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Articles of 2006

Boxing from the bottom up

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Monticello, New York – This is where it starts. It is in venues like this, with promoters like these, and a room full of fans like the ones who cheered very loudly for what was taking place inside the ring here.

It’s not Madison Square Garden, or Wembley Stadium or Caesars Palace.

This is boxing at the Monticello Raceway. The only sign of a world champion are the celebrities in the crowd. So far.

I say so far, because who knows what is to come? Who knows what is to become of the 12 fighters who traded punches tonight, before 11,000 fans who loved every minute of the action?

Who knows if there is a world champion among them? Their fate doesn’t matter right now, boxing is immediate. You can’t go any further than the man standing in front of you. And since that man is throwing punches at you, you take care of business now and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

This is the club level, where Rocky Balboa pounds Spider Rico. This is where it starts for all of them. It’s where great fighters pay their dues, where they sit amongst the fans after their fights, bloodied and bruised, because they have yet to realize they are great. And because neither have the fans.

The ring here is situated in the track’s grandstand in front of the betting windows. The horses aren’t running but you can walk over to the simulcast window and bet a race from out of town or you can walk down the stairs and play the slots in the brand new casino. In boxing, there is always a gambling angle.

Here’s the boxing angle, and this comes from the men who make up Ring Promotions. Stage competitive fights. Bob Duffy, Tony Mazzarella, Charley Capone and Pete Brodsky each have more than 20 years in the sport. They are in the business of putting on competitive fights.

It is a service to boxing that the kids they bring in fight the way they do. Which is this way: hard.

I won’t say that no one took a backward step in that ring, but if someone had, it wasn’t willingly. These kids fight hard because they have everything to gain. When it’s over, it’s back to places like Washington Heights, Brooklyn, Rochester and Coram. These are the nights they get one step closer to leaving those places.

In two shows at Monticello, there hasn’t been a single bum. At least, not in the ring. Sometimes, you take these fights and these fighters for granted. But I assure you, that Zab Judah once fought like this too. When you sit in the press section, and stare too long into the glare of superstardom, you lose sight of nights like this one. But it’s nights like this that keeps boxing alive.

The show consists of four four-round bouts and two eight-round bouts. It starts with middleweights. Rochester’s Esteban Cordova is 3-3 and Manhattan’s Jose Rodriguez is 3-0. Rodriguez is the more talented man and he knows it. Perhaps Cordova knows it too. That is why he fights with urgency. But urgency rarely upsets talent and the flashy Rodriguez, a southpaw in silver trunks, punches out a unanimous decision.

The next bout is in the heavyweight division. Carlos Sanchez is 2-0 with two knockouts from Washington Heights. Ouafa Jindyeh is making his pro debut straight from Brooklyn. At two minutes of the second round, Jindyeh goes down from a left hook to the body and is counted out. Over two shows, encompassing 12 bouts that Ring Promotions has staged in Monticello, there have been only three knockouts. One of them was a TKO stoppage in the final round. That’s proper matchmaking.

Now come the junior middleweights and Mike Ruiz, 0-1, comes into the ring with a mask from the “Halloween” movies covering his face. He meets Dwayne Hall, also 0-1. Both of these guys are fighting as if their next meal depends on that first win. Hall, a tricky southpaw, is a little bit faster than Ruiz, but no more game. The speed will ultimately be the difference. As is common when southpaws fight orthodox fighters, their feet tangle on occasion and their heads touch more than they should. Ruiz gets staggered in the fourth round but fights back, imploring Hall to hit him again. It’s one of those fights, with one of those efforts, to which you say, “Too bad someone has to lose.” But this is boxing, not Disney. So Ruiz goes back to Long Island, 0-2, and Hall goes back to Rochester – over fours hours away by car – the proud owner of a victory in a professional prize ring.

We’re still in the junior middleweight division and now we have Adam Czacher, all the way from Coram, Long Island. He fought on Monticello’s first card and gave his blood, plenty of it, for the entertainment of those in attendance. In that bout, which was nonstop action, he fought to a draw. He bled from two cuts, but never stopped banging. The draw left him with a 0-1-1 record. His manager and trainer, Dwight Yard, booked him again at Monticello. This time against Geovany Diaz, whose hair was braided and was making his pro debut out of the Bronx.

