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Articles of 2006

The Case of Joe Mesi: Legality, Ethics and Self Determinism (Part 2)

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Heavyweight contender Joe Mesi is now 32-years-old. With his Nevada State medical suspension declared void, his hope of a return to the ring rekindles itself. Training in New York State, Puerto Rico or all points west, due south or wherever, Mesi waits for a license to complete his return to the ring, his rebirth, to become the test case for rehabilitation in boxing.

The case of Joe Mesi feels like such an American one, individualism triumphing over governmental stricture when the final meaning of regulatory guidelines effectively impinge on what is defined as the freedom to pursue one’s destiny and the aspiration of personal intent. Sure, the legal ruling was to specifically decide on the status of Mesi and thus the foundational element of Mesi’s medical suspension is not applicable given the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, as they applied to Mesi’s standing – being no longer licensed. But aside from the idea of property rights appended to the decision, the crucial issue was the ruling on his current status, the context for which, his medical infirmity – the elephant in the room issue – was supported in his case by medical uncertainty about the predisposition and susceptibility Mesi would face from further head traumas of the kind he endured against Vassiliy Jirov.

Head traumas suffered once do not damn a fighter to future head traumas, nor does it tip the balance of probability. At least that was the expert medical testimony heard in the courtroom in December 2005.

The findings in the Mesi case, did and do have a ripple effect. The extreme fear in boxing circles being that – regardless of Mesi’s legal motive and method or rights upheld – boxers and their legal teams will now be emboldened to fight against the medical suspensions and who knows what other regulatory obligations. Yes, it’s a cliché to invoke the slippery slope argument; however, one of the tenants of human rationalization is that it becomes a self-perpetuating logic always taken to the final degree of maximization. If we applaud the fact that Mesi is now free to box again, having been medically cleared to do so, we must also recognize the effect of his act of professional self-preservation. As a precedent, one can only speculate upon the effects of the Mesi case for boxing as a self-governing sporting environment. And this is where self-interest, ethics, the spirit and letter of the law and moral imperatives become a jumbled equation, a weltering debate of uncertain faith.

Some in boxing are concerned that just when boxing was looking inward and seeking to redefine itself as protectively proactive and bent on holding itself to higher standards of self-actualizing agency and transparency, the Mesi case comes along. That too may be a hard judgment; nevertheless, ‘it’ is out there. Indeed, in the wake of Mesi’s legal team finding grounds to lift what amounted to a ban from boxing, the ultimate powers of boxing commissions to safeguard fighters against problematic self-interest and the expected commercial coercions of promotional/big time boxing are seen as, yet again, thwarted.

The question remains – actually, it comes out redefined and more relevant than ever: Are there any circumstances under which it is the role of a commission to act preventatively, if acting in what the commission believed/defined as good faith, as an activist oversight agency protecting the long-term interest (health, safety) of the fighter, i.e. the integrity of the sport? There are many terms noted above, admittedly not defined, but you get the idea of the general concern that some in boxing are expressing passionately, but mostly informally.

Does the Joe Mesi case mean that state commissions and regulatory bodies have to rewrite their rules for medical status requirements, as well as suspending much of what we might characterize as acting upon moral and ethical considerations? Have they been deemed unfit to be the guardians for the sport? Deeming judgments as moral imperatives or ethical standards are essentially manifested as backgrounding rhetoric to the statutory nature of regulation. Ethics are the talking points, the exigencies, for those entrusted to keep the legal framework of regulation properly enforced. And yet ethics are only talking points, overruled by the cut and thrusting of legality.

Then again, many would caution that once commissions begin to rule based on moral and ethical consternation, you tempt giving credence to the most transparent ruse for rationalizing political expediency. Fair enough! Also, when commissions purport to act upon ‘reservations’ and the tethering of moral based anxieties/apprehensions, it is forcing itself into areas of metaphysics it cannot sustain in the proving ground of free enterprise capitalism, the commercial interests upon which boxing sustains itself and has historically rested. Mesi, the aspiring boxer, acted to protect himself, at all times, seeking legal recourse, against the NSAC’s political reservations, fears of future events, collective experience and expressions of individual concern. If there was a core of ethical and moral fiber to their upholding the original medical suspension, it was trumped and found to be, essentially, irrelevant.

For some that’s the essence of legality, for others that’s the limitation of common agreement. Is there a time when someone or some group has to stand against the law, the guidelines as written, if only to make common report of their ethical beliefs? Did not many on the board of the NASC genuinely fear for the future safety of Joe Mesi even against the medical evidence provided? Politics aside, we might surmise they did indeed. And here we come upon even the limits of medical findings, scientific knowledge. Here is where experience and the force of anecdotal ‘evidence’ collide with the expert, empirical analysis. Many former fighters, trainers and managers agree with the expressed note of caution. But fear is not enough, caution only a marking for future reference, as Mesi will continue onward.

The business of boxing, the elemental platforming of the sport upon the telecommunication entertainment matrix means that ethical considerations are only vital when serving the continuation of the sport as media product. And like all media business interests, boxing must have its stars. Joe Mesi was well on his way, may well again be on his way, to being an authentic superstar in boxing. Boxing in 2006 needs all the name identification and transcendental personalities it can make materialize. Having the right of determining his fate and test the veracity of scientific probability (remaining unencumbered by head traumas), Mesi reenters the arena of sports entertainment and the ring. The contradiction we might note is that many in boxing who are apprehensive of Mesi’s return have some sympathy for Mesi, in the abstract, to determine his life, and by extension his fate. The fans, boxing officials, boxing insiders and the media covering this case are all bound up by part or all of the contradictory emotions and notions to do with the Mesi case.

One glaring issue remains: the Mesi case makes Joe Mesi, heavyweight boxer seeking a license, a test case, a symbolic actor dancing on the head of the pin of precarious kismet. In pursuit of his self-interest, as an individual, he unwittingly becomes an agent for change, one that might unravel the definitive meaning of governmental oversight and self-regulation within boxing. Perhaps this is much ado about nothing… but perhaps not. Can boxers be protected against themselves and the weight of commercializing interests surrounding fighters as sports entertainment money makers? Even if members of oversight bodies are legally forced to desist from their stances, should moral and ethical objections be asserted, futile or not? Hopefully, moral and ethical objections will always find a voice, always be counted as part of the reasoning and the judgment of record.

“Constitutionally speaking, the way a judge has to look at this, as awful as it sounds, is that whether I live or die has nothing to do with it,” Mesi has said many times since the summer of 2005. “They shouldn't be able to take my livelihood away.”

Indeed. It’s just that possibility haunts those of conscience and experience. That too is a freedom, a right of the individual or group – freedom of expression – to make public their considered opinions. All sides are engaged; all sides await the ultimate arbiter ruling upon the Mesi case: time.

People in boxing don’t want to see the night on which the Mesi’s gamble with his professional ambition turns into tragic spectacle. One hardly can bare the image of Mesi lying on the canvas, time elapsing, his gloves cut off, the stretcher called for as oxygen is being administered with Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant talking us through the chronology of events. You don’t have to imagine the worst to be accused of reasonable apprehension in the ultimate outcome of the Joe Mesi case.

We can only wish the likeable Joe Mesi – heavyweight boxer – well, happiness and health, as he courageously lives and fights according to the dictates of his conscience.

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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