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Articles of 2006

The Mirror of 1986 – Part III

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Heavyweights love to make comebacks. Young-ish old ones and old-ish old ones, they are all compelled by money not yet earned, titles lost or never won, nebulous thoughts of revenge or renaissance like so many sparks of interest – not really passion – dancing by fraudulent flames of desire. Gerry Cooney, never world champion but massive in size and name recognition, couldn’t seem to stay retired, his June 11, 1982 loss to Larry Holmes still festered as a personal humiliation in 1986. Intermittently, Cooney couldn’t resist talking himself up as a still unfinished project in the making, a man capable of taking the heavyweight championship on his best night. Though his pro record partially supported this semantically correct claim, most boxing fans realized he’d last been in a boxing ring in December, 1984, against 22-6-2 George Chaplin for less than two rounds.

Where was the commitment fight fans wanted to know? So in May, almost on cue, Cooney lumbered out of his latest sabbatical to punch it out with 6’5” Eddie Gregg, at least allowing Team Cooney to say they were picking on someone his own size. And Gregg was a respectable-looking 27-1, having only lost to once beaten James Broad. Of course Broad’s only loss was to Marvis Frazier, so that should have been a red flag. At any rate, Cooney and Gregg faced off at The Cow Palace, an appropriate enough venue, in San Francisco, California. The scheduled 10 round contest lasted 1:26 according to the official time keeper, Cooney barely having enough time to remember the fight plan before getting to the finale. So much for keeping active! The ‘fight’ having the merit of a simulation, something just below the significance of a good sparring session, marginally more than shadowboxing in front of a wall mirror.

The winner and his management team promised this was just the start of Cooney’s renewed commitment to becoming heavyweight champion of the world, a dream the Huntington, New York heavyweight had never given up on. He couldn’t. To give up on the figment of that dream was to give up on the expressed purpose of his professional life, his public self. Only once defeated and only 30, Cooney couldn’t dispose of that mental projection, no matter how incongruously fitted his sense of athletic purposefulness and the day to day realities of bearing up to the rigors of absolute dedication. That dichotomy of character and action was the real battle for supremacy Cooney would have to win to ever make a reality out of what he said he most desired; he was fighting one of the eternal fights in the history of boxing.

Bob Arum showed himself a preeminent promoter when his company Top Rank staged a triple header at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in June with headliners Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Irish featherweight fan favourite Barry McGuigan. McGuigan would later say it was the blazing heat of the desert in summertime as much as the boxing aplomb of Californian Stevie Cruz that took him from celebrated champion to dehydrated ex-WBA champion, as the Clones Cyclone lost a thriller 15 round decision in what many regarded as the action fight of the year for 1986. Not even the public criticism of Dr. Adrian Whiteson of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) of the McGuigan-Cruz fight being contested in 100F heat could restitute McGuigan’s fortunes in boxing. 

When Roberto Duran puffed and panted through 10 lackluster rounds to drop a ten-round decision to Marvin Hagler’s half-brother Robbie Sims, the career of “Hands of Stone” had all the weight and substance of a mirage. Duran’s own weighty issues had become the subject of constant ridicule; the Panamanian legend himself seen to be fighting on for the purposes of paying off sundry debts, back taxes, while chasing a modicum of redemptive contrition for the blighting sin that his “No Mas” surrender to “Sugar” Ray Leonard had become for fans of sport as well as boxing fans. Hearns simply continued his campaign of winning, partially concealed at 154, still eyeing a return to middleweight and his chance to revisit the lost struggle against the marvelous one, Marvin Hagler. If Hagler’s fixation was ripping through the legend of Ray Leonard, Hearns calculated his career would need a redressed result against both Hagler and Leonard. Without much resistance, Hearns stopped Mark Medal in 8 rounds, leading at the time of the stoppage on all three cards in a runaway.

Marvin Hagler and the Petronelli brothers were frustrated at their inability to get a deal done with Ray Leonard’s brilliant lawyer Mike Trainer. Marvin Hagler’s wife came out publicly with her opposition to her husband continuing on in boxing. The middleweight champion toyed with the press telling them he was seriously considering retirement and that he was frustrated with Leonard’s negotiating-non-negotiating; he threatened to retire and leave the matter of his fight with the Sugar Man and a Hearns rematch to the imagination of his fans. Concurrently, the California State Athletic Commission confirmed the new law requiring boxers to pass annual neurological tests, adding for public notice of former WBC featherweight champion Bobby Chacon’s indefinite suspension from boxing stemming from repeated arrests for assault. The suspension would keep Chacon out of boxing for only a year and a half.

Boxing had been riding a fairly good winning streak, considering how successful boxing promotions below heavyweight had been for a decade, highlighting the careers of Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Pipino Cuevas and Carlos Palomino. Arum’s rival promotional force was Don King, who was plotting a heavyweight championship box-off to once again bring the heavyweight championship back to a place of unsurpassed significance in boxing; King’s designs centered round his superstar in waiting, “Iron” Mike Tyson, the teenage Sports Illustrated cover boy wrecking ball who was slated to smash his way through the champions of the big boy’s division. With Don King angling to promote, Cus D’Amato to train, Jimmy Jacobs and Bill Cayton to manage, Mike Tyson’s dream team looked secure.

1984 Olympic bronze medalist Evander Holyfield proved he really was “The Real Deal” when he took an 11-0 professional record into the ring with him to face the daunting challenge of cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi, aptly nicknamed the Camden Buzzsaw.  Holyfield showed maturity and composure beyond his years in earning a bruising 15-round split decision and the WBA cruiserweight championship. Holyfield, never content with his achievements, gave notice to the heavyweights that he was on his way, taking it one title, one division at a time. For his part Mike Tyson began to run the heavyweight table with a savage first round – 30 second – demolition of Marvis Frazier, effectively ending the career of the son of former world champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier, with a still green Jim Lampley doing the blow-by-blow for ABC television.

When Tyson dismissed Jose Ribalta and Alonzo Ratliff within three weeks of each other, everyone in boxing could see the freight train coming down the tracks and it was to stop at Berbick station in November. The Jamaican-Canadian Trevor Berbick trained as if his life depended on it and within a minute it did. Primed from a dressing room pep talk by Roberto Duran to go out there and “rip him up early,” Tyson had the man who’d gone fifteen rounds with Larry Holmes doing a break dance at ring center before some in the audience had adjusted to the garishly overheated ring lights that night.

With Tyson’s coronation it was easy to miss the arrival of Michael Nunn to the middleweight scene; his ordaining moment coming at the expense of good guy Alex Ramos. Yes, Hagler and Leonard’s teams had finally come to an agreement in the late fall of 1986, so that little piece of the historical puzzle was set to be forced into place after all. Leonard’s joust with an anxious and aging Hagler, though, would be for another season. The seasons of Larry Holmes, he believed in 1986, had turned from an autumnal flourish to a winter of some lingering discontent. Still smarting from the decision loss to Michael Spinks and feeling his age, 37, Holmes almost in anonymity announced his retirement in the first week of November, though almost no one in boxing took him at his word, for they had come to know the man from Easton, Pennsylvania  far too well.

The winter is always followed by spring and the coursing surges of blood that mimics the stridency of youth.

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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