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Articles of 2006

Roberto Sabbatini: For 15 Years, the Foremost Italian Promoter

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From 1986 to 2001, Roberto Sabbatini was the most important promoter in Italy. Roberto breathed boxing since childhood because his father was legendary promoter Rodolfo Sabbatini, whose shows  featured outstanding fighters like WBA/WBC middleweight champions Carlos Monzon and Rodrigo Valdez, WBA light heavyweight titlist Victor Galindez, and featherweight kings Eusebio Pedroza (WBA), Danny Lopez (WBC), Johnny Famechon (WBC) and Vicente Saldivar  (WBA/WBC). No wonder that Rodolfo will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame next June. When Rodolfo passed away, Roberto carried the family’s tradition in the boxing business. Let’s hear the story from him.

When did you decide to become a promoter?

When my father died, on January 6, 1986. He had scheduled a show for the following month and I was forced to take care of it. I kept on promoting shows until 1994, when I decided to leave boxing. After a few months, Giulio Spagnoli asked me to become his business partner and I accepted. Giulio is the son of another legendary Italian promoter: Renzo Spagnoli. Me and Giulio worked together until 2001, when I left boxing for good. During my 15 years in the game, I promoted mostly in Southern Italy because it was easier getting money from the politicians. I’ll explain it for the American readers. In Italy, every local government (city, province and region in order of importance) has a sports department. The councilman who runs it has the interest in promoting the biggest number of events possible, so the voters can thank him for giving them free sports entertainment. If a boxing promoter proposes a big show, in the main local square, the councilman can give him a contribution which may cover in total or in part the costs of the show (fighters’ purses included). In Sicily and Calabria, sports department managers were easier to talk to and more willing to help. I also promoted in Central Italy: Sumbu Kalambay vs. Mike McCallum was staged in Pesaro (in the Marche region), Sumbu Kalambay vs Iran Barkley in Livorno (Tuscany). In Northern Italy, my favorite place was the city of Campione d’Italia where there are the casino, the lake, the mountains and other things attractive for the tourists.

Did you ever promote abroad?

Not much. I promoted just in the Principality of Monaco. My biggest fight there was Patrizio Oliva vs. WBA light welterweight champion Ubaldo Sacco in 1986. That night, Patrizio became world champion. In Monaco I promoted IBF middleweight champion James Toney vs. Francesco Dell’Aquila in 1991. Francesco was a good boxer who compiled a record of 31-1-2 and had won the Italian and European middleweight titles.We didn’t think much of Toney, even if his record was 27-0-1 and he had beaten Michael Nunn (TKO 11). Instead, Toney made short work of Dell’Aquila (TKO 4). We understood Francesco’s limits, but we never imagined that Toney would have had such a great career.

Did you ever work with foreign promoters?

Yes, especially with Bob Arum who was an associate of my father. In France, my partners were Michel and Louis Acaries. In England, I worked with Barry Hearn, Mickey Duff and Frank Warren.

What was your best show?

WBA light welterweight champion Patrizio Oliva vs. Rodolfo Gonzales in Agrigento (Sicily). It happened on January 10, 1987. The place was packed and more than 10,000,000 people watched the fight on national public network RAI 2. It was the top audience of RAI 2 that year, also because it was broadcasted live at 9:00 pm (this never happens today). Oliva guaranteed a big audience and therefore good money from the TVstations. Even his battle against European welterweight champion Kirkland Laing drew good TV ratings. Believe me, that was a terrible fight. Laing used all the dirty tricks in the book.

Those big TV ratings are in contrast with the opinions of many Italian journalists: they used to write that Oliva was a boring fighter.

Oliva was a technical fighter who studied the right strategy to win on points. Journalists love brawlers and that’s why they never were too enthusiastic about Patrizio. On the other hand, the Italian fans were always interested in Oliva’s career because he won the Olympic gold medal and he kept on winning as a pro. Patrizio was definitely a big draw.

Did you make your record attendance with him?

No, I made it with WBC super middleweight champion Mauro Galvano vs. Juan Carlos Gimenez in Marino (close to Rome). The match was held on February 6, 1992 at the Ice Palace and it was soldout. More than 4,000 people bought the tickets. In Italy, large paying audiences are rare. Those 4,000 tickets sold can be considered a big success.

What was the best fight you promoted?

WBA middleweight champion Sumbu Kalambay vs. Mike McCallum, in Pesaro. It was Kalambay’s second defense of the belt and he won on points. It happened on March 5, 1988. Technically, it was a magnificent fight.

Let’s talk about your father. Explain to the American readers who he was.

My father Rodolfo was a sports journalist who decided to become a boxing promoter. This happened in 1964. He was so successful that he sold out the Palaeur in Rome. That building has 18,000 seats for boxing. My father kept a photo in his office: thousands of people out at the Palaeur  for the fight between European light middleweight champion Sandro Mazzinghi vs. Jo Gonzales. They couldn’t get tickets because there were no more! Can you imagine selling 18,000 tickets today? No way, not even with the world heavyweight title on the line. By the way: Mazzinghi KOed Gonzales in four rounds on December 1, 1967. Mazzinghi was just one of the many famous fighters promoted by my dad. Probably, Carlos Monzon was the best of them.

Why did Monzon defend his middleweight title only once in the United States?

Because he was so big that his opponents agreed to fight him anywhere. In Europe, Monzon was   promoted by my father. In Argentina, Tito Lectoure took care of him. Lectoure and my dad were very close friends. Another great middleweight champion promoted by my father was Marvin Hagler. The fight took place in San Remo, on October 30, 1982. The Marvelous One defended his WBA/WBC titles against tough Venezuelan Fulgencio Obelmejias: Hagler won in five rounds.

Your father also promoted a very controversial boxer: welterweight Nino La Rocca.

La Rocca was critized by some journalists who never liked him; the reasons are beyond me. I’m sure that the American readers never heard of Nino La Rocca, so I will tell them his history. La Rocca was born in Mali (Africa), but lived and fought in Italy where he got the citizenship. He spoke Italian and performed well in front of the tv cameras. He had also a happy-go-lucky attitude and the people loved him. Among his fans, there was President Pertini. In the early 1980s, Nino La Rocca was as popular as the soccer players. After Nino lost to WBA/IBF welterweight champion Donald Curry (KO 6), those journalists who never liked La Rocca wrote that he was a total joke. They forgot that, in 1986, Donald Curry was at his best and nobody had a chance against him. Honestly, I think that Nino La Rocca was a good boxer, very fast and with good technique. He wasn’t very courageous, but he was not a bum. After all, he became European welterweight champion (beating the awkward Kirkland Laing on points) and closed his career with a record of 75 wins (54 KOs) and just 6 losses.

Who’s your favorite fighter today?

I don’t follow boxing anymore. I just take care of my own business: I opened a small shop in Rome.

Okay, but there is a champion who would make you spend $500 for a ringside seat?

There’s nobody that good!

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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