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Articles of 2006

My Inaugural List

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I’ve always hated writing. In high school, I negotiated my way out of writing essays. Then, in college, I got my ass thoroughly kicked in freshman English. In survival mode, I tortuously ground out essays, each one requiring half-a-dozen drafts. I could fathom neither classmates who eagerly enrolled in a “Daily Themes” course, nor the “one-take wonders” that could produce eloquent works of brilliance at the eleventh hour seated at a computer with numerous primary sources carefully perched on their laps.

I never liked boxing, either. I ignored the closing of the Ali era, the Leonard-Duran-Hagler-Hearns wars, and much of the Tyson dominance because boxing seemed like a dumb sport. “It’s just two guys trying to pound the heck out of each other – what’s the point?” I thought.

Then I tried it myself.

Now I am a confessed addict, constantly surfing the ‘net for updates and clicking the remote in search of a replay of a D-class fight on cable. Boxing is my obsession, but I still cannot say I like it. My diligence with my training regimen stems from a commitment to myself; not “love.” And I find the profession, not to be confused with the art, to be despicably nonsensical. And yet I have handed in my “daily themes” of sweat, frustration, adrenaline and relief at the gym for the last decade.

And now I volunteer myself to do something I hate about an activity I’m not sure I even like. Why?

The view from inside the ropes is vastly different from the plotlines dreamt up by Hollywood screenwriters and the carefully packaged pre-fight pay-per-view sound bites. There is a subset of fighters who also write, and I will guess they initially picked up their pen to give voice from the fighter’s, rather than the spectator’s, point of view. Perhaps they grew tired of reading re-hyped hype and seeing myths repeated so often in black and white that eventually legend became the “truth.” I hope to add to that collective voice and touch on sights and scenes that remain overlooked in the standard guidebooks to boxing.

I figured if I am going to tout myself as a boxing scribe, I ought to generate a List that demonstrates my insight and analysis of the sport. Unfortunately, I do not possess an encyclopedic mental database of all fighters past and present, so I am ill-equipped to compile a list of forgotten greats, of superfights that never occurred, or, of course, the top ten pound-for-pound fighters of all time.

So I will stick to something I know from the inside out. (And why ten? It seems like such an arbitrary number.)

Top Seven Boxing Showers of All-Time

Jerome Boxing Club, Bronx, NY – This was by far the most frightening shower. I worked out at this dimly gym for months before discovering the shower because it is so well hidden down a dark hallway off a narrow set of stairs. Like the windowless high-ceilinged gym below, the single gender change room was poorly lit. The small shower had feint water pressure and the water was lukewarm. The left side of the shower stall was also the exterior wall of the building. There were cracks and gaps large enough to give me a direct view of a Bronx back street several stories below. The reverse voyeurism while standing naked and isolated out of earshot of nearest human being got the theme from Pyscho going in my head. I rinsed off quickly while reciting the Lord’s Prayer, dressed and rushed back down to the gym floor. After that singular experience, I decided that leaning over the slop sink next to the ring and sticking my head under lukewarm tap water would suffice plenty.

110th Precinct PAL Boxing Gym, Queens, NY – This tiny windowless gym was hidden under the ramp leading from the No 7 train station to the tennis stadium. Be thankful odors cannot be uploaded on to the internet yet. In this single-gender change room, urinal cakes were constantly replaced and fermented locker contents were occasionally blowtorched, yet the smell remained magnificently nostril-piercing. I guess the young men figured they would save their precision aiming skills for their sparring partners’ heads – why waste genius? The lone shower was located at the back of the locker room, past the urinals, toilet stalls and several banks of lockers. There was plenty of space for a bench and chair to deposit one’s belongings. Since it was single-gender locker room, I would wait until all were decent, trundle to the back, and someone would push a locker bank across the opening to the shower area, ensuring privacy for all. There was no light in the concrete shower, which was probably for the best since I was instructed to stand in a plastic crate to avoid making direct contact with the floor. Water pressure ranged from minimal to decent, and temperature ranged from hot to absolutely freezing. Yet I felt safe, secure, and even pretty clean back there. And I didn’t usually have to wait too long after banging on the lockers for someone to come let me out.

