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Articles of 2006

The Fifty-Dollar Devil

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Heaven and hell co-exist side by side in the special purgatory known as the boxing world. Its players may be saints one day, sinners the next, and suckers the day after. Angels and devils are not distinguished by their white wings or black capes, since, like in some science fiction shows, they transform into one another like sentient chameleons (leaving open, of course, the question of the true nature of their essence).

Don King promoted an excellent card Jan. 7 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on which his three world champions – Zab Judah, Jean-Marc Mormeck, and Will Grigsby – all went down to defeat. Even those naive or uninformed enough to believe that King fixes fights like this had to take pause.

Three days later, also in New York, Bob Arum made a point of insisting that the kickoff press conference for the March 18 heavyweight fight between WBC champion Hasim Rahman and James Toney, held at the Tavern on the Green restaurant, not degenerate into one of boxing's many pre-fight stunt brawls. Both boxers, as they should, confidently predicted victories by knockout, but that is what they are supposed to do. There wasn't even any swearing, although neither fighter was exactly cordial to the other.

Even Arum's staging of a rematch between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao after Morales was embarrassingly outboxed by Zahir Raheem in September was vindicated by Saturday's events. Morales had, of course, won the first fight with Pacquiao convincingly by decision, his loss to Raheem was at lightweight (135) and the fights with Pacquiao were at super featherweight (130), maybe a little too heavy for Pacquiao, and thus a rematch was foreseen as another competitive and, of course, highly marketable fight. All this made Pacquiao's TKO win that much more remarkable, as well as the nonstop and courageous action in the ring while it lasted. Many, including yours truly, are already suggesting that this is an early Fight of the Year candidate and that Pacquiao is an early Fighter of the Year candidate.

Yet before anyone starts to erect idols of King and Arum in front of which to kneel down and leave offerings, their halos started transforming into horns when they got together with the third corner of boxing's most powerful triad, HBO, and in particular HBO Pay-Per-View.

After Judah's clear-cut unanimous decision loss Jan. 7 to the unheralded Carlos Baldomir, Arum acknowledged that his April 8 pay-per-view fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. was dead.

“That was a real blow because that fight was a done deal,” he lamented right after the Rahman-Toney lovefest. “Now we have to look for another opponent for Floyd. And maybe Winky Wright, maybe Baldomir, I don't know. We're going to have to decide that in the next few days. And I've been working on it. I'm not sure the direction we're going to go yet,” he added.

His direction, as it turned out, was right back in reverse, to attempt to resurrect what should have now been seen as a discredited matchup.

After only one fight at welterweight, a sixth-round TKO and drubbing of former 140-pound champ Sharmba Mitchell on Nov. 19, 2005, Mayweather is trying to make his mark in his new class, and thus saw a fight with the then-undisputed champion Judah as an historic fight. Judah's loss to Baldomir should have at best postponed this fight until Judah returned to the ring, avenged this defeat in a rematch with Baldomir, and reestablished some credibility as being deserving of a showcase fight with someone like the undefeated Mayweather, who sits atop or at least near the top of most pound-for-pound lists.

Now, according to reports from Dan Rafael of ESPN.com and elsewhere, Mayweather-Judah is back on for April 8 and still on HBO pay-per-view, albeit with the purses for the fighters – who else? – reduced.

Approving this deal: Judah's promoter Don King, Mayweather's promoter Bob Arum, and HBO Pay-Per-View.

This is a highly illogical action, another visit from the world of science fiction.

Zab Judah, after tossing away his status as the number one welterweight in the world, and with no intervening fight before facing Mayweather just three months after his disgraceful non-performance, is at present damaged goods. For his sake we can only hope that he returns to the gym, resumes training for each and every fight like the fate of his soul depends upon it, and thus resuscitates his career. What fans demand of these high-priced, pay-per-view, and main event fighters is not a victory every time; no one, for example, can complain in the least about the fallen Erik Morales. What they do demand is that they earn their money, drawn in the main from the pay-per-view fees and the ticket prices paid by the mainly hard-working, everyday people who watch these fights and support these fighters and this increasingly marginalized sport.

