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Articles of 2006

Edgar Santana: A Star Is Born

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On March 9, junior welterweight prospect Edgar Santana of Spanish Harlem in New York awoke early like he always does. However, this morning was different than most, so Santana lolled about in bed until a little after noon.

The 26-year-old Santana, who lives with his parents Maribel and Ramon, knew that what happened later that evening would – for better or worse – change the course of his life.

He awoke with a record of 16-2 (11 KOs), and was scheduled to fight his toughest opponent to date that night at the Manhattan Center. Located directly across the street from Madison Square Garden, the venue is about 75 blocks downtown from Santana’s home.

Although Francisco Campos, 20-4-1 (12 KOs), was imported from Costa Rica, there was no reason to think he was in New York to lose. Making things even more challenging for Santana was the fact that this would be his first fight under the promotional banner of Lou DiBella. Although he had appeared on seven previous DiBella shows, this would be his first main event.

As usual, Santana was bringing a big crowd. He was personally responsible for selling $15,000 worth of tickets. Considering the fact that he had given up boxing several years before – after feeling as if he was used and abused by various handlers – the pressure was on him to perform at his best.

Santana couldn’t help but think back to the days when he was practicing his second vocation. So embittered by boxing, he had become a barber.

It was only after a chance encounter with a fledgling manager named Ernesto Dallas that his interest in the sweet science was rekindled. Dallas teamed him up with trainer Hector Roca.

Together, the team, which also includes cut man Fred Corritone, a transplanted New Yorker now living in Richmond, Virginia, embarked on a journey that they hope will end with a world title belt being placed around Santana’s streamlined waist.

Team Santana knew that all roads to the title would begin with Campos. As the clock ticked away, Santana couldn’t help think but figuratively, metaphorically, and realistically about his past, present, and future.

Later that evening, this reporter, Robert Ecksel, the editor-in-chief of TSS, and videographer Chris Cassidy accompanied Team Santana on part of that journey.

This is our Countdown to Santana’s Future:

8:00 a.m.: Santana awakes. He is relaxed as he eats a peanut butter on whole wheat, drinks some water, and relaxes in the apartment he shares with his parents. He continually goes over the game plan in his head. If Campos comes forward, let him come forward.

12:45: Santana is up and around. He continues to go over his mental check-list before heading to Patsy’s restaurant on First Avenue, a neighborhood institution. He eats lasagna and enjoys the free bread. Afterward, he high-fives scores of well-wishers as he makes his way back to his apartment. Fight posters and flyers abound in storefront windows and on lamp posts throughout the neighborhood.

5:00: Santana heads down to the fight site in a car driven by Dallas. He is still going over his checklist and reminding himself of all the serious preparation he has done to make this night a success.

6:00: Santana arrives at the fight venue. He is no longer thinking much about the fight. Instead he listens to a Puerto Rican rap/reggae artist on his Walkman.

7:00: Santana gives a urine sample to a New York State Athletic Commission official.

TSS arrives at Room 1064, Santana’s dressing room. He is wearing a thermal undershirt that is covered by a blue short sleeve work shirt, adorned with sergeant’s stripes and the words PUERTO RICO and JEFE, the latter of which is a clothing company that Santana has an endorsement deal with.

7:15: Campos’ trainer comes in and asks if anyone from Santana’s team wants to watch Campos’ hand taping. The trainer engages in jocular banter with Roca. Both trainers are familiar with each other and have mutual respect for each other’s work.

7:15-7:50: Santana is pensive and serious but nonplussed, even as he is asked many annoying questions. He talks about setting high standards for himself and how he knows this fight will lead top much bigger things.

When asked about his family he says that his father works in a pawn shop, while one brother is a doorman and the other resides in Puerto Rico. He says he graduated from Park East High School in Manhattan. He knows that his father will be in attendance when he fights, but that his mother never comes to watch him box.

8:10: TSS visits the adjoining dressing room of super middleweight Jerson Ravelo and featherweight Gary Stark Jr. Ravelo, who represented his native Dominican Republic in the 2000 Olympic Games, is on the comeback trail after a series of injuries kept him out of action for an extended period of time. The undefeated Stark is one of the hottest prospects in New York.

8:50: Hector Roca begins wrapping Santana’s hands. He does the right hand first. Santana is eerily silent. Asked how he’s feeling, he says OK but is clearly in the zone. Asked if he feels like a zoo exhibit with so many eyes upon him, he says “No problem.” He doesn’t smile.

9:00: Dallas comes into the dressing room with his brother Izzy, a retired NYPD detective, and several of his friends. They bring some cheer to the somber room. Roca is asked how many hands he’s wrapped during his illustrious career. “Thousands,” he replies.

