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Articles of 2006

Boxing columnist running out of time?

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You can imagine the response when, on the day a certain Filipino fighter made the transition from good to great, a story appeared on The Sweet Science with the headline, “Manny Pacquiao running out of time.”

The story went on and on about how Pacquiao had failed to live up to the promise of the Marco Antonio Barrera fight in 2003, how he hadn't looked good since, how his career was destined to flame out like great punchers of the past, etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

It read: “Whatever the case, it appears that the legend of Manny Pacquiao, in boxing circles anyway, is starting to fade….For a time, Manny Pacquiao was the most exciting thing going. Unfortunately for Pac-Man, that time might soon be up.”

Sometimes writers are so off the mark, it's hard not to giggle at their ridiculous judgment. Sometimes, they're so out-of-sync with reality, that it is almost impossible not to reply to that writer and tell him what a dope he is.

This is one of those times. And the replies were overwhelming.

Watching Pacquiao dismantle Erik Morales Saturday, you could almost see the Aguilar email inbox expand like the welts on Morales' face.

Not only did Pacquiao exceed expectations and put himself firmly back on the road to Canastota, there may not be another fighter within a couple of weight divisions that has a chance to beat him.

Pacquiao was utterly sensational. “El Terrible” was effective enough to be winning through the first five rounds, and it was not inconceivable at that point to picture Morales repeating the victory he slugged out back in March.

But, then the power and strength of Pacquiao took over, and it turned a tremendous, close fight into a massacre. Every time Pacquiao connected with that vicious left hand, Morales shook.

By the 10th round, you were hoping Morales would just fall. The punishment he was absorbing was frightening, and it rekindled memories of all the leather he has soaked up through the years.

The punches he took from Barrera and Daniel Zaragoza and Wayne McCullough and Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez and Pacquiao in the first fight.

You were wishing he would go down.

And, he finally did. Twice.

His face was completely deformed by the brutal Pacquiao attack. He was hardly recognizable.

Never had Erik Morales been dismantled so completely. Not against Barrera, not against Zahir Raheem four months ago in a mild upset.

It may soon bring a retirement announcement by one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time.

But this wasn't a night to mourn Morales. It was a night to celebrate the power of Pacquiao. And how, at 27, he might be the most exciting fighter in boxing.

Further, he may be the fighter to change boxing. Pac-Man's victory got a mention on “Around the Horn”, an ESPN talk show.

Perhaps Pacquiao's popularity will convince mainstream sports fans to watch the sport?

But that's another topic for another column. Back to the fight.

Not only did Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach make the necessary adjustments, but it also appeared as though Pac-Man grew into the junior lightweight division. Back in March, it seemed like Morales was the bigger, stronger fighter. Saturday, Morales was dominated physically.

Now, with Pacquiao crashing his way through the pound-for-pound ratings, his popularity will only grow. Which is unfathomable, since his backing is already immense. So immense that this writer is stunned — stunned! — at the volume of emails responding to his dead-wrong pre-fight analysis.

A sampling of the punishment dished out by the Manny Pacquiao fan club over the last few days.

•”So Pacquiao did KO Morales, and you said that likely wouldn't happen. What's your next prediction now?”

Aguilar's response: That my computer will blow up if Pac-Man fans continue this relentless assault.

• “I just read ur column about Manny running out of time. It was a good view on things. By the way, I'm from the Philippines, so I may be cheering for Manny but any thoughts on the results of the “The Battle”?

“If ever a rematch w/ Barrera and Marquez comes up could you any give insights? Hey thanks a bunch for reading. More power to your website.”

Aguilar's response: One of dozens of responses that were way too kind. For what it's worth (not much): Pacquiao looked awesome, and, if he fights like that, neither Barrera nor Marquez have a chance.

• “He'll be washed up soon, but before that time, he'll defeat every great Mexican fighter there ever was. It's too bad Julio Cesar is retired.”

Aguilar's response: He might, and yes it is.

• “Hey Matthew, you want fries or mashed potato with that humble pie!!!! I must admit, I was much of the same opinion, but hey, that's boxing. It was some fight eh? And Morales went out like a champion. But you're probably right in the long run. Pac-Man's flame will burn bright and fast…let's enjoy the ride eh??”

Aguilar's response: Actually, I love decaf coffee with my humble pie. Yes, it was some fight, and El Terrible went out like the great fighter that he is. Not so sure how long it will last but, yes, let's appreciate and savor the prime of Pac-Man.

• “Ha ha ha!”

Aguilar's response: Ha ha ha.

• “Hey, Matt! You now eat your own words. With the way you did your awful predictions, you're now like a doormat being stepped on so hard, and just like what Morales suffered. Har! har! har!

Aguilar's response: Actually, not nearly as bad as what Morales suffered.

• “The unlikely happened in the Morales rematch. I wonder how many emails you have right now.”