Gleason’s Gym, Brooklyn, NY – With separate male and female change rooms since 1984, Gleason’s Gym weighs in as a heavyweight. Since renovations in 2000, both the women’s and men’s showers have three heads. These are open stall style, so if you are squeamish about getting naked in front of others, you will have to shower in your underwear. The floors are covered in gray tile, and the walls are white tiled above head height. The lighting, water pressure, and temperature are excellent, and soap is provided. There is a bench to rest one’s shower accoutrements and the area is cleaned on a daily basis. This shower is relaxing enough to hold a conversation with a friend or give oneself a mini-spa treatment; condition, shave, exfoliate, etc., and many women store a trove of their favorite toiletries in their lockers. I have no idea what the guys do on their side.

Wild Card Boxing Gym. West Hollywood, CA – This single-head shower is separate from the men’s and women’s changing rooms and well away from the toilet. It is shared by both genders. There is a small ante area to keep one’s change of clothes out of range of the water, so one can enter and exit the shower fully clothed. The stall itself is very spacious, and the showerhead is placed high enough to accommodate the tallest of heavyweights. The floors and walls are covered in white tiles and are bordered by a Martha Stewartesque blue stylized boxer motif. The water pressure and temperature are excellent, the shower is cleaned regularly and soap is provided. My favorite feature is a small window located high enough to ensure privacy but large enough to provide natural lighting. As the sun streams in just before sunset, there is a lovely dramatic glow on the white tiled walls. I feel very safe and clean, and almost feel like lingering.

Astoria Boxing Gym, Vancouver, Canada – To access this gym, located in the basement of the neon-signed Astoria Hotel, one must enter through an off-sale liquor area and turn abruptly to the left just before the bar entrance, then head down a steep and narrow set of stairs. This low-ceilinged, windowless gym is permeated with the unique scent of stale sweat on leather combined with old beer infused with cigarette butts. It is actually an interesting combination and not that unpleasant. There is a separate female changing area, but the lone shower is in the men’s area. Fortunately, the single toilet is located down a hall well away from the gym floor and changing areas. The shower stall is small and looks rather old and scary but the water pressure and temperature were enough to get the job done.

Connie Bryant’s Gym, Harlem, NY – Once located in the heart of Harlem, this tiny second floor gym had picture windows overlooking Fifth Ave at 125th Street and a large single-gender change room with plenty of lockers. The shower, however, was in a completely separate dark closet-like space with a single showerhead. There was no way to keep one’s change of clothes from getting wet, so boxers were forced to traipse back and forth to the change room swathed in a towel or their birthday suit, in plain view of everyone in the gym. Which is why I never used it.

Crunch Gym 38th Street, Manhattan, NY – Owned and run by a nationwide fitness club chain, this gym offers the most luxurious shower facilities of all. Because the third floor boxing facility is located within a health club, most of the clientele are here to burn calories and build muscles, but there are legit amateur and pro fighters that also train here. Since it is walking distance from MSG, this gym is often used by visiting pros for their final pre-fight workouts. This is the only facility I know of that provides coat check and towel service along with an opportunity to spar. As one would expect, the locker room is spacious and clean. The individual black-tiled stalls provide privacy, excellent water pressure and temperature, and are cleaned frequently. Soap, shampoo and conditioner are gratis. The sauna is an added plus, when it is working.

Any top ten list is sure to include both boxers and brawlers. Some of these showers are as ugly as a droopy-eyed, pug-nosed, scar-laden banger, and a few are as baby-faced as a fleet-of-foot technician. No matter; the best part of any grueling workout is the shower afterwards. As long as there is at least a trickle of water to rinse off a fighter's back and close the pores, the shower got the job done and the fighter can exit the gym smiling.

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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