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Articles of 2006

Delivering the Punch, Part 2

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The long introductions are over, and we can finally get to the boxing. All who don’t belong in the ring scurry out to take their respective places. In less than sixty seconds, only the referee and the two fighters remain.

Devid Lookmahanak (7-0, 4 KO’s) and 85 fight veteran Rey Llagas of the Philippines start the show off. The partisan Thai crowd began singing and chanting, “Thailand, Thailand, Thailand!” Dodo, the boxing mascot of Thailand, revs up the crowd. Lookmahanak is an inexperienced fighter and Llagas is not only experienced but experienced at losing. He is a survivor – this doesn’t make for the most exciting of fights. Twelve rounds go by like molasses. Lookmahanak wins every round on all three judges’ scorecards and by the end of the fight the crowd is asleep. Thankfully, before I nodded off, the bell rang and the decision was announced.

Next up to the plate – Veeraphol Sahaprom.

There was little doubt in my mind as to the outcome of the fight. The majority of bouts in Thailand are “predetermined,” and the chances of Bauya pulling off the upset were about as good as the chance of Buster Douglas putting down a chicken wing or Mike Tyson passing on the ear. This didn’t concern me though; I was more interested in seeing how Sahaprom looked in winning.

The fight was a boring affair and anti-climatic; I could have left and come back and nothing would have changed. It immediately became apparent Sahaprom was not the fighter he once was. Although he dominated his opponent, winning eight of ten rounds, he looked slow and tentative – sadly, over-the-hill. His opponent’s sparring partner mentality and low work rate allowed him to win the fight easily without extending himself. If he had been in the ring with Rafael Marquez instead of Joel Bauya, he wouldn’t have seen the end of the third round.

The next two fights ended in TKO’s and were the best fights of the day. I was still in shock at how sluggish Sahaprom looked. Maybe it was his opponent.

Napapol Kiatisakchokchai came on next and TKO’d Julius Tarona in nine. Kiatisakchokchai’s lone claim to fame was a 10th round TKO loss to champion at-the-time, Oscar Larios. Thong Por Chokchai then closed the show when he TKO’d Yoshihisa Kobura in four. It was 6 PM.

I packed up my camera and made my way out to the dirt road, looking for a taxi or tuk-tuk. No luck. I stood in the midst of a madhouse. A thousand people all wanted to leave simultaneously but had no room to move. The tiny road had reached its capacity, so I did the only thing I could do, I started walking.

The sun is setting and it’s getting dark as I make my way to the main road. Its 6:30, I’m drained and looking forward to the comfort of my Easy-chair, remote control and cable TV. Taxis and tuk-tuks usually drive and look for customers or park and waiting for them. I was out in the rice fields, away from the main road and there were no taxis, no tuk-tuks, and no motorcycle taxis – I had no way to get to the bus station.

There was a long row of food vendors lined up along the road. I bought some water and asked” How can I get to Bangkok?” All had the same response: “All the buses are finished now. No more.”

This was not the answer I was looking for.

I kept asking until I found a man willing to take me to the bus station on the back of his motorcycle. When I ask him how much he wanted for the 30-minute ride, he of course responds, “up to me.”

Ten minutes later, he stops at a small, wooden hut along the highway, the same highway that leads to the bus station. He informs me this is the nearest “bus station” and in 30 minutes the bus will pass by. I pay him $3, he grumbles, I grumble and I sit down and wait – and wait and wait.

An hour goes by, and still no bus.

The owner of the house that is adjacent to the “bus station” was working on his car and sees me standing. By this time it’s after 8 PM. “Do you need a ride?” he asks. 

Now I have my reservations but short of walking over to the fleabag motel down the road, it’s my best shot at getting home, so I agree.

We head down the highway in his truck and engage in the usual chit-chat; “Where do you come from, how long have you been in Thailand and what are you doing in Chainart? To my surprise though, ten minutes down the road he stops at another wooden hut doubling as a “bus stop.” In my most polite and proper Thai I ask him where the buses are. “Coming soon,” he declares.

I’m on a dark highway in the middle of nowhere and at this moment I wonder why I felt the need to come see Veeraphol Sahaprom fight.

Despite speaking Thai fluently, this fellow conveniently didn’t understand a word I was saying. After bickering back-and-forth, I get it thru his head I want to go to the proper bus station. He emphatically states “No more buses tonight.”

I’m either in the Twilight Zone or in an episode of Abbott and Costello doing the “Who’s On First” routine.

Didn’t he just tell me the bus was “coming soon?” I tried telling myself “it’s all a part of the adventure, it’s all part of the adventure” but nonetheless I found it difficult to be proper and polite when I asked the driver to take me back from where we came.

I spotted a police booth as we were nearing our destination. We drive to the little shack and I explain to police how I want to get on a bus and get home. The home owner has his hand out for money but I tell him “no, sorry, it doesn’t work this way.” He isn’t too happy but I wasn’t in a popularity contest. It turned out one of the policemen was finishing his shift and passed the bus station on his way home. Fortunately he was willing to take me there.

He drove me to the station. I got out of his truck, thanked the driver profusely and literally seconds afterwards stepped onto a bus. I was on my way in a matter of minutes. I breathe a sigh of relief and drift off to sleep; dreaming of my next adventure and anxious to get home.

And so it goes in life as a boxing journalist in Southeast Asia – my day started at 9 AM and I eventually made it home shortly after midnight. As a boxing journalist, there’s no six-figure salary, no expense account, no “minders” and, unfortunately, no groupies. There’s plenty of excitement though.

It’s not always easy delivering the punch but nobody ever said it would be…and it makes it that much more worthwhile.
* * *

On February 16th I made another journey to Chainart. This time the fight was a championship bout between Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Gilberto Keb Bass. There were no problems this time around. It was as easy as clicking my heels and saying, “there’s no place like home.”

* * *

Veeraphol Sahaprom has fought three times since his victory over Joel Bauya. In his last outing against African fighter, Scari Korori, he scored a one-punch KO that had his opponent floundering around the ring for the next 15 minutes.

On March 25th he’ll attempt regain the WBC Bantamweight title from Hozumi Hasegawa in Kobe, Japan. I have my reservations about Sahaprom’s chances of reclaiming the title; after all, he’s a 37-year-old bantamweight and Hozumi is a 25-year-old with good hand speed. The former champion has a great punch and the fan in me would like to see him pull it off. Sahaprom TKO9

* * *

Scott Mallon is now on another adventure…this time in Indonesia covering the Chris John – Juan Manuel Marquez fight.

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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