Czacher issues a “welcome to pro boxing” moment by dropping Diaz in the first round. Czacher can now taste his first win and unloads an array of punches in the hopes of finishing the job. He was relentless, following Diaz from corner to corner, hoping to remove his fate from the judges. Somehow, Diaz remains standing, an impressive display of composure, if not athleticism, for a first-time pro.

After Czacher empties his revolver, the press section wonders if he has anything left to finish the job? Diaz, sensing he may have a shot, applies some pressure and makes the fourth round interesting. Czacher responds the only way he knows how, by fighting back. He doesn’t stop punching until the bell and until he has his first win.

“I was a little overanxious,” Czacher said. He went on to explain that in his pro debut, he fought someone who was a bit awkward and, “I kind of froze. In my second pro fight, I thought I won, but they called it a draw. So in the first round, here, I wanted to make a statement.”

He did. This was his statement – This is how hard I will fight to win.

Promoters should take note of that statement. That he makes anywhere from $400 to $600 for bleeding and  sweating and making other people bleed and sweat and fall to the ground, tells you that it’s not about the money. It’s about the dream. The dream, yes, that’s about the money, the cars and the title belts. But right now, it’s about fighting your way to the dream.

Czacher, who is 24, works as a plumber in his brother’s plumbing company. He thought it was important for the advancement of his career that “I showed that I could keep going for the 4 rounds, even thought I was winded.”

He’s right. This is his dream, as he explained it to me. “I really want to keep busy, hopefully get another five to six fights and hopefully catch a promoter’s eye, maybe get some time off from work and get a salary so I can train fulltime.”

Now we move up to middleweights and eight round fights and guys a little bit closer to the dream.

Pawel Wolak brought an 8-0 record with five knockouts all the way from Rockaway, New Jersey. Clarence Taylor, who never had an amateur fight, brought his 9-6-2 record with four knockouts all the way from Wilmington, Delaware. This fight is as close a one-sided fight as you will ever see. Wolak wins seven of the eight rounds but Taylor fights him tooth and nail for possession of each round.

Wolak makes the fight. He marches forward in a crouch and throws short, hard punches much the way Joe Frazier did in his prime. This is how his game works. His only defense is his offense. This is why he wins. His will is stronger than that of his opponent. He gladly accepts their punches with the complete confidence that his punches will wear them down first. So far, he hasn’t met the man who can prove him wrong.

Taylor is not Ali to Wolak’s Frazier, but he is here to win. That is an important distinction to make at club fights. Most often, the out-of-town opponents come for the paycheck and a quick beating. Taylor’s beating lasts eight rounds, clearly not a man looking for the easy way out. He stands up to an alarming number of power-punches and lands enough right hands to open a small cut beneath Wolak’s right eye.

“I give myself a C-minus,” said Wolak, sitting in an empty dressing room after the fight. The cut is held together with a butterfly stitch and his face is decorated with red and purple welts.

“Not having an amateur background, I think I did pretty swell,” says Taylor, who is smiling and holding an icepack to his forehead. And yes, he actually did use the word swell. “I didn’t know I’d be fighting a guy so schooled. I take my hat off to him and I’d like to do it again.”

The rematch won’t happen. It’s not that Wolak wouldn’t fight Taylor again. It’s just that on the march to title contention, there is little time to waste on steppingstones that have already served their purpose. “This guy was tough, he took a good shot,” said Wolak. “For me, it’s just back to the gym and keep working hard. I want to fight as often as possible.”

The main event arrives and Freddy Soto, of the Bronx, comes into the ring with a New York Golden Gloves title to his credit and belt that proclaims him lightweight champion of the great state of New York. Jose Cruz, of Rochester via Colombia, comes into the ring knowing that he does not want to go back to Colombia until he has his own belt.

Sometimes this is what happens with more experienced fighters. The pace slows down. There is no rushing. They are more professional. That is exactly what happened when Soto fought Cruz. After five fights, the crowd is asked to watch a chess match. The fight lacks the sustained action of the previous bouts. The intensity never wanes, but the punches come in spurts as each man tries to figure the other out.

Here is what I figured out. There is one thing that can make a four-hour drive seem like it takes about 20 minutes. A right hand. It was Cruz’s right that scored in every round against Soto. It was Cruz’s right that never allowed Soto to find his rhythm. It was Cruz’s right that punished the kid who came here with Golden Gloves and a tough reputation from the Bronx.

Three fighters climbed into a car that was heading west to Rochester. Two of them won. Not a bad night for a ride.

Or a fight.

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

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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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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