the deaths of Martin Sanchez in July and WBC lightweight champion Leavander Johnson in September 2005, followed their regulations to the letter in medically suspending Mesi in light of the post-fight diagnosis of subdural hematoma, whether it was subacute or chronic, the distinction being determined by the time elapsed from the initiating trauma for the blood to collect. (Veins between the brain and the outer surface – the dura – are attenuated and rupture causing collections of blood in areas.) In following the letter of the state’s regulations the commission acted upon the letter and certainly the spirit of the law as written.

The one thing they didn’t want was another tragedy, the popularity of a figure like Joe Mesi being injured any time in the future of his career, in any state, was something no one connected to the NSAC wanted to live to see.

In pursuing his legal rights has Mesi opened the door to normalizing litigation seeking to challenge medical sanctions and suspensions in the future? Some in boxing fear it just might. If this is so, then how can boxing seek to govern/regulate itself with respect to controlling the ultimate conditions for participatory guidelines? Certainly boxers, of all people, don’t need to be reminded of the dangers inherent in taking undue risks. At least, one wouldn’t think so.

But if the law, the act of self regulation in boxing, is not in keeping with something commensurate to ethical imperatives respected, then how can it manifest anything like product integrity and the fostering of a healthy entertainment persona?

(End of Part 1)

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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