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Articles of 2006

The Magic Touch of Eddie Futch Lives On

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LAS VEGAS, March 12 – Arguably the greatest trainer in history will be in both corners Saturday night when James Toney challenges Hasim Rahman and he won’t have to wear roller-skates. A halo will do.

One of the best things about boxing is that Eddie Futch’s influence will never wane. His disciples will have disciples to pass down the wisdom of the man who passed away Oct. 10, 2001. Two will be in the opposite corner in Atlantic City for an important heavyweight fight.

In this corner, working with the challenger, James Toney, is Freddie Roach, who was 18 when his father brought him to Las Vegas and handed him over to Futch.

In this corner, working the defending WBC heavyweight champion, who was trained by Futch starting in 1959 and who later became his business partner, Thell Torrence – who said he couldn’t believe it when he realized that he’ll turn 70 in June.

Roach may be the more accomplished trainer. He may have the 2-1 favorite. But Torrence has the Futch game plan to beat Toney.

It didn’t work for Torrence when he brought Vassiliy Jirov into the ring to face Toney in the only other time the two former Futch assistants faced each other. But it came mighty close. Jirov did much better against a comparatively in-shape Toney, who was fighting at cruiserweight, than he did in the opening rounds against then heavyweight prospect Joe Mesi. It was only when Mesi tired badly in the final rounds that Jirov was able to strike.

But Torrence was at Futch’s side when Mike McCallum, then a 35-year-old veteran, held Toney to a disputed draw in a super-middleweight bout (Toney clearly won, despite what the judges ruled), and then did even better in the rematch, which I had a draw though the official judges ruled Toney by majority decision).

And Torrence was there when Futch twice sent out the 5-foot-7 Montell Griffin to beat Toney. We’ll get to those “secrets” – Roy Jones Jr. had a pretty good idea of them – later in our tale.

In any case, Torrance now has a 6-foot-2 chiseled Rock, who at 33 may finally be ready to deliver on those flashes of promise he has shown over the years. And Roach is handicapped by a former middleweight champion who will probably outweigh the muscular 240-pound Rahman. (Hey, I dig short and fat, and like Toney, I grew up in a bakery.) He doesn’t like his fighter’s weight, but he certainly appreciates Toney’s skills.

Roach didn’t know who Eddie Futch was when he met him for the first time at Johnny Tocco’s Gym here in 1978, didn’t know this was the beloved trainer who beat Muhammad Ali not only with Joe Frazier, but with Ken Norton, who in the Thrilla in Manila had insisted the one-eyed Frazier not go out for the 15th round. He didn’t know that Futch grew up in Detroit as a boyhood friend of Joe Louis, who sometimes sparred with the lightweight and could never figure out how Eddie was able to spin off the ropes and land that left hook until they were old men and Eddie showed him.

Roach had been trained by his father, from age six right through his first four pro fights, and they had gone west looking for a professional to take over. They were on the way to Los Angeles, hopefully to get Jackie McCoy interested, but stopped off in Vegas and after visits to three gyms dropped in at Tocco’s. Freddie’s father knew who Eddie Futch was.

Eddie liked what he saw in the 122-pound kid. Not much punch, but hardworking. Freddie says “I really had a great work ethic.” He needed it. He worked as a busboy for the Golden Nugget in downtown Vegas, from 12:30 A.M. to 8. He would grab some sleep, get up at 11 to do his roadwork, at 12 go the gym and at 3 try for some more sleep before another grueling day.

“There were no distractions,” said Roach. “There were times I fought at the Silver Slipper and then went to work to bus tables.”

Futch taught him how to properly throw punches, but a broken right hand limited Roach’s potential. Futch wanted him to hang up the gloves, but the fighter wouldn’t listen – the same as now Wayne McCullough, who was trained by Futch and then Roach – won’t listen to Freddie now.

Roach had five debilitating fights without Futch in the corner and while he can not flat out blame his current battle with Parkinson’s on the extra punches he took, he does not dismiss that probability either. When he did retire, he wanted no more to do with boxing and took a job as a telemarketer and began drinking.

