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Articles of 2006

Should Titles Be Won in the Ring or in The Ring?

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Newsflash: The National Football League has declared the 21-10 victory by the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, held Sunday in Detroit, over the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks null and void. The reason is that the Steelers failed to pay the proper sanctioning fee to the NFC, and thus cannot claim the undisputed NFL title, despite winning the game on the field. Plus, it wasn't that entertaining of a game anyway, so the NFL plans to have Seattle play Indianapolis, who lost to the Steelers in the playoffs, in two weeks for their championship, to be shown on NFL Pay-Per-View.

The above, of course, is pure fantasy, maybe even nightmare, as no real sport runs its affairs in such a manner – except, of course, boxing (along with a few smaller combat sports as well). With its multiple sanctioning bodies and sanctioning fees, between the time this article has been sent in and posted, there may yet be even more recent outrages than, say, Zab Judah retaining the IBF strap after having been defeated in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 7 by Carlos Baldomir in a fight card clearly named “Undisputed.” Baldomir, as has been widely noted, did not pay the IBF sanctioning fee, so Judah not only retained that title but will actually be defending it April 8 against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on HBO Pay-Per-View, thank you, in a fight already being billed as for the “World Welterweight Championship.”

There is widespread agreement in the boxing community that such Alice in Wonderland-like scenarios are greatly contributing to the discrediting and demise of professional boxing. There is no consensus, however, about what structure ought to replace the present anarchic collection of petty warlords and extorters.

Into this discussion has jumped boxing writer Bill Dettloff of The Ring. In an article posted on their web site, and which has generated some debate online, Dettloff challenges those in the boxing media who do not recognize or mention The Ring's champions:

”Those who make their livings writing about and covering this business and resist supporting The Ring champions – by not mentioning the title in their copy when a Ring title is on the line, while naming the sanctioning bodies they routinely vilify – baffle me. Hello? How much sense does that make? What are you guys waiting for? The day you get sent to more UFC fights than boxing matches?” (http://thering-online.com/ringpages/ringupdate.html)

Let's leave for elsewhere a comparison of how boxing and UFC determine titles, since the latter's title picture is even more jumbled (hint: in UFC the promoter IS the sanctioning body).

If all Dettloff were pleading for was that some fights are for The Ring's championship belts and that fact deserves reportage, that is certainly reasonable enough, especially on the Internet, where the most comprehensive and knowledgeable boxing journalism resides. But he goes much further:

“And even if I didn't work for The Ring, I would support their championship policy simply as an alternative to the sanctioning bodies. Duh. How hard is that to understand?”

It may be easy to understand Dettloff's own opinion, but here it is much harder to defend The Ring as being the sole arbiter of who holds which title in boxing. That's where it gets stickier than a box of Homer Simpson's donuts.

First of all, the anointing by The Ring of now-retired Vitali Klitschko as the heavyweight champion of the world alone should have disqualified them from being the best or even only alternative to the alphabets.

In what was a legitimate world heavyweight championship title fight, Klitschko famously lost in June 2003 by TKO to Lennox Lewis because of severe facial cuts. Lewis, of course, later retired after that fight.

In Dec. 2003, Klitschko fought in what was billed as a WBC title eliminator against Kirk Johnson and won by a second-round TKO. But this was the same Kirk Johnson who just a year earlier had been disqualified and humiliated in a WBA title fight with their champ, John Ruiz. Johnson “earned” that shot at a WBC eliminator by beating unknown Jeremy Bates and veteran Lou Savarese, in his next-to-last fight, after losing to Ruiz. That was who Klitschko fought, the WBA's sloppy seconds, to get through this alphabet eliminator.

After Lewis retired, Klitschko won the vacant WBC title from Corrie Sanders, who had been WBO champion but gave that belt up to fight for the WBC one. Sanders had been semi-retired as a boxer and was pursuing his golf career until he was matched up in March 2003 with Vitali's fragile-headed younger brother, Wladimir, whom he took out in two rounds. Then, with no intervening fight and after 13 months of inactivity, Sanders was given his WBC title shot, and was stopped in eight by the elder Klitschko. Since then, Sanders has only fought once more, getting a second-round knockout against a 21-13 journeyman in Dec. 2004 in Austria. For where he is now, call the golf writers.

What would turn out to be Klitschko's last fight in his WBC and Ring title reign was another eighth-round TKO, this time in Dec. 2004 over Danny Williams, whose main claim to fame at the time was knocking out a faded Mike Tyson that July.

Next, Klitschko was supposed to defend his title against Hasim Rahman, but that fight was postponed numerous times when Klitschko said he was injured. Finally it was cancelled in November with Klitschko retiring shortly after.

