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Articles of 2006

Fab Four: Duran, Hagler, Hearns and Leonard

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There have been legendary rivalries between two fighters – the 20 fights between Jack Britton and Ted “Kid” Lewis, the six meetings of Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta and such  three-bout series as Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson vs. Ingemar Johansson, Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield, Tony Zale vs. Rocky Graziano and Barney Ross vs. Jimmy McLarnin.

Boxing’s most entertaining, most controversial and possibly most dramatic series, however, involved four fighters – Roberto Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard.

I rank the first Leonard-Hearns fight, a battle of unbeaten champions for the undisputed welterweight title as the best fight I ever covered. Duran’s “No mas” loss to Leonard in their second fight, ranks alongside Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ears when it comes to shocking endings.

The Leonard-Hearns on Sept. 16, 1981, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was everything a fight fan could ask for. The two fighters wove a brilliant tapestry of ebb and flow, of power and finesse. After 12 rounds the three judges favored Hearns by 4, 5 and 6 points.

“You’re blowing it son, you’re blowing it,” Angelo Dundee told Leonard after the 12th round. Sugar Ray got the message, and he battered Hearns in the 13th round, then stopped him in the 14th.  Of the scoring, Leonard said, “I always felt the end results are what counts.”

Leonard, a publicist’s dream, with a winning smile and a winning way with the public and the media, was one of the meanest men I’ve ever seen when the bell rang.

He and Hearns would fight again when with diminished skills they would box a 12-round draw in 1989. It was an action fight, but it paled in comparison to their battle of unbeaten champions.

Just dictating what happened in the first round of Hearn’s middleweight title challenge to Hagler on April 15, 1985, at Caesars Palace, left me breathless. It was three-minutes of toe-to-toe action that had the crowd roaring.

Despite his menacing appearance – shaved head and Fu-Manchu beard – Hagler was not a brawler, but a boxer-puncher who patiently took opponents apart. Some critics believed he was too cautious. Although he had outpointed Duran over 15 rounds in 1983, he was criticized for making the fight closer that it should have been, for giving the fading Duran too much respect. Hagler obviously was determined to silence critics and make the Hearns match a showcase fight. At the opening bell, the 5-foot-9½ Hagler rushed at the 6-1 Hearns.

“There’s only one way to fight Thomas Hearns,” Hagler said after the fight. “I cut Thomas Hearns down like a tree.”

Hearns had knockout power in either hand – he had knocked Duran cold with a right to the head in the second round in 1984 – but he could not slow Hagler, although he landed several hard shots. Hagler had him wobbly at the end of the round. The second round was only a tropical storm compared to the hurricane opening round. Then in the third round, Hearn’s welterweight legs could not longer carry his heavyweight torso, and the fight ended. Officially it was technical knockout because referee Richard Steele didn’t count to 10. Hearns had to be carried to his corner. “In 15 years I haven’t seen that much action in three rounds,” Steele said, “ever.”

Two fights after Hearns’ match, Hagler fought Leonard in what was his 13th defense of the middleweight title on Aug. 6, 1987, at Caesars Palace. For his first fight in two years, 330 days, Leonard got $11 million, while Hagler was guaranteed $12 million plus a percentage.

I gave Leonard little chance, and had Hagler winning by five points. One judge favored Hagler by two points, but Leonard won the fight by two and eights points on the other two cards. I thought Hagler landed the most effective punches, but Leonard won several rounds on late-round flurries.

Impressing the judges is an important part of fighting, and Leonard did it to the hilt. It was an impressive performance against a great fighter by a man who had been away as long as Leonard had. I had the fight even after four rounds in which the left-handed Hagler for some reason fought right-handed. That apparently was the strategy decided on by him and his corner, Goodie and Pat Petronelli. If Hagler had a fault, it was he didn’t adapt when his strategy was not working.

The first time I covered Leonard was when he won the light welterweight gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and it was there in Olympic Stadium that he defended the WBC welterweight title against Roberto Duran on June 20, 1980.

While Duran was justly criticized quitting in the eighth round against Leonard six months later in New Orleans,” he probably has not gotten enough credit for his 15-round unanimous decision victory. At 29 and 5-7½, he beat a younger (24), taller (5-10) and faster opponent. Leonard, of course, helped Duran by fighting the Panamanian’s fight, perhaps out of anger. Duran said outrageous things before the fight, and once he gave the finger to Leonard’s wife.

While all three judges favored Duran, they had difficulty making up their minds. A total of total of 19 rounds were scored even. Harry Gibbs of Britain scored it 6-5-4 (145-144); Ramon Baldeyrou of France saw it (6-4-5) 146-144; Angelo Poletti of Italy called it 3-2-10 (148-147). I remember writing in a column that the next morning at breakfast Poletti probably looked at the menu, then ordered everything on it.

Leonard and Duran would fight a third time, and Leonard would win a one-sided decision in 1989.

While Duran’s action in the “No mas” fight cannot be forgotten, I’ve chosen to forgive him. He gave me too many thrills and two many good stories to have them wiped from memory because of what I consider a momentary mental glitch, not a faint heart. The Maestro of Machismo was getting embarrassed. To me, his was the reaction of street fighter at the other end of pole from biting ears.

I rate the Duran of the 1970s, when he dominated the world’s lightweights, as the best fighter I covered. He also was a great character.

Duran, who grew up tough on the streets in Panama, preferred to talk to the media through an interpreter, although he understood and spoke some English. Once he was asked what he thought of the Canal Treaty. His answer: “What Canal?”

There is a story that Duran once knocked down a horse. Another story has it that after Duran knocked out Pedro Mendoza in the first round at Managua, Nicaragua in 1975, Mendoza’s wife, or girlfriend, climbed into the ring and berated Duran. So he decked her.

Leonard had a best record of 4-1-1 in the round robin while Duran had the worst at 1-4. Hagler finished at 2-1-0, and Hearns was 1-2-1.

Jack Britton finished on top in his 20-fight welterweight series with Ted “Kid” Lewis at 4-3-1, with 12 no-decisions. Ray Robinson was 5-1 against Jake LaMotta. Edges of 2-1 went to Muhammad Ali over Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson over Ingemar Johansson, Riddick Bowe over Evander Holyfield, Tony Zale against Rocky Graziano and Barney Ross over Jimmy McLarnin.

While the Bowe-Holyfield fights provided lots of action, the appearance of Fan Man during the seventh round in the second fight assured the series of becoming part of boxing lore.

A much more recent three-fight matchup that has the stuff of legend was Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales, with Barrera winning twice.

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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