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Articles of 2006

The Mirror of 1986 – Part II

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As Alexis Arguello was trying to create the impression of himself as a champion reborn in knocking out Billy Costello, light-heavyweights Marvin Johnson of American and Trinidad and Tobago’s heartthrob Leslie Stewart traded authentic power punches until, in the seventh, Johnson nuked Stewart to win the WBA 175-pound title. Even fighting in slow motion at times, Johnson’s late career determination and highlight reel hitting power brought him all the way back to the title, a professional distinction he’d lost six years before to then Eddie Gregory, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. For ten enthralling years, from the late 1970s until the late 1980s, he and rivaling cohorts Matt Franklin, a.k.a. Matthew Saad Muhammad, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Victor Galindez, Michael Spinks, John Conteh, Mate Parlov and Dwight Braxton, a.k.a. Dwight Muhammad Qawi produced some of the most dramatic interchanging moments in championship boxing.

The fear factor distinction that each brought to the ring was that on any given night – and we are not invoking the cliché of boxing’s lore – danger awaited them. No run of form or pervious patterning of domination was enough to guarantee a successful title defense. Other than Parlov they all possessed concussive power, and though all had very solid technical aspects their respective weaknesses were glaring and downright heartbreakingly, ever on the cusp of exposure, almost every time they fought, with the exception of the great Michael Spinks. And it was those fatal flaws ripe for exposure that made their drive to be kings of the ring a kind of theatrics of the damned, explosions and monumental letdowns assured. Other than the fixatedly steady Spinks, these light-heavyweights peeked and petered with an oscillating unpredictability, blunting promise and even genius, at a rate that boxing fans found maddening and compelling.

In 1986, boxing still could boast of the genius of Roberto Duran, though the full measure of his rampaging genius had become as bloated as his waistline and the absolute technical mastery of Ghana’s Azumah Nelson. Nelson, aptly nicknamed “The Professor” showed his fearlessness, if not his greatness, when he bested the popular Marcos Villasana to retain his WBC featherweight crown in front of a wildly partisan Villasana crowd in Los Angeles. The middleweight division, though for years generally terrorized during the reign of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, was a division thought to be heating up by 1986. With young bloods James Schuler and John “The Beast” Mugabi campaigning for the middleweight title, the air of expectation – if not yet transition – was hyped to be crackling. This despite the persistent rumors that former welterweight and junior middleweight champion “Sugar” Ray Leonard was bored commentating from ringside and had been medically cleared to fight, should he choose to, for over a year. In public, Leonard tried to assure the media that he was not considering a fight with the dangerous Hagler; smiling and denying interest, he pledged that his family and commercial endorsements were his chief concerns by 1986 and not boxing.

Undaunted by his epic defeat at the fists and furry of Hagler, Detroit’s Thomas Hearns was fired up about the opportunity to prove his merit when he was matched to fight James Schuler; Mugabi had won the Hagler sweepstakes, in what boxing experts were forecasting as a rousing title fight prospect. The 32- or 34- or 35-year-old Hagler was keeping his eye on the middleweight championship title defense record held by Argentina’s ring icon Carlos Monzon. A win over Mugabi would give Hagler thirteen, putting him just one shy of Monzon’s benchmark for middleweights of fourteen. Behind the scenes, Hagler was becoming distracted and less passionate about the regimental training he had always willingly submitted to under taskmasters Goody and Pat Petronelli. His training t-shirts stamped out words of fanaticism, but the mental grind of all-out disciplined industry for months at a time was wearing on the Marvelous One as he nevertheless flung himself into his training for the dynamite-handed Mugabi. Few realized that circumscribing difficulties of being an aging champion were materializing in the mind of Hagler right at the zenith of his dominance.