As my colleague Charles Farrell wrote in to my blog, “Judah doesn't even deserve a return match with Baldomir, let alone a PPV payday against Mayweather. Nobody will watch it anyway, and Judah will then more or less disappear from the boxing landscape.” Another reader who signed his name David U. wrote, “The insects who run boxing never cease to amaze, do they? I hope Mayweather knocks Judah out of the ring.” I agree with both, although I cautioned David that there was no need to hurl such epithets at insects.

Despite promising to ease up on the number of pay-per-views this year after a glut of shows with mediocre buy rates last year, HBO Pay-Per-View still appears to be committed to hawking almost one a month at least until the summertime in America. The March 11 Jones-Hopkins 2 pay-per-view has been at best postponed. If Mayweather-Judah were cancelled as well, HBO would have no pay boxing event from the Feb. 25 Shane Mosley-Fernando Vargas show (itself questionable as being worthy of pay-per-view) either to April 8 with Mayweather against someone other than Judah, or the proposed May 6 fight possibly involving Oscar De La Hoya and Ricardo Mayorga, still not finalized.

Even with Mayweather-Judah on April 8, such a schedule will produce lackluster quarterly reports for the Time Warner suits overseeing HBO. Yet it is HBO's own fault for trying to squeeze every last dollar out of its viewers by endlessly recycling the same boxers year in and year out. Mosley, Vargas, Jones, Hopkins, De La Hoya – do their calendars not turn? At least ESPN Classic shows the old guys when they were in their prime, and for no additional fees.

At bottom for these perpetrating these outrages is the failure of this ruling triad, along with most everyone else in a position of authority – if that word can even be used – in boxing, to run it like any other sport. The comparison with the NFL is easiest to make, both because this well-run league has its easy-to-follow and fairly logical championship process publicly on display, and it is going on and receiving blanket media coverage right now.

You lose in the playoffs, you go home. There are no set-ups in them, and only the rare mismatch when one team is just so far superior to all the rest. Boxing matchmakers need not apply.

Boxing is so absurdly mismanaged, or left to swing in an anarchic wind, that two full weeks after Zab Judah's loss to Carlos Baldomir, it is still not clear who holds which welterweight title. Baldomir clearly won the WBC strap that night, but even though Don King said at the post-fight presser that with Judah's loss the WBA and IBF titles had become vacant, there has been no confirmation of that from these communications-challenged alphabets. Neither of their websites has been updated to reflect the results of Jan. 7, with the IBF's old rankings not even being accessible as there is some problem with the site. But does anyone outside of these sanctioning fee collectors even care?

No other major sport has done so much to devalue its own championships. No other major sport has sacrificed its credibility as thoroughly as boxing. There are other even tinier sports such as kickboxing and mixed martial arts – both, like boxing, individual combat sports – where the title pictures are even more incomprehensible than in boxing. But these were never major mainstream sports in the U.S., and only really thrive in a culture like Japan where victory in a sporting contest is often less important than other factors, such as courage and charisma.

Meanwhile, back in the States, this overproduction of boxing pay-per-views is resulting in lightweight numbers. The greatest number of buys in 2005 for a boxing pay-per-view in the U.S. was Wright-Trinidad on May 14 with 520,000 households. Nothing else crossed the half-million mark.

Well, nothing else in boxing, that is. The most watched pay-per-view in the U.S. last year was Wrestlemania, with 650,000 buys. This year's version of that annual show takes place Sun., April 2, just six days before the Mayweather-Judah date.

Believers, light your torches and sharpen your stakes. Non-believers, lock and load anyway. The demons of the night are loose once again and gathering to pick all your pockets. What shall we do, what shall we do?

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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