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Articles of 2006

Maurizio Stecca, Olympic and WBO Champion

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Maurizio Stecca is one of the few Italian boxers who won it all. Among amateurs, he competed in the bantamweight division and won the Italian, European and Olympic titles. He also won the gold medal during the 1983 World Cup held in Rome. While serving in the Italian Army, he became world military champion. As a professional, Maurizio compiled a record of 49 wins (22 KOs) and 4 losses. He fought in Italy, France, England and the United States winning the European and WBO world featherweight titles. In his last match, he added the Italian super featherweight belt to his collection. Today, Maurizio Stecca is one of the coaches of the Italian national team. His success in both the amateurs and the pros makes his advice precious for young fighters and interesting for anyone who loves boxing.

After you won the Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles, why didn’t you decide to start your professional career in the United States?

I left those decisions to my manager Umberto Branchini. He thought that my best interest was to start my pro career in Italy, but he also wanted me to make some experience in American rings. Umberto got me booked in Reno (Nevada), Totowa (New Jersey) and New York City where I trained at Gleason’s Gym and fought at Madison Square Garden. I won all my matches on American soil. Later, I became a big attraction in Italy, drawing thousands of paying customers and Umberto decided that the best thing for me was to keep fighting in Italy. On January 28, 1989 I faced Pedro Nolasco for the first WBO world featerweight title in Milan. In the Olympic semi-final, I had beaten Nolasco on points. In the final, I had defeated tough Mexican Hector Lopez. Going back to the WBO title fight, I stopped Nolasco in six rounds. My first defense was against a real tough guy: Angel Levi Mayor. He had compiled a record of 23 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws. He had been Venezuelan super bantamweight champion, WBC Continental Americas featherweight champion and had lost on points to WBA featherweight king Eusebio Pedroza. I TKOed Angel Levi Mayor in nine rounds, always in Milan.

Your route to the world title was quite strange, since you didn’t fight for the National and European belts first.

Right after I won the gold medal in Los Angeles, Umberto Branchini told me that I had to aim directly to the top. I fought 34 times against foreign boxers to adapt to every kind of style and I always won. That granted me the status of number one in the WBO rankings, so I went for it. 

You lost the WBO belt against Louie Espinoza. Tell us about that.

I was training for another opponent and 45 days before the fight Umberto told me that I had to face Louie Espinoza. I knew he was a real champion because I saw him in action many times. I also knew that Espinoza had been North American and WBA world super bantamweight champion. His previous two fights were a draw with IBF featherweight titlist Jorge Paez and a split decision win over Alfred Rangel. I didn’t take into consideration that I only a month and half enough to prepare for such a tough customer; and I was right: on November 11, 1989 in Rimini, Espinoza beat me by 7th round TKO. His next fight was a split decision loss to Jorge Paez. Later, Espinoza became USBA featherweight champion, got other shots at the NABF, WBC, WBU and IBO featherweight belts and closed his career with a record of 52 wins, 12 losses and 2 draws. I’m sure he made a lot of money. I want to say something about the training issue. Many boxers don’t understand the importance of watching their opponent’s fights; it is essential because a prizefighter can change his training methods, his diet, he can learn some new tricks, but he will always fight the same way. He spent too many years developing his style and it is unlikely that he will be able to modify it after 20 or 30 pro fights. That’s why a boxer must study the tapes to understand how to beat his opponent. When they tell you to face another guy, all the work you did becomes useless.

Was Louie Espinoza your toughest opponent?

Other guys were as tough as him. Tim Driscoll had a record of 16-3 and I stopped him in nine rounds. Colin McMillan was 22-1 and beat me for the WBO title in England. Fabrice Benichou was 33-12 and a big idol in France, where our battle took place. He used to train in Rimini, so I knew him well and didn’t expect to be knocked down by him. That happened during the first round; then I took control of the fight and got an unanimous decision. I think I won every round but the first. Herve Jacob was 30-2 and headbutted me making my face a bloody mess. After the 11th round, the doctor came to my corner and stopped the fight. Umberto Branchini officially protested with the European Boxing Union and they ordered a rematch. I won it via 10th round KO. Stephane Haccoun was 26-1-1 and a very dirty boxer who used his elbows like they were legal techniques. The referee didn’t do anything. I understood that I could do nothing to stop the blood coming from my eyebrows and retired at the end of the ninth stanza.

