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Articles of 2006

The Other Ring Sports

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Kickboxing is a generic word used for fights where two men are allowed to throw punches and kicks. That’s why it has become abused and magazines write about muay thai kickboxing, french kickboxing, K-1 kickboxing and so on. The truth is that what is commonly referred to as kickboxing has very little in common with muay thai, savate and K-1 Grand Prix. In fact, when the K-1 Corporation executives realized that their sport was reaching epic proportions they decided to call it the “new fighting sport.” It was like saying that they didn’t want K-1 fights to be confused with kickboxing, muay thai and savate. Let’s discover the rules of each ring sport.

KICKBOXING – It was invented in the 1960s in Japan. They got the idea from muay thai. Those fights were too dangerous and Japanese athletes were getting regularly beaten up, so somebody tried to fight without throwing elbows and knees; the new style was an immediate success in Japan. In 1970s, Mike Anderson tried to promote kickboxing matches in the United States. He found out that many people didn’t like the kicks to the legs, mainly because they force the competitors to stay close to each other and the fight can become boring (at least for the American fans who love exclusively action-packed fights). A roundhouse kick to the face must be thrown from a long distance, the movement is more elegant and more appealing for the tv networks. If the athletes keep constantly away from each other, they are also tempted to try highly spectacular moves like the flying spinning kicks. TV networks executives consider kickboxing just another kind of entertainment: the more spectacular it is, the better it is.

On September 14, 1974 in Los Angeles, Mike Anderson promoted the first world championship of the new style and called it full contact karate. With the years, the word karate was substituted with kickboxing by the major sanctioning bodies: World Karate Association became World Kickboxing Association, World All-Style Karate Organization became World Association of Kickboxing Organizations. The main reason for this change was that traditional karate federations didn’t want to be associated with the new sport and called their lawyers. On the other hand, full contact champions didn’t want to be confused with karate champions. In my opinion, they were right because karate champions never throw legitimate punches or kicks and don’t have the same level of physical strength or skills. If the karatekas never get hit seriously, they don’t get used to the pain; most likely, they will get KOed the first time a good punch reaches their face. So, the two sports must not be confused. Getting back to kickboxing, the style without the kicks to the legs became widely popular in North and Latin America. Kickboxing, with the low kicks, was the favorite sport in Asia and Europe. To make the fans understand what they were going to see, promoters distinguished the two styles with the names full contact and low kicks. Today, kickboxing is just a generic word used for a sport with many styles including point competitions:

Full Contact – Punches and kicks from the waist up. It is also allowed to use footsweeps.

Low Kick – Punches from the waist up, kicks everywhere and footsweeps.

Light Contact – Like Full Contact, only that the KO is prohibited. It started as a ring sport, but now the fights are usually held on a tatami (size of 8×8 meters).

Semi Contact – Like Full Contact, only that the referee stops the action after every valid punch or kick. It’s a point competition and was never held inside a ring. In 1985, it got a publicity boost after Troy Dorsey won the gold medal during the WAKO world championships held in London (England). Light and Semi Contact are more popular in Europe.

K-1 GRAND PRIX – It also comes from muay thai, like Kazuyoshi Ishii said many times. He wanted to create a new sport and muay thai was very popular in Japan, so he added the use of the knees to kickboxing. Mr. Ishii thought that shots with elbows were too dangerous and he didn’t include them in K-1 fights. Besides, Mr. Ishii’s main goal was to create a style easy to learn for every kind of athlete: he wanted to match specialists from karate, kickboxing,  taekwondo, muay thai and every other martial art you can think of. Punches and kicks are included in every fighting system; knee shots are easy to learn. Everybody could adapt to K-1 rules and nobody was getting a significant advantage. K-1 Grand Prix debuted in April 1993, drawing 10,000 spectators. It was a huge number compared to most kickboxing shows, but that wasn’t enough for Mr. Ishii. He kept improving K-1 events, adding impressive choreography (like a philharmonic orchestra, Japanese bongo players, spectacular fireworks, the election of Miss Ring and so on), invited everybody to fight (professional boxers, sumo wrestlers, toughman contest winners and even football players) and set many consecutive attendance records. K-1 Grand Prix reached its peak in 2002: 74,500 spectators. Since then, the audience dropped every year: 67,000 in 2003, 64,000 in 2004, 58,000 in 2005. Even with a negative trend going on, K-1 Grand Prix remains the most successful ring sport in the world. Thanks to Mr. Ishii the best champions from the other fighting arts have the opportunity to get worlwide exposure and make big money.