9:02: The wrapping is complete. Chief Inspector Felix Figueroa approves the wrapping. Asked how he rates Roca as a hand wrapper, Figueroa replies, “The best, at the top.”

9:03: Roca puts white gloves on Santana to hit the mitts with. He is wearing black shorts with a star on front, SANTANA on the waist, and JEFE on the back. Now shirtless, Santana is an incredible physical specimen. His wide-shouldered torso is sinuously muscled and shaped like a perfect V.

9:20: Inspector Figueroa produces a pair of brand new, eight-ounce black Everlast gloves to be used in the bout.

9:21: A well-wisher named Diablito comes in speaking in rapid-fire Spanish that makes everyone laugh heartily. Inspector Figueroa says, “He’s a jokester.”

9:23: Santana is now loose-limbed and laughing as his co-trainer Martin Gonzalez, a former Nicaragua Olympian, enters the room accompanied by a neighborhood friend of Santana’s named Chan. As kids, Santana and Chan used to play baseball with Hector Camacho Jr.

9:28: Matchmaker extraordinaire Johnny Bos is in the house. Having worked with Santana for many fights, he pontificates about the lack of solid matchmaking these days. The larger than life Bos commands attention wherever he goes. At this moment he has Santana’s full attention.

9:35: Santana’s protective cup is put on and he starts shadowboxing. Asked what the three tattoos on his back symbolize, he says the red dragon implies love, while the Chinese letters stand for power.

9:40: Santana starts gloving up. Bos explains that Santana can switch from boxer to puncher on a dime. Calling that rare, he describes a Santana as a “throwback.” There is no greater compliment that Bos can bestow on anyone.

9:45: Inspector Figueroa okays both gloves with FIGGY (his signature), followed by a squiggle.

9:46: Santana hits Gonzalez’s pads. The power is frightening. Santana knocks the right pad off of Gonzalez’s hand with a left hooks. Left uppercuts land with deafening thuds.

9:50: Santana has a good sweat going. His punches are flowing freely. You can’t help but think this is going to be his night.

9:51: Bos rips off the paper from the dressing room door with Santana’s name and room number on it. He tells Santana, “This is your first main event. Save this.”

9:59: Santana takes a breather and sits down. Corritone puts a towel around his torso. Roca goes to check on the Stark fight. Santana is up next.

10:00: It is suddenly quiet. The only people left in the dressing room are Santana, Roca, Corritone, and the trio from TheSweetScience.

10:09: Cruiserweight contender Punching Pat comes in to offer congratulations. He rode his Harley Ultra Classic to the arena. He says that his Freemason insignia on the bike enabled him to park it out front and ensures that no one will steal it. How he came to this conclusion is anyone’s guess.

10:13: Corritone, who is a splendid crooner, belts out his own version of a famous song that begins ‘There is a fighter from Spanish Harlem.’ Roca deadpans a joke about him singing in the toilet.

10:14: Dallas says the Stark fight has been stopped, with Stark winning by TKO. Santana jumps up with a sense of urgency. The tension is palpable.

10:16: Punching Pat announces that he only visits winners’ dressing rooms as Santana bangs Roca’s pads.

10:21: Punching Pat is keeping things loose by calling Santana ‘Latin Love’ and ‘The Latin Persuasion.’ He tells him not to kill his opponent.

10:25: The commission says Santana is up. We see Campos leaving his dressing room with a white towel over his head. The commission says let’s start walking and tells Roca to bring an extra towel and mouthpiece.

10:26: Spanish music is blaring throughout the arena. It sounds more like a hot nightclub than a sports arena. The disc jockey is imploring the pro-Santana crowd to make some noise, as if the ear-popping cacophony is not enough.

10:28: Santana enters the arena to wild applause.

10:31: The fight begins. The referee is Eddie Cotton. It is obvious that Campos came to fight. For more detailed coverage, you can read reports by TSS writers Zachary Levin and Michael Woods.

10:56: Santana drops Campos in the seventh. Campos gets up with blood gushing from his nose. Santana launches two-fisted attack. He looks sensational.

11:00: Santana’s night is over when Campos is not permitted to come out for the eighth round. The crowd erupts. Puerto Rican flags abound. Young girls in the balcony are chanting “Edgar, Edgar……..” A star is born.

11:20: The always humble and inherently decent Santana is elated at the outcome. Near tears, he says that one of his first orders of business will be traveling to Panama to present some much-needed equipment to a gym there.

While training in that country, he was treated with respect and wants to show his gratitude. Santana is not a man who will ever forget where he came from. He is much too decent for that.

He is asked why he has such fierce loyalty for his friends in Panama. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” he responds.

When he goes to bed that night, his record stands at 17-2 (12 KOs). For the first time in many years, Edgar Santana has a future. Nobody deserves one more than he does.

 

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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