Aguilar's response: More than at any point in a 12-year journalism career. One-hundred plus and counting.

• “Nice write-up on Manny running out of time. Ha ha. You analysts are pathetic.”

Aguilar's response: Only some of us are pathetic.

• “I'd love to read your next article on Pacquiao's 'fading' career. You seem to know a lot about boxing.”

Aguilar's response: The smart-aleck replies are the most enjoyable.

• “How do you like Manny now?”

Aguilar's response: Quite a bit.

• “Pac-Man just knocked out Morales in the 10th round of their monumental rematch. Please re-read your article and maybe, just maybe, you won't be doing baseless judgments the next time around.”

Aguilar's response: Doubtful. I've made a career of baseless judgments.

• “Hey Matt, I had a hunch that you belong to the same regional affinity as Morales, (Barrera) and Marquez, and you're (sic) articles in your column attests to that. You're right that Morales is washed up and it began to show on his first bout with Pacquiao. Contrary to what you think, Pacquiao is still peaking and he's right when he said that he's a thorn for Mexican fighters. You have to face the inevitable: Pac will whip (Barrera) and stay at top of the featherweights for quite some time.”

Aguilar's response: The same ethnicity (Mexican-American) had little to do with the analysis. But you might be right about the thorn in the side.

• “So what now? You say Pac-Man is gone? Hahahaha. Eat up your words.”

Aguilar's response: I eat any more and I'll throw up.

• “So how about the KO? Would they say Morales was just washed (up)? I think your article is a little bit biased. If it was a boxer from the West, I think you could have had a different opinion. Too much discrimination, I guess. Oh well, no hard feelings. God bless you.”

Aguilar's response: And you, too.

• “Hahahaha… His time is up? Or is your prediction flawed?”

Aguilar's response: The prediction flawed.

• “So now, who's your daddy?! Have you eaten all your sweet nothings for Pacman?! I'm sure you couldn't believe yourself when you saw El Terrible all bloodied up by Pacman's fists! Oh yes…I too saw Erik's face…It's terrible. Now, I think it's your time (that is up).”

Aguilar's response: Possibly.

• “I can almost feel the foot being jammed in your mouth right now. But I still can't understand why your article remained on your website the day after Manny Pacquiao won? Must be downright embarrassing.”

Aguilar's response: It is. 

• “So? What's up now? Who's the better fighter?”

Aguilar's response: Pacquiao.

•”Dust off your article in a few years, because it was a bit premature. PacMan rules!”

Aguilar's response: A bit premature, yes.

• “Do you still think that Pacquiao beating Morales was nothing more than him beating a washed-up fighter? It seems to me that Pacquiao still has a lot of things to achieve in the sport.”

Aguilar's response: Morales did look old at the end, yes. And he may not be the fighter he was even 10 months ago. But it took a special fighter to knock him out like that. Pac is here to stay.

• “So Manny Pacquiao is all washed-up, huh? I am glad that you did not promise to eat your column if Erik Morales did not win. You would be needing a lot of ketchup.” 

Aguilar's response: A bowl of it.

• “I think Manny deserves some respect now. Nice fight!”

Aguilar's response: No disrespect was intended. But he has it now, regardless.

• “Please come up with an honest to goodness admittance about your wrong impression about Manny. Make it soon, please. Or else you're the one running out of time in your profession as a writer. Again, make no excuses.”

Aguilar's response: No excuses. Pacquaio is an amazing fighter. Much better than some of us originally thought.

 • “What do you say now? Maybe you should get in the ring with Pacquiao to see if his time is indeed up.”

Aguilar's response: Um, no thanks.

• “What happened? What a loser. Like you, Matthew.”

Aguilar's response: No response.

• “His time might be up??? You suck in making predictions! I'm glad Manny won! How I wish it was you in the ring, not Morales.”

Aguilar's response: I'm glad it wasn't.

• “So, Mr. Expert, are you going to eat your words? He who laughs last, laughs the best! Ho, ho, ho, ho.”

Aguilar's response: Ho, ho, ho, ho.

• “Blah blah blah. You were wrong about Manny Pacquiao, you don't even know what you're writing. A very poor critic. Manny won, so don't write up anything against him because you are not that good in predicting a fight. Sorry.”

Aguilar's response: Me too.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the emails — mostly from the Filipino community — was that they were so polite. There were dozens that, despite being riled up about the article, signed off on a positive note.

Even a happy note.

“More power to you; thanks for your opinion; good luck; God bless; no hard feelings; better luck next time; nice try.”

Also, out of more than 100 emails, there were two — literally two! — that contained curse words or ultra-inflammatory insults. And even those weren't all that bad.

The American fight fans, so often needlessly crude, can certainly learn something in the form of class and maturity.

I'm not sure how Manny Pacquiao's career will end up.

But, for the amazingly charming people of the Philippines, I hope he continues on his road to becoming one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.

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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