Such was the glorious championship run of The Ring's belt holder.

By declaring Klitschko heavyweight champion without him ever having fought and defeated any of the other alphabet champions or fighters widely regarded as being in the top tier of the heavyweight division, The Ring actually added credibility to the WBC's farcical process for filling its vacant title.

Klitschko never even had a rematch with IBF champion Chris Byrd, who beat him by TKO in 2000 when Klitschko quit, citing a painful shoulder injury. Byrd had won his then-vacant title in 2002 against future Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield. And John Ruiz, another fighter then near the top of just about everyone's heavyweight rankings last year, also first won his WBA title in 2001 against Holyfield.

What boxing sorely needed, and still does, is a heavyweight unification tournament to crown a consensus world champion. It did not need a magazine dignifying the heavyweight title belt shenanigans of the WBC.

The Ring, of course, is in no way in lock step with these loathsome alphabets. Much to their credit, they recognize Antonio Tarver as light heavyweight champion, despite the fact that he holds no belt from any of the largest alphabets. The Ring also recognizes Baldomir as the welterweight champion, ignoring the nonsense cited above. And in their ratings dated Feb. 1, 2006, they still have John Ruiz at number five at heavyweight with Nicolay Valuev at number ten, despite Valuev's highly controversial majority decision over Ruiz in December in Germany, and his being awarded Ruiz's title belt.

That said, being awarded The Ring's titles is not as separate from being awarded titles from the alphabets as many would believe. Here is a list of their current champions, with their major alphabets' titles listed next to them:

Cruiserweight – O'Neil Bell, WBA WBC IBF

Light Heavyweight – Antonio Tarver, none

Middleweight – Jermain Taylor, WBA WBC WBO

Welterweight – Carlos Baldomir, WBC

Jr. Welterweight – Ricky Hatton, IBF WBA

Lightweight – Diego Corrales, WBC WBO

Jr. Featherweight – Israel Vasquez, WBC IBF

Note that of these seven champions, five hold multiple belts. And before the Judah-Baldomir title belt fiasco, Judah, who held the WBA, WBC, and IBF belts, was also The Ring's champion.

There is also only one fighter who holds more than one major belt who is not The Ring's champion: Marco Antonio Barrera, the WBC and IBF 130-pound champion.

Of the remaining ten weight classes with no champions designated by The Ring, none of their number-one-ranked fighters hold multiple belts. Eight of those ten hold one major alphabet belt, as listed here:

Heavyweight -#1 – Chris Byrd, IBF

Super Middleweight -#1 – Joe Calzaghe, WBO

Jr. Middleweight -#1 – Roman Karmazin, IBF

Jr. Lightweight -# 1 – Manny Pacquiao, none

Featherweight -#1 – Juan Manuel Marquez, none

Bantamweight -#1 – Rafael Marquez, IBF

Jr. Bantamweight -#1 – Martin Castillo, WBA

Flyweight -#1 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, WBC

Jr. Flyweight -#1 – Roberto Vasquez, WBA

Strawweight -#1 – Yutaka Niida, WBA

At featherweight, Juan Manuel Marquez did hold two belts but was stripped of them due to more alphabet nonsense.

The bottom line is that The Ring does not ignore the alphabets but merely has a fairer policy on not stripping fighters over absurdities and, of course, not charging sanctioning fees. But these numbers also show that it sure helps to have won multiple alphabet titles to get theirs, too.

In addition to these issues, we have to consider the overall journalistic credentials of The Ring when deciding whether or not to hand over the awarding of all title belts to them.

Which of boxing's endless scandals have they exposed? Where has their must-read investigate reporting been? What reforms which they have advocated have actually been enacted?

This is a media outlet which was a decade late in getting on the Internet. Why should they now dictate policy, especially to those of us who knew better all along?

True, this is not a corrupt outfit like so many others. But all we can conclude about The Ring is that they are one voice in boxing, but not THE voice. Their clinging to 1920's-era Judeo-Christian religious imagery by retaining the title of “The Bible of Boxing” only has us responding that we are certainly not fundamentalists.

Last but not least, consider this: The Ring is part of the Kappa Publishing Group. Among the other titles they publish besides this Bible are Horoscope Guide, which they call “The Last Word in Astrology,” and Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which they tell us “has been recognized as the sport's [sic] number one magazine.”

If The Ring is “The Bible of Boxing,” are these publications their New Testaments? And is this to whom we want to give the final say in crowning the champions of the world?

So what is my solution? You’ll have to wait for the rematch to find out, but at least it won’t be on pay-per-view.

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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