Having knocked out “The Hitman” in April of 1985, his expectation was that 1986 would be the year he and Leonard would fight for what amounted to the championship bout of the decade, if the fight was to happen at all. Hagler was kept waiting and wondering, then compelled back to facing up to his mounting mandatory defenses: enter Mugabi and the threat of the cusp of a new generation of middleweights with names like Mike McCallum, Juan Domingo Roldan, Sumbu Kalambay, James Kitchen, Iran Barkley, Herol Graham and Julian Jackson. If Mugabi was the immanent threat to Hagler and Leonard the pot of gold at the end of his career rainbow, then James “Black Gold” Schuler was the heir apparent. But the 22-0 (16) Schuler was going to have to go through a rejuvenated 40-2 (36) Thomas Hearns to get the chance to challenge Hagler. Caesars Palace co-featured Hagler-Mugabi with Hearns-Schuler to set up the inevitable showcase eliminator scenario. All the elements were there, straight from central casting. The budding legend Hagler in pursuit of Monzon’s defense record for middleweights, the Ugandan self-labeled “Beast” riding not only media hyped racial stereotyping of African menace incarnate, but also the fact of his perfect record, 25-0 (25); yes, all wins by knockout! Then there was Hearns, his legend blunted by Hagler, going into the breech to put some Motor City style hurt all over the newbie “something special” Schuler, Philadelphia reared or not. Hearns made it crystal clear he wanted another chance to reverse fortunes with the middleweight champion.

What, in fact, transpired at Caesars was the unmasking of Schuler as a tall, good-looking, capable challenger but hardly the talent of the moment, let alone barrier of anything to rival Hearns at his most determined. Schuler, who had nabbed a close shave decision from fellow young gun James Kitchen a year before, was out of his depth, be it technical or mental against a razor sharp Hearns who simply leveled what appeared to be an awestruck Schuler. Promise had met pedigree to produce predictability and not passage and it took only 73 seconds. A week later, fate consummated a terrible finality to James Schuler’s career, when the 26-year-old was killed in a motorcycle accident. The champion found his thirteenth title defense a fight for his ring life, when Mugabi hurled volley after numbing volley his way. All week during the countdown to this showdown of scowlers, Mugabi had told reporters Hagler was great, but no middleweight could stand up to his best power punches. And the fight almost proved “The Beast” as good as his words. With Hagler fighting from both sides, working the body and Mugabi landing hard with hooks and from long range with artillery blasts, the fight was punishing, physically rugged and contested as a continuous give and take of debilitating exchanges.

“Sugar” Ray Leonard, commentating at ringside was transfixed by the action, his analytical mind noting how Hagler’s feet were not carrying him efficiently from hitting positions to defensible counterpunching positions, which had always characterized Hagler’s best boxing. The grit and determination under fire was still there, no question, and yet Leonard was astonished how easily Mugabi’s telegraphing blows were getting to their intended targets. Watching the furious action at the outdoor arena, Leonard began to reevaluate his chances against the middleweight champion, his thoughts turning inward as meditative dreams of money and unimaginable glory.

When Scottish welterweight Steve Watt died following surgery on a blood clot in his brain, three days after losing to Rocky Kelly in London, there were renewed calls for the abolition of professional boxing. Boxing also had the public relations issue of a heavyweight division with too many titleholders and no unifying champion, giving impetus to Don King’s assertion that only a heavyweight elimination series starting with Pinklon Thomas and Trevor Berbick would reignite the marquee division in the minds of the general sports fans, in North America and beyond. Acting as much as an independent contractor as possible, Michael Spinks was awarded a controversial decision over Larry Holmes, in their April rematch. The general contention that their first fight had been close and subject to speculative subjectivism only made Spinks’ second decision win all the more controversial. The boxing in the ring made the decision controversial as well. Holmes improved dramatically from his first outing against Spinks to a degree denying the ravages of a long career and the best combinations Spinks could jinx.

The decision loss was a bitter one for Holmes, who should have found some solace in the regard and admiration many in boxing heaped upon him, even in his hour of defeat. But that was the emotional makeup of Holmes, a champion delegated to endure demonstrating his own ring greatness, as a follow-up to the eternal luminosity of Muhammad Ali. During his prime, Holmes was never allowed, never allowed himself, to just be the champion. He always tried to act out the role of expected presentation with himself as the champion, and in that way he dominated while being dominated. Yet, in the ring, poaching mere mortals, behind the greatest left lead in ring history, Holmes was reflexively brilliant. Graced with a hall of fame chin and the speed of a welterweight, he was determined to the core, confident in method and manner, ready to best the elite without discrimination. And in 1986, with Larry Holmes’ absolute best boxing ebbing, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were punching out wins of almost pretentious design.

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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