MUAY THAI – The modern version was conceived in 1930s and comes from 2,000 years old traditional Siamese fighting systems. Muay thai fighters don’t want their sport to be confused with kickboxing or anything else. According to muay thai champions, every other ring sport is a limited form of fighting. Besides, they consider muay thai a martial art with a philosophy of life to be followed 365 days a year. Before every match, muay thai fighters play a dance called Ram muay. If you go to Lumpinee Stadium, don’t laugh and don’t make any hilarious comments when you see Ram muay: they take it very seriously because it’s an ancient tradition and they could react knocking you out. During muay thai fights, traditional music is played and the greatest champions are able to coordinate their attacks with the rhythm of the music.

The Rules – Punches and elbows from the waist up, kicks and knees everywhere, footsweeps. It is allowed to hit the opponent during a clinch and to throw him down (in that moment, the action must be stopped). If a fighter grabs his opponent’s leg, he can punch him using the other hand. Flying knees to the face are deadly weapons and are typical of Thai warriors. European and American fighters usually get KOed by flying knees because they don’t expect to be hit in such a way.

THAI KICKBOXING – It was recently invented in Europe and they consider it muay thai without the elbows, with the clinches lasting only five seconds and with the prohibition of using some of the  extreme techniques legal in Bangkok rings like hitting the throat. In thai kickboxing, punches have the same values for judges as any other legal technique. In muay thai, judges give scarce importance to punches. In thai kickboxing, there isn’t the Ram muay dance and no music is played during the fight. With all these changes, thai kickboxing cannot be considered muay thai anymore.

SAVATE – Punches from the waist up, kicks everywhere and footsweeps. It sounds like a low kick style of kickboxing, but savate was invented in 1700 by French sailors who came back from tours of the Orient. Initially, the idea was to attack only with kicks. In 1800 it introduced the use of punches. According to modern rules, savate fighters can throw kicks only after having “charged them”: the first move is to put the knee back, the second to “release” the kick. It is not allowed to just move the leg up, to deliver an axe kick like in other ring sports. The only straight kick permitted by savate rules is the one against the opponent’s flute that must be hit with the sole of the foot: it’s called “charlemont.” Another characteristic of savate fighters is that they often move laterally before kicking: this strategy allows them to elude their opponent’s counters and find the best angle for striking effectively. It has to be noticed that savate fighters must wear shoes and this makes their kicks more dangerous. That’s why savate fighters cannot kick with the tip of their toes. In the ring sports community, most people think that savate fighters cannot compete with kickboxers or muay thai and K-1 champions. Theoretically, it makes sense because savate allows a smaller number of attacks and defenses. But, a real fight is different from theory. I understood it when Francois Pennacchio faced Ramon Dekkers in a kickboxing match many years ago in Milan. The Frenchman was underrated because he got his ring education through savate. Even if Pennacchio became world champion in kickboxing, he always considered himself a savateur and said it proudly in every interview. On the other hand, Ramon Dekkers had knocked out everybody in Europe and was one of the few western muay thai fighters to have scored major wins in Thailand and Japan. Well, the fight between Francois Pennacchio and Ramon Dekkers was totally different from what anybody could have imagined. Pennacchio tried to sweep Dekker’s feet and was successful sending him to the canvas. The Frenchman tried a second time and it worked again. So, Pennacchio kept sweeping Dekkers for the whole night. Pennacchio was also too fast for the Dutch superstar and won on points. Ramon Dekkers knew how to use every part of his body as a weapon, but didn’t know how to protect himself from savate’s footsweeps.

I would like to know what you readers think about the different ring sports. What’s your favorite to practice and to watch? What is, according to your judgement, the most dangerous ring sport in the world?

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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