But Futch needed help in the gym. Thell Torrence and Hedgemon Lewis, another former Futch fighter, were not enough for the burgeoning list of fighters. Roach started working with Virgil Hill, and eventually, with the fighter complaining that Futch was too busy elsewhere (he had guys like Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks), Roach took over the light-heavyweight champion.

It was a mistake and Roach quickly learned it. To some, it looked as if he were stabbing the old man in the back. Torrence said Futch “fell out with Freddie, but I got along with both of them.” Eventually, though Futch never forgot, he forgave. I relayed to him once that Freddie said he was young and made a mistake listening to the fighter. Eddie nodded. He didn’t have to say anything.

None of this is as important, perhaps, as the Futch genius being taught anew. Roach, who has already copped his share of trainer-of-the-year awards, has a mighty stable that includes such champions as Manny Pacquiao and Brian Viloria. Eva Futch, Eddie’s widow, says the 46-year-old conditioner originally from Dedham, Mass., “channels Eddie’s spirit.”

“Of all the people Eddie worked with, Freddie really personifies the theories of Eddie Futch,” she said. “He’s calm and he’s controlled and he has wisdom.”

A couple of years before he died, there was a screening of a documentary film made on Freddie’s life at the Charlie Chaplin Theater in Los Angeles. Eddie Futch, on his own, flew in to be a part of it. It was something Freddie will never forget. “I looked up, and there was my mentor,” he said. At the end, they were again master and pupil.

“In almost 46 years with Eddie, we never had an argument,” said Torrence. This was a few days ago when he was up in Rochester with Rahman, “freezing our balls off.”

“One day, it’s seven degrees, then it’s 40 and the next day it’s back to 20,” said Torrance.

But Steve Nelson, the manager who has been with Rahman since the beginning, has roots in Rochester and there is an indoor track and if you ever wanted someone to focus on a fight, it’s not a bad town to be stuck in. How many tours of the Kodak factory can you make?

Torrence was taken to Futch when his trainer from the amateurs, Lee Boren, was ailing. It was during the California stage of Futch’s career; he had quit boxing for a while (fed up with wives and girlfriends interfering with his fighters), but he couldn’t keep away. Or, the game couldn’t keep away from him. Boren brought him Torrence, a California amateur star, and as Thell says, “something clicked.”

They were together, first as trainer and fighter, then trainer and assistant. It was about the time he retired from the ring that Torrence was introduced to another émigré from Detroit, Hedgemon Lewis. “I learned how to fight from Eddie,” said Lewis, who briefly held the Michigan version of the world welterweight title.

If Lewis had a punch, he’d have been illegal. He was a superb boxer – good enough to last until the 14th round with the great Jose Napoles without being able to hurt him – and Futch made him better. And Torrance helped, too. Torrance and Lewis, who just turned 60, were still with Futch when Eddie had his last star fighter, Riddick Bowe. And when Eddie got fed up with Bowe’s sloth and walked away, Torrance and Lewis stayed on.

“I was with Eddie from my ninth fight in ’66 to my last one in ’76 and when I just stumbled around after, he let me work with him,” said Lewis, who like Torrence lives in Vegas.

“Eddie and I were very close, he was like my father, or my grandfather.”

Unlike Roach, Lewis knew who Eddie Futch was “from the time I was a little boy.” His original trainer, who sent him out to Futch in California (where such celebs as Bill Cosby, Robert Goulet and most of all Ryan O’Neal began managing him), was Luther Burgess, a wonderful Detroit trainer who was one of Futch’s first disciples. There would be many, and not only his former fighters – when he was with Joe Frazier in Philadelphia, a terrific local middleweight had to retire from the ring and Frazier asked Futch to use him in the gym. George Benton, one of the greatest trainers in history, was still at Eddie’s side in Manila when Futch pulled the plug after the 14th round.

