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Articles of 2006

Why Boxing Needs Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton

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When I mentioned to a boxing writer colleague last week that I would be going to this past Thursday’s press conference at New York’s ESPN Zone to promote the May 6 fight between Ricardo Mayorga and Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas, she jokingly advised me to bring a helmet. Mayorga was not waiting for Sin City in May to begin his sinning, as he had instigated scuffles with the Golden Boy earlier during their week-long, cross-country media tour.

Fortunately on this New York stop we didn’t need to bring our own helmets, but that was mainly because on the chairs reserved for the media saints and sinners there already had been placed yellow plastic construction helmets. Each had decal affixed to it displaying a warning symbol with the words “May 6, 2006, Danger Zone, De La Hoya vs. Mayorga, Live on Pay-Per-View.”

While it was thoughtful of them to alert us to the dangers of Pay-Per-View, we also didn’t need these helmets in New York. By this time, the press conference brawl act had been toned down enough to limit the scuffling to verbal low blows. (Afterwards, I did scoop up a few of these helmets and will dutifully give them to my grandkids, who no doubt will have fun with them until they break.)

Mayorga used the occasion of being in the media capital of the world to remind everyone that he was the champion (the WBC super welterweight or junior middleweight champion, since no one seemed quite sure what it is called), and that De La Hoya, his opponent for this dangerous, $49.95 Live on Pay-Per-View fight, was “nobody.” The board-certified neuro-ophthalmologist that he is, Mayorga revealed his intention only to do harm by vowing to detach De La Hoya’s retina. And he called De La Hoya a maricon, an anti-gay slur which is one of the harshest used by Latinos.

De La Hoya was almost as personable. While he refused to take Mayorga’s bait, he remained seated stoically, staring straight ahead like a brooding statue during Mayorga’s tirade, with an expression that indicated that he was ready to explode. His terse remarks did include the news that “I have more hatred” for Mayorga than almost any other fighter he has faced. After the formal press conference, when the journalists were trying to get one-on-one interviews and photographs, the normally interview-friendly and photogenic De La Hoya talked to them briefly and then marched out of the building.

This was not the best way to stir up interest in a pay-per-view fight involving two guys who have recent high-profile knockout losses on their records, De La Hoya to Bernard Hopkins and Mayorga to Tito Trinidad. Plus, Mayorga’s promoter, Don King, is also putting on a card that very same night in Worcester, Mass., which will be shown live on that real champion of boxing networks, Showtime, and not on pay-per-view.

In that one, another super welterweight or junior middleweight champion, Alejandro “Terra” Garcia, defends his WBA strap against Worcester’s own Jose Rivera. New undisputed world cruiserweight champ O'Neil Bell fights the undefeated top contender Steve Cunningham. And yet another super welterweight or junior middleweight champion, Roman Karmazin, puts his IBF belt on the line against Daniel Santos. This card is so loaded with topnotch if lesser-known fighters that even Don King said he is not sure whether he will be in Las Vegas or Worcester the night of May 6.

King’s publicists thus had to act fast to try to reverse the damage done by Mayorga’s ranting, however many parts madness real and feigned it was. A press release was issued Monday pointing out, as should have been the theme from Mayorga himself, that he twice defeated Vernon Forrest, who twice defeated Shane Mosley, who twice defeated Oscar De La Hoya.

Of course, the rejoinder from the De La Hoya camp should be that Trinidad took care of Mayorga in Oct. 2004, while De La Hoya fared much better against a prime Tito back in Sept. 1999, losing only by a controversial majority decision. Now that’s the kind of back-and-forth talk boxing could use.

The potential damage to this fight’s promotion by this construction of a real danger zone at the press conferences was especially realized by Golden Boy Promotions’ CEO, Richard Schaefer. Besides spreading the word about this show, he was announcing on this media tour that Golden Boy had secured three major corporate sponsors for it: Coca-Cola, Bacardi, and Southwest Airlines. Coca-Cola, Schaefer stated, is even using this fight to introduce a new beverage.

But these big corporate types, who usually sponsor boxing shows about as frequently as Dick Cheney gives gun safety seminars, could easily be scared off if the whole show presents the wrong image for them.

Speaking after the press conference, the usually reserved Schaefer commented, “Mayorga talking all that crap is not good, it’s not necessary.” He added, “It’s about a fight, it’s about two guys fighting each other on May 6.” And he agreed that the Mayorga-Forrest-Mosley-De La Hoya-Trinidad-Mayorga discussion should be what was stressed, and not what was.

These corporate sponsors, Schaefer stated, are “really going back to Oscar De La Hoya.” He said it was the intention of Golden Boy Promotions “to really show that boxing is not all that bad as it has been perceived over the last many years.” And he noted, “And that’s why so many sponsors shied away from it. So we’re trying to be the good guys of the sport.”

Also on his agenda, despite this pay-per-view, is the return in the U.S. of boxing to free television.

“Network television is in the business of selling advertising,” he continued. “If you’re in the sport of boxing and none of the Fortune 500 or 1000 companies are willing to associate their brands with boxing, then it is sort of like, how can you bring boxing back on network television if the advertising and sponsorship support is not there?”

It is not bad ratings which have done in boxing, he said: “I think it is the negativity of the sport.” It is the perception that some promoters “have not given the sport the transparency needed.”

He continued by pointing out that a sport like beach volleyball had more sponsorship than boxing, even though, he argued, “If you look at boxing, the demographics are substantially better.”

So here’s my diagnosis, free of charge and with no referrals or pre-certification needed.

Mayorga screaming maricon is not going to help boxing any in this era of “Brokeback Mountain”, even if this film did come up short in the best picture category at Sunday’s Academy Awards. Public behavior and language even a fraction as antisocial as Mayorga’s in just about any other major sport would result in immediate and harsh fines and suspensions, and even possibly lawsuits. Boxing has become a sideshow with no ringmaster, and thus almost no major sponsors other than dear old booze.

The “Danger Zone” theme could be altered a bit to appeal to the kind of fans who wear real construction helmets to work, whose families regularly stock up on Coke products, and who fly the relatively inexpensive Southwest Airlines. Yes, this show is purposely being held May 6, one day after Cinco de Mayo, a major Mexican holiday commemorating the victory of the Mexican Army in 1862 over the French invaders at the Battle of Puebla. But Golden Boy and boxing want and need more than that core audience of Latino fans, however crucial they are to the business today. They need the working class as a whole, of all backgrounds and beliefs, as boxing used to attract back in the day.

Who better to symbolize them than those well-known champions of the working men and women of America, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton? Willie’s work with Farm Aid and Dolly’s “9 to 5” anthem are respected and even loved by a diverse spectrum of hardworking folks in this land. They have long leapt far beyond the limitations imposed by the marketing category known by the sometimes-misnomer of country music. They represent the grassroots of the red, white, and blue.

And now some more colors of the rainbow as well.

Willie’s latest single is called “Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently (Fond Of Each Other)” and was released on Valentine’s Day on the new Howard Stern satellite radio show. It was too whimsical for “Brokeback Mountain”, but Willie did have a song on that soundtrack, called “He Was a Friend of Mine”.

One of Dolly’s current songs, performed live on the Oscar broadcast, is called “Travelin' Thru”, and was from the soundtrack of the film “Transamerica”. This film starred the Oscar-nominated Felicity Huffman playing a pre-op, male-to-female transsexual. Dolly also gave a live performance of the John Lennon song “Imagine”, which is also on her latest album, on the Country Music Association Awards show in November on CBS, with the openly-gay Elton John.

So bring in Willie, Dolly, and their gang. This honky-tonkization of boxing will help attract the proletariat back to boxing. It will help the sport get some more ethnic and regional diversity. Using Willie and Dolly will also help it teach tolerance rather than hatred. And it will make the maricon problem largely go away.

A year after the “Ring of Fire” documentary about Emile Griffith and the film “Beautiful Boxer” about the transsexual Thai boxer Parinya Charoenphol (Nong Toom), such a change of direction for boxing is not too much to ask.

We can hope, we can hope.

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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