Why did you agree to fight four times in France and twice in England against dangerous opponents?

Because the purses were much bigger than in Italy. I knew that I was risking my WBO and European titles, but a champion must fight the best. In France, my record is 2-2. In England, 1-1. I got my revenge against Herve Jacob, so I cannot complain.

Why did you come back after a two year retirement?

Because they offered me to fight for the Italian super featherweight championship. I never did it before and I considered an honor to wear the national belt. Besides, the purse was right: 10,000,000 Lire. Today it would be 5,164 Euros ($6,196). In 1995, it was a decent amount of money. They wanted me to defend the belt and I asked an higher purse. They said no and I told them I wouldn’t get back in the ring for peanuts. I must give credit to Umberto Branchini that I never had to find a job to make a living during my professional career.

Tell us about your gold medal in the military championships.

The World Military Boxing Championships are organized every year. In 2005, a record of 33 countries participated in the 49th edition. I was asked to compete in 1982, while I was serving the Italian Army. Back then, I was training with Elio Ghelfi in Rimini and with the coaches of the national amateur team Nazareno Mela and Franco Falcinelli (current president of the Italian boxing commission). The Army people wanted me to prepare with two of their coaches, so I had a total of five trainers! Anyway, the tournament was held in Algeria and I was surprised to see long rows in front of the box office at 1.00 pm (the fights started in the evening). I discovered that the Algerians considered the World Military Boxing Championships a major event and didn’t want to miss it. In fact, more than 50,000 people attended the tournament. In such an evironnement, it was a huge thrill to win the gold medal.

How did you get the idea of working with the Italian national team?

I was in a Rimini gym and talked to the youngsters. I noticed that they listened very carefully to me and I understood that my experience could be useful to the guys who wanted to become boxers. So, I went to the Italian boxing commission (FPI), paid my dues like everybody else and became a certified coach. Later, they asked me to join the national team. Right now, I’m working with the seniors (over 19 years old) and with the best boxers ages 17 to 19. We let them train with the seniors to get them used to the athmosphere of the big time. Most likely, these teenagers will qualify for the Olympics so it’s better that they learn fast what they need to.

Who was your toughest opponent as an amateur?

All my opponents at the 1984 Olympics were tough. Some of them, like Pedro Nolasco, didn’t make it as professionals, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t good boxers. You know, in the last few years we have had the opposite problem: guys who didn’t win anything as amateurs and who became champions as pros. I think that’s caused by the use of the scoring machines. Knowing that ten consecutive punches will hardly be scored (all the judges should press the button at the same time), amateurs train to hit with one-two combinations and then make a step backward. Cubans and Eastern Europeans easily adapted to the new rules, because it was their tradition to emphasize strategy. In other countries, I’m thinking about Argentina and South America in general, a fighter is supposed to brawl for the entire fight and that cannot work in amateur competitions. Also, too many power punchers aim to score a one-punch knockout. They can find the right moment to throw their conclusive shot in a fight of 12 rounds of 3 minutes each, but it is much more difficult to find an opening in 4 four rounds of 2 minutes each.

Do you have any regrets about your amateur or pro career?

Yes. When I turned professional I should have competed only in the super featherweight division. My manager wanted me to stay among featherweights. Since I became European and WBO champion, I shouldn’t complain. The point is that making the weight was a nightmare for me.

Maurizio Stecca

Born in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna on March 9, 1963
Hometown: Rimini
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 169 cm.
Trainer: Elio Ghelfi
Manager: Umberto Branchini
Amateur Career – Bantamweight
1979/1980/1981 Italian Champion (3 times)
1982 Schwerin (German Democratic Republic)- European Junior Champion
1982 Algeria – World Military Championships Gold Medal
1983 Rome (Italy) – World Cup Gold Medal
1984 Los Angeles (USA) – Olympic Gold Medal
Professional Record: 49 wins (22 KOs) and 4 losses
Pro debut in 1984
WBO world featherweight champion (2 times)
1st reign from January 28, 1989 to November 11, 1989
2nd reign from January 26, 1991 May 16, 1992
European featherweight champion (2 times)
1st reign from December 18, 1992 to March 27, 1993
2nd reign from May 28, 1993 to September 24, 1993
Italian super featherweight champion on March 22, 1995

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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