The generations will include Mike McCallum and Marlon Starling, who are active in gyms on opposite sides of the country. In a way, Lewis said, he helped McCallum get past Mike Watson in England. “He was losing that fight and I told him,” said Lewis. “He said he was doing the best he could. I told him, ‘Well, do more.’ He did.”

Starling, who was with Futch in his championship days, Eddie seemingly always threatening to walk out on the oft-capricious Moochie, has been reported back in the gym, showing his silky moves to youngsters. Roach remembers one fight where Starling was showboating “and Eddie didn’t like it, he told him he did any more of that, the next time he came back to the corner, he wouldn’t be there.”

Everyone remembers Futch as the quiet, scholarly man who subscribed to such magazines as “Psychology Today.” He may have been slight and, in his last years, fragile-looking, but he was as tough as Sonny Liston on a bad-hair day. Eva Futch said she remembered when Roach was working the corner of Johnny Tapia, he gave the fighter a slap between rounds.

“Why are you hitting me?” said Mi Vida Loca. “HE’s doing enough.”

Eva Futch predicts that another former Futch – and Roach – boxer, Wayne McCullough, could turn out to be a fine trainer if he ever gave up the silly idea that he can still win a title.

“Eddie didn’t let a fighter in a fight unless he felt he had at least a 50 percent chance of winning,” said Eva.

She said often, when the opponent was not well known, Futch would tell his kid to “go out and fight the first round and I’ll fight the rest.” It didn’t take long for the master to decipher a fighter.

He certainly deciphered Toney, well before the undressing Roy Jones Jr. gave one of the most skilled champions in recent decades. It is not very hard to understand. Toney was trained by the great Bill Miller, one of Detroit’s finest who had been consigned to working in the Kronk assembly line for Emanuel Steward before this talented teacher found a worthy student.

Miller used to train Toney in Mickey Roarke’s gym, which was where Roach was living (the New York Daily News put the headline “Roach Motel” on a piece I wrote about it). Miller, if anything, was crustier than Futch, which certainly made for a very delightful friendship.

“Bill Miller was one of the greatest cornerman ever and as far as I’m concerned, he was responsible for James winning his first title,” said Roach, referring to the comeback knockout of Michael Nunn on a minor-league baseball field in the champion’s home town of Davenport, Iowa.

“James was far, far behind, but Bill kept calm, he never panicked and just kept James focused.”

In the 11th round, Toney erased the scorecards with a left hook.

Eventually, though, Toney separated from Miller, the same way he broke apart from manager Jackie Kallen and his own mother. But beneath that well-fed exterior, there still beats the lean and angry man who, at the age of one, was abandoned by his father after first shooting his mother. Torrence said while Futch admired Toney, he never worked with him – “but I think he may have trained Toney’s father.”

Toney’s anger often covers his sharp sense of humor, makes it hard to realize he is a loving husband (recent) and father. But as good a boxer as he is, with degrees from both Miller and Roach, there are flaws.

Roach and Torrence both know, of course, as did Futch, that fighters win fights, not trainers.  

But trainers do make a difference. And Torrence wasn’t waiting with bated breath for Hasim Rahman to cross his threshold.

Yes, Rahman landed the perfect punch against the imperfect Lennox Lewis, who did not train for that defense in the altitude of Johannesburg. But since then, the Rock bolted from promoter Cedric Kushner and a lucrative HBO deal to go with Don King, who had to put him in a rematch with Lewis, who made crushing amends in the fourth round. Subsequently, the Rock has not looked very good – losing to John Ruiz of all people, losing to the remains of Evander Holyfield (yes, two guys Toney has beaten), and sleepwalking to a victory over Monte Barrett which, as only the WBClods could rule, made him a heavyweight champion retroactively when Vitali Klitschko retired.

“I didn’t need any headaches at my age,” said Torrence. “But when they came to me, I said let me talk to this kid. When he came to my office, and the first thing that impressed me was I told him to be there at 11 and he was there 10 minutes early. He said ‘You’ve heard a lot of stories about me, I’m not saying all of them were false, I was young and I was wrong. I made a lot of mistakes.’ He told me that if I took him on, he would give me 100 percent. He has.”

