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Articles of 2006

Fres Oquendo's Time For In-Ring Foes

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For two years, two long, boring, annoying, occasionally infuriating years, Fres Oquendo flicked on the TV, saw the best players in the heavyweight division on the screen, and said to himself: 'I can beat that dude. And I can beat the dude he's fighting.'

The 32-year-old Puerto Rican-born fighter came to this conclusion when he saw James Toney and John Ruiz doing battle in April 2005.

Ruiz was Oquendo's last foe, and even though Fast Fres came away with a loss (TKO11) on April 17, 2004, he still sees the Quietman as a completely beatable opponent. Because when Oquendo fought Ruiz at Madison Square Garden, his head wasn't right.

Oquendo's brother Henry, 31, who is now taking on a stronger role in advising his big bro, explained at a press conference to announce Oquendo's return bout on Lou DiBella's Broadway Boxing show at the Grand Ballroom in New York City Thursday night (tix 212-947-2577).

“Against Ruiz, that wasn't even him,” the younger brother says. “They say money is the root of all evil, it's true. His mind wasn't right. Boxing is 80% mental.”

Oquendo couldn't concentrate on the task at hand, he says, because the fighter was concerned that his manager at the time, Pepe Ramos, wasn't doing right by him.

Ramos had functioned as an advisor to Felix Trinidad Sr., and was essentially given Oquendo's contract by Don Felix. Ramos had a long history of dealing successfully with promoter Don King, who was functioning then as Oquendo's career-driver.

Oquendo didn't like the deals Ramos was hashing out for him, and said so. He said he wanted out from the deal with Ramos. Ramos said OK, but it's gonna cost ya.

How much, Oquendo asked.

More than a quarter million big ones, Ramos replied.

No effin way, Oquendo replied in turn.

So the two sides negotiated.

Slowly.

Back and forth it went.

And Oquendo sat. And sat.

He didn't get fat during the hiatus, minimizing his worries with Budweiser and Dominos.

“I don't drink, I don't smoke,” he says. “My health comes first.”

His frustration at the waiting didn't manifest itself in slovenly habits. He ran 10Ks to keep his weight down. “I got my eight pack,” he says, laughing.

Finally, the release from Ramos came through. Oquendo won't say how much it took to shoo Ramos away, because he signed a nondisclosure agreement.

Oquendo also cut ties with Don King about four months ago, which enabled him to pair up with DiBella. The two had become friendly when DiBella was head honcho at HBO, and Oquendo appeared versus David Izon on a Dec. 2001 HBO broadcast topped by Jameel McCline and Goofi Whittaker. “Me and Lou hit it off,” Oquendo remembers. “It seemed like he was a guy for the fighters. DiBella promotes good young fighters. I saw what he did with Jermain Taylor. He'll do that with me.”

If there was ever a time for a competent heavyweight boxer to keep himself out of promotional and managerial woes, it is now. From the period running from June 21, 2003 to today, if you are a heavyweight capable of punching a little bit, with a minimally sturdy chin, you are a player in the division.

When Lennox Lewis bid this sport adieu, he left behind a vacuum that has not to this day been filled. Vitali Klitschko auditioned for the part, but his body didn't cooperate. His brother tried out for the role, but his chin hasn't yet proved to meet those minimum standards of sturdiness. No one has stepped forward, with the boldness and bravura requisite of a true heavyweight heir apparent, and staked a claim for the Throne That Lennox Left Behind.

The first step back for Oquendo towards claiming the throne comes Thursday in New York City, when he sheds some rust against Brazilian Daniel Bispo (16-2). DiBella phrased it well when he said at the press conference that Bispo is not a guy who is used to losing. He's been brought in not to lay down, but to test Oquendo, give him a good scrap.

With a win in hand, Oquendo says he's ready for a step up in class, and by the end of this year, he says, he'll be back in the title mix.

During his copious downtime, he watched the best and brightest in the division, and it left him frustrated. “I watched Wladimir against Sam Peter, and I thought, 'I can beat both these guys.' I watched Barrett and Rahman, a boring fight.”

Oquendo has had plenty of time to scout out future foes. One fighter Oquendo targets is James Toney, who's meeting Hasim Rahman on March 18.

He thinks Toney, properly motivated, can stand out in the current heavyweight scene. “If he comes in against Rahman at around 230, I like Toney. If he comes in around 250, it's going to be a hard night.”

Another boxer on Oquendo's To-Do list is Chris Byrd. The two met in Sept. 2003 and Oquendo came away with a loss. The fight for Byrd's IBF crown went the distance, and Byrd got the nod on all the cards. Many in attendance thought Oquendo outboxed Byrd.

“Chris Byrd knows I beat him,” Oquendo says. “I'd like a rematch.”

This go-round, Oquendo hopes, he won't be distracted by out-of-the-ring chicanery. He'll have his brother Henry, and another brother Hector Morales, an attorney, looking after his best interests with intensity.

The web of family has served the Oquendos well. Their mom, Arquelia Rodriguez, watched over the kids with x-ray eyes at the Lathrop projects in Chicago, a rough and tumble zone where success stories can turn into horror stories in the blink of an eye. Guns, drugs, gangs – it's all there for a curious teen, and Ms. Rodriguez made it her mission to keep the kids on the straight and narrow. That's why, if you have a rooting interest in seeing one of these heavyweights distance themselves from the pack, Oquendo emerges as one of the sentimental favorites. If he can get some traction, and get into the mix, his sweet demeanor and upbeat back-story makes for press-friendly subject matter.

And lest anyone think Oquendo is back for another go because he's frittered away his purses, brother Henry is here to set you straight: “Fres was 75% ready to call it quits when the management stuff was at its worst. But we invested very well in real estate in Chicago. We're not here for the money.”

Really, there is no reason Oquendo has any less claim to the empty throne than anyone else.  He can punch enough to keep anyone honest. He owns a jab that is more than pesky when he lets it go. His chin isn't made of Teflon, but neither is it so suspect that you cringe anytime anything is aimed at it. He lived in the projects in Puerto Rico before he came to the States in 1975. He lived in the projects in the Chicago when he got here. He hasn't succumbed to temptation, he's got a sweet smile that he shows freely and often, and also, he's got five kids to feed. The throne is still open. No reason why Fres' butt shouldn't be the one to keep it warm for a spell.

SPEEDBAG

One of the busiest trainers in the biz, Buddy McGirt, has just added another body into the rotation. Lamon Brewster has been working with McGirt in Florida for the last three weeks. Brewster's been doing pad work and McGirt will have him sparring next week. McGirt loved Brewster's rabid pit-bull look when he steamrolled (TKO1) Andrew Golota in May 2001. “But,” McGirt cautioned, “you can't jump on everybody.”

McGirt also gave a thumbs up to Buddy Jr., who had an epiphany of sorts in training for his last fight (a Feb. 3 TKO3 win over Chris Overby in Detroit). “He was a little lackadaisical but I explained to him you can play basketball, you can play football, but you can't play boxing,” the former welterweight champion said. “He's a tall southpaw super middleweight and I was a short orthodox welterweight, so sometimes he tries to emulate me. But he's better than I thought he would be. He's starting to grasp it.” Junior fights again next week in Delaware.

Another standout in the McGirt stable is Joel Julio, the heralded Colombian welterweight, who's on the Mosley/Vargas Vegas undercard on Feb. 25. No opponent has been chosen yet. “He's an unbelievable talent,” McGirt said. “He's only 21. But he's going to make a lot of noise at welterweight and junior middleweight.”

Is there anyone that Julio reminds you of at this point, Buddy?

“He has his own style,” the trainer said. “He's very unique. But as far as some stuff he does that he can get away with that other guys can't, I'd say Aaron Pryor.”

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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