Now he needs to do it in the ring Saturday night. He needs to throw that strong left jab, but not fall in afterwards, because that’s where Toney wants him, up close and personal. In his last showing, Toney dismantled Dominick Guinn, who must have gotten his game plan directly from James. Or indirectly. Joe Goossen, the brother of Toney’s promoter, Dan, was working Guinn’s corner and the youngster insisted on pressing up close where he was counterpunched over and over.

Futch figured that out with McCallum. This was a younger Toney, one who was still able to march forward and cut off rings, not the overweight trapper who lays back and counters. But even then, Toney was mostly a counterpuncher. In the rematch, Futch told McCallum that since the only time Toney throws his big punch, the right hand, was after the Body Snatcher threw his, don’t throw the right. Neither guy did. It was a very dull duel of left hands.

McCallum also moved to his right, away from Toney’s right, a trick Roy Jones utilized in virtually shutting out Toney. Later, Futch sent the talented but limited Montell Griffin out to beat Toney twice, again holding back the right hand and moving to the right.

“We told Montell if you ever finish with a right hand, you’re going to get hit with a right hand,” said Torrance.

“We have to take into consideration that wasn’t the same James Toney who fought Montell,” said Roach. “He was coming off the loss to Jones and he was floundering for years. We even took a fight for $1,000 during that time.”

Dan Goossen has done a remarkable job of selling Toney as a major force in the heavyweight division. But Torrence said “if I can get Rock to do what I want him to do, he should be fine.” If.

Toney, of course, is playing his usual mind games, daring Rahman to go “toe to toe” with him. But the Rahman that once went eight rounds of torturing David Tua with jabs and little side-steps (before getting hit after the bell ending the ninth and quickly stopped in the tenth of what should have been ruled an accidental foul, thus permitting a trip to the scorecards which would have given the Rock a victory) could be tough to crack.

I think I’m leaning strongly to the Rock on this one, partly because of the Futch theory of fighting James Toney, but also because I’m not sure just how much James Toney has left besides anger and smarts.

PENTHOUSE: Royce Feour, who keeps breaking into halls of fame, this time the Southern Nevada Sports pantheon. He’s already in the Nevada (the entire state) sportswriting hall of fame and I’m getting tired of taking him out to dinner.

OUTHOUSE: The state of  New Jersey and the slum of Atlantic City (not counting, of course, the wonderful Irish Pub, an oasis in a hellhole) for naming a piece of Mississippi Avenue between the Boardwalk and Pacific “Don King Plaza.” The man is not allowed to promote in A.C. because he refuses to answer questions about bribes to former IBFelon chief Bob Lee. I figure it’s a one-way street leading to a dead end…Oscar De La Hoya, for ruling that if he does consent to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., it’ll have to be at 154 pounds. Well, at least, he didn’t say anything about Floyd having to keep one hand behind his back. Who does Oscar think he is? Sugar Ray Leonard?

MORE DISSES: James Toney said, unlike those baseball players, he’s was upstanding and admitted his guilt of being on juice. Heck, they caught him, and he never did appeal to New York….This is the Chinese Year of the Dog, starting last Jan. 29 and there are five defending “champions” who are dogs in upcoming fights – Rahman to Toney, Zab Judah to Floyd Mayweather Jr. (if anyone calls Judah a “champion” of course), Chris Byrd to Wladimir Klitschko, Ricardo Mayorga to De La Hoya and Jermain Taylor to Winky Wright. Last weekend, a champion dog – not the Westminster Kennel Club variety – Maselino Masoe was dethroned by Felix Sturm, but before the new year, which was Jan.29, Judah and Jean-Marc Mormeck were bitten by a couple of dogs in Carlos Baldomir and O’Neil Bell….Those clowns at the Boxing Writers Association of America gave the Sam Taub Award for broadcasting to Showtime’s deposed boxing chief, Jay Larkin, which was kind of nice. But how come Lou DiBella, who when he was Larkin’s counterpart with HBO and ruled the game, has an empty place